Viñales is a small town with a village-like feel in a lush valley surrounded by mountains, plantations, and networks of caves.
Characterized by its unusually round mountains, known as mogotes, Viñales has the benefits of a special microclimate, which makes it incredibly fertile. As a result, it is a major tobacco-producing area and during a visit here you'll undoubtedly see tobacco fields and drying houses.
Tourism is clearly a major source of revenue for the area and there are numerous places to stay as a result. Those more familiar with hostel accommodation will find the same story in Viñales as the rest of Cuba -- anything labeled as a hostel is likely to mean a homestay in a Casa Particular. Often such hostels in Viñales are a separate en suite room or small apartment adjacent to the owners’ home.
The center of this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a small square where locals sit and sip rum and tourists while away the evenings at one of the café bars or listen to nightly live music at the Centro Cultural tucked into a corner of the plaza.
One of the best ways to see the surrounding area is on one of the many horse treks offered, though the treatment of horses can be poor. Accommodation hosts will be able to hook you up with a guide for a day/half day trip covering visits to tobacco farms and caves.
There are some outstanding caves in Viñales -- some more developed for tourists than others. You may find yourself on a busy boat tour across a cave lagoon or with just a couple of others swimming in a cave lake illuminated only by candlelight.
Given the abundance of natural beauty here, it seems strange that the Cuban government would want to push its rather unimpressive Mural de la Prehistorica on tourists. Rather than being a prehistoric wonder, this huge mountainside painting of cavemen and dinosaurs was commissioned by Fidel Castro in the sixties and is a bit of an eyesore.
The Viazul bus network links Havana with Viñales. Buses stop at the main square (there isn’t a bus station) and tickets can be purchased at the travel agency opposite. Hoards of accommodation owners vying for your custom come out to meet the bus, so if you ever wanted to feel like a mobbed celebrity, this is your chance! To minimize the mayhem it is best to prearrange your Viñales hostel beforehand, if possible.
Hi, I'm Laura T,
the Hostelz.com local expert for Viñales hostels. Welcome.