The town of Viñales sits in a picturesque valley punctuated by dramatic limestone karst formations known as ‘mogotes’. It’s well worth a trip. If you don’t have much time, here’s how to see the best of the area in one day.
Explore an underground river by boat
Start with breakfast at your casa particular, which should usually cost around $5 for a spread of eggs, toast, fruit, coffee, and juice. You won’t find a better deal at any of the cafés in town, where breakfast choices are fairly limited.
Take a cab out to ‘La Cueva del Indio’, where you can explore the eerie caverns before taking a boat ride along a subterranean river. It’s great fun, and even those who are claustrophobic won’t have too much trouble because you can stand up straight all the way through.
Gawk at a huge cliffside mural
From here make a trip to the bizarre Mural of Prehistory, a huge piece of art painted on the side of a cliff. It was commissioned by Fidel Castro in the early days of the Revolution, and it took months for a team of painters to complete the work by abseiling down the cliff face.
Buy some cigars for your friends
Afterwards make your way to Hotel Los Jazmines, two kilometres up the road on the way out of town. The striking pink building contrasts with the lush green vegetation, and the view over the valley is amazing.
On the way back into town, stop in at the Casa del Tabaco to see how the iconic Cuban cigars are made with tobacco from the Viñales region. Stock up on souvenirs, or just take in the experience.
For dinner, El Olivo is arguably the best restaurant in town, and you might have to queue for a table. It’s worth the wait though, and the lasagne comes highly recommended.