Cuba is famed for being a lush wonderland filled with natural marvels. Home to towering mountain ranges, abundant wildlife, and UNESCO-listed valleys and swamps, this tropical island boasts unique ecosystems, cascading waterfalls, and barely trodden paths for the erstwhile adventurer to explore.
Whether your wanderlust is calling for jewel coloured birds or jaw-dropping feats courtesy of Mother Nature, here are just a few of its exquisite and awe-inspiring natural landmarks for you to enjoy…
#1: The Valley of Viñales
Arguably the most picturesque of Cuba’s natural wonders, the Viñales Valley is the nation’s most photographed, celebrated, and famous place to visit, and should be the first stop on every serious traveler’s itinerary. Listed on the UNESCO World Heritage Site as an Outstanding Example of a Type of Landscape, its fertile plains drop away to a patchwork of tobacco plantations, all set against the towering outcrops known as ‘mogotes’. Unchanged for hundreds of years, its setting has a raw, visceral charm to transport you back through the centuries to a time when Mother Nature reigned supreme. Whether you view it from horseback or bike your way through its breath-taking wilderness, don’t forget to stop in at the famous El Palenque de los Cimarrones: a cave that once hid runaway slaves from their tyrannical masters.
#2: Sierra del Rosario
The next stop on your itinerary should be Sierra del Rosario, a UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve and an IUCN Managed Resource Protected Area. This vast mountain range spans over 260 kilometres, and encompasses within its bounds everything from tropical rainforests to evergreen environments. Home to one of the world’s smallest frogs and the endemic chipojo lizard, it also houses more than 800 plant and several bird species (including the tiny bee hummingbird), and the yellow-striped pygmy eleuth. Take a trek through its wilderness to see what you discover.
#3: Cienaga de Zapata
Housing the largest wetlands in the entirety of the Caribbean, Cienaga de Zapata is a national park and protected reserve that plays host to over 900 plant, 31 reptile and 175 bird species. Home to the only known colony of the critically endangered Cuban crocodile, it boasts rich biodiversity and sights to make any visitor’s heart soar. Visit it and lose yourself for days, taking time to explore the many treasures hidden within its vast territory, from small keys to coral reefs and mangrove forests.