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A cycling adventure from Havana to Viñales – Discovering western Cuba on two wheels

November 21, 2019 | by James Corporal

There is one very special way to enjoy Cuba if you’re a cycling enthusiast. In this blog post we enlighten you about one exceptional “skyline tour”, named thus because of one spectacular ride on Day 4 of the journey, with the first leg of the cycling trip spent traversing the stunning stretch of a wild biosphere reserve. A true cyclist’s dream come true, this challenging, but incredibly fun journey also allows for fully soaking in the spectacular undulating scenery.

Cuba is an endlessly fascinating destination and its picturesque, often deserted or close-to-empty roads make it ideal for cycling enthusiasts looking for cross-country adventures. The amazing Skyline cycling tour that we’re about to introduce you to takes cyclists on an incredibly scenic, eye-opening adventure from Havana to Viñales, with wonderful stops along the way allowing you to soak it all in during well-earned cycling breaks.

Cycling western Cuba – a lifetime adventure

Immersing in Cuba’s lush western countryside is about so much more than admiring Viñales’ karstic mogotes or enjoying hiking trails from the eco-haven of Las Terrazas, and when you do it on two wheels there’s a lot more to look forward to along the way. The tour we’re about to describe proves Cuba is a cyclist’s dream, shedding light on the many ways your tropical cycling dreams can come true.

The cycling journey from Havana to Viñales

It all starts in Havana, where shortly after landing you will meet a representative at the airport who will escort you to the hotel of your choice. On the way, you’ll take in your first sights of the Cuban capital and will be free to ask questions about the next day’s journey, get tips on where to eat and how to spend your first few hours in Havana before the cycling tour stars on the following morning.

Havana – a dose of magic and colonial chic

The next day you’ll be taken to your bike fitting so that you can pick the bike that suits you best and start on a panoramic cycling tour of Havana. Highlights of the scenic journey include cycling past the Parque Metropolitano de la Habana, the Plaza de la Revolucion square, the Paseo del Prado promenade (a.k.a. runway of the Chanel Cruise 16/17 show), the ruins of the old city wall and Old Havana with its beautifully restored colonial marvels. It’s here that you’ll stop for a hearty lunch before ending it all with a seaside bike ride along the Malecon. The evening will be to spend at your leisure, so time to make the most of your second night in Havana!

From Havana to Pinar del Rio

After breakfast you’ll be right back in the saddle as the tour heads west and you swap the hustle and bustle of Havana for the soothingly quiet landscapes of verdant Pinar del Rio, Cuba’s largest province in terms of land extension and smallest in terms of population density. You’ll be taking in magnificent coastal views and after passing the small seaside town of Mariel you’ll take winding back roads – it’ll be a bumpy ride – watch out for potholes! As you approach the Sierra del Rosario Mountain range, you’ll be watching in awe at the spectacular scenery you’ll be passing by, stopping for a picnic in a scenic spot before continuing towards Las Terrazas, your last destination for the day.

A break in Las Terrazas, Cuba’s first eco-community

Declared a Biosphere Reserve, the sustainable village of Las Terrazas is an eco-tourist’s dream. You’ll be arriving there straight after your lunch picnic the previous day or, on the way there, you can stop for a cooling dip at the Rio San Juan first (highly recommended). You’ll enjoy the peaceful surroundings of this eco-haven and it will be the perfect destination to unwind after the tiring Havana-Pinar del Rio journey.

The “Skyline” route – the highlight of your cycling journey

This will be the most adrenaline-packed part of your cycling tour. After a restful nigh at Las Terrazas’ eco-hotel you’ll start your cycling journey early in the morning of the following day, winding your way through the area’s hilly landscape. This will be the most challenging cycling of your entire tour but I promise it’ll be 100% worth it!

The mountainous trail you’ll take will be strenuous, but incredibly scenic, affording mind-blowing views all across the entire island. This is why it’s called the “skyline route”, because on a clear day you might be able to see both Cuba’s northern and southern coastlines! What a treat for your eyes it’ll be! And what a lasting image for your eyes won’t easily forget! After descending from the strenuous climb you’ll join the circulation on the Havana-Pinar del Rio highway to enjoy a rather picturesque ride among varied traffic. The flow of vehicles is very light in this part of Cuba but you can expect to share the road with oxen, the odd classic car or “almendron”, men on horseback and horse carts.

After enjoying some refreshments in the pretty little town of San Diego de los Baños you’ll be transferred to Viñales, where your casa particular hosts await with a delicious homecooked dinner and cosy rooms to spend the night in.

Onwards to beach paradise – Cayo Jutias

On this day you’ll be mountain your bikes in the morning to head to Santa Maria, on Pinar del Rio’s western coast. After the previous day’s undulations, a more straightforward route awaits on rather flat terrains and pavement. Not that the rural roads are in particularly good condition (this is Cuba after all – take it as part of its quirks!) but compared to the previous days it will be an easy ride. The reward at the end? You get to spend the day on a beautiful island – the postcard-perfect key of Cayo Jutias, with 3 km of pristine white sands gently lapped by shallow lagoon-like waters. You’ll enjoy lunch on the beach here, have the opportunity to go snorkelling or diving and then you can either cycle back to Viñales via a different scenic route or linger in Cayo Jutias and be transferred back to Viñales later on in the day. Once in Viñales, you’ll enjoy a sunset meal at an organic farm, where they transform their own produce into mouth-watering creole dishes. Yum!

Viñales and its dreamlike karst landscape

The time has come to truly and properly soak in Viñales’ exceptional natural beauty and, on this part of the tour, you’ll go on a circular ride to appreciate the area’s unique landscape dotted by flat-topped giant boulders called “mogotes”. You’ll soon see why this place has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site and your jaw will drop at some of the scenery you’ll be taking in. During your time wheeling around this dreamlike landscape, you’ll stop at a tobacco farm to learn more about the process of growing the world’s best tobacco (in case you didn’t know, Cuban cigars are the world’s finest). Then it will be time for yet another scenic picnic lunch, after which you’ll be transferred back to Havana, where you’ll spend the night in a pretty casa particular right at the heart of the city, giving you a second chance to truly explore the Cuban capital in all its depth and breadth.

Back in Havana – soaking up 500 years of riveting history

The last day of your cycling tour is in Havana to spend at your own leisure. The city just turned 500 years old on 16th November so it has a lot of celebrate and you’ll have plenty of history and culture to delve into. This time you’ll be free to explore the city in your own time, at a different pace, lingering in hot spots for a bit of people-watching and enjoying long strolls on foot to better appreciate the city’s colonial charms and striking juxtapositions. From the leafy streets of Vedado to the shabby chic of some photogenic Havana corners and the decaying beauty all around, you’ll soon learn why this is a city impossible to resist despite its shortcomings. If you’re too worn out you can chill by the hotel pool and then head out at night to enjoy Havana’s vibrant nightlife. A salsa joint? A jamming Latin jazz venue? Your choice!

Where will you stay?

When cycling western Cuba on the Skyline tour you’ll be staying in a mix of hotels and casas particulares. The latter is the most authentic way to enjoy Cuban hospitality and will bring you closer to the heart of Cuba and Cubans’ hearts. Rest assured that all casas in the Skyline tour will have private rooms with ensuite bathrooms as well as essential amenities like air-conditioning and hot water. The attentive (very respectful and non-invasive) hosts will add an extra touch of candid warmth and make you feel right at home.

The Skyline tour – the best way to cycle western Cuba

Cycling Cuba is special in more ways than we can count but when you do it with the Skyline tour you throw in an extra special treat – the opportunity to enjoy a truly spectacular birds’ eye view of all Cuba after climbing to one amazing scenic peak (and you’ll do that on your bike – how about that for an exciting challenge?) Of course, there’s a lot more to it than that one highlight (as you probably know by now if you’ve read this far); there’s also the tobacco fields, the desert island escape, the Havana city tour, the free time to explore and a whole lot more …. which is why you shouldn’t hesitate when planning on embarking on this magical journey. You won’t regret it!

If there’s something more exhilarating than exploring Cuba, that’s cycling Cuba and this is why a cycling tour like the one we describe here is the journey of a lifetime.

Written by

James Corporal

James Corporal - Avid cyclist and cubaphile.

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