A wonderfully harmonious resort and small working community, LAS TERRAZAS, 74km southwest of Havana, is one of the most important ecotourism sites in the country. About 2km beyond the tollbooth on the main access road, where you pay your entry fee unless you’re staying at the resort’s solitary hotel, there are right- and left-hand side-roads in quick succession. The right turn leads to Rancho Curujey, a visitor centre for both tour groups and independent travellers, while the left turn leads several hundred metres down to the village, a well-spaced complex of red-roofed bungalows and apartment blocks, beautifully woven into the grassy slopes of a valley, at the foot of which is a man-made lake. The housing is perched on terraced slopes that dip steeply down into the centre of the Las Terrazas community, forming a smaller, more compact, trench-like valley within the valley-settlement itself. Though the cabins look as if they’re meant for visitors, they belong to the resident population of around a thousand.
The final stretch of the main road leads up to the other tollbooth (where you won’t get charged if you already paid at the Havana end) on the western border of the resort, immediately after which a left turn will take you on the road to Soroa and back to the autopista.
The Las Terrazas community was founded in 1971, with its residents encouraged to play an active role in the preservation and care of the local environment. They formed the backbone of the workforce, whose first task was a massive government-funded reforestation project covering some fifty square kilometres of the Sierra del Rosario. As well as building the village itself, this project entailed planting trees along terraces dug into the hillside, thus guarding against erosion and giving the place its name. This was all part of a grander scheme by the government to promote self-sufficiency and education in rural areas, one of the promises of the Revolution. Today a large proportion of the community works in tourism, some as employees at the hotel and others as owners of the small businesses that have been set up in response to the growing numbers of visitors.