Viñales

Lush Landscapes and Laidback Living

Arguably Cuba’s most beautiful landscape, the UNESCO World Heritage-Listed Valley of Viñales sits just three-hours from Havana but feels like a world away. With stunning scenery and rich cultural traditions, a visit to Viñales is a wonderful introduction to rural life in Cuba and provides a peaceful contrast to the bustling capital.

The remarkable region is home to verdant valleys, vast farmland, craggy limestone outcrops and spectacular lakes. Ride horseback across the plains, discover a world of hidden caves, learn the story of runaway slaves and roll cigars the Cuban way on a trip to the tobacco farms.

Though nature takes centre stage, the villages that dot the verdant landscape are well worth exploring. They play host to a thriving multicultural society, a blend of traditions and peoples with indigenous, Spanish and African roots.

Viñales’ combination of cultural wealth and natural beauty creates a truly spectacular setting that captivates visitors with the widest range of interests and holiday styles. It’s the perfect addition to any Cuba trip.

What to See

Pre-History Mural in Vinales, Cuba

Limestone caves, Cueva del Indio and the Cuevas de Santo Tomas, play host to a fascinating array of fossils, butterfly bats and albino fish that swim in underground rivers and streams. One of these subterranean rivers is large enough to take boat trips on – an exciting experience not to be missed.

The Casa del Veguero tobacco plantation, just outside of town, provides a fascinating insight into the tobacco production process. Masses of tobacco leaves are cured in its secadero (drying house) from February to May. You can also buy loose cigars at reasonable rates.

The local Casa de la Cultura, set in a restored mansion overlooking Viñales’ central square, is the place to go for art and culture. Along with regular exhibitions and shows, there’s an excellent gift shop for picking up souvenirs.

People tend to love or hate the Mural de la Prehistoria, a 120-metre painting adorning one of the valley’s mountains. The mural, which took 18 people four years to complete, was designed in 1961 by Cuban artist Leovigildo Gonzalez, a pupil of Diego Rivera.

Where to Stay

Breakfast at Sunny Balcony House, a casa particular in Vinales, Cuba

There are a handful of hotels in Viñales but we strongly recommend that you stay in one of the charming private guesthouses (casas particulares) that can be found in the village at the heart of the valley.

All the accommodation that we offer include breakfast and are air-conditioned, plus bedrooms come equipped with ensuite bathrooms. The highlight of the casa particular experience is often the owners, who will go out of their way to make you feel at home. Many will offer to make you a traditional home cooked Cuban meal in the evening.

Cuba Direct reserves rooms at the best guesthouses in the area – simply call for details: 0207 148 3042.

How Long to Stay

Farm in Vinales, Cuba

Typically, a one or two-night stay in Viñales is enough to explore the valley and enjoy the most popular activities like adventuring in the caves, riding the underground rivers and learning about traditional tobacco farming.

Several of our activity holidays are based in Viñales (e.g. cycling, horse-riding, trekking holidays). If you’re interested in one of these trips, speak to your Cuba Direct holidays consultant for advice on how long to stay in Viñales.

Getting There

Our most popular itineraries feature a stay in the Valley of Viñales, including accommodation in a private homestay and a choice of transfer options including the option of a private English-speaking driver/guide. Adventurous travellers may prefer to hire a car and enjoy Viñales at their own pace as part of a fly-drive holiday. A coach or taxi from Havana is the most economical way to reach Viñales. Our multi-centre holidays often use this type of transfer.

Viñales lies just 112 miles west of Havana, making it possible to visit the valley as part of a day trip from the capital. Cuba Direct can organise this visit, ideal for those short on time.

Set half way between Havana and Viñales, amongst the Rosario Mountains, Soroa and Las Terrazas is a great spot for a break on the journey. Stretch your legs, discover sparkling waterfalls and wander through fragrant orchid gardens.

Where to Eat

Viñales is full of great restaurants but it’s well worth eating at your guesthouse at least once during your stay. For dining out, these are our favourite spots:

Boasting a beautiful hillside location, Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso is a traditional family farm with lovely gardens. The home-cooked food is delicious, portions are large and virtually all of the produce used is locally grown and organic. The owners also offer several vegetarian options.

For the best views in Viñales, as well as great food, we recommend Balcon del Valle restaurant which has tables on wooden balconies built into the hillside. Even if you don’t come to eat, we’d recommend at least popping in for a drink. There’s no need to worry about what table you get, the views are always spectacular.

Hidden away on the edge of a forest outside town, you’ll likely need a car or taxi to find Restaurant La Cueva, but it is well worth it. The food is both cheap and tasty – the ‘Ropa Vieja’ (shredded beef) and the crayfish come highly recommended.

Nightlife

Band Performing

Nightlife in Viñales is a far cry from the bustle and beats of Havana. That being said, there are a few nice bars and a couple of atmospheric venues where locals and visitors get together for evenings of live music and dancing.

The most popular of these is the Patio de Polo Montanez located on the central square and part of the cultural centre mentioned above. There is live music almost every night and the venue enjoys a lively and welcoming ambience. Nearby, you can find the smaller Patio del Decimista which can get a bit crowded when a popular band performs.

At both places you should feel free to ask a local to show you some salsa moves, Cubans are generally great dance teachers!

Things to Do

Horseriding in Vinales, Cuba

Cuba Direct offers a number of excursions to help you explore the valley including a cycling and zipline tour and jeep safari. Our Tobacco Trail Tour takes you to the region's famed tobacco plantations where local experts will explain the secret to the perfect Cuban cigar. You'll also visit a cigar factory and cigar shop with plenty of time to pick up a few souvenirs. 

Viñales is one of the best places in Cuba for bird watching. If you are very lucky you may even spot the Cuban hummingbird; barely the size of a bumble bee, it holds the record for smallest bird in the world.

One of our most popular excursions from Viñales is a day trip to the nearby paradise islands of Cayo Jutias and Cayo Levisa, both home to spectacular beaches. 

In contrast to major cities such as Havana, life in Viñales moves at a languid pace. You’ll spend your days sipping rum with the locals in Central Square, dining traditionally with your local host, exploring the museums and caves, horse riding across the valley and learning to hand-roll cigars at tobacco farms.

Suggested Itineraries

For first-time visitors to Cuba, we recommend a multi-centre trip including at least Viñales, Havana, Trinidad and Varadero. This base itinerary can be tailored to your specifications by one of our specialists to match your interests, time, and budget. Our sample itinerary Classic Cuba will give you an idea of multi-centre trip experience.

Viñales is one of Cuba’s top destinations and you’ll find that many of our holidays feature the valley one way or another. Take a look at our self-drive holidays or private escorted tours for more inspiration.

Discover Cuba: Call us today on 0207 148 3042

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