If you go to Cuba and stick strictly to the towns and cities, you’re still going to have a cracker of a good time. But it would be a slight shame if you didn’t get out into the countryside and take a stroll. It doesn’t have to be an epic hike through the rainforest (although this is certainly an option), and it could easily be a gentle stroll through undulating green fields covered in sugarcane or tobacco plants. A few tips about hiking in Cuba might be helpful at this point. Comfortable shoes are a must, and these should have decent arch support. They don’t have to be actual hiking boots, and a good pair of sports shoes will do the job. Wear the shoes in before you go to Cuba, since the significant heat of the country when walking in new shoes might give you blisters. You should bring bandaids just in case, as these are hard to track down in Cuba. You will also need to bring bottled water with you, and try to take your shoes off as soon as your walk has finished just in case your feet have become a little swollen. OK, so those are the general tips out of the way. But where are the best places in Cuba to go walking?
- El Yunque
Closest Major Town: Baracoa
El Yunque should only be attempted if you’re very confident in your endurance levels. The lush rainforest is not exactly a gentle stroll, and while there are walking paths, you could easily get lost as the forest seems to go on forever. You should only access the paths when accompanied by a guide so you don’t get lost. You can find a guide at the visitors centre, and a number of different walks are available. Most will only go for between one and two hours. This might not sound like a long hike, but the rainforest is so humid that the walk will feel much longer. It’s an utterly enchanting place to walk, and you will remember the pristine rainforest forever. A number of rare birds and animals can be found in the forest as well.
- Viñales Valley
Closest Major Town: Viñales
It’s perhaps a bit of a stretch to call Viñales a town, as it’s basically a sleepy agricultural village. One of the primary producers of tobacco for Cuban cigars, the town is just a few hours away from Havana. There are a number of small hills that frame the town, eventually giving way to large mountains with sheer rock faces. If you venture up into the hills, you should próbably hire a guide from the town. Some paths become rather tricky to cross, and you need to make sure that you’re not heading into some difficult circumstances. You will have no problems if you stick to the fields and the foothills, and this is actually a really pleasant stroll. You’ll need to join a tour if you want to actually get in amongst the tobacco fields, as these are on private property and so permission is needed. It’s worth it, as you’ll get to see how the tobacco begins its journey to cigar heaven.
- Las Terrazas
Closest Major Town: Havana
There are numerous small towns between Havana and Las Terrazas, but they tiny and so barely qualify as towns, and you will probably just take one of the Havana day tours that go to Las Terrazas. The region offers a glimpse at the bohemian side of Cuba as many artists and writers have set up studios here. It used to be one of the main coffee growing sites for Cuba, but when production moved elsewhere, a number of plantations were abandoned. This gives Las Terrazas a wonderfully wild look in places. There are many short treks throughout the region, but why walk when you can “fly”? There’s a zip line that goes above the natural reserve, but is only a wise idea if you’re not afraid of heights. Most of the land here is protected against development so you will feel like you’re in the middle of wonderful nowhere.
- Topes de Collantes
Closest Major Town: Trinidad
Topes de Collantes is a lush national park, and there’s a lovely treat on one of the best-known walks. Follow the path of the Rio Caburni (which is a river) until it cascades over the edge of the rocks and becomes a 60 metre waterfall. There’s an azure pool of water at the base of the waterfall (which is delightfully cool), and you can certainly slip into the water for a refreshing swim. Don’t forget to bring a towel and swimwear. Annoyingly, the weather here is so humid that even with a swim, you’ll finish your walk drenched in sweat. It’s all part of the fun of hiking in Cuba!