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


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28 Responses to “Vinales, Cuba – A Slice of Simplicity”

  1. Briana July 18, 2011 at 5:17 pm #

    You are in heaven! I was lucky enough to travel Cuba a few years ago and you are in my absolute FAVORITE spot! Enjoy!

    • Erica July 18, 2011 at 7:29 pm #

      @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!

  2. Globetrottergirls July 18, 2011 at 7:21 pm #

    Living the dream – so true!! Love all the photos in the cigar farmer’s place.

    • Erica July 18, 2011 at 7:32 pm #

      @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!

  3. Evan July 19, 2011 at 8:36 am #

    This is just so ridiculously cool.

    • Erica July 20, 2011 at 8:08 pm #

      @Evan: You crack me up.

  4. MUGS July 20, 2011 at 5:07 am #

    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! 😀

    • MUGS July 20, 2011 at 5:11 am #

      With Shaun’s premium cigar skills i think he should change his name to : JUAN.

    • Erica July 20, 2011 at 8:11 pm #

      @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!

  5. Bethany July 20, 2011 at 11:31 pm #

    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!

    • Erica July 21, 2011 at 2:30 pm #

      @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. 🙂

  6. Christy @ Ordinary Traveler July 21, 2011 at 1:28 am #

    I agree with Bethany, this photos are fabulous. I so want to visit Cuba!

    • Erica July 21, 2011 at 7:14 pm #

      @Christy: You guys are fantastic! Thank you so much for your kind words. Cuba is magical – that is all I will say.

  7. dtravelsround July 24, 2011 at 11:00 pm #

    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.

    • Erica July 25, 2011 at 9:43 am #

      @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

  8. Margo July 25, 2011 at 8:30 am #

    GREAT pics and story, people. Really fascinating experience… thanks for taking us along! 🙂

    • Erica July 25, 2011 at 9:50 am #

      @Margo: Thank you! I’m trying to change up the writing style of the blog and I think we are on our way.

  9. Lindsay aka @_thetraveller_ July 25, 2011 at 10:06 am #

    Ahhh didn’t that make you feel sick? (being a non smoker and all) Alas, I’m a smoker and I can’t handle cigars. BLAH.

    • Erica July 25, 2011 at 10:11 am #

      @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.

  10. Camels & Chocolate July 25, 2011 at 10:56 am #

    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…)

    • Erica July 25, 2011 at 11:21 am #

      @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.

  11. Ayngelina July 26, 2011 at 7:20 am #

    I’m not a smoker either but I would definitely have to give it a try, as you said, when in Rome..

    • Erica July 26, 2011 at 11:07 pm #

      @Ayngelina: Glad someone else is on board!

  12. Stephanie - The Travel Chica July 26, 2011 at 5:52 pm #

    Wonderful photos! And way to be Roman 🙂

    • Erica July 26, 2011 at 11:08 pm #

      @Stephanie: Thanks! Go Rome!

  13. Federico July 26, 2011 at 8:40 pm #

    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…:)

    • Erica July 26, 2011 at 11:10 pm #

      @Fede: I think that the honey did the trick. It tasted yummy.


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