The Viñales valley (you guessed it – yet another UNESCO location) is about 2 hours away from La Habana, really chilled out and really beautiful.
It is one of the biggest tobacco growing areas in Cuba where traditional cultivation techniques still dominate, and is renowned for its mogotes – dome-like limestone outcrops that rise abruptly from the valley floor.
I spent about 5 days in Viñales where I hiked up to the Hotel Los Jazmines lookout one morning to catch the dawn.
Another morning, I again left just before dawn to hike out into the valley itself. Lots of opportunities to see traditional farming techniques at work.
I also ended up catching up to this farmer who gave me an impromptu tour of his tabacco drying sheds and chatted a little with me about the area.
Another day I took a horseback-riding trip into the valley on Caramello – who started out enthusiastic but quickly lost the desire to walk without prompting.
Samuel (the guide) and I essentially followed the same route as my hike, but ended up going a bit further to reach the Mural de la Prehistoria, which, while impressive in scale, wasn’t quite what I was anticipating.
We also visited a cave, which would have to be the least developed, non-technical cave I’ve ever been in – no formed paths at all. As with all caves, it was pitch black once we got a little way inside and we only had 3 torches between 15 people (I joined up with a group). This meant that more often than not you couldn’t see where to put your feet and the stakes were raised by several slippery sections. Only stepped in the water once and fortunately didn’t actually fall over. Couldn’t help laughing to myself that you would never be allowed to do this in Australia or many other countries. The bonus of the cave was that you could go swimming at the end of the 300m grope through the darkness – but I have to admit the murky water wasn’t terribly appealing.
Added bonus of my trip to Viñales was that I got to catch up with Chris and Cathy Feil one night for dinner. The people you meet on the other side of the world 🙂
Recommendation: Get out and about just before dawn as that when the light is at its best and it’s not stinking hot.
- Hiking = free if you do it by yourself, or you can hire a guide
- Horseriding = 5 CUC/hour. I arranged through my Casa Particular.
- Entrance to the cave = 2 CUC
- Hike = I walked for about 2.5 hours
- Horseriding = I was out for about 5 hours
- Cave = 20 -30 mins