The green wonderland of landscapes in and around Vinales hark back to the days when Cuba was an unspoilt landscape of lush vegetation. It’s here, among craggy eruptions of limestone known as mogotes, that much of the country’s tobacco has traditionally been grown.
Vinales very much remains an unspoilt Cuban township. Here the slow pace of life and time spent with friends on an open veranda is as important as tending to the fields. It also makes it a haven for nature lovers, with a whole host of must do things in Vinales.
So if you’re wondering what to do in Vinales, read on to discover our list of the top 11 activities on offer there.
1. Book a Salsa Dance Lesson
No one can say they’ve been to Cuba without having tried Salsa for themselves. It might seem a little daunting to watch locals move effortlessly in unison to a salsa beat, but don’t let that stop you! Don’t miss your chance to learn a few quick steps for yourself while in Vinales. Lessons can be taken in many places around the town, including at the Casa de Cultura.
2. Join a Santo Tomas Caving Excursion
The Americas’ second largest cave complex, Santo Tomas is a complex labyrinth of chambers, passages, stalactites and stalagmites. The caves wind their way for 46 kms beneath the surface and are made up of eight separate levels. Along the 1km of cave area open to the public you’ll find underground pools and a replica of an indigenous mural. There are 90 minute guided tours available which are well worth it to fully experience the caves. While a small museum outside provides further information about the history of the caverns.
3. Rent a Bike and Explore Vinales
Ask anyone what to do in Vinales and they’re likely to respond ‘get on your bike!’ The quiet paths and roads in and around Vinales make it the perfect place. Bicycles are easy to rent and relatively inexpensive and a great way to explore Vinales. Perhaps one of the best places in Cuba to get off the beaten path. You can cycle sedately down to the river for a swim passing by fields of rust-brown tobacco plants waiting to be harvested. Or simply ride further out to take in the natural beauty of the mogotes which make this part of Cuba so special.
4. Take a Cooking Class in a Casa Particular
Cuba’s casa particulares (bed and breakfast) are more than just a place to lay your head after a busy day of sightseeing. They are also a phenomenal way to get in touch with the real Cuba and talk with those who live there. Take a cooking class and you’ll learn the history and basic techniques of Cuban cooking. But you’ll also learn the secret of how cook to perfection dishes like Moros Cristianos (rice and black beans) and Huevos Habaneros (slightly spicy scrambled eggs).
5. Take to the Beach at Cayo Jutias
The 65km journey from Vinales to Cayo Jutias is definitely worth the trip! Here you’ll find a three kilometer stretch of white sand beach that seems to magically appear from the mangroves of the key. You don’t even need to get your feet wet if you don’t too, since the key is connected to the mainland by a ‘pedraplen’, or causeway. One of the most tranquil beaches Cuba has to offer, it is also home to the Jutias Tree Rat – a rodent similar to a giant version of a guinea pig.
6. Trek the Vinales Valley
Parque Nacional Vinales offers some of the finest trekking anywhere in Cuba and should be on any list of what to do in Vinales. Many trails such as the Coco Solo and Palmarito Magotes trail crisscross the valley. The Palmarito Magotes, trails covers both the Valle de Silencio (Valley of Silence) and the Mural de la Prehistoria. A lot of the walks are on flat terrain and don’t require any advanced level of fitness. The exception is the ‘Coco Solo’ trail that lasts six hours. But there are also plenty of shorter walks that provide equally stunning views of the mountains around the town.
7. Explore the Cueva del Indio
The Cueva del Indio (or Indian Cave) offers the chance to explore underground from the comfort of a boat. It’s the site of an ancient indigenous Guanajatabey Indian settlement and prehistoric art find. Here boats sail through a short stretch of natural limestone tunnels. The waters stem from the San Vincente River. The tales of the boat captains, make for a unique experience and one of the most popular things to do around Vinales.
8. Relax at a Hotel Pool at Hotel Los Jazmines
After a long walk or busy day of sightseeing, there’s no better way to cool down again than with a couple of hours beside a hotel pool. The Hotel Los Jazmines overlooking the Valley of Vinales has a large pool with a spectacular view. You can access the pool for only a few dollars even if you’re not a hotel guest. Be warned it’s a popular hangout on weekends.
9. Live Music in Vinales
Live music is an incredibly important part of Cuban culture. Music is an integral part of Cuban culture and in Vinales it’s no different. Even if you’re not up for dancing salsa, you can just sit back and relax in the vibrant atmosphere of the Vinale’s many bars and live music venues. The pick of the bunch is probably the Casa de Cultura, in the main square. It’s the place to see and be seen, with live music beginning around 9 pm every night.
10. Visit the Mural de la Prehistorica
This giant and colourful artwork stretches 120 metres across the face of Magote Pita, one of many limestone formations in Vinales. It’s the work of local artist Leovigildo Gonzalez Morillo, who painted the mural to help tell the region’s history. Begun in 1961, it took a team of 18 artisans four years to complete. Thought kitsch by some it is an impressive work of art and needs to be seen to be believed.
Explore the Jardín de Caridad
Still unsure what to do in Vinales? Head to a botanic garden like almost no other. Jardin de Caridad covers a vast expanse of land on the outskirts of Vinales. A bounty of sweet-smelling orchids cover the paths alongside oddities such as the plastic heads of dolls, while turkeys happily gobble in the grounds too.
That’s What to do in Vinales!
Vinales has a wealth of attractions to keep visitors entertained. From salsa lessons and live music to the phenomenal natural beauty of the region. Vinales is truly a part of Cuba that not to be missed.
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