Experience Transat

Planning an Excursion to Viñales, Cuba

Share the article

Cuba is mainly known for its long white sandy beaches, turquoise sea, and colonial cities that are a symbol of a bygone era. However, if you leave the coast and venture inland, you will discover rural and traditional Cuba rooted in tobacco plantations culture: the Viñales Valley.

It’s a great place to learn more about the traditional Cuban way of life. Located a two-and-a-half-hour drive west of Havana, this place surprises with its beauty. You can easily spend several days in Viñales and the nearby village of Pinar del Rio, where there’s a very pleasant and unexpected calm atmosphere.

Why is Valle de Viñales famous?

Viñales is a small town with traditional and colorful architecture, surrounded by an agricultural valley of the same name. It is home to some of the island’s endemic species, including the last remaining cork palms and about twenty species of orchids. It has been on the UNESCO World Heritage List since 1999, and rightly so!

Nature lovers can visit the Guanahacabibes Peninsula National Park between May and August to admire the turtles that are abundant in the region. From October to March, it’s the birds that rule the roost.

Before setting out to explore the valley, take time to stroll through the village and soak up the relaxed pace and gentle way of life. Notice the bright colors of the houses: in Viñales, you don’t need to remember an address. Just ask for the color of the building you’re looking for and navigate accordingly.

A breeze of serenity blows through Viñales. You can see locals in front of their houses, gently rocking in their rocking chairs while smoking the famous Cuban cigar. They nod to passersby without daring to smile, lest their massive cigars fall out of their mouths.

On a street corner, in front of a small bakery, Cubans line up to get their daily ration of bread. Life is smooth and simple…

What to do in Viñales, Cuba: venture into the countrysideand Pinar del Rio

Paysage rural de Vinales
Crédits photo : Rachel Latour

Welcome to Cuba’s green oasis on the western tip of the island, hidden from the beaches of Cayo Coco and the hustle and bustle of Havana. Yet this region is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and well worth a visit.

Beyond the village you’ll see red earth with numerous green mogotes, the valley’s distinctive rounded hills. These are small oval-shaped karst mountains that are among the oldest geological formations in the country.

The Viñales Valley offers one of the most beautiful views in the country, with its peaks rising out of the plain.

Traditional small huts along the road give the impression of stepping back 100 years in time. Farmers work the land as they did in the last century, with teams of oxen. Most stop their work to wave to you as you pass.

As you walk through the valley, you may see tall, triangular thatched huts with a strong smell of tobacco. These drying barns are part of the landscape of the valley. Inside, you’ll see an abundance of leaves hanging from the ceiling, protected from the light. Breathe in the scent of fresh cigars emanating from these huge leaves.

Further on, at a table, a man is rolling a cigar by hand, ready to be smoked. Most of his production goes to the state for sale, but some cigars are smoked on site, adding to the scent of the valley.

If you’re up for a challenge, consider climbing to the top of a mogote for a breathtaking view of the valley’s contrasting colors. For a deeper experience, the region has many underground tunnels and caves, including the Cueva del Indio and the Santo Tomás Caves, perfect for budding spelunkers!

How to get to Viñales National Park from Havana?

Fermier de Vinales
Crédits photo : Rachel Latour

For a day trip to Viñales, there are several possibilities. If you want to experience the authentic Viñales, choose a guided Tour. Local guides will show you the valley, its mogotes and tobacco plantations in their own way. Hiking and horseback riding are also popular activities.

If you are looking for a more independent experience, it can be an excellent idea to rent a bicycle. This way you can explore the valley at your own pace and according to your preferences.

You can also reach Viñales in three hours by bus with Viazul or Transtour for a few dollars.

Most organized tours to Viñales depart from Havana or Varadero. They usually include transportation and the services of a specialized guide.

The comments and contributions expressed are assumed only by the author. The recommendations, intentions or opinions expressed are not necessarily those of Transat AT Inc. or its affiliates. See terms of use of the Air Transat website.

You may also like

And with the Transat Family Collection, your family vacation will be filled with benefits and inclusive rates tailored specifically for the little ones!
For first time travellers to Cuba, the biggest question is which beach is the best in Cuba? Here are five beautiful Cuban beaches to consider.
Explore the latest, greatest, and best spots in Havana according to travel writer, photographer, and Cuba specialist Heidi Hollinger.
Thirsty for adventure? Here are five excursions you can book to complement your holiday in Cayo Santa Maria.

Travel with Air Transat