Viñales, the favorite spot of Fidel Castro

Sanna and me went to Vinales the next day. A beautiful area in the west of Cuba. The Viazul bus took a little longer than four hours to drop us off at this gorgeous, mountainous area.
Vinales is known in Cuba as the place where cigars are made, but also for its beautiful nature and leisurely horseback riding .

The view from our Casa Particular in Viñales.

The view from our Casa Particular in Viñales.

Because you have no internet in Cuba, you can not really plan anything in advance and so our ‘Casa mama’ from Havana, Magnolia, called her friend who had a casa particular in Viñales to see if she still had free rooms.

The Casas particulares in Cuba are very popular. They are, in fact, bed and breakfasts that are owned and operated by the locals.

They are very popular among Cubans because they can earn a lot of money compared to the standard wages they otherwise receive from the government. A Casa can be recognized by a white tile (or sign) with a sign that king of looks like a blue anchor.

Each casa has several phone numbers of other casa’s in another city and so it is often very easy to reserve your next casa. It will of course always be a bit of a surprise, because you never know where or what the next casa will look like.

When we arrived in Vinales, we were immediately harassed by dozens of casa owners. “Are you looking for a casa?”, “You need a cheap casa? Only five minutes walking, come, come!”… Since we already had an accommodation Sanna and I went on with the help of the Galileo app (a smartphone application containing a detailed map of Cuba) and in about fifteen, twenty minutes with our heavy backpack we finally reached a neighborhood just outside the small town of Vinales.

It was steep uphill, and we complained a bit that the casa was so far away, but we made reservations so we couldn’t turn back now. Also… Tomorrow the German girl would accompany us, so we couldn’t just leave her there because we had no means to contact her!

Once we arrived at the Casa our annoyance soon faded away. The view we had from the roof was gorgeous!
The beautiful mountains and the green and red landscape of the region were absolutely stunning!

In the evening we couldn’t see the mountains and the countryside anymore because of the emerging darkness, but the flashing lightning and dozens of fireflies made it seem as if we were in another world at the moment.

For our second, and only full day in Vinales, we had arranged a tour where we would do a six-hour journey through the landscape of Vinales, carried by horses. I had never ridden a horse, so I was quite looking forward to that.

The beautiful Viñales valley! In this hut, cigars are rolled.

The beautiful Viñales valley! In this hut, cigars are rolled.

Since Sanna has her own horses back at home, she was considered as an expert and she could lead us with her horse a little bit.

I didn’t think horseback riding was going to be comfortable, but gosh… Once the horse started to run it just plain hurts! So I tried to keep the running to a minimum and enjoy the horse ride on a slower pace.

As soon as I got the hang of it, I started to look more at the landscape around me. It really was beautiful!

Along our way we saw a lot of tobacco farms, or farms where potatoes and other vegetables were grown. The farms, however, are completely different from what we are used to back in Belgium. They stretch out for iles and miles and pretty much everything is still done manually.

The very red surface is also quite unique and in the background you see the ever majestic mountains.

Our first stop -finally! My bum started to hurt! – was a tobacco farm.

In this place they showed us how the world-famous Cuban cigars were made and some more info on the cigars.

The farmer told us that he had to give 90% of the crops to the government and that they themselves may hold only 10% for own use or for reselling.

To support the friendly farmer, and take home a nice souvenir, I bought ten cigars; 2 CUC each. Expensive, but in the town of Vinales (or Havana, or anywhere…) you would pay a minimum of three or four CUC per cigar.

After Sanna and enjoyed a hand-rolled cigar we continued with our friendly guide and we went to a cave where you could swim.

We stepped into the cave, but we did not swim, since the water simply didn’t seem very clean. Because the cave was so dark and deep, we did enjoy the coolness of it though!

The rest of the day the horses trotted in the simmering heat. I already got tired, so I can’t imagine what those horse were thinking!
Immediately riding a horse for six hours is definitely not a good idea… I was pretty sure my bum was going to fall off the next couple of hours.

As a last sight, we went to see the Mural de la Prehistoria and twenty minutes later I could finally dismount and let the horse rest (and let my body parts heal).

Sanna told me how funny it was to see me on the horse. I clearly still have a lot to learn…

When we arrived back in our accommodation we saw that Maaike also had arrived. Since Maaike is a vegetarian and we wanted to give her a warm welcome, we went to the only vegetarian place in Viñales and enjoyed a delicious dinner completely made of vegetables and plants.

The next morning we planned on going to Cienfuegos. This time, we didn’t take the Viazul bus, but the taxi Collectivo. These fairly large vans or trucks would bring us there for the same price as the Viazul buses but they also pick you up at your casa.

The only downside of this way of traveling is that the cars regularly overheat, and so it is quite a possibility that you will be stuck somewhere for a couple of hours…

Fingers crossed that this won’t happen! Because six hours is already long enough!

A market in Viñales that Sanna seemed to have plundered.

A market in Viñales that Sanna seemed to have plundered.

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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