Situated just a two-hour drive west of Havana and gateway to the Vinales Valley and Sierra de Los Organos mountains, stunning Vinales Cuba is a nature lover’s paradise. Whether explored on bike, foot, or horseback, or enjoyed while rock climbing the face of the distinctive dome-shaped hills called mogotes that dot the landscape, the UNESCO world heritage site Vinales Valley is a lush, green haven that feels like a step into the past. The rural town showcases authentic, traditional Cuban culture — but without putting on a show for tourists — while the valley is the ideal destination for the active, adventurous traveler.
Main Attractions in Vinales Cuba
1. Explore Vinales Valley
The Vinales Valley is a sanctuary of flora and fauna with a breathtaking view from every angle. Thankfully there are numerous ways to experience it. In recent years, there has been development and discovery of many new trails through the hills and valley that offer exceptional and world-renown hiking. Furthermore, there are also well-regarded cycling routes. If you love the outdoors, this is absolutely something you cannot miss.
Agriculture is the backbone of Vinales. While in the valley, make sure to stop by some of the tobacco farms in the area, where you can see for yourself the source of the world-famous Cuban cigars. Mechanized-harvesting damages the tobacco quality, so farmers continue to use the traditional, by-hand methods, so you can see farming exactly as it was 200 years ago. The area is also famous for coffee and rum production. Be sure to try samples!
2. Horseback Tour
For a special, rustic way to see the valley, spend a morning or afternoon on a horseback tour. Featuring knowledgeable local (English-speaking) guides, the tours can be customized to visit old-fashioned tobacco plantations and coffee farms, and you can top off the outing with lunch or dinner at a charming local eatery. And not to worry, this is just as enjoyable for first-time horseback riders as for those more experienced.
3. Rock Climbing
The most notable feature of Vinales Cuba is the tall, steep-sided limestone hills called magotes, which are also a rock climber’s dream. Moreover, the overhanging limestone faces that can reach heights of over 1,000 feet make Vinales a world-class climbing destination. There is even a dedicated Cuban climbing guide to the phenomenal climbing in the area. What could offer a better view of the valley than by climbing to the top of a magote?
4. Casa de Caridad Botanical Gardens
A short walk from Vinales’ main street, the orchid and palm-filled Casa de Caridad Botanical Gardens are a treasure not to be missed. The flowers, trees, and ferns that make the valley so luscious are all condensed into one flourishing sanctuary. Founded by two sisters, the gardens work to preserve the magnificent native flora of the area, which you can learn more about with the guided tour. Entrance fees are donation-based, and there is even a restaurant where you can eat al fresco while enjoying the gardens.
5. Old Town and Municipal Museum
Not only about the natural beauty, Vinales Cuba boasts a charming, old-fashioned main street lined with colorful, colonial-era wooden houses. A stroll through the town is a picturesque step into the past.
Moreover, make sure to stop by the Museo Municipal de Viñales Adela Azcuy Labrador, located in the former home of Cuban independence heroine Adela Azcuy, where you can get a glimpse into the history of the area, while also getting to see inside a typical colonial-era home.
6. Tour the Caves
An indigenous feature of the limestone formations, the valley boasts several caves. They showcase the rock formations that make Vinales a tourist destination. While stunning for their natural beauty, the caves also have a historical significance — during colonial times, the caves served as a refuge for runaway African slaves who formed communities around them.
There are several unique caves that are open for tours:
Cueva del Indio(Offers camera-ready views and boat tours through the cave. As a less demanding excursion, this cave tends to be the most popular and often busy)
Cueva de Santo Tomas (The largest of the local cave systems, it is recommended to go with a guide to hike through the pitch-dark cave. Visitors should also know there is a short hike they need to get to the mouth of the remote cave)
Palenque de los Cimarrones (This cave is ideal for history buffs and includes a model village like the one originally built here by escaped slaves hiding out from their owners. Boasts a one-of-a-kind bar inside the cave)
Do you want to make it a full-fledged destination or a day trip from Cuba? Either way, make sure not to miss this authentic Cuban gem. Adventurous and outdoor-loving travelers will relish the numerous opportunities for a thrill. They will love the scenic-view, while history aficionados will enjoy the glimpse into authentic Cuban history. Oftentimes activities in Vinales Cuba are an experience in adventure and history all wrapped into one. Finally, the landscape verdant with plantations, abundant flora, and punctuated with monolithic mogotes is not one you will soon forget.
Images source: depositphotos.com