Parque Lenin

Park in Outer Havana

Parque Lenin, in Arroyo Naranjo municipality, 20km south of central Havana, is the city's largest recreational area. Constructed between 1969 and 1972 on the orders of Celia Sánchez, a long-time associate of Fidel Castro, it is one of the few developments in Havana from this era. The 670 hectares of green parkland and beautiful old trees surround an artificial lake, the Embalse Paso Sequito, just west of the much larger Embalse Ejército Rebelde, which was formed by damming the Río Almendares.

Although the park itself is attractive enough, its mishmash of facilities has fallen on hard times since the 1990s. Taxi drivers complain it's muy abandonado and wax nostalgic about when 'Lenin' was an idyllic weekend getaway for scores of pleasure-seeking Havana families. These days the place retains a neglected and surreal air. Help has long been promised, though words tend to be louder than actions. To date, some Chinese investment has filtered through, but it's a big job that's still a long way from completion. Around 95% of the current visitors are Cubans who come here mainly at weekends.

Most of the park's attractions are open 9am to 5pm Tuesday to Sunday, and admission to the park itself is free. You can sometimes rent a rowboat on the Embalse Paso Sequito. Horse-riding is also popular, but hire your mounts from the Centro Ecuestre rather than the army of hustlers who hang around outside the entrance and who often ride maltreated horses.

To get to the park, the P-13 will get you close, but to catch it you have to first get to Vibora. The best way to do this is to get on the P-9 at Calles 23 and L in Vedado.