We left Havana to head to Viñales, which is located in the Pinar del Río province of Cuba. It’s about a three hour drive from Havana. The Viñales Valley was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1999 because of it’s unique landscape and the traditional agriculture that takes place. Viñales is where a lot of tobacco is grown – more on that in the next post! The other very unique thing about the Viñales Valley are the mogotes scattered through the valley. Mogotes are isolated hills with steep sides that were formed many moons ago during the Jurassic period when the ocean floor rose and gave way to these limestone formations. Once formed, erosion helped create cave systems in and underneath the mogotes. Viñales actually has one of the largest cave systems in the Americas! One of the reasons agriculture, especially tobacco, thrives in this valley is because of the mineral-rich earth from the formation of these mogotes 200 million years ago. The mogotes reminded Mike and I of the formations we saw in Vietnam, and it turns out they are the same! They just go by mogotes in Cuba, as the Basque word for “sharp-pointed” is mogoti. These limestone formations are not found in many places in the world, so we felt lucky to have experienced them in two vastly different areas of the world!
On our way to Viñales, we stopped at Las Terrazas, which is a beautiful biosphere that was manmade on land that had been decimated by coffee farming for decades. At the end of the 1960s, millions of trees were planted on this 12,000 acres of land in a terraced way, which is where the name comes from. UNESCO designated Las Terrazas as a Biosphere Reserve in 1985. There is a small population of full-time residents and plenty of tourist attractions like ziplining, hiking, and swimming. This place was so beautiful and peaceful and a good example of taking land that had been cultivated and rendered useless and turning it into a thriving biosphere. We visited a small coffee shop called Cafe de Maria and had the best iced coffee I’ve ever had in my life! We also bought two bags of coffee to bring back and I’m so excited to brew it! We put the coffee in one of our kitchen cabinets and whenever we open any of the cabinets near it, the smell of Cuban ground coffee wafts out! After the coffee shop, we went for lunch at a cute restaurant nestled in the forest. Everything was cooked over a wood fire and the food was absolutely delicious! I even shared some of my food with a buddy:
After lunch, we headed to our hotel in Viñales, Hotel Horizontes Los Jazmines. We arrived in the early afternoon and the view from our room was absolutely spectacular, which can be seen by these two iPhone pics that Mike took:
After resting for the afternoon, we ate dinner at a restaurant in Viñales and went to bed ready for a big day five in Cuba!