- This is an extremely full on tour where you will see everything that the 'real' Cuba has to offer (if you want to see tourist Cuba then go to Varadero and don't do this tour).
Be prepared for a LOT of travelling. Two full days on the minibus gets very tiring, although you are rewarded with a full day on the beautiful Cayo Levisa at the end of it, and Vinales is a stunning finale to the tour.
Our guide, Ernesto, could not be faulted on his historical knowledge and passion for his country, however I would strongly question his interpersonal skills as it never felt like he 'gelled' with us as a group or that he had our best interests at heart with regards to creature comforts especially when it came to suggestions for places to eat, and that they were chosen to fit in with the needs of himself and the driver, rather than the group.
Some important tips:
Take EVERYTHING that you need with you (toiletries, medicines, books, clothing etc). It is virtually impossible to find shops in Cuba.
The water is likely to fail at some point during your trip. Most likely in the hotels. Wet wipes are vital.
Toilet roll is a luxury item. Take your own with you as you will need it.
A torch is useful - the campsites aren't lit and finding the toilet in the middle of the night can involve dodging various forms of cattle
Take a towel - there are frequent stops for swimming in lakes/sea
Accept that whilst camping you will get woken up at 3am by cockerels and will probably end up sharing your tent with a chicken. Mattresses are provided but a sleeping bag is an essential as sheets aren't supplied.
Food quality varies significantly. Anything government run (mainly the hotels) is likely to be disgusting but the casa particulares are exceptionally good. Try to eat in the private run paladars if you can. In Santiago, try to find Paladar Salon Tropical (our guide didn't recommend this, the group found it ourselves from a guide book). Stunning rooftop views and gourmet quality food. It was also one of the cheapest places we ate during our trip.
Published on: 10 October 2016