For the last and final part of my Cuba guide our stop is the Viñales Valley, which is a UNESCO heritage site. For this area that means that all farming done in the valley has to use the old processes of animal or manual labor. Additionally no pesticides are allowed in order to stick completely to the old methods.
Getting to Viñales from Trinidad ended up being quite the unexpected adventure. We anticipated the drive taking between 6-8 hours because on the map that is what it should be but oh boy were we wrong.
Our collective taxi picked us up and another set of travelers before we were heading off for Viñales. Our other travelers were also Americans who had been in Cuba since before the Inauguration, they were heading home soon so we got them started with the news we knew of from the 4 days post Inauguration that we were in the states. It might have ruined the rest of their trip, who knows. As we approached Havana (you have to pass Havana to get to Viñales) our driver told us to come with him, we were so confused. Thankful one of the Americans could speak Spanish and translated for us, we were to move to a different drivers vehicle to finish the trip, we pay him and he pays the next guy. It was raining out so we were brought to a large Van parked under an overpass. There was couple there who were already waiting, after talking with them we realized we had to wait for more passengers to show up. We ended up waiting for the better part of the hour before the other cars with tourists going to Viñales showed up. It was annoying to wait but it ended up being okay, they seem to have a pretty good system going for them so whatever works.
The drive to Viñales was really rainy that day and as you approach the valley the road gets pretty bumpy, which was not thrilling after a day of riding horses. Once we got to Viñales we were happy to get to our Casa. We arranged ours in advance but if you don’t there are plenty of people waiting for you when you arrive. Almost every house in Viñales acts as a Casa so you have plenty of choices.
We stayed two nights in Viñales and we thought that was the perfect amount. I don’t know what we would have done if we stayed longer.
My favorite spots will be in the list below, as with the Havana and Trinidad Guides I have created a Google map that has all the destinations on this list on it with a special addition of the wifi spots we found as well! You can access the map ‘ Intro to Cuba’ via this link! Additionally if you missed it I created a detailed Intro to Cuba guide with all the basic info you might need before going that you can visit here!
Calle A #14, Viñales, Cuba
Lovely private room with bathroom in a sweet Casa. The food was good and our hosts were very helpful in arranging a walking tour and car back to Havana.
As with Trinidad our best meals were at our Casa, that being said though we were happy with the two places we decided to go.
Google doesn’t have the street name for this one but it is off the street near the main square (this is on my google map for Cuba), Viñales, Cuba
The tamale here looked great though we didn’t try it. Our lunch here was nothing special but good.
3J Tapas Bar
Corner of Salvador Cisneros and Calle Ceferino Fernandez, Viñales, Cuba
Good spot for some small bites and a drink, there are a lot of tourists here but it is not a great spot to meet other travelers if you are traveling solo as the layout is a bit awkward.
As Viñales is in a beautiful valley this area would be great for landscape photography. We didn’t have enough time for proper landscape photography but we did take a lot of photos of the cute little houses and signage that is plentiful in town. The town square also has a cool old church that could make some great sunrise or sunset photos if that is your thing.
The reason most people come to Viñales is to do the Tobacco plantations and see the beautiful valley. In general there are two ways to do the tour, by walking or horseback. As we were still sore from our horse riding in Trinidad we went for the walking tour and were so glad we did. The horses in Viñales seemed to be more wild than the ones in Trinidad and treated poorly. The horses in Trinidad seemed to be in better shape health wise and the cowboys only once or twice hit the horses with the whip thing (lightly I should say) to get them to go. In Viñales it seemed like whipping the horses was all that they were doing and the horses had callouses on them from it. That being said, make the decision at your personal discretion.
Our walking tour was arranged by our Casa and we were thrilled with our guide. She was lovely, really loved her home region, and spoke great English. As a side note I love when you do get a guide and you can tell they are doing it just as much because they love it as for the money, I feel it always makes the experience more enjoyable.
Viñales Valley Tour
As with all the tours (horse or on foot) you start at the Tobacco plantation, they show you where the tobacco grows, what the different qualities are for, how they farm it, and how a cigar is made. You get a cigar you can smoke there and then you can purchase cigars as well. It is obviously encouraged to buy cigars but they are not super pushy about it.
From the Tobacco farm to move on to another farm that grows coffee and other local produce. They give you a quick tour of the different fruits and plants and then you can buy some Coffee, Honey, or a local liquor. This stop also has a cafe for a quick break and a drink.
The particular tour we went on continues to a small cave that you can walk through. It is super narrow but cool to see, you do have to pay an additional small fee for this but it is only a few dollars.
After that it is a walk back and you are off on your own. In total is about a 3 hour tour which is a great way to spend your morning before wandering around the rest of the day.