Hiking Pico Turquino Featured in
Cuba's highest peak—Pico Turquino—sits in the heart of the Sierra Maestra National Park (Gran Parque Nacional Sierra Maestra) and reaches an altitude of 1974 meters. The Sierra Maestra National Park is a great place to see endangered animals, wild orchids and giant ferns growing in beautiful cloud forests. Among the beauty of nature, hikers will also find La Comandancia, former headquarters of the rebel army of Fidel Castro.
At the entrance to the Sierra Maestra National Park, you have to pay an entry fee and a permit fee that includes a compulsory guide, accommodation in the lodges and some food along the way. It's also a good idea to bring some water and snack with you, as there are not too many freshwater sources and food provided by the park is often insufficient.
The hike usually goes southward from Santo Domingo (trail starts at Alto de Naranjo) to Las Cuevas or vice versa. The southbound hike allows to start with a visit to La Comandancia de la Plata (mountain headquarters to rebel army of Fidel Castro, Che Guevara, and their comrades). Also, it opens better views to the hikers and provides a more gradual elevation gain.
The hike usually takes two to three days. For those starting at Alto Naranjo, the first-day hike will take about five hours until they reach first lodge—Aguada de Joaquin. It's one of the few places in the area with fresh water. The lodge provides very basic accommodation with bunk beds and fairly primitive bathroom facilities. The good thing is that cooks are there day and night, so they prepare simple meals for the travelers. The next day, hikers continue their way to Pico Turquino, dealing with steep slopes and wooden ladders.
On the top of the mountain, you will see a bust of José Marti, the hero of the second war for Cuban's independence from Spain. The peak doesn't offer great views, as trees grow on the top. The best view of the majestic Caribbean sea opens a bit down from the peak.
You can spend another night in the lodge just after Pico Cuba, or head down to the seaside at Las Cuevas.
The best time to hike Pico Turquino is during the dry season from mid-October to April. The other half of year is less favorable due to hot and humid weather.