Located in the heart of Cuba’s tobacco region, Viñales offers an immersion into local cigar culture. However, there’s more to Viñales than the tobacco fields that this town is famous for. Surrounded by lush green valleys and mountains, including a range of steep limestone hills known as mogotes, Viñales is the perfect base for anyone who wants to try some outdoor activities while in Cuba. Meanwhile, the town itself provides a glimpse into rural life in Cuba and an opportunity to watch tobacco farmers at work.
Whether you want to smoke authentic Cuban cigars or venture into the Cuban wilderness, there are plenty of amazing things to do in Viñales. Here are our top picks.
1. Go on a walking tour in the town centre
Colourful, colonial-era houses line the main streets of Viñales. This agricultural town is always bustling with activity – schoolchildren playing in the streets, locals having conversations outside houses with open doors, and farmers driving horse carriages alongside old motorbikes and cars.
Many visitors tend to just drive through the town on their way to the tobacco plantations. However, you should try spending a couple of days in Viñales to truly get to know the place and its people. This gives you the chance to explore the town centre, either on your own or by joining a walking tour. Albeit being small, the town centre of Viñales has several interesting attractions. These include the small, quaint church in the main square, Iglesia del Sagrado Corazo de Jesus, and the Museo Municipal, where you can learn more about the town’s history. You could also take dance classes or watch local musicians play at the beautiful Casa de la Cultura.
There are plenty of beautiful casas particulares in town. These guesthouses offer an authentic Cuban experience, where you get to stay with a local family.
2. Learn how Cuban cigars are made
Tobacco is one of Cuba’s top exports and largest sources of income. The Pinar del Rio province in western Cuba is the country’s main tobacco growing area, thanks to its fertile land and ideal climate. You can find several tobacco farms in this region, especially around the town of Viñales, many of which are open to visitors.
Cigar-making is a long and delicate process. It takes months for the tobacco leaves to be dried, properly fermented and ready for rolling. The cigar-rolling process is passed down through generations, and you often find large families working on tobacco farms. You can get first-hand experience of this process by taking a tour with a tobacco farmer. Besides learning about the cultivation of tobacco, you also get to see the work that goes into rolling the perfect Cuban cigar – and smoke one, too!
3. Go hiking or horse-riding through the valley
Viñales Valley, known locally as Parque Nacional Viñales, is one of the most beautiful places in Cuba. Cultivated tobacco fields stretch across the valley, dotted by clusters of palm trees. Steep, craggy hills jut out from the flat ground, casting dramatic shadows over the fields below. These mogotes are very popular among rock climbers, but there are other (and less daring) ways to take in the beauty of the valley.
If you enjoy hiking, Viñales Valley is laced with paths that cut through tobacco fields. This is a great way to immerse yourself in the Cuban countryside and meet local farmers. Alternatively, you could join a horse-rising tour around the valley and the mogotes.
4. Explore Cuba’s largest cave
Viñales is home to the largest cave system in Cuba. Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas has over 46km of caves and is known for its extraordinary rock formations. There are also several underground pools and a replica of an ancient Indian mural. It is believed that the Guanahatabeys, Cuba’s earliest inhabitants, lived in these caves. Only a small fraction of this huge cave complex is accessible, but you can still admire its interesting features, including impressive stalactites and stalagmites – and of course, loads of bats.
There is no light installed in the cave, but your guide will provide headlights. Remember to wear a good pair of walking shoes as the climb to the entrance is rather steep and and you will encounter some slippery areas inside the cave.
5. Enjoy a delicious vegetarian meal al fresco
Wrap up your fun-packed day in Viñales with a tasty Cuban meal. Many restaurants in town serve hearty dishes prepared with fresh, local ingredients. One such restaurant is La Berenjena, which serves a variety of vegetarian and vegan meals, including soups, salads and sandwiches, as well as a few meat options. The owners grow their own honey and use ingredients from their vegetable garden. You can enjoy your meal on the terrace while admiring beautiful views of the hills.
Viñales is the perfect Cuban destination for those who want to learn more about Cuba’s cigar production and engage in outdoor activities like hiking and horse-riding. We offer a walking holiday in Cuba that covers a variety of cultural activities and outdoor experiences in different locations, including Las Terrazas, Trinidad and Viñales.