Serenity & Cowboy spotting in pretty Viñales
After four nights in Havana it was time to explore some Cuban country side in beautiful Viñales. For independent travelers the two most common modes of transportation will be by bus or by private taxi. The latter is in some cases necessary since there are not straight bus lines from all cities. Viazul is the name of the most used bus company. But we discovered that it is only possible to buy the bus ticket in the city from where you will depart. And since there are lot´s of tourists and only few connections this means that if you need to travel somewhere where connection is needed you will only be able to buy your ticket for the first distance and most likely your second distance will be sold out by the time you reach your connection point. That is one reason why private taxi sometimes needs to be used as an alternative. If you are many people sharing it is really good value for money. If alone or just two it is a bit pricey but still acceptable compared to distance.
In Viñales we stayed at Casa Ridel y Claribel. Their casa was a short walk away from the main drag and really peaceful. From the rooftop there was a pretty view and the cocktails & the food was delicious 😛 Ridel´s profession is a medical doctor and he therefore spoke excellent English. He and his wife Claribel were the warmest people we met during our trip. They were genuinely caring and open for interesting conversations. Their lovely daughter was a smiling young girl who also enjoyed practicing her English with us.
Viñales is a colorful town. Despite the tourism the vibe is laid back. We enjoyed very much to just walk around and look at all pretty houses, dogs and street life. And to try the outdoor gym. 😉 In Viñales as in so many other places in Cuba horse carriage is a common way for people to transport them self. Viñales has a small center with a square and some nice Paladares, concept explained in my previous post.
The main reason for people coming to Viñales is the lovely countryside. In Viñales valley one can discover the tobacco plantations and spot lot´s of cool cowboys. All surrounded by dramatic limestone cliffs. Most people go by horse but we choose to walk. We rented an English speaking guide for half a day with whom we were able to chat about Cuban life as we strolled around the amazing landscapes. The day started up misty but cleared up in the afternoon. Apart from the trek we had one stop at a tobacco farm where we got to hear about the process and see how cigars are rolled. There we bumped into a nice Italian couple we had met in Havana who helped us translate. We learned that a tobacco farmer must harvest once a year and 90% are to be sold to the Cuban state. 10% is allowed to be kept for private sales and use. Those 10% are sold brandless and without chemical treatment (treated can be kept 10 years, untreated for 3) for a very humble price. On the market they get brands a Cohiba thus good stuff. Even if not a cigar smoker I had to purchase a few 😉
In Viñales there are two hotels, La Ermita & Los Jazmines. A great way to spend the afternoon after some trekking is to visit one of them. You can either just buy a drink and hang around or also use their pool for a small amount. We tried La Ermita one afternoon and Los Jazmines the other. They are both nice in their own way. The best part is that both of them are located on a hight which provides amazing views.
After three nights with Ridel & Claribel it was time for a four hour private taxi ride to Varadero, the beach destination number one in Cuba. We had a lovely stay in Viñales and were very lucky to get a reservation with Ridel & Claribel since they are the number one Casa in the area, according to Tripadvisor. With all rights!