Maria la Gorda, Cuba
Located in the western Guanacabibes Peninsula, is considered a Reserve of the Biosphere. Private and serene, Maria La Gorda is famous for its transparent marine landscapes, considered by many among the one with the biggest biological diversity in Cuba, and from where it is possible to find multiple species of corals, the biggest colony of black coral in the Cuban seas. The International Diving Center counts on its own lodging and it is located in the province of Pinar del Rio 304 km far from the capital of the country.
the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, holds a true natural treasure characterized by exuberant vegetation, fauna and flora, as well as the attractions of the region's sea bottoms.,The territory also treasures the imprint of Cuba's first inhabitants, who named the region Guanahacabibes. In 1987, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) declared the region a Biosphere Reserve.
The Guanahacabibes National Park is the country's largest natural reserve and is separated from the rest of the island by an isthmus of white-sand plains where Cuba's largest lakeside area lies. A relative small area holds some 100 lakes, as well as the largest and purest fields of silica sand, which is 99.8 percent pure.
The peninsula, one of the last refuges of aboriginal communities fleeing from the Spanish conquistadors, according to experts, also holds some 140 archeological sites linked to the life of aborigines, who were known as guanahatabeyes. Research has shown that aboriginal communities in different stages of development settled in the region, although the largest population consisted of fishermen and pickers rather than harvesters.,Ecotourism enthusiasts can enjoy a wide range of options, from themes trails such as "Las Perlas Cave", "Forest Facing the Sea" and "Guanahacabibes before Columbus", to excursions to Cabo de San Antonio (Cape San Antonio) and local communities, which are representative of the region's population.
Development prospects include the incorporation of such options as the trails "La Majagua" and "Hoyo del Palmar", and excursions to "El Valle Community", "In favor of Ecological Agriculture" and bird-watching spots in Cabo Corrientes (Cape Corrientes), La Bajada, el Bosque, Hoyo del Palmar and Herbazal de Ciénaga.,In Guanahacabibes, nature tourism is a major attraction in a 50,000-hectare National Park inhabited by 172 species of birds belonging to 42 families, 11 of which are endemic and 84 are migratory.,As a peculiar sign of the region's potential for nature tourism, experts say that four of the seven species of marine turtles living on the planet have survived in the Guanahacabibes Peninsula, thanks to Cuban authorities' protection programs.,Coral reefs in a perfect state of preservation are the foundations for the development of underwater programs in Cuba's warm crystal-clear waters.
Mapa de Maria la Gorda
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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