Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve Park
By Nidia Rodríguez León & Madelín Murguía Delgado Photos: Eduardo Esparza
One of the most extraordinary places in the Cuban archipelago, it also qualifies as a luxury destination for those who love ecotourism.
Climbing to the Topes de Collantes Nature Reserve will give visitors a preview of the amazing scenery to be found. This area was blessed by nature with an extraordinary variety of beautiful flora and fauna. Among the pervasive species are the arborescent fern, wild orchids, and the Mariposa (the "Butterﬂy," a type of white Jasmine that is exquisitely perfumed and is Cuba's national ﬂower). Rivers and waterfalls as well as the presence of birds like the Tocororo (a native species which has the same colours of the Cuban ﬂag and is Cuba's national bird), and various hummingbirds provide the ﬁnishing touches to this natural masterpiece.
Topes de Collantes can be found about 20 km to the northwest of the city of Trinidad and due west of the Valle de los Ingenios Sites. The whole 200 km2 protected area is divided into eight recreational and adventure parks: Guanayara, El Cubano, Caburni, Vegas Grandes, Codina, El Nicho, the Javira Reservation, and Las Iguanas Key. All of them have their own natural, cultural, and historical appeals and charms.
Topes de Collantes is located in the central Province of Sancti Spiritus. Its large number of indigenous species of ﬂora and fauna are in perfect balance and are the key features in the development and preservation of the nature found there.
This is also an ideal location for adventure within the Guamuhaya mountainous massif, a native name of the Escambray region, considered to be among the four most important mountain ranges in Cuba.
lt is a great destination for nature tourism lovers who will ﬁnd excellent conditions for hiking, bird watching, spelunking, and other outdoor activities.
You can also visit the National Health Rehabilitation Centre if you are looking for traditional medicine and therapeutic exercises. This spa, with state of the art equipment including a pool, steam baths, and sauna, has a highly qualiﬁed staff who run programmes for anti-stress, improving quality oflife, and weight reduction. The beneﬁts of the Centre are magniﬁed by the effect on a patient ofthe healthy surrounding micro-climate.
Together with the Reserve‘s natural beauty, there are pleasant hotels and specialized guides who can provide great information before getting knee deep in the wild.
The Guanayara Park offers impressive locations for fun and adventure. The Centinelas del Rio Melodioso trail, located 550 m above sea level and 15 km from the hotels, follows ﬁve km of the Charco Azul River taking you into the deepest comers of this Park.
People coming from Varadero on organized tours usually arrive by helicopter at the entrance nflopes de Collantes. From there they are provided with ground transportation to the start of the hike. You can then go through the Salto del Rocio trail by following the river until reaching the El Venado Pond, the trail‘s highlight.
Once the group is reunited, they head for the Casa de la Gallega where they are welcomed by Rosinda Amado Sotelo Madruga, the hostess of the house who settled in the area with her Spanish father many years ago. The term Gallego is used as a nickname for people coming from Spain, usually the region of Galicia. At her Casa, you can rest and enjoy the Pollo a la Gallega , the chicken lunch special.
Near the estate lies the common border of the three provinces Sancti Spiritus, Cienfuegos, and Villa Clara.
This area is good for camping with some fully out ﬁtted huts for those who would like to stay overnight between the river and the mountains. These channs have attracted many visitors, mainly from Canada, Germany, and England.
Another destination is the Codina Park located ﬁve km from Topes de Collantes. The Ñato Bar welcomes you with roast suckling pig and a house cocktail named Jincila made from rum, honey, and ginger.
There are two main trails in the Codina Park, the Batata and La Alfombra Mágica (the “Magic Carpet”). The Park is 600m above sea level and covers 40 hectares with a great variety of arborescent ferns, medicinal plants, pine trees, and other interesting ﬂora. Orchids and bamboo gardens are the exceptional attractions.
The La Alfombra Mágica trail is highlighted by the Altar Cave. The Cave's layout takes you to a natural viewpoint from where you can see Trinidad, the Valle de los Ingenios, and Ancón Peninsula.
This two km long trail is a peaceful hike full of the sounds of birds and varied vegetation.
Another of the nature parks in Topes is El Cubano , located close to the Guaurabo River and 250m above sea level.
Traveling to this area is also a visit to an important part ofCuban history. Spanish Conquistador Diego Velázquez sailed this river before founding Trinidad.
Here the trails are called Las Huellas de la Histaria (“The Tracks of History”) and Cimarrones de Javira (“Javira's Runaway Slaves”). The starting point is at the foot of a mountain at El Cubano Estate where the vegetation has been categorized as being mostly mountainous forest. The adventure includes horseback riding and swimming at waterfalls and ponds at the Javira waterfall.
Visiting Topes de Collantes is to be captivated with one of Nature‘s masterpiece. One cannot leave the most popular trail behind. The 62m Salto del Caburní (“Caburní Waterfall”), at the heart of Parque Caburní, where visitors can swim in a pool of cool water in a lovely setting after a walk zigzagging steeply downhill on the trail.
Topes de Collantes has a lot more to offer. It only depends on how you want to take in this natural paradise.