Caribbean, Photography, Travel

Vinales, Cuba – A Slice of Simplicity

Vinales, Cuba

We really didn’t know what to expect after Havana. Our minds were already so blown by the hustle and bustle of the swarming city that we could barely grasp the concept of the “tranquilo”-ness people kept talking about with Vinales.

As our bus pulled up after a lengthy swaying bus ride through the mountains, Amelia, our casa particular owner, was waiting for us with a bright and cheery smile. In her hand, a plastic rose and a sign in bright red that read: Shauna and Eric.

This was going to be great.

We were traveling like those generations before, without a guidebook and we were placed in good hands – by networks.

Vinales, Cuba, signWe spent the next few days in tranquil bliss. Honking horns were replaced by the clickety clacking of horse and buggy coming down the road with a smile and a “Buenos Dias”. The decaying (yet beautiful) buildings were taken over by green, luscious mountains. I was ready for the small town life and it was placed right in front of me.

One evening we took a sunset ride through Valle del Silencio (Valley of Silence) and was taken aback by the raw beauty of nature. Golden hour poured through the valley with a warm light that I had never seen before. Mist was rolling in through the hills and the silhouette of a golden steer just made it picture perfect. Could it get any better?

Why yes it could.

Shaun and I like to take a “when in Rome” approach to traveling. And there, in front of us, was Rome indeed. In this tiny little shack a man of the countryside/“hombre del campesino” showed us his trade in tobacco. Rolling the cigar between his rough, working hands, he skillfully created a masterpiece.

1.) 90% of all tobacco goes to the government. 10% stays with the farmer to do as they wish.

Making Cuban cigars in Cuba
2.) The tobacco is fermented for 4-5 months in palm leaf baskets. This farmer then ferments is another 5-6 in honey, lime, and rum to give it it’s unique flavor.

Rolling a cigar in Cuba
3.) They are rolled in a thin piece of tobacco for 2-3 days to give it shape.

4.) They are sealed in honey.

5.) Most farmers/farm workers smoke 5 a day.

“Es un puro.” the man said.

Pure tobacco. Just like the working people smoke it.

I trembled as I brought the freshly rolled cigar to my mouth.

Was I really going to do this? I don’t smoke – EVER – but when would I ever get this opportunity again?

I lit the cigar and puffed. The most amazing flavor filled my mouth.


I passed it to Shaun, the other non-smoker, and he cracked a blissful smile as well.

We were living the dream.


Cuban man in Vinales

Valle del Silencio, Cuba

Valle del Silencio, Vinales, Cuba

Golden hour in Vinales, Cuba

Golden hour in Vinales, Cuba, Countryside


Disclosure: This post is brought to you by

28 thoughts on “Vinales, Cuba – A Slice of Simplicity”

    1. @Briana: I am so glad someone else knows how AMAZING Vinales is. I could have stayed there a few days longer but we had to get to Trinidad. Everything about Vinales is fantastic!

    1. @GTG: The farmers shack (where he rolled cigars) was so awesome and seedy (even though it wasn’t) that I had to capture the light on the man. It was just so interesting!

  1. DAM! Wicked pix guys! Gallery&post. This sure as hell beats a touriost infested August in Barcelona Beach! By the way, for not being smokers… You guys hold that sh#t like a PRO! 😀

    1. @MUGS: Thank you! This is my most favorite post I have written EVER and I’m stoked that you enjoyed it. I’m actually sad that we missed out on Barcelona while we were in Spain. We didn’t have enough time there.

      As for Shaun – poor guy is already Juan to a million people… but the Vinales part will be added!

  2. Your BEST yet! Seriously, I LOVE these photos! The lighting is fabulous and you handle it in such a way that I really feel like I’m right there with you smelling these cigars, feeling the anticipation of smoking them and hanging out with the farmers. Love these, seriously, seriously awesome. Gorgeous!

    1. @Bethany: Thank you soooooo much for this comment. This is by far my most favorite post and I’m a little sad that it didn’t go farther. All good though – one of my fav people loves my pics. 🙂

  3. Wish I could have joined you in that cigar session. I just quit smoking, but damn. I would totally relapse to say I tried one. I brought some home when I was in Israel (quite the roundabout way to bring them in, I know), but was too young to appreciate it.

    1. @D: I think the honey around the cigar is what really did it for me. I never even thought about making a sweet smoke. I’ve never smoked in my life but I can totally understand why people like Cuban cigars. <3

    1. @Lindsay: It didn’t but we didn’t inhale at all – we just let the sweet smoke hang out in our mouths. Keep in mind that cigars from the smaller towns are MUCH lighter than the other ones. They aren’t made the same way. These are known to be light and airy.

  4. Oooh I’ve been to Vinales, too! Er, I mean, like you, I’ve “not” been there…I didn’t see cigars rolled, but I went to a cigar factory in the Bahamas last year and was too afraid to smoke one myself. (I’m a total square and have never smoked anything other than the refreshment of choice when I used to live in Holland and that’s just what you did…)

    1. @C&C: The refreshment of choice eh? 😛 Cigars do vary quite a bit with taste which is definitely something to keep in mind. I don’t see myself smoking any more in the future but it definitely was quite the experience.

  5. Fantastic shots! And both of you certainly hold the cigars like pros, was the flavour really that good? As a non smoker myelf too I find it difficult to imagine smoke being tasty and pleasant…:)

Leave a Reply