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.