Is Viñales good for landscape photography? Well, the experience of going to Los Acuaticos for a sunrise photo shoot, is breathtaking and definitely a keeper.
Los acuaticos is a quite beautiful place, with not so many tourist . here the link in google maps.
Viñales valley is located in the Organs's Mountain Range in the northwest of Cuba. It's unique geography, decorated with a very special kind of mountain called "Mogotes" and great conditions for tobacco growing makes it unique. It is also a National park and a UNESCO site, the reason why the farmers can't use agricultural machinery in the growing fields and as a consequence, the valley is full of oxen, horses and a very distinctive architecture. This mountains are very steep with a flat top, they are known in English as Hey-stack or Pin-cushion mountains for their shape, from above they also look like human organs.
I was in a photography tour with Luis Alarcon, he runs and organizes this kind of trips all over Cuba and one of his favorite places for landscaping is precisely Viñales valley. One morning we woke up at 5:00am with the objective of taking pictures of the sunrise.
Our bed and breakfast hosts prepared some sandwiches and fresh juice to go and we departed at 5:20am to Los Acuaticos, a place that is located around 30min driving plus 1 more hour walking from town. Willermo, a local and very experienced photographer guided us with Luis all the way there.
We took a couple of pre-1960 American cars, they dropped us in a place where we should continue hiking through the farming land. Twenty minutes after that we started going uphill. I would say the trail is not very difficult, everybody had camera gear and tripods, the oldest person was 65 years old and we all did it just fine, I was so amazed with what was going on that it was not demanding at all for me. We finally got to the top and placed the tripods , these pictures were taken with my mobile.
Luis and Willermo showed us how to set the cameras up with the right settings for the activity, they two enjoyed very much, they were definitely having fun and we were affected in a very positive way by their good energy.
It was a real master class for landscape photography. In a few words my friends, it was beyond expectations, we were facing east of course and the first morning lights were blooming turning the blues into golden, drowning at first the silhouette of the mountains, showing an infinite range of colors and a little bit of haze in the lower and most hummed parts of the valley completed that sensational show. Exactly where we were, which I presume is the highest walkable spot on the mountain, live two brothers Julio and Fran in a small house, they grow pineapple and some other fruits. After the sun came up, we had breakfast in the porch and after that they were very cooperative with us posing with their machetes and horse saddle, there were dogs, a smoking fire set for cocking and chickens everywhere.
On the way back the farming land was full of action and it took at least another hour to get back to the cars and then, finally back in town.
It was nicely unexpected and totally worth all the sacrifice of waking up early. The spectacular sunrise we evidenced was the highlight of my entire trip to Cuba. The chance of having Luis with us made the trip as well.
He was patient and knowledgeable, very pragmatic, friendly and good at solving problems. Luis is a good teacher and I had the feeling he knows everybody in Cuba.
Great experience, highly recommend for sure. I definitely will be back to Cuba with Luis.
Viva Cuba !!!