160 kilometres west of Havana is the intriguing city of Pinar del Río. Not a major tourist destination itself, south-west of Pinar del Río is the famous Robaina cigar tobacco farm Finca El Pinar and to the north, Viñales’ wonderful landscapes.
After the new year in Havana Rocío and I were ready to go west. From Parque de la Fraternidad we caught the local P-12 bus to near the National Bus Terminal (Terminal de Ómnibus Nacionales). On 19 de Mayo Avenue we took an old Chevrolet van colectivo to Pinar del Río. Part way there the vehicle experienced a flat tyre.
While changing the tyre, the driver used a rock to support the axle. The van’s lights contained images of Che Guevara.
In central Pinar del Río we found Villa Odalys Arias, a lovely guest-house (casa particular) with an excellent host. Our spacious room included a fridge and two air conditioners: one disabled Soviet-built unit and a modern appliance with a remote control which required plugging-in to use. The uniqueness of Cuba.
From Pinar del Río we visited Viñales for a day. Returning, we hitched a ride in a light blue Chevrolet towing an also-blue trailer.
Provincial History Museum (Museo Provincial de Historia)
Exploring the city we visited Pinar del Río’s Provincial History Museum. Displaying exhibits from various eras including colonial, independence and modern, the furniture designs inspired Rocío, a trained architect.
One museum section was dedicated to cigar-related items including brand stamps, lighters, boxes, labels and a photograph of the late Alejandro Robaina, a noted tobacco farmer and local identity.
Architecture and Art
Pinar del Río’s streets contain interesting art and ornate buildings built pre-revolution.
Eating and Drinking
With fewer tourists, Pinar del Río lacks the relative culinary variety and sophistication of Viñales. We self-catered and also enjoyed street food from stalls near the bus station. In addition, Pinar del Río provided our worst meal in Cuba.
One afternoon heavy rain hit. We popped into a state restaurant north of Parque de la Independencia to shelter and have lunch. The chips and rice were not fresh and the tuna tasted ancient and dry. If the fish was the initial item placed in Cuba’s first ever freezer, thawed on the day and then fried for an hour I would not be surprised. At least the tomato was okay. After eating tree rat stew at La Gran Piedra, Rocío knew she could eat anything and made herself consume this meal.
One evening we enjoyed cocktails at Café Ortúzar. Pinar del Río is also known for Guayabita del Pinar, a guava liquor we tasted in Viñales.