You can make a tour through the Vinales Valley on the back of a horse. We did a 4 hour tour (5 CUC per hour) and went to a cave with a small lake at the where you could swim.
We also got an demonstration of making juice from sugar canes and making cigars.
The Province West of Habana, one of the more special Cuba's, but also the poorest provinces of Cuba. Center of tobacco plantations, cultivated in the Vuelta regio is among the world's best
PS Pictures in this tip are taken by Kathleen, a good friend
The best souvenir and memory of my trip to Vinales, years ago.
Vinales valley is a carsic area with many grottos.
There are at least three grottos that tourists can visit and most popular is the cueva del indio.
Once you are in Vinales park, the visit of the grotto starts with a walk of about 200 meters inside the mountain.
The grotto is not that big, at least the visitable part isn't big but it's nice because after a short walk you get to go with a boat on the underground river inside the mountain.
All around the valley there are many tobacco plantations and tobacco farm with their caracteristic house with wooden roof.
Here tobacco is cultivated in a traditional way, just like they did decades ago.What surprised me most anyway was seing coffe plants growing wild, ofcourse the cuban guide had to tell me what it was as I would have never thought that that green kind of pee could be coffe.
During our trip we visited a tobacco farm, in the pictures there are some tobacco greens waiting to be worked and become puros.
Vinales valley is an unique example of carsic landscape where agriculture did not change for hundreds of year, looking around at tobacco plants and farms, is somehoe like going back in the past, a sensation that we learned to feel also later in our Cuba trip.
This landscape, meant to be one of the most suggestive of the island, is a caracterized by green plantations and by mountains and hills of any shape.
The cave was discovered in 1920. The first part of the tour is on foot, the tunnels are artificially lit so that the various rock formations are highlighted. The final part of the tour is by a small motorboat on the underground San Vicente river.
Near to the cave are souvenir stalls & a restaurant.
Painted on the face of a mogote by the Cuban painter Leovigildo Gonzalez, the mural represents the history of evolution. The mural uses the cracks in the rock to create special effects of light & colour.
The mural can be viewed from far away, to view close up there is an admission fee. Next to the mural a bar, restaurant & shop have been built.
The whole western Cuba is suppose to have the best tobacco in the world, outside of Viñales you’ll see plenty of plantations… of course, it depends on the time of the year (it’s a seasonal harvest).
If you have some extra time while visiting the area, hike around or hire a guide to take you to some tobacco fields. You’ll get to see the process of drying the tobacco, making a cigar… the differences between different cigars and different tobaccos. It’s pretty interesting to be in the middle of nowhere talking to the ‘guajiros’ that work that.
I believe the only way to get to the cave is with a guide… you can hike all the way around the ‘mogotes’, or you can also hire a horse riding excursion. It usually costs 5 CUC the hour and it takes about four hours. You go through some tobacco fields, make some stops to see how they make homemade cigars, to have some coconut water… and then to get into the cave.
The cave itself is okay, you can’t see anything… all you get at the entrance is a cheap flash light, there’s a guy who guides you the end of the cave… once there, you can swim in the natural pool (I must warn you, the water is damn cold!!).
If you have at least one extra day to spare in Viñales, don’t miss the chance to spend a day in Cayo Levisa. Getting there isn’t cheap, but what Cuba costs for tourist… I paid 21 CUC the round trip, it takes about one hour to get to the shore and another half hour on a boat to anchor in the island.
The place is a small key with just small ‘cabañas’ sort of hotel, two restaurants and plenty of white-sand beaches and reefs to adventure around.
It’s better if you book (or buy) your tickets in advance... when you arrive to Viñales, or you may have to spend a day doing something else. Buses leave at 8AM from the Viazul office.
It’s about one hour walking from Viñales ‘downtown’ area. If you arrive in the afternoon, it’s a perfect activity to do before it gets dark.
I personally didn’t get into the park; I just kept hiking among the ‘mogotes’. To get into the park you have to pay 1 CUC and you’ll see pretty much the same you see from the highway… which is a hillside painted with some dinosaurs, a couple of cavemen. It’s looks alright, but it doesn’t have any cultural or historical content… it’s just a painted cliff.
But the area is beautiful, those ‘mogotes’ are quite unique and the red looking soil is also amazing.
Either a long walk or a short taxi ride north of Vinales is the Indio cave. Overly touristy and somewhat expensive at $5 still the short cave walk and boat trip is a site worth seeing. At the exit are a few local craft shops.
Father Varela a theologian thinker of the time of the revolution from spain, was born in la habana but was influential in circles all throughout the island. there is a statue of him here in this church.
he died in Jacksonville Florida and his tomb may be viewed at the church there
The single biggest attraction of Vinales is the countryside and the Valley of the Sierra de los Organos. The rocks are pure limestone and were formed 160 million years ago - erosion has not only produced the entraordinary peaks and rock formations, but the whole of the area is an extensive cave system - most of Cuba's 10,000 recorded caves are to be found here. Some, but not all, are open to the public.
Such is the beauty and uniqueness of the landscape, the area around the town for 130 sq kms has been declared a National Monument. And it should be explored, in all weathers. Adverse weather can provide spectacular results.
The whole of the valley is a rich agricultural environs, particularly for fruit and tobacco. It's labour intensive and little in terms of modernisation - they're relatively small freeholds. But one of the joys of staying in Vinales is to move round the immediate vicinity checking out these farms.