The Vinales Valley ~ Cuba

Vinales Cuba “Mountains culminate in peaks, and nations in men.”
Jose Marti ~ Cuban Writer, 1853-1895

Leaving Havana for the day, we climbed aboard a Chinese built bus and headed west on a highway built by Russians. Our destination was the Vinales Valley in the Pinar Del Rio Province, a three hour drive. Our purpose was to visit tobacco farms and growers in the most fertile region in Cuba as well as visit the town, Vinales.

The small private farmers produce the finest grade tobacco while relying solely on traditional methods. No tractors or machinery. No pesticides or commercial fertilizers. Everything organic.  They are part of the National Association of Small Farmers and are under contract with the government. Cuban cigars are exported world wide, except to the United States. As an American visiting Cuba, I can not purchase or bring back cigars to the US. That is contraband, and the tobacco sniffing dogs are doing their job at the Miami Airport.

The farm we visited actually reminded me of the North Carolina Mountains where tobacco allotments were and still are prize possessions. The Cuban owner and workers didn’t mind talking to us or posing and even enjoyed it.

Vinales itself is a delightful farm settlement that was founded in 1875. Standing on the corner, I enjoyed watching the many types of farm carts used to haul tobacco, bananas, taro and other kinds of produce. It certainly had a frontier town feel to it.

It has braced itself for tourists and the brightly painted homes are scrambling to get the necessary permits to add another room to create their own bed and breakfast called “particulares”. They have to be licensed by the government. The houses are simple, one story colonial homes with a front porch. The only thing that has changed over the years is the style of the roof. At one time, homes were flat roofed which left them vulnerable to hurricanes. Today, they are pitched and the government provides the terracotta tile.

To walk two blocks off of the main street, Calle Salvador Cisneros, in either direction, is to immediately be in farm land, which is out someone’s back door.

Walking the length of the main street, I had no trouble spotting the central plaza where young men gather to play a game of dominoes while friends and tourists watch. The Casa de la Cultura puts on daily events and these young girls are practicing their dance routine for a special show.

This is such a laid back town where tourists are definitely made to feel welcome. The settlement as well as the valley surrounding it was designated as a UN World Heritage Site in 1999. One main reason given is the art, music, language, and age old farming methods have not changed. It’s colonial past is part of daily vernacular.

Heading back to Havana, we stopped at an overlook of the valley with the lovely Hotel Los Jasmines in view. The beauty lies in the limestone karsts or “mogotes” jutting up in the large fields, dotted with palm trees and lush vegetation. Our guide tells us the region was once known for its large plantations and haciendas and it used African slaves to do the labor. The Cimarron’s (escaped slaves) found the caves to be a place of refuge. Today, descendants of these slaves, a part of the multi-ethnic culture, live and work in Vinales and the surrounding valley.

It is hard to believe this peaceful and tranquil area once played an important role in Cuba’s War of Independence and the Cuban Revolution. The Vinales valley is Fidel’s favorite place in all of Cuba. The iconic images of him all over Havana always show him with a cigar. An advertisement for what Cuba is known for. Its cigars.

Also famous for rum, we sipped on mojitos while waiting for the sun to set.  A nice way to end the day.

Click on any image for larger view and slideshow.

About travelerlynne

Traveler. Writer. Retired Educator.Traveling on and off the beaten path with my photographer husband. Volunteering locally as well as in Haiti and Tanzania, an enriching and humbling experience. A sun lover! Shelling, boating, fishing and watching sunsets. Growing mango, banana, key lime,and pineapple.Making smoothies and chutneys. Enjoying family and friends! Savoring each new day!
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24 Responses to The Vinales Valley ~ Cuba

  1. restlessjo says:

    Such a completely different way of life, Lynne. I enjoyed reading this and the particolares look very appealing. 🙂

  2. Apparently the Canadians have discovered this area and frequently stay in the particulares. It’s a booming little town but it still feels like time stood still. Make any sense? Thanks for reading, Jo.

  3. vbholmes says:

    Your vibrant descriptions, and Ron’s fabulous photos, show a different side of Cuba than the one with which I’m familiar. They make me want to pack my bags and see the originals for myself. As always, thanks for the interesting introduction to a new destination.

  4. We were glad to get out of Havana for a day to observe rural Cuba. Like everything in Cuba, I couldn’t help feel that even this area is just as government controlled even though they want you to believe that things are changing. I always appreciate you taking the time to read and comment.

  5. I am always surprised at the size of Cuba. Flying over ( or should I say beside) Cuba on my way to Nicaragua, it seems endless. Your vivid descriptions transport me to Cuba. What a beautiful place. Thanks for taking me with you on your travels. Someday, we plan to make a trip to Cuba.

  6. adinparadise says:

    Every time I read your posts about Cuba, and see the wonderful pics, it makes me long to go and see for myself. Maybe one day. 🙂 Love the brightly coloured houses and the smiley people. Mojitos under the setting sun sounds just perfect.

  7. Hi Sylvia. I hope you do get there someday and get to have your sunset with a mojito.

  8. Looks like a beautiful area. Interesting to hear they use traditional farming methods, hence an organic way of growing things. I heard on a television show they also have many inner city type gardens – did you see any of those?

  9. Hi Carole. No, we didn’t see any small garden plots in Havana, although there probably were some.No money for fertilizers and pesticides or getting tractor parts has forced a more traditional way of farming, I’m sure. This wasn’t discussed, but it seems rather obvious. The good thing from that is there is no run off of chemicals in the ocean.

  10. Gigi Galore says:

    Oh lovely! And a companion piece to your one on Havana and more companions reading Ron’s blog! All so gorgeous! 🙂

  11. Anwesha says:

    How I wish to visit Cuba. Loved your writing and looking forward to more.

  12. Madhu says:

    Sounds like a very enjoyable daytrip! The shots of the old man with the cigar are stunning. Remember seeing him over at Ron’s blog 🙂 Love the horse and cart too.

  13. Our Adventure in Croatia says:

    great pictures and description! brings back memories, we stayed at Los Jasmines for a few days some years back and had that view every day!! (the food and drinks were rubbish though!!)

    • I wondered what it would be like to stay at Los Jasmines because of the view and location. Sorry the food was a disappointment. What other areas did you travel to while in Cuba? I would love to go back.

      • Our Adventure in Croatia says:

        I would love to go back to!! apart from Los Jasmines, we visited Havana and Trinidad and stayed in casas particulares. It was great to live with the locals and hear their real life stories of how they live there.

  14. gwynnem says:

    Mojitos in Cuba, officially on my bucket list. 🙂 Such nice photos and good reporting, too!

  15. It is definitely worth a visit. Thanks for your compliments. I can see you and Cameron sipping Mojitos at a little cafe. 🙂

  16. chrisbkm says:

    On our way to Cuba for the first time and plan on spending a few days in Vinales. Great post. Thanks!

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