Viñales

Viñales Valley

Viñales is a beautiful and lush valley in Pinar del Río province of Cuba, with a population of around 10,000. It's about 26 kilometers north of the city of Pinar del Río, and was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This article also covers the town by the same name.

Viñales is said to be Fidel Castro's favorite place in Cuba. It also is one of the only places where Cubans seem happy. The mountains are beautiful, the farmers grow the best tobacco in the world, and touristswho come every day by the busloadare allowed to mingle with the Cubans and spread money in a nice even sugar-coating.

Understand

Landscape

Cuba was once covered by limestone ("karst"). Much of this limestone has eroded away, leaving mountains with steep sides and rounded, jungly tops. The mountains are called mogotes, which means "haystacks." Many mogotes have caves. Several caves are developed for tourists to visit.

The red farmland and unique microclimate produce the best cigars in the world. Some tobacco farms are set up for tourist tours.

People

Start at a tourist office or your hotel or casa particular. Point out something in the guidebook you'd like to see or do, and offer to pay someone to take you there. Or offer to pay for a Spanish lesson or a salsa lesson. Hire a local guide for a few hours and you'll make a friend, and he or she will introduce you to his or her family, and they'll invite you to do more stuff, and you won't be bored the rest of your visit.

But be aware of what's illegal to pay for. You can't pay someone to drive you somewhere, unless it's a licensed taxi. You can't pay for lodging, unless it's a licensed casa particulares (bed&breakfast).

Get in

By bus

Viazul runs buses twice a day between Havana (12 CUC) via Pinar del Rio. There’s an early morning bus to Cienfuegos and Trinidad. Buses arrive and leave opposite of the ticket office near the central town square.

By shared taxi

You’ll likely be offered a collectivo already at the Havana bus station. They run to Viñales for 15 CUC per person. Transport back can also be found by taxi touts near the Viazul ticket office. One typically inquires at least a day before the intended departure to make a taxi reservation. The driver will then pick you up at your casa. It's easiest to find a transport for morning departures. Collectivos also run to other destinations such as Trinidad (35 CUC) if there’s sufficient demand. Beware that taxi drivers will sometimes claim to have transport to Trinidad or Cienfuegos, but in fact require a change of vehicle in Havana, which may involve re-negotiating the price for the remaining trip.

Fees/Permits

Entrance to the valley is free. Some attractions like the Cueva de la piscina will charge a fee though.

Get around

Viñales

The town is easily walkable on foot. Most amenities such as banks and restaurants cluster on the main street (Salvador Cisneros) and accommodation is found everywhere off this street, esp Calle Rafael Trejo which runs on south parallel to the main street essentially only consists of casas particulares.

The valley

Schedule of the tourist bus in Viñales, Cuba. It shows the schedule of the first stop "Parque de Viñales" and the full map of stops.

There is a green minibus that takes tourists around the valley. For 5 CUC you can ride all day, with stops at the tourist hotels, in the village, at the caves and other sights.

Many sights are in the proximity of the city and not more than 4km away. As such it’s possible to walk, also riding on a bike or a horse may be less strenous esp. considering the often very hot weather. Other sights such as the Santo Tomás cave are further away and out of walking distance. To get there hire a cab, rent a bike or join an organized tour.

See

Around Viñales

Farms

There are dozens of tobacco and coffee farms that love to explain the manufacturing process and sell their goods:

Do

Your casa can very likely organize all these activities for you. It’s probably also possible to do so from the visitor information center. Beware that if you book through an agent, a commission fee is part of the price, e.g. of an hour horse-riding (5 CUC) only 3 CUC go to the guide and 2 CUC is the commission that your casa makes.

Swimming

Rock Climbing

The focus of rock climbing in Cuba is the Valle de Viñales in the western, mountainous province of Pinar del Río. Overhanging limestone faces on 1,000-foot freestanding crags called “mogotes” rise above traditional thatch-roofed Cuban houses, red-soiled farms, and verdant palms and pines. The climbing is superlative, cranking jugs and pockets in chiseled karst limestone on improbable lines through stunning overhangs of stalactites and tufa columns.

Motorbike Rental

You can rent a motorbike (a scooter) for about 20 CUC per day and ride it either to Cayo Jutias or to Cayo Levisa. The road is magnificent and you may even enjoy it more than the beaches. You will need your passport and driving license in order to rent a scooter. There's no need for a motorbike license.

Cave Exploring

Hiking

Exploring the area on foot is possible since many sights are within walking distance. Don’t expect to actually hike up to the mogote peaks. There are no paths and allegedly doing so would even be forbidden since it’s a national park area. The national park building (near the Hotel Los Jazmines) has maps and exhibits showing fourteen excursions.

The main hike everyone does circles around the   Mogote de Valle. . From Viñales follow the Calle Adela Azcuy north-west.   Walk through the Cueva de la Vaca. The cave is not exciting at all, but it's great that you can pass through the mountain and continue your hike on the other side.. Make a brief stop for shade at the Ancient large tree. It has some religious history.. Next you’ll continue a bit through the Valle de la Guasasa, can take a refreshing swim in the Cueva de la Piscina and continue further through the valley. it's worth taking a brief detour to the   Mirador (viewpoint). It has a great view on the valleys and offers refreshing fruit juices starting from 3 CUC., before heading into the Valle de Dos Hermanas where you’ll get a glimpse at the awfully painted hill Mural de la Prehistoria. Passing the Campismo, the now paved road returns to Viñales. Since it’s not that exciting, its worth taking a cab/bus or hitchhiking these last 4km.

You may be able to hire a hiking guides at the Museo Municipal Adela Azcuy (Calle Salvador Cisneros #115) and you can also hire horses for this trip.

Buy

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. Music CDs, DVDs and instruments are also worth looking at. 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 on. 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. Most of these items can be bought in all of the tourist attractions in and around Vinales. The town park also has stalls selling items geared at the tourist. The Art Gallery on the park also has artwork for sale. Coffee cups with designs from Cuban modern artists are a tasteful souvenir and this series, available in all tourist attractions, also features plates, oil and vinegar, shower curtains, towels and aprons.

Esp. 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.

Banks

Cash money can sometimes be a scarce resource in Viñales, so it's best to be prepared.

If necessary, more banks & ATMs can be found in Pinar del Rio.

Eat

Budget

If you’re traveling on a shoestring there’s some self-catering options. (see the buy section) There’s also some cafeterias selling simple sandwhiches or pizza places. Most close before the evening, so make sure you get food in time.

There is a bakery that sells sweet bread or cake for pesos at the junction of Adela Azcuy (north) and the main road. Around the same area but again on the main road you can find pizza and sandwich shops (great for breakfast because they also have coffee) all selling for national pesos. But remember that in Viñales peso-venders quickly run out of ingredients so go there early and be fast when there is already a crowd.

Restaurants

In contrast to most other cities in Cuba, Viñales has a great selection of restaurants, with a variety of food. Almost all restaurants can be found on the main street. Prices don't vary very much. A typical meal with a drink will set you back 8-12 CUC.

Drink


Sleep

Hotels

Viñales has three tourist hotels: Hotel Las Jazmines, Hotel La Ermita, and Rancho Horizontes San Vicente. Each is rated three stars. Expect to pay about 50-70 CUC per night, plus meals. The hotels are each located a few kilometers outside of town, which is not conducive to nightlife (Rancho Horizontes San Vicente is within walking distance of El Palenque).

Casas particulares

Tourism in Viñales is skyrocketing and as such accommodation options are increasing by the minute. Everyone who can afford it is building another guest room in their house as quick as they can. In fact, nearly every house you’ll see in Viñales is a casa particular. In 2015 there were more than 300 of these. As such, competition is very tough, which makes it easy for travelers to get a good deal. The typical default price is 25 CUC per night for a double room (sometimes for up to 4 people), but even in high season it’s fairly easy to bargain this to 15 CUC. Breakfast is normally 4 CUC per person, dinner 10 CUC, but it’s worth not to eat in the casa every day, since Viñales has a variety of fairly good restaurants.

If you’re coming by bus beware of the tout-crowd that’ll expect the incoming visitors. There will be 20-50 touts or house owners offering their casas. This can be troubling. The easiest way to get through this is to say you already have a reservation at (any spanish sounding first name will do here)’s house. However, since these people are competing hard and have available rooms, this is also a good place to catch a cheap room. Inspect it first before agreeing on anything though.

It’s usually wise to stay near the center as this will avoid you unnecessary walking. However the town is reasonably small so you’ll never have to walk much more than 15 minutes anyway. There’s a hill to the east of the town and some houses have rooftops with great views. Few casas have swimming pools, however note that in the dry season, these are typically not in use due to the water scarcity.

Since this can’t be avoided, here’s a list of casas particulares in Vinales:

It is possible to stay in a private house with his Cuban friend. The only requirement is that the Cuban passenger take your documentation to be recorded with his friend tourists.

Camping

Go next

This article is issued from Wikivoyage - version of the Monday, January 04, 2016. The text is available under the Creative Commons Attribution/Share Alike but additional terms may apply for the media files.