Two nights after arriving in Havana, we were relaxed and acclimatized, so we started by vintage taxi to Viñales.
Mogotes and red tobacco fields enticed us. Viñales was the second stop on our Cuba journey!
Our guide and our driver were nice. But they screwed us. We could have thought about that before. Well, whatever! Our landlady in Havana organized the trip (she and the accomodation were lovely, by the way). When we were back in Havana, she asked us if everything had been OK.
We didn’t tell her, that we had to pay a very high price for a normal lunch (especially for Cuban standards). ‘Decent’ landlords and landladies don’t want to cooperate with screwers, because they are afraid of the bad reputation. Competition’s high in Havana.
The feeling of being screwed in such a bold way – just beyond words! It’s hard to believe how people can be that way! But with some time to ease, you can reasonably decide: Not an appropriate move, but they probably need the money more than we do!
Furthermore, they made an extra stop at Soroa and Las Terrazas, which is locateted between Havana and Viñales. So we didn’t care anymore and tried not to let this spoil our trip.
Vintage car taxi
The good part was: We could cruise a vintage car. It clattered along the whole drive and didn’t seem stable, while seats were comfortable. The clattering didn’t deceive us. We had to stop once, the driver repaired the car and we continued. You have to have some trust in Dios (God) and in the Cubans.
View from Hotel ‘Los Jazmines’
Before arriving at the hotel, our driver brought us to the famous view point at the ‘Los Jazmines’ Hotel.
The valley of Viñales was amazing. It was one of the most wonderful places, we’ve ever seen. There are ‚mogotes‘ (cone karst rocks) only twice in the world: In Viñales and in China. The whole valley and its cultivation traditions belong to the UNESCO World Heritage and are located in the western part of Cuba, in the province of Pinar del Río.
Before leaving the car, our driver gave us his business card. We should call him if we want to drive elsewhere. Of course we didn’t do it!
Casa El Porry: Porry was a great host and the rooms were good. Located directly next to tobacco fields with a lovely view. The pool was nice but too cold these days. While it was hot in Havana, there was a quite fresh breeze in Viñales.
Porry’s daughter Melanie was gorgeous, playing the whole day in or near the house. The location and the atmosphere were idyllic. We can absolutly recommend a stay here.
In the evening, one of the employees was cooking for us. An old man, telling us funny stories from the good old days! First we were afraid of him. He was an odd fellow, weaseling around and observing us. But turned out to be a very friendly, curious and funny guy! My unperfect spanish helped making these conversations possible.
Our guide was young and that was perfect. Why? The old normally don’t dare to speak freely. The young dare after a while. And most of them speak English. But you shouldn’t rely on that – you’re going to make your way anyway. But due to our experiences, speaking a little Spanish is a must, if you’re traveling Cuba on your own!
The tour lasted some hours. Our guide brought us to a friend’s farm (one hand washes the other). He was also a young man and fan of the football club FC Barcelona – Jan didn’t like him. No, just kidding. We really had fun with those two guys.
Both are convinced, their life in Cuba would be perfect with just a bit more freedom. They would love to travel, would like to be able affording Jan’s DSLR or maybe watch a FC Barcelona match live. At least they would love just having the feeling they could, if they wanted.
Our guide’s friend explained us how to roll cigars. And that 90% of the crop has to be given to the state at a low price. They can keep and sell 10%, which is just enough to survive. Luxury is unwanted by the state. Well, at least the boys didn’t seem to be care to much!
We were allowed to taste the cigars before buying them. The price was good and he didn’t want to bargain. In the end, he did a bit.
Our guide was really great, so we – just for you to know – gave him an appropriate tip. They live on it and if you like the tour, say thanks accordingly! We Germans are sadly not known to be very generous.
We were totally impressed by the landscape. Take shoes with you, you don’t care about becoming dirty.
The city of Viñales
If you like, you can visit the Murales in Viñales. I can’t remember, why we didn’t see them, but maybe Jan said something like: ‘In Cuba there are more interesting things than pictures on stones”. I didn’t feel like seeing it aswell and we also didn’t have too much time. Oh what am i telling – we were just to lazy and wanted to chill.
Going out to eat is not as easy as one might suppose. There’s not much choice. In the supermarkets there are many cans of ‘TuKola’ (Cuban coke) but no water. There are tons of biscuits but no bread! ‘If they don’t have bread, they should eat biscuits’…blah blah! You have the same situation at restaurants. We didn’t have too much choice.
The government tries to develop the infrastructure, but it happens slowly. Which makes this region more appealing! As we were there in 2013, things maybe have changed! We don’t know, but we loved this situation, being a new experience to us.
The area around Viñales is still one of the most untouched in Cuba. You shouldn’t miss it on a Cuba journey.