Pathfinder Pics: Valle de Viñales, Cuba
Recently, Lonely Planet Pathfinder, Yasmine Awwad of Peeking Duck, visited Cuba and took some time out to explore Valle de Viñales, a region that made it on to our Best in Travel list for 2016. Here, Yasmine shares some tips on how best to explore this part of the globe.
'Viñales is a small rural town in western Cuba surrounded by dramatic limestone rock formations (also known as mogotes). The town itself is quaint and laid-back, made up of colourful wooden houses, each with a porch and a couple of rocking chairs out the front. A trip to this region in Cuba is really about getting out into the Cuban countryside. There are three main ways to explore – hiking up to the viewpoints of the mogotes, cycling out to tobacco plantations or horse riding through the valley. All offer beautiful views of the countryside and opportunities to meet local farmers and learn about traditional rural Cuba.'
Take a deep breath
'Arriving in Viñales after a bumpy 3-hour journey is a breath of fresh air after Havana’s polluted streets. The roads are quiet, with more horses than cars, and the town is surrounded by rice paddies, palm trees and green countryside.'
Step back in time
'On our first day we ventured into the countryside on bikes. Cycling out of town in any direction takes you past tobacco plantations, grazing cows and maybe even a cowboy or two. Just make sure you take a map to help find your way back!'
Take a ride
'Another way to explore the Viñales countryside is on horseback. Horses are an important mode of transport in this area and they’re well looked after and trained. Most excursions are suitable for complete beginners, and start with an introduction on how to ride safely.'
Get ready to hike
'The Unesco listed Viñales Valley has plenty of viewpoints to climb up to, and are a must while in the region. Some can be reached on foot with just a map, but others, like this one, require transport, a guide and a muddy (but fun!) 2-hour hike.'
Enjoy the simple things
'A highlight of our time in Viñales was going on a guided sunset hike. Stopping off at a lake and various farms along the way, we ended up at a tobacco plantation in time to see the sun setting over the mogotes.'
Learn from the locals
'With dogs and chickens at our feet, the owner of the plantation explained that the tobacco leaves are coated in a mixture of mint, honey and rum before being made into cigars. Ninety percent of tobacco leaves have to be sold to the government but the farmers use what’s left to make organic, hand-rolled cigars.'
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