We booked a trip to the Viñales valley in Cuba because we really wanted to visit a tobacco farm and see how the Cubans made their famous cigars. The tour was a full day of adventure, and it was well worth the money spent ($65 each for the day, with lunch included).
We started the day in the Parque Central where we loaded onto our bus for the day. Our tour had about 20 people on it, and one great tour guide. We headed toward Vinales valley, which is about a 2 ½ hour drive from Havana. The valley of Viñales is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and easy to see why; it was incredibly gorgeous the whole day.
Our first stop was a small, local rum factory. We had a quick tour of the facilities and were able to try some of the local rum. We tried a variety called Guayabita del Pinar, which is an extra sweet rum made of cane sugar. With the prices of rum being so cheap, we bought a few bottles to take back to our AirBnB and enjoy for the week we would be there.
We then continued on and were given another coffee break at a lookout point, with a great view of the Sierra de los Organos mountains. Our view overlooked the whole valley and the famous pink Hotel Cubanacan Los Jazmines with a giant swimming pool on top of the hill. We unfortunately didn’t have time to swim, or for a night there, but it would definitely be on our list for a relaxing place next time around.
Next we stopped by the Mural de la Prehistoria, a massive, 120-meter wide colorful painting on a cliffside. The painting took four years to complete and is the recreation of the theory of evolution. On the wall you see depictions of a huge snail, dinosaurs, sea monsters and human beings. It is a bright colorful mural, and an interesting story to hear about.
We had lunch at the restaurant right next the Mural, and it was pouring rain. That didn’t stop us from indulging in mojitos and pina coladas, and fueling up with local fare: plantain chips, rice and beans, and ropa vieja (or a shredded chicken with vegetables). The waiters were very friendly, the live music was good, and they even let you pour your own rum into your drinks–dangerous!
After lunch we headed to the Cueva del Indio. This was a cave and ancient indigenous dwelling where you can take a boat ride through on an underground river. This part of the day felt a little like “It’s a Small World” at Disneyland–very touristy. We got suckered into a glass of fresh sugarcane juice for far too many pesos, but it was made in front of us and quite refreshing. The caves were cool, with some stalagmites and stalactites to see.
Finally, we headed to the tobacco farm. On our tour, they explained the various stages of growing tobacco: from planting, to harvesting and drying, to smoking. We were then lead into a small house where we got to watch local cigar farmers hand rolling cigars. We, of course, had to purchase some authentic cigars, and they did not disappoint.
Overall it was a great day. It was nice to see the countryside and get away from the city of Havana, and great to meet some local farmers and factory workers and support the Cuban economy.