Viñales

Of the 3 cities Kevin and I visited in Cuba, Viñales is my favorite due to its natural beauty: lush, green, and cool. It was the perfect place to go after spending 5 nights in Havana for sure!

Upon our arrival, we ran into some heavy rain so we decided to take it easy by walking around the main road of the city and relax at our Airbnb. We were planning to hit up a salsa club later in the evening but the rain discouraged us from making the trek over.

It was a good thing we didn’t go out because little did I know, Kevin surprised me by booking a half day horseback riding tour of Viñales. Luckily, our Airbnb host was good friends with the tour company so she insisted she’ll walk us over and let them know to take great care of her guests. Once we were all checked in, our guide got us up on our horses. I ended up with an adorable chocolate brown horse by the name of Chico Rico, and what a pairing we made: my horse always had to be in front of Kevin’s horse and would always get off track if he spotted anything delicious along the way. Riding the horse was easy, as the guide will go over how to navigate the horse. However, Chico Rico did fall over in the middle of the tour along with me. The fall felt as if it was in slow motion, so it gave me enough time to move my camera away and prep my body for the fall. Despite that, I would love to get the chance to go horseback riding again in the future.

During this half day tour, we were able to soak up the beauty of the area, as well as making various stops along the way. Our first stop was at a coffee farm, where we learned how they roasted their coffee beans, as well as sample a few of their products. We also stopped by a tobacco farm where our guide, Juan, went over the tobacco fermentation process, as well as gave us a cigar rolling demo. Of course, he lit a cigar for us on the house and we purchased a pack from him. Near the end of the tour, we got to explore a cave where we can cool off and swim. We weren’t prepared to trek inside a dark cave so I did scrape my foot pretty rough while taking a dip in the water.

After our fun filled tour, we stopped by our Airbnb to freshen up before our dinner at Finca Agroecologia El Paraiso. Finca Agroecologia El Paraiso is an organic farm known for two things aside from their gorgeous views of Viñales Valley: Their Anti-stress Cocktail & family-style dinner. Normally, I shy away from beverages other than water or tea if I know I will be indulging in plenty of food, but since it was highly recommended, I tried one. If you love pineapples, you will love this cocktail! Composed of pineapples, yerba buena, mint, basil, anaise, coconut milk and rum, it was a nice and refreshing drink to start off our experience at El Paraiso. I quickly learned why they offered such a drink once they started bringing out the food to our table. It seemed as if they were endlessly brining plate after plate of farm fresh foods: soups, salads, rice and meat dishes. It was a good thing we didn’t have plans after dinner so we ended up passing out at the comfort of our Airbnb.

On our last day, we had we originally were planning to do a hop-on-hop-off tour around Viñales Valley. We were approached by a young man who offered to drive us along the tour route for the time price it would have cost us to purchase the bus tickets. I’m glad we took his offer because even though we took our time at most of the stops, we still managed to finish the tour in 4 hours, as opposed to waiting for a bus to pick us up at each stop. While there were some stops we could have done without, such as the cave tour on a boat, I enjoyed our visit to The Palenque (which had a funny surprise at the end of the tour) and the Mural De La Prehistoria.

Kevin and I still wish that we could have spent one more day in Viñales since there was so much we wanted to experience, such as partake in The Palenque’s infamous cave party that runs until the sunrise.  Now that there are plans to put even more travel restrictions placed on American travel to Cuba, we’re hoping that we’ll be able to get another visit in before those are official.

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