When you think of Cuba, the beautiful beaches and the eccentric capital of Havana first come to mind.
But if you take the time to venture off the beaten path, then you’ll discover more hidden gems that also deserve to be placed under the spotlight, and one of them is Viñales.
A beautiful town resting within a valley in Cuba’s Pinar del Rio province, Viñales is about three hours away from Havana by car and is often cited as Fidel Castro’s favorite spot in the country.
While it is known foremost for its tobacco farms and plantations, there is so much more to see and do in this unspoiled destination.
From natural wonders like enchanting caves and magnificent rock formations to extraordinary experiences like horseback riding and ziplining, Viñales is the ultimate destination for any traveler looking to enjoy a myriad of sights and activities.
On your sojourn to this charming, underrated town in Cuba, don’t forget to make time for the 15 best things to do in this location for a trip you surely won’t forget.
Go on a Horseback Riding Tour
The most popular way to explore Viñales is by riding horseback.
Enjoy the relaxing view of the countryside atop your very own horse companion as you travel to some of the most must-see attractions in town and beyond.
Discover the beauty of the tobacco plantations or stop by the various wonders of Viñales and have a peaceful nature commune as you leave all your worries behind.
Around Viñales, there are plenty of tour operators such as Horse Ride Viñales, Riding Viñales, and Visita Viñales that offer tourists this fun tour, and no matter which one you decide to go with, it is highly recommended to call ahead or make reservations prior to your visit to ensure a most convenient and hassle-free experience.
Visit a Local Cigar Plantation
Whether you choose the horseback riding tour or opt for the leisurely walk along the farmlands, you’ll discover that visiting the tobacco farms is the best way to get the overall feel of Viñales and get an up-close-and-personal perspective into the livelihood of the locals.
On your tour, you will witness firsthand the traditional agricultural techniques that the locals use in farming and production.
Most of the process is done by hand—a tradition passed on from one generation of farmers to the next.
In addition to seeing how one of Cuba’s most famous export products is made, you will also get a chance to sample a hand-rolled cigar and purchase their tobacco products made fresh straight from the farm.
Enjoy a Drink at Palenque de los Cimarrones
Palenque de los Cimarrones is another cave system that you can explore in Viñales.
Although a bit shorter than Caverna de Santo Tomas and Cueva del Indio, it has a unique feature that makes it a unique and, therefore, the most worthy place to visit.
Within the cave is a bar where you can enjoy some drinks and food right after exploring the small cave within the area.
Come sundown; the place transforms into one of the best places for locals and tourists to experience the Cuban nightlife.
Get Lost in the Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas
Viñales National Park is home to a variety of natural wonders, including numerous caves that offer just the right amount of adventure in this beautiful valley.
One of the many caves that you’ll encounter on your visit is not only the largest cave system in Cuba but also the second-largest in the entire American Continent—the Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas (Great Cavern of Saint Thomas).
Spanning 46 kilometers, the Caverna de Santo Tomas has eight levels, and only 1 kilometer is accessible by visitors.
Prepare to be amazed once you enter the cave and discover the beautiful stalagmites and stalactites within as well as many other rock formations and even a couple of underground pools worthy of exploration.
The guided tour that lasts about 90 minutes will require you to wear a headlamp due to the cave’s lack of artificial lighting; in addition, expect that there’s a bit of a climb when you sign up.
Tour a Coffee Farm
Not in the mood for a cigar?
Perhaps something that’s equally as addictive but not as sinful, like coffee?
Viñales’ rich soil provides the perfect biosystem for growing a variety of crops, which is why, in addition to tobacco farms, there are also quite a few coffee farms in the area.
Just like how tobacco is harvested and produced, the locals also manufacture coffee the traditional way, purely by labor and without the use of any type of machinery, which makes their coffee all the more special.
On your tour, you’ll get to sip freshly brewed Cuban coffee straight from the farm, which makes for a totally unique experience you won’t be able to get elsewhere.
Have an Adrenaline Rush at Canopy Tour El Fortin
There are plenty of ways to explore Viñales National Park, but El Fortin’s Canopy Tour will surely leave your heart racing.
Canopy Tour El Fortin offers an adrenaline-pumping way to see the valley from a bird’s eye view while riding a zipline.
Hang on tight as you zip through the trees, traveling for 1,100 meters with the valley below your feet and the mogotes just almost within reach.
You’ll forget all about your fears as soon as your eye catches the view of the lush greeneries and the open sky in front of you.
After finishing your zipline tour, you can replenish your energy at the onsite café.
Witness the UNESCO-Worthy Beauty of Viñales National Park
Pinar del Rio is also home to one of Cuba’s UNESCO World Heritage Sites—Viñales National Park.
Spanning 118 miles, Viñales National Park is surrounded by Sierra de los Órganos mountain range and is characterized by the towering karst formations known as the mogotes found all over its lands.
The mogotes are said to have existed for over 100 million years and are a popular spot for hikers and adventurers because of its dome-like structure.
With Viñales situated within the very heart of Viñales National Park, it serves as the gateway to most of the town’s most beautiful sights and attractions which is why it’s a must-see on your visit.
Take Snapshots of Viñales Mural de la Prehistoria
One of the Instagram-worthy attractions in the Viñales valley is the Mural de la Prehistoria (Prehistoric Mural).
It is one of the usual stops of the horseback riding tours and offers a refreshing art perspective of prehistoric times set against the beautiful background of nature in Viñales.
Painted on the surface of one of the mogotes in Sierra de los Órganos mountain range, the Mural de la Prehistoria spans 120 meters and depicts prehistoric life before the age of humans.
Primitive animals such as dinosaurs and ancient sea creatures adorn the walls of the mountains, which are a unique sight to see.
Constructed in 1961 by 18 workers, the Mural de Prehistoria took nearly five years to finish.
The exceptional artwork is attributed to Leovigildo González Morillo, an artist who was largely influenced by the work of prominent Mexican painter Diego Rivera.
Take a Dip in the Natural Pool of Viñales National Park
One of the striking features of the valley is a natural spring pool where you can paddle around or take a luxurious dip while taking a momentary break from your valley exploration.
The natural pool can be found in the heart of the valley and is the perfect place to relax and enjoy Viñales valley’s beautiful landscape.
There’s no other spot in the world where you can splash around while taking in the magnificent views of Cuba’s famous mogotes.
Ride a Bicycle to Hotel Los Jazmines’ Viewpoint for Magnificent Valley Views
There is so much natural beauty to see in Viñales that you would need a place where you can see them all.
Luckily, there is a viewpoint right next to Hotel Los Jazmines, a popular accommodation in town, where you can enjoy an uninterrupted 360-degree view of the valley and the mogotes for that picture-perfect shot of your trip.
From the valley, you can either ride the hop-on, hop-off bus to get here, or you can rent bicycles to get to the viewpoint.
The latter comes highly recommended as you’ll feel the breeze and the energy of the valley as you make your way uphill to the stunning look-out point.
Once you get there, take out your smartphones and snap away as each photo you take will be guaranteed beautiful because of the amazing sight of Viñales Valley as your backdrop.
After the exhilarating bike ride, you can grab a drink or a bite to eat at the coffee shop nearby to re-energize.
Discover the Secrets of Cueva del Indio
Viñales is also the starting point to another important cave in Cuba that’s located about 5.5 kilometers north of the town but still well within the Viñales Valley.
Cueva del Indio used to be an ancient dwelling that was rediscovered in 1920, subsequently becoming a popular tourist attraction in the region because of its historical significance and natural beauty.
On the tour, you start off by journeying through the cave by foot as you marvel at the rock formations such as stalagmites and stalactites that you see along the way.
But for the last part of the tour, you will continue the exploration on board a motorboat crossing the San Vicente River for about 400 meters until you exit the cave.
Outside of the cave, there are plenty of souvenir shops where you can buy mementos for your trip.
Fawn Over the Beautiful Flora and Fauna at Jardin Botanico de Viñales
With the beautiful natural wonders one can witness while in Viñales, it comes as no surprise that its flora and fauna are worth admiring, too.
On your trip, do not forget to stop by Jardin Botanico de Viñales and learn more about the tropical plants of the region.
You can explore on your own, but there is also a tour guide onsite who can give you a complete tour of the sprawling gardens while providing some background about the place founded in 1918.
Feast your eyes on beautiful orchid and fern species as you follow the guide throughout the establishment, and at the end of the tour, there is an in-house restaurant where you can enjoy some refreshments.
Visit Monumento Las Malagones and Pay Tribute to Viñales’ Heroes
Another must-see historical sight in Viñales is the monument of Las Malagones.
Las Malagones, who hails from the community of El Moncada, is made up of 12 men and is regarded as the first rural militia in Cuba that defeated a counterrevolutionary group in 1959.
The bravery of the 12 men was memorialized through this stone monument that depicts Las Malagones’ leader Leandro Rodríguez Malagón holding a rifle in his hand.
Learn about Local History at Museo Municipal de Viñales
Located on the main street of the town, Museo Municipal de Viñales is a must-visit attraction for history lovers who want to know more about Cuba’s past.
Museo Municipal de Viñales is housed within the former residence of Adela Azcuy, a heroine during the Cuban War of Independence.
Visiting the museum will gain you various perspectives on Viñales’ history, from the town’s foundations to the valley’s natural characteristics, with all of the information are spread throughout five rooms within the building.
Other Things to Do Nearby
Beach Bum at Cayo Jutias
Cayo Jutias is one of the most popular day trips to take from Viñales as it is just very easy to book a taxi that can take you to this tropical paradise that’s only 2 hours away.
This peaceful beach is characterized by its 3-kilometer stretch of white sand and turquoise waters that beckon you to take a luxurious dip.
Though the beach is largely undeveloped and dotted with mangrove trees, you’ll find that there are also modern facilities that can help make your stay more comfortable such as some restaurants, bars, beach chairs, and umbrellas available for rentals.
Viñales proves that there is so much more to Cuba than Havana, with its own collection of beautiful attractions ranging from natural to historical and adventurous.
With its location at the heart of Viñales National Park, it serves as the gateway to everything the UNESCO World Heritage Site has to offer and so much more.
Some of the must-try experiences while in Viñales are exploring the tobacco and coffee farms in the valley on horseback and ziplining close to the mogotes.
Adventurers will also appreciate the availability of caves within the area that make for an exciting, spelunking adventure.
To complement your stay in the valley, venture to the tropical paradise of Cayo Jutias, just two hours away from Viñales, and have a relaxing beach retreat that Cuba is famous for.