Visitors to Cuba tend to stick with places like Varadero, one of the many “Cayo” islands, or Havana. However, there are many other places to check out on this beautiful island nation and it is unfortunate more people don’t spread the love. I spent a day in the region of Pinar del Río and the only thing I regret was not being able to have more time there!
Pinar del Río is one of the provinces of Cuba and it is located in the west of the island. The landscape is pretty unique, being made up of red earth, green valleys, and limestone hills called mogotes. The landscape is beautiful enough that one area, the Viñales Valley, is considered to be a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There are no “happening” cities in this area and nor are there “grand” things to do. But if you’re interested in experiencing a slower pace of life, admiring landscapes, and doing random ecological things, this is the place for you!
Here are five things to do if you’re in Pinar del Río:
Explore Caves: If caves are your thing, Pinar del Río is full of them. Many are accessible for a wander or for spelunking. One cave I visited was Cueva del Indio. It’s perfect for those having a lazy day – you’re escorted on a paved path through the cave and the plopped onto a boat that traverses a cave river until you’re back outside. It’s a pleasantly cool experience in that it gives you a great break from the hot Cuban sun!
Learn About Cigars: There are several tobacco farms at which you can learn all about the cigar making process. Tobacco has a long history on Cuba. Did you know that when the production of tobacco became the focus for plantations, it was Filipinos who worked on them? In fact, there were so many Filipinos in Pinr del Río, the original name of the region was Nueva Filipinas! Today, the region produces about 70% of Cuba’s crop.
Visit the Mural de la Prehistoria: Randomly enough, the bar in this place had one of the best mojitos I’ve ever had. Bonus was that the bar tender just gave me the rum bottle to add as much as I wanted! If you have your mojito first, it makes the Mural rather interesting with its large size (painted on the side of a mogote) and bright colours. The mural depicts the evolution of life on Cuba, from ammonites to homo sapiens. It was painted in 1959.
Visit Towns: Humanity is scattered all acorss the Pinar del Río province but if you’re interested in checking out towns, there are three to check out – Las Terrazas, Vinales, and Pinar del Rio City. Great for seeing colonial architecture, experiencing Cuban town life, and some great people watching.
Road Trip: Either rent a car or hire a driver…and just drive! The scenery is fantastic and the area is excellent for random discoveries. It will be a highlight of a visit to Cuba, especially if you are a photographer of any skill level.
Have you been to Pinar del Río? If so, did you do anything interesting not mentioned in this list?