Adventure Travel

hot air balloons

Endless Travel Blog

Adventure Travel

--by Sheryl Fick

With travel on the rise and a very large planet to choose from, how does the average person decide what is on their bucket list, and how do they go about fulfilling that dream?

Of course there is the internet, a vast array of so many choices that very soon the process of doing it yourself is simply overwhelming, and how is a person to know what is truly a great value or not? Well here at Endless Travel, this is what we do for you. This is our job, but more, it is our passion! We know how to weed through what you may find. In fact, we only use our preferred wholesalers; these are companies we as travel professionals work with to ensure your adventure travel experience is more than a guessing game online. So let’s talk about a company we use for out of the box adventure travel. This is the essence of G Adventures!

highest glacier in AlaskaG Adventures is a company with over 20 years of out of the ordinary travel experiences for all travelers. I did say “all travelers” because they have various and very specific categories for any traveler worldwide. They offer a very unusual mission statement: “We offer off the beaten path, meaningful, local and very small group travel for ages 4 years old and up to 99.” How can a company do this? Let’s discuss why and how they can.

First, G Adventures in NOT a normal travel escorted wholesaler. They have the following categories so every person can fit into a perfect situation for them personally.

Here is how they do this:

Classic – somewhere between backpacking and a traditional escorted group is where this falls into place.

Comfort – for a more mature traveler, but not necessarily based on age, a person who likes a bit of frills and the finer things in life and travel.

Active – the traveler that likes to hike, bike, climb, and do multiple sports on vacation.

Yolo – this is the youthful client, younger and fast paced. Forget sleep—that can be done much later in life.

Marine – whether an experienced sailor or a landlubber, this group likes water and anywhere in the world water.

Family – starting at age 4, travel with parents, grandparents or other family members for an out-of-the-box multifamily experience.

Local Living – perhaps a Tuscan farmhouse or an Icelandic home where you visit and learn how locals live worldwide.

Freedom is also another unique feature of G Adventures; there’s time to explore on your own.

Rail – long before airplanes, people actually enjoyed rail travel, and it still exists for a more laid back adventure.

Groups – create your own or join in a pre- planned one to meet new people and new adventures.

helicopterG Adventures does things differently! For example, they have guaranteed departures for 1-12 people. If you sign up you will go and this is unheard of in the travel industry! They can do your air or not and coordinate all the other components worldwide. Speaking of worldwide, here are just some of the places you can choose from to create your next adventure:

North or South America, the Middle East, Africa, Asia, New Zealand and Australia, Europe, Central America—and more than can be listed.

G Adventures use local transportation, so you travel like the locals with your personal CEO (Chief Experience Officer.) Their accommodations reflect the local character of your chosen destination. Freedom is also another unique feature of G Adventures; there’s time to explore on your own. With small groups you are assured to meet other travelers with similar interests to your own.

With G Adventures, travel is done differently. They don’t just see the world; they make it better. With their Planeterra non-profit foundation, they give back worldwide since 2003, promoting sustainable solutions and economic growth done responsibly.

Some of their experiences include local living in Mongolia, Galapogos in Depth, Exploring Morroco, a Botswana Safari or Thailand and Laos adventure... but the list goes on and on.

We at Endless Travel can assist and help you determine just the right vacation for you.

Ready for adventure?

Drop us a line today to book your trip!

Peru

maccu picchu, Peru

Endless Travel Blog

Plan your vacation to Peru today!

--by Shelly Donahue

If you are looking for a unique vaca- tion, Peru, with Avanti Destinations, may be just what you are looking for. You should plan on visiting for a minimum of 6 nights, but with so much to see and do, I would recommend a longer stay.

When arriving in Peru, expect to be greeted kindly by the Peruvian people. Peruvians take pride in customer service and it shines through with Avanti’s local guides and drivers. Also, bring your appetite, as the Peruvian cuisine is a unique fusion of traditional Inca and modern Asian/Latin cuisines.

Getting around Peru is simple. You fly into Lima (about a 10 hour flight from Denver) and then take domestic flights to the majority of the other destinations in the country (Cuzco, Iquitos, Juliaca, Puerto Maldonado, Arequipa and Chiclayo). You must take a train from either Cuzco or the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu. Avanti’s ground operator has modern sedans, vans and busses that are reliable and comfortable.

Lima is renowned for its rich Spanish architecture—the City of Kings was founded by Pizarro in 1535. Cultures past and present are represented in the outstanding art, archaeological museums and cuisine throughout.

The Sacred Valley is full of adventure.

array of peruvian vegatablesLima has a unique history worth discovery but the highlight of Lima is the cuisine. The gastronomy tour and market visit is often the favorite tour for foodies and non-foodies alike.

Cuzco’s architecture is dazzling and the city tour is a must. Be introduced to the charming colonial city built on the foundations of Inca palaces.

Peru is full of must-see destinations, including the lush setting of the Sacred Valley—natural beauty of rivers and lakes within the well-kept historical towns of Ollantaytambo and Pisac. The Pisac market stands out as a unique experience and is a great spot for some authentic handicrafts to bring home.

First-time travelers to Peru should always visit Machu Picchu twice. The first entrance is for the guide to explain the stories of how and when these ruins were built, but the next day provides a chance to really explore these expansive ruins on your own. It is always best to go to the Sacred Valley first in order to acclimate to the altitude. The Sacred Valley is full of adventure. You can enjoy the natural beauty by mountain biking, rafting, kayaking and hiking. I would recommend at least 2 nights in the Sacred Valley and then 1 night at Machu Picchu, with a visit to the ruins on the afternoon of the day of arrival and another visit the following morning.

If you plan on hiking the Inca Trail, you should plan at least 6 months in advance in order to get your passes to hike the trail. The Inca Trail is closed during the month of February and the best time to visit is June through August.

monkeysThe Peruvian Amazon is a one-of-a-kind destination. The Amazon is one of the most biologically diverse places in the world. You can see monkeys, birds, iguanas and the elusive pink dolphins. Long inhabited by indigenous people, the area has a remarkable history worth exploring. Avanti offers both lodges and Amazon cruises, which offer incredible day trips deep in the Amazon while still offering first-class accommodations and incredible food.

Another destina- tion is the enigma of Nazca. The barren desert harbors myste- rious ancient ruins—a set of carved glyphs so massive they can only be seen from the air. The Nazca Lines have long captured travelers’ imagina- tions with their preci- sion and scale. Full of

mystery, there isn’t much comparable to an overflight of the incredible Nazca Lines.

Lake Titicaca is the highest lake in the Americas. For visitors to Lake Titicaca, the floating islands of Taquile and Uros are spectacular for both nature and cultural travelers. There is nothing like the combination of scenic vistas and cultural authenticity. Revel in the natural wonders of the lake as you kayak the highest navigable lake in the world.

Ready to visit Peru?

Drop us a line today to book your trip!

What is an escorted tour anyway?

rijksmuseum, Amsterdam

Endless Travel Blog

What is an escorted tour anyway?

--by Sheryl Fick

With the Internet, there are so many choices of what to do and how to do it, that at first glance, you may not feel the need for a professional travel consultant. I hope, however, this will explain some reasons to consider Endless Travel. Normally, there are no added planning fees, so see what you think, and see if an escorted tour may be what you want.

First, an escorted tour is when all of the components are bundled together in a form where you, as the traveler, really do not have to pre-plan anything—just show up for the time of your life without any of the hassles of planning and hoping things work out. Of course, that is why you may want to consider the option of a fully escorted tour nearly any place in the world. With the help of Endless Travel to qualify your travel needs, we do the work (or we work together) to plan the perfect vacation.

We work very closely with the Globus (Cosmos is their sister company at a lower price point) family of brands, which include the wonderful Avalon River Cruises and Monograms, the land package we can add on at any time. Globus/Cosmos escorted tours are very popular in Europe, but did you know you can also go to Israel, Jordan, Scandinavia, Iceland or Russia to name a few other destinations? The beauty of an escorted tour is that you can simply sit back, and let Endless Travel do all the work with the help of Globus/Cosmos—you can also be as involved as you choose. This means that if you want to arrive earlier than the tour starts, or stay after the tour, or take a river cruise on Avalon, it can be done. And the pre and post sections can be done with the help of Monograms.

This is a special air rate you can only get by going through a tour company like this...

Several years ago, I experienced an escorted tour in Europe for 12 days. I have to say, it was so relaxing to let someone else drive while I was a tourist and got to hear all the wonderful information presented to me while touring. This tour was during a public wedding in London, and could have been a serious problem, but Globus/Cosmos pre-reserved hotels in the center of each city I visited. So I sat back, and was not concerned with other events potentially disrupting my tour. Such an event could be something like the Rome Jubilee, where hotel space is nearly impossible to find; but not to worry on a Globus or Cosmos escorted tour.

You can have your airfare booked by Globus/Cosmos if you want, and you probably did not know that they offer something you can’t get yourself, which is contracted air. This is a special air rate you can only get by going through a tour company like this, and most times, the prices are much less than you can find. Don’t worry if you do have free air on points. That is something that can be done separately.

This is how it works:

lourveYou contact Endless Travel, and we discuss your itinerary and which escorted tour works best. We can add air to any city you want (arrival transfers). Then you are shuttled to your selected hotel while your luggage is handled for you. Next, you meet the rest of the group and your tour guide for the trip, and are given more details of all the sights you will be seeing. There are no lines to wait in if you choose tours like the Louvre in Paris, the London Eye or the Rijksmuseum in Amsterdam, to name a few. Let’s say you want to visit Venice, but your tour ends in Rome. No worries! We can arrange a train first or second class, with transfers from the tour to the rail station, and again upon arrival in Venice. The choices are endless! We take the stress of planning away, and Globus/Cosmos does the rest. You can have as much fun as you want planning additional options.

So if you want the ease of not having to plan a trip on your own, perhaps an escorted tour may be a viable option for you. We see people of all ages now doing escorted tours, as they are hassle free, and everyone gets to enjoy the journey. I am still in contact with friends I met from South Africa, as that is one of the many perks.

Why not call your travel experts at Endless Travel? We have over 100 years of travel expertise, and if an escorted tour is not what works, we ‘sell the world.’ Let us help you plan that trip of a lifetime, and remember we, as Globus, Cosmos, Monograms and Avalon, are teaming up to provide the perfect vacation with lasting memories!

Ready to schedule your escorted tour?

Drop us a line today to book your trip!

Cuba

classic car in cuba

Endless Travel Blog

Viva Cuba!

--by Susan Hammond

Cuba, the largest island in the Caribbean, and located just 90 miles south of Miami, has much to offer for those seeking a world of contrasts and authentic experiences. I had the opportunity this past November to fulfill a personal dream, and escorted a group of 12 clients to three Cuban cities (Havana, Varadero and Vinales) on a 9-day, fully escorted, people-to-people experience offered through Cosmos Tours. It was amazing to actually take a step back in time, allowing us to observe the allure and unique lifestyle of the Cuban people.

Cuban law, while relaxed some for American tourists, still places strict limitations on what we can do when traveling to Cuba, requiring cultural exchange activities for many travelers. The travel restrictions and U.S. embargo, which still remains in effect, means travel to Cuba is not easily planned on a whim.

cuba capitolUpon arrival, I was overwhelmed by the beauty of the architecture, the delicious cuisine and my warm welcome from the people. I quickly learned that the Cuban people I interacted with were very inviting and friendly in their responses to questions from our group about their country.

Upon landing in Havana from Miami on a charter flight, we were picked up by our 33- year-old Cuban Tour Director, Limon. As we headed east, we drove through picturesque countryside to a beach destination called Varadero, which is a hotspot for tourism because of the beautiful Cuban beaches. We kept busy that day visiting a local artisan shop called Taller de Ceramica Aristica and enjoyed a pottery demonstration by the owner and, of course, shopping opportunities.

We next traveled to a nearby city called Matanzas, known as the Athens of Cuba for the many renowned artists and intellectuals it has produced. One of the most fascinating stops that we made was at a print and binding shop called Ediciones Vigia. This independent publishing collective began making homemade books in 1985. They are truly creating books that are not only of literary value, but also unique works of art. Each book published is beautiful to behold, fit to be displayed, and work to be treasured.

cuban manThe anticipation of traveling back to Havana was high as we prepared ourselves for a walking tour of Old Havana. Cosmos Tours arranged for a local architect to give us a lesson about the history written in the stones of the 400-year-old streets and colonial buildings. The Havana UNESCO World Heritage Site centers on three historic plazas, each distinct with a church, slave market, and fort. Among the bustle of people, we witnessed one of the most confounding paradoxes of Cuba. Gaily dressed peasant women and old men with fedoras and big cigars posed for photos for a dollar each. They easily made $10 a day, $300 a month. Yet the average government salary is $20 per month. The Cuban people are definitely very resourceful.

While in Havana, we visited a daycare center filled with 50 two-year-olds. Caring nuns and their helpers run this center. Only mothers who are willing to go back to work are allowed to put their child in this free childcare program. The children delighted us with a few songs, and we then returned the favor by singing “Old McDonald” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider.” This exchange was heartwarming and definitely a highlight of our day.

Next, we were off to visit Ernest Hemingway’s home where he lived for over 30 years, and penned some of his most favorite novels. We saw tombstones where he buried four of his beloved dogs—Black, Negrita, Linda and Neron. It was also fascinating to see his fishing boat, El Pinar, which was used to patrol for German U-boats during WWII.

Next, we were off to visit Ernest Hemingway's home...

As we wrapped up our 9-day tour, we traveled to the western end of the island to the lush province of Pinar del Rio. On the way, we visited a local primary school and interacted with fourth-graders working on math problems. Since this is a state owned school, we were not allowed to donate money to the school, however school supplies were much appreciated. As the children introduced themselves, they told us what they wanted to be “when they grow up.” We heard the typical professions such as police officer and school teacher. But one young man said he wanted to be a driver, and his buddy sitting next to him boasted that he was going to be a mechanic. These two professions in Cuba are very important to this nation due to the vast number of vintage cars throughout the country.

As we checked into our pre-assigned bed and breakfasts in the small town of Vinales, we had the wonderful opportunity to interact with host families and continue immersing ourselves in the local Cuban culture. From the feedback I received from my clients, this part of the tour was one of the highlights of the overall trip. My husband and I stayed in a home where the host was an English teacher. He enjoyed educating us on the everyday challenges of his community, and demonstrated excitement towards the American tourist and what we bring to their country.

A thrill for the men in our group was a visit to a tobacco farm and the opportunity to puff on much coveted cigars while watching the proprietor roll these Cuban novelties. Also, we toured an organic farm where we chatted with the staff and were treated with a delicious farm-to-table lunch.

cuban carCar enthusiasts in our group were totally surprised to see the large number of vintage cars throughout the country. The streets of Havana are congested with Soviet-era trucks, boxy Chinese cars, horse-drawn wagons, and chrome-gilded Buicks and Chevrolets. For those who love history, we explored the different facets of the historic relationship between the U.S. and Cuba. Also, Cuba is an expert and amateur photographer’s dream by offering opportunities to capture life unfolding naturally for the locals.

In my opinion, Cuba has something for everyone who is willing to remain flexible and “go with the flow.” As a travel consultant, I am often asked, “What is your favorite destination?” Until now, I always struggled with this question since I have had many favorite experiences. Now, without any hesitation, I can confidently say that our Cosmos Cuba People-To-People Tour was a trip that I will never forget. In fact, I am planning to go back in a year or two to explore the eastern side of the island including Trinidad, Bay of Pigs, and King Ranch.

Ready to visit Cuba?

Drop us a line today to book your trip!

Belize

blue morpho butterfly

Endless Travel Blog

The Unspoiled Paradise of Belize

--by Susan Hammond

I had the opportunity just a few months ago to participate in a guided tour with National Geographic by G Adventures to the country of Belize, allowing our small group of travel professionals to discover and connect with the wonderful local people in a way that was truly meaningful. This adventure took us deep into the Belizean culture, offering a greater hands-on exploration, interactions with local experts and the freedom to roam, all within the structure and security of travelling in this intimate group. This authentic nine-day experience consisted of exploring the Mayan ruins, a visit to a hot sauce factory and excursions to small local villages to get up close and personal with island life.

Formerly known as British Guatemala, Belize is a country on the eastern coast of Central America. It is the only country in Central America whose official language is English, though Belizean Creole and Spanish are also commonly spoken. Belize is bordered on the north by Mexico, on the south and west by Guatemala and on the east by the Caribbean Sea. Since this small and diverse country is approximately the size of Massachusetts, we were able to explore a lot of it during my very first visit. What I truly love about Belize is that in just over a week, we spent time in the lush jungle of the west on the Guatemalan border, ending our journey with beach time on Caye Caulker, which is truly a tropical paradise on the Caribbean Sea.

After arriving in Belize City, our group was transported about 20 minutes from the airport to the centrally located Burrell Boom Village, which is right on the Belize Old River. We stayed in a charming jungle resort offering comfort and convenience in an exotic, tropical rainforest setting.

Our first day consisted of a full-day excursion to the Lamanai Ruins, a renowned Mayan ceremonial site consisting of over 800 structures surrounded by lush jungle. Lamanai (“Submerged Crocodile,” in Mayan) was occupied as early as 1500 B.C.

First of all, getting to Lamanai was half the fun! The short van ride led us across rivers and vast expanses of land, providing us with a true Belizean country tour. We arrived at the Tower Hill Bridge where we boarded a motorboat for a spectacular ride upriver, continuing our journey to Lamanai. The boat tour was by far the highlight (except for the Lamanai Ruins, of course, but we had to flip a coin...) of the full-day excursion. The ride was a wonderful opportunity for wildlife spotting, as well as spotting many tropical birds and spider monkeys. We even saw a couple of freshwater crocodiles floating near the river’s edge.

These caves, called ‘Xibalba,’ meaning ‘Mayan hell,’ are fascinating underground worlds.

As we continued on our journey to the western side of Belize to the city of San Ignacio, we stopped along the way to cave tube (which is an activity very specific to Belize). First, we walked approximately 30 minutes through the jungle alongside the river carrying our inner tubes (yes, we had our mosquito repellant close at hand), then happily launched the tubes in the welcomed cool water passing through dark caves and their wonderful cavities that we discovered thanks to our headlamps. These caves, called “Xibalba,” meaning “Mayan hell,” are fascinating underground worlds. In my opinion, cave tubing is a not-to-be-missed activity in Belize that you have to add to your bucket list!

After completing our drive to San Igancio and checking into our rainforest hotel on the outskirts of the city, we enjoyed a couple of free days to individually choose how we wanted to explore the surrounding countryside and attractions. Most of us chose to cross the border into Guatemala (which was an experience in itself) to visit Tikal National Park, which is the largest excavated site on the American continent, containing some of the most fascinating archeological remains of the ancient Mayan civilization. On the way back from this all-day tour, we stopped for a late lunch in northern Guatemala at a local restaurant right on Lake Peten, which is the second largest lake in Guatemala. A dip in this lake was very refreshing, plus the local cuisine was outstanding!

The second day in western Belize consisted of some of the youngsters in the group participating in a cave excursion to Belmopan, Belize’s Crystal Cave. Since I am not a millennial anymore, and spelunking is not my idea of a good time, some of us chose to go to Chaa Creek Lodge (a wildly civilized luxury resort) for the day to explore the Blue Morpho Butterfly farm, where we observed the “Belizean Blue” during every stage of their life cycle. Of course, while we were at the beautiful Chaa Creek lodge for the day, a site inspection was in order after our delicious jungle cuisine. This lodge is very proud that they were chosen to host Prince Harry a few years ago when he visited Belize as part of a Diamond Jubilee tour representing Queen Elizabeth. I came home telling my husband that I could live at Chaa Creek forever, and of course he reminded me that I still have two boys in college, so now is not a good time. Plus, he knows that I would miss the Rocky Mountains and having four seasons, so I was instantly jerked back into reality.

Leaving western Belize and travelling along the Hummingbird Highway, we headed toward the small Garifuna fishing village of Hopkins about three hours by road, south of Belize City. On the way, we stopped at the Hot Mama’s hot sauce factory, which is a true institution in Belize. This tour was a can’t-miss for anyone looking for a genuine taste of Central America. We toured the factory before indulging in some spicy flavors, and of course brought plenty home to enjoy ourselves and give as gifts.

Arriving into Hopkins later that day allowed time to explore the fascinating Garifuna culture. The Afro-Caribbean Garifuna people originated with the arrival of West African slaves who washed ashore on the Caribbean island of St. Vincent around 1635, while likely on their way to New World mines and plantations. We had a delicious dinner at the Sandy Beach woman’s co-op. They served a dish called hudut (a creamy fish stew served with mashed plantain and distinctive local flair). After dinner, we had fun taking a drum lesson and enjoyed a demonstration by these amazing local artists.

belize hammocksUpon leaving Hopkins, we drove back to Belize City and then took a short ferry ride over to Caye Caulker. This small laid-back island, consisting of 1,000 or so residents, displays the ‘no shirt, no shoes, no problem’ attitude throughout the island. The only traffic sign instructs golf carts and bicycles to “go slow,” a directive that is taken seriously. The island is an ideal base for snorkeling and diving adventures at the nearby reef. The northern part of the island—a tempting destination for kayakers—is mostly mangroves, which are home to an amazing variety of birdlife. Other than that, all visitors should be sure to schedule in plenty of time for swinging on a hammock and enjoying the breeze (which is indeed a legitimate activity on Caye Caulker).

In conclusion, my first journey to Belize allowed me to step away from my daily routine to a special place in the sun. I also got to experience some soul-recharging beach time, but with added cultural experiences that gave me a look at what life is like living in Belize. So if you enjoy photographing wildlife, hiking in the jungle or just exploring one of the longest barrier reefs in the Western Hemisphere, Belize has got it all!

Ready to visit Belize?

Drop us a line today to book your trip!