Off the beaten path: traveling off the grid

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The airwaves are full of ads that talk about exotic destinations complete with pictures of beautiful people frolicking in the sand on some tropical island at a five-star resort. Nothing wrong with that image, of course, but for those of us who like something a little more off the beaten path and adventurous there are other options. Off the grid travel is a growing segment of the travel industry and may include such options as an eco-lodge deep in the Amazonian rainforest or a boutique hotel high in the Peruvian Andes. There are many examples of such destination travel, and each one comes with its own local flavor. After all, that’s the point! We are going to highlight just a few of the options that are available.

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The rugged landscape of Patagonia in southern Chile has beautiful scenery and can make for an unforgettable cultural experience. Why not have a unique hotel stay while you are there? The Singular Hotel began life in the early 20th century as a cold storage facility for frozen meat but has since been converted into a luxury hotel. The hotel was designated as a National Monument in 1996 and has been magnificently repurposed. The Singular includes a museum in the lobby that displays many original artifacts and equipment and overlooks the Fjord of Last Hope with the spectacular peaks of the Andes Mountains in the background. Guestrooms are oversized and comfortably appointed, and the natural beauty can be appreciated from behind six-meter high floor-to-ceiling glass windows that will afford you an unparalleled view. The hotel’s two restaurants include a variety of locally grown products. There are also many guided excursions that will allow you to explore the beauty of the surrounding area.
The Galapagos Safari Camp on the Galapagos islands off the coast of Ecuador, is the ultimate “glamping” experience. The Safari Camp is immersed in nature and designed to blend iExterior campn with the surrounding landscape. The main lodge is built on a hill with panoramic views and includes a lounge, library, fireplace, and bar. The dining room features local and international farm-to-table dishes created by our chef. Outside of the main lodge are family suites, which are ideal for families with young children. Down the hill are luxury three-layer tents; these tents are on raised wooden platforms and will keep you safe from sun and Land Iguana on rockrain alike. There are a variety of land and sea-based safaris that will allow you to explore the unique ecosystem and wildlife for which the Galapagos Islands are famous. Galapagos Safari Camp is a camping trip like no other on earth.

elements-travel-pacuare-lodge01The cool jungle highlands of Costa Rica are home to Pacuare Lodge. Pacuare is the premier eco-lodge in Costa Rica and is sure to be an experience you will not forget! The adventure begins even before you arrive when you decide what mode of transportation you want to take to get there. For those with enough stamina, there is the option of traveling to the lodge by white water raft. Otherwise, you will take a 4X4 vehicle up jungle roads to the lodge. There are many different adventure packages you can take at Pacuare such as a trip up the canyon that allows you to test your climbing and rappelling skills! There is also the ancient trail and hidden waterfall hike which takes you up on of the main routes used by Cabecar Indians to travel through the highlands. At Pacuare you can learn about sustainability and the fragile ecology of the rainforest while experiencing the local color of village life in the Costa Rican highlands. Regardless of what package you choose you will return with enough memories to last a lifetime.
Machu Picchu 5In Peru you can stay in the Skylodge Adventure suites, located in the Sacred Valley of Peru. These suites are designed to make you feel like you are sleeping in a Condor’s nest high up the cliff side. You sleep in a completely transparent hanging bedroom with great views of the Sacred Valley. How do you get there? You just climb 400 meters up the side of the mountain, a vertical ascent. There are three suites, each of which can sleep up to eight people, and each has a private bath. The suites are powered by solar panels. If this interests you, but not for staying overnight, you can actually go there just for lunch. Climb up, have lunch, then zip line back down!
These are just a few of the many options that are available to those with a sense of adventure. Do you yearn for something different? Are you a person who favors the “road less taken”? If so, we, at Condor Tours & Travel, can put together a personalized vacation package to suit your taste. Life is short and full of things that we have to do. Why not leave all that behind for a while and do something you really want to do? Contact Condor Tours & Travel today at 770-339-9961 or info@condortoursandtravel.com, and we will work with you to find just the right adventure to suit your taste. You can also visit our web site for many other options. We will customize your trip to what you want to do on your next unique vacation destination experience!

Experience the Amazon in Peru- Puerto Maldonado vs Iquitos

IMG_8164 (640x427)When folks think about the Amazon, they think specifically about the Amazon River. The Amazon River is the main large river that dominates through Brazil, but the Amazon basin or region is actually much larger and encompasses numerous South American Countries. I have visited the Amazon region in Brazil, Ecuador, and most recently, Peru. It is tough to pick which is my favorite, as each experience was remarkable. Both the Peru and the Ecuador Amazon regions are more pristine as they have not experienced as much urbanization and there are many protected areas for endangered wildlife. In the Peru Amazon, there are two areas most commonly visited and offering great lodging options as well. Depending on what your interest is either should fit the bill. Most people think of Machu Picchu when they think of Peru, but the country is more than 50% rain forest. Machu Picchu is actually on the outer edge of the start of the rain forest.

My first and second adventure in the Peruvian Amazon was to the Puerto Maldonado region. You can get here by flying into Lima and then connecting in country to Puerto Maldonado. The flight usually makes a stop in Cusco, so this could be a good way to combine a trip to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. The largest reserve here is called Tambopata National Reserve where you can find a few nice lodges scattered throughout the river and inlets. When you arrive to Puerto Maldonado, a buzzing town with great local culture to experience, you will already feel the vibe of nature. Here you are met and taken to your respective lodge office in the city. Depending on the lodge, you may repack to a smaller bag and leave your suitcases behind so you only take what you need while at the lodge. Then you will board a boat. I do suggest at least three nights minimum, and everything is included – meals, daily adventures, accommodations. The nature guides are locals that grew up in the jungle and have become educated in guiding. IMG_8364 (640x427)Their ability to spot wildlife on the hikes or skiff boat trips is amazing! You are taken by boat on the Amazon tributary called Madre de Dios, or Mother of God. Nature is at your fingertips, and I was able to see the endangered river otters in Lake Sandoval where we could hear them munching on fish and being busy at all times. If you are bird watcher, we saw plenty of shore birds along the river banks and especially along the banks of the lake. On our jungle walks we also enjoyed many birds, plus primates, sloths and some reptiles and spiders. You will not be disappointed, but do use a professional company to make sure you are matched to what your goals are for this trip.

My third Amazon adventure was to IquitosIMG_8161 (640x427), Peru. This is also a flight from Lima, but is a bit further trek as it is located in the North East region of Peru. You are going to need the overnight in Lima, so stay a couple of days to experience Lima and its amazing history and gastronomy. Two restaurants in Lima have made the top ten list for best restaurants in the world. Once you fly to Iquitos you will know you are experiencing a different way of life. The Iquitos region is considered the head waters of the Amazon. The city of Iquitos is the largest city in the world with no road access. You can only get here by boat or plane. The Pacaya-Samiria National Reserve is located just up the river from this city, and during the rainy season, 85% of it flooded, making it only accessible by boat. Depending on what lodging you have chosen for this region, you will likely need to be transferred at this point by land to Nauta. When you arrive to Iquitos, you still have a way to go by land to get to your Amazon experience. We boarded our boat in Nauta to begin our expedition, which is a highlight for nature lovers. You will experience wildlife such as the elusive and often mentioned pink dolphins and unique primates. We did this region by boat on a sleep-aboard that was top of the line. Here we recommend four nights. The advantage of the boat is that you get to experience a larger region of the Amazon without having to move around with your luggage. Just unpack on day one, and enjoy all the experiences of the rainforest and local river communities. During the rainy season, these communities are surrounded by water and all have small dugout canoes to get to and fro. I had first timer experiences in the region that included IMG_8155 (640x427)the Monk Saki monkey, the yellow and blue macaw, a tarantula swimming in the river, swimming with pink dolphins, as well as spotting many different birds, mammals and reptiles. One of the fish found in this river is called Paiche and is quite large (it can grow to 16 feet). Although they do practice catch and release, they also are allowed to use the fish for sustenance, and we enjoyed Paiche in a meal while on board. Those living in this region have learned how to live a self-sustaining lifestyle and are now realizing the importance of protecting the rain forest and all it has to offer. At the end of our cruise, we returned via Nauta to Iquitos, where we visited an animal rehab center where they specialize in the river Manatees. Although we did not see them in the wild, we did have an opportunity to learn about the conservation efforts to preserve these gentle giants in the Amazon.

If you want to experience nature at its best, I can highly recommend a visit to the Peruvian Amazon. Condor Tours & Travel is a company based in Atlanta, GA that specializes in travel to Latin America. We can arrange any type of Amazon adventure for you and know the many lodge and boat options that will fit what you want to experience. Contact them at info@condortoursandtravel.com or visit their web site for more information at www.condortoursandtravel.com, or by phone at 770-339-9961.

Why you should use a travel agent

IMG_6783The internet has wrought tremendous changes to all aspects of society, and the travel industry is no exception. With a few clicks, you can book a hotel or flight, rent a car, make dinner reservations in a distant city, and more. Therefore, it is reasonable to ask the question, “Do you still need to use a travel advisor (formerly called travel agents)?” At the risk of spoiling the end of the story, we will jump ahead and say the answer is an unequivocal yes! However, there are some very specific reasons why this is so, and we are going to take a few minutes to talk about some of the most important.
Travel is more complicated than ever these days. New cruise ships and resorts are coming online all the time, and keeping up with all these changes is a full time job. It is also more common for groups of family members and friends to travel together, which increases the level of complexity and planning needed for a successful trip. Working with a professional can affect both how much you spend and how enjoyable your vacation experience is.
Your travel advisor will also be much more knowledgeable about what is new and exciting in the coming year. Maybe you want to travel to the desert and star gaze in Chile but don’t know best times to go, or you want to experience a safari during the best weather or migration times. Travel professionals have access to the latest and best tour packages and events as well as a working knowledge of regions. They understand how to coordinate planning to make sure you have a great time. Keep in mind that travel advisors are professionals; they know more than you do about this topic. After all, it’s their job! Sure, you can cut your own hair, mow your own lawn, or provide other services yourself. However, a travel advisor can do it better and more quickly than you could and can quite possibly save you money in the process. Simply put, they know more than you do, that’s why you hire them!
A travel advisor can assume the hard work of planning your trip. If they haven’t personally been to where you want to go, they most likely know someone who has or have been trained on the destination or property. Let them deal with the stress and worry of trip planning so you can sit back and enjoy! Travel advisors will also have your back when something goes wrong. They will help you deal with cancellations, problems with check in, travel delays and other issues. A travel professional will be your friend and advocate, and, if necessary, will make alternative plans for you in the event of a problem.
Keep in mind there is no do-over for a failed vacation. Your vacation time is a valuable commodity and you don’t want to waste it sitting on hold with an under-staffed airline or resort. A professional travel advisor adds an element of trust and friendship that is lacking when you deal with large impersonal corporations like airlines, hotel chains or rental car companies. They will be with you before, during, and after the trip and will get to know your likes and dislikes and help you adjust your plans accordingly. The goal of your travel advisor is to make sure you have the perfect vacation experience.
Travel advisors are also your foot soldiers on the ground. They travel the world and bring a wealth of knowledge to the table. How has Puerto Rico recovered from a hurricane? What is the risk of terrorism if I want to travel to Egypt? What kind of documents do I need to visit Russia or Cuba? A travel professional can answer these questions and more, and their research and experience greatly reduce the risk of a trip going awry.
A travel professional can offer unique services for clients with refined tastes or those wanting something a bit more unusual and off the beaten path. Many unique destinations or properties may never market their product as they don’t want to be overrun by “tourism” but prefer to keep a more intimate traveler experience. Travel advisors attend trade events to learn about these hidden gems that the common traveler may not know even exist. In addition, they can often save you money, and even if they don’t, they will add a lot of value. Cruise lines and resorts often get the majority of their business through travel advisors and they reward those advisors with benefits that can in turn be shared with you. Upgraded accommodations, included meals, discounts, or complimentary services are just a few of the benefits that could be available to you. The expert travel advisors at Condor Tours & Travel stand ready to assist you in planning your bucket list travel experience. Contact us via our web site at www.condortoursandtravel.com or call us to today at 770-339-9961, and put our knowledge and research to work for you! Don’t be fooled by web sites that talk a great story. Who puts a bad picture of their property on line? Our travel advisors have connections worldwide to be able to offer that professional advice you need to insure a quality trip that meets your expectations. As winner of the Pinnacle Award for 2018, you are in good hands booking travel with an advisor at Condor Tours & Travel. Pinnacle photo

Why are there almost no Boutique Luxury Hotels & Resorts in Panama?

BungalowWhen you do a search for “Luxury Hotels and Resorts in Costa Rica”, there is a long list of boutique hotels that a visitor can choose from along the Pacific coast. Among them Arenas del Mar in Manuel Antonio, Kura in Uvita, Latitude 10 in Santa Teresa and the Harmony Hotel in Nosara is just a small list of them in Costa Rica. But in Panama, the list is very short. Why is that?

Panama’s economy has been very focused on the Panama Canal, the Banking Sector and Real Estate development in and around Panama City. And the few hotels and lodges on the beach are either large all-inclusive hotels that have a connection to the Panama Business Hotels or small two to three-star hotels, resorts and lodges scattered along the coast. The fact is that tourism and especially sustainable and boutique tourism has not been on the agenda of the Panamanian government as there were ‘bigger fish to fry’ for them in other sectors. But this is changing as more investors look for new places to grow their collection of quality luxury and self-sustaining lodges.

Island hopOn the one hand, this was great news when Cayuga collection decided to develop Isla Palenque as a Boutique Luxury Island Resort near David, Panama in an area referred to as Boca Chica. Almost no competition. But on the other hand, it became a problem as there are only very few places in Panama that our visitors could combine with a stay at Isla Palenque. So we found that a lot of guests actually combine this new option with a visit to Boquete, Panama. The area of Boquete is a bit more mature with tourism and offers some nice options to combine with Isla Palenque. Clients would fly to Panama City and likely overnight at a nice hotel in the old city called Casco Antiguo or some great luxury options in the modern city. Then fly to David Panama – either via the domestic airport in Albrook or out of the international airport. You need to count on at least 6 nights 3 at each location – Boca Chica and Boquete. You can experience the Pacific Ocean and the Cloud forest. Depending on the time of year –whales are seen in and around Boca Chica and in Boquete, a birders paradise, the resplendent quetzal.Isla Palenque Amenities Private Beach Dining -low res 2

And in case they decide to stay only in Panama, we recommend them to visit El Otro Lado in Portobello on the Caribbean Coast and stay in the Casco Antiguo of Panama City at La Concordia.

If you were wondering on “How to get to book Isla Palenque?” or any Panama travel, reach out to Lori Snow of Condor Tours & Travel, Inc. Lori was born in Panama and grew up in Panama City. Her knowledge of Panama is extensive and she is often called upon to do lectures on Panama and the Canal. She was educated in the Canal Zone but grew up on the streets of Panama City and speaks Spanish like a true “Panamanian”. Her company has been selling tourism to Panama and all of Latin America since 1991. Although their offices are US based, they operate an office in Panama to handle all incoming travelers and can custom create a package that meets all your travel expectations while in Panama.

Antarctica – Visit This Land Of Extremes

At the bottom of the world there is a mysterious land of eternal winter. The vast windswept continent of Antarctica was not even known to the outside world until the late 1700’s, and the interior was not explored until the early 1900’s. A land of endless glaciers and towering icy peaks, in some places the ice cap reaches a depth of nearly three miles. Antarctica is essentially a desert continent, and most of the interior receives less than 50 mm of precipitation a year, all of it in the form of snow. All of Antarctica remains below freezing year-round with the exception of the northern part of the Antarctic Peninsula. So remote and isolated is this frozen realm that it has been used as a proving ground for possible space missions.

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What sort of person would want to visit and explore such a hostile place? Only an intrepid adventurer. There are opportunities if you are bold enough and willing to step outside your comfort zone. You can be one of the brave cadres of explorers to visit the hidden continent. Sound appealing? If so, an Antarctic adventure tour might be just the thing for you!

There are a variety of trips and excursions you can take to this polar realm. They range from sea voyages on luxury ships from which you can comfortably watch the seabirds, penguins and other wildlife to expeditions into the remote interior. Some trips will use the ship as a sort of “base camp” from which you can land on the coast or even camp overnight. Remarkably, a census of polar life conducted in 2010 revealed that there are 235 species of marine life found in both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, having somehow bridged the 12,000-mile distance in between. Blue whales, orcas, and giant squids can also be found in the rich fisheries near the Antarctic coast.

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In a land where the sun never sets, and the ice is miles deep, the austere beauty of the Antarctic summer is an experience of a lifetime. Underneath the ice, there are known to be a number of vast, subglacial lakes, some of which have been sealed away from the surface for millions of years. Who knows what secrets might lie in these stygian depths?

Tours depart from the southern port cities of Chile or Argentina and cross the tempestuous Southern Ocean. The newer tours have you fly to King George Island where you miss the rough Drake Crossing but get to experience Antarctica. Even in summer (northern winter), the weather will be cold, so you will want to dress accordingly. Depending on the trip you book, your accommodations will range from luxurious to spartan. As you approach Antarctica with the icy spray in your face, you will see the rugged shores and towering ice cliffs in the distance. What wonders lie in store? Book your trip today and find out! Visit Condor Tours & Travel as we offer a variety of packages to experience this destination.

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Condor Tours & Travel has four Antarctica packages for you to choose from; ranging from a 6 day / 5 night trip to the extensive 16 day / 15 night excursion. Starting your journey in either Chile or Argentina. You are met by the Antarctica21 team of experts who will take you through the Beagle Channel and to legendary Cape Horn. Cross the mythical waters of the Drake Passage and spend a day in one of the most spectacular places on earth – Antarctica.

Our most extensive package starts in Punta Arenas, Chile from which you will fly to King George Island in the South Shetland chain. You will be given an opportunity to explore the island before embarking on your trip aboard the expedition vessel, Zodiac. Leaving King George Island, you sail along the western coast of the Antarctic Peninsula, an area of spectacular ice filled fjords and vast icebergs. You will explore several spots in the Gerlache Strait that offer the best possible overview of the varied Antarctic environment. Weather permitting, you will visit Elephant Island where the crew of Shackleton’s ship, Endurance, found refuge while he and five handpicked men traveled on to South Georgia.

From Elephant Island you will journey on to South Georgia Island. South Georgia is a diverse landscape of majestic mountains, huge glaciers, grassy uplands and deep fjords. You will visit the former whaling outpost of Grytviken where you may pay your respects before the simple grave of Ernest Shackleton. At St. Andrew’s Bay you will be amazed by the sight of over 150,000 king penguins. Nearby Cooper Island is the nesting home of thousands of black-browed albatrosses and a large colony of macaroni penguins. Once your time in South Georgia is done, you will sail back to South America along the Beagle Channel and admire the rugged beauty of Tierra del Fuego and Navarino Island as you make your way to the Argentine port of Ushuaia to begin your trip home.

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Antarctica awaits those brave enough to make the trip. But plan ahead as there is limited space and it sells out quickly. 2019 is already sold out and there are only a few spots left for 2020. Contact Condor Tours & Travel today to get started on your adventure to the South Pole! You will make enough memories to last a lifetime!

Emerging Travel Destination – Colombia, South America

Colombia is a stunning country well worth visiting. You may be surprised by this statement, but the problems of the past don’t reflect the Colombia of today. Now one of the safest countries to visit in Latin America, Colombia has had severe issues in the past with drugs and crime, a reputation it has worked hard to eliminate. The drug wars have long since abated following their high-profile days in the ’90s. Colombia has been an unheralded success with gorgeous landscapes, exciting architecture, unforgettable cities and welcoming people. This destination is eager to show you the new Colombia and how it is welcoming guests worldwide to enjoy just about any travel experience you seek.Bogot+í 4

Positioned in the northwestern part of South America, Colombia connects Panama to the Continent and is surrounded by Peru, Ecuador, Brazil, and Venezuela. While the surrounding countries are known for their incredible wine tours, Colombia is famous for one delightful crop – coffee! Coffee region cupColombia has been growing coffee since the 1950s, and a coordinated effort with the National Federation of Coffee Growers has developed international popularity for their excellent brews. Did you know that Juan Valdez is a fictional character used to market Colombian Coffee? The Colombian coffee growers are known for producing well-balanced coffee beans and produce over 11.5 million bags annually – third highest in the world.

Let’s start at the capital, Bogota, a beautiful, historic and colorful city. As in any urban center, you want to be aware of your surroundings when you are walking around. Bogota is experiencing a resurgence that you should not miss, especially with Condor Tours & Travel as your supplier for complete travel packages to insure you get the trip experience you seek. Bogot+í 2We have a fantastic travel package that includes the capital city and the coffee farms region known as The Coffee Triangle that is located two hours south. Also known as Zona Cafetera, the three regions that make up the triangle are Caldas, Quindio, and Risaralda. The mountain scenery makes this area one of the most lush and beautiful areas to travel to; what could be better than a beautiful view of nature and an aromatic cup of coffee. Can you say “aaahhhh”?

Not a coffee drinker? More of a foodie? Condor Tours & Travel has just the trip for you – the city of Cartagena! Considered the jewel in Colombia’s crown, Cartagena is a culinary treasure chest.Cartagena by night From ceviches to arepas your taste buds will not be disappointed. Colombia has a rich culture that is expressed in its traditional foods. Bogota, the capital city of Colombia, with its 8 million people is the cosmopolitan heartbeat of the country. The days of high crime and drugs are gone and replaced with a budding tourist-friendly city! You will eat and drink your way through this thriving metropolis. Each region of Colombia has something to do and explore. Enjoy nature in beautiful national parks like Chicaque natural reserve where you can hike the trails or visit the Otún Quimbaya Wildlife Sanctuary in the Pereira region. If you seek adventure, we have a region known for its in hiking, biking, hang gliding and so much more. Once you visit Colombia, you’ll want to return again and again! Contact Condor Tours & Travel today – we’ll keep a cup of coffee hot and ready for you!

Experience Latin America – A new and different way to see this part of the world!

I have just spent four days at an event called REMOTE. We had no WIFI or TV for 4 days and were immersed into properties located in remote areas of Latin America. As a travel wholesaler for over 20 years, it is always wonderful to learn about new places and properties to share with world travelers. There are the big players of the world that dominate peoples’ minds – like Cancun, Mexico and all those all-inclusive groups, or the group tours in Europe, or now, the hot trend is river cruising. They certainly have the attention of the travel markets. But what about going to an off-the-beaten-path destination – the world less traveled, where there are no crowds. You may not even know to ask for some of these locations. Latin American locations talk about “sustainable tourism” or “eco-friendly lodges” and it just doesn’t sound sexy to most travelers. Rethink this state of mind, and experience one of these types of vacations or adventures. If you are tired of the same old vacation experience, let me share just a sampling of what awaits you if you think you are that person who wants something new and different.

For the US market, the air lift into Central America is very good so the opportunity to explore some of these amazing lodges is easy to get to. Best known to our market is Costa Rica. IMG_6783This country has captured the hearts of many US travelers, especially the region of Guanacaste. But there is so much more to see and do. You can head to the south Pacific coast to experience nature with luxury rustic-chic at Lapa Rios or Playa Cativo Lodges in the Osa Penisula. These properties are almost 100% self-sustaining and nature abounds. If you want a little less nature and more pampering – head a bit north along the coast to Kura Lodge or Hacienda Altagracia where the food, the staff, the spa, the rooms, and the views will take your breath away.

Panama, which seems to only be known for its Canal, has an entirely different world to explore.Bungalow Just a one hour flight from Panama City to David, Panama and a 1 hour 15 minute car and boat ride, you can sleep in a beach-front bungalow on a remote island called Isla Palenque. Each luxury bungalow has an outdoor shower and tub. There are only eight “casitas,” and each has green spaces, so privacy is not an issue. Swim as if you are on a deserted island, eat from the fresh gardens and hike the many trails on the island.

If you want culture rather than nature and beach, I can recommend Guatemala. On arrival, head directly to Antigua, and stay in a seven-room boutique property while exploring this wonderful small town and all its history, then head up to lake Atitlan to the Casa Palopo Relais & Chateaux property perched above Lake Atitlan. Then head to Tikal, where you can explore the Mayan Ruins. Here you will stay at the Las Lagunas Lodge luxury boutique in the Mayan World. Do some trekking, kayaking, bird watching or immerse yourself in the spa.

Want to go further south to South America? Then check out some of these hidden gems found in Chile, Argentina and Brazil.

In Argentina, visit Aguas Arriba Lodge in Santa Cruz. This five-room lodge was formerly the home to a local family. In the high season, they have 17 hours of daylight. It isn’t easy to get there, but you will experience the beauty of the famous El Chalten Mountain along the Lake Del Desierto. Thirty days prior to arrival, you will provide your diet preferences, as they grow all they can and the rest has to be brought in. There is no grocery store to pop into and the chef provides an amazing cuisine.

Chile is known for their wine and Patagonia, but there is so much more to this destination. Castro, Chile in Chiloe is a virtually unknown and unvisited archipelago of Chile. Or, head north to the Atacama desert, where you can enjoy the most amazing star gazing experience. The best time to travel here is when there is no moon.

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I had the pleasure of getting to know the owner of the Tierra hotels in this area, and her commitment to environmentally friendly travel while experiencing the beauty of each region is heartfelt. You could combine a trip to all three of their properties, including their lodge at Torres Del Paine, which, for me, is one of the most beautiful mountain ranges I have ever seen.

There is an island off the northeastern shore of Brazil called Fernando de Noronha. This island is so small, they do not allow babies to be born there. Women are flown back to the mainland to give birth to their children. This is a diver’s paradise! If you consider yourself a true diver, then this destination has to be added to your dive list. It is not easy to get here – it will take you at least three flights from anywhere and the accommodations are pretty simple, but the diving will take your breath away.

If cruising is your preference, how about a small boat experience? stella_high712Explore the Amazon from Iquitos, Peru aboard one of the three Delfin boats from one of four oversized luxury suites, or, if you like a bit more interaction, the Delfin III with 22 suites. Each itinerary allows you to experience the wildlife found throughout the Amazon. Each of the boats has been carefully designed to give you beautiful views along the river. Another great option is Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, which you can do on smaller boats to get a true up-close and personal experience at each island. Or, go even further south, and cruise the Straights of Magellan on one of the two Crucero Australis boats.

Avoid the crowds found in all the “touristy” cities, and let us create your lifetime adventure to South America. Contact us at info@condortoursandtravel.com or visit our website at www.condortoursandtravel.com.

Argentina and Chile Wine Tours

The wines of South America have aged in vineyard beauty, luxurious flavor, and brilliant creation since the 1500s. Throughout the centuries, viticulture has expanded from the Mission grape wines grown by the Catholic Monks, to the Vitis Vinifera by the Spanish Conquistadors, and now to the most complex varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc, Carmenère, and Malbec. South America is now a leader with its extraordinary vino and dramatically impacts wine culture throughout the entire world! Today, Condor Tours & Travels will escort you on the “Argentina Wine Route Tour” throughout the mountains and vineyards of South America to explore the stunning wineries and the plantations of exquisite Argentinian grapes, sample the variations of delectable wines and discover the history of the Argentine and Chilean vintages.

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One of the most impressive areas to experience during the tour is Argentina’s beautiful Mendoza province! Mendoza, at the highest altitudes of the country, is well-known internationally for its Malbec, closely followed by Cabernet Sauvignon, Tempranillo, and Chardonnay. The province, which has provided nearly two-thirds of the wine production for the entire country since the 16th century, is a memorable adventure worth every moment on this tour.

The first few days of the Argentina Wine Route tour will begin in Buenos Aires, the capital and largest city of Argentina. You will experience an immersion into Argentinian culture, promoted wines from all the regions of the nation and a city tour of Buenos Aires’ historical districts with architectural beauty and some leisure activities to suit any taste. Your next step is a flight across the country to the stunning Mendoza region, which is surrounded by hectares of lush vineyards. The rustic life in a vineyard with fine wines will be the best part of the introduction to Mendoza winery culture. Another incredible connection to Argentinian culture will be discovered on the “Roads of Wine” tour, where the production of superior wines is offered with visitation to various wine cellars and a sampling of the finest wines. Finally, the tour winds down with a visit to the vineyards of Chile including even more history of the picturesque South American viticulture before your tour is complete.

Chilean viticulture began centuries ago and has become a leading region worth experiencing through our “Wines of Chile package.”

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Chile owns the entire western coastal line of South America and includes the beauty of the Pacific Ocean to the west and the stunning, scenic experience of the Andes to the east. All that outside beauty does not take away from the interior valleys of Chile and all that it offers with its delicious aromas of the vineyards adding to the already breathtaking experiences of your tour.

The 16th century held the inception of Chilean viticulture when the Spanish Conquistadors entered South America carrying the Vitis Vinifera. Like Argentina, Chile has flourished and grown throughout the centuries, landing as a leader in the international wine market. The fruits and herbs throughout the Chilean landscapes have produced aromatic and full-flavored wines. The fertile terrain of these valleys inspired a French influence with Bordeaux vineyards in the region. The most popular wines for you to experience in Chile include Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, Syrah and more.

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The Wines of Chile tour will begin in Santiago, the Chilean capital and another one of the largest cities in The Americas. With a gorgeous view of the Andes Mountains from nearly any point in the city, you will experience Santiago’s scenic, historical, and impressive attractions. Your visit will also include a downtown walking tour, views of the city from the Andes, and an experience of the more modern parts of the city. Of course, wineries are not forgotten! The following days in Chile, you will be introduced to the vineyards, cellars, and wineries of Colchagua Valley.

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You will also get to sample the complex and savory wines among lush greenery of the vineyards. The guides will introduce you to the Laostolle Winery, Santa Cruz Winery, and the Viu Manent Winery, just to name a few. Your Colchagua visit will include a cable car ride that is overlooking the vineyards and valleys below while heading up to the Chamán Hill for the indigenous villages and the Colchagua Museum. On the way back to Santiago, you will have the honor of traveling through the gorgeous Maipo Valley; this is the most essential valley for wine production, Maipo Valley is home to a Bordeaux that is worth every moment of the experience. We know you will build memories in Chile you will never forget.

We are confident that your luxurious exposure to the vineyards, mountains, and landscapes of South America will create a lasting memory of the history and taste of wines worth every penny. See you soon!

Condor Tours and Travel is a 2018 Pinnacle Award Winner!

Pinnacle photoWe are so honored that the Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce has acknowledged our passion, hard work, and tailored customer care with the Pinnacle Award! You may find yourself asking, “What is a Pinnacle Award?” Well, here is the inside scoop.pinnacle

The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce is a business advocacy organization in our community that focuses on business, civic, and political priorities. One of the best ways they support local businesses is by hosting the prestigious Pinnacle Small Business Awards during the Gwinnett Chamber Small Business Summit each year. The Gwinnett Chamber of Commerce pays tribute to the leading small businesses in our community. There is also a handful of categories that define the nominations and recognition of their awards. This year there were over 1200 applicants 99 finalist in 11 categories. Condor Tours & Travel was a finalist in the 0-5 Employees category against 13 other businesses and was chosen as the top company in this category.

Our agency, Condor Tours & Travel, Inc, began in 1991 selling customized Travel packages in Latin America only. Due to our success we expanded to selling travel worldwide and teaming up with suppliers to offer clients the travel experiences they seek. We now provide ongoing international vacations with customized or set tours and work alongside our clients in every step in designing their perfect getaway. In addition, we remain connected with our clients throughout their entire trip to make sure we can meet or even exceed their expectations. Due to our expertise in Latin America we now also have a wholesale division to help other travel agencies sell custom itineraries to destinations in Central and South America. We also have expanded our services to offer travel protection coverage and airline ticketing along with travel packages so clients have a one stop shop. The staff at Condor also prides itself in its community service from mentoring high school students, supporting local charities like the Giving Girls and national initiatives like the Alzheimer’s Walk to find a cure. The majority owner, Lori Snow, also works tirelessly to raise awareness for drug and alcohol prevention locally and helps with many underserved charities in Latin America with children wanting to improve their chances of success in life.
As a local, woman-owned, small business, we were nominated finalists in 2016 and 2017 before the final voting polls in 2018 where we won the award. This year we were voted in and have been presented the Pinnacle Award for Small Business 0-5 Employees winner! This Pinnacle achievement acknowledges our passionate work, commitment to our staff, clients, and our whole community as we provide excellent business services to our customers. We are so grateful for this honor to be an appreciated part of our business community.

So, are you looking for a perfect dream getaway? We are thrilled to provide you with our award-winning services on your next trip with Condor Tours & Travel!

Patagonia: Fire and Ice at the Bottom of the World

When you think of towering mountain peaks, glaciers, and icy fjords, places that come to mind include the coasts of Norway and British Columbia, or perhaps the Alps in central Europe. However, there is another part of the world that has all these features and more: Chilean Patagonia at the bottom of South America. South America usually brings to mind steamy jungles and the Amazon basin but the southern part of Chile has a much more alpine climate reminiscent of parts of Europe and northwestern North America. In addition to mountains, there are also cosmopolitan cities, spectacular ocean views and the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on earth! The high deserts of this region host some of the world’s largest astronomical observatories that are located here to take advantage of the clear dry air and excellent viewing conditions.

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A trip to Patagonia is certain to build enough memories to last a lifetime. Your trip to this region will start with your arrival in the Chilean capital of Santiago. Santiago is a sprawling city but with a compact city center and is easily walkable. There are many historic churches and other historic buildings located here, along with trendy restaurants and nightclubs. The experts at Condor Tours & Travel are happy to work with you to plan your stay in Santiago and find just the right neighborhood for you. The city features a variety of tours and entertainment including an innovative dinner show that features Chilean cuisine combined with a journey through Chile’s rich cultural heritage. Chilean cooking includes many seafood dishes and a great selection of Chilean wines. Because of the difference in seasons in the Southern Hemisphere, many of the fresh fruits and vegetables we get here in the United States during our winter months are imported from Chile.

Once you leave Santiago behind, you may want to visit the national park of Torres Del Paine, famed for its spectacular scenery and outdoor sporting opportunities. Kayaking, mountain biking, and horseback riding are all available here. There are numerous mountains, rivers, pampas (high grassy plains), and glaciers just waiting to be explored! The best time of year to visit is in December and January during the Chilean summer, but be advised the park is likely to be crowded and nights will still be cool so you will want to make sure you dress appropriately. The more adventurous among you might want to visit Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. Los Glaciares has more than 350 glaciers whose meltwater tumbles into the icy blue lakes below. Thrill-seekers may want to climb Fitz Roy massif or scale the borders of the Perito Moreno glacier.

North of Santiago lies the famed Atacama Desert, a place so dry that there are regions where it does not rain for years at a time. If you are a person, who enjoys quiet and solitude, the Atacama may be right for you. The desert stretches for hundreds of miles along the southern coast of Chile. Feel free to explore the salt flats, arid valleys, and eroded lava flows of this harsh but beautiful land!

No visit to Patagonia would be complete without a stop in the Chilean Lake District. The Lake District is one of the most bio-diverse and culturally interesting regions of Chile. The area is rich in fish and bird life and ranges from azure lakes to temperate rain forests and active volcanoes. The indigenous Mapuche people still live here in their traditional fishing villages alongside the descendants of German settlers who arrived in the 1850’s! The whole region is a uniquely beautiful, and at the same time, culturally enriching experience.

For those truly interested in something exotic, you might want to consider a trip to the area of Tierra del Fuego and the very southern tip of Argentina and the South American continent. In these remote lands, the climate becomes harsher and wilder and amenities fewer. Mossy forests, craggy mountain peaks and winding fjords dominate in these regions. A visit here is best done during the local summer season as winters are long, cold and dark, but you will be rewarded with spectacular views and a truly unique experience. Merely a few hundred miles away across the gray storm tossed southern seas lies the icy fringe of Antarctica. Only a few intrepid souls ever make it this far south!

If your interest is piqued, we encourage you to contact Condor Tours & Travel, Inc. today. Patagonia is a land of contrasts, adventure, and romance. So why not leave behind the mundane and boring everyday world for a while? Rejuvenate yourself with a trip to Chilean Patagonia. You can contact Lori at info@condortoursandtravel.com for more information or visit their web site at www.condortoursandtravel.com.