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Southwest of Cuba’s capital city of Havana is the Pinar del Rio Province. This quiet corner of the island is home to some of Cuba’s most stunning landscapes. Great limestone hills rise almost vertically out of a patchwork of farms and tobacco plantations covering the valley floor. The coasts are lined with deserted white sand beaches and the glistening waters hide some of the country’s best diving spots. This is a must visit when in Cuba.
Easily the most famous attraction in the Pinar del Rio Province is the UNESCO World Heritage listed Vinales Valley. The introduction to the valley couldn’t be more dramatic. As you wind your way up to a hill crest the vast valley is suddenly visible before you. The valley is carpeted in farms and tobacco plantations with starkly different coloured crops. But most spectacular of all is the series of rocky outcrops called magotes which rise imposingly from the valley floor. In the valley itself is the small rural town of Vinales which is surrounded by walking and biking tracks. However the most popular way to get around is by horseback, as is it seems, the most common use of transport in the valley too.
Pinar del Rio is also centre of what is perhaps Cuba’s most famous export, tobacco. Or to more exact, cigars! The rich fertile land here accounts for 70% of the nations tobacco crop. Tours of cigar factories can be done all around Cuba, but for the quintessential experience, the Vegas Robaina plantation is a must. Here you are taken through the whole cigar making process and can even be taught to roll your own by the man himself!
With so much attention on what’s happening inland, the beaches of Pinar del Rio are relatively quiet. They are of course, beautiful, as all beaches in Cuba are. Pinar del Rio boasts white sand beaches with crystal clear waters and the islands best reefs, making them a magnet for divers and snorkellers. An array of unique marine life can be spotted mere metres offshore, as well as all your Nemo favourites, and if you’re lucky, sea turtles.
Most people visit the Vinales and Pinar del Rio by day tour from Havana, but with so many wonderful natural sights and unique adventures to be had, the region really demands one or two nights for the best experience.
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