Cuba // Artemisa and Pinar del Río //

San Diego de los Baños and around

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.

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