Viñales – Enchanted Land of Tobacco

Havana, Cuba was great and all, but after spending four nights in the the busy big city we were ready for some country time.  We were headed for Viñales, Cuba famous for it’s tobacco fields and beautiful countryside.  Our señora in our casa particular arranged for a taxi to grab us in the morning for the ride east.  The shared cabs only cost about 10% more than the Viazul buses and get you there way faster with their door-to-door services.  We were picked up by an old blue 1950s Buick – a wobbly, feel-the-springs-in-the-seat, smell-the-exhaust-in-the-cabin, but still-watch-music-videos-on-the-dashboard kind of taxi.  No seat belts in Cuba, but the AC worked somehow.  We rode with a pair of students from New York, who were on a whirlwind tour of the country.  Outside the city we felt like we had gone back in time.  Horse-drawn carriages and tropical farms of bananas and sugar cane.  Everything was green and lush and it was hard to believe that there wasn’t an abundance of all foods on the island.

Viñales, Cuba
Rain storms over Viñales, Cuba

After about a three hour drive we arrived at our new casa, a cute pink house run by Cary and Anay, a mother and daughter.  Like all the houses in Viñales, Cuba it had rocking chairs on the front porch, from which you could lounge and people-watch the day away.

Viñales, Cuba
Viñales, Cuba Sunset

Day two in Viñales, Cuba we rented bicycles and headed out into the countryside of Parque Nacional Viñales.  The grand moros (rocky hills) were all around us.  Instead of the mountains raising from the earth, underground rivers had caused the valley floor to fall creating the dramatic landscape.

Viñales, Cuba
The Cuban countryside in Viñales.
Viñales, Cuba
Riding bikes past La Cueva El Palenque in Viñales, Cuba
Viñales, Cuba
Transportation in Viñales, Cuba

A few miles outside of town we came to La Cueva del Indio, one of a series of many caves in the area.  The cave tour is accessible through a restaurant and costs 5 CUC.  The caves had a nice walking path through them that led to a boat ride down an underground river.  It was nice except for a super-obnoxious family in front of us.  Seriously, who yells in caves and moves precariously-balanced rocks around trying to find a lens cap?

Viñales, Cuba
Cueva del Indio in Viñales, Cuba
Viñales, Cuba
The underground river at la Cueva del Indio in Viñales, Cuba.

Once back in town we headed down a side street to the edge of the village where we were found an organic tobacco farm.  We took a tour (in Spanish) where they explained the growing, drying, fermenting, and rolling processes of Cuba’s famous cigars.  They also explained the difference between organic and chemical tobacco production.  At the end we tried some of the organic Monte Cristos dipped in local honey.

Viñales, Cuba
Organic tobacco drying house in Viñales, Cuba
Viñales, Cuba
Traditional tobacco drying house in Viñales, Cuba
Viñales, Cuba
Fields of tobacco in Viñales, Cuba
Viñales, Cuba
Telling us about Monte Cristos, Che’s favorite cigars!
Viñales, Cuba
Rolling an organic cigar.  They use four leaves and honey to hold it all together.
Viñales, Cuba
Packs of cigars in banana leaf packs

We only had the bikes for one day so headed out again in the other direction to the strange and epic Mural de la Prehistoria, a strange giant painting on the cliffside.  Apparently it took several painters many years to complete.

Viñales, Cuba
Mural de la Prehistoria in Viñales, Cuba

Viñales, Cuba

On day three in Viñales, Cuba we decided to go for a hike.  We walked past the turn off for the Mural then after about one more kilometer took a right turn and headed towards Los Aquaticos, a village on the hillside.  The Lonely Planet had some general directions but we asked some farmers along the way, brushing off several dudes who wanted to guide us up there.  The views were fantastic along the way and we felt at peace among the country animals and fields.

Viñales, Cuba
Carrie’s new bestie!

At the top there was a small blue ranch house with a view of the valley.  They sold delicious  coffee grown on site that you could sip while enjoying the scenery.  A cute pig snuggled up to Carrie.

Viñales, Cuba
Royal Palms, the national tree of Cuba.
Viñales, Cuba
The view from Los Aquaticos

You could hike up farther but it was growing late in the afternoon and we were satisfied with our adventure.   After eating dinner we took a nap then went out late to the government-run dance hall.  Every town had at least one of these places with a salsa band and bar and lots of people.  We really need to learn some moves!  Until we do, it’s still fun to watch everyone boogie down.  Viñales, Cuba was an all-around great time, with lots of nature and fun nightlife!

Viñales, Cuba
Let’s salsa in Viñales, Cuba!

Want to read more about Cuba?  Click here for more Aventuras through the communist Caribbean paradise!

 

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