To start from the beginning of the adventure, I have to describe how we got to Viñales in the first place. We had planned to take a bus from Havana and had asked from designated tourist info about the tickets. They told us that we must be at the bus terminal an hour before the departure time and there we’d get the tickets.
The reality was however slightly different. We were at the bus terminal a little more than an hour before the departure time, but only to learn that the bus had already been sold out and there’s a considerable amount of people already waiting for potential cancellations.
But the truth is, it was for the better. If we had got on the bus, it would have taken three hours and 50 minutes to get from Havana to Viñales. Fortunately, we met two fellow travellers both on their way to Viñales and decided to take a taxi. As mentioned before, usually taxis charge four times the price of the bus ticket (after bargaining, of course), so for CUC55 a nice taxi driver named Fidel (I know!) agreed to take the four of us.
And not only took the taxi ride only two hours, we also had a nice stop at a tobacco plantation, where we got to see how tobacco is grown and dried. We had been to a cigar factory in Havana already, but at the plantation we saw how tobacco makes it to the factory. I’ll write a separate post about tobacco and cigar production. But Pinar del Rio province and Valle de Viñales are the heartland of Cuban tobacco production. You see smaller and larger tobacco plantations all around with small old huts for drying the leaves before they’re sent to the factories.
Valle de Viñales is a national park and an area of natural beauty. It’s one of Cuba’s most magnificent settings with soaring pine trees and scattered with limestone cliffs. In 1999, it was added to UNESCO World Heritage list. It’s a perfect setting for hiking, biking and other outdoor activities, but if you’re neither a hiker nor a biker, then you can always take a hop-on-hop-off bus that drives all around the valley many times a day.
Close to Viñales is a beautiful beach island called Cayo Levisa. For CUC35, you can take a day trip to this tiny isle on the northern coast of Cuba (including bus from Viñales, ferry and lunch) from Cubanacan tourist office. Ernest Hemingway discovered this place in early 1940ies, and today the island has a hotel and two restaurants for tourists. Cubans, however, are not permitted to go to Cayo Levisa. You can imagine why.
So here’s a load of photos of Valle de Viñales and Cayo Levisa.
* Yes, I like Oxford commas.