A brand new canopy zip-line experience is scheduled to open to visitors in March 2020 at the National Botanical Garden (‘Jardín Botánico Nacional’), located in the suburbs of Havana. There will be nearly 1500 metres of lines, allowing visitors to zip across the botanical garden whilst enjoying stunning views of the diverse range of plant species.
The National Botanical Garden receives far fewer tourists than other parts of Havana, and yet it is ideally suited for children, adults and nature lovers. It is a great day out for families, especially as it allows the kids to run around in spaces with little car traffic and learn more about plant species and the natural world. It is a serene and peaceful environment, providing a much different atmosphere to the hectic charm of Old Havana.
The botanical garden took over 16 years to create, and was officially opened in 1984. It is ran by the University of Havana and is a member of the BGCI (Botanical Garden Conservation International), a charity based in Kew, London, that is dedicated to plant conservation and environmental education. In total there are over four thousand species of plants, and they are separated thematically into different geographical areas, including Asia, Australasia, America, Africa, Europe, and an area specially dedicated to Cuban plants, that also includes numerous native trees. A Japanese garden was added in 1989, a project that was undertaken in collaboration with the Japanese embassy, and includes a bridged fish pond.
The botanical garden has a total area of nature that stretches for nearly 600 hectares, and it is thought to be one of the largest of its type in the world. Small wonder, then, that with so much space it was chosen to create the new zip-line experience. If you are determined to see as much as possible, there are also mini tractor trains that usually leave four times a day and do an extensive route around the garden. It is included with the entrance ticket, as are the tour guides. Bear in mind that seeing the whole botanical garden on foot in a day is nearly impossible - there are over 20 miles of paths.
There are currently discussions in place to develop other experiences in the National Botanical Garden, such as installing electric bicycles to give visitors another method to traverse the gardens. It is hoped that this focus on eco-tourism will encourage more visitors to this part of Havana to engage with the biodiversity of Cuba’s fertile natural environment.
To get to the National Botanical Garden, the most convenient option is to take a taxi, as it is situated nearly 15 miles south of the city centre. Official taxis can be found parked outside the major hotels, make sure you negotiate the fee before the journey. Alternatively, you can book a ride through a travel agency, many of which are located on the ground floor of the major hotels. You should be able to arrange for the same driver to come and collect you later in the day. Due to the sheer scale of the garden, it is worth allowing at least three hours for the visit. There is a small fee to enter the garden, but considering the size of the place this is an absolute bargain.
In terms of food, the botanical garden is home to what was thought to be Havana’s first completely vegetarian cafe (today there are various options appearing in the city). Known as El Bambú, much of the food served up is grown in the local greenhouses. It is open for lunch from Monday to Sunday (1pm-3pm) and the food is served buffet-style. Not only are there multiple vegan-friendly options, but you will be seated in a delightful open air natural setting. Just remember the main drawback to the cafe is that if you go on a very rainy day then you might be out of luck, but there is another eating option near the entrance to the botanical garden.
Whilst the National Botanical Garden will play host to Havana’s major zip-line, it is worth noting that there are three other locations in Cuba that offer zip-lining experiences with picturesque views of the natural landscape. These can be found in the popular destinations of Viñales and Las Terrazas, and there are also ten different spans located not far from the colonial town of Trinidad.
If botanical gardens are your thing, Cuba’s other renowned botanical garden is located just under 10 miles outside the city of Cienfuegos. Known as ‘Jardín Botánico de Cienfuegos’, it was founded back in 1901 and has over two thousand plant species. As with the National Botanical Garden, it is a great day out for the family.
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