Only 180 kilometres west from Havana, in Pinar Del Rio, Viñales is a recommended destination despite being a countryside. A World Heritage Site since 1999 and a National Park since 2001, the valley has indeed a lot to offer. Not the colourful architecture and vintage Cuba but something as marvellous.
The renowned ‘Garden of Cuba’
Lying within the Sierra de los Organos, Viñales shows off a breath-taking contrast of red grounds and green crops. What is also striking about the called Garden of Cuba is its great round-shaped hills – the mogotes. High of 100 metres and above, they are housing big caves such as the José Miguel Cave and the Cueva del Indio. There is also 46-kilometre long one – the Cavern of Santo Tomas where you will find galleries and underground water dams. Viñales is also an archaeological site. A tree from the Jurassic era can be found there, and ammonites and dinosaurs fossils have also been discovered on-site. Constructions made by the pre-Colombian aboriginal communities and cimarrones can also be seen on these lands.
Home of the best tobacco in Cuba
Viñales is a fresh trip in a magnificent natural backdrop but also in history. The valley is indeed infamous for the quality of its tobacco. The plantations and the tobacco houses – dating back to the colonial era, are still used by locals to make the habanos. These are said to be one of the best cigars in the world. Visitors can visit the plantations, understand the unchanging cultivation system and are given the chance to observe the cigar processing. Lucky ones could even bring some home. Locals could also invite you to smoke one at their homes.
How to get to Viñales from Havana?
The most common way of travelling to Viñales from Havana is by the Viazul buses. It can however be expensive. To save up to 50% of money for the trip, you could to it in two steps. Take a camion to Pinar del Rio and then hire a taxi to Viñales from there. Both the Viazul and the two-step trips takes about 4 hours – the buses can however make it quicker. To make the journey within 2 hours, you can take a taxi from Havana to the Valley. A private one can cost up to $140 whereas a colectivo taxi is about $27 per person. Whatever the mean of transport, the trip will let you enjoy the green Cuban scenery.
Where to stay in the valley?
Besides the tobacco experience, there are many things to do in Viñales. For instance, visiting the Mural of the Prehistory. The 120-metre tall, 160-metre wide and 4-kilometre long is said to be the largest al fresco paintings in the world. That is to say, Viñales cannot be done in just one day so you might as well fight an accommodation in the valley. You can find hotels on the roads to the valley. There are also good vacation rental deals and casas particulares near the town. The latter offer delicious homemade meals.