15 In Central America/ Cuba

How To Spend 2 Days In Viñales

At the end of October I travelled for the first time to Cuba with an old friend from school and spent ten days there. As soon as we landed we went to Viñales where we spent the first two days of our trip and we absolutely loved it. Viñales is a small town in a beautiful green valley and National Park in the Pinar del Rio region of Cuba. In this article I will run you through our exact two-day itinerary to Viñales, and all the best things to do and places to see if you’re visiting Viñales briefly. We will cover:

The valley of Viñales

The valley of Viñales

How to get to Viñales

Viñales is approximately a 2 hour and a half car journey from Havana. It is quite easy to travel around Cuba as there are a lot of private taxis, collective taxis and public coaches that travel across the country multiple times a day. We went to Viñales as soon as we landed in Havana, so we had to get a taxi to the coach and taxi station, where we got a private taxi for 30 CUC each (there were two of us). This was around the middle of the afternoon and we were told that the coaches were only in the morning, and that we could wait for someone else to show up so that we could get a collective taxi but this didn’t seem likely given the time of day.

A cute cafe in the middle of the valley of Viñales

A cute cafe in the middle of the valley of Viñales

For comparison purposes, a collective taxi would have cost us 20 CUC and the coach 15 CUC. If you’re staying in central Havana or close to Havan Vieja don’t try to arrange your transfer to Viñales with the taxis in the street, as these are highly overpriced. Same goes for the taxi transfers arranged by big hotels. I recommend getting a taxi to the coach and taxi station (approximately a 15 minute drive from central Havana and should cost around 10 CUC) and negotiating with the drivers there.

Where to stay in Viñales

Like pretty much everywhere in Cuba nowadays, there are a lot of “casa particulares” also in Viñales. A “casa particulares” is when you stay in someone’s spare room / house / upstairs floor or any other part of their house. All “casa particulares” hosts have to be registered with the Cuban government and are safe to stay in, as long as they have the “casa particulares” sign outside the door (see photo). The sign outside the house usually also indicates whether they have availability, so if you’re a bit of a YOLO traveller you could just travel to Cuba without pre-booking anything, look for houses with the “casa particulares” and “available” signs outside and check them out.

Horse riding in the valley Viñales

Horse riding in the valley Viñales

However given that I’m a short blonde girl and was travelling with another skinny girl we did not feel like risking this and going totally YOLO, so we pre-booked accommodation on AirBnb. With the rise of internet also in Cuba most “casa particulares” can be found on AirBnb today. We stayed in this “casa particular“. The hosts, Pedro and his wife, were absolutely fantastic; they cooked us some amazing breakfasts, gave us advice on places to eat and see, and also helped us by booking our excursions and return taxi for us. There are also some hotels in the valley of Viñales however I do not recommend staying in a hotel in Cuba, as you would miss out on the “casa particulares” experience and the value for money isn’t very good.



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One of the many tobacco drying houses in the valley of Viñales

One of the many tobacco drying houses in the valley of Viñales

Best things to do in Viñales

Horse riding in the valley of Viñales

Viñales is especially famous for the green valley that surrounds it, where they grow all the tobacco that then gets used for the famous Cuban cigars. It’s the main attraction and you can’t miss it, if you had to do only one thing in Viñales a horseback tour of the National Park and valley of Viñales should be it. It was my third time ever horse riding and I have to say I was a bit anxious at first. After seeing how docile the horses and how experienced our guides were however I relaxed a bit. The tour lasts between 3 – 5 hours and costs 5 CUC per hour. Even if it is very warm, remember to wear long trousers or you will have very sore legs after! I personally loved exploring the valley, with its green landscapes and mountains surrounding us. It was very scenic and despite my inexperience horse riding I still found it very relaxing. While we were in Cuba we went horse riding also in Trinidad, but perosnally I enjoyed it more in Viñales as the landscape was more captivating.

Me attempting to horse ride for the second time in my life in the valley of Viñales

Me attempting to horse ride for the second time in my life in the valley of Viñales

Visit the tobacco plantations

Even if you don’t smoke cigars (I’m not a smoker either) you will enjoy paying a visit to the tobacco plantations. We did as part of the horse riding tour and found it really interesting. The local farmers told us about the tobacco growth cycles and they explained the process that happens from when the seeds are first planted to the tobacco leaves rolled into cigars. We were very shocked to discover that by law they have to sell 90% of the tobacco they grow to the government, and are allowed to only keep 10% for their own personal use or for selling to tourists.

One of the tobacco farmers shows how they roll cigars

One of the tobacco farmers shows how they roll cigars

The constructions that you see dotted around the valley, which we thought were houses at first, turned out to be the buildings where they store tobacco leaves when they are being dried. The house was empty when we visited in October as they had just planted the new tobacco plants, we were told the drying season ends at the end of summer. He then offered us all a cigar to smoke while he showed us how they make them. You can buy cigars on these farms for approximately 3 CUC a cigar, this is considerably cheaper than the 10+ CUC per cigar that they sell in the shops in Havana.

My friend Francesca trying a Cuban cigar on the tobacco plantation

My friend Francesca trying a Cuban cigar on the tobacco plantation

Do the hop-on hop-off bus tour: Viñales valley day trip

Now before you get excited, this isn’t the hop-on hop-off bus tour you’re thinking, there is no double decker red bus with open roof. It’s a slightly less efficient but equally exciting Cuban version of it. On the Main Street of Viñales there is a bus stop where you can see the itinerary and times of the bus tour. Just like the hop-on hop-off bus tour we know, this bus constantly drives around the valley, doing stops at the most important points of interest and attractions in Viñales. In some places (eg. the Hotel Jazmines viewpoint or Mural de la Prehistoria) he will do short 5 – 10 minute stops for those that want to take a quick photo without stopping for too long. If you want to spend longer in a determinate stop you can get off and then get on the next bus, just bear in mind it will come in approximately an hour and a half, as the “next bus” is actually only one bus that drives around continuously.

Horses in the valley of Viñales

Horses in the valley of Viñales

Visit the Murales de la Prehistoria

In the valley of Viñales there is a huge “Mural de la Prehistoria” which you can see in the photo below. It is a colourful and gigantic painting on a wall of rock in the valley, depicting odd scenes from historical times. The photo below was taken from the car park of the murales, if you want to get closer you have to pay 3 CUC. We figured there wasn’t much point since you wouldn’t be able to see it as well from closer. We were also surprised to find out that the murales doesn’t actually date back to prehistorical times, but has been painted in recent years to add an attraction and point of interest for tourists.

The Mural de la Prehistoria in Viñales

The Mural de la Prehistoria in Viñales

Check out the view from Hotel Jazmines

If you Google Viñales the vast majority of photos that come up will show a flat green valley surrounded by mountains. All these have been taken from the same viewpoint, at the Hotel Jazmines. There is a wide viewing platform with a small coffee shop right next to the hotel, where you can go for free and enjoy the view or grab a drink and a seat if you feel like it. As most viewpoints go, this is also obviously a bit higher up relative to the village. There are two ways to get here; the first is with the hop-on hop-off bus that I mentioned earlier, the second is by bicycle. Cycling in the valley of Viñales is another popular activity and your AirBnb host will easily be able to arrange it for you. Pedro gave us two bicycles for free and we decided to brave the cycle up to the viewpoint. Needless to say, most of it is uphill and quite tiring, but the view is well worth it.

View over the valley of Viñales from the hotel viewpoint

View over the valley of Viñales from the hotel viewpoint

Go to the beach

After having seen the main highlights of the valley on the first day we had originally planned to go to the beach on the second day. As previously mentioned this didn’t happen due to bad weather, however if you’re a beach person you should consider visiting the beach at Cayo Jutias while you are in Viñales. We were advised by our AirBnb host that it is one of the best beaches along this part of the Cuban coast, and given the heat and how tired we were from horse riding spending a day relaxing on the beach would have been nice!

| READ MORE: 10 BEST BEACHES WORLDWIDE |

Enjoying a beach day at Playa Ancon, Cuba

Enjoying a beach day at Playa Ancon, Cuba

Visit the Indios Cave

Another famous attraction in Viñales is “La Cueva de los Indios” or the Indios Cave in English. This cave supposedly dates back to indigenous times and was rediscovered in 1920 by a local farmer. You have to pay 2 CUC to go inside. After an initial section just after the downwards staircase you have to crawl under overhanging rocks to get to a wider section of the cave. Here there is an underground river where you will get a boat that will take you outside the cave from a different access point. I wouldn’t know all this as I have issues with claustrophobia and backed out after walking about 10 metres into the cave, but my friend I was travelling with recounted it in great detail.

Part of the inside of the Indios Cave

Part of the inside of the Indios Cave

Where to eat in Viñales

There are a lot of nice places to eat in Viñales and they are mostly crowded around the main street. Some of our personal favourites that our AirBnb host recommended and we personally tried out and loved were Mogotè Cafe and 3J Tapas Bar. We particularly enjoyed Mogotè Cafe thanks to its lovely view over the valley. Cuba was not as cheap as we had expected it to be. For a sit down meal for two you can expect to pay anywhere between 15 – 50 CUC. The higher end estimate is what we paid for a three-course meal with two cocktails each so not a totally unreasonable price. The cuisine is a mixture of Caribbean, Mexican and European, offering things like tapas (eg. croquettes or other small portion dishes), meat or fish served with rice and salads on the side (see the photo below) or fajitas and enchiladas. In every casa particulare we stayed at during our trip they made us breakfast for 5 CUC, this usually included eggs, fruit, cheese, bread and spreads.

Enjoying a tasty Cuban lunch after a long day of horse riding in the valley of Viñales

Enjoying a tasty Cuban lunch after a long day of horse riding in the valley of Viñales

Nightlife in Viñales

For a small town like Viñales it might come as a surprise that I am including this section at all, however Viñales actually has a very lively nightlife. In the main town square there is the Centro Cultural Polo Montanez, where every evening there are drinks and salsa dancing classes. If you’re visiting on a Saturday like we were this all gets moved out of the Centro Culturale and directly into the main square. The whole town, tourists and locals of all ages, gather in the main square to dance. The speakers from inside the Centro Culturale get brought outside and all around town you will be able to hear a mixture of salsa and commercial Latin music. We easily made friends with another group of tourists that were dancing in the square and I highly recommend checking it out if you get the chance, it was one of the most fun evenings we had in the whole Cuba trip.

The main square of Viñales, which on Saturday nights becomes a party central

The main square of Viñales, which on Saturday nights becomes a party central

Have you been to Viñales? How did you spend two days there? Let me know in the comments below! Visiting Viñales was one of my favourite parts of my Cuba trip, even if we were only visiting so briefly. Horse riding in the green valley and learning about the tobacco production in Cuba were incredible experiences, which I highly recommend to anyone.

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Planning a trip to Cuba? You can't miss visiting the valley of Viñales, where you can go horse riding in the tobacco plantations and learn how they roll cigars. Find the best things to do, see and how to spend 2 days in Viñales.

Planning a trip to Cuba? You can't miss visiting the valley of Viñales, where you can go horse riding in the tobacco plantations and learn how they roll cigars. Find the best things to do, see and how to spend 2 days in Viñales.

Vinales in Cuba is a beautiful green valley where you can go horse riding in the tobacco plantations, discover caves and visit fantastic beaches. Find out all the best things to do in this stunning Cuban town.

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  • Unta
    November 25, 2017 at 11:16 am

    Beautiful post, brings back good memories. 🙂 I’ve visited Viñales earlier this year!

    • gomoboni
      November 26, 2017 at 6:26 am

      Thank you, glad you enjoyed it!

  • Joanna
    November 25, 2017 at 1:21 pm

    Vinales is such a beautiful part of Cuba. I have been there a few years ago but instead of horse riding I hiked through the valley. The cigar making demonstration was impressive, I remember walking afterwards in a field of tobacco with the plants higher than me. 🙂

    • gomoboni
      November 26, 2017 at 6:34 am

      Agreed, it’s such an interesting thing to see! I bet even hiking in the valley must have been a great experience!

  • Sujenne
    November 25, 2017 at 2:17 pm

    For 2 days you guys actually did a lot. I did most of that in les than 12 hours. Which was kind of rushed but fun.
    Happy to see you enjoyed yourself. Dont smoke to much tobacco!! Hahaha

    • gomoboni
      November 26, 2017 at 6:36 am

      Haha don’t worry I don’t even smoke! Oh wow 12 hours! That must’ve been awesome but a little rushed! Thanks, we did have a good time 🙂

  • Amy Poulton - Page Traveller
    November 25, 2017 at 4:35 pm

    Oooh I’m so desperate to see Cuba! Currently in Mexico, bumping into travellers who have just been and saying it’s amazing! If I wasn’t reliant on internet (I work online), then I would totally be on a plane there right now! Thanks for sharing.

    • gomoboni
      November 26, 2017 at 6:39 am

      Thanks, glad you enjoyed it! Ah yes the internet is quite problematic unfortunately! But if you ever decide to take a break / holiday from the internet you should definitely pay it a visit!

  • Danielle
    November 25, 2017 at 4:53 pm

    This looks Awesome! Definitely sharing with my SIL who is traveling there in Feb!

    • gomoboni
      November 26, 2017 at 6:41 am

      Thanks! Glad you enjoyed it and hope your SIL enjoys Cuba!

  • Becci Abroad
    November 26, 2017 at 12:51 am

    Sounds like you had a lot of fun in Viñales! I visited some years ago and found it nice but a bit too picture-perfect and touristic of what I have seen other Cuban villages to be. I had no clue about the “hop-on hop-off bus”! Wish I had known back then! Though I did do the house riding even though I like you am not that experienced on a horseback.
    Thanks for sharing your experiences!

    • gomoboni
      November 26, 2017 at 6:42 am

      Thank you, glad you enjoyed it! I see what you mean, although compared to Havana we still thought it seemed more “authentic” and not as touristy but I guess it’s always relative to what you’ve seen!

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