Viñales: Land of Cuban Cigars

Viñales was never on my radar when I made the decision to visit Cuba; in fact, prior to setting foot in the country, I had never even heard of the small town located in the western province of Pinar del Río.

So how did I end up there?

The night before I boarded the bus bound for Viñales, I was having drinks in Habana with my travel blogging friend Robert  when he invited me to tag along with him and his friend Dora on their trip to Viñales. I was so excited when Robert told me that the town was well-known for their production of Cuban cigars and I jumped at the opportunity to not only have travel buddies for a couple of days, but also to experience the process of Cuban cigar production.

After reading about a number of Cuban cities prior to my trip but never coming across the name of Viñales, I was under the impression that we would be visiting a region with little to no tourists. I was surprised to find out how wrong I was when we arrived to the town and passed house after house that operated as casas particulares. When our bus dropped us off in the center of town, I noticed just how heavily the city relied on tourism, there were a large number of tourists patronizing the restaurants and vendors on the streets selling Cuban souvenirs.

Viñales cigar smokers

Even the souvenirs smoke cigars

After checking into our casas particulares, Robert, Dora, and myself headed out to explore the little town. In addition to meeting some friendly locals on the street who were curious to know where we came from, we also stumbled upon a store selling Cuban cigars which was followed by an impromptu photoshoot in front of the Sacred Heart of Jesus Parish Church located in the center of town.

Che Guevara tattoo

A Cuban man shows off his tattoo with the face of Che Guevara

Cigar shop Viñales

Watching cigars being rolled in the center of town

Jesus Sacred Heart Viñales

Jesus Sacred Heart

Jesus Sacred Heart church Viñales

… because pretty blue doors call for impromptu photo shoots

After snapping away photograph after photograph in front of the church, the three of us decided to embark on a little adventure to discover Viñales outside of the main part of town.

We were tipped off by an American filmmaker we met in the cigar shop who told us that if we made our way out of the main tourist area, we would come across a dirt road that would lead us to a large open field and an area where we could meet local cigar makers. We decided that we would look for the path and find out where we could get authentic homemade Cuban cigars.

Horses in nature Viñales

Stopping to photograph nature

Viñales dirt path

As we descended down the dirt road, we came upon a tree-lined dirt path. We had no idea where the path led, but we were eager to find out. As we walked further and further down the path, the anticipation began to build as we were curious as to where it would take us.

After about ten minutes of walking, the path cleared and led to a large open field surrounded by mountains. A little grey house with blue shutters sat alone in the field and we decided to head further inwards towards the mountain.

Viñales

As we made our way towards the face of the mountain, a smiling man with a cigar in his mouth began to walk past us, and then stopped to ask us if we wanted to buy cigars. Without hesitating, we told him that we did.

He introduced himself to us as Domingo and invited us to follow him along to his house. As soon as we sat down, he offered us coffee and fruit and then proceeded to show us how to roll cigars.

After rolling a couple of cigars, Domingo handed one to Dora and she lit it before taking a puff and passing it to me and Robert. She told us that the key to smoking cigars was to avoid inhaling the smoke, but to hold it in your mouth and taste the flavors before letting it pass back out of your mouth.

It took me a couple of tries and and a little bit of choking from smoke inhalation, but after a while, I had smoking cigars down to a science.

cigars Viñales

While chatting with Domingo over Cuban cigars, coffee, and fresh fruit, he invited Robert, Dora, and myself to go on a horse tour through the Cuban countryside with him the following day. He told us that we would be able to visit a cave and to see some casas secaderos de tabaco (tobacco drying houses). We eagerly accepted his offer and early the next morning, we set off on a horse riding adventure into the countryside.

Viñales countryside

It was my first time riding a horse outside of a carnival, so I was a little bit nervous about how the ride would go. My horse had a little bit of an adventurous spirit and tried to take over and forge a path of his own, but Domingo kept him in check.

The Cuban countryside was beautiful as we passed underneath billowing clouds and watched cows grazing sleepily in the grass.

Viñales countryside

After the four-hour ride was over, we returned the horses back to Domingo’s house, said our farewells to him and his family, and headed back in the town.

After riding in the scorching Cuban sun for the entire morning, Dora, Robert, and I were eager to cool off by taking a trip to the beach.

We all packed into an antique Cuban taxi and made our way to Cayo Jutías, an hour drive from Viñales.

Cayo Jutías Cuba

When we arrived to the beach clouds threatened to ruin the relaxing afternoon that we were looking forward to. We decided to wait at the beach restaurant for a little while in hopes that the clouds would dissipate, and luckily about an hour later, they did.

In celebration of the sunshine and ultra-clear water, we broke out some Cuban cigars and took a dip in the lukewarm Caribbean waves.

Cayo Jutías

As the sun began to set on my last night in the Viñales area, I thought about how thankful I was for having the opportunity to travel to this amazing place. The time I spent in the city of Havana was great, but I really appreciated being able to get out into the countryside and connect with Cubans and friends over food and cigars.

Cayo Jutías Cuba


Have you ever been to Viñales before? How was your experience?



By | 2017-07-30T01:09:59+00:00 August 1st, 2015|Viñales|25 Comments

25 Comments

  1. Anne Aug 6, 2015 at 12:47 pm - Reply

    Wow – I love the photos in this post. What an incredible experience! Thanks for taking us along for the ride. I now want to go to Cuba EVEN MORE!

  2. Best Bits Worldwide Aug 7, 2015 at 3:37 am - Reply

    I might be going to Cuba for my XMAS holiday – now I know where to get a good smoke! Thanks..

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Aug 13, 2015 at 11:25 am - Reply

      Oh! You are going to have an amazing time Susan; I am trying to decide when I am going to go back myself! 😀

  3. Tracy Iglesias Oct 30, 2015 at 7:19 am - Reply

    Girl, You DID this, you hear me! What an amazing post. I got my life with this post. I truly need a vacation and while Cuba wasn’t even on my radar quite frankly you are certainly changing my mind. You don’t look old enough to be smoking on those cigars though. I’m watching you! LOL

    Tracy @ Ascending Butterfly

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Oct 30, 2015 at 2:46 pm - Reply

      Haha thanks Tracy ~ and I am nearly 30 (but don’t tell anyone!)

      • Tracy Iglesias Nov 2, 2015 at 11:06 pm - Reply

        @Chanel@culturalxplorer:disqus – Well if Cigar Smoking keeps skin looking that good I need to get on that!

  4. Stefanie C. Oct 30, 2015 at 10:31 am - Reply

    The photos you have included were absolutely beautiful! It looks like you had an amazing trip! Thank you for sharing your experience with us! If we are ever able to travel to Cuba we will be sure to check them out!

  5. Cassandra Oct 30, 2015 at 11:05 am - Reply

    These photos are gorgeous. As a child I remember being upset that I was not allowed to exit the Cuban airport into cuba while waiting for my next flight to my holiday destination. I enjoyed this look into the Cuban culture!

  6. Jaime Nicole Oct 30, 2015 at 2:28 pm - Reply

    I would love to visit Cuba at some point. I don’t know when we are allowed to go – maybe already? I would love to visit and definitely to explore the waters of the country. It looks so beautiful.

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Oct 30, 2015 at 2:47 pm - Reply

      Hey Jamie, Cuba has not opened up for general tourism yet but I am sure one day in the near future it will! I cannot wait to get back myself 😀

  7. Kita Oct 30, 2015 at 3:38 pm - Reply

    Those cigars….it just looks like you have to one when you go there lol. Horseback riding hurts my lady parts I tried it and won’t do it again lol

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Oct 31, 2015 at 12:36 pm - Reply

      Haha yes, even though I do not smoke at all, I felt that since I was in the land of cigars, I should give it a try. The horseback riding took a little toll on me towards the end, but it was great nonetheless!

  8. Cara of Stylish+Geek Blog Oct 30, 2015 at 7:50 pm - Reply

    These are stunning photographs! Thank you for sharing your wonderful pictures and adventure in Cuba! I have never been there but now I am so curious!

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Oct 31, 2015 at 12:37 pm - Reply

      Thank you Cara! I am glad that you liked the photographs ~ I hope that you too will be able to visit Viñales one day! 😀

  9. Jennifer Juro Oct 30, 2015 at 11:35 pm - Reply

    I had no idea that you could visit Cuba! The culture sounds amazing and the scenery is beautiful!! This is going on my dream list of destinations, I love tropical destinations the sand and ocean is my favorite.

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Oct 31, 2015 at 12:38 pm - Reply

      For the purposes of journalism, traveling to Cuba is allowed, but not for general tourism. The scenery was magnificent, and believe it or not, there are places more stunning than this! 😀

  10. CosmetopiaDigest.com Oct 31, 2015 at 1:01 am - Reply

    This sounds like such a fun trip. How adorable that even the souvenirs in Vinales are smoking cigars! The horse-riding adventure sounds awesome!

  11. Maureen Sklaroff Oct 31, 2015 at 3:24 am - Reply

    Wow! What an exciting trip! First of all, yes, blue doors do require an impromptu photo shoot. I would have been all over those doors! 🙂 That’s really neat that you were able to go off the beaten path, literally and figuratively, to see some of the less well-known sites. All the landscape looks so beautiful! I don’t think I could smoke a Cuban cigar though. Ironically, I was just reading another post about Cuban cigars.

    • Chanel | Cultural Xplorer Oct 31, 2015 at 12:39 pm - Reply

      Yes, I love color and those doors made me very happy! Haha and yes LITERALLY went off the beaten path, through the woods, and into the countryside 😀

  12. The British Berliner Nov 2, 2015 at 1:32 am - Reply

    Lovely pictures Chanel. I’ve never been to Cuba but it certainly looks like a destination jam-packed with interesting things to do judging by the brilliant photographs! Nice one!

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