The little town in the province of Piñardel Rio is located in the far West of the country, but only about four hours from Havana. The friendly people, unique scenery, and lively nightlife are just some of the reason travellers will fall in love with this town.
Viñales is growing increasingly popular with travellers which is unsurprising because as well as being surrounded by stunning countryside, there’s also a lot to do. Stay at a casa particular and ask them or the tour office in town for information about the different activities below.
1. Tobacco plantations
Visiting the plantations, meeting one of the farmers, and being shown the whole cigar making process is a real highlight of Viñales, and an important part of Cuba’s history too. You can buy some rustic looking cigars straight from the farmer, although this isn’t really legal so be discreet about it.
The strange shaped mogotes rising from the valley are home to huge caves which are stunning to explore. Take a torch and your swimming gear as lots of them have freezing cold swimming holes, and one even has a boat to take you through the dark underground rivers.
3. Horse riding
A great way to explore the beautiful countryside is by horseback. We took a day trip and ambled along peacefully enjoying the views, also stopping at some waterfalls for a refreshing dip and some lunch.
If you’re not into horses, go by foot instead. The valley is perfect for hikers and there are loads of trails in the area with varying length and difficulty. Ask at the Infotur office for help with maps and details and take plenty of water.
For the more adventurous, there are some great opportunities for climbing up the face of the mogotes. Both exhilarating and exhausting, once at the top you’ll be able to relax and appreciate the far-reaching views.
6. Nearby beaches
The Playa Maria la Gorda offers some of the best diving and snorkelling in Cuba but can be hard to get to, especially if you don’t have your own vehicle. There are tour buses from Viñales that drop you off for the day and return at sunset which are great if you don’t have the time to stay overnight.
7. Salsa dancing
There’s an open air bar in the centre of town with a huge dance floor and stage for musicians. By late evening, the place is rammed and the music is blaring. Whether you want to or not, you’ll get pulled up by one of the locals who will whip you around so expertly so that it will almost look like you can actually dance yourself.
8. Cave bar
Just outside Viñales is a huge open cave with a bar inside it which gets really lively at the weekends. The location is stunning and it’s definitely worth the taxi ride. Make sure you arrange a ride back though, especially during the week. My friend and I got stranded out there with no means of communication and in the end had to get a ride on the back of a (slightly drunk) Cuban’s motorbike.
For such a small town there are some really cool little night spots. Our new motorbike riding friend showed us some local spots which were basically just a bare room with some plastic chairs and tables, rowdy locals, and plenty of rum behind the bar.
10. The town and its people
Without all of the above, Viñales would still be worth visiting because of its charm and pretty, colourful houses, as well as the lovely locals. Despite their working long hard hours in the tobacco fields and factories, they’ll give you a friendly wave from the back of a horse and cart, and amaze you with their energetic dancing skills at night.