The Vinales Valley (so far, my favorite part of Cuba!) is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, consisting of a series of interconnected, narrow valleys with scenery that is simply magnificent! It is here, in the red, fertile soil and deep green fields (vegas) that some of the world’s finest tobacco is grown. Peasant farmers tend the fields, dressed in army fatigues or white linens and straw hats. There’s no serious machinery to help with their work, just traditional, oxen drawn wooden plows. Many of these farmers own their land. They do, however, have to sell their crop to the government at a fixed rate.
|Rest Stop in Pinar del Rio|
The farmers welcome visitors to freely enter into their vegas and curing sheds to talk to them about the basics of tobacco farming. They’ll even share the fruit from their fruit trees with you! Palm trees, banana trees and orange trees dot the scenes, and chickens, cattle, pigs and horses roam about the fields. The valley is perfect for hiking, but do take a guide if you opt to scale a mogote (tall, conical mountains that add to the region’s beauty). The views of the valley are best at dusk and dawn when the natural light is enhanced by the dimly lit lanterns of the thatched huts.
While there are several national monuments to visit in Vinales, we spent time at the breath-taking Cuevo del Indio (Indian Caves). These underground caves are filled with interesting stalactites and stalagmites, and in places, reaches a height of 300 feet. The cave is well-developed for tourists, complete with lights and a boat tour. The entry fee is 5 CUC (about 5 USD).
|Steps to Cueva del Indio|
|Inside Cueva del Indio|
Just before entering the cave, I tried the Guayabita del Pinar rum, mixed with fresh sugar cane and lemon. Delish!
If you’d like to stay over a couple of nights instead of taking a day trip to the region, there are hotels and lovely guest houses to accommodate you. The people, the food and scenery are some that I will not soon forget.
|One of several lodging options in Pinar del Rio/Vinales region|