The Sierra Escambray, Cuba’s second-highest mountain range, lies mostly within Cienfuegos Province , descending gradually into Villa Clara Province to the north, edging into Sancti Spíritus Province  to the east, and dropping steeply to the southern coast. The Escambray’s peaks (which reach 1,140 meters atop Pico San Juan) and forests are protected in Parque Nacional Topes de Collantes , in the chain’s southeast corner.
In the late 1950s, these mountains were the site of a revolutionary front against Fulgencio Batista, led by Che Guevara. After the revolutionaries triumphed in 1959, the Escambray hid counterrevolutionaries who opposed Castro. The CIA helped finance and arm these resistance fighters, whom the Castro regime tagged “bandits.”
Castro formed counterinsurgency units called Battalions of Struggle Against Bandits, and forcibly evacuated campesinos to deny the anti-Castroites local support. The bandidos weren’t eradicated until 1966.
Access from Cienfuegos  is via the Circuito Sur  and the community of La Sierrita, about 30 kilometers east of Cienfuegos (the road continues to Topes de Collantes but was badly washed out at last visit and was suitable for 4WD only).
It’s a stupendously scenic route that rises past sheer-walled, cave-riddled limestone mogotes, at their most impressive near the town of San Blas, eight kilometers east of La Sierrita. San Blas sits in the lee of great cliffs where huge stalactites and stalagmites are exposed in an open cave high atop the mountains.