Introducing Pinar del Río
Surrounded by beautiful verdant countryside and given an economic boost by its proximity to the world’s best tobacco-growing terrain, the city of Pinar del Río emits a strange energy, exacerbated by its famous jineteros (hustlers) who can wear down the most thick-skinned traveler. As a result, the place probably has more detractors than fans, especially since the bucolic jinetero-free paradise of Viñales is so close by. But a stopover here needn’t be purgatorial. There’s a tobacco factory to visit, some weirdly interesting architecture, and a hot, frenetic after-dark scene if you’re up for it.
Pinar del Río was one of the last provincial capitals on the island to take root, and still seems a tad stuck in the slow lane. Overlooked by successive central governments who preferred sugarcane to tobacco, the city became an urban backwater and the butt of countless jokes about the supposedly easy-to-fool guajiros who were popularly portrayed as simple-minded rural hicks. But the city fought back. It's overcome neglect, derision and several furious hurricanes and is busily trying to overturn its negative connotations.