Viñales, located in the Pinar del Río province of Cuba, is beautiful and a must-visit destination if you travel to Cuba. We booked a day trip to Viñales to explore the lush tobacco plantations and to see a different side of Cuba. The day trip cost 67 CUC (~$75 USD) per person; we booked it through a local agency located in the lobby of Hotel Iberostar near Parque Central.
The drive was ~2 hours on a comfortable, air-conditioned bus. The tour guide was very pleasant and knowledgeable. She shared information about Cuba (i.e., the island, people, school, healthcare, etc.) then Pinar del Rio and Viñales. The tour was given in both Spanish and English and stoped at el Cuevo del Indio, a tobacco plantation, the Mural del la Prehistoria, and a lookout point near Hotel Los Jazmines.
The first stop was at Cuevo del Indio, a cave that Guanajatabey Indians used to reside in. The cave was rediscovered in 1920 and is definitely a hot tourist destination, we had to wait ~15 minutes before we could go inside. I would highly recommend trying the freshly squeeze sugar cane juice (with or without alcohol) for 2 CUC. It was so delicious!
The cave was lit inside and the walk was around 10 minutes, it wasn’t strenuous and definitely a good activity if you have little kids. At the end of our walk, we took a small boat ride in the underground river back out. I liked this cave and enjoyed gawking at the beautiful rock formations. If I had more time, I would have also liked to explore the Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas, the largest cave system in Cuba.
Our second stop was at a tobacco planation. Unfortunately, it wasn’t tobacco season so we didn’t see fields of tobacco plants (tobacco is usually planted in October / November and harvested a couple months later). We did go inside a thatched barn where the farmer passed around tobacco seeds and rolled a cigar in front of us. Once the plants are harvests, they will be dried and fermented inside these thatched barns. We explored the farmer’s home, had some coffee and then purchased some cigars. Cigars come in a pack for 10 for 10 CUC. Tobacco farmers in Cuba have to sell 90% of their tobacco to the government, the remaining 10% they can keep and sell.
The third stop was at the Mural del la Prehistoria. This mural is a 120 meter long painting and depicts the biological evolution of Sierra de los Órganos (low range hills in the province). Although this is a World Heritage site, it was underwhelming for me. What I did love was the lunch at the on-site restaurant. The lunch is included in the tour and was a simple meal of cabbage, cucumbers, rice, beans, chicken and fresh fruits. The chicken was super delicious and the fruits in Cuba were out of this world so I was a happy girl.
The last stop was ~15 minute at a lookout spot near Hotel Los Jazmines. Throughout the day I admired the mogotes, which are dome-like hills special to the region. However, it was at this lookout spot that I truly could appreciate these special geological formations.
I loved Viñales and wished I spent more time here exploring Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas, walking around the downtown and just experiencing this beautiful countryside. Viñales is definitely becoming more popular but if you were debating between Viñales and staying longer in Havana or traveling to another town in Cuba, I would highly recommend you taking at least one day and visit Viñales. There are many beautiful beaches around the world but there is only one place like Viñales. Also, after a while, the different cities in Cuba will look and feel similar but Viñales is very different in a very good way.