After visiting the bustle of Havana and walking along the Malecon we travelled to the countryside via coach, our destination was Vinales. Vinales is located 110 km from Havana.
On route we saw ample countryside and palm trees which are one of the symbols of Cuba. Clear skies with fluffy clouds greeted us from our coach window.
In addition to this we saw farms which had no mechanical equipment, we saw farmers with oxon working on the land. Vinales became a UNESCO site in 1999 which preserves the Cuban way of farming and way of life.
We stopped in Pinar Del Rio which was a busy town which had a tobacco factory called Fabricas de Tobaco, it cost 5 CUC to enter and you can see the workers in the factory working manually without any mechanical equipment. We walked along and watched the various stages of rolling the tobacco to making the cigars. It surely was interesting and seeing the artisans at work. You aren’t allowed to take cameras in with you. There’s also a fantastic tobacco shop for buying souvenirs. I bought some cigars as it had to be done!
After this we went for lunch and stopped at Finca Agroecoligica El Paraiso which is farm based restaurant that is organic.
This restaurant is owned by the family who farm the food for the restaurant. The food is fresh, organic and is from farm to the table. We had a large table looking out on the Vinales Valley, it was gorgeous and so peaceful.
The breathtaking scenery and the wonderful array and choice of food was mouthwatering, tasty and plentiful. We had Cuban root vegetables which are called yuka and taro. We sampled chicken and pork, ample rice and beans,we also had guava and plantain. The fruit and vegetables are grown in raised beds. I also sampled an organic “Anti-Stress” cocktail which could be had without rum but we were passed a bottle of rum to add to our taste. It was refreshing and had cinnamon in it. Who could feel stressed when looking out on this view! This is one of my favourite places in the world. The food was a definite highlight.
After this we went to a cave and went on a boat trip which was fun
After our boat trip through the cave we went back to Vinales and we stayed in a wonderful Casa Particulares! The casa particulares was a bright coloured casa in a row of bright coloured casas with rocking chairs out on the porch.We had a room at the front of the casa and greeted with a glass of Guava juice. The ensuite was small but it worked, the shower equipment was interesting!
We had dinner at the casa, served a black bean soup which was so tasty and chicken and rice for pudding and a cuban beer called Bucannero beer for 10 cucs! The food was lovely home-cooked food.
That evening we sat out on the porch watching the world go by and read our books. Vinales is very laid back and you can rock on the chairs and look at the stars in the sky.
That evening we went to a Salsa Club off the main square in Vinales. It is called Centro Cultural Polo Montanez and cost only 1 Cuc entry! Cubans and tourists alike go every night, the dancing is fantastic. I loved watching the locals dance, of course I danced with the locals enjoyed the salsa bands and danced salsa! We danced into the early hours and it was so much fun. Mojito’s and the beers were reasonable too.
There is alot to do in Vinales, you can hike, cycle and go horseriding. The pine trees,and limestone cliffs outline the scenery.
We went to Parque Nacionale in Vinales which is a national park that is 150 square km. There are lots of farms in the Parque Nacionale which grow tobacco, sugar-cane, coffee, beans, avocados and oranges and much more.
We went with a government guide ranger on a tour, there are 15 guided walks which you can do in this park. It is advisable to check out the Parque Nacional Visitor Centre which is located 3km from Vinales. Please go and sign up for a walk. The price is dependent on the group size and distance, we were in a group of 12 so we paid 12 CUCS. We walked for over 3 and a half hours, wear trainers!
We learnt so much from our guide, he taught us about the flora and fauna of the area and taught us about the wildlife.
We saw oxon working on the land and horses in the fields. The fields were rust coloured due to the iron in the soil.
Walking along the fields you could see the lime-stoned caves, vultures hovering in the sky and hear birdsong. We saw beautiful flowers such as:
We went to a tobacco farm, what a sight to behold. In the searing heat men were working in the fields and cutting the tobacco leaves and laying them on a long wooden sticks and placed in a tobacco drying house.
We had a demonstration in the tobacco drying house and we were told about the process of making a cigar.
When in Cuba…
After this we walked out in the searing sunshine and walked past more farm houses and could buy some fresh produce on route.
It was thirsty work walking in the sunshine, we stopped at a sugarcane plantation and pressed the sugar cane.
We sampled fresh sugar-cane juice and tried a local delicacy, sugarcane juice was poured into a grapefruit and then white rum was poured into it after. It had a kick to it!
Afterwards we sat down for a few minutes and we were surrounded by goats and horses and chickens! You can go horse-riding also.
I definitely recommend the hike, it was breathtaking, informative and great fun.
You can hire a casa there and rent if you wish!
After our hike we went and explored the town, there are markets to buy some souvenirs. You can people watch to your hearts content, we went to a bar and shared a vegetable pizza which was so tasty!
Vinales had a laidback feel and I enjoyed it. Hope you do too!
Watch-out for my next blog….