Exploring Viñales on Horse
The sleepy agricultural valley of Viñales in the northern-west end of Cuba is known for it’s striking karst topography and centuries-old tobacco farms. The freestanding hillocks (mogotes) that dot the landscape are the remains of a limestone plateau that date back to the Jurassic period. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, Viñales is considered one of Cuba’s most beautiful regions and is a firm favourite on the tourist circuit.
One of the best ways to explore the area is in the saddle. We hired four horses to take us for a three-hour ride (which included a coffee break and stretch of legs) in the valley’s red hills and tobacco plantations. Our horses were gentle and suitable for children and our young guide, Osneil, was equally amiable and patient, driving the family along as he would a herd of cows!
Our ride took us between the mogotes and across the red soils of tobacco fields. At one point we had the opportunity to visit a small tobacco farm but a large crowd of tourists that arrived at the same time put us off. Instead we took a break at a little farmhouse café a short distance away. Here, the children devoured a cheese sandwich before ‘helping’ a cowboy tether his rooster (see video above!)
How to book a horse riding tour in Viñales
Osneil came recommended to us by the owners of Finca Agroecologica El Paraiso (our favourite restaurant in Viñales). They called Osneil on our behalf the evening before to book the ride. We paid Osneil directly (at this time he was charging $4 per person per hour)
I also read good reports about Riding Viñales.
Recommended amount of time: We suggest two to three hours with younger kids. We only planned on two hours, but enjoyed it so much we extended to three. We also spent quite a long time in the cafe.
What to wear: remember to bring long trousers for all the members of the family and some closed shoes. You won’t find hard hats so you can consider bringing your own if your children have them. Otherwise, in the hotter months, you’ll want to have a sun hat at least. If you visit La Cueva del Palmarito (see the Tip! below) you may want to pack your swimmers too.
Tip: It was only after our ride that I heard about a little cave called Cueva del Palmarito where you can swim in an underground pool. Apparently it can only be accessed on foot or by horse. It may be a longer ride but worth asking your guide about.
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