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Idyllic town in the tobacco region

Viñales is a small town situated in the heart of the picturesque region of Piñar del Rio. Take the two hour taxi ride from Havana to enjoy a slower pace of life, stroll through tobacco fields, enjoy delicious home-cooked meals and soak in the life of rural Cuba.

Getting to Viñales

The best way to get to Viñales is to arrange for a private car from Havana. Ask the host at your guest house to arrange a ride the day before your departure. Expect to pay around 100 CUCs and the ride can take 2-3 hours, depending on the condition of the car. Your Havana host can also arrange a guest house for your stay in Viñales.

Viñales has a population of 27,000 and the town is arranged around a single main road. Most restaurants and shops are near the town square. There's a single bank that exchanges foreign money. The lines can be long, so get there early in the morning before it opens at 9 a.m.

Accommodations and food

Most Casa Particulares in Viñales are located in the suburbs southeast of the town center. You can expect a guesthouse to have two rooms with at least two double beds in each. Prices are the same as Havana, $30 per room per night.

Travel like a pro: The best food in Viñales are the home-cooked meals served in guest houses. Opt in for the dinner (around $10 but could be more if serving lobster) to maximize your dinning experience.

The main street also features a number of restaurants with typical Cuban fare. The pizza shop is especially popular with locals and penny ice cream stands can be spotted along street corners on warm days.

Drink and smoke

The town center features a couple of stores carrying a wider selection of goods tailored to tourists, including a cigar shop.

The store next to the plaza sells cheap beer and rum (less than 10 CUCs for a 750 ml bottle of 7 year aged rum). Sit outside and enjoy drinks on warm evenings. Across the plaza, there's nightly music and dancing at the local Casa de la Musica for a 1 CUC cover.

Travel like a pro: Bring some bottles of rum and coke back to your guest house to enjoy on the porch with some fine cigars.

Hotel La Ermita

Bring cigars with you on the 20 minute walk up the hill to Hotel La Ermita. The hotel itself is unexceptional and costs ~$110 per room. The hotel grounds feature a poolside bar with a seating area that offers fantastic views of Viñales Valley, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, down below.

Travel like a pro: Walk up an hour before sunset to enjoy golden hour while sipping on mojitos.

Tobacco farm tour

Viñales is known for its agricultural products grown using traditional methods, including fruits, vegetables, coffee and most notably, tobacco. Tobacco leaves are harvested during late summer and then fermented for a year in a mixture of water, rum, honey and vanilla. Cuban farmers give up 90% of their yield to the government and keep the remaining 10% for personal use and sales to tourists.

Ask your host to arrange a tour of one of the local tobacco farms. Tours typical include a survey of the property and barn where tobacco leaves hang to dry. At the end, the farmer will hand-roll cigars for your enjoyment and provide you with the chance to make purchases.

Travel like a pro: Visit a tobacco farmer soon after arrival in Viñales and stock up on cigars to smoke throughout your trip. The cigars can be bargained down to ~30 CUC for a bundle of 20, far cheaper than the name brand cigars found in state-run shops. The farmers' cigars are organic, flavorful but mild and easy to smoke. Rub honey around the tip for an extra hit of sweetness. Buy extras to take home.

Horseback tour

Ask your host to arrange for a horseback tour of the Viñales Valley. Expect to pay ~40 CUCs per person for tours lasting between 3-4 hours. Horseback tours vary in itinerary but generally feature stops for a local drink, such as rum in coconut, a guided walk through a cave nestled within one of the limestone cliffs and a stop at Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso, a notable restaurant in the area featuring terrace farming and great views of the valley.

Cueva de Santo Tomás

Cueva de Santo Tomás, along with a network of other caves, are located in Valle de Viñales National Park, 17 km west of Viñales. It's Cuba's largest cave system with 1 km walkable by tourists. There's no lighting but headlamps are provided for 90 minute tours. Cost is 20 CUC per person.

Cayo Jutías

Cayo Jutías is a 3 km beach located northwest of Viñales. Ask your host to arrange a private car for the day and you'll be able visit both Cueva de Santo Tomás and the beach in one trip. Expect an hour and half drive to get from Viñales to Cayo Jutías. The water is clear, the beach is pristine and there are no resorts or other accommodations. A solitary restaurant serves up beer, mojitos and an assortment of local seafood.

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