a UNESCO Site
In 1999, UNESCO declared the Vinales valley a World Heritage Site, in the category of Cultural Landscape. Among the reasons listed is the following: "The Vinales Valley is an outstanding, calcic landscape in which the traditional agricultural methods (particularly the tobacco harvest) have been preserved without alteration for centuries. A rich vernacular tradition is preserved as well in the region in terms of architecture, handcraft and music."
Geological research indicates that the valley's well-known "mogotes" (pincushion hills) were the first small islands to emerge in the Prehistoric Caribbean Sea. The numerous fossils that have been discovered support the belief that the whole valley area was once a deep basin rich in fauna and flora in the Jurassic period.
Tobacco Farmer in the Vinales Valley
Los Jazmines Overlook
In fact, speleological researches in Vinales Valley and particularly in the Cueva de Santo Tomas, developed by the Cuban scientist Antonio Nunez Jimenez in the 5th decade of the 20th century, mark the foundation of the Cuban Society of Speleology. Today, there is a Museum of Prehistory, near the Mural de Prehistoria, in the Dos Hermanas camping center, where nearly 300 fossil remains of small and medium size Jurassic creatures can be seen. (The mural is so bad that it's worth seeing!)
A large and unique skull believed to belong to a ferocious carnivore that inhabited the waters of the primitive Caribbean Sea during some part of the Jurassic period was recently found. It's been named Gallardosaurus iturraldei after its discoverer Juan Gallardo and his son Juanito Gallardo, farmers who have collected an important quantity of fossils in Vinales. The second part of the name is dedicated to Dr. Manuel Iturralde-Vinent, expert in Cuban fossils who completed the research and dating of the specimen.
From every spot in the valley, the traditional "bohios" (a kind of hut) and guano-sheltered tobacco houses can be seen. Tobacco plantations are, without a doubt, one of the elements that make the sights of the valley most colorful and rich, especially from the Los Jazmines Lookout.
The Sierra de los Organos, where the valley is located, is a National Park and is currently being considered for proposal as a Biosphere Reserve because of the delicate biological balance and existence of animals and endemic plants. One is the Microcica Calocoma, also known as cork palm, with around a thousand specimens living here; the species was considered extinct since the Jurassic.
Mural de Prehistoria, so ugly it's worth a visit.