Vinales Valley - Abbey Travel, Ireland

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Welcome to Vinales Valley

Vinales Valley

A recent addition to the UNESCO World Heritage list, the town of Vinales, and the valley in which it is set in Cuba's 'green' Pinar del Rio province, is characterised by its impressive round-topped hills, or mogotes. These date back to the Jurassic period are covered with rich and varied vegetation, and are remnants of the plateau that was eroded by a network of underground rivers millions of years ago.

The Vinales Valley is located about 112 miles (180km) west of Havana. The natural beauty and tranquillity of the valley is interspersed with green fields of tobacco, coffee and other crops that grow out of the rich red earth, where traditional agricultural techniques have remained unchanged for centuries. Scattered palm trees and pine forests shelter a variety of melodious birds, and the area is also a magnet for speleologists and cave enthusiasts, being riddled with limestone caves and caverns.

The hilly landscape, quaint villages, oxen-ploughed fields, rustic barns and underground rivers, stalagmites and stalactites provide a striking contrast to the colonial grandeur and white sandy beaches found on the rest of the island. The main valley village, Vinales, is a charming, very laid-back place that makes a good base to explore the beautiful surrounds.

Information & Facts

The official language is Spanish, but English is spoken in the main tourist spots.

The official currency is the Cuban Peso (CUP), divided into 100 centavos, but the 'tourist' currency is the Peso Convertible (CUC), which replaces the US Dollar as currency in tourist related establishments like hotels, restaurants and so called 'dollar shops'. US Dollars are no longer accepted as payment, and a 10% commission or more is charged to exchange them, therefore the best currency to bring along is Euros, the British Pound or Canadian Dollars. The CUC is almost equal in value to the US Dollar. Some places only accept Cuban pesos and others only Pesos Convertible (usually tourist related establishments). Money should only be changed at official exchange bureaux or banks to avoid scams confusing the two currencies. Visa and MasterCard are generally accepted only in major cities and hotels as long as they haven't been issued by a US bank; Diners Club has limited acceptance, and American Express is not accepted anywhere on the island. Travellers cheques are less readily accepted than credit cards, but all major currencies are acceptable, except for US bank issued cheques. No US-issued credit or debit cards will work in ATMs, but those holding other cards issued in other countries should be able to get pesos at most major tourist destinations. Euro or Sterling travellers cheques are accepted at Cuban banks and Bureaux de Change.

Local time is GMT -5 (GMT-4 from the second Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October).

Located in the Viñales Valley, which provides some great family activities such as hiking and climbing, the Cueva del Indio is a magical place for kids to visit. Previously inhabited by local Indians, children will love the boat ride across the underground lake in the cave, and discovering the stalactites, stalagmites and petroglyphs on the walls of the cave.

Cuba's largest cave system, with more than 29 miles (46km) of underground galleries spanning eight different levels, the Santo Tomás caves are situated about 10 miles (16km) west of Vinales. Very informative, 90-minute guided tours take visitors 138ft (42m) above the valley floor into the sixth gallery, where fantastic limestone formations, glittering stalactites and stalagmites, underground lakes and vast caverns are revealed by the light of headlamps. The cave system has been kept in its natural state, avoiding the tourist traps of electrical lighting and souvenir stands.

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