Our next stop in Cuba was Viñales. It’s beautiful landscape and it’s best known for tobacco farms. We got ride with taxi collectivo from Havana to Viñales. It was us plus two ladies from Spain we met in our casa in Havana. It took us about 4hours to get there with car and it costed 15CUC per person. Drivers start with ridiculous prices like 180CUC for 4people, don’t believe them. Taxi should always cost only 1-5CUC more per person than bus fare if you divide by 4people.
Our taxi was nice old Buick. It was actually quite comfortable. Closer and closer we were getting to our destination, the more beautiful the landscape was. Beautiful lush, green hills called mogotes and windy roads all the way through the valley to a cute little village called Viñales. There is not much there, only houses and one church, but surrounding areas have a lot to offer. We didn’t reserve a casa for this place either, but we asked the Spanish ladies to call their casa and arrange a casa for us too. Our casa was very nice, on a little hill with beautiful view of all surrounding mogotes. All the houses in Viñales have rocking chairs in front of their casas and our casa had perfect view of for sunset.
First day we got there and walked around the place a bit, bought nice hats in a market, tried to buy water which seemed impossible so we just got rum instead. Every night we finished a bottle of rum while playing cards and enjoying the view. As I said it’s almost impossible to get water there because shops are not like what we are used to back home. You can barely get some canned food, pasta and rice. Not much choice at all. So every day our mission was to get water, if we couldn’t find it we had to buy it at the bars or restaurants. There was quite few nice restaurants, but we ate at our casa which was amazing. As always I had lobster and Daniel had chicken. Portions are enormous.
Everyone usually goes to Viñales to go horse back riding between all the tobacco farms, hills and caves. It is amazing scenery. Horse back riding usually takes around 3hours or if you want to go for longer you can arrange that too. For 3-4hours it normally costs 20CUC per person. It was my first time riding a horse so I was excited, but terrified at the same time. I did good though. So the horse back riding usually goes between fields, you pass lakes, little rivers, you go to the cave, stop at coffee farm and of course at tobacco farm at the end.
They are growing Arabica coffee around there, which actually grows on hills cause it has to be on altitude of 1000m. On the farm they show you the whole process from peeling coffee beans to roasting them and at the end grinding them. I don’t drink coffee, but Daniel tried and it was his favourite by far.
The last stop for horse back riding was a tobacco farm. We saw tons of tobacco fields along the way, but they saved best for last. They show you the whole process of making cigars, all the way from picking the leaves, drying them, fermenting, removing stems and rolling them at the end. I have a great video that I’ll upload. We bought Cohiba cigars in Havana before and they were ok, but then we tried the ones from the farm and we couldn’t believe how good they were. So Viñales is aprotected area, it’s a National park so they can’t use any tractors or pesticides so everything is natural. Cigars we tasted here was amazing. They fermented tobacco leaves in vanilla, honey and rum. It really tasted like vanilla, so much better then Cohiba cigars and no chemicals, plus much cheaper! Double win!
We also discovered Jardin de Botanico by luck. It is an amazing place. This garden was founded by two sisters and now their descendants take on the tradition. Our guide spoke English very well and she was so knowledgeable, she told us many funny and interesting stories about plants and garden itself. There is also lovely little chihuahua living there that followed us around the garden and chased chickens around. At the end of the tour you give your donation for the garden and you taste some of the most amazing fruits grown there. It is really a must see if you are there!
As I said there is a lot to do around Viñales. You can discover the valley on foot, bike, horse, car or bus, it’s your choice. You can bike between those beautiful mogotes or get dropped off by car/taxi and continue to explore on foot. There are also beautiful beaches not too far away. You can take a taxi to Cayo Jutias and Cayo Levisa. I’m a little sad we didn’t end up going, but maybe next time. There is also Mural de la Prehistoria, lots of caves to explore or you can also rock climb. There is something for everyone in this valley.
More photos on our Facebook page here!