West of Soroa along the autopista lie a number of relatively entertaining detours, all within a forty-minute drive of the main road. If you are driving – which is the best option, given no bus routes currently operate to this area from Havana or Pinar del Río city – it’s easy to cover them all in a single day. The place you’re most likely to spend a night, or at least stop for a meal, is the sleepy town of San Diego de los Baños, famous for its health spa, which is said to be the best in the country, though there are now several more modern, upmarket hotel-spas on the island offering better facilities (minus the same range of therapies).
The box-like exterior of the spa contrasts strikingly with the flourishing forests on the other side of the river. When you’ve had your fill of the waters, you might want to rent bikes and motorbikes at the hotel, or arrange hiking and fishing trips into the hundred square kilometres of protected woodlands just a leisurely stroll away. There’s not much else to do in San Diego de los Baños, though you could wander around the village to the leafy little square, with its creaking seesaws and swings and church; or spend a few hours in the cinema, next door to the Hotel Mirador.
From here it’s only a short drive to the area’s other two attractions: Parque La Güira, a rambling country park, and, slightly further north, the Cueva de los Portales, a modestly impressive cave that cuts a dramatic hole straight through the Loma de los Arcos, and which was once the military headquarters of Che Guevara and his army.Read More
Balneario San Diego
Balneario San Diego
Perched above the river that cuts along the edge of San Diego de los Baños, the Balneario San Diego’s reputation for medicinal powers dates back to 1632, when a slave, forced into isolation because of ill health, took an afternoon dip in the natural springs here and was supposedly instantly cured. Word rapidly spread and the country’s infirm began to flock here to be healed. By 1844 a town had been established to provide for the visitors, and eventually a rather utilitarian health spa was built to house the waters, though this didn’t take its current shape until after the Revolution. Nowadays most visitors are tourists, or Cubans on a prescribed course of treatment, as well as for beauty therapy, though you can just take a wallow in the waters. Popular treatments include acupuncture, medicinal mud and apitherapy (the therapeutic use of bee products), a field in which Cuba is reportedly a pioneer.