GETTING AROUND IN THE VALLEY
There are companies that offer guided tours in the park, whether on foot, on horseback or by bicycle, but we can also go on our own:
- For those who take it easy, the tourist bus can be a good option. For 5 $CUC you can hop on and off every time you want; there are 18 stops (the first in the center of the village) in different areas of the valley, all along the road, with beautiful views. The whole circuit lasts an hour; there are 9 a day, from 9 am to 4:30 pm.
- On horseback. Our choice; it’s kind of nice. The standard tour is 3 (enough) or 4 hours at 5 $CUC per person and hour. In the street the same tour is offered for 10 $CUC 4 hours, although as always, you’ll be taking the risk of being left aside if the person offering the tour finds any other tourists willing to pay some more. I recommend to organize it in our private house better than in travel agencies because these last form very large groups, although it is true that the horses are more beautiful.
- Bicycle. Very recommended given the bucolic place, I would have liked to dedicate another day to the valley by bike:
- In the central square they can be rented for 1 $CUC an hour (maximum 8 hours). Also in some private houses, being the most reliable La Casa de Don Tomás. A half-day guided tour costs 15 $CUC.
- Most cyclists travel along the paved roads. The one going north is more beautiful than the routes inside the valley (we passed by bus on our way to Cayo Levisa), at least until the zone of Cueva del Indio; heading west towards Guane we did not go, but it is said to be the most beautiful road in the country.
- Mountain bikers will freak out. In the interior of the valley there are no guided excursions because the dirt lanes are anfractuous; in some sections the roads are in bad condition, and muddy if it has rained.
- Walking. There are 14 predetermined routes that can be consulted in the National Park Building, next to Los Jazmines Hotel. A route that covers half a park is about 16 km. Supposedly it is necessary to go with a guide (10-20 $CUC according to route, maximum 6 h) but in practice it is neither necessary nor obligatory. You can not get lost, but to get to the points of interest it is advisable to download Cuba MapsMe on the smartphone.
I will recreate the itinerary on horseback through the interior of the valley, which is what we did. Most can be covered on foot; we did not see a single bicycle.
It starts in the area north of Adela Azcuy Street, and although there are several dirt roads, most are parallel, so the route is basically the same regardless of which guide we hire.
We will move northwards surrounding the Mogote del Valle, this part of the valley being visible.
Later the route turns to the west. The guide will guide the horses along the lanes he considers appropriate. We will pass next to many tobacco plantations, where we will be able to check how almost all the work is done manually.
The cultivated areas and the karstic mogotes combine perfectly, forming a beautiful and original landscape.
A mandatory stop is in one of the tobacco dryers. In them the process of collection, drying and work is explained. If you go in a group, the tip for visiting them is included in the price.
The end of the journey is the cave of Palmarito, 2 $CUC. In my opinion it is not worth it, it is an unattractive cave with a pool at the bottom where you can bathe in the dark, but it is difficult to enjoy, since the bottom slides, it is rocky and you do not see where to put your feet.
By the way there are two cafes in privileged surroundings; if you leave with enough time, I recommend stopping for a drink.
Outside the route, there is the cueva de la Vaca, which I recommend. It is located in the finca of Raúl Reyes, very close to where the horseback riding begins. The entrance to the finca is free, although the tourist would be requested to take a drink; the prices are 2 $CUC for a mojito or a piña colada. To access the cave you have to climb a very steep stair and once in it you need a torch for about 30 meters.
The cave ends in an opening from where you can see the other side of the valley, with one of the best views of the area.