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Beautiful views both over and underground
Getting to Vinales from any town in Cuba is tricky, but the immensely beautiful landscape makes it well worth the tedious, and at times treacherous journey (however you make it). The Valley is best viewed both from above and below. We started below, with a guided tour of the Cuevos de Santo Tomas. The tour, which we had for just the two of us, was done by a very knowledgeable National Park employee and started with some friendly criticism as to our fashion choices. Take it from someone who turned up in short shorts and ballet pumps - both long trousers and sturdy trainers are highly recommended. The entrance to the caves comes after a steady hike up a hill and from the minute you enter, you will be grateful for the headtorch you were equipped with half an hour earlier. Clambering up ancient ladders and seeing rubble scattered around the cave floor ("OH - that's fresh from yesterday") - this is definitely not for the faint-hearted. After about an hour and a half of narrow tunnels followed by gaping, echoing chambers, you are greeted with a spectacular view from an oval opening, then its back into the open air and a sudden appreciation for natural light. To enjoy the views from above, take the bus up from Vinales town to Jazmines hotel (very easy, there are maps dotted all over the town). Grab a drink from the bar and a table overlooking the valley and soak in the ancient landscape, knowing only this morning you were beneath it.
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