200 kilometers southwest of Havana, in the province of Pinar del Rio, lies the “Valle de Vinales”: the valley of Vinales. Although Vinales has some of the most amazing landscapes that Cuba has to offer, it is perhaps better known for what is grown there – which is arguably the best tobacco in the world.
Unlike other tropical plants which need relatively little care, the tobacco plant needs to be given an almost limitless amount of attention – and since the 18th century, the many farmers in this region have been doing exactly that. A famous Cuban proverb reads ‘you cannot simply plant tobacco, you have to marry it’ and when you visit Vinales you’ll see exactly why. A real ‘habano’ cigar is purely hand-crafted from the moment the tobacco seeds are sown to the moment the finished cigar is rolled and sealed, and there are over 100 steps involved in this time-honoured process. So whether you enjoy the occasional cigar, or you’re a lifelong connoisseur, a tour of the plantations and discovering this process for yourself will make you appreciate your revered ‘habano’ moments even more.
Most people visit Vinales on a day trip from Havana, but for true nature lovers, it’s well worth spending a few nights there. Strange limestone formations known as ‘Mogotes’ dominate the view, which used to be the pillars of an enormous 160-million-year-old cave system, until it finally collapsed due to natural erosion and decomposition. Nevertheless, the landscapes here are simply breathtaking, and if you love being outside the city, it’s simply paradise.