Heading west on the autopista nacional, the first attractions you’ll come to, just inside the provincial border, are Artemisa’s star attractions, the isolated mountain valley resorts at Las Terrazas and Soroa. These are by far the best bases from which to explore the densely packed forest slopes of the protected Sierra del Rosario, but only Las Terrazas can uphold the claim popularized in tourist literature of connecting tourism with conservation and the local community. Considerably smaller but no less popular than Las Terrazas, Soroa’s compact layout makes it more accessible to day-trippers from Havana.
The sierra was declared a Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 1985, acknowledgement in part for the success of the reforestation project of the 1970s, and visitors are encouraged to explore their surroundings using official hiking routes. There’s a comprehensive programme of guided hikes at Las Terrazas and some gentler but still rewarding walks around Soroa. Though sometimes referred to as such, the peaks of the Sierra del Rosario don’t quite qualify for mountain status, the highest point reaching just under 700m, and although there is some fantastic scenery, it’s rarely, if ever, breathtaking.Read More
- Las Terrazas
Sixteen kilometres southwest of Las Terrazas, the tiny village of SOROA nestles in a long narrow valley. Although a cosy spot, access into the hills is limited and the list of attractions brief, meaning the resort is best suited to a shorter break than a prolonged visit.
Most of what you’ll want to see is within ten minutes’ walk of Soroa, but if you’ve driven up from the autopista, the first place you’ll get to, 100m or so from the Villa Soroa hotel, is the car park for El Salto, a 20m-high waterfall. Though a relatively modest cascade, a dip in the refreshing waters is a fitting reward for the half-hour walk through the woods to reach it; take the dirt track from the car park.
Signposted from the El Salto car park, the scenic viewpoint of El Mirador de Soroa is the more challenging of the two hills in the area, and you may well feel like a massage after the thirty-minute hike up along an increasingly steep and narrow (though shady) dirt track. While there are a number of possible wrong turns on the way up, you can avoid getting lost by simply following the track with the horse dung – many people choose to ride up on horseback. At the summit you’ll find vultures circling the rocky, uneven platform and impressive views over the undulating peaks of palm-smothered hills.
On the way up to El Mirador de Soroa, a sign points over a small bridge towards the Baños Romanos, located in an unassuming stone cabin; massages, cold sulphurous baths and other treatments including acupuncture can be arranged here through the Villa Soroa hotel.
The Sierra del Rosario’s birds
The Sierra del Rosario’s birds
A mixture of semitropical rainforest and evergreen forest, the Sierra del Rosario is home to a rich variety of bird species, fifty percent of which are endemic to this region. Among the more notable of the seventy-or-so species here are the white-and-red Cuban trogon or tocororo, Cuba’s national bird, and the Cuban grassquit, known in Spanish as the tomeguín del Pinar.