Robaina's plantation

Monday 9 May 2016

Cuevas de Santo Tomas (Vinales) Pinar del Rio

               Vinales is dotted with Mogotes, what's left of the eroded limestone which once covered the island. These Mogotes are like tiny mountains with steep sides and rounded tops...makes for a very picturesque landscape. Translated, Mogotes mean haystacks. Within these Mogotes lie Cuba’s largest cave system, 46km of caves with 1km of it being accessible to visitors. It is located in the municipality of Viñales, in the Sierra de Quemados Los Órganos mountain range, in the Pinar del Río Province. The Cuevas de Santo Tomas lie 17 kilometers west of the town of Vinales near El Moncada (take this turn-off). There you will see some scattered houses and the office where you would start your tour. It's pretty expensive for Cuba, as a foreigner I paid $20cuc. You're suppose to have suitable footwear and you should be of a certain age because it's a pretty steep climb and it could be quite dangerous if you're not prepared or up for it. However, we're in Cuba and everything goes. In our group there were people wearing flipflops and a mother carrying a baby....that's crazy!!! Thankfully nothing went wrong. The whole trip is suppose to take about 2 hours and since there's no artificial lighting you are provided with headlamps when you start the hike. I had difficulty since I'm not used to this but made it to the top as you can see from the photos but I ended up not going all the way through. We were the ones with the baby and by the time we made it to the caves the baby started crying and wouldn't stop. I guess it was the closed space and change of climate, we decided to make our way back down. If we would have gone through we would have seen stalagmites & stalactites, underground pools, generally some interesting rock formations and we might have run into some bats. The guide will point everything out to you as he did with us before we made our way down.
                 We went ourselves with our own car but you can take an organized trip from Vinales if you're staying there. I think it's worth spending an afternoon here (half day trips) if you're staying a few days in the area. On June 5, 1989, the Gran Caverna de Santo Tomas was declared a National Monument .

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