I´m Going to Pinar del Río
By Carmen Alfonso Photos: Courtesy PUBLICITUR S.A.
Originally inhabited 4,000 years ago by the Guanahatabey, no towns were founded in Cuba's westernmost Pinar del Rio during the first period of the Spanish conquest. The first settlement occurred in 1717 when tobacco growers moved from Havana, but it was not until 1867 that the town of Pinar del Rio became a city.
The most important geographic characteristic of the province is the east-west arc formed by the Sierra del Rosario and the Sierra de los Organos, with the 692-meter-peak of Pan de Guajaibón, the tallest in the area.
The landscape of the beautiful Viñales Valley is dotted with the famous mogotes or hummocks, round top limestone elevations with vertical slopes often hiding caves crossed by underground rivers. Another symbol of this area is the vegas (tobacco fields), famous for growing the best tobacco in the world. Natives taught Europeans how to smoke the leaves and it has always been one of the main sources of income for the country. Brands like Montecristi, Cohiba, H.Upmann, Partagás and Vegueros are internationally known.
History and Culture
The region's cultural infrastructure, with more than 60 cinemas, theaters and 20 museums, gives testimony to the many important figures of science and literature who were born here. Among these is the museum of natural sciences named for the renowned Tranquilino Sandalio de Noda. Famous Pinar natives include Cuban novelist Cirilo Villaverde (author of Cecilia Valdés), painter Pedro Pablo Oliva, and musician Enrique Jorrín, creator of the cha-cha-cha.
The name of Isabel Rubio, Pinar del Rio patriot, has been inscribed in the history of Cuba's 19th century wars of independence of the and also became the name of one of the area's main settlements. Although before the revolution Pinar del Rio was considered Cuba's "Cinderella" province, today, together with its development in tobacco, mining and sugar industries, its tourism environments are provided by nature and man.
Valle de Viñales
Besides the Guanahacabibes peninsula, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, the 11 kilometer Viñales Valley, 27 kilometers north of Pinar del Rio, is not to be missed. And the morning fog settling upon the valley is definitely worth getting up early to see. Located some 5 km from the town of Viñales is the Prehistory Mural painted on a long cliff face in the small Dos Hermanas valley. The mural was originally painted in 1961 and depicts the evolutionary process in the Sierra de los Organos.
The best viewpoints to admire and capture the beauty of the Viñales Valley are from the Los Jazmines and La Ermita motels. Both facilities have the best accommodations in the area as well as programs and activities for eco-tourism and other leisure options.
Soroa Orchid Garden
Among the treasures of Pinar del Rio Province is Soroa, found almost on the border between Havana and Pinar del Rio provinces. It is considered the best ecological refuge in Cuba for its exuberant nature, trails, and its stellar orchid garden. The latter is the oldest and largest orchid garden in Cuba covering three hectares with more than 700 varieties of orchids.
Surrounded by a fabulous landscape, Soroa also has a great variety of Cuban flora and a magnificent waterfall from a river running through the mountains. At certain hours of the day one can see a small rainbow through the drops of water in the falls, hence Soroa's nickname, the Rainbow of Cuba.