Cuba Extension – Viñales

February 25 – 29, 2024

For those who think 10 days in Cuba is not enough, we are offering a four-night extension to the beautiful Viñales National Park, via Las Terrazas. A chance to unwind a wee bit and really let Cuba sink into your soul.

The most wonderful thing about Viñales is that you can choose to relax in a rocking chair on the porch of your private home watching the slow moving oxen with their plows pass by. Or you could hire a guide and visit the mogotes on foot, on horseback or by bicycle. And, you can always cool off by going for a swim in one of the local caves. Even after all that, there will still be time to sit in a rocking chair with a cold beer in your hand and listen to the sounds of the Cuban son waft in the air from the bars nearby.

Day 1 – Sunday, Feb. 25Havana / Las Terrazas / Viñales (B,L)

After breakfast we go west toward the beautiful Viñales Valley via Las Terrazas, a self-sustained community located up in the Sierra del Rosario, the third largest mountain range in Cuba.

The Sierra del Rosario is famed for its diversity, natural beauty, lush woods, rivers, low waterfalls, orchids, and ferns. In 1967 a reforestation program was carried out in a 5,000-hectare area that includes beautiful terraces built on to the mountain slopes. Thousands of trees such as mahogany, cedar, pine, teak, and carob, were planted. While, at the same time, the living conditions of local farmers were dramatically improved by giving them houses in the recently established rural community.

We’ll just have time for an easy, hour-long hike through the forest (don’t forget your hiking shoes) before having a Creole/Cuban lunch at Casa del Campesino. Then we visit the Las Terrazas community and the former home – now museum – of local country musician and national idol, Polo Montañez. If scheduling allows, we may be able to enjoy a performance by his band.

We’ll also have time to go for a swim in the crystal clear waters of San Juan River. (Don’t forget your bathing suits and a towel!)

Then it’s time to hit the road for another scenic 2-hour ride to Viñales Valley.

After checking in at our local bed and breakfast, we should have time to go for a stroll before dinner. The evening is yours to enjoy with ample opportunities available for music, dancing, or nothing at all.

Day 2Monday, Feb. 26Viñales Valley (B,L)

Viñales Valley, a UNESCO designated World Heritage site, is one of Cuba’s most captivating landscapes. It’s composed of several lush valleys woven together and punctuated by towering mogotes, isolated, steep-sided hills — composed mostly of limestone — the products of erosion across the millennia.

Another striking feature of the area is the red-tainted soil that makes this home to Cuba’s finest hand-rolled cigars. Naturally, we will visit a tobacco farm and learn from a local farmer how tobacco is grown and dried, still using traditional methods, and how it is hand-rolled into the world-famous Cuban cigars.

You’ll also have an opportunity to buy some cigars…but you’ll need to smoke them there. As of this writing, it is still illegal to bring Cuban cigars (and rum!) back to the United States!

But agriculture in Viñales is not just about the tobacco. The red, nutrient-rich soil also supports plentiful patches of delicious bananas, oranges, limes, and pineapples. Here we’ll have lunch at Finca Agroecológica El Paraíso, the best private restaurant in all of Pinar del Río Province.

Dining on local cuisine made with fresh, locally grown ingredients while overlooking the beautiful 8.9 hectare farm. . . . it doesn’t get much better than this.

After lunch we may have an opportunity to visit a nearby goat farm to see the goats and taste their cheese.

Day 3 – Tuesday, Feb. 27Viñales Valley (B,L) 

One of the best ways to enjoy the beautiful landscapes of Viñales is from the back of a horse.  And the best time of day is very early in the morning, before breakfast and before the rising sun sets the countryside aglow. Like…around….5:30 am. Strictly optional. But highly recommended.

But the day’s not over yet. We’ll also have time for another Cuban cooking class and…lunch…and a little music self-made.

Day 4 – Wednesday, Feb. 28Viñales Valley – Havana(B,L)

Sadly it’s time to leave this beautiful valley and after breakfast we’ll head back to Havana, visiting Finca Tungasuk along the way. Tungasuk is an organic farm belonging to Annabelle Cantero, a Paris-trained chef from Nicaragua, and Alfredo Wilson, an “IT guy” from Peru. Here we’ll learn about their unique farm and their efforts to supply the local inhabitants with organic food. We will also have an opportunity to enjoy a meal from their farm and kitchen…a celebration, too, of the wonderful journey we have shared together.

From here we head back to Havana where additional opportunities abound. Perhaps a visit to Clandestina, the first urban clothing brand, “99% Cuban design and 1% sugarcane,” homegrown in Cuba? Or a haircut by Gilberto “Papito” Valladares, who, since opening his salon/museum Artecorte in 1999, has become one of Havana’s most recognized civic and entrepreneurial figures? In any case, you’ll have one more evening in Havana, on your ownone last night of music and dance.

Day 5 – Thursday, Feb. 29Havana & Home (B)

After breakfast at our casa particular, we will be transported to the airport to catch our flights back to the States awash with new friends and the happiest of lasting memories.

Reserve your spot now!

At this time, the Viñales Extension is only available to those participating in our Cuban Ukulele Rhythms Adventure, February 16 – 25, 2024. The cost of the 4-night/5-day extension is $1,699 ($139 single supplement), making the total trip cost $5,988. ($298 single supplement for both parts of the trip.) Registration is not yet open, but can reserve your spot with a $250/person deposit, refundable only if we cancel the trip entirely or there is no space available when we receive your deposit. Please contact me for more information or to find out how and where to send in your deposit.

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