The 10th International Nature Tourism Event (TURNAT) 2015 will take place in Pinar del Río from September 24 to 27. This tourism event which focuses on nature and the environment has practically become a tradition, demonstrating the Cuban authorities’ commitment to promoting active leisure and adventure trips.
Creating vacation packages involving nature gets kudos in today’s world and Cuba’s tourism industry strongly embraces it.
Once again TURNAT is being held in Pinar del Río, the country’s westernmost region, with conditions perfect for this type of event.
Concepts and places
Cuba is rich in flora and fauna endemic to the country. The archipelago is home to 2% of the world’s flora, with 13 botanical gardens distributed throughout the country. Also, its mountain range is considered to be one of the highest in the Caribbean.
The Island has well-preserved sea floors and about 4,000 kilometers of coral reefs, and 2% of the national territory has some type of protected area such as National Parks or Natural Reserves, among others.
The country has six Ramsar sites, a category granted to the best preserved wetlands, of which the Maximo River is an example located in the Eastern province of Camagüey, and Ciénaga de Zapata in the west. Cuba has 11 National Parks, 12 Ecological Reserves, a Natural Monument, 12 Fauna Refuges, two Natural Protected Landscapes and three Managed Resource Protected Areas.
Tourism spokesmen underline 67,000 square kilometers of insular platform, 5,700 kilometers of coast, more than 500 beaches, 500 mineral water sources and 25 % of the land is wooded areas. The central region of the Island stands out in particular with places of great interest such as Hanabanilla, a lake between mountains, El Niche in Cienfuegos and Topes de Collantes in Sancti Spíritus. Ecotur is the company that provides guides and packages for those interested in getting to know nature in Cuba.
Ecotur ,with more than 15 years’ experiences, covers 100 trails and tours throughout the country depending on tastes and the tourist’s physical abilities.
Another element of interest are the 13 important botanical gardens. On October 20, 1966 the Austrian naturalist Johannes Bisse came to Cuba and saw the Island’s potential in this regard ; and the botanical gardens began to develop.
In 1984 Havana’s National Botanical Garden opened its doors, which today covers 600 hectares of land and has a considerable variety of species from all over the world with several pavilions and a Japanese Garden.
Linked to the University of Havana, this Garden is part of a chain across the nation, with particularities such as spaces dedicated to ferns, cactus and orchids.
Pinar del Río, an Excellent Host
Pinar del Río is a magical region. Ideal for nature walks, is an area where green stands out above any other color.
For Cubans, in addition to it being the westernmost province, it symbolizes the home of the best tobacco in world, where the leaves are harvested and passionately treated by the farmers.
Pinar del Río is that and much more. It has very special areas designed for many tastes, and travelers from all over the world come to discover it.
The first point is Key Levisa, 27 kilometers from La Palma, north of Pinar del Rio. From the Palma Rubia pier, boats sail to the key which is about three nautical miles from shore. Bathed by the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, it has four kilometers of white sandy beaches.
The area is home to a variety of species, and its waters are home to the levisa, to which it owes its name. Its tropical vegetation is extremely attractive with coconut trees on the northern coast, mangroves in the south and a splendid coral reef.
The westernmost point is La Bajada (meaning the descent), a small community of about 100 inhabitants who are very knowledgeable and experienced in conservation and mainly dedicated to forestry. From here one can travel to the National Park of Guanahacabibes, declared a World Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1987, covering 39,400 hectares. It is a true paradise for more than 670 species of plants, 15 of which are endemic. It also has small beaches wrapped in pirates’ histories and hidden treasures.
The fauna is rich in birds, among which is the tocororo (trogon), the zunzuncito (hummingbird), bluebirds, mockingbirds and woodpeckers, among others. There are also many reptiles, amphibians and mammals coexisting. For more than 60 kilometers of highway leading to Cabo San Antonio, one sees bare, green forests, rocky and sandy coast vegetation, lagoons, marshes and swamps.
María la Gorda
As one of the best International Diving Centers in Cuba, Maria la Gorda is known as a special, calm place and with great adventure, especially for those who enjoy deep-sea diving.
Although it is a place conceived for divers, it is also a great option for ecotourists. It is located in the vicinity of Cabo Corrientes.
Located 143 kilometers southwest of the main city of Pinar del Río, its waters are home to more than 100 Spanish sunken galleons , and it is said that there are secret hidden treasures.
Hundreds of species of birds abound in this area such as the woodpecker, the parrot and the tocororo. There is the Villa with 55 air-conditioned rooms each with a phone and television, the perfect place to combine rest and adventure.
These three points of western Cuban geography make up a great journey for the tourist who wants to get to know Cuba’s natural beauty.