Valley of Viñales in Pinar del Rio Cuba
Vinales at only 200 km from Havana is one of the most cosy eco-destinations in Cuba. The area north of Pinar del Rio city is in fact full of beautiful valleys with a picturesque landscape of small mountains called mogotes and long broad green valleys, like Valley of Vinales, the valley of Ancon, the valley San Carlos, the valley Isabel Maria and many others. This is the area where the best tobacco in the world grows according to the lovers of Cuban tobacco.
The geology of the region of Vinales dates back millions of years when the bottom of the sea was lifted and a lime stone mountain chain was formed. Through erosion big caves were formed till their roofs collapsed and valleys were formed with here and there still erect the pillars of the roofs in harder stone. The lime stone underground makes the earth very fertile and the colour of the soil is red due to the high degree of iron in it. With some luck you find fossiles of prehistoric sea fish engraved in the rocks. Inside the mogotes you can find caves of which some can be visited. We recommend the Indian Cave for a leisure visit or the San Thomas Cave for the more experienced.
A little bit to the south-west of Vinales is the area of Vuelta Abajo where in the month of november till march the whole area greens up with the colour of tobacco leaves. This is the area where the best tobacco is grown in the world. Most are family farms taking care of a small plot of land around their house. We recommend to visit the house of Don Alejandro Robaina near the small village of San Luis. Here you can receive a guided tour around the farm showing the different steps in the growth of the plant. Robaina is the only farmer who has a brand named after him.
The valley of Vinales is a national park. The village of Vinales was founded by Spaniards with the idea to plant grapes to make wine. But they soon found out tobacco was more interesting. The Vinales village has a typical tropical rural architecture. The valley is ideal to make hikes to visit farmers and enjoy the nature. You can go on an organized tour with a guide which is sold in the tourist bureaus in the centre in front of the church.
Vinales is also the only place in the area apart from Pinar del Rio where you can find lodging. There are 3 hotels: Los Jasmines, La Ermita and Rancho San Vicente. Also in the centre of the village of Vinales many locals rent rooms on day basis to compensate the lack of hotel infrastructure in the area. In the centre of Vinales next to the church is a cultural centre where at night life music is played.