In the far west of Cuba in the Pinar del Rio province lie the 11km x 5km limestone karst mountains of Valle de Viñales similar to those of Vietnam and Laos.  Apparently this is the best place in the world to grow tobacco, and the lush, green countryside is filled with tobacco fields, farmland, and the oxen working them. After a couple hectic days in fast-paced Havana, Viñales was the perfect getaway for natural beauty, nature hikes, and countryside relaxation. From Havana, it was only a 4-hour $12 bus ride via Viazul, or a 2-hour $15 shared taxi ride.

First things first, Chris got a haircut next door to our casa upon arrival.IMG_3694

Our two nights in the countryside were brief but well spent and distributed between three different hikes with the first being the Cocosolo Palmarito through the Valle del Silencio.IMG_3708IMG_3712 IMG_3719 IMG_3725

The last 2 km of the hike was on paved road, and we were able to hitch a ride on a truck for 1 peso (4¢) each.IMG_3728

The next day we walked west out of town toward the mogotes Dos Hermanas.  Even just a few short kilometers outside of town, stunning scenery could be seen all around.IMG_3745 IMG_3746

Mogotes Dos Hermanas:IMG_3762IMG_3755

Some areas looked exactly like Southeast Asia.  It was hard to believe we were still in Cuba.20150801_095958

These people live in homes that come with postcard backdrops.IMG_3772

We hoped to flag down another truck on our return but we were instead offered a ride from an amiable man and his horse cart. IMG_3777IMG_3774IMG_3779

Cueva de la Vaca, a cave easily accessible from town.20150801_162218 IMG_3790IMG_3796

Along the way we became friends with this thing…a hutia, a type of Caribbean rodent.IMG_3802 IMG_3808

Obviously this countryside is reminiscent of other countries, but the town of Viñales is very much Cuba.IMG_3780IMG_3783

Competition between casas particulares is hot in Viñales, and the town is home to some of the best casas in Cuba.IMG_3810

Viñales was one of our favorite places that we visited in Cuba; it certainly deserves more than just a day trip from Havana.  The town itself is quite touristy, filled with casa and taxi hustlers who all have no shame and will literally try to grab you off the bus as you arrive. But with so many free, independent hikes walkable from town it is easy to get away from the hustle to experience the beauty and serenity of the Cuban countryside.

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