I’ve been struggling recently with this whole blogging thing. There are so many blogs in the universe with travel blogs becoming so much more popular, add in the constant need for social media updates it can be overwhelming to say the least. I have to remember that I’m doing this for me, I’m unlikely to ever have a career out of it, I’m never going to get massive amounts of page views or comments but what I can achieve is a great record of all the adventures we’ve had. Surely that has to be enough!
Before I crack on with the top things to do in Viñales I’ll explain our rather random experience with a petrol stop on the way from Havana.
Our casa owner booked us onto a taxi collectivo to transfer us from Havana to Viñales. This involved picking up some extra tourists and dropping off at our destinations. It takes a couple of hours to drive their along one of Cuba’s autopistas and then down a long windy road into the valley.
Not long after we’d left Havana we pulled off the main road and reversed into someone’s driveway. We didn’t really know what was happening when the driver got out the car until a man walked out of a small room with a massive plastic bucket full of petrol! The car got filled up and then we were on our way. It was not your normal fuel station experience and definitely no nectar points!
Walk around the town
Viñales has a small centre with loads and loads of roads coming off full of casas. Havana has a lot but Viñales takes the crown. As a massive tourist spot it’s unsurprising. It was so good to be out of the city and the pollution for some fresh air and nature.
You’ll find a central square with a church and high street filled with shops and restaurants, grab a roadside seat and a drink to watch the world go by. There is also a small market selling handicrafts and hats!
Visit the WiFi park
The church square is home to Viñales’ WiFi section. We had held out of internet access throughout our whole time in Havana and until our last day in Viñales but it was time to give it a go.
We purchased two WiFi cards from a hotel (smaller queue then the official store) and set about sitting down and staring at our phones. It is so out of place in such a beautiful country to have loads of people, Cubans and tourists alike, sat in a small space scratching off their cards and surfing the web.
Mural de Prehistoria
Another unusual experience in a country that never ceases to amaze you. The Mural de Prehistoria, a giant wall mural representing the evolution of the world. It covers everything from dinosaurs, snails, sea people to regular human people in bright technicolour.
The mural took 18 people 4 years to paint and has taken a great effort and cost to maintain. The entrance is fairly pricey for what is essentially an imposing wall painting but if you’re lucky like us and catch the last hop on hop off bus of the day they’ll let you in for 5 minutes for free!
Some call in art, some call it an eyesore but it really has to be seen to be believed.
Drinks at Hotel Los Jasmines
For a birds eye view of the amazing Viñales countryside you have to head up to Hotel Los Jasmines. A pink hotel sat on the edge of a cliff with sweeping views across the whole Viñales valley. The perfect place for a drink.
The hotel has an outside pool that you can pay to enter, if you have a day to kill then I’d recommend doing this – as long as you like the sun. For us the experience wasn’t great as they were completing some building work so there was a lot of drilling.
After a quick drink we went back up to the viewpoint where there are also some nicely located bars. A massive bonus was the serve your own rum top as you go pina coladas. Bring a book and while away a few hours with a killer view.
It’s the quintessential thing to do in Viñales, horse riding in the countryside. There are plenty of companies offering full or half day tours, I’d suggest if you haven’t been on a horse before you make this very clear as not much instruction is given before you’re off!
Everyone tends to follow the same course but it’s good to ensure you pick a company who really looks after their horses. We visited tobacco plantations, rum distillers, a beautiful lake and a hidden cave.
Riding horses is not a pastime I’m choosing to take up as it did not come naturally. After being told the horses were on autopilot mine decided to go for a jog making the guide shout “Lady, Lady slow down!”
If you aren’t up for horse riding I’d recommend taking a hike out into the countryside instead.
Viñales is renowned for its cigars and tobacco plantations. Most of the Cuban cigars you buy (the proper ones anyway) were grown in Viñales. We had a quick demo on rolling a cigar before being taken down to the field and drying hut.
Tobacco leaves are pretty cool and our guide showed us the differences between the cheap and the expensive cigars in terms of the leaves. He also explained the difference with cigarettes and why they deem cigars to be safer. That’s still up for debate but you can’t deny there isn’t something special about them.
We did get to have a puff and experience a real Cuban tradition, which given the setting was pretty awesome. If you’re going to buy cigars in Cuba buy them here. The growers have to give 90% of their plants away to the government to make into cigars and sell under famous brands like Cohiba. The extra 10% they can keep to sell on themselves.
So, those are my top things to do with a couple of days in Viñales. There are of course LOADS of other things you can do. The hop on hop off bus will deliver you at everything from zip lines to cave bars, although with only a pick up every 90 minutes it makes doing much a bit difficult. My advice, book a local taxi to take you on your own tour instead.
The heart of Cuba may be in Havana but there is life in Viñales, you’ve just got to go!!