Have you ever had a travel dream, which came true? Cuba used to be mine.
As I mentioned in the previous post, I felt in love with Cuba. It is an amazing place, with welcoming and helpful people, without money, but full of love, friendliness, and hospitality. This place made me aware, how important is family and spending time together. Cubans have a lot of free time, but everywhere you look, you can notice a picture of a big and happy family. They spend time together, outside, especially in front of their houses. From almost every house plays loud music. The children play together, the older talk to each other. It was an incredible feeling to experience this.
It’s true, that in Cuba time stopped years ago. You can notice poverty among people, destroyed buildings around, old and ramshackle cars. But here, saying ‘if you have family, you have everything’, makes sense. Today, we are still in a hurry, run for something, missing the best part of our life. In Cuba, time slows down giving you the best lesson for life, screaming ‘stop running and start living and appreciate what you have’.
Additionally, Cuba offers many outstanding places and amazing views. Don’t miss it!
Below, you can find places where I was during my 2-weeks trip. Remember that traveling around the island takes a lot of time because Cuba is a big island, 1200 kilometers long.
From Havana, we took a Viazul bus to Viñales. Being in Cuba, there is no way to not to visit this place. Viñales is oustanding karstic depression in Cuba, situated in the Sierra de Los Órganos mountains, in the Pinar del Río Province. This place is famous for a few reasons. Firstly because of some mountain formations, unique in the island, called mogotes (you can find them only in a few places in the world: North Vietnam, Cuba, South Thailand, Laos, and Slovenia). Secondly because of tobacco cultivation and traditional techniques still in use for agricultural production. Thirdly, because of the Mural of Prehistory, painted on a stone of one of the elevations, which shows the evolution of life in a natural sense of Cuba.
After arrival at Viñales, we put our stuff and were wandering around the village. There is a main road, where you can find pubs and restaurants, room rentals, shops, and church. It is a place where you can meet more tourists than locals. I recommend visiting Plaza de Jose Marti, where you can find a small beautiful church named Iglesia del Sagrado Corazón de Jesus.
What to do in Viñales?
Horse riding around Valleys of Viñales
Certainly, you will search for some local attractions in Viñales. In the main road, you will find a one tourist agency and more locals who will offer you, for example, a horse riding around valleys (it is the main attraction). I think the best idea is asking your host for help in organizing some activities.
Marie, our wonderful host, helped us to organize a horse riding around Viñales. We paid 20 CUC for each person. The tour included a visit at tobacco and coffee plantation and the viewpoint of valleys. During the whole trip we found out how to cultivate, dry, and how to roll cigars. Did you know that Cuban use honey for a flavor while smoking? Also, the interesting facts were cigars production. The cigars plants belong to the Cuban government, so 90% of production goes to them, and the other 20% remain for Cuban use. 110%? Yes! That’s funny information.
We spent a great time during horse riding. I really recommend it. Amazing views, a lot of practical information, very friendly and with a great sense of humor Cuban made, that was a well spent-time.
The best viewpoint of Valleys of Viñales
The most breathtaking part of our stay there was an amazing view of the sunset over Viñales Valleys from one of the many viewpoints located around. I recommend one, located close to Horizontes Los Jazmines Hotel.
Mural of Prehistory
If you are going to spend more days in Viñales, just 5 kilometers away from the city center, in the valley of Dos Hermanas, is situated Mural of Prehistory. It is painted on a stone, on one of the walls of the mogote Pita, and it shows the evolution of life in a natural sense of Cuba. The Mural is 120 meters high and 80 meters wide. You can see there 12 pieces of the evolutionary process of men and animals, in its different stages.
The ticket price is 3 CUC. It is open from 11.00 am to 5.00 pm. To get there I recommend taking a taxi or renting a bike.
Caves in Viñales
Another activity in Viñales is exploring caves. There are a few close, but we have seen only Indian and José Miguel Cave. Both of them are located on the main road towards San Cayetano, about 5 kilometers away from the city.
The Indian Cave is a boat ride through the cave over a small underground river for about 400 meters. You can admire there impressive rock formations that appear along the cave’s wall. It is a place, where The Guanajatabey Indians, an indigenous group native to the region, used the cave for shelter. The Indian Cave is daily open from 9.00 am to 5.00 pm. The ticket costs 5 CUC.
The second cave, The Jose Miguel, is a place where runaway slaves used to seek shelter during colonial times. The cave’s exit takes you directly to the entrance of the restaurant, El Palenque de Los Cimarrones. It is daily open between 9.00 am to 5.30 pm. For entrance, you should pay 1 CUC.
To summarize, Viñales is an amazing place, which I truly recommend visiting. It offers a lot to see and to do. For me, it was the best place in the whole Cuba.
Viazul bus from Havana to Viñales goes daily at 9.00 am, 11.25 am, and 2.30 pm. The time of the journey is about 4 hours and costs 12$. You can purchase your travel online at the official website: https://www.viazul.com
To stay and sleep I recommend the best place in the whole Cuba, Casa Ethercita. For a double room we paid 25 CUC per night. Marie, the host, is very kind and helpful. She is also a good cook. You can ask her for help with organizing a transport or attractions.
Another few days we spent in Trinidad. From Viñales we took a Viazul bus to Trinidad, but we decided to have stop in Cienfuegos. The journey was so long, from Viñales to Cienfuegos the bus went 8 hours, to Trinidad 2 hours more. There is only one bus for a day, at 6.45 am and costs 32 $ (to Trinidad 37 $).
Trinidad should be a must when you are in Cuba. It is one of the most touristic places on the island, second only to Havana. Trinidad is one of the first Cuban cities founded by the Spanish. It is the best-preserved colonial town with the old part being a UNESCO heritage site. Trinidad is absolutely gorgeous with colorful buildings and cobblestone streets.
Currently, Trinidad’s main industry is tobacco processing. Once it grew thanks to the production of sugar cane by the slaves that were imported from Africa. At the peak of the industry in the Cuba there were over fifty sugar cane mills in operation in the three valleys, with over 30 000 slaves working in the mills and on the sugar cane plantations that surrounded them. If you are interested in visiting remains of the greatest center for sugar production in Valle de los Ingenios, there is a plantation of Manaca Iznaga, where the owner’s house, a tower and some barracoons, the original slave quarters, still stand.
Activities in Trinidad
The Topes de Collantes Natural Park
One of the best places in Trinidad is a nature reserve park in the Escambray Mountains range, called The Topes de Collantes. It is an amazing place where you can discover caves, rivers, falls, grottos, canyons, natural pools with crystal clear water, or mountain hills. On the way to hidden pearls of the park, you will hike through coffee plantations and traditional farmers houses and enjoy outstanding views and climate its place.
The most popular places in The Topes de Collantes Natural Park are:
- Vegas Grande Waterfall – it is open daily 24 h, the entrance ticket costs 10 CUC, recommended duration is 2,5 hour
2. SnackBar “El Mirador” – it is a viewpoint, located 600 meters above sea level which offers views of the city and peninsula below
Horse riding around Trinidad
As well as in Viñales, in Trinidad, there is a possibility to take a horse riding tour. It costs about 20 CUC and lasts a few hours. A tour program includes an excursion to the waterfall Pilón and visiting a coffee plantation. We had a horse riding in Viñales, so we decided to do other things, but I saw a lot of people enjoying this option.
Climb to the top of the bell tower
In the city center of Trinidad, close to the Plaza Mayor, is located a little church with the bell tower, from which you can admire outstanding views of Trinidad and closest The Topes de Collantes Natural Park. It costs 3 CUC. The walk to the top is quite easy. On the ground floor, there is a museum dedicated to the Cuban revolution.
Rent a bike and go to Playa Ancón
We decided to rent a bike and explore the surroundings of Trinidad by ourselves. Our host contacted us with his friend who rents bikes. We paid 4 CUC per bike for a day.
To Playa Ancón leads off a road with amazing views along the Caribbean Sea. From Trinidad, we headed for La Playa Boca where we had the first stop. It was about 6 kilometers away.
From La Playa Boca we paddled towards La Playa Ancón (it was about 9 kilometers), but on the way, we had a lot of stops, because of amazing little crabs and beautiful pristine deserted beaches.
Finally, we arrived at Playa Ancón for a sunset.
The shortest way back from Playa Ancón to Trinidad is through Casilda city. It was about 13 kilometers away.
More amazing places in the Cuba, you can find in other posts.
Do you have more question about Viñales or Trinidad? Contact me!