Over the Sierra del Escambray

There is a challenging route that connects Santa Clara with Trinidad, via Topes de Collantes. It is only about 75 kilometers from Santa Clara to Topes and another 20 or so to Trinidad. The distance seems reasonable, but only the strongest cyclists should consider doing it in a single day because some of the climbing through the Sierra del Escambray is very difficult.
From Santa Clara the route leads first to Manicaragua, a small, pleasant town to the south. At the corner by this church in Manicaragua, you must decide whether to detour to Hanabanilla or head directly for the difficult climbs to Topes de Collantes .
Hanabanilla is a large man-made lake, actually a reservoir, that snakes through the mountains almost like a river. It is very popular with Cubans as a fishing resort. There is a large, inexpensive hotel on the shore; this view is from the small balcony outside our room.
Topes de Collantes is a small mountain resort noted for its hiking trails and waterfalls. It is possible to stop at one of the hotels in town or make the spectacular descent to the Caribbean Sea and Trinidad. Cycling down the final descent feels like approaching a landing site in a small plane!