Set Sail for the Galapagos: Island Adventure

As your boat cuts through the choppy Pacific waters near the equator, you pass through occasional bouts of rain and drizzle before entering a low fog bank clinging to the water. It is summer in the northern hemisphere, and you expected it to be hot in these equatorial latitudes, but the air and the salt spray is surprisingly cool on your exposed skin. Ecuador Oct 2007 115Then, as you continue onward, the fog begins to lift, and before you is the shore of a rocky island, sloping upwards to higher peaks in the interior. You smile with wonder at the sight unveiled to your eyes. At last you have reached your destination! The unique ecological wonders of the Galapagos Archipelago are spread out before you, ready to be explored!

The Galapagos Islands are of volcanic origin and sprawl out comfortably on either side of the equator. Located about six hundred miles due west of the South American mainland, they are cooled by the chilly waters of the Humboldt Current coming up from Antarctica and range in elevation from sea level to a height of more than 5,600 feet. The islands are part of the Republic of Ecuador, and have been visited by European explorers since the mid-16th century. At one point in their history, the Galapagos were used as a base for pirates who would raid the rich Spanish treasure galleons bringing gold and silver from the mines of Peru.

Today, most of the islands and their surrounding waters form a nature reserve and national park as well as a UNESCO world heritage site. One of the most famous visitors to the Galapagos was Charles Darwin on board the HMS Beagle during the 1830’s. The information Darwin collected here and his examination and drawing of the various plant and animal species on the islands led to the publication of The Origin of Species in 1859 and Darwin’s groundbreaking theory of evolution. During their millions of years of isolation each island has developed its own unique flora and fauna; many species are found nowhere else in the world.

A visit to these unique islands may be the ultimate experience in eco-tourism. There are still many active volcanoes on the Galapagos, and they have erupted a total of 24 times between 1961 and 2011. In total, the chain consists of 18 main islands, 3 smaller islands, and over 100 protruding rocks and islets. The youngest islands in the chain, Isabela and Fernandina, are still growing in size as periodic lava flows from local eruptions add to their size. Each island in the Galapagos has its own character; some are dry and arid, others are mountainous and very wet. To truly appreciate the ecological diversity of the Archipelago, you will have to visit numerous islands.

The species that can be found here include the Galapagos land and marine iguanas, the Galapagos green turtle, sea cucumbers (a delicacy in Asian food), the flightless cormorant, Ecuador Oct 2007 083Ecuador Oct 2007 078Blue-footed booby, Great frigatebird, the Galapagos penguin (the only living tropical penguin species) and the Waved albatross. There are also four

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species of mockingbirds that are endemic to the islands and thirteen native species of tanagers, Ecuador Oct 2007 074known colloquially as “Darwin’s finches”. There is also a subspecies of sea lion found only on the islands and two unique species of cacti. penguinOf course the most famous and iconic animal on the island is the Galapagos Sea Tortoise, the largest living Tortoise and the creature that gave the islands their name. These giant reptiles can live to be up to 150 years old and are found nowhere else in the world outside of zoos.blue footed boobySea Lion

There are limited options for air travel to the Galapagos, and truly the best way to see the islands is by boat. Do not expect to be ferried out to the islands on a giant cruise ship; these will be smaller yachts that may hold up to a maximum of 100 passengers. The sleep-aboard vessels will allow you to explore more remote islands and spend a greater amount of time in the area. Remember, each island has its own unique ecology and animals! However, for those prone to sea sickness or wanting a quicker trip, there is the option of flying to the only airport on the Isle of Baltra and taking an excursion vessel from there to explore some of the nearby islands. Are you entranced by the prospect yet? Give us a call at Condor Tours and Travel at 800-783-8847 or email us at info@condortoursandravel.com today! We can start making your dreams a reality and help you plan your exotic vacation to experience the wonders of the Galapagos!

Stop one on our tour of Peru… Lima

Peru has become a ‘go-to’ travel destination for those interested in exploring the archeology of the Incan Civilization, the beauty of colonial churches or the one-of-a-kind natural wonders of the Andes. Peru has two official languages, Spanish and Quechua, the ancient language of the Incas. Although Spanish is dominant in Lima, Quechua is dominant in the Andes.

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To introduce these wonders of Peru, Condor Tours and Travel took a group of travel agents from Atlanta, Virginia and New York on a tour of some of the best of what Peru has to offer. We were hosted by Condor’s local partner, Condor Travel, which provided transportation and expert guides.

Most travelers enter Peru through Lima, a sprawling metropolis of 11 million that hugs the Pacific Ocean. Non-stop flights are available from Atlanta, Washington D.C., and Houston, as well as other US cities.

Our tour began at the Westin Convention Center located in the heart of the business district. IMG_4452 (4)The Westin offers a wonderful base for touring Lima, with luxurious rooms, an outstanding breakfast buffet and amenities expected from a top-tier hotel. There are other areas within Lima also with great hotels including the Miraflores area – home to the luxury hotel Belmond Miraflores and other properties from budget to luxury. The weather in Lima is virtually the same year around and they get little to no rain, so when traveling to Peru, the weather in Lima will not affect any of your plans. Other regions are affected by seasonal weather changes, so keep that in mind when planning your trip to maximize your time in Peru. If you are a foodie, Lima offers wonderful culinary experiences for you to explore.

Although modern, Lima’s winding streets offer hints of old world charm,
and parks that roll down to the Pacific. IMG_4468 (3)IMG_4465 (4)

 

 

 

 

 

 

On our first day of touring, we headed south of the city to visit Pachamamac, a pre-Incan site begun around 200 A.D. that eventually became an important Incan gathering place. IMG_4518 (4)

An archeological wonder, the site was first excavated in the 1890s by German archeologist Max Uhle. It covers an expansive area in the shadow of the Sun Temple.IMG_4525 (4)
Tours begin in the museum at the entrance to the site.IMG_4486 (2) It provides an overview of the history of the temple and the expanding Incan civilization, explained in detail by Condor tour guide Cecil.

 

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The museum also houses artifacts from the site, ranging from delicate artwork, IMG_4508 (2)

to more utilitarian pottery. IMG_4515 (3)

Tour buses are able to roam throughout the site, stopping periodically to view the incredible architecture.IMG_4529 (4)

As noted on the tour, archeologists are still working the site uncovering and discovering more information to help understand the purpose of these ruins.

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One of the most complete structures is the ‘Chosen Women’ site.

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This structure housed those women who served the temple as ‘hand maidens,’ some of whom were consorts of priests and military leaders.

Lima is a wonderful blend of antiquity and modernism. One must-see area is the central square adjacent to the presidential palace and the Cathedral.IMG_4564 (4)

 

 

 

Extending from the square are pedestrian walkways filled with shops and restaurants.IMG_4586 (4)
While the buildings surrounding the square are magnificent, a true gem sits several blocks away–the Convento Santo Domingo de Lima.
Built in the 1580s, the church and convent were home to one of the three Catholic religious orders that vied for control of conversion in South America–the Dominicans, the Franciscans and the Jesuits. In many places, churches built by the three orders stand facing each other across squares.IMG_4593 (4)
The convent is built around a beautiful courtyard, lined with mosaics and statuary.
The serenity of the courtyard is a respite from the bustle of modern Lima.

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For a break, visit the Larcomar shopping center in the Miraflores district. IMG_4548 (4)This multi-level shopping mall hangs above the Pacific, offering stupendous views and wonderful restaurants.IMG_4553 (4)

 

 

 

 

To quench your thirst, you might want to try a pisco sour. Pisco is the national drink of Peru. IMG_4443 (3)It is a brandy distilled during the winemaking process, produced either from a single grape variety or a combination of grapes. The clear liquid is most often served in sours and chilchano (ginger ale, lemon juice and bitters), but can be drunk straight as an aperitif. Its taste is somewhere between tequila and gin. At 80 proof, it is powerful and can be especially overpowering when served at high altitudes!

The highlight of an evening in Lima is Circuito Magico del Agua (The Magic Water Circuit), a park with 13 spectacular fountains that come alive at night, capped off by a wonderfullight and sound show. IMG_5940 (7)IMG_5970 (3)This amazing park was transformed by the Lima municipal government in 2007, and is a must-see attraction. It is the Guinness Book record-holder as the largest fountain complex in the world. Be sure to attend after dark in order to appreciate the beauty of the lights and lasers.

It requires several days to experience all that Lima has to offer, and it is a great first stop in a tour of Peru. Even travelers going into the mountains should spend a few days at the coast. From the wonderful dining to all the history this large city has to offer, you will be glad you spent time here.

Consider adding a cooking class to learn how to make their amazing ceviche.

Aside from the traffic, Lima is culturally a wonderful experience. By the way, English is spoken by many, so language barriers can easily be overcome. Lima is the starting off point to experience the remainder of this amazing country. You can do a day or overnight trip to see the Nazca Lines while based in Lima, or of course, head to the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu, Arequipa, Trulillo, or Lake Titicaca, as well as beach areas and Amazon experiences. For the more adventurous travelers – the Inka Trail and a trip to Rainbow Mountain would be worth it. The bio-diversity of Peru is limitless.

If you would like more information about the tours we offer to Peru, visit http://www.condortoursandtravel.com/ or email info@condortoursandtravel.com

Costa Rica: The Pearl of Central America

Nestled comfortably in Central America between Nicaragua and Panama, the nation of Costa Rica is a popular tourist destination with over 2.9 million tourists visiting annually, mostly from the United States and Canada. Costa Rica is known for its stable, democratic form of government, equable climate, and highly educated population. The country also boasts a highly diversified economy which includes finance, corporate services, pharmaceuticals, and ecotourism. Many foreign companies have set up shop in Costa Rica to benefit from free trade zones that offer tax and investment credits. Because of its low cost of living and mild climate, Costa Rica also boasts a sizeable American expatriate community and English is widely spoken across the nation.

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in 1522, Costa Rica was sparsely inhabited by indigenous tribes. Named “the rich coast” because the Spanish hoped to find gold there, it was remote from the main Spanish colonial centers in Mexico and the Andes. Due to this isolation, Costa Rica developed a self-reliant culture based on small-scale agriculture and handicrafts. In 1821 Costa Rica declared independence from Spain as part of the United Provinces of Central America. Following the dissolution of this union, it became a sovereign state in 1847. Costa Rica is well known for being one of the most stable, progressive and prosperous nations in Latin America. Following a brief military uprising in 1949, the Costa Rican army was abolished permanently. As a result, Costa Rica is one of the few nations in the world without a standing military force.

Costa Rica has very advanced environmental and conservation policies and was one of the first countries in the world to offer “ecotourism” vacations. The rugged mountainous terrain offers a variety of micro-climates ranging from humid and tropical near the coast to cool and chilly in the interior highlands. Costa Ricans generally divide the year into two seasons, a dry “summer” season that lasts from December to April and a wet “winter” season that goes from May to November. During the rainy season, it rains almost continuously in some regions, so you may want to plan your trip accordingly. The cool interior highlands also boast some of the best coffee growing regions in the world and Costa Rica is known for its mild and flavorful brews!

Costa Rica has the highest density of plant and animal species of any nation in the world, and almost 25% of the nation’s territory is protected as part of National Parks or Nature Preserves. capuchin monkeyBecause of its sound environmental protection policies, the Ethical Traveler group listed Costa Rica as one of its Ten Best Ethical Destinations in 2017. Many tourists are drawn to the country’s natural beauty and a rich array of wildlife. The Poas Volcano National Park is one of the country’s top tourist destinations; the 16,000-acre park includes the volcanic summit at an altitude of more than 8,900 feet. Poas VolcanoThe main crater is quite active with frequent small geysers and lava eruptions. The nearby Botos crater is known for its emerald green cold-water lake; this particular caldera has not erupted in over 7,500 years. The Poas Park also includes a variety of resplendent tropical bird species such as quetzals, hummingbirds, tanagers, flycatchers, and toucans, a veritable bird-watching paradise! However, frequent sulfur emissions and small eruptions have led to the park being closed for prolonged periods so make sure you check the current status before planning your trip.

A 2009 estimate shows that 47% of visitors to Costa Rica take part in ecotourism activities such as bird watching, kayaking, trekking, and visits to rural communities. The Bandera Azul program (Ecological Blue Flag) was implemented in 1996 and is intended to promote development while curbing some of the negative impacts of mass tourism. MacawThe program measures environmental quality of the beaches in terms of cleanliness of the water, waste management, environmental education and other factors. In 2009 just two beaches won the maximum of five stars under the program, Playa Blanca in Punta Leona and Playa Langosta in Santa Cruz. Costa Rica is, of course, known for its beaches of which there are dozens on both the Caribbean and Pacific sides of the country. No visit would be complete without taking in the surf, sun, and sand at one of these beautiful locales!

Another beautiful locale to consider during your trip to Costa Rica is Cocos Island, located some 342 miles off the Pacific coast of the mainland. The island covers a little more than 9 square miles and is basically rectangular in shape. The waters around Cocos Island are greatly enjoyed by scuba divers for their populations of hammerhead sharks, rays, dolphins and other larger marine animals. Cocos Island is covered with dense tropical rainforests and gets more than 270 inches of rain a year. The higher elevations are home to cloud forests which are unique in the eastern Pacific. Due to its isolation, the island has a high number of unique and unusual plant and animal species. Well worth the trip to explore this beautiful island!

Costa Rica also offers many cosmopolitan towns and small cities, the capital; San Jose is the largest of these with a population of about 350,000. San Jose is one of the safest cities in Latin America and boasts a number of theaters, museums, parks, and other urban amenities. There are also many restaurants serving traditional Costa Rican cuisine which usually consists of fried rice and black beans served with tortillas and a thin sour cream, often accompanied by a cabbage and tomato salad. Generally, Costa Rican food is not spicy, and there are many affordable eateries through-out the capital. Are you excited yet? If so contact Condor Tours and Travel and let us help you plan your Costa Rican vacation! Our trained experts have all the latest knowledge and information to help make your trip to Costa Rica one you will never forget! Email us at info@condortoursandtravel.com or visit our web page www.condortoursandtravel.com

The High Desert of Chile

The Atacama region of Chile is a place of stark beauty.

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The resorts in this area of South America are undiscovered gems for travelers from the United States. The climate of this part of the world limits the number of resorts as well as the population as a whole. Despite this, the resorts we have found in this region are some of the best Lori has visited in all of her travels.

The Atacama region of Chile is recognized as the most arid place on earth. The region averages .6 inches of rain a year although some locations, notably Arica and Iquique, average one to three inches per year. Many weather stations go three to four years between rain fall and some stations have never received rain. The desert is on a plateau with high mountains to the east and west preventing most moisture from reaching the area. The average elevation is 9000 feet, give or take. This is lower than Cuzco, Peru (the gateway city to Machu Pichu) and of La Paz (the capital of Bolivia), but higher than Denver (5300 feet). You may feel the effects of the altitude when you first arrive in the area. It is always a good idea to limit your alcohol consumption when you first arrive in a high altitude environment.

What to do? This is after all a desert and very remote. Lori took a mountain biking trip from her hotel through a landscape that she described as breathtaking, almost like being on the moon.

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The trek went through a valley with sheer rock walls on either side and then up a mountain for amazing views. The salt flats in the region are home to flamingos and merit a visit. Lori also visited some prehistoric rock carvings (petroglyphs).

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For those with an interest in native cultures or our history, this is a must see. This part of the world, with its high altitude, no humidity, and almost no light pollution, has the well-deserved reputation for being one of the best places on earth to view the night sky. Lori said there are so many stars they looked like a cloud. Even if you’re not a star gazer with an interest in astronomy, you will enjoy seeing the sky in a way that is impossible in the United Sates or in any city environment in the world. The view will take your breath away.

Flights from Santiago, Chile are regular and flown in modern jet passenger aircraft. The flight is about two hours. You will be met by an English speaking guide and driven to your resort. The drives to most of the resorts take about an hour and a half. The resorts Lori visited were outside of the town of San Pedro de Atacama. This is a small town of 4000 people, mostly dedicated to tourism, and very friendly with lots of English spoken.

The Tierra Atacama is a beautiful boutique desert resort. There are three room categories, the Oriente, the Poniente and the Family suite. The Poniente is larger then the Oriente, however both offer outdoor as well as indoor showers and private terraces. The Oriente room does not have a bath tub. Both have one king bed or two twins. The family room is a two story suite with a master bedroom upstairs and two bedrooms down. Each bedroom has its own bathroom. These suites also have private terraces overlooking the hotel gardens.

The Alta Atacama Desert lodge and Spa is another resort in the area we recommend.

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This boutique hotel also has three room categories. Ten Quitor rooms are closest to the common areas of the resort. These 550 square foot rooms have private terraces overlooking the resort’s gardens. There are 27 Standard Catarpe rooms, which have more private terraces and are also 550 square feet. These terraces have uninterrupted views of the Cordillera de la Sal mountain range and the Catarpe valley. Finally, ten Suite Tilo rooms offer even more privacy on their terraces. These 770 square foot rooms have views of the resort’s lagoon and the Catarpe valley.

Both resorts have great pools, and with this climate you will definitely want to spend time in them. The spa services offered were exceptional. Despite the fact that they are in the driest of all deserts, water from glacial snow is what makes San Pedro de Atacama an Oasis, and it makes the Spa a strongly revitalizing experience. Water, expert hands and aromatic scents are the tools for invigorating your body and spirit after a day of exploring the desert. Spa options include Finnish Sauna, Turkish bath, Scottish showers, and indoor and outdoor hot tubs, among others.

The night sky of the Atacama desert region is enough to add this part of the world to the must-see list of the discriminating traveler, plus, there is a lot for the adventure seeker to do as well. See you in the desert!

Hot Travel Destinations for 2018: Peru and Machu Picchu

Home to some of the most ancient civilizations on earth, as well as some of its most diverse ecosystems, Peru is a prime destination for tourists from around the world. Peru’s multi-ethnic population includes Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. As a result of this cultural mixing, there is a diverse array of architecture, cuisine, literature, art, and music. Located in western South America, Peru’s terrain ranges from coastal valleys to deserts, mountains, and humid jungles. If you enjoy a good plate of mashed potatoes, you can thank the ancient Peruvians, since the potato is indigenous to Peru.

The crown jewel of Peru is, of course, the world famous citadel of Machu Picchu, followed closely by the famed Nazca Lines, ancient glyphs carved into the floor of the Nazca desert. However, there is so much more to see and do in Peru; an adventure awaits around every corner! Perhaps you are interested in an eco-tour of the threatened Amazon rainforest? The highly skilled staff at Condor Tours & Travel can help plan your eco-vacation. The Amazon is one of the most bio-diverse regions on the planet and it is full of a wealth of rare plants and animals found nowhere else, many of which have been discovered to have medically valuable properties. Once done with your trip to the Amazon, you might want to explore Paracas and the Ballestas Islands along with the Nazca Lines mentioned above. The Ballestas are a group of small rocky islands near the town of Paracas off the south coast of Peru. These islands are an important marine sanctuary for animals such as the guano bird, blue-footed booby, and the Humboldt Penguin. Fur seals and sea lions are also commonly spotted here and often like to approach tourist boats and make a spectacle of themselves.

Another hotspot for biodiversity is in the Arequipa region of southern Peru. The city of Arequipa is a cosmopolitan center and the second largest city in Peru. The terrain of the region is very diverse, ranging from small plateaus and desert dunes along the coast to mid and high level plateaus cut with deep canyons, and finally, snowcapped peaks in the interior. Beautiful beaches can be found in the coastal provinces of Caraveli, Camana, and Islay. The famed Colca Canyon in Caylloma is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States. Colca Canyon is home to many rare bird and plant species such as the giant hummingbird. It is also known for its ancient rock art and natural hot springs as well as its indigenous arts and crafts.

At an altitude of more than 12,000 feet above sea level lies Lake Titicaca, located on the border between Bolivia and Peru. Lake Titicaca is home to more than 500 aquatic species and is rich in marine and bird life. In the surrounding areas one can also find enigmatic ruins left behind by the ancient peoples who have inhabited the area for millennia. One of the more famous elements of Lake Titicaca are the “Floating Islands” of the Uros people. These man-made islands are creating by cutting and stacking the totora reed which grows abundantly in the shallows of Lake Titicaca. According to legend, the Uros originally migrated in Pre-Columbian times to this region and were oppressed and denied land to live on by their neighbors. In response, they created these floating, reed islands to move out into the deeper waters of the lake and escape their hostile neighbors on land.

Machu Picchu: Timeless City of the Inca

Located in the lower reaches of the Andes Mountains in Peru, the fabled lost city of Machu Picchu represents the most iconic surviving remnant of the ancient Inca Empire. Machu Picchu is believed to have been constructed as a royal estate for the Inca Emperor Pachacuti (1438-1472). The population of the citadel never numbered much more than 750 and these were primarily servants and attendants who were there to cater to the needs of the Emperor. It is thought that most of the inhabitants perished in a small pox epidemic around the time of the Spanish Conquest and that the site was abandoned shortly thereafter. Although known locally for centuries, Machu Picchu was never discovered by the Spanish conquistadores and therefore remained largely untouched and un-plundered, a spectacular example of the genius and ingenuity of the Inca. The site was first made known to the wider world by the American explorer and historian, Hiram Bingham, as a result of a 1911 expedition to the region.

Sitting atop a mountain ridge, Machu Picchu is divided into an upper and lower town. Most of the chief archeological treasures are in the upper town such as the Temple of the Sun and the Room of the Three Windows. These buildings are dedicated to the Inca sun goddess Inti. The lower town consists mainly of warehouses and storage facilities. The major buildings of the citadel are built in a classic Inca style known as ashlar. Ashlar construction involves the cutting and moving of huge blocks of stone and placing them together without the aid of mortar. This technique is so challenging, that over the years there has been much wild speculation about the involvement of aliens, giants, or paranormal entities in the construction process!

Are you a person who thirsts for adventure? Do you enjoy the thrill of seeing ancient ruins and exploring fabulous lost cities? If so, a visit to Machu Picchu might be just the thing for you! Machu Picchu is the most famous tourist destination in Peru and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It was also voted one of the Seven New Wonders of the World in an online poll. The period from April – October is the best time of year for visiting Machu Picchu, and also the time when it is most likely to appear as it does in the travel brochures. Make sure you bring a variety of clothing as temperatures can vary from the 70’s in the afternoon to near freezing in the early morning. Finally and most importantly, let the experts at Condor Tours & Travel plan your exotic Peruvian vacation. We have the knowledge and ability to make sure you have a great time! Machu Picchu is obviously Peru’s crown jewel.

Your Peruvian adventure awaits! Come see the experts at Condor Tours & Travel so that we can help you plan the vacation of a lifetime!

Why use an agent?

International travel is a great way to experience new foods, cultures, sights and smells from around the world. However, international travel is also a complex and expensive undertaking. The best way to plan your overseas trip is to use the services of trained travel agents such as our agents at Condor Tours & Travel, Inc. We can help make sure your journey is as smooth and trouble free as possible so that you can get on with enjoying the vacation experience of a lifetime!Panoramic view of Machu Picchu surrounded in matinal fog Cusco1 Here are some other good reasons for using a travel agent on your international trip:

• The amount of information on the Internet can make it hard to decipher and confusing to the customer. We have the experience and expertise to help you navigate all that information quickly and efficiently. At Condor Tours & Travel we only use proven and trustworthy services to make sure you are getting the latest and most accurate information. Most sites use various tricks and gimmicks to rank high in online search results, but they can’t necessarily be trusted to provide the best resources.

• Online reviews are another source that many people use to help plan their vacation. But how accurate are these reviews, really? There are many “haters” on the Internet who will leave deliberately inflammatory or hostile reviews for their own personal gratification. Using a travel agent who is familiar with the destination can help clarify issues or address concerns based on personal knowledge. Relying on online reviews of questionable veracity could lead to more problems on your trip.

• Identity theft is always a concern. When you make your travel and lodging arrangements online, you do not know how secure the sites are. Will your identity be protected when you make your bookings? If you use one of our agents, you have an added layer of protection for your identity information. We make every effort to protect your information.

• We know that the vendors, suppliers, and properties that we work with are reliable. We work with them on a regular basis, so they’ve been vetted. We don’t send our clients to people/places that we do not know. When we use a vendor, a supplier, or a property, we have confidence that our clients will get great service.Cotopaxi volcano

• Often, if you make the arrangements for your trip online, you are limited to a certain number of travelers. We make sure all of those traveling with you are included. Also, many property bookings do not include day tours or airport transfers. It is our job to make sure your needs are met. You may not know what to ask for or what you need. Our agents know how to help you and know what questions to ask.

Visa and passport requirements can be confusing. We are familiar with those requirements and can help you navigate the paperwork required for you to travel internationally. The last thing you need is to have a delay because of a misunderstanding about Visa or passport requirements. We can help you move smoothly through the process.

• Safety is always a concern when traveling, especially overseas. We know where to go and where not to go, so that we can help assure your safety while you travel. We strongly encourage travel protection coverage.

• Finally, as you make your preparations and arrangements, you have someone with whom you can communicate. Your agent is there for you to ask questions and to guide you through the entire process of your international trip.

Another great thing about using Condor Tours & Travel is there is no cost to you for our services! Our commissions are paid by the supplier or hotel, not by the customer. We have the same booking engine for properties that all hotels use including Expedia, Hotels.com, and Trivago. We have access to the exact same inventory of rooms they do. So, using our services makes the planning of your international trip easier, safer, and more convenient. You always have an agent available who will answer your questions. We hope that you will consider Condor Tours & Travel when you plan your next trip, whether domestic or international.

Best Lodges in Central America… This month – the Pacuare Lodge Costa Rica

We travel all over the world in our business and get to experience many of the best lodges, resorts and hotels in their respective countries. The Pacuare Lodge in Costa Rica is always high on our list when people ask us for our favorite resorts.

All of the suites at the Paquare Lodge have indoor bathrooms with a tub and shower and some also offer outdoor showers. The suites begin with the premium Jaguar Villa. This 350 square meter villa is perched on a bank of the Pacuare River with a privileged view of that pristine waterway and the surrounding tropical foliage. The Jaguar Villa is their most luxurious suite. elements-travel-pacuare-lodge01Next is the Canopy suite. A private suspension bridge leads from the deck of the suite to a platform high in a massive rainforest tree that affords an amazing view of the Pacuare River and surrounding jungle. This suite is perfect for someone looking for some extra privacy, a couple celebrating a honeymoon or an anniversary, as it has added privacy. The Linda Vista suites are larger than the Canopy suite but a bit smaller than the Jaguar suite. These suites are 230 square meters and offer beautiful sitting areas as well as a deck with a hammock and an outdoor plunge pool fed by mountain spring water (this is very refreshing after a day of hiking or canyoneering) . River View deluxe and River suites are smaller versions of the larger suites and offer the same level of luxury seen in the larger suites. All of the suites have king beds and large bathrooms as well as hammocks on their terraces.  elements-travel-pacuare-lodge07None of the suites have electricity, but are lit by candle light. When you go to the dining facility for dinner, the staff will light candles in your room. This resort prides itself on the ecological friendliness of its operation. The staff is always conscious of the fragile nature of the rain forest and everything the resort needs is brought in by raft.

Meals are served in a common dining facility, which, along with the check in area, has electricity and WIFI. The dining hall has a bar upstairs with places for visitors to gather and share their adventures. The food is world class; dinner is prepared by locals and usually contains locally available ingredients. Main courses can include a rib eye steak with jumbo shrimp or chicken curry with jasmine rice. Also common is sea bass paired with jumbo shrimp. They also offer romantic dinners right by the river for those wanting to celebrate a special event or just be alone to dine. Another option is to dine on one of the Canopy platforms. The food was always well prepared and delicious.

The Paquare Lodge’s commitment to sustainable eco-tourism is primary. elements-travel-pacuare-lodge03The lodge offers many hiking excursions in the rain forest. These can include a visit to a remote jungle waterfall, or a visit to a typical Cabécar Rancho (thatched house) built by members of a nearby clan, where the son of a local shaman provides visitors with an introduction to his people’s culture and customs. Bird lovers can get an early start to their day with a 6:00 AM bird watching hike around the grounds of the lodge. This hike ends just in time to have a delicious hot breakfast before you enjoy the rest of your day. The Paquare Lodge also offers a canopy zip line tour high in the jungle canopy that ends at a platform only steps from the dining hall. You only have a short controlled rappel to terra firma. Our most memorable experience at the Lodge was the canyoneering. This involved a short hike and some instruction in waterfall rappelling, and then we rappelled down a waterfall in steps. The first descent was only 10 feet or so, but each step was longer, and as we gained confidence, the descents got longer and longer. The final descent is a thrilling 90 feet. Paquare Lodge recommends a level of fitness comfortable with moderately strenuous activity for hiking and white water rafting, and of course, for the zip line and canyoneering. The property also has a minimum age of 12. It is a non-smoking lodge.

Your choices for leaving the lodge are the same as arriving, white water rafting or four wheel drive vehicle. The raft trip out is four hours long and includes lunch. The river out has more class 3 and some class 4 rapids and is a great ride. You will be tired when you get to your next destination in Costa Rica!

 

Adventuring in a Panamanian Paradise

From Uncruise Adventures

Erika Hernandez Calvo, Expedition Guide, Safari Voyager

It’s another amazing day in this Panamanian paradise!

We woke up early to enjoy a delicious breakfast, gathering all the energy for what was to come later in the day. After getting ready, we boarded a skiff while Seamus, our deckhand extraordinaire, gave us a fun fact of the day. He always has something interesting and funny to share.

We set out from the Safari Voyager in search of a new adventure and landed on a black sand beach that was covered with thousands of red ghost crabs, which seemed to be running a massive marathon in front of us.

In the distance, on top of a Cuipo tree, a common black hawk was looking at us, or perhaps looking for prey.

“This is going to be a good day,” I thought to myself.

Punta Patiño is an example of a successful repurposing of the land. A former cattle ranch, it was purchased by the National Association for the Conservation of Nature (ANCON), a non-profit organization that aims to preserve the forest that connects with the Darien National Park and La Chunga Forest Reserve through a biological corridor known as, “El Bagre.”

Our walk along the Labonga trail was a challenging one that required the presence of a local park ranger or “guardabosques” named Plinio. An indigenous Embera, Plinio has worked in the reserve for 14 years. On this day, he escorted us through the jungle with his big machete.

Plinio does not speak English, but he has lots of invaluable information that he is eager to share. So today, I became a student and a translator and I’m grateful for the opportunity to be there and learn something new.

It was a hot, humid morning, and we are soaking wet. But it didn’t matter because we are all in awe of this incredibly beautiful and dynamic rainforest.

After our walk, we enjoyed delicious coconut water from fresh coconuts that Plinio opened for us using his machete. It was the perfect thirst quencher after our hike.

In the afternoon, we set out to kayak in the mangrove system of the small Rio Patiño. How amazing!

Calm waters, birds, the peace of nature surrounding us, and the feeling of being the very first explorers traversing through the canals…even though the canals have been explored before, it feels like no human has ever gone there but us.

All of us came back to the Safari Voyager with a huge smile on our faces and lots of stories to share from the days excursions.

Condor Tours & Travel, Inc. Receives 2017 Best of Lawrenceville Award

Lawrenceville Award Program Honors the Achievement

LAWRENCEVILLE August 2, 2017 — Condor Tours & Travel, Inc. has been selected for the 2017 Best of Lawrenceville Award in the Travel Agencies category by the Lawrenceville Award Program. They are located at 1760 Spectrum Dr Suite 106 off of highway 120. Condor has been in business for over 26 years with a team of travel designers that will insure a travel experience unmatched by any online company. They give you that personalized experience you want when investing in travel.

Each year, the Lawrenceville Award Program identifies companies that we believe have achieved exceptional marketing success in their local community and business category. These are local companies that enhance the positive image of small business through service to their customers and our community. These exceptional companies help make the Lawrenceville area a great place to live, work and play.

Various sources of information were gathered and analyzed to choose the winners in each category. The 2017 Lawrenceville Award Program focuses on quality, not quantity. Winners are determined based on the information gathered both internally by the Lawrenceville Award Program and data provided by third parties.

About Lawrenceville Award Program

The Lawrenceville Award Program is an annual awards program honoring the achievements and accomplishments of local businesses throughout the Lawrenceville area. Recognition is given to those companies that have shown the ability to use their best practices and implemented programs to generate competitive advantages and long-term value.

The Lawrenceville Award Program was established to recognize the best of local businesses in our community. Our organization works exclusively with local business owners, trade groups, professional associations and other business advertising and marketing groups. Our mission is to recognize the small business community’s contributions to the U.S. economy.

SOURCE: Lawrenceville Award Program

CONTACT:
Lawrenceville Award Program
Email: PublicRelations@thebestawards.org
URL: http://www.thebestawards.org

Embera Experience

Embera TribeFrom Uncruise Adventures

Archibaldo Kirchman, Expedition Guide, Safari Voyager

Today we had the opportunity to visit an Embera village, one of just seven indigenous groups that live in Panama today.

Local Darien drivers met us at the Safari Voyager in their dugout canoes and took us into to the mouth of the Mogue River, where we were able to experience the beauty of the mangrove forest and all the birds that live there.

White Ibis, Pelicans, Cormorants, Little Blue Herons, Mangrove Hawks and more can be seen in this wild forest.

After moving up the narrow river for about 30 minutes, the forest suddenly opened up wide around us. At first, we could hear music and then as we turned a corner, people appeared. Upwards of 30 Embera villagers were on the river shore waiting to greet us, playing their music with drums, maracas and homemade flutes.

The children took many of us by the hand and walked us into their village, excited to see the faces of the newcomers. Embera children

Formalities began with the presentation of the high personalities of the village. Later they gave an explanation of their culture, rituals and some of the dances that they perform which help with the healing process according to their doctor, or how they call him in their native language of Cholo, “Jaibana.”

The village was filled with children that were so curious about these new people that had arrived. It was special to watch them study our clothes, cameras and everything about us. They simply had seen people that looked like us before.

Dance time came and we were all invited to participate. They showed us their moves and we showed them ours. It was a joyful experience.
One of the most interesting parts of this experience was the exhibit of the Embera’s handcrafts. How they made these beautifully colorful works of art using just the materials available to them in the village. Embera women dancers

Baskets, plates, masks, wood carvings called, “cocobolo” were all on display. All were made by hand and all were absolutely beautiful.
When it was time to say goodbye, everyone walked us back to the river shore and waved as we hopped into the canoes and departed down the river. I wondered when it would be possible to go back and have this marvelous moment again.

Whenever that time comes, it won’t be a moment too soon.