After three days in Havana, we went to the countryside, away from the city bustle. More specifically in a small town or rather the greater village called Viñales, which is just around 200 km or 4 hours drive from Havana.
When you will see two rocking chairs in front of each vibrant coloured house and there are horses or oxen walking down the road then you will know that you have arrived at your destination. We reserved our room via Airbnb, but the locals here literally overwhelm you with offers when you step out of the bus.
Now it is probably the time to give you a little sketch, where we sleep around here. They are called Casa particulares or private houses that rent a room or part of their homes to tourists. This type of accommodation is significantly cheaper than hotels and you are all the time in contact with the locals. If you wish, they can also make you a breakfast for which they usually want 5 CUC or dinner for about 10 CUC (approx. € 10) per person.
We were here hosted by Mario Luis and Idania. Pleasant couple has a room located right in the town center. Upon arrival, we enjoyed delicious freshly squeezed juice and extensive offer of all kinds of excursions and tours around the town. Room is new, spacious and very cheap. We really recommend this Casa to everyone!
Given that Viñales is in principle long only about one kilometer, you have a bunch of restaurants, travel agencies and stores with food and souvenirs (we hope you do not currently imagine a full shelfs like in European stores… here is only one type of biscuits, one type of ice cream, water and couple of soft drinks… but you can buy rum and other alcohol in hectoliters!) on a such small distance.
Around the town are plantations of tobacco from which they produce the world-famous cigars, which are considered to be the best and the most expensive in the world. We visited them as a part of a tour, organised by our host.
We get on this tour with a horse, even though we never rode it before. It was crazy and unforgettable experience. In three hours we visited plantations of tobacco, bananas and pineapples, stopped at local farmer, who explained us the production process and showed us where and how they dry tobacco – at the end we even lit a genuine home-made Cuban cigar. After an hour of riding was followed a display of processing a coffee from coffee beans and rum tasting. This rum is something different because they add a tiny guajava, which grows only in this end of the island and anywhere else in the world. This rum literally burned our mouth! And the price of complete tour? 5 CUC per hour per person, very favorable!
Viñales is a paradise for nature lovers, in addition to all these crops, you can also see the caves, among which is the most interesting Cueva del Indio. You can go on a trek through the nearby hills and for those who enjoy in more adrenaline things, they also go on zip-line. For transportation between all of above you can take »tourist« bus (5 CUC per person per day). Four kilometers from the city is Mural de la Prehistoria, 120 meters long graffiti with a snail, dinosaurs, aquatic monster and human, which illustrates evolution. Do not be fooled by the name, graffiti is not from prehistoric times, but it is just 60 years old. Back then, 18 people spend 4 years of their free time to paint this graffiti on this huge rock.
Drink coffee, light a cigar and wash all down with a mojito. This is how life looks like in Viñales, relaxed, enjoyable and worry-free. Well, we can say that is a way of life throughout Cuba.
S & B