While at port in Havana, be sure to take the Cuba cruise excursion to Las Terrazas, a pioneering eco-community often referred to as Cuba’s own Shangri-La. Join us as we give you a tour of just what you can expect from this once in a lifetime Cruising to Cuba excursion.
Las Terrazas is some 40 miles west of Havana, so we will begin our journey by heading north from the port on to the Malecon.
If this is your first time in Havana, seeing so many 50’s era American cars will fill your heart. To see them on the roads and especially with Havana Bay to your right is a sight to behold. As we head north on the Malecon we will pass the newly reopened USA Embassy, it will be on the left side of the bus, be sure to try get a photo as the bus passes by!
As we begin to head west, we will travel through numerous residential neighborhoods, if you are a fan of architecture, you will definitely get your fill of structures, some having been completely restored.
As we leave Havana, we will get on to Autopista A4 southwest towards Sorao, a narrow valley where Las Terrazas lies. The roads are in great shape, A4 being some 6 lanes wide, 3 in each direction separated by a wide median.
The further we travel, the fewer vehicles we will see. The landscape is mostly agricultural with crops on both sides of the Autopista. After an hour or so, we will reach our destination, Las Terrazas, part of a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve established in 1985.
A bit of history is in order here. Las Terrazas is located in the Sierra del Rosario range, a low mountainous area. The area was heavily logged by Spanish Conquistadors and then turned into vast coffee plantations run by French exiles from Haiti. Let’s walk up the road to the Plantation works.
Remnants including the slave quarters are still preserved, such heart wrenching history here.
The numerous terraces used for coffee bean drying give an indication of just how much coffee was produced here!!
In 1968, Fidel Castro took his Green Revolution to Las Terrazas. The plan was to build an eco village that would house and provide work for the people in this area living in extreme poverty. At that time, the plantations were long gone and what plant life that had existed was clear cut as the local population relied upon charcoal to eke out a meager existence. Fidel Castro placed architect Osmany Cienfuegos in charge of bringing this area back to life. The plan was to cut terraces (thus Las Terrazas) into the hills using bulldozers. This would give flatter land where some 6.5 million trees of over 35 species were hand planted. You can see an image of these hills before planting on the left of the map of Las Terrazas:
Suffice it to say, the plan worked on a grand scale. Las Terrazas feels like a rain forest, flush with dense plant and animal life!
There are 2 small lakes in the center of the village. Here’s Lago del San Juan in the very heart of Las Terrazas.
Housing and facilities for the some 1000 residents are placed around these lakes. A very tranquil place indeed!
Time to catch a snack from the local peanut man. I preferred the peanuts with honey, like a Planter’s Peanut Bar but the fresh honey just ups the game. Be sure to have some cash to pick up a bar or two, one of the great treats on your Cuba cruise excursion to Las Terrazas. Get them quick before he sells out!!
As part of the person to person cultural exchange, you will have a chance to ask questions of the Doctor, who staffs the clinic in Las Terrazas.
It is a self sustaining community with daycare for both young children and the elderly. A library is in the main facility square.
This truly is an “Eco-Community” in every way, if you look to the right in the above photo you will see metal protrusions from the area just below the roof. This is part of a shower that utilizes rainwater from the roof, each plate is tilted to fall on the next one down and then they combine and fall on a shower head! What a great idea!
Some of the buildings have solar water heaters mounted on the roofs. Why not, with the sun and fresh water, it is a natural.
I also saw a brand new solar cooker, with rotisserie at that!!
Let’s have some lunch with food grown and raised right here in Las Terrazas. The view is spectacular from the restaurant as is the food. And there is a lot of it too! With music of course.
We have plenty of time to walk around and experience how the residents live here. Just imagining what it was like before the Green Revolution and now is quite intriguing.
Residents have a choice of transportation, vehicles in Cuba are always a joy to look at, a lot of ingenuity at work.
The trees are filled with epiphytes, so be sure to look up every once in a while. Oh how I would love to be able to grow such beautiful and healthy specimens in my yard.
And who knows, you just may come across a turkey vulture spreading her wings.
Time to head back to the ship from our Cuba cruise excursion to Las Terrazas, the bus ride back to port takes us right into Havana and more cars too!!