Parque Nacional Península de Guanahacabibes
If you want to see Cuba how Columbus must have seen it, come to the Península de Guanahacabibes, the flat and deceptively narrow finger of land that points toward Mexico on the island's western tip. Protected by a national park and a Unesco Biosphere Reserve, this place is practically virgin territory.
Península de Guanahacabibes
As the island narrows at its western end, you fall upon the low-lying and ecologically rich Península de Guanahacabibes. One of Cuba's most isolated enclaves, it once provided shelter for its earliest inhabitants, the Guanahatabeys. A two-hour drive from Pinar del Río, this region lacks major tourist infrastructure, meaning it feels far more isolated than it is.
Parque Nacional Viñales
Parque Nacional Viñales' extraordinary cultural landscape covers 150 sq km and supports a population of 25,000 people. A mosaic of mogote-studded settlements grows coffee, tobacco, sugarcane, oranges, avocados and bananas on some of the oldest, most tradition-steeped landscapes in Cuba.
San Diego de Los Baños
Sitting 130km southwest of Havana, this nondescript town just north of the Carretera Central is popularly considered the country's best spa location. As with other Cuban spas, its medicinal waters were supposedly 'discovered' in the early colonial period when a sick slave stumbled upon a sulfurous spring, took a revitalizing bath and was miraculously cured.
Sierra de Güira
With rough roads and precious little accommodation, the untamed Sierra de Güira, a medley of limestone karst cliffs and swooping pockets of forest west of San Diego de los Baños, is off the tourist radar. This didn't prevent it becoming a retreat for the Revolution's most renowned figures in the past and, to this day, a host of rare birdlife.
Becalmed at the end of a long, bumpy road, the fishing village of Puerto Esperanza (Port of Hope), 6km north of San Cayetano and 25km north of Viñales, isn't sleepy so much as veritably slumbering. The clocks haven't worked here since…oh…1951. According to town lore, the giant mango trees lining the entry road were planted by slaves in the 1800s.