Cuba // Artemisa and Pinar del Río //

Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás

Seventeen kilometres along the road west from Viñales village is the clearly marked turn-off for El Moncada, a scattering of houses that shares a sheltered valley with the magnificent Gran Caverna de Santo Tomás. The most extensive cave system in Cuba, with 46km of caves, attracts serious speleologists and small tour groups alike, but happily it has not yet become overrun with visitors.

Highlights of the 90min guided tour – which covers 1km of chambers – include surprising cave winds, bats flying about and underground pools. The knowledgeable guides point out easy-to-miss plants, deposits of guano, and, on level six, a replica of a mural. The mural is part of the evidence, as is the 3400-year-old skeleton found here, that these caves were once the refuge of the Guanahatabeys, the original inhabitants of Cuba.