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Eastern Cuba Travel Guide

Parque Nacional Turquino

The Sierra Maestra was the base of Castro's rebel army, and a tour through its dramatic terrain makes it clear why the revolutionaries chose it as a place to hide from—and launch clandestine strikes against—Batista's forces. Its massive spine, averaging 1,372 meters (4,500 feet) in height, cuts 130 km (81 mi) across Oriente, throwing a shadow over the southern coast from southwest Granma Province

to Santiago de Cuba. The range is covered by moist, tropical forests with huge ferns and towering bamboo. It's cut by steep ravines, rocky valleys, and rushing rivers, and its peaks are often covered with clouds.

Its history and majesty are preserved in the Parque Nacional Turquino. Santo Domingo, on the banks of the Río Yara and in a valley between two steep mountainsides, is a hub for visits to the park. The village has restaurants, accommodations, and shops with provisions. You can hire a guide (they're obligatory, but charge only about 5 cuc a day) and buy a 10-cuc permit to enter the park at the Villa Santo Domingo hotel. There have been reports that you need the 10-cuc permit to enter the park, but the manager at the Villa Santo Domingo says that, with a guide, such a permit isn't necessary. It's best to call ahead to find out what you need and to make sure that the park is open; if the Cuban National Institute of Science or another agency is conducting research, the park may be closed to visitors.

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