Can you envisage a museum on a mountain? One with an impressive collection of Cuban art in a fantastic climate far from the workaday world, amid exuberant vegetation 800 meters above sea level and 20 kilometres from the nearest city? Such a place exists. It is the Topes De Collantes Museum of Cuban Art where, in addition to a locat ion famous for its incomparable topography, the architecture itself meets the expectations of the most demanding visitors.
Topes de Collantes is in the Escambray Mountains, in the center of the island. In this region, locals refer to the summit of a mountain as a "tope". Here, the average annual temperature is 21ºC, coffee crops are the basis of the economy, the rare, tall Pinus cubensis pine forests are conspicuous, and you may find some of the fifty-five wild endemic orchid species, with their del icate and varied shapes.
The forests are populated by rich fauna: deer, jutías, parrots, cateyes, sparrow hawks, the tiny endangered tomeguines and the tocororos, the Cuban national bird; none of which species are harmful to human beings. The area is free of environmental contamination and is the ideal place to regain your strength and nurse yourself back to health.
A gateway to adventure.
If you prefer a sl ightly more vigorous experience, hiking trails and day trips allow you to visit Charco Azul and take refreshing baths in its del icious pools. A particularly memorable visit is to the beautiful 75-metre high Caburní waterfall. Equally attractive are the views from the Mirador de Cudina, where you can also explore the famous cave, and Lake Jibacoa, where you can fish for carp and trout.
While touring the area, it is possible to stop in the homes of some of the 2,000 locals - who l ive in three small settlements - and enjoy tasty typical food and parties with genuine Cuban folk music. You can also enjoy the historic wealth of Topes de Collantes, with its vest iges of the original settlers in the island, as well as the ruins of fortresses and homes from the 19th century, and old stone walls, wells and slave cemeteries.
If a beach is your heart's desire, the paradise of Ancon is not far away with its fine, white sand on the blue and tranquil Caribbean Sea. Ancon is ideal for nautical sports and boat rides through the haunts of pirates, corsairs and many historic naval battles and among the uninhabited keys and islets of an archipelago Christopher Columbus named Jardines de la Reina (the Queen's Gardens).
A visit to historic Trinidad is a must. It was the third villa founded by the Spaniards in Cuba, the eighth in the Caribbean. The city is one of the most complete architectural complexes in the Americas, and its streets, churches and plazas are a fusion of characteristics and styles from the 17th through 19th centuries. It was in Trinidad that Padre Bartolomé de las Casas toiled in favour of the natives, and in the local waters where Hernán Cortés anchored his ships on his way to conquer Mexico. In the early 19th century, the villa was highly praised by an illustrious visitor, Baron Alejandro de Humboldt.
Best known painters
Famous Cuban folklore scholar Samuel Feijóo stated many years ago that he had never exhibited his paintings because he wanted to do so in an open, joyful place. He longed to have an exhibit in a park, with the paintings hanging from tree branches. They would move in the wind and turn naturally, either del icately or roughly. He added: "Leave them out to be dewed over, and if it rains… what can you do?"
Of course, they do not go that far at the Topes de Collantes Museum. The collection is housed in a pleasant, sturdy Art Deco house with some of the original 1940s furnishings, built on a small hill. Four neoclassical Carrara marble statues representing the four seasons greet you. There are six permanent exhibit areas and one for changing exhibits, also a space available for conferences and meetings. There is a framing/ curator's workshop, a bar and a souvenir shop.
Painstaking work was done in the restoration of the house. It could not have been any other way, knowing that it would house and exhibit the works of some of the best known Cuban painters. f From Mariano Rodríguez and Adigio Benítez to Ernesto García Peña, Flora Fong and Pedro Pablo Oliva, Ever Fonseca, Gilberto Frómeta, Raúl Santos Serpa, Nelson Domínguez… the l ist goes on and on. Pieces that attest to the wealth of visual arts in the island set in an environment of dancing shades of green for the enjoyment of those who choose Topes de Collantes as the ideal destination for some days of health and rest.