Caught the 2:40am ViAzul bus (that didn’t leave until 4am) from Camagüey to Trinidad and experienced a huge internal-to-Cuba culture shock! Up until this point in my trip, I’d been in the eastern part of Cuba, which is far less touristy than the parts closer to La Habana. I saw more souvenir shops and restaurants in 1 block heading up to the old part of Trinidad than I did in the entire previous 2 weeks!
Although the old part of Trinidad is yet another UNESCO world heritage place, after a bit of a wander, I was keen to get out into the countryside again so signed up for the Trini-topes day tour through Paraiso tours.
We met Alex our guide at the Parque Céspedes at 8:30am and, once all the people from the different tour operators arrived, we piled into an old Russian jeep (driven by Yuri of course!) for the trip into the Topes de Callantes area of the Escambray Mountains.
First stop was a viewpoint at 650m above sea level, which would have been spectacular if the day had been a bit nicer.
Then it was a stop at the town of Topes de Callantes to register for our hike and visit a coffee shop where we imbibed the included arabica robusta espresso – apparently the best in Cuba. No explanations about coffee growing or processing – really just drinking the coffee – so the most interesting thing I saw during this part of the trip was the Kurhotel Escambray.
Built in the 1930s by Bautista as a sanatorium for tuberculosis patients, it is now a hotel and spa, with some of it still dedicated to its original purpose!
From there we drove to the start of the ~3km round-trip hike to the Vegas Grandes waterfall (on other days the hike is to the El Caburni waterfall). The first part of the hike was fairly easy and passed through lush vegetation with the occasional good view.
Then there was the descent to the waterfall. It is quite a long way down and very steep – we weren’t looking forward to climbing back out! But the reward is worth the effort – a gorgeous waterfall and refreshingly cold water to swim. Once again – due to the heat – I was one of the first in the water.
We stayed at the waterfall for about an hour and then started the climb back out. The group was walking so slowly that I found the ascent really quite easy – I’m sure if I were setting the pace it would have felt much tougher! Then back to the jeep along a slightly different route that finished at these very Soviet looking apartment buildings that seemed to be in the middle of nowhere!
From there it was off for a very late lunch (3pm), which was definitely welcome. We had a huge torrential downpour during lunch which delayed our trip back to Trinidad, and when we finally did set off – everyone was rugged up in whatever they had (wet towels mostly – but I didn’t even have that!) to protect against the cold and the drips inside the jeep 🙂
Recommendation: This is a great day out, but if you are unfit, you will find the hike up from the waterfall very, very tough! Wear proper shoes!
Price: 29 CUC, which includes an espresso and lunch.
Time: ~7 hours
Where to eat in Trinidad: La Redaccion. Awesome, awesome food!