CubaPLUS Magazine

Charco Azul Ranch, Nature Tourism

By: Mailín Suárez Díaz, Photos: Courtesy of Flora y Fauna
Charco Azul Ranch, Nature Tourism

Located in the western province of Artemisa, between the small town of Cayajabos and the 47th km of the National Havana-Pinar del Rio Highway, the Charco Azul Ranch is ideal for lovers of birdwatching, hiking and horseback riding. The site, which today belongs to the National Wildlife Protection Company (ENPPFF) has a centuries-old history.

Around the year 1820, the land on which the farm is located belonged to Don Francisco Martínez, who discovered a stone coal mine, but it was abandoned because the production was not profitable. For a long time the thick forests of the place were a refuge for runaway slaves, known as Maroons.

Charco Azul Ranch, Nature Tourism

Towards 1935, Rosendo Palacios acquired the land for his excellent work raising cattle and, also attracted to the natural environment, he discovered reservoirs of water with a high sulphur content. There he decided to build his house, entirely of local stone. He also built baths on the banks of the El Chicharron river that runs through the farm, where he and his family benefitted from the medicinal properties of the water.

The farm, prosperous due to it livestock, was named Charco Azul meaning blue pool, because of the colour of its waters - an intense green, almost blue. In 1959 Palacios emigrated, leaving behind his home and most of his belongings: much of the furniture and tableware is preserved.

During the first years of the revolution, the place was used by the Armed Forces as a training centre and to fight pillagers. At the beginning of the 1970s, the land was handed over to the genetic livestock company Los Naranjos, who restored the residence, respecting the original structure and improving the roof and floors. The company also built what today is the restaurant area, and used the farm for breeding cattle and horses.

Charco Azul Ranch, Nature Tourism

In 2001 it passed to the ENPPFF, which continued the breeding and development of cattle and horses (Belgian and Percheron) and undertook projects for the conservation of flora and fauna species. Four years later the idea of turning the place into a nature tourist attraction arose, with the aim of using the money earned for the production and conservation of this natural heritage.

The tourist area of Charco Azul offers lodging with ten cabins for a total capacity of twenty-two people. It has a restaurant, a small pool, the original ownerrsquo;s house with many of the original furnishings and a beautiful garden.

An attractive tourist package is currently offered that includes a visit to the ruins of the famous Angerona coffee plantation, about 18km from Charco Azul. This place is a symbol of the splendour of coffee production in colonial western Cuba, as well as the backdrop for a legendary and controversial love story .

The tourist facility sits within in the Charco Azul estate, which is dedicated mainly to breeding carthorses, white horses and cebu red and white breeds. Tourists from Italy, Belgium, the UK, France and Germany have enjoyed of horse riding in these natural spaces - a highlight for equestrian enthusiasts visiting Cuba.

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