Viñales is the second most visited destination in Cuba (after Havana) but it feels a world away from the bustling Capital. It is this laid back feeling the place has that doesn’t allow anything else to overshadow its atmosphere. You know you are getting closer to the Valley when vegetation becomes lush and you start meeting farmers along the way selling fresh fruit.
Valle de Viñales is all about the scenic landscapes, powerful mountains, dramatic rocky outcrops and luscious green fields. Its landscape is one of the most recognisable in the world. Viñales is also about getting real insights into one of Cuba’s most important tobacco growing area, the farmers’ lives and production methods; the area is known for its traditional-used tobacco production methods.
What I took away from visiting Viñales was its simplicity, the farmers’ passion and respect for their traditional agriculture and stunning landscapes.
I think I felt at my most relaxed been in this village. Sometimes a beautiful porch, a rocking chair and a fresh fruit cocktail is all you need. The village is tiny and all its life concentrates around the main street Calle Salvador Cisneros. For nightlife everybody gathers at Casa de la Cultura, at the main plaza, where every night there is live salsa music and dance shows. On Saturdays there is also a street party taking place at the plaza dominated by reggaeton music and local youth. It is great just to sit and observe local interaction.
Tobacco farm tours and hiking
What most people come to experience. This is a great way to get to know the fauna and flora of the valley, visit the tobacco farms, meet the farmers and see a demonstration of how cigars are prepared. If you are planning to buy cigars from Cuba buying from a tobacco farm is the best way to ensure money will go straight to the farmers. Plus you are buying cigars from an area boasting some of Cuba’s best tobacco.
Dinner at organic farm Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso
A family-owned, organic farm at the top of the hill overlooking the Valley. We arrived in late afternoon just in time for the sunset and were greeted by the friendliest of hosts with fresh fruit cocktails. You can visit the farm’s grounds and learn about the organic methods of production. The dinner was based on ingredients solely sourced from the farm. It is clear how much effort, passion and energy the owners are putting into this project. We experienced ourselves the high quality of the products and I can say without hesitation: this was the best meal I had in Cuba.
There are also various tours to experience (caving, horse riding or valley cycling) although I haven’t tried any of those so could not recommend.
Dining tip: there is not a great choice of restaurants in Viñales. The best dining place would be your casa particular where hosts usually prepare great dishes with local, fresh ingredients.
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