Adventure Holidays in Cuba — Rock Climbing in Viñales

October 17, 2020

uba is an esthetically fascinating island where tourists have numerous options. You can choose to be pampered in luxury 5 star opulence whilst staying at brand new state-of-the-art hotels, strategically situated next to beaches that resemble the sort that are wistfully gazed at on screensavers from Vancouver to Vladivostok. North Americans, Europeans and other tourists from all over the rest of the world can wander along the azure surf of the welcoming coasts or alternatively, dive deep into Havana’s historic city centre to sample the innumerable cultural delights on offer to stimulate all five senses.

However, outside the city walls and away from the beaches, over to the west of the island in Viñales Valley, “Nature Tourism” offers travellers the option of getting to know an older Cuba — a luscious, ancient green interior of an island that smiles sagely as “Old” Havana celebrates only its 500th birthday.

Sprawling over 50 square miles, Viñales Valley remembers a time prior to when people hiked and climbed up its majestic precipices. It remembers a time further back still, even earlier than when armour-clad “Conquistadores” arrived with fierce fire and fervour, back to a time before the age of the fern when petulant tectonic plates battled against each other like mythical giants and whole islands were formed as the offspring of these troubled Precambrian feuds. Vast limestone topographical accidents called “Mogotes” now litter the valley, standing proudly in their conspicuousness, some of them 300 metres tall, sculpted lovingly over millions of years by the patient hands of Time.

With the kaleidoscope of tropical flora and fauna and the deep caverns that drip limestone stalactites down like geological teeth, it is no wonder that this National Park is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Thanks to all Nature’s happy geographical coincidences over millions of years, Viñales Valley is now established as one of the best places in the world for rock climbers and has become a thriving Winter destination. Peak season is between November and March as it is not a rainy time of year and average temperatures are around 20ºC, two factors which make scaling the “Mogotes” ever so slightly more feasible.

Who’s up for going up?

What may initially seem like a niche holiday destination specifically designed for experienced climbers who are able to bring all the necessary equipment with them is not strictly true.

Over the last three decades that people have been coming here, the community of Cuban climbers has grown steadily bigger and the friendly locals will eagerly share all their knowledge with people who still consider themselves novices.

Less experienced climbers have the option of climbing “Green Routes” with seasoned instructors and there are places where beginners can hire all the necessary safety equipment like ropes, safety harnesses, climbing boots, crampons and helmets. Before setting off, you’ll be taught how to tie harnesses, how to secure knots, and fundamentally, you’ll learn how to trust the people with whom you’re going to climb. Safety measures must be thoroughly studied and understood before setting off as there is no specialised rescue body in the Viñales area, only basic health services located around the campsites.

Although there are countless places in the Viñales Valley to explore either on foot or by mountain bike, it’s definitely considered the climber’s paradise above anything else. Today, some of the most popular places to visit are well-known names to climbers.

“Activity Holiday” packages are not a new sector within the Travel Industry and people have been consistently flying to distant corners of the planet for three decades in order to kayak along foaming rapids, cycle along sunbaked desert trails, trek up frozen mountains, or even simply survive in jungles. Now, rock-climbing in Cuba’s Viñales Valley can be added to the list of established global activity destinations.