Choquequirao — The Other Machu Picchu

Choquequirao (pronounced: Cho-Kay-Kee-Rao), also known as “Machu Picchu’s little sister” is a lesser-known Inca archaeological site located just 64 km (40 miles) from Machu Picchu and is perfect for nature lovers and trekkers looking to explore alternative routes in and around the Cusco region, Peru.

Choquequirao

Choquequirao

The archaeological site is reached after two days of challenging hiking in uneven terrain including a descent to the Apurimac River and a whopping 1500 meters of level change. Fun fact: The Incan site is said to be up to three times the size of its famous “older sister” and is still under cleaning process, having been largely covered by vegetation for centuries.

If this sounds up your alley, check our 7-Day Choquequirao to Machu Picchu Trek! This program has you trekking past the Apurimac river canyon, into the amazing ruins of Choquequirao, through the Cordillera Vilcabamba to finally reach Machu Picchu from its south side. This unique program is perfect for those who want to combine archaeology and mountains. Some of the trail follows the very footsteps of Hiram Bingham!

Choquequirao

Trek to Choquequirao

Way off the beaten track, Choquequirao (the “Cradle of Gold”) is an amazingly preserved Inca outpost. Only accessible by a tough trek, it is comparable in size to Machu Picchu and dramatically located on a promontory nearly 1,700m above the roaring Apurimac River. Our seven-day mule supported hike to Choquequirao and beyond takes in high passes, perfectly preserved Inca Trails and awesome Andean peaks, and ends with a spectacular and rarely seen view of Machu Picchu, complete with a fully guided tour of these incredible ruins.

This is a long, spectacular and strenuous hike crossing the entire Vilcabamba mountain range from the Apurimac to the Urubamba watershed. It is approximately 75km long with almost 5,000m of both ascent and descent, passes up to 4,100m and river crossings as low as 1,450m.

Choquequirao

Trek to Choquequirao

This is your chance to be among one of the few adventurers to visit this incredible site and complete this rewarding trek to Machu Picchu.

A 10-day package is available, including 3 nights in Cusco, Cusco city walking tour and transfers.

Please contact us for set departures dates for the 7-day trek.

  • $2320 USD per person

*Prices are for set departures; contact us for private treks, to start on any date.

Your friendly Peru expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Peru, South America, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

NEW TRIP! 8-Day Dolomites Hiking Traverse

8-Day Dolomites Hiking TraverseWe are excited to introduce Dolomites treks to our list of amazing adventures! Starting with the 8-Day Dolomites Hiking Traverse.

  • Starting at $1595/person!

8-Day Dolomites Hiking TraverseThe best time for trekking in the Dolomites is June through September. It can be accessed from Venice or other European cities to make for an amazing European vacation.

As with all of our trips, we can customize this trek, and we offer many of the treks through the Dolomites.

ITINERARY

8-Day Dolomites Hiking TraverseDay 1 : Arrive in Selva di Val Gardena
Day 2 : Hike around Sasso Lungo
Day 3 : Hike from Selva to Corvara in Alta Badia
Day 4 : Hiking in Santa Croce Sanctuary
Day 5 : Hike from Capanna Alpina to Natural Park of Fanes-Sennes-Braies
Day 6 : Hike from Natural Park of Fanes-Sennes-Braies to Cortina
Day 7 : Hike to the Tre Cime di Lavaredo
Day 8 : Departure

8-Day Dolomites Hiking Traverse >>

Posted in Alps, Dolomites, Europe, Trekking | Leave a comment

Rock Climbing, Hiking, Relaxation, & Cultural Experiences in Brazil’s Coffee Lands

Originally from Seattle, WA, USA, I moved to Brazil one year and a half ago. I was excited for the move but also anxious about being able to continue rock climbing in Sao Paulo. Before departing Seattle, I tried to look up climbing areas in Brazil (apart from Rio de Janeiro) and was stumped pretty quickly as I did not speak Portuguese (yet) and there seemed to be quite limited online information on crags in Brazil. However, I quickly became integrated in the climbing community in Sao Paulo and most weekends now leave the city to climb in various areas outside of the urban jungle (there are multiple world-class indoor climbing facilities in Sao Paulo as well).

Andradas

Pantano Rock in Andradas, Minas Gerais

Andradas

Hiking in Andradas, Minas Gerais

In this blog entry, I want to highlight my favorite climbing place that not only has great multipitch climbs, but also offers superb cultural experiences in the heartland of Brazil: Minas Gerais State. The town of Andradas, in the state of Minas Gerais, and Refugio Andradas in particular, have become a staple climbing and weekend get-away retreat for me. The town of Andradas is easy to get to from Sao Paulo- roughly 3 hours by car or bus through the countryside. Once in the town, there are numerous quaint restaurants, cafes and an amazing microbrewery: General Beer (a must stop for any beer-lovers!).

Andradas

Refugio Andradas

Andradas

Climbing in Andradas

Once out at Refugio Andradas, the owner, Senhor Paulo and his wife, are always so inviting and instantly show all the visitors why Mineiro (from the state of Minas Gerais) hospitality is so famous around Brazil. Farmers in the area make, grow and sell, honey, cheese and coffee, which guests at the Refugio can buy and even learn how to make and participate in the processes.

Andradas

Sunset from the base of Pantano Rock in Andradas, Minas Gerais

Andradas

Rainbows over the coffee lands in Andradas, Minas Gerais

The Refugio is equipped with two male and female bunk rooms, two private rooms as well as an area for camping. The kitchen has anything and everything guests might need and all faucets on the property run with fresh drinkable spring water (no need to filter!). There are two bathrooms each with hot running water. The property around the main house is gorgeous! You can see the valley stretching out for miles and many of the best multi-pitch climbing areas can be seen jutting out of the coffee plantations in all directions. A pool (filled with spring water from the property) and an enclosed artificial climbing practice area mark one corner of the property’s edge, while on the other, guests will be able to find an ample BBQ and bonfire area. Hammocks are strung up in the shade around the grounds for guests who wish to take a load off and relax.

Andradas

Belay station on pitch 5 on Elephant Rock in Andradas, Minas Gerais

Andradas

Looking out at the sunset from a small church on a hillside in Andradas, Minas Gerais

The main three climbing areas are: Pedra do Elefante (Elephant Rock), Pantano and Lobos (though there are dozens of other places in the area as well). Pedra do Elefante has the longest multi-pitch sport and mixed routes that range in grade from ~5.6-5.10d. The northface of Pantano has the most difficult routes ~5.10a-5.12d (also sport and mixed multipitch routes). All the rock in this area is granite and holds are primarily crimps. The refugio has several topo books for guests to use as well as multiple topos posted on the outside walls of the main house. Apart from climbing, there are also numerous trekking trails to enjoy and view sites that guests can visit (I highly recommend the church on the hill at sunset!).

Andradas

Teaching trad climbing techniques in Andradas, Minas Gerais

Minas Gerais

Gretchen grinding coffee at Refugio Andradas in Minas Gerais

I cannot recommend Refugio Andradas enough for the ultimate climbing and cultural experience while in Brazil!

Andradas

Sunset from Refugio Andradas

Looking to plan an authentic, off the beaten path, and culturally rich experience in Brazil? Contact us!

Looking to plan a climbing trip to Brazil? Feel free to contact us about Andradas or other areas.

Your friendly Brazil expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Brazil, South America, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Camino de Santiago — 2019 Group Departure Dates

Announcing our 2019 group departure dates for the Camino de Santiago!  This is a fantastic trip as the treks go from lodge to lodge, take about one week, and are a great combination of culture and activity.

We also offer self-guided treks that you can start on any day.  The Portuguese Coastal Route can also be done with luxury lodges.


8-Day Camino via the French Way

2019 Group Departure Dates:

  • March 26
  • April 13, 20
  • May 4, 11, 18, 25
  • June 1, 15, 29
  • July 18
  • August 31
  • September 7, 14, 21, 28
  • October 5, 12, 26

Prices:

  • Group Tours: $995/person
  • Self-Guided: $945/person

8-Day Camino via the Portuguese Way

2019 Group Departure Dates:

  • April 20
  • May 11, 25
  • June 22
  • August 31
  • September 7, 21
  • October 5

Women-Only Groups:

  • June 1
  • September 14

Prices:

  • Group Tours: $995/person
  • Self-Guided: $945/person
  • Luxury Tour: $1295/person
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Best Safari Destinations for a First-Time Visit to Africa

Elephant on 7-day group Tanzania safari

An African safari is often next on the minds of our returning travelers from Peru, Costa Rica, the Galapagos, and elsewhere. However, Africa is a huge continent, with almost limitless options for a wildlife enthusiast. Here is some advice to help you pick the right safari destination for a first-time trip to Africa.

Here is how to choose between:

  1. Tanzania
  2. Botswana
  3. Kenya
  4. South Africa
  5. Less Traveled Africa

Northern Tanzania

A safari in Northern Tanzania has outstanding scenery, classic African parks (the Serengeti, the Ngorongoro Crater, and more), thrilling wildlife, and unique ancestral cultures that still cling to their ways even to this day.

As if this wasn’t enough,  you will also find an exotic tropical island – Zanzibar – that is a short flight off the mainland as well as Kilimanjaro, the quintessential trekking destination in Africa.

Tanzania is relatively easy to reach with numerous flights at Kilimanjaro Airport and Dar es Salaam from Europe, Qatar, and other half-way points from North America. It has a stable government, friendly nationals, and outstanding services for travelers, including fabulous guides, world-class lodges and tented camps, and fine food and drink. Visas are available on arrival so the red-tape is minimal for entry.

Try these safaris:

Botswana

Botswana is different altogether. Here you find little unique culture or epic mountains, but what you do experience here is on a par with an Antarctica expedition — it is that special.

Here, travelers fly from luxury tented lodge to tented lodge on small light aircraft. The flying adds to the heady sensations of marvelous starry nights, close encounters with lions and elephants in open vehicles, and sweet relaxation during memorable siestas around the lodge pool mid-day or around the campfire at night with a glass of fine wine.

The luxury lodges here are small and intimate while the remoteness breeds a sense of seclusion and offer unparalleled private interactions with wildlife. Activities here are more varied than many other safari destinations, with mokoro rides, game walks, boat safaris, fishing, and night game drives all possible plus traditional game drives.

The top settings here to see wildlife are in the Okavango Delta, Moremi Game Reserve, the Savuti, and Chobe National Park, with some travelers making the trip to experience the true Kalahari as well. Trips almost always include 1-3 nights to majestic Victoria Falls, an original natural wonder of the world. For travelers with more time, a visit to cosmopolitan Cape Town is one you will not soon forget.

Try these safaris:

Kenya

One of the least expensive safari destinations is Kenya. Especially if a traveler is open to basic camping, Kenya provides excellent value. It is a lot like Tanzania only with more tourists yet also an expansive variety of parks to visit (such as the Maasai Mara, Amboseli, Samburu, Nakuru, and more).

If a traveler has a passion for rhinos, in particular, Kenya makes a great choice.  Game drives here are often in mini-vans with open hatches on top for viewing, and similar to Tanzania, most travelers get around by driving between safari parks.

Nairobi is the major gateway and features more daily flight arrivals and departures than Tanzania.

Try these safaris:

South Africa

An outstanding destination for a traveler who simply wants a taste of African wildlife coupled with a more varied urban and scenic experience is South Africa, often combined with 2-3 nights in Victoria Falls.

On a South Africa trip, travelers often do a 10+ day trip that combines

  • 4 days of excellent wildlife viewing in a leading private game reserve (such as Sabi Sands or Thornybush)
  • 3+ days in and around Cape Town – a leading city in the world –
  • 2 nights in Victoria Falls (in either Zimbabwe or Zambia, the experience will be similar)

The best private reserves in South Africa are renowned for making seeing the Big 5 routine (it’s remarkable).  So even with just 4 days on safari, travelers get an excellent introduction to Africa’s amazing wildlife.

Try these safaris:

Less Traveled Africa

Usually after a traveler visits one or two or three of the above, travelers expand to more “niche” locations like Uganda, Namibia, Zambia, Southern Tanzania, and the like. However, travelers make their own calls all the time. It’s countless how many people have visited Uganda first and not looked back, and we have travelers that do head to Southern Tanzania on first trips to Africa. There are no hard and fast rules.

Sometimes the destination is obvious in, like if you want to climb Kilimanjaro, then that makes choosing the destination very easy. Other ways to choose, though not always, are when you can go (best times can vary slightly), specific wildlife or experiences that might be critical for you, personally, to see and enjoy, and any personal special interests you might have.

A good second step after reading this is simply to contact us >> and tell us more about what you are looking for. We are objective specialists who will guide you in the right direction. No matter where you choose to travel Africa, we assure you it will rank among the best trips of your life!

Try these safaris:
Posted in Botswana, Kenya, Safari, South Africa, Tanzania | Leave a comment

Travel Insurance and High Altitudes

For those of our travelers who are planning adventures to high altitude destinations such as Kilimanjaro, The Inca Trail, Everest Base Camp, etc., making sure that your travel insurance will cover you while at or above 15,000 ft is important.

As the recent TravelMarket article, “Travel Insurance May Not Cover High-Altitude Treks to Kilimanjaro, Everest”, discusses, many travel insurance providers do not cover travelers participating in activities at high altitudes.

Here is a quick breakdown of what they cover when considering altitude and trekking:

  • RIPCORD: Our preferred travel insurance for altitude is Ripcord. Ripcord has an incredible reputation for being one of the premier mountain rescue insurance companies. They do not have any altitude restrictions and have done numerous rescues of their clients all over the world including tricky high camp rescues on Mt Everest, Kilimanjaro and Aconcagua.

  • TRAVEL GUARD: No altitude exclusions (mountaineering is EXCLUDED if ropes used) However, different states have different policies. For example: Travel Guard Plus for Colorado DOES include mountaineering. Double check for your specific state is considering Travel Guard.

Buy travel protection from Travel Insured International

  • TRAVEL INSURED INTERNATIONAL: No altitude exclusions. Mountaineering, using ropes, technical tools and equipment, however, is NOT included/covered.

Buy TravelSafe

  • TRAVEL SAFE: Different states have different policies. For example: Colorado has NO EXCLUSIONS for mountaineering or high altitude.

Image result for travelex insurance logo

  • TRAVELEX: No altitude restrictions. However, they have exclusions if using mountaineering equipment — ice axe, ropes, crampons, etc. That said, their travel select policy for around $20/person will remove the mountaineering exclusion.
Posted in Aconcagua, Argentina, Chile, Inca Trail, Kilimanjaro, Machu Picchu, Nepal, Peru, South America, Travel Advice, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gorilla Trekking in Uganda — 3 New Options!

5-Day Fly-in Uganda Bwindi Gorillas Trek

Last year, Rwanda increased its gorilla permit fees from $750 to $1500. Uganda has kept their gorilla permits at $600. A year later, Uganda is fast becoming the most popular destination to visit the mountain gorillas.

4-Day Gorilla Express out of KigaliRwanda used to be the most popular destination for gorillas because of the shorter travel time. However, since Rwanda has chosen to focus on the exclusive luxury market, travelers have started to look for other options, and Uganda is the perfect fit.

When crossing the border to Uganda for gorilla trekking you have 2 National Parks in the Kisoro region where you can trek the gorillas:

  1. Bwindi Impenetrable NP
  2. Mt Gahinga NP

These are 2 different experiences. Mt Gahinga is a volcano part of the famous chain of volcanoes called the Virunga while Bwindi is a tropical rain forest. Trekking in Mt Gahinga is like trekking the Rwanda gorillas since the Gahinga Volcano is shared between Uganda, Rwanda and Congo. Genetically both gorillas species are mountain gorillas but they have been separated long time ago by human agriculture. Scientists consider that the Bwindi gorilla to be a subspecies of the “Rwanda” gorillas. This are 2 different experiences with different environments.


Option #1 — Kigali to Bwindi

5-Day Fly-in Bwindi GorillasThe first option is to fly into Kigali, Rwanda, and drive to the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park area in Uganda. This is about a 4-hour drive one-way, adding about 1.5 hours from the gorilla area in Rwanda. This trip can be done in as little as 3 days, but often it typically becomes 4 days with the timing of international flights. Gorilla trekking in Rwanda can be added with extra days. Travelers will need 2 visas for Rwanda and 1 for Uganda.


Option #2 — Fly from Entebbe to Bwindi

5-Day Fly-in Bwindi GorillasThe second option is to fly into Entebbe, Uganda and fly to the Bwindi area. Flights are to either Kisoro or Kihihi depending on the availability of gorilla permits. There are many lodging options near Bwindi from budget to luxury. This trip can be done in 4-5 days.


Option #3 — 12-Day Grand Tour

12-Day Best of Uganda with Murchison Falls, Gorillas, and ChimpsThe third option is to make Uganda your main destination and add activities like the chimpanzees, safari game drives to see the Big 5, and Murchison Falls on the Nile River. This trip takes about 12 days total.

This ‘Uganda Grand Tour’ route allows you to visit Uganda’s Albertine Rift, and visit its most important protected areas including Murchsion Falls National Park, Kibale National Park, Queen Elizabeth National Park, and Bwindi Impenetrable Forest National Park. It includes plenty of wildlife, birds, chimpanzee, and gorilla viewing. Uganda is safe and friendly, so this is really an amazing trip!

Posted in Uganda / Rwanda | Leave a comment

Exciting New Flight Routes for Peru!

This month and next there are several exciting new flights that will be inaugurated within Peru and between Cusco and other major South American cities!

Iquitos

Houses along the waterfront of the Amazon River in Iquitos, Peru

Iquitos

Pink Dolphin in Amazon near Iquitos

On July 2nd LATAM initiated their newest domestic flight in Peru between Cusco and Iquitos. This is a great option for travelers looking to have an even deeper Amazon experience than what is offered in Puerto Maldonado. Iquitos is located on one of the main tributaries of the Amazon River and has unique wildlife, such as the pink dolphins for visitors to see. This flight will depart 3 times a week on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays at 8:17AM from July to November.

Santiago, Chile Cerro Santa Lucia

Machu Picchu

In addition, a new flight between the city of Santiago, Chile and Cusco will be inaugurated on August 15th. This is an incredible option for passengers wishing to add-on a visit to Machu Picchu after a jaunt in Torres del Paine or the Atacama Desert or visa versa.

Torres del Paine

Torres del Paine, Chile

Explora Atcama

Atacama Desert

Looking to book your next Peru adventure? Contact us!

Your friendly South America expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Chile, Peru | Leave a comment

Make a Difference Group Climbs Kilimanjaro to Help Local Tanzanian Children (August 2018)

Climb Kilimanjaro with Make A DifferenceClimbing the tallest mountain in Africa is not your average adventure. In fact, it can be life changing. In August 2018, Gina Galdabini of Chicago, IL, Paula Gambina of Redondo Beach, CA, and Joey Villarreal of Los Angeles, CA will be climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro (19,340 ft) on the 7-day Machame Route. They are raising money for Make A Difference (MAD) to make a difference in the lives of vulnerable youth.

You can donate online to help the children!

The first week of volunteering will be spent learning about the local Chagga culture and at the children’s school. The second week will be spent climbing Africa’s highest peak, followed by a safari to the famous Ngorongoro Crater. They plan to summit on August 9, 2018.

Mount Kilimanjaro, located three degrees south of the equator in northeastern Tanzania, is the tallest mountain in Africa, and the highest freestanding mountain in the world.

Also known as the Whiskey Route, the Machame Route is the second most popular route. It is a more difficult route but incredibly beautiful. Although the climb is not a technical climb, summit day is long, strenuous and at high elevation.

Hikers who choose to participate in MAD’s Charity Hikes have many advantages over those who travel without supporting a cause. “We are very fortunate to not only have a great partnership with Adventures Within Reach,” said Theresa Grant, Founder of MAD Inc. “We are also extremely honored to have a strong relationship with many of the local schools in Tanzania. The schools have been matching all of our donations, which in turn enables us to be more sustainable.”

Make A Difference provides quality educational opportunities for vulnerable children and youth in developing countries. It raises funds through charity hikes, sponsorship programs and matching funds.

See All Make a Difference Volunteer Trips >>

Posted in Kilimanjaro, Safari, Sustainable Tourism, Tanzania | Leave a comment

One Month In the Peruvian Amazon: One Woman’s Solo Dream Adventure Come True

A couple years ago, an adventurous solo female AWR traveler, Tracey, went to the Peruvian Amazon with AWR for a week and stayed in Iquitos at the Muyuna Lodge. This year, she came back to us asking to put together a special customized package for her; she wanted to return to the Peruvian Amazon for a month and do a homestay this time. Read on to hear about Tracey’s month-long homestay in the Amazon!

“Wow!  Peru was amazing!  My experience there and with AWR was a definite 10!

Tracey in the cloud forest

During my trip everyone met me at the airports and stayed with me until I got checked in etc.  I kicked them out of the airport a couple of times 😊 the service was great but not always necessary 😊

The hotels were nice in Lima and Arequipa.

THE JUNGLE/CLOUD FOREST:

Making friends with local families

Sooo, I flew to Jaen.  1 gate open air airport in the middle of nowhere.  No problem. 😊 I would stay in Chachapoyas for the week.  I had been doing so much traveling etc. I wanted to relax and I had plenty of time for the forest. 

Local Market in Chachapoyas

My first day there I found a language school a block away from the hotel, signed up for Spanish Class and found a tour company on the square to book some tours.  I fell in love with Chachapoyas!  It is a destination for Peruvians!  I met very few Americans, just the way I like it!  Their sights have just started opening up to tourism in the past 15 years.  My first tour, I met a Peruvian family with 3 boys, the oldest spoke English.  What a wonderful family!  I spent another day with them on another tour, so fun!  The hotel staff was wonderful to me as well as the tour people.  I had a lot of down time and I met amazing people! 

View from homestay house

Hosts at homestay

Tracey helping in the kitchen

The next Monday, Vicky another daughter of the family whose homestay I would be at, brought me to the bus station to go to Bagua Grande to meet Leyda.  We drove maybe 45min – 1 hour into the mountains.  Then hiked 1.5-2 hours into the forest in mud and pouring rain, arrived at her parents house after dark…. I loved it!  Soooo amazing!  They raised 6 girls in this house, they walked an hour each way to go to school.  5 years ago they put in some hydroelectric lights and solar for hot water for the shower.  I always had a flash light in my pocket 😊. The house is in the clouds, 6,000 ft.  Cloudy and rainy every day and soooooo amazing!  Saw the sun a few times for a little while.  It really is beautiful.  I was there for 8 days, a group of 5 came up to study birds for 5 days.  2 were from Florida doing their PHD and 1 guy from Colombia, 1 guy from Peru and Vicky the younger daughter of the family who owned the house.  They were in the field during the day, so it was very peaceful, I read 2 books.  I went into the pasture and tried to milk the cows, (not very successfully) I made cheese 1 day and Vicky and I taught each other English and Spanish!   There are beautiful water falls on their property.  It is just a magical place.

Waterfalls on the property

I really went without expectations…and I would go back in a heartbeat!  I guess it reminded me what is needed for happiness, obviously not much…In general Peruvians there don’t have much and don’t need much to be happy warm people.  I came home and cleaned my house out of stuff, because that is all it is “stuff”.  And right now, it is hard to hang onto the magic I felt there, now being in this society that puts so much importance on the wrong things.

Homestay in the clouds

I left the cloud forest and went back to Chachapoyas for the last couple of days before returning to Lima. 

Thank you so much for making this happen for me!  It was an experience of a lifetime!  I will always recommend AWR!”

For more information on this homestay, please contact us or visit their website HERE.

Want to plan your next dream adventure? Contact us to make it happen!

Your friendly Peru expert,

Gretchen

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