Sierra del Rosario, Cuba
This Reserve of the Biosphere was the first one to be declared in the country (1985) and at the eastern limit of the Guanibanico mountain range, in the Province of Pinar del Río. The area contains a varied flora and fauna with outstanding species of birds, favored by the humid tropical climate which is at the same time characterized by abundant precipitations that have conditioned the development of rain forest areas with height sometimes over 30 meters, where there are nearly 800 species of plants with 34% of endemism. In regards to the bird fauna of the area we can say that most of them represent the ones originally from Cuba, out of which the most outstanding ones are the zunzún (species of hummingbird) or fly bird, known as the smallest bird in the world. For visitors willing to contemplate nature, there are different touristic routes and pathways to be visited in company of specialized guides.
Mapa de Sierra del Rosario
Pinar del Río is the province with the highest number of protected areas in Cuba, as it contains two UNESCO-DECLARED Biosphere Reservations, the Guanahacabibes Peninsula and part of the Sierra del Rosario Mountain Range; declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, the Viñales Valley and several natural areas are full of excellently-preserved flora and fauna. Furthermore, it is one of the best places in the world to cultivate tobacco, therefore it has an ideal landscape for fertile red crops, plowed by oxen and with houses for drying it, usually invigilated by guajiros (Cuban people living in the countryside); as would be expected, it has its own tobacco factory (open to visitors).
The most idyllic beaches of this province are found at Jutías Cay and Levisa Cay, and on Playa María la Gorda Beach, (located on the western end of the island) there are more than fifty diving spots.
An excellent time to visit Pinar del Río would be between the months of May and August, since this is when it is possible to catch sight of unique animals such as the Guanahacabibes Turtles, but from October to March, it is best for for lovers of ornithology. Although, if you wish to enjoy a few days on the beach, the best weather is to be found between December and May. If possible, try to avoid going here between August and the beginning of October, as this region is famous for its strong hurricanes at this time of year.
As regards the city, we would like to highlight its art scene and seeming overabundance of colonial buildings which includes two fascinating museums, the Sandalio de Noda Natural Sciences Museum and the History Provincial Museum. You’ll also find a wonderful and recently renovated theater, the José Jacinto Milanés Theater.
We recommend visiting the city at the beginning of July, since Carnival, with colorful parades full of floats, is celebrated at this time.
The Pinar del Río province is Cuba's westernmost province and contains one of Cuba's three main mountain ranges, the Cordillera de Guaniguanico, divided into the easterly Sierra del Rosario and the westerly Sierra de los Órganos. These form a landscape characterised by steep sided limestone hills (called mogotes) and flat, fertile valleys. One such topographic feature, the Viñales Valley, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The northern coast opens to the great Gulf of Mexico, and is lined by the Colorados Archipelago, a string of cays and isles developed on a reef barrier. The westernmost point of Cuba, Cabo San Antonio, is located on the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, which is a National Park and a Biosphere Reserve.The province relies on tobacco farming, with Pinar del Río producing 70% of Cuba's crop, use to make the cigars that are so prized overseas. The best tobacco, used for more expensive cigar brands, is grown in the flat lands of San Juan y Martínez.
Tourism is also an important part of the province's economy. Though the town of Pinar del Río (the provincial capital) has some places of cultural and historical interest (such as the Cathedral of San Rosendo, a 19th-century construction), most attractions are to be found in rural or natural settings. A major destination is the Viñales Valley, a karstic depression located in the Sierra de los Organos, north of the town of Viñales. Designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 1999 because of its natural beauty and the traditional agricultural techniques which continue to be used in the cultivation of tobacco and other crops there, the valley is a popular hiking and rock climbing location.
Many of the valley's surrounding hills are dotted with caves which may be explored by visitors and spelunking has become another popular activity in the province (a particularly interesting cave is the Cueva de los Portales, beside the Río Caiguanabo, where Che Guevara set up his staff headquarters and dormitory as commander of the Western Army during the Cuban Missile Crisis).
Accommodations in and near Viñales have also grown in number in response to growing tourism in the region. In addition to casas particulares (licensed bed and breakfasts in private residences), there a number of hotels some kilometers from the town, such as "La Ermita" and Rancho Horizontes San Vicente.
Another major tourist destination in the province was Las Terrazas, a unique model village located 20 kilometer northeast of Soroa and, from 2011, part of the new Artemisa Province. Surrounded by mountains, the village was founded in 1971 as part of rural development and reforestation project which spans 5,000 ha (12,355 acres). As in other parts of the province, there are several hiking trails which weave through the surrounding mountains. Some companies offer guided hiking tours on a daily basis (in some areas, in fact, a guide is mandatory).
With around 30 diving sites, Pinar del Río is also considered one of Cuba's premier scuba diving destinations. Cayo Levisa,about two kilometers offshore, is known for its copious black coral and excursions to this cay are afforded by tour agencies based in the province. Another hugely popular location is María la Gorda beach,which boasts many nearby dive sites (as close as 200 m (220 yd) from the beach).
An increasing number of tourists also visit the San Diego hot springs, in search of the health benefits reportedly afforded by the warm sulfur-rich waters there. An additional spectrum of health-related services has also become available at this spa, including massages and mud baths.
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