The Viñales Valley is part of the heart of Cuba's tobacco-growing region and a great place to take a tobacco tour. Typical tours start at the Casa del Veguero, a small farm that grows and dries the primary material, followed by a visit to the nearby de-veining station, or despalilladora. Here, you'll see workers handle and sort the prized leaves for capas, or outer layers. You might also be given a quick tour of a final curing station, where the leaves emit an ammonia gas that will make your eyes tear. Finally, you'll visit a local cigar shop, El Estanco. However, you'll have to go into Pinar del Río if you want to visit an actual cigar factory.
Feel free to pass up the Mural de la Prehistoria (Prehistoric Mural; tel. 48/79-6260). Sure it's big, but this over-hyped attraction can't quite cut it as kitsch, is decidedly uninteresting as art, is woefully inadequate as narrative, and is just not impressive enough in execution to merit all the attention. Despite some fresh paint, which restored -- and even improved on -- the vibrant colors of artist Leovigildo González Morillo's original work, this massive mural lacks the style and weight of the works of his mentor, Diego Rivera. The mural is located 4km (2 1/2 miles) west of Viñales and is open daily from 8am to 7pm. The CUC$1 admission is waived if you eat at the on-site restaurant.
One of the nicer attractions in Viñales is the little Casa de Caridad Botanical Gardens at the northeastern end of town. The lush gardens feature a mix of ornamental and medicinal plants and flowers, as well as orchids, bromeliads, palms, and fruit trees. If you're really lucky, you'll be able to munch on some freshly harvested fruit. No admission is charged, but donations are accepted.
Cubanacán and Havanatur have offices right off the town's main square and offer a variety of tour options (the latter is not recommended due to poor customer service), from where you can book organized tours of the Viñales Valley. These jam-packed full-day tours cost CUC$28 per person and usually include a visit to the Casa del Veguero, El Estanco, the Mural de la Prehistoria, the Cueva del Indio, and El Palenque de los Cimarrones, with lunch at one of the last three places, as well as a sunset cocktail at Hotel Los Jazmines. Other tour options include day trips to Pinar del Río (CUC$36), Cayo Levisa (CUC$29), Cayo Jutías (CUC$22), and María la Gorda (CUC$35).
Avoid the Crowds -- Viñales is an extremely popular destination for day trips out of Havana. If you're staying here, try to visit the various attractions early, before the buses arrive, and then spend the afternoon walking around town, hiking a more remote trail, or lazing around your hotel.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.