Vinales Valley, Cuba
Western Cuba, a favorite destination for visitors interested in nature tourism, has the Viñales Valley, whose origin dates back to more than 300 million years ago, as an attraction par excellence to enjoy that tourist modality. According to experts, the Viñales Valley is an exceptional scenery, in which its unique nature and the preservation of the environment blend with the agricultural work of men and women, especially in tobacco fields.
Covering an area of 132 square kilometers, the Viñales Valley is also the most outstanding exponent of a chalky valley in the Antilles, and is surrounded by "mogotes", which are hills with round tops and vertical slopes. According to experts, the valley's flora is closely linked to its ancient past, since it holds 17 endemic varieties that cannot be found anywhere on Earth, including the cork palm (Microcycas calocoma), which is considered a living fossil from the Jurassic period.,
The region's fauna is highly endemic, including birds like the bee hummingbirds (Calypte helenae), Cuban trogons or "tocororos" (Priotelus temnurus), cartacubas (Todus multicolor), nightingales (Myadestes elisabeth) and Cuban grassquits (Tiaris canora).The town of Viñales, in the heart of the valley, is a typical agricultural settlement whose main street is flanked by galleries of columns and red-tiled houses. The socio-historical development of the region contains elements and sites that characterize the Cuban people with antecedents from aborigines, African slaves and peasants. The unique features of the area's natural landscape surround all this.In one of the "mogotes", known as "Dos Hermanas" (Two Sisters), visitors can enjoy one of the world's biggest outdoors natural paintings, the so-called Mural of Prehistory. ,
The Mural of Prehistory, which is 120 meters high and 180 meters wide, was painted on the slope of the aforementioned hill. It is a singular representation of the biological evolution of Sierra de los Organos, also in western Pinar del Río province.Experts recall that in order to paint the mural, the vegetal layer on the slope of Dos Hermanas had to be removed, while a score of local residents participated in the dangerous artistic work under the guidance of Cuban Professor Leovigildo González (deceased).
The passage of time has failed to erase this breathtaking work of art, which attracts thousands of visitors every year, who come to enjoy the images of the plesiosaurus and the megalonus rodens, painted with singular ability on the hill's slope.
In addition, the Viñales Valley has numerous caverns, among which Cueva del Indio (crossed by the San Vicente River), Cueva de San Miguel and Cueva de Santo Tomás stand out. The latter has been classified among the largest caverns in Latin America, with more than 45 kilometers of galleries.,
The Viñales Valley, which was declared World Heritage by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), is also Cuba's true Natural Monument and receives thousands of vacationers who want to be in direct contact with nature while they tour the Cuban archipelago.A large number of hotels in Pinar del Río province are in the Viñales Valley, where Los Jazmínes Hotel offers a wide range of options, including trails for ecotourism.Those trails are "The Road to the Mogotes", which begins at the hotel and leads to the depths of the valley, ending at the Mural of Prehistory; "Unsuspected Nature", in which travelers can enjoy the many species of birds inhabiting the region, and "The Secrets of the Underground World", in which Cueva de Santo Tomás stands out for its great archeological values.
The hotel's amenities include air-conditioned rooms, sports facilities and outdoors activities.Another hotel is La Ermita, which offers the ecological tour "Wonders of Viñales", which consists of a walk to Sierra del Infierno to watch the local flora and fauna, especially birds, and take a close look of the cork palm.The hotel infrastructure of the Viñales Valley is complemented by the Rancho San Vicente Hotel, which is located near a spring of mineral-medicinal waters that became famous in the 19th century.
Mapa de Vinales Valley
Mariana Grajales Airport (IATA: GAO, ICAO: MUGT) is an airport serving Guantánamo, a city in Cuba. It is located near the villages of Paraguay and Las Lajas. The runway was built during the II World War by the US Navy as a reserve airfield for the US Guantanamo Bay Naval Base. Up to the 60's was known as "Los Caños" aerodrome.
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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