The central region of the Cuban archipelago, including the provinces of Villa Clara, Cienfuegos and Sancti Spiritus, has a huge potential for ecological tourism, in addition to dozens of kilometers of excellent beaches.
Culture and history go hand in hand with traditions inherited from Spanish colonial times, as well as excellent sites for nautical activities, trekking and ecological tourism.
Nature lovers visiting Villa Clara will enjoy the Hanabanilla Lake (the only intra-mountainous lake in the country), whose three outlets are Río Negro, Hanabanilla and Guanayara rivers.
The Hanabanilla Lake has a surface area of 14.9 square kilometers (5.8 square miles), and it is 30-40 meters (98-131 feet) deep as an average. It is 364 meters (1,200 feet) above sea level, and holds 300 million cubic meters of water.
In the aboriginal language, Hanabanilla means "small golden basket", a true reference to the natural wealth of the region, formerly known as Siguanea Valley, where Galician immigrants settle down centuries ago to cultivate coffee.
The region is also famous for its legends, some of which link the name of the place to one of the daughters of Chief Arimao, one of the leaders of aboriginal resistance against the Spanish conquistadors. The oldest inhabitants say that the Indian woman emerges from the water when the rivers overflow during the rainy season.
Trout fishing in the Hanabanilla Lake is one of the favorite pastimes for visitors, who always release their catch, thus contributing to preserving the lake's fauna.
Options for nature lovers include programs such as a visit to El Nicho, whose path runs into the mountain, along the Hanabanilla River, with several waterfalls and a breathtaking landscape that many vacationers have described as a natural wonder.
Travelers can stay at the Hanabanilla Hotel, whose 125 well-equipped rooms provide all modern amenities found in today's hotels, and where guests will enjoy the lake's wonderful view.
A boat excursion on Río Negro will allow vacationers to enjoy the area's unique beauty and its countryside ambiance, in addition to the mouthwatering gastronomic offer at the "ranchón" (a thatch-roof restaurant), which specializes in Cuban cuisine.
Travelers can also visit the small Cascada del Amor (Love Waterfall) and take a swim in its refreshing pond to relieve the heat from Cuban summer in a pleasant and unique environment.
Around the lake, in an environment that is an invitation to leisure and meditation in direct contact with nature, bird watchers can observe a number of endemic species, including the "tocororo" or Cuban trogon (Priotelus temnurus), the blue-winged teal (Anas discors), parrots and royal woodpeckers.