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Pinar del Rio is the capital city of the province of Pinar del Rio in Cuba and is located on the north west tip of the island. There are miles of fields of tobacco plants growing in the area surrounding the city where 70&percent; of Cuba's crop is produced to be used in the cigar industry that the country is renowned for.
The city of Pinar del Rio is well known for its good quality ceramics and weavings that make great holiday souvenirs.
The most popular places to visit within the city include the Provincial Museum of the History of Pinar del Rio, the Museum of Natural Sciences and the Tobacco Museum. Nightlife in western Cuba is fairly subdued although there are bars and restaurants to enjoy and cabaret shows with Cuban music and dancers. The majority of tourist attractions are located outside the city, such as Vinales Valley which was designated a World Heritage site by UNESCO in 1999. Traditional agricultural techniques are still used in the area and the valley is popular with climbers and hikers.
The valley's dramatic hills which surround the area are home to many fascinating caves including Cueva de los Portales where Che Guevara had his headquarters during the time of the Cuban Missile Crisis. 20km north east of Soroa lies the model village of Las Terrazas which was founded in 1971 as a reforestation and development project covering over 12,000 acres of land and is popular with holiday makers.
Pinar del Rio is considered the best place for scuba diving on the island. There are over 30 dive sites in the area, such as Cayo Levisa which is located 2km from the shore with a wonderful display of black coral. There are many scuba diving trips organised to this site on a regular basis. Maria la Gorda beach is a popular destination for divers as there are several good dive sites close to the beach, some only 200 metres away. The beach consists of soft white sand and stretches for eight kilometres. The sea bed is rich in biodiversity with plenty of marine life to view. The beach is located on Corrientes Bay, 93 miles west of the city of Pinar del Rio.
Diving instruction is available for beginners and there are other water sports available in the area. There are nature trails, excursions and trips available to the various natural and archaeological attractions nearby. The beach is lined with coconut palms which provide shade for sunbathers throughout the day. 56 miles from the city of Pinar del Rio is the beautiful and unspoilt islet of Cayo Jutias, connected to the mainland by a stone causeway close to the town of Minas de Matahambre. It has four miles of secluded beach and is a great place to get away from it all.
Travel from the capital of Cuba by train to Pinar del Rio is a reliable form of transport. The journey takes around five hours. Alternatively there are buses that run regularly from Havana to Pinar del Rio. Collective taxis are an economical way to take long trips from Havana and will leave their destination as soon as four people have paid for a journey. Travelling in the early morning means a swifter journey when the traffic is lighter. There are regular flights to Havana from the UK.