The mountain resort of Topes de Collantes is a kind of hotel village, its unsubtle architecture completely out of keeping with the beauty of its surroundings – as is the road clumsily blasted down the middle of the resort. Though there are a couple of likeable museums around the village, and one or two modest venues for eating and drinking, the main reason to make the trip up here is to use the resort as a base for hiking along designated trails, which you can follow as part of an organized excursion from Trinidad or independently by first visiting the park’s information centre.
At the heart of Topes de Collantes is its founding building, the monstrous Sanatorio Topes de Collantes, commissioned in 1936 by Fulgencio Batista, the Cuban dictator overthrown by Fidel Castro and his rebels. Originally a huge tuberculosis clinic and once referred to as the Sanatorio General Batista, it represented Batista’s Mussolini-esque desire to leave a lasting legacy, a monument to his own power and influence. It wasn’t completed until 1957 and today operates as the Kurhotel, an anti-stress centre and hotel.
This mountainous area has its own microclimate and is always a couple of degrees cooler than Trinidad. It’s also far more likely to rain here than down by the coast, and as the heavens open almost every afternoon for much of the year, it’s a good idea to get up here early if you’re visiting on a day-trip.
During the 1980s the hotels of Topes de Collantes were filled with hundreds of artworks by Cuban artists of national renown. Scores of these are now installed in the rooms of the engaging Museo de Arte Cubano Contemporaneo, opened in 2008 on the main road through Topes de Collantes, 350m before the information centre on the approach from Trinidad. In all there are some sixty paintings by artists such as Rubén Torres Llorca, Zaida del Río and Tomás Sánchez, as well as some sculptures and prints. The pretty museum building, with its colourful stained-glass windows, dates from 1944, and was owned by a Cuban senator before the Revolution and its subsequent appropriation by the State.