Covering nearly 80 square miles, Topes de Collantes (Collantes Highs) is a nature reserve park in the Escambray Mountain range in Cuba, 3 miles above the city of Trinidad. At nearly 2,600ft above sea level it is the third highest peak in the range with San Juan peak at 3,740ft and Potrerillo
peak at 3,054ft higher. The Escambray Mountain range spreads across three provinces; Villa Clara to the north, Cienfuegos to the east and Sancti Spiritus to the west. The north face of the mountains are home to a variety of plants and animals while the much drier south face is home to the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Trinidad City and Valle de los Ingenios (Valley of the Sugar Mills).
In 1954 the Cuban president built a massive sanatorium for tuberculosis patients in the area inhabited by coffee growers. It is believed that the president’s wife Martha became a victim of the disease and whilst at the sanatorium fell in love with the place, persuading her husband to build her a house in the area. After the revolution the hospital was used as a school and then in the 70′s it was converted into the Kurhotel specializing in rehabilitation and special therapies. Scattered throughout the seven storey high hotel you will find a huge collection of original Cuban art with than 750 pieces from Cuba’s most famous painters. In the 1980′s the Mountain Campus of Las Villas University was built here.
Many species of animals are found in the reserve including Cuba’s national bird the Tocororo, the Cuban Ivory-billed Woodpecker, the Cartacuba and some beautiful unique hummingbirds. When exploring this amazing reserve you will come across rivers, natural pools of crystal clear water, waterfalls, caves and if you are lucky enough to take your cheap holidays between June and September you will see hillsides covered in Cuba’s national flower the Mariposa (Butterfly Lily). This tropical rainforest boasts more than 40 indigenous species of orchid, 100 species of ferns with some more than 20ft tall, more than 40 species of coffee which grow in the shade of 130ft tall pines, West Indian mahogany, eucalyptus, banana trees, wild plantain, species of ginger, magnolias, jasmine and begonias.
There are lots of trips to be taken in the reserve including;
Paseo Ecologico – an ecology walk of just over half a mile which takes a path connecting the Kurhotel with the hotel ‘Los Helechos’. Along the walk you will see mariposa flowers and ferns under a canopy of pines and eucalyptus.
Parque La Represa – built around ‘Martha’s House’ on the banks of the River Vega Grande, the park is home to many exotic species and the tallest, oldest mahogany tree in Cuba.
Hacienda Codina – the estate has many species of orchids, medicinal mud baths, medicinal and ornamental gardens and Altar’s Cave which has a secret passage which ends with amazing views of Trinidad and Ancon.
Parque Codina – ideal for camping and birdwatching with many hiking trails to caves and waterfalls with numerous viewpoints along the way.
Parque Guanayara – this park is home to the Cascada El Rocio waterfall, canyoning cascades, camping, hiking trails and swimming opportunities.
Caburni Falls – a 2 mile hike, through coffee plantations where you will see traditional farmer’s houses, to the Caburni River which falls over a 203ft rock wall into a series of pools.
La Batata – a scenic walk which ends in an underground river-cave system with natural ponds.
This is just about as close to nature as you can get so don’t miss a visit to this amazing nature reserve park when on your last minute holiday deals to Cuba, wonderful memories of Topes de Collantes Cuba will live with you for ever.