Pinar del Rio possesses some of Cuba’s most dramatic natural landscapes including Vinales Valley, the world’s best tobacco growing region. The spectacular valley floor is dotted with dramatic limestone flat topped mountains called 'mogotes', remnants of a huge plateau which rose from the sea 160 million years ago and which contains several caverns and underground rivers. The rich soil of the valley is perfect for the growing of tobacco, whose aroma permeates the air during the early part of the year.
Places to Visit
Pinar del Rio City
Despite a population of 125,000, the city has a very intimate and attractive feel, with some handsome neoclassical architecture and tall pines and palm trees lining the streets. Relatively untouched by tourism, its inhabitants are extremely hospitable and the visitor will get a real feel for Cuban provincial life. The city’s cigar factory is housed in a former colonial prison and is a great place to observe the cigar making process at close hand. You will also get an insight into production at the Casa Garay factory, home of guayabita, unique to the province. This concoction is a spicy alcoholic drink made from a local fruit and sampling it is not to be missed!
Despite being such a popular destination, this sweeping valley remains serenely unspoilt, as there is very little in the way of hotels and tourist infrastructure. As you drive through the area you will see the guajiros on horseback or accompanying their oxen as they plough the tobacco and maize plantations. Don’t miss the spectacular view over the valley floor from the Los Jazmines hotel, particularly at sunset!
Mural de la Prehistoria
The Cuban painter Leovigildo Gonzalez, a pupil of Diego Rivera, painted the history of evolution on to the face of a mogote. The cracks in the rock are particularly effective in enhancing the colour and light effects of the mural.
Santo Tomas caves
This network of caves is the largest in Latin America, some 11 miles long. During the 19th century local farmers used them to hold festivals!
This hamlet is made up of small cabanas along leafy streets, and is a cool and pleasant place to while away some time while relaxing over a drink. Little disturbs the atmosphere and most of the village life is centred around the main square, where you can view the Casa de la Cultura, an old colonial structure dating from 1832 and the quaint nineteenth century church.
Los Colorados archipelago is located just off the north coast of Western Cuba and consists of extensive woodland, and endless virgin beaches with a beautiful coral reef offshore.The best known keys are Cayo Levisa, Cayo Paraiso and Cayo Jutias, reached either by boat or causeway from the mainland. The keys make a perfect destination for relaxing, sailing and particularly diving due to the abundance of black coral.
Declared a world biosphere UNESCO reserve, this peninsula is home to over 600 species of plants and animals including many birds, deer, boar, jutias (oppossum-like rodents) and reptiles. Maria La Gorda has an abundance of coral reefs and transparent waters and acts as a powerful magnet to divers worldwide. Visits to the area can be arranged through local hotels.
Casa Particular, Spanish for ‘private house’, is a private homestay, quite similar to a B&B. These are normally run by Cuban families and are a chance to really experience Cuba and interact with the locals. Each Casa Particular is different and they are normally quite small (1 – 2 rooms available). Rooms are clean, safe, upgraded to tourist standards and will generally fit basic needs and expectations. Casa Particular’s are popular with the independent traveller and we recommend home stays to get a real feel of Cuba whilst staying with a Cuban family, but remember to keep an open mind!
We currently can book Casa Particulars in Vinales, Trinidad, Cienfuegos & Baracoa. The name of the casa where you will stay will be informed before you travel, however due to local circumstances, this might have to be changed to a similar casa. If you are interested please contact us for further information and prices.
Please note Casa Particulars may not be suitable for those with limited mobility.
Places to Eat
Cueva del Indio
Located next to the cave, this charming rustic restaurant serves typical Indo-Cuban food, including yucca fritters and Creole style chicken.
Mural de la Prehistoria
Situated near the impressive rock mural, its namesake restaurant serves authentic Creole food including roast and smoked pork.
Casa de don Tomas
This restaurant can be found in Vinales village and is housed in an old 19th century residence. The speciality of the house is a variation on paella, containing lobster, fish, pork and sausage.