Our Favorite Day in Cuba | Horseback Riding in Viñales
We rode through a field of tall grass in a single file line, two vaqueros on foot keeping our horses moving forward at a slow pace. A click and hiss usually did the trick to keep them going - my horse especially did not like the bite behind the bark - but occasionally a horse’s hunger for weeds overtook their fear of a whap on the butt and the vaquero gave a quick slap with a twig to their rump.
We were in Viñales, a town known for it’s tobacco farming and limestone rock formations that draws photographers, cigar smokers, and climbers alike. The colorful, restaurant lined streets of downtown are charming, but the real draw here is the landscape.
Limestone plateaus that rise from the ground as if prehistorically planted with rows of tobacco farms in between make it tempting to romanticize life in the Cuban countryside, but life here is hard. Ninety percent of a farmer’s crop goes to the government, leaving little for personal advancement. However, a lack of fancy agricultural equipment means that most farmers till the land through man, ox, and horsepower, voiding the valley of the rumble of commercial machinery and providing visitors with an idea of what farming was like over 100 years ago in their own country. It’s quieter at least.
Our day in the countryside consisted of a horseback ride through the national park with stops at a cigar drying house where a man (who is proudly featured in Lonely Planet) explained to us how cigars are made and showed us how they are rolled; a family’s cottage and farm where they made us fresh cocktails of sugar cane juice, guava rum, and what they called a pomelo, but that was greener and smaller than the pomelos we know in the states; and finally back to our van for a dinner on the veranda of an organic farm overlooking the valley.
On our horseback ride we smoked artisan cigars (which was harder to execute than expected) and at the farm we sipped fresh, herby versions of a piña colada as the sun descended upon the hills and farmers tended to their crops. Explorations of the farm led to baby goat encounters, a newly born bunny rabbit, and for a “lucky” few, the slaughter of a pig.
After the hustle and bustle, exhaust fumes, and business of Havana, the countryside of Viñales was the perfect way to end our trip.
Want to experience your own perfect day in Cuba? Head there with Coast to Costa, like we did.