This blog covers what we got up to in Viñales during our trip to Cuba in March 2016. Our Viñales visit occurred after spending two great days in Havana.
We arrived in Viñales by private transfer from Havana (75 CUC, 2 hours 30 minutes). We weren’t on a backpacker budget when in Cuba, and we had some time constraints so we booked our private transfer online beforehand with Taxi Viñales Cuba, and the journey was comfortable in a well air-conditioned vehicle. The driver dropped us off at our casa, Casa Osvedy and Leyani (25 CUC per night, 5 CUC extra for breakfast per person). This beautiful casa was located just a few minutes walk from the town square, and the owners were very friendly and accommodating. We had a double room with an en-suite bathroom and booked before arriving, via TripToViñales.com.
Having met the casa hosts, we dropped our bags off and set off on the tour that was pre-booked (all to save time!). We booked the tour with Discover Viñales and it was called “The Secrets of the Tobacco”. Neither of us had indulged in cigars before our trip to Cuba, but as Cuba, and Viñales in particular, is renowned for its cigars, we decided this was an opportunity not to be missed. This tour was 45CUC per person, however transportation was not included in this price, and getting a taxi is imperative for the tour.
A cigar despalillo
We were picked up by the taxi driver and our guide and the first stop was a cigar factory, where we were able to see the cigars being rolled by the workers. After this, our next stop was to a despalillo, which showed how the tobacco seeds were cultivated. This stop was basically what happens after the tobacco has left the farm, and before it enters the factory. It was an interesting sight to be able to witness the workers (all female), working diligently listening to the radio, with a picture of Fidel Castro taking centre stage in the room. The next stop was a trip to a tobacco producing farm, where we saw some tobacco fields and got the chance to smoke our first cigar (included in the price). The farmer was also selling cigars, and having discovered that we enjoyed them, we decided to purchase a few! The farm also had a bar so we were able to combine our cigar with some Santiago de Cuba rum, which is delicious! Feeling more jovial then when we started the tour, we were dropped back at our casa. Overall this tour was very informative, but a bit on the pricey side for what it was. I think if you were really into your cigars you would get benefit out of it, but for us it was abit too much. Although we definitely enjoyed the cigars and rum at the end of the tour.
Tobacco leaves being dried
With the afternoon coming to a close we went on a quick trip into Viñales town, spotting the jaw-dropping mogotes (limestone cliffs which make Viñales so famous) for the first time. On our back we watched a quick game of baseball in the local park, before going back to delicious dinner prepared by Leyani in our casa. After this we went to a local club, Centro Culturo Polo Montañez, where we enjoyed watching how Cubans like to party with rum and salsa!
Glimpse of the mogotes in Viñales Valley
Similar to Day 1, this tour was organised before arriving in Cuba with Discover Viñales. The tour was called “The Three Valleys” and was 20CUC per person. Our guide collected us and we began the walk through the Viñales countryside. Our first stop was at an organic cigar farm, where we were allowed try some organic cigars. It was 10am, but these cigars were washed down by some mojitos (it was St.Patrick’s Day, dont judge!). After this we continued our walk through the fields, surrounded by mogotes, and arrived at a coffee plantation. Here we were able to see the process the farmer goes through to in order to create the coffee, and there was also an option to purchase some. Our next stop was at some small caves where we were given some information by a hilarious guide. After this our hike continued to a vineyard, where we had a beautiful view of Viñales Valley and the surrounding area.
A tobacco farm
After parting with our guide we stopped by a local, family run cafe and got a sandwich and some beers. With it being St.Patrick’s Day we decided to spend the rest of the day enjoying some beers, cigars, and rum, and going to bed early, due to an early departure the next morning to Playa Larga.