Amtrak Rail Experience – Great Way To Travel

Travel gets in your blood, and no matter what is going on in the world, those of us that love to explore the world will find ways to do it! I’m an avid international traveler, but COVID-19 has put a stop to that since March of 2020. As we start to come out of this pandemic, I feel the urge to explore again. This time, I am trying a different travel experience – traveling domestically within the United States. As of July 1, much of the world is still not open for tourism for health reasons, and of course, to protect all of us. There are many new protocols in place, like no housekeeping service while staying in a hotel, limiting capacity to allow for personal distancing, and wearing masks on flights, just to list a few. But there is one “Safe Escape” experience we can still have – rail vacations around the USA. Just like a road trip, but without the hassle of driving or locating open restaurants, sanitized restrooms, or aggravations on the road. On a train trip, you just sit back and watch the world go by.

My husband and I decided to try a rail trip from Atlanta. We hopped on Amtrak for a four day, three night trip to New Orleans on the Southern Crescent. We arrived at the station 30 minutes before the train departure and sat in a respectable lounge that had marked off Roomette - LRseats to allow for personal distancing. The staff met us at the entrance to the station and made sure we were on the approved list of travelers for the day. No need to go through those crazy airport security lines. Check-in was easy and informative. Once we headed to our train car, we were directed to our seats. This particular Amtrak package included an upgrade to a roomette. This way we could self-isolate in our small cabin, close the door, and only go out to stretch our legs. The roomette was equipped with a toilet, which was a nice surprise, as again, we didn’t need to share a community restroom. There are also standard train cars with seating and larger sleeper rooms. We chose the middle of the three options offered.Roomette Toilet LR

Once we were in our roomette, we organized our small suitcase and carry-on so they would not clutter our cabin. They also offer an option to check your bag, but ours was small enough to fit under the seat, so we kept it with us. They provided us with bottles of water, hand towels, hand soap, two pillows, a blanket, and toilet paper. As the train left the station, the cabin steward came and asked us if we had questions about what to expect on the train trip. He then took our breakfast order, and returned with it once we were on the rails, so we did not have to leave to go to a dining car.

There is a small drop-down table that we opened up, and while heading towards New Orleans, we played cribbage, did crossword puzzles, and played solitaire. The table has a built in checker board, but you have to bring your own checker or chess pieces if you want to play. Other great features include a private thermostat to cool your car, and there is a bunk-bed style system, so for overnight trips, you can sleep in the car. The seats also recline, so you can nap while riding. It is actually quite comfortable and much roomier than an airplane seat. There is WIFI that allowed us to watch movies or work if necessary. My husband usually does all the driving so he was able to just sit back and relax, which he enjoyed.

We were served lunch around 12:30 and had four choices. This is also currently served in your roomette, as they do not want anyone in the dining car. The meal is like a TV dinner that comes sealed in cellophane. I had the Beef tips with polenta, and Virgil had the shrimp and andouille sausage Jambalaya, both came with a side salad and a brownie. It was decent. With the roomette, you get one adult beverage included, so in the afternoon, I had a glass of Cabernet Red wine (Barefoot brand) and Virgil had Maker’s Mark bourbon. As it turns out, the menu is the same for dinner. I do suggest bringing some snacks, but no need to bring beverages, as they do provide those.

The return trip was in reverse and the cabin attendants were equally accommodating. Overall, the train is not up to the most modern standards – there are no USB ports, but it did have two outlets to charge electronics. The inside of the trains are clean and maintained, so although aged from time, the experience becomes part of the destination. When making a train trip, getting there is part of the adventure. If traveling with kids, bring something for them to do. Remember, there is great WIFI, so they can watch movies or surf the web.

Let me emphasis again the ease of travel – no airport security experiences, no need to arrive two to three hours early, no messing with bags at the gate or baggage claim, and food is included, plus one adult beverage if you so choose. One final note – both ways were close to on-time experiences. We have heard that this is not always the case, but our personal experience was otherwise. We are looking forward to our next rail adventure!

Condor Tours & Travel has just completed the necessary training to be able to offer you a rail experience just about anywhere in the USA, from weekend trips to overnight experiences including national parks. The packages that are combined with hotels and local tours will give you a complete travel experience. Contact us at 770-339-9961 or info@condortt.com, and let us help you plan your next adventure!

Return to Travel

 

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After what feels like forever spent sheltering in place, traveling somewhere for a change of scenery has become more appealing than ever for us that have wanderlust. We’ve had time to learn about new ways to travel and to visit, and to build bucket lists of dream destinations—near and far—to visit in our new normal. We get asked all the time when it will be safe to travel. It has always been safe to travel with the right planning and preparation. Now more than ever, there is much that can be done to insure a quality trip experience while reducing health risks that have affected our ability to seek out and explore the world.

Never having been fans of traveling in crowds, this naturally led us to wonder: will worries of overcrowding and adequate social distancing mean we’ll no longer be able to enjoy some of the most spectacular places on Earth? Will crossing items off our travel bucket lists have to wait?

The good news is, absolutely not!

We would like to share some advice from the experts on how to avoid the crowds when everyone starts to travel again. Follow these pro-tips to enjoy safe escape travel as our world reopens and air travel resumes.

Stay central
Mendoza Enemigo 7 vineyard LREliminate the time spent traveling while at your destination, and instead, wake up exactly where you want to be. Whether that means in the wilderness or in the center of a historic downtown, you’ll be staying among the sights and sounds you came for and will get to experience them without day visitors, from dramatic dawns to silent starry nights.

Lori, from Condor Tours & Travel, has been working with different Latin America destinations to create some amazing “safe-escape” style packages that fit this recommendation.

Go against the grain
Just because the majority of visitors explore a place in a certain way doesn’t mean it’s always the best way. We work to provide unique experiences at each destination you visit and make sure that we are attentive to your needs as well as those of the location. Using a destination expert allows you to know the “do’s and don’ts” of each experience you ask for and those you may not know to ask for. That is how we set ourselves apart.

Pick a private tour
Private tours allow for personal space and let you explore at your own pace.

“Signing up for a public tour of a historic landmark is better than not taking a tour at all, but wouldn’t you prefer to go at your own pace and spend time where your interest is?” asks Lori, who designs custom tours and has launched aIMG_6783 line of “safe escape” travel packages. “If you want an unhurried experience without having to contend with hordes of other visitors, my advice is to travel with a tour operator that offers private tours just for you. In Costa Rica, Condor works with Elements Travel, to arrange destination experiences. They know the destination and always choose a timing that fits well within the day’s schedule, and you can ask as many questions as you like.”

Pat, who designs custom trips at Condor Tours & Travel agrees, “Argentina and Chile have so many ways to experience wine, but a private wine tasting is by far the most i

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ntimate experience. There are no distractions. You can tailor it around

what you like—a walk through the vineyard, a long lunch; you could even do a local cheese or chocolate tasting and pairing. The best part is, with smaller groups, that usually means more wine!”

 

Have a local take the lead
Save the strains of self-guiding, and avoid tours that import tour leaders.

No-one knows the destination like the local guides who were born and raised at those destinations —the days and times to avoid, the trails less trodden, the best back-up plan for crowd control or closures. While everyone else is following the same itinerary their Google search results returned, with a local guide, you can venture deeper and differently. Pat says, “They’ll know the exact times when places are most spectacular and least crowded. And they’ll have awesome stories to share along the way. And you’re supporting the local economy, for which they thank you!”

Go beyond the 10-minute trails
Don’t stop at the nearest, shortest trail. You don’t know what you’re missing!

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“Venture further,” advises Lori. “Ask any guide, and I am sure that they will agree. I’d say 90% of visitors literally park their cars, take a 10-minute walk, snap some photos for Instagram and then leave. Often, they spend longer trying to find a parking space than they do exploring! It’s a shame. Instead, use local services and leave the headache of car rental and liability behind when in Latin America. Think of a destination like Peru. It has so much to offer and you don’t even have to be a super fit backpacker with the stamina for a 5-hour hike up a mountainside when you’re in the Sacred Valley. We can think of so many stunning trails and walks that are easy going, rarely crowded and show you landscapes like you’ve never seen before.”  Another great spot is exploring Patagonia is a great place to hike many different levels of trails.

Look for limits
Don’t be deterred by group restrictions, actively seek them.

Visits to famous sites like the Panama Canal, which can be viewed from visitor centers eiLock and gatether on the Atlantic or Pacific side, allows you to experience the newer and the original locks from open air spots. Or visits into the rainforest by boat in Gatun Lake to see wildlife, while massive ships cross your path. How about fabulously restored ruins that draw folks – best to use our services in small group or private settings, as we know the best times to visit to avoid large bus tours and groups.

Picnic instead of cafeteria
Don’t lose time in the lunch line. Make the dining as delicious as the destination. No rush. No reservation needed.

Exhilarating walks and sights really help work up an appetite, but bear in mind, this will also be the case for every other person visiting. Come lunchtime, people pour into the one or two nearest dining options in the area. Precious time that could be spent exploring is lost as you line up for a free table and wait for your food. Our way around this lets you enjoy good food, at your leisure, while enjoying the destination at the same time. We take you to homes in indigenous communities or bring along a picnic! You’ll have views restauranteurs can only dream of. Our destination guides know amazing spots where you can lunch with no one else as far as the eye can see. And they know incredible local restaurants and delis that don’t draw in the tours, or they will pack you a lunch of hand-crafted specialties, so you can skip that mass cafeteria food.

Hire a guide and driver
Don’t drive, and definitely skip the shuttle. Instead, let a local take the wheel while you sit back and soak up the scenery.

Driving on your own only takes you as far as the parking lot, which can be a nightmare to navigate. Then you have to choose between the packed trails leading from the parking lot or a free shuttle, with its long wait lines and herded-cattle feel, once everyone is piled on. In Ecuador, don’t settle for an over-Land Iguana on rocka-stranger’s-shoulder glimpse of the legendary equator crossing. Doesn’t it sound nicer to sit back with a guide and driver who knows exactly how you like the air conditioning and where to visit?! And, if you spot a view that you can’t miss, your driver will happily pull over so that you can enjoy it.

Lastly, enjoy the sunsets and sunrises
Everyone loves watching a beautiful sunrise or sunset. If you are an early bird, we will take you to the perfect spot to watch the sun rise. If you are a night owl, how about a gorgeous location to watch it set?

Work with a company that knows a destination or has the resources to provide that destination experience. Condor Tours & Travel has been specializing in travel to Central and South America since 1991. They can be reached at info@condortt.com , by phone at 770-339-9961, or check out their web site at www.condortoursandtravel.com.

Israel Pilgramage

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On our first full day in Israel, we took a cruise on the Sea of Galilee. I was awe-struck to realize that I was seeing the same landscape that Jesus had looked at. A tour of Israel is like that. You find yourself looking at something and being swept up in the significance of the view, or church, or artifact. Significance is the word that kept leaping into my mind when we visited sites.
Most locations in Israel are what I call “maybe sites”. That is, they are sites that may be the actual site of an event. We visited the Mount of the Beatitudes on our first day. The ruins of a 4th century Byzantine church are there as well as a modern Catholic Church. The 4th century, or the 300’s, are fairly recent to the life of Christ, however a lot can happen in 200+ years, so we don’t really know the actual locations of many sites. The church of the Holy Sepulcher on the supposed site of Calvary and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem are also two churches built two to three hundred years after Christ, so we don’t really know if they are on the actual sites. Nearly two thousand years of worshipers have come to these churches, however, and the power of this worship can not be overlooked. The fact that we don’t know the actual sites becomes irrelevant, as your visit there becomes another act of worship added to the millions that have occurred there over the centuries. I think that is how I ended up thinking of the word “significant” at most of these sites. I was following in the steps of millions of people over 2000 years.
Christ birth place - low resSome locations are not “maybe sites”. Certainty is hard to come by with 2000 year old events, however you will visit a few certain sites. There is a church built over the ruins of a church that was established within 30 years of the crucifixion. This church was built on the site of the house of the apostle Peter. We know with certainty that Jesus slept there. Close by is a synagogue where the Bible says Jesus taught. The tomb of David is in Jerusalem and has been in its current location since the oldest maps of Jerusalem in existence, so it is very likely that this is the actual tomb of David. Another “certain site” is the Western Wall. This is the only surviving portion of the Hebrew Temple known as the Second Temple, built by Herod the Great. This temple was destroyed by the Romans in 70AD at the end of the last Jewish revolt against Rome. The wall is the foundation wall of the second Temple and is a sacred site for the Jewish people. The location in the Jordan River where baptisms are performed is not the site of Jesus’ baptism. The reason baptisms are performed there is due to the nature of the river today. Nearly all the water in the Jordan River is used by Israel and Jordan for agriculture and consumption. By the time the river reaches the site of the actual baptism, the flow of the river is little more than a trickle and can be stepped across. Baptism in the Jordan is still a highlight of a trip to Israel for Christians.

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Not every site in Israel is significant to Christianity. The roman ruins in Caesarea are extensive. Caesarea was the Roman Administrative capital of the Province of Judea after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70AD. You can walk through Herod’s palace, through a Hippodrome, see a Roman Aqueduct and see the Roman sea wall. The ancient fortress of Megiddo is near Nazareth where Jesus grew to manhood. This is an ancient fortress built to control a very important trade route from the Mediterranean coast to the interior of Israel and Syria. This is also the traditional site of the battle of Armageddon.

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The Dead Sea is a lake with no outlet to the sea. This is the lowest elevation on earth, 1,140 feet below sea level. The water has ten times the salinity of ocean water. Everyone who visits here wants to float in the Dead Sea, because the water holds you up in an amazing way. I was nearly able to sit up in the water! On the road to the Dead Sea, you will drive past the fortress of Masada. This is the site of the death of the last Jewish rebels against Rome. The fortress is on top of a mountain. The defenders and their families were all killed in the siege by murder/suicide. The Romans said that when they entered the fortress all the defenders and families were dead. The Romans built extensive siege works that are still visible and the ruins of Masada are impressive.

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Go to Israel expecting to be awed. Go to Israel expecting to see significant sites. Go to Israel to immerse yourself in your Christian heritage. We can arrange travel for you as a full service travel supplier – Condor Tours & Travel. Reach out to us at info@condortoursandtravel.com or call us at 770-380-5834. We can match your travel interest to an ideal tour that fits your goals, whether it is to Israel or anywhere worldwide.

 

Condor Tours & Travel is relocating!

New office

We, at Condor Tours & Travel,  are excited to announce we have relocated our office space to 470 N Clayton St. Suite #207. We are still in Lawrenceville, GA but a new zip code 30046. The move is effective May 1, 2020. This amazing location was built in 1891 and has a historic feel with the original heart pine floors. The building is fully renovated to include all the modern features needed to run our travel company. We are just two blocks from the historic Lawrenceville courthouse  and square plus an added bonus next to two brewery’s and an event facility called Trackside and a soon to open distillary.  Early in January we evaluated our office layout and decided we no longer needed such a large office space so have downsized. Our team is set up to work from home due to our wonderful phone and computer systems. Plus all our files and info is Cloud based, so working remotely is a wonderful thing. Travel is our business so we can now work from anywhere in the world and do not need to be sitting at a desk at an office all the time.  We can do our part to reduce our carbon footprint  by not driving to and from work.  The new space will be available to meet with clients by appointment and I personally can now walk to work.

At Condor Tours & Travel, as we celebrate 30 years in business, we continue to offer travel worldwide. We have assembled  our travel specialist team and staff  team to cater to worldwide travel request.  We specialize in personalized and customized travel packages to help you achieve your travel interest and discover the world.  Whether you seek to just get away or have a more exotic travel interest, we can make it happen. In this era of online travel you lose the connection and knowledge that we can offer you.  Our sales team combines years of experience as well as destination experience in preparing travel packages.  We use our expertise and vast array of resources to create your travel packages. 

We offer all-inclusive vacation packages or can custom tailor a package for you or a group, and can provide you with tour packages, leisure or adventure travel, safaris, fishing, surfing, cruises – Ocean and River as well as all-inclusive resorts. We can accommodate any number of guests – from one to one hundred – for group tours and special interest travel or unique travel requests. You can spend time researching travel online but when you are ready to book, let us handle the leg work.  As a long time travel company we have connections and inside information that often allow us to improve on anything you secured doing it on your own online.  Also, when circumstances change, we handle all the leg work needed while you go about your daily life.  

Give us a call, and let one of our travel professionals help you plan the vacation of your dreams.

Meet our Team:

Lori Snow – CEO Lori head shot

Virgil Snow – CFO

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Pat Pritchard – Sr Sales Specialist

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Cindy Mahaffey – Sales Specialist

Cindy PR

Susan Nock – Sr Accounting Manager

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Visit our web site https://www.condortoursandtravel.com/about_us.php  to read the BIO for each of our team.  We can also be reached at 770-339-9961.  You are welcome to come to our new office space – just give us a call before you come.  470 N Clayton St. Lawrenceville, GA 30046

Traveling with a professional photographer to Panama

Lori head shotBeing a travel supplier at Condor Tours & Travel is a wonderful job as I get to explore the world and learn all about a destination so I can have a vast travel bank of knowledge and better serve my clients when they are selecting a destination. Most of the time my travel is with other agents acquiring the same working knowledge. This trip was different, I went to a destination, Panama, with a professional photographer. We experienced Panama in a completely different way.

This destination happens to be one I have vast knowledge of, as I grew up in Panama and got my start in tourism specifically selling Panama before we expanded worldwide as a full service travel company.  On this trip, my goal was to see a destination through a travelers eyes.  This particular travel is a professional photographer that has particular interest when she travels and that is to key in on the culture, history and wildlife.  We focused our time mostly around Panama City and surrounding areas and she found a treasure trove of photo spots.  Here is the link to her blog.

Lori with EmberaDuring our trip we visited a local Indigenous village and spent the day immersed in their culture, from cooking to crafting and learning about their way of life.   We even went for a hike and water fall swim.  Our ride to and from was in a dug out canoe called a Piragua.  The tribe we visited was called “Tusipono” tribe.  the photo opportunities were endless as they loved to having us there and posed endlessly.  Check out Mary’s blog

On another day we did a jungle boat trip into capuchin monkeyGatun Lake and had the opportunity to spot and photograph monkeys, sloths , birds and other wildlife.  I think Mary shot 1000 pictures.  This is also fun day to hike again to a water fall and swim, swim from the house boat located on one of Gatun Lake fingers and eat local cuisine.

We also visited the Panama Canal Locks at Miraflores where they have a wonderful historic museum detailing the original locks and the project and completion of the new locks that opened in 2016.  From the rooftop we got to watch several ships and small sailing vessels transit Southbound through the locks.   Although I have done it many times, this time I watched how she took advantage of lighting and shadows to get some amazing shots.

Our evenings were a mix of activities from night hikes and rides to a dinner show at Tinajas where we enjoyed typical dances and costumes all part of Panama culture.  If you have an interest in visiting this country – let me know. I can be reached at info@condortoursandtravel.com, 770-339-9961   or visit my web page.

 

Chile Solar Eclipse Tour

Eclipse

Words will often fail when trying to describe the totality of a solar eclipse. Over a century ago, author Mabel Loomis Todd was able to capture the experience in her book titled: “Total Eclipse of the sun, 1894”. Ms. Todd was a writer and editor from America who often traveled with her astronomer husband, David Peck, during the late 1800s.

Solar Eclipse totality lasts no longer than seven to seven and a half minutes. Solar eclipses with a seven-minute totality is a rare occurrence you should not expect to happen again until 2186. What is more common to view would be the two to three minutes of totality during a solar eclipse. Most writers will describe day turning into the night when in actuality, day turns into evening twilight. Gazers of the eclipse will need protective eyewear to view the event. Permanent eye blindness and damage may result when attempting to look directly at the solar eclipse, and we do not recommend it. Stars will appear as you feel a slight chill in the air during the event. The brightest planets, such as Jupiter and Venus, can be seen. People of science may state the facts that occur during a solar eclipse; however, it would surely take a real poet to deliver the proper impression.

If you are more than fascinated by the possibility of viewing a solar eclipse while on vacation in Chile, than consider booking our Chile eclipse tour from December 9-15, 2020.
Chile is a long, narrow country stretching along South America’s western edge, with more than 6,000km of Pacific Ocean coastline. Santiago, its capital, sits in a valley surrounded by the Andes and Chilean Coast Range mountains. The city’s palm-lined Plaza de Armas contains the neoclassical cathedral and the National History Museum. The massive Parque Metropolitano offers swimming pools, a botanical garden and zoo.

On day one, plan to arrive in the capital city of Santiago and explore the city with a tour. This entertaining half-day tour consists in visiting the main attractions of Santiago, the country’s most important cultural, cosmopolitan and artistic hub. We start out with a visit to the highpoints of the city’s civic center, such as Cerro San Cristobal (a centrally located historic urban park), the La Moneda Palace (presidential offices) and the traditional Plaza de Armas square, a meeting place for Santiago’s diverse and multicultural expressions. Buildings of historical value can be found in the neighborhood, such as the Metropolitan Cathedral, National Museum of History and Central Post Office. We later walk through the Parque Forestal, a park running parallel to the Mapocho river with a variety of tree species offering a refreshing break from the urban agitation of the city’s center, and continue on to Barrio Bellavista, Santiago’s bohemian neighborhood, with some of the best bars and restaurants in the city.

Day two visit to Viña del Mar & Valparaiso where you will enjoy a delightful visit to two cities located on the Pacific coast that is just one hour and half by car from Santiago. Our drive will take you through Casablanca; known for its fine vineyards where we can take a break for a wine-tasting experience (the latter is only available for private tours). Once we arrive to the coast, we’ll first visit Viña del Mar, also known as the “Garden City” because of its beautiful beaches, lovely parks and flower garden landscapes (such as the famous flower clock). It has become one of the central region’s most important tourism attractions. The peaceful seascape is an attractive complement for the city’s modern streets and infrastructure, turning it into an entertaining hub in constant movement. Our second destination is the picturesque city-port of Valparaiso, founded in the 16th century. You’ll marvel at the contrast between both cities, as the stylishness and beach culture of Viña is replaced here by a much more popular and artistic style. The port was declared by UNESCO a World Heritage Site in 2003 and offers a unique and fascinating architectural adventure. Built on several steep hills above the port, the homes and buildings on the hillsides can be reached by walking along its streets, climbing the long stairs or take the cable cars built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Colorful homes dot the hills forming an irresistible landscape for photo enthusiasts and lovers of traditional sites. Lunch included followed by Aromas Tour at Casas del Bosque Vineyards

Day three, you will take a flight from Santiago to Temuco (lakes region of Chile) where you will spend the next 4 nights exploring the lakes and culminating with the Eclipse on December 14. We have included a Temuco Tour which is the Capital of the Araucania Region, a tour to the Villa Rica Volcano and experience in Pucón and a wonderful experience at a Mapuche Community. In this community you will be received by the local guide of the Pewenche Community of Quinquen to learn about its agricultural way of life and their cosmovision. You will also get to experience a small course in weaving.

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On December 14 you will be taken to a special site to experience the eclipse with a lunch in the field. Our ground team and team of experts will be on hand to make sure your eclipse experience is a once in a lifetime – had to be there moment! After the eclipse, return to your hotel for your final night.

Day 7 of your trip is a travel day back to Santiago and onto the USA or you can opt for an extension to Argentina. You will do a lake crossing to Bariloche where you will explore Bariloche and a full day Tronador Tour. Then on December 19 fly to Buenos Aires where you will explore the city on a half day tour and a Tango by night. On our last full day in BA you will enjoy a Gaucho Party at Santa Susana Ranch. Your experience ends on December 21 with a Tigre and Delta Tour and transfer to airport for your international flight home.

The travel experts at Condor Tours & Travel stand ready to assist you. Visit our website at www.condortoursandtravel.com to learn more about us or contact us at info@condortoursandtravel.com or call us at 800-783-8847.

(pictures provided by Pace Setting Media/Adobe and personal library of Condor Tours & Travel, Inc. )

Adventure await roaming the TIkal National Park in Guatemala

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Walking the limestone path, recalling the morning meal of plantain, eggs, black beans, and fresh cheese, without hesitation, you look up to hear the sounds of what could only be a howler monkey. Though not spotted immediately, the loud and proud yelling and the trees rustling around you signal the monkeys are near. The smells of the rainforest and sounds of a wild kingdom invoke a breath-catching moment as you experience a sensory overload. Aware of the self-talk going on inside your brain, the stunning scenery is convincing your entire being you have never seen such a magical place. Quickening your steps, as you move through the trees, you experience an eye-widening parting of the majestic timber that reveals the hidden beauty before you.

Tikal National Park
Once inhabited from the 6th century B.C. to the 10th century A.D. and located in the Northern Guatemalan Peten Province, the Tikal National Park is accessible within the Maya forest. The forest and park contain the ruins of temples and palaces once considered the heart of Mayan civilization.

Whether you choose a tour guide or prefer to hike the National Park along the self-guided paths, spectacular views, wildlife running past with sounds of nature await. Tikal boasts over 300 species of birds, including toucans and parrots. Flocks of vibrant colored birds possessing aerial grace circle overhead. Expect to view the Coatimundis Raccoon with long swishy tails, for they are indigenous to this Guatemalan region.

The Plaza of the Seven Temples is a focal area to meet up with fellow travelers. Surrounded by lush green grass and trees during the dry season, it can be a pleasant area to stop for a quick snack of tamales brought along for the days’ adventure. The limestone ruins have an overlay of vegetation brought on by time and mother nature, and decay is evident. Steep stairs that had been carved into the stone for incline and decline throughout the park and can seem a bit scary; however, walkways built for tourists are in place for safety and accessibility.

You might find yourself reaching the top of the ruins looking over into the vast rain forest, imagining what it must have been like to have lived and thrived in a community of over 55,000 Mayans. Your experience on this adventure grows, learning that with no real source of running water, the Mayans became excellent managers of rainwater by using large systems of cisterns called chultuns to collect and store the runoff during the wet season.

The journey to Tikal National Park can take about ½ days ride by bus or car, from the Guatemalan city of Antigua. Known for the volcanic landscape and Mayan culture lies the colorful colonial town of Antigua. The Guatemalan city of Antigua is on the UNESCO World Heritage site list. This bustling metropolis is probably one of the safest places in Guatemala due to the treaty signed. Antigua pulses with activity and awe-inspiring architecture, absorbing the culture and impressive views. Local music of Merengue, Marimba, and Punta will surely have even the shyest tourist, along with the local town folk, dancing in the streets.

Shopping in Antigua can become a days’ adventure within itself. You’ll find many candy shops filled with specialty chocolates of confectionary perfection made from recipes handed down from generation to generation. Locally grown coffee is famous the world over and is a must-have beverage first thing in the morning to start your day off with gusto. Handwoven scarves, table cloths, jade jewelry, and pottery are likely available for sale in the local markets of Antigua.
Don’t waste another moment! Contact Condor Tours & Travel &https://www.condortoursandtravel.com/Guatemala.php Travel today and let us help you get started on your adventure in the country of Guatemala. Visit their web site at www.condortoursandtravel.com or email info@condortoursandtravel.com.

Experience Celestial Magic: Chilean Eclipse Tour

Eclipse

Those of us who have had the opportunity to experience an eclipse first hand will know what an awe-inspiring experience it is. As you gather with friends and family to watch this spectacular event you will at first notice nothing out of the ordinary but as things progress the light of the sun will begin to grow dim. If you have special protective eyewear you can look at the sun and see a slowly growing bite being taken out of it as the shadow of the moon crosses over the sun. (Please keep in mind that you should never look at the sun without protection as this can result in permanent eye damage and even blindness). Eventually the eclipse will reach the point of totality where the magnificent glow of the corona can be seen surrounding a disk of darkness. Once the eclipse is in this phase, the sky will grow dark, the stars will come out and animals may be confused thinking night has fallen. A total solar eclipse is one of the most amazing events you can experience. Now imagine coupling this occasion with a trip to South America to see the wonders and natural beauty of Chile!
Are you intrigued by the possibility of experiencing an eclipse while on vacation in Chile? If so, you should consider booking our Chilean Eclipse Tour that takes place from December 9-15 of 2020. The tour begins with your arrival in the capital city of Santiago where you can visit such historical sites as the Plaza de Armas Square, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the National Museum of History. On the second day of the tour you will enjoy a visit to the cities of Viña deal Mar and Valparaiso on the Pacific Coast. You’ll be able to see the contrast between these two cities as we go from the stylish beach culture of Vina to the artistic culture of Valparaiso, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Colorful homes dot the hills providing a beautiful backdrop for photos.
During day three of the tour, you will visit the city of Temuco. Temuco means “temu water” as the Temu tree is a medicinal plant that has been used for centuries by the indigenous people to make herbal infusions that treat a variety of ailments. Stops include the municipal market, which is known for a wide variety of local artisan ware and handicrafts. We will also visit Nielol hill an ancient site where ceramics and other objects associated with the Mapuche culture have been discovered. The hill is also the site of the “Patagua Peace Tree”, planted there in remembrance of a number of historical events in the region. Later, we will visit the Araucania Museum, which preserves the historical and cultural heritage of the region. At the museum you will be able to travel back and time and see events that have transpired from the days of hunter gatherer tribes up to the beginning of European colonization.

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Day four of your Chilean adventure includes a visit to the Villarrica and its nearby volcano. From there we travel on to the city of Pucon where you can walk along the beach and enjoy lunch before heading to the Villarrica National Park. The volcano is the centerpiece of the park and includes native forest, lava valleys, lakes and lagoons as well as a diversity of plant and animal life. There are numerous opportunities for hiking, wildlife viewing, or simply enjoy the icy beauty of these volcanic peaks.
Days five and six will culminate in the actual viewing of the eclipse. In the morning, we depart from Temuco towards Lake Galletue. We will be met by a local guide who is a member of the Pewenche community and will spend time getting to know the area, its local agriculture, way of life, and its people. Following lunch, we will be introduced to the Mapuche loom and have a small course in this type of weaving. Day six is the tour highlight as we travel to a special eclipse observation site and witness this spectacular event in the shadow of the Andes mountains. Once the eclipse has occurred you will have the option to head back to Santiago and fly home or you can extend your trip with an optional excursion to the scenic Alpine region of Patagonia, near the bottom of the world or do a lake crossing to Baricoche, Argentina and ending in Buenos Aires.
Do you like adventure? Do you enjoy natural beauty and scenic wonders? Are you someone who is awed by majesty of a solar eclipse and other astronomical phenomena? If your answer to these questions is an enthusiastic yes then we encourage you to book our Chilean Eclipse Tour as soon as possible, spaces are going fast. The travel experts at Condor Tours & Travel stand ready to assist you. Contact us at info@condortoursandtravel.com or call us at 800-783-8847.  You can also visit our website details on this package at https://www.condortoursandtravel.com/package_details.php?package_id=416 for more details.

Colombia, an Emerging Travel Destination

For years, Colombia was considered unsafe, and travelers were told to stay away.  But that is no longer the case.   Amazing transformation has occurred in this country.  I don’t want to get into how this was accomplished, as I will leave that to the historians, but what I do want to share is that you can now go to Colombia and experience all the different regions without any fear or concern.  The options in this country range from cultural experiences, to nature, to the well known coffee coming from the coffee region.  I recently visited three different regions of Colombia – Bogota, the Coffee Triangle, and Cartagena.  Let’s journey through Colombia.

Bogota, the capital city of Colombia, has experienced remarkable tourism growth from its popular attractions. You can’t beat the weather, as it is comfortable year round. Bogota Market 10Located centrally in the country of Colombia, it is the hub to all the spokes of the country. Due to the geography, it is best to travel via air service, which is quite good with the airline Avianca, along with other domestic carriers. You have plenty of airline options to go to Medellin, Cartagena, Cali and many other secondary cities throughout the country of Colombia, as well as neighboring countries. While in Bogota you can tour the city with a fabulous Gold Museum or the Botero Museum located in the Candelaria section of the city. I do suggest walking this area to really get to see and enjoy the local sites and experience all the unique urban art. Bogota has taken street art to a new level I have not seen in any other city – no matter what area of the city you are in, you will find both unplanned graffiti as well as organized urban art. Bogota Grafitti Indigenous Another highlight in Bogota and surrounding areas is Monserrate. I do recommend a visit to the top to get spectacular views of the city of Bogota and get a true feel for this magnificent city. This mountain top location is accessible by a tough hike, or a Funicular or sky tram. Just under one hour from Bogota is the Zipaquira Salt Cathedral which is visited by just about all that come to Bogota. The one kilometer trek into this salt mine has been transformed into a pilgrimage of the stations of the cross, ending at a beautiful cathedral. From a distance, the cross looks cylindrical but as you get closer you will see it is quite different. Zipaquirra 2This day trip to Zipaquira can be combined with a hike to the Gutavita lake if you have the ability to hike. I get asked about the altitude issues while in Bogota. It is over 9000 feet , so drink lots of water and avoid alcoholic beverages for the first 24 hours, and you should be fine, but always consult your doctor prior to travel if you are concerned.

If you are a coffee lover, you should include a trip to the “coffee triangle” region which is just a short 30 minute flight over the Andes from Bogota to Pereira . The altitude is lower than Bogota and perfect to grow coffee. There are many coffee plantations throughout the region, but there is also a little known experience here – the national park “los Nevados” outside of Salento. If you want to see the condor, this national park is about your best chance. You will also find the tallest type of palm tree in the world here, which is the national tree, the “Palma de Cera”. But the hike can be a bit tricky, so you can do it via horseback if hiking is not your cup of tea. No vehicles are allowed on the trail. After the hike, head to the town of Salento. Here you will see the famed “WILLIE” jeeps.IMG_9258 You can hire a driver to take you around the town or just take a picture. Visit this little coffee shop called “Café Jesus Martin” to experience one of the best coffee shops worldwide (or so they say). Whether you do or don’t love coffee, make sure to partake in a “cupping” and you will get such a clear picture of what coffee is all about. IMG_9251The unique flavors vary depending on the different soils and plant types, harvesting and roasting techniques which remind me of wine vineyards. You really learn to appreciate coffee when you watch the pickers standing on the side of hills picking the beans from the plants for 8-10 hours a day, then bringing them in to be weighed to earn their pay. This gave me a whole new appreciation for hard labor. There are really no big name hotels in this region, but why would you want to stay at one when you can stay at some of the different lodges located throughout this region. The folks here are so friendly and accommodating. Coffee tasting 2Even though this area butts up against the famed drug regions, those days are long gone and you will not have any feeling of the past.

I ended my Colombia adventure in Cartagena. I have been here three other times, two of them just for the day from a cruise ship, and one for a trade event. This time, I took the time to explore Cartagena and found the hidden gem of Getsemani. This was once known as the undesirable area of Cartagena but has been transformed into cutely painted small homes, great urban art and clever boutique eateries and shops. IMG_9319Do this as walking tour. One particular street was covered by colorful umbrellas, others with colorful flags draping across the tight cobbled streets. Take in a cooking class to learn how to make ceviche or empanadas or even a full on local cuisine dinner cooking experience. IMG_9342Also take the time to walk the walled city with a good guide as there is so much history about the old city and the buildings. This UNESCO site and the restoration take you on a historical journey of how they were able to preserve this area. If you love rum, take in a rum and chocolate tasting at the beautiful Sofitel hotel that was once a convent. The options for accommodations are endless in both the modern city and old city. If you like boutique hotels, then stay in the old walled city or some new boutique options in Getsemani. Since Cartagena is on the ocean, but the beaches are not so good, we recommend a day trip out to an island. Another great option for day trip is to visit one of the many Rosario Islands. Daily there are public boats that can take you to one of the many islands. If you want a more personal beach experience, then you can buy a day pass to Las Islas – a 5* day trip. But if budget is more of a concern, then do the public launches to the other Rosario islands.

These three destinations are just a sample of the experiences you can have in Colombia. I recommend at least one week, and if you can do 10 days you will be able to do and see so much more. As a travel supplier specializing in Latin America, I am happy to help you arrange a stress free trip to Colombia. Contact info@condortoursandtravel.com or call us at 770-339-9961. You can also visit our web site at www.condortoursandtravel.com.

Disability Accessible Travel

Travels are often challenging for the average person, and more so for someone with a disability. Whether visible or invisible, the physical limitations of a person’s ability to keep up with the typical day to day activities of a travel itinerary would sometimes make the trip less enjoyable. The mainstream travel and tour industry has disregarded the Disabled traveler in the past but have been making amazing strides to make travel more disability friendly in the USA. However, overseas is a totally different world for disability travel.
The American Disabilities Act was passed by Congress in 1990 and has dramatically impacted the support and equality needed for people with disabilities for travel and employment. Nearly a quarter of US citizens are disabled, according to a recent study. Additionally, that number escalates to almost half of residents over the age of 65, making the ADA essential in establishing safe and enjoyable travels.
Here at Condor Tours & Travel, we have recently met the requirements for being a licensed travel agent for the disabled. What does this mean? It means we have the skill and know-how to create trips that are accessible for all. We are certified “Accessible Travel Advocates”.

Before we plan your next big adventure, we suggest you take a moment to review these tips:
• Discuss Your Travel with Your Doctor. Schedule an appointment with your doctor to discuss your travel plans. Your doctor will help you prepare with additional medications, mobility recommendations, and recommend possible physicians in your travel areas if needed. Be prepared if they suggest avoiding travel at this time due to the level of challenges you may be facing.
• Discuss Your Disability Needs During Scheduling. Always plan your travel with the airlines, hotels, buses, travel guides, & other transportation or housing in advance with an open discussion about your disability needs. Some of the adjustments needed for a person with a disability can take a little extra time, so definitely include that in your planning. Make sure that your description of your needs is clear and well explained, as many people do not know all of the “lingoes.” Also, call 24 to 48 hours before the trip to verify the requested arrangements.
• Consider Coordinating with a Travel Agent. Receiving assistance from a focused travel agent can help you find the accommodations required for your disability needs and plan your best travel experience.
• Travel with Extra Medications and Tools. It is recommended you travel with double the necessary medications in case of an emergency so that your essentials meds are always on hand. Also, do not pack your medicine in the suitcases. Always keep them on hand in your carry-on bags. Tools and spare parts will help you keep going if your mobility equipment has a minor break-down during your vacation.
• Travel with Medical Alert & Doctor Contact Information. Traveling with easy to find medical alerts will assist any physician in treating you properly during an emergency. Also, bring your physician’s description of your disability and medical needs with you. Make sure it is on professional letterhead with their contact info to help you receive quick, proper care if needed.
• Know Your Disability Rights. By knowing what the rules are for TSA and how the process works to get through security for people with a disability allows you to have a smoother trip.
When you coordinate a stunning tour with Condor Tours & Travel, we will schedule your adventure with your needs and limitations in mind. Contact us today to set up your future vacation with a tour of your choice and explore the world! We can be reached via phone at 77-339-9961 or email at info@condortoursandtravel.com