The village of Viñales is situated at the heart of a valley of the same name. Dominating the valley of Viñales are the dramatic mogotes (“pin-cushion hills”). The formations are luxuriantly festooned with epiphytes, ferns, and the rare and ancient cork palm - a botanical relic that grows only here. Thanks to a very special micro-climate of moist nights, cool mornings, and rich red soil, tobacco grows well here.
Museo Municipal Adela Azcuy $1
This museum has motley displays telling the history of the region. Tue-Sat 9am-10pm, Sun 9am-noon.
Jardin Botanico de Viñales
Up until recently two widows took care of this garden - Carmen and Caridad Miranda (Carmen died in 2009). For a voluntary tip, a guide can show you round the garden full of fruit trees, medicinal plants, and orchids. The garden is decorated with plastic teddy bears, decapitated doll’s heads, and desiccated fruits, giving it airs of shamanic intrigue.
Cuevas del Indio $5
The “Caves of the Indian”, 5km north of Viñales, is named for the Indian remains found inside. The large grotto is entered via a slit at the foot of a mogote. You can explore the cave with or without a guide. The cave is 4km long, although you only explore the first km by foot. A flight of steps leads to the main entrance, where you follow a well-lit path (slippery in parts) through the mesmerizing catacomb, which in places soars to a height of 135m. Eventually you reach an underground pier where a motorized boat takes you on a trip up the
subterranean, milky green river that runs deep beneath the mountain and is a habitat for opaque fish and blind crustaceans. 9am-5pm daily. A bird watching trail begins at the El Ranchón restaurant, outside the cave.
Cueva de Viñales - “El Palenque” $1 with guide 4 km north of Viñales, the entrance to this cave has been converted into a discotheque replete with laser lights. The disco works on weekends from 10:30pm, $3. A cabaret show precedes the disco on Saturdays.
Mural de Prehistoria $3 entry
5 km west of Viñales, this mural is painted onto the exposed cliff face of a mogote. The mural illustrates evolution in the region, from mollusc and dinosaur to club-weilding Guanajay Indian, the first human inhabitants of the region. It measures 200 feet high and 300 feet long, and was commissioned by Castro and painted by 25 campesinos in 1961 while artist Leovigilda Gonzalez directed from below with a megaphone. 8am-7pm daily.
Comunidad Los Acuaticos
This community comprises 12 families who live midway up the eastfacing slope of Sierra de Viñales and rarely descend into the valley. The community, which believes in the healing power of water, was founded in 1943 by Antonica Izquierdo, who Cuban authorities later judged to be insane (she was institutionalized and died in an insane asylum). Her followers continued their ritual practice, which included three daily baths and drying off in the wind. The tradition is virtually dead in the community, following the death of the village patriarch in 2002.
Tour agencies are not allowed to offer services to Los Acuaticos, however some freelance guides in town do.
Viñales Valley National Park
Some of the rural area of the valley is protected by the Government as a National Park for its rural scenic value. A section of this is given heritage recognition by UNESCO. These areas are characterised by small farm holdings that produce crops such corn, rice, tobacco with traditional farming methods.
Half Day Hike - $10
The Havanatur agency with its office in the main square offers 3.5 hour professional guided hikes of the Valley’s National Park for $10. These typically include a visit to a farmer’s house, a tobacco field, and a cave in the a mogote. Highly recommended.
Depending on local conditions (recent rain etc), some longer day hikes may be available, which involve caving or waterfalls.
Caverna de Santo Tomas - $10 + transport 15km west of Viñales is the setting for Cuba’s largest cave system. The Santo Tomas caves have more than 45km of galleries on eight levels, making it one of the largest underground systems in the ‘New World’. Guided 90 minute tours cost $10 and involve some tricky scrambling up and down ladders, and the caves are unlit. Helmets and lamps are provided. 9am-4pm daily. Tickets from Havanatur in the main square of Vinales.
There is a small museum (10am-4pm, $1), and the National Centre of Speleology is here. Cayo Levisa - $29 (full day)
A full day excursion (8am to 6:30pm) to this beautiful island off the Atlantic coast near Vinales, is possible with Havanatur. The price includes return bus transport to the port (1 hour each way), return ferry to the island (30min each way), a simple lunch, and a locker for your stuff. The island is flanked on one side by a thick mangrove forest, and on the other by a 3km sublime white sand beach. Beach chairs and some simple water-craft such as canoes are available for hire. Diving and snorkelling excursions can be made to the surrounding reefs: $40diving/$10snorkelling incl, equipment, boat and guide/instructor. Cayo Jutias - $22 (full day)
This pretty beach is 60km from Vinales. Havantur offers a day trip (9am to 5pm) to this beach for $22 including transport (1hr bus ride each way), lunch, and national park fee. Nice views of the mogotes along the way. Cooking Class - $30
Learn from a homestay cook how to prepare some of the typical Cuban specialties such as congri, potaje, garbanzo soup, ajiaco, and flan. The activity includes accompaning the chef to the local markets to buy the ingredients, as well as eating your creations.
Rock Climbing - about $20
The Vinales area is evolving as a mecca for caving and climbing. At least 100 climbing routes have been mapped up the mogotes. There are a few locals who practice climbing as a sport with gear left behind by visiting climbers. If you are prepared to assume the obvious risks involved, it is possible to find these climbers and have them act as guides for you.
- Bicycle rental $5 full day
- Tourist bus - $5
- Beach excursion $22 to $29
- Horseback riding $5/hour
- Day hikes from $10
- Rock climbing about $20
- Caving excursion $10 (+ transport)
- Salsa dance lesson $5 to $8/hour
- Music instrument lesson $10
- Live music venues up to $3
Hotel Pools - $8 (includes $6 credit at the bar)
There are a couple of hotels near to Vinales that have decent pools and great views of the valley below. Both the Hotel Jasmines and the Hotel La Ermita offer this deal for day visitors to relax and enjoy the views while sipping on cocktails.
There is a “hop-on hop-off” bus service for tourists that continually circulates to some of the above attractions closeby in the valley. $5 for a day ticket.