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Viñales and Varadero, Cuba

March 13, 2016

Whoops, sorry for the long wait for part two of our Cuba trip! Here’s Viñales and Varadero – you can find Havana here.

Viñales was a really special place. I would definitely recommend taking a day to enjoy this cosy town – take a tourist’s tour of the tobacco plant and factory, a boat through the caves – and visit the zip wire! Here are a few photos.

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This was the view from our room. Not bad, huh?! It reminded me a lot of the Azores, it was so beautiful.

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You know what wasn’t beautiful? Having this GIGANTIC frog/toad/what’s the difference, leap towards us and land just inches from my head. Ugh!

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^^Tobacco plants.^^

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^^Rolling cigars. We bought a bunch of cigars from this guy for around £20 – much cheaper than the beautifully packaged famous brands, but definitely not as good…!^^

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On our last day we hopped in a taxi to take us back to the hotel, when a Danish family asked if they could share the cab – they recognised us from the hotel so it made sense to go there together. They were actually on their way to a zip line that we hadn’t heard about, so we decided to all go together (which completely confused the driver who spoke almost no English, and had to pull over to a friend’s shop to ask her to translate!). It was the most wonderful coincidence, and one of my favourite memories from the trip.

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^^We made it to the end of the zip line! There were four lines in total, and before the first one I was like, Why am I here?! I didn’t enjoy Go Ape, why did I think I would enjoy this?! But after that first line I loved it so much – I could have done four more! The views were incredible, we sailed across the wonderful landscape, through trees and across the valley. It was incredible.^^

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This was probably the best meal that we had in the whole trip. There’s a ‘vegetarian’ restaurant on the main street in Viñales (I say ‘vegetarian’, because they also served pork, chicken, beef… By vegetarian they mean they are a vegetarian restaurant that also serves meat, as a way of introducing veggie food to more people. Which is quite a nice concept) and they had some vegan options. This is where the Vegan Passport came in handy – our waitress went through the checklist of ‘no’ foods to help us order. This was mashed beans and yams with rice and salad. Doesn’t sound great but it was beautifully seasoned, and a very welcome spot of healthy food, when you’ve really only eaten pasta and pizza for a few days! I also had an amazing smoothie, another kick of health!

After Viñales we got the bus to Varadero, where we stayed in an all-inclusive hotel by the sea for a spot of relaxation and down-right laziness! At first I felt way out of my comfort zone; going from quite a poor city to an expats dream, where we were greeted with a flute of sparkling wine, felt surreal. It was definitely needed after a crazy few weeks, and a crazy few days of travelling, so we soon relaxed into it. I’ve never stayed in an all-inclusive resort before, it felt very strange to order drinks without paying! But lounging by the pool with a glass or two (or three…) of fizz and a good book was pretty perfect. I absolutely loved having so much time to read while we were away. With no internet I had no distractions, and over the past couple of weeks I’ve read three books.

One of the things I loved most about the trip was seeing different parts of Cuba, and the contrast between each of them. I loved the lively streets and smiling faces of Havana – there’s music everywhere, on every street, people dancing in their homes, blasting music down the street. I loved the beauty of Viñales, and the chance to relax amongst such beauty, and Varadero, for its stunning white sand and blue sea, and endless free fizz. I recommend getting the bus to each place – they’re more like National Express buses and cost around £8 for the two of us to travel a fairly long distance (around 3hrs at a time). They’re really comfortable and air conditioned – and depending on the driver, some stop off at some pretty beautiful places. The bus we got between Havana and Viñales stopped twice, I think the driver wanted a snack and then a drink and a cigarette, but the drivers between Viñales and Havana, and Havana and Varadero, didn’t stop at all, thankfully! Be sure to book your tickets in advance (if you’re organised you can book them online up to a week in advance of travelling, but if you’re not, like us, buy them as soon as you possibly can, otherwise you have to join a queue a mile long to chance it. This worked for us when we went from Havana to Varadero, but we were lucky and 5th in the queue. You’re basically just hoping that someone hasn’t turned up to the bus that they’ve bought a seat for). You also need to check-in, which usually opens around 30mins before the bus leaves, but you’re told to be there an hour before.

There are direct flights between the UK and Havana, but these are very expensive – we went via Mexico with a 4/6hr stop-over, which wasn’t so bad. Once you’ve collected your luggage, gone through passport control, dropped off your luggage for your connecting flight, gone back through passport control, and cleared into the terminal, the time goes fairly quickly and there’s quite a lot of food options to choose from. Remember to buy your visa before you go! It’s £25 each (for UK citizens).

Have you been to Cuba before? Where did you go? Any recommendations I’ve missed?
Leave a comment below, I’d love to hear what you thought of this beautiful country!

2 Comments leave one →
  1. February 25, 2017 8:43 am

    Hi there. Planning a trip to Havana & Vinales in July. Lovely review of your time in Vinales. Were you able to do all of this in one full day, or would you suggest breaking this up into 2 days?

    • March 13, 2017 2:08 pm

      We arrived in the afternoon of day 1, then had all of day 2 before leaving in the morning of day 3. I think this was enough time – we spent the first afternoon walking around the town and little markets, the next day we went on the touristy trip which packed everything into a few hours, then went on the zip lines (definitely recommend!). I think it was the right amount of time, and gives you space to relax as well. Watch out for the frogs.

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