Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Cuba's first Biosphere - living in a glorious garden!

After Vinales, we went to Las Terrazas, still in Pinar del Rio province, but in the hills. This is another beautiful region, but it wasn't always like this! Back in the 1960's the whole area had been ruined by forest fires and shortsighted agricultural techniques. But in the early 70's a reservoir was created in Las Terrazas and thousands of trees were planted to prevent further erosion. The project was so successful that in 1985 this area was declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, known as Sierra del Rosario. Today it's a fine example of nature preserved and you would never know that it had been anything other than verdant forest.
At the heart of the hillside community is a hotel - La Moka (above) - where we spent several nights. It's perched among the canopy of trees overlooking the reservoir and valley below and is one of the finest hotels we stayed in during our two-week trip to Cuba. We loved it here and I include it in my blog because the whole area is one great big garden - everywhere you look there are green vistas, tropical plants and many birds. 
Walk out early in the morning and you will see the locals at work (above); birdwatchers can go with a local guide and see many different species (local guides claim that there are more than 80) and there are many hummingbirds here, although I failed dismally when I tried to photograph them so I remain in awe of all those clever garden bloggers who catch them on camera!
Las Terrazas is the one place in Cuba you can take an ariel canopy tour and although I didn't do it, my teenagers did and loved it! We just sat at the cafe on the reservoir (above) while they sailed past us high in the sky. They said it gave fantastic views of the village and was one of the highlights of their trip!
I was happy to spend my time here walking and looking at all the tropical plants and trees we don't have back at home. Las Terrazas was formerly at the heart of Cuba's coffee growing industry back in the C19th and you can visit the ruins of a coffee plantation built by French refugees from Haiti at nearby Cafetal Buenavista - just one of more than 50 similar estates that flourished here in the 1800s. There are also natural swimming pools near the hotel at Banos del San Juan on the river; and horse riding is also popular here.
The water lilies were just coming into bloom as we were at La Moka, and although they were quite sparse when we visited, I'm told the display is awesome later in the season. This is definitely a place to take time out and enjoy Cuba at its verdant best! More soon from Havana ...


  1. Gorgeous! I want to be there in that green.

  2. Charlotte, I have enjoyed your posts from Cuba so much! It is such a beautiful part of the world and yet not often seen. Your photos are just lovely. I hope you have thoroughly enjoyed your trip there.

  3. Thank you for this wonderful post! Las Terrazas looks stunning.

  4. Whoa! Can well Imagine....u must be having such a whale of a time in Cuba, expriencing it in all its natural glory. Thx for sharing the pic... they are out of this world...spc the approach to the Hotel n water lily n...reflection!