If you have made it to Cuba, why would you simply stay in Havana? Get out and about and discover what this amazing island has to offer. Heck, I say spend all your time discovering, but if you only have a few days you can most definitely get lost in the wonders of the Valley of Vinales!
Not that far from Havana’s city vibes you’ll find the land of wonderous mogotes, tobacco, amazing organic foods and the most beautiful sunsets are to be found here. Idyllic hillsides welcome you as you arrive covered in tobacco, leading into the township of single story, vibrantly colored colonial buildings. So where should you begin your discovery?
The best part not rushing your visit to Vinales on a day tour is that you can leave at a leisurely hour of around 9am. Take the drive to the west and arrive at the Valley Lookout. Perfect spot to start, so you can admire the view of this amazing valley. Take in the vastness of the area, pin-point cute, colourful cottages, admire the mogotes in the distance towering over the valley like twin sisters.
After taking some magnificent shots, you can head over to Balcon de Valle for an amazing lunch with a view. Traditional Cuban cuisine is served here. Large portions, rice and beans are expected. Roast pork and chicken are always delicious as they are cooked on charcoal. Cocktail classes can also be great fun here, before settling into your casa for a siesta prior to heading out to town to enjoy one of the tapas bars and live music.
On your second day, the Vinales Valley Walk is a must! Walk through the back streets into the valley covered in tobacco fields. Watch the farmers with their oxens working the land, hear them explain the cultivation process, that is as manual today as it was at the time of introducing tobacco to Cuba. Fascinating how a tiny little seed can grow so big and be turned into something completely different with some love and care. Watch them picking the best leaves for the perfect cigar and roll one in front of you. If you are up for it, you can even have a go at it yourself!
Rolling cigars is thirsty work! You can relax in the valley with a nicely prepared mojito or pina colada before heading over to the pre-historic Mural. This massive painting on the face of a cliff was commissioned by Fidel Castro. It tells the story of evolution. Some love it, some hate it, either way it’s an iconic site in the valley that you must see! And if nothing else, definitely try the Pina Colada here, it’s the best in town.
For dinner head up to the Organic Farm, sunsets here are absolutely stunning. If you head a little early, you can chat to the farmers and get some great tips on companion planting, they are masters of it. Using colours, plants oils together to produce delicious vegetables. The story of the farm is rather interesting too, I’m not going to tell you! You will have to ask. Your meal will be waaaaaay too big and everything you eat comes from the farm. I think it makes it all extra tasty.
What else is left to do you may wonder? Just outside of town you have a selection of caves to visit. Santo Tomas Cavern, the Indian Cave, San Miguel Cave are just to name a few. Each are a little different, all part of the same system, with beautiful limestone formations and interesting history from the time of slaves in Cuba to match.
You can even pop into the Botanical Garden along the way. I feel horror films are made of these… the plants are beautiful, and the additional decoration of doll heads on stakes is rather intriguing.
I love taking it nice and slow in a location to truly appreciate what one place is about. Immerse into the location, get to know it’s people, taking it easy as you discover, such a fulfilling experience. Even better if you hire a local who can point out little nooks and crannies and has the insider knowledge of the area. It’s a rather fulfilling experience.
After three days of adventure it’s time to head back to the big smoke of Havana or move onto your next adventure. The choice is yours, there’s plenty more to see around the island..