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  • Writer's pictureDearbhla

Viva Viñales

Viñales is a small tobacco-farming community in the north-central Pinar del Río Province of Cuba. The town centres along one main strip consisting mostly of one-story brightly painted wooden houses with porches, fronted by old bicycles and brightly coloured ladas and Cadillac’s. I would definitely recommend taking a trip here, beautiful mountainous scenery, surrounded by tobacco plantations and picturesque walks.



Things to do and see:

Not that I would necessary recommend ‘seeing’ Calle Salvador Cisneros but it’s the main street in the town that leads all the way through the centre. Named after Salvador Cisneros Betancourt, the leader in the war of independence (1868-1878) and later President of Cuba, it’s now lined with restaurants geared towards tourists.


The Central plaza has an art gallery and a church. On Saturday mornings there’s a farmer’s market, which is great as it has lots of fun artisan crafts for sale from jewellery to photography and art. I bought a bracelet made out of silver spoons and a ring made from a fork. Nice mementos to bring home and lots of great gifts.

Horseriding:

Horseback riding. Casa Maria Jesus y Raul organised a horseback riding tour through the tobacco plantations and the mountains for us, which was an amazing experience. You can find them in the Lonely Planet Guide and here! Explore the valley riding on the back of a horse with minimal experience. We ended up being taken on a beautiful route with a Cuban cowboy kitted out with spurs on his welly boots! We then had a mojito overlooking the valley as the sun was setting. Depending on the amount of time you’d like to spend, there are several routes that your guide can choose. You’ll likely explore some of the sights in the area about 2-4km around Viñales. Bring sunscreen and plenty of water. We got burned, of course.

There’s a bird-watching trail which starts at the El Ranchón restaurant near the Cuevas del Indio.

Cycling:

This is another good way to see the valley up close apparently but we didn’t have enough time. As it is a valley, it can be a bit hilly and the paths are mainly unpaved tracks, doubt you will find a decent mountain bike but worth a try.


Tobacco Farm Tours:

Learn how tobacco is produced. The tours are often included in horse-riding packages. There are tonnes of tobacco and coffee plantations that love explaining the manufacturing process and selling their goods. I would recommend buying cigars here.

If you do the horseback riding tour from Casa Maria Jesus y Raul, you will see a tobacco plantation too so it’s not necessary to book separate tours. However, if you wanted to, you can book Tobacco Farm tours at the Tourist Information Centre or via your Casa.

Tobacco Farm Casa del Veguero (½km from Viñales). To learn about tobacco farming, visit this tourist-oriented tobacco farm and drying shed. Food also served.




Hiking:

Exploring the area on foot is great as most of these spots are within walking distance. The national park has designated hiking paths circling the Mogote de Valle .

Shopping:

  • Buy cigars from the cigar plantation you go to in Viñales. Cuba is not renowned for its shopping but there are some things worth considering. Cuban rum, cigars and coffee are excellent and prices here are much better than at home. In terms of souvenirs, the leader of the pack is anything to do with Che, from t-shirts to the key rings and so on and so forth. Leather is not of great quality nor are the wooden carvings but you can find some nice artwork and prints if you look hard enough. I bought some beautiful silver jewellery at the market in Viñales. Most of these items can be bought in all of the tourist attractions in and around Viñales. The town park also has stalls selling items geared towards tourists. The Art Gallery on the park also has artwork for sale. Coffee cups with designs from Cuban modern artists are a great souvenir and are available in all tourist attractions. You can also buy decorated plates, oil and vinegar bottles, towels and aprons.

  • Supermarket (near the central plaza). This is the only supermarket in town, but it’s rarely fully stocked. A common theme in Cuba. Goods like large water bottles run out quickly and you’ll be forced to pay inflated prices for the small bottles here or at restaurants. Larger supermarkets can be found in Pinal del Rio.

  • You will be served breakfast at your casa which will consist of beautiful fresh fruit, bread, eggs, etc. I wouldn’t bother trying to buy food for picnics apart from fresh fruit like mangoes, which are readily available.

  • Fruit cars on side of the road from 8am-5pm. Here you can buy cheap, fresh bananas, papaya (fruta bomba) or pineapple (piña).

Where to stay?


Hostal Tres Caballeros: We had lovely breakfasts here!




Around Viñales

I would recommend taking the bus tour. It will drive you around to all the top spots in Viñales.


Parque Nacional Viñales visitor centre: The park is fairly large but the visitor centre is close to the hotel Los Jazmines. It offers information, hiking and guides. (2km from Viñales). The visitor centre in itself doesn't have a lot to see, some walking route suggestions and a small model of the valley. It is the view that is stunning and from here you can organise your excursions into the valley.


Organic Farm Tour (Finca la Chiquitica): Find the farm by walking out of town on the main street past the petrol station for about ten minutes. It’s only 20/30 minute walk from town. Very picturesque but full directions can be found here.


For more info on the Caves, hiking and swimming see here:


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