Friendly Planet Blog

Posts Tagged ‘South America’

« Newer Posts

Get a jump on two new Galapagos Islands tours

Just last week I told you about two new Greek Island hopper tours, and this week I have more island hopping to tell you about. No, we’re not in Greece anymore. We’re hopping right out of the Aegean and diving into the Pacific, headed for the Galapagos Islands. The Islands remain protected, but offer scientists, nature lovers, and travelers alike the chance to experience life just as Charles Darwin did when he voyaged to the archipelago in 1831.

Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper and Explorer

Friendly Planet’s brand new, seven-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper and nine-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Explorer tours give you the chance to cross paths with giant Galapagos tortoises, stroll past colonies of penguins, and see the endemic flora and fauna that have drawn visitors here for hundreds of years.

We still offer cruises to the Galapagos Islands, but I wanted to give you another way to be transported back 200 years in time and experience one of the few places where ecosystems remain untouched. Island hopping gives you more flexibility and time on Santa Cruz, Floreana, and Isabela to experience these islands’ biodiversity, history, and natural beauty.

A Galapagos tortoise

We worked closely with Red Mangrove lodges to get you the most intimate, gorgeous, and eco-friendly spaces available. Its goal is to protect and preserve the Galapagos environment while seamlessly weaving its beautiful lodges into the scenery. I can tell you, there isn’t a more beautiful place to stay when island hopping 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador.

Both of the tours, Hopper and Explorer, begin in Quito, Ecuador, the city that’s surrounded by snow-capped volcanoes. On the Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Explorer, you spend two nights and a full day in Quito touring the city’s colonial architecture in Old Town, now a UNESCO World Heritage site, and more.

Then you fly to Baltra in the Galapagos Islands to begin your island adventure. On the Hopper tour, you spend a night in Quito before traveling to the Galapagos, and another night in Quito when you return, allowing time for you to visit Quito’s main sites before returning home.

After arriving in Baltra, it’s off to Santa Cruz. You’ll tour the Academy Bay at La Loberia and enjoy a thrilling snorkel with sea lions. If you prefer land-based exploration, you can hike to Los Gemelos (the twins), two enormous collapsed lava chambers, through the Scalesia Forest. It’s draped in liverwort and inhabited by large and small tree finches, the adorable Vermillion Flycatcher, and much more.

Next up is Floreana Island, where you’ll find plenty of rich red and turquoise colored marine iguanas sunning themselves on the black lava rocks. Floreana is one of the least populated of the Galapagos Islands, with fewer than 200 local inhabitants.

Travelers are fortunate to enjoy an opportunity to stay overnight there and experience a quiet and calm evening before hopping to Isabela where you’ll be greeted by sea turtles and penguins swimming in the stunningly clear turquoise water. Finally, head back to Santa Cruz to depart for Quito.

On the Hopper tour, this is when you’ll have your chance to tour Quito. For those on the Explorer tour, this is your second day in the city. On both tours, you can extend your stay in Cuenca, another UNESCO World Heritage site, also considered one of the most beautiful cities in Ecuador. It feels like spring every day of the year, and most travelers appreciate the opportunity to see more of Ecuador on this fascinating and well-priced extension package.

The very best part of these two wonderful packages is the included features we’ve packed into the low prices. Both tours include round-trip flights from Miami via LAN Ecuador with fuel surcharges; all ground transportation and transfers; superior accommodations; 14 meals; comprehensive sightseeing tours with a naturalist guide on the Galapagos Islands; a professional, English-speaking tour guide in Quito and Cuenca; Galapagos National Park fee ($100); Transit Control Card ($10); and more.

In just the short time that these tours were posted, many of our departure dates have already been filled, so I recommend booking without delay if you want to be included in these awesome, new tours. You can book the seven-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Hopper for $2,199 or the nine-day Darwin’s Galapagos Islands Explorer for $2,499 by July 30, or as long as space lasts.

If you have any questions, visit our website for more details and the full itinerary for both tours. And as always, feel free to write to me or call 1-800-555-5765 and speak to our reservations team.

All fun and no crowds: Skip Rio and head to Olinda, Brazil for Carnaval!

Everyone’s heard of Carnaval in Brazil, just like everyone has heard of Mardi Gras in Louisiana. When you think of Mardi Gras, you think New Orleans. And when you think Carnaval, you think Rio.

Now I’m about to change how you think.

Carnaval just doesn’t happen in Rio. It happens all over Brazil, and there are many ways to participate. Many people say that a lesser-known city, Olinda, has one of the most traditional Carnaval observances. In addition, Olinda’s Carnaval doesn’t have the overwhelming crowds, which gets you closer to this Brazilian experience.

These points were recently driven home to me by our webmaster, Cameron Clark and his equally talented photographer girlfriend, Amy Steinfeld, who went there this February. It was his first Carnaval. He flew into Saõ Paulo, and traveled to Olinda, Recife, Trancoso, and back to Saõ Paulo in 10 days. Four out of the 10 days were spent celebrating in the streets of Olinda. Cameron captured some amazing photos that I’m about to share with you here.

In his slideshow (below), he gives us some background on his trip, including a bit of the history of the frevo. The soundtrack to the slideshow is a recording of the frevo, which originated in Olinda. Grab a cold drink (trust me, you’ll want one) and start the show. You’ll be transported to the rosy pink colonial homes and sun-kissed beaches of Brazil.

CARNAVAL: Olinda, Brazil

We don’t have a tour to Olinda (at least not yet). But that’s no reason not to share this fabulous destination and Cameron’s experiences with you. After you’re done watching the slideshow, if you find yourself interested in a South American experience, we do have the Patagonian Explorer — one of my personal favorites — Incredible Argentina, Exotic Ecuador, and three other tours to choose from. Meanwhile, enjoy Carnaval!

Customer Testimonial: From Ecuador to China

I know I’ve done my job when I hear from customers who want to return for another tour. Or when travelers keep coming back to experience a new exotic destination. These next two testimonials are from opposite sides of the globe. They loved every part of their trip, and I hope they’ll become Friendly Planet Travel frequent flyers.

You know by now how much I love reading these. So don’t hesitate to let me know how your exotic tour went!

A Taste of China

This was our second tour with Friendly Planet the first being India 3 years ago. We just got back from China and wanted to tell you how amazing the trip was and what a great time we had. Our guide David was fantastic and all the accomodations were perfect. We are so glad that we went and we will do more tours with Friendly Planet in the future. 

-O.R. Nasseri, San Diego, Calif.

Exotic Ecuador

I just returned and wanted to let you know that this trip was absolutely wonderful. It was very well put together; had a great itinerary, involved no surprises; and was a great value. The hotels were outstanding and I truly enjoyed the variety of activities expecially in the Amazon Region. Based upon this great experience I will definately consider Friendly Planet again.

-Theodore Lattanzio, New York, N.Y. 

Customer testimonial: Feeling like honorary Ecuadorians

Hearing what a wonderful job our tour guides do always makes me proud. I love getting feedback about our trips, and I recently received some rave reviews about our Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands tour.

I wanted to share one with you from a couple who found their tour guide to be above and beyond their expectations.

New Picture (5).png

"In writing our evaluation, we did not have enough room to tell you about our guide, Patricio. He was, without a doubt, the most friendly, patient, and knowledgeable guide we have had out of many tours we have taken. We hope that you will pass this information on to the Friendly Planet office in Ecuador, as we feel that he should be given special recognition for the superb representation of your company. We had two medical emergencies with travelers in our group. He was able to get doctors for them and arrange for one of them to join our trip the next day.(The other man refused treatment, as this wasw an on-going medical problem, and was fine the next morning.) Another time, while telling us of the exportation from Ecuador of roses, he asked our driver, Jose, to stop for a moment. He came back a few minutes later with roses for all of the women on the bus! These were just two of the many kindnesses he extended to our group. He really understands the meaning of "guest service" and is to be commended for the way he conducts a tour. We came away feeling like honorary Ecuadorians!"

– Cathy and Rich Sholtanis, Tamworth, NH

Incredible 11-day Argentina tour for $1,599

Spanning more than 1 million square miles, Argentina is home to an immensely diverse topography of natural wonders. From the tropical rainforests in the north, to the snow-capped Andean mountains in the south, to all the wonders that any travel lover and adventure seeker could dream of in between, Argentina has it all.

And now, travelers can experience the unique beauty of Argentina for less than ever on our Incredible Argentina tour. The trip includes visits to the impressive Iguazú Falls, the stunningly beautiful ski resort of Bariloche, and the chic cosmopolitan capital city of Buenos Aires.

Everything vacationers need to explore Argentina — from roundtrip flights, transfers, touring, and some daily meals – is included in this fabulous vacation package. All of this is yours at prices that are — much like Argentina’s landscape — truly amazing!

Head on over to the Friendly Planet Travel Web site for more information or to book, or read on below for the full Incredible Argentina itinerary.

Day 1: Depart USA. Your fascinating journey begins as you depart in the evening for your overnight flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Day 2: Arrive Iguazú. After arrival in Buenos Aires, transfer to the national airport for your flight to the Argentinean side of Iguazú Falls. Check in at the Panoramic Hotel Iguazú, and enjoy the remainder of the day at leisure to rest and take in your beautiful new surroundings.

Day 3: Iguazú Falls. Upon seeing Iguazú, Eleanor Roosevelt exclaimed "Poor Niagara!" You’ll soon discover why this UNESCO World Heritage Site is considered one of the greatest natural wonders of the world. Straddling the border of Argentina and Brazil, the Falls consist of 275 inlets and cataracts cascading down 250 feet, framed by multiple rainbows and mist that rises up to 500 feet in the air. Iguazú boasts the greatest average annual flow of any waterfall in the world.

 FP_Argentina.jpg

Travelers will be treated to a fantastic close-up view of the falls and their dazzling display of power. Then, travel through the rain forest to the most spectacular sight at Iguazú: Devil’s Throat, a massive U-shaped cataract that measures 270 feet high, 490 feet wide, and 2300 feet long.

Spend the afternoon at leisure to explore further on your own. Or, take advantage of an optional nautical adventure along the Lower Iguazú River, sailing under the Falls. Later this afternoon, be sure to take time to stroll through the laid-back town of Puerto Iguazú.

Day 4: Bariloche. Enjoy a morning taking advantage of the lovely leisure facilities at the hotel. Later, transfer to the airport for your flight to the stunning lakeside ski resort town of San Carlos de Bariloche. Surrounded by dense forests, alpine lakes, romantic chalets, and snow-capped Andean mountains, Bariloche’s idyllic scenery is reminiscent of the Swiss Alps. Check in at the Cacique Inacayal Hotel, and enjoy the rest of the day at leisure to relax or shop for hand-knit woolen sweaters and delicious locally made chocolate.

 FP_Argentina2.jpg

Day 5: Bariloche. Experience the unbelievably beautiful natural splendor of the Andean region on today’s excursion along the popular Circuito Chico. Set out westward on Avenida Bustillo to the Península Llao Llao, home to one of Argentina’s most famous and picturesque landmarks, the Llao Llao Hotel. Llao Llao’s Puerto Pañuelo is the point of departure for your boat-bus excursion across the Andes to Chile. Stop at the charming village of Colonia Suiza, where you’ll have an opportunity to sample some of the town’s renowned pastries at a local café.

Spend the afternoon at leisure or take advantage of one of two exciting optional tours. The first takes you to Victoria Island, where you’ll ascend Mount Bella Vista by a chairlift that takes you up a narrow path of ancient coihue and cypress trees. As you descend, take in some of the most spectacular views in the region. Continue to the Bosque de Arrayanes National Park, home to the rare and ancient myrtle trees.

A second optional tour takes you to Cerro Catedral, rising to nearly 8,000 feet and named after its resemblance to a Gothic cathedral. Here you’ll find Argentina’s world-renowned Mount Cathedral Ski Resort, which boasts 62 miles of ski runs and magnificent views over Bariloche and Nahuel Huapi Lake.

Day 6: Buenos Aires. Your discovery of Argentina continues today as you transfer to the airport for your flight to Buenos Aires, Argentina’s cosmopolitan capital city. Upon arrival, transfer to check-in at the centrally located Dazzler Tower San Martin.

FP_BuenasAires.jpg
Day 7: Buenos Aires. After breakfast, set out on a tour of the city and discover why Buenos Aires is so often referred to as "the Paris of the South." Exploration begins at the Plaza del Mayo, the historic and political center of the city. You’ll see the Casa Rosada, the presidential palace from which Juan and Eva Perón spoke to throngs of adoring Argentineans. Continue to the Obelisk landmark on the Avenue 9 de Julio, the widest avenue in the world.

Then to the crowded Florida Street, a true shopper’s paradise. Pass through the colorful neighborhood of La Boca and the charming San Telmo area. Buenos Aires is a city of neighborhoods, each with its own distinctive flavor, but everywhere you go, the people are warm and welcoming.

Admire the French architecture in the exquisite Recoleta neighborhood, including the beautiful Cemetery of La Recoleta, where Evita Perón is buried. It is one of many ironies of this comple
x city that Evita, heroine of the poor, is buried in the city’s most elegant (and expensive) section.

Day 8: Buenos Aires and Optional Tigre Excursion. Today is yours at leisure to explore on your own. We recommend an optional tour to Tigre and San Isidro. Enjoy a catamaran ride through the labyrinth of islands and islets along the Paraná Delta. Disembark and board the Tren de la Costa, a light rail train that connects the elegant riverfront areas. Descend in the main station of San Isidro for a tour of the town’s cathedral and other attractions.

In the evening, take advantage of an optional dinner, complete with an exciting performance of the tango, Argentina’s passionate national dance.

Day 9: Buenos Aires and Optional Estancia visit. After breakfast, travel outside the city for a full day optional excursion to the Argentine Pampas. Visit a traditional estancia (ranch), where you’ll discover the life of the Argentine cowboys known as "gauchos." After a sumptuous barbecue lunch including delicious local wine, you’ll enjoy a folkloric show with typical Argentine dance, song, and dress.

Day 10: Depart Buenos Aires. Enjoy your final day in Argentina at leisure for last-minute sightseeing and souvenirs. We recommend a stroll the colorful streets and shops around your hotel to scout the amazing bargains that will make shopping for souvenirs (and that gorgeous leather bag) a pleasure. Later, transfer to the airport for your return flight to the USA.

Day 11: Arrive USA. Your Argentinean adventure ends today as you touch down in the U.S.

Amazing Peru: Machu Picchu and the end of the road

As the last part of my Peru series, I want to tell you about one of the most amazing sights in the world: Machu Picchu.

FP_Peru9.JPGWe woke up early for our train ride to Machu Picchu, which was a very scenic and memorable experience on its own. Once we arrived at the base village, with the Urubamba River running right through its center, we took a bus to the top of the mountain.

Once again, this bus ride alone was amazing and the anticipation continued to build on this 25-minute ride on a road that snaked its way through the mountain. As the bus arrived at the top of the mountain, we took care of the admission formalities and began our hike to the actual site of Machu Picchu.

The terrain and steps just to get to a viewable height was difficult to navigate even for me, and as we got to the knoll for our first views, it was amazing. We were level with the clouds, and could see the entire site of the ruins from our vantage point.

FP_Peru15.JPGAfter some guided touring, my girlfriend and I explored for about an hour and a half independently. There were many different trails to investigate, each of them marked with the difficulty level. We were surrounded by thousands of people walking around in awe. Llamas were also plentiful, chewing the grass and keeping the site free of overgrowth.

FP_Peru16.JPGIt felt as if we were literally a five-minute walk from the surface of the sun, and I had the sunburn to prove it (even though I did use lotion).

Unfortunately, we couldn’t stay forever, and we made our way back to the bus which took us back down the mountain.

We were off to Puno. On our drive, we again experienced the vast differences in the regions of Peru. Some of the areas we traveled through were desolate. And some were roughly populated by humans who raise of llamas or cows. We also saw the ice caps on some of the distant mountains.

Once we arrived in Puno, we went out on Lake Titicaca and visited the floating islands of Uros. This island floats 30 meters above the bottom of the lake, and is made of woven weeds and naturally floating vegetable roots.

We continued on deeper into the lake to visit Taquile Island, close to the border of Bolivia. Again we saw many ice-capped mountains in the distance. On Taquile Island, there was a huge festival with music, drinking, and food. We ate lunch on the island, enjoyed the views from high above the lake, and eventually headed back to Puno by boat.

My Amazing Peru trip was coming to an end, and it was bittersweet. After 11 days on the road, I was happy to get back to my own bed, but I was sad to leave the beautiful country, friendly people, and wonderful scenery that I had the privilege of visiting.

If you have any questions about Friendly Planet Travel’s Amazing Peru trip, I’d be happy to answer them. You can leave them in the comments here, or send me an e-mail. And for some more photos of my incredibly journey, have a look at the Friendly Planet Travel Flickr page.

More Amazing Peru

Yesterday I told you a little bit about my recent trip to Peru with Friendly Planet Travel, and I have so much more to tell. When I left off, we were at the incredibly beautiful Ballestas Islands.

The next day we flew into Cusco. The high altitude began to take effect, but I chewed on cocoa leaves that I bought at the airport, which helped somewhat. After checking into a hotel in the middle of town, we had some time to relax and acclimate before taking a walking tour of the city.

During the walk, we visited an old Incan temple converted to Spanish. We continued to walk to what we were told is the “most important church” in South America.

After the tour, we stayed up and enjoyed some authentic Peruvian wine with our guide and some of our group members. Helpful hint: Wine in the hotel is about 8 USD per glass, but there is a store around the corner where you can get a bottle for 5 USD.

From Cuzco, we headed to the Sacred Valley, stopping at the Pisac market on the way to pick up some souvenirs. Then we were back on the bus for a drive to the Incan ruins of Ollantaytambo, located at the foot of a spectacular mountain. These buildings are what protected the strategic entrance to the lower Urubamba Valley, also known as the Sacred Valley.

The temple area is at the top of a series of steep terraces, which helped provide excellent defenses. Stone used for these buildings was brought from a quarry high up on the opposite side of the Urubamba river — an incredible feat involving the efforts of thousands of workers.

FP_Peru6_small.JPGThe complex, still under construction at the time of the conquest by Spain, was never completed. This was a very interesting sight, which was also discussed in the book that I read while on trip (and I’m still reading: “The Last Days of the Incas”).

After visiting the ruins, we had lunch in the small village below, and I also saw one of my favorite sites on the whole trip: a small monkey riding on a dog’s back! Even our tour guide said he had never seen anything like it. Looks like one of the town’s many strays was adopted … by a monkey.

FP_Peru14_small.JPGWe then headed back to our hotel in the middle of the mountains for the remainder of the evening with the anticipation of visiting Machu Picchu starting to build … which seems like the perfect spot to leave you today. So make sure you come back tomorrow to hear all about it!

Amazing stories from Amazing Peru

As many of you know, I just got back from an incredible two-week trip to Peru on our Amazing Peru.

FP_Peru9.JPG
While I was there, I kept Friendly Planteers back home abreast of our adventures through Twitter.

And of course, I took a ton of photos, a few of which I posted on the Friendly Planet Travel Flickr page. Now that I’m back, I can’t wait to tell you all about it. So keep your eyes here on the Friendly Planet Travel blog this week, because I’ll be sharing a new experience each day, beginning today!

During my two-week travel experience of Peru with my girlfriend Kelly, I truly got a sense of many different parts of the country and the different people that make up the unique Peruvian culture.

Starting with Lima, there was a great urban atmosphere that changed slightly as I traveled through the different boroughs that make up the city.
With English as my only verbal form of communication, and Spanish as the Peruvian language, hand signals and laughter were a universal way to correspond between nationalities; and I never felt uncomfortable or out of place.

As an American in a foreign country, I was still able to take public taxis, walk the streets at night, and thoroughly enjoy myself in Lima.
A bike tour of the city, facilitated by Bike Tours of Lima gave me a better sense of the history and different aspects that make Lima the city that it is now.

Driving south along the Pacific coast, from Lima to Ica, the landscape changed from urban to desert after only a few miles. Having never seen a desert before, I enjoyed the great views and the vastness, with constant views of the ocean along the way.

Just south of Ica, we visited the ancient city of Nazca: home of the famous Nazca lines.
I sat in the co-pilot seat as a five-person prop plane flew me over the Nazca Desert so that I could witness, first hand, the unique qualities that make these vast drawings, of unknown origin, such an attraction.

Further north, I visited the town of Paracas so that I could see the Ballestas Islands, a.k.a. “the mini Galapagos.” In a speed boat, a few miles off shore, I witnessed many different birds, seals, and even penguins. There were literally hundreds of seals, swimming, sunning, and sleeping amongst the thousands of birds and dozens of penguins. Besides the amazing wildlife, the islands themselves also had beauty and uniqueness as the current and waves splashed through the tiny caves and crevices.

FP_Peru3.JPG
For more incredible photos of my Peruvian adventure, don’t forget to have a look at the Flickr page. And stay tuned, because tomorrow I’ll fill you in on more of my trip to Amazing Peru.

Eight days in Ecuadorian paradise for only $1,259

If you’ve been perusing the Friendly Planet Travel Web site recently, you probably know that our Exotic Ecuador trip is on sale for only $1,259 for the entire eight-day tour. The value bang for your buck with this trip is simply incredible.

DSC04112Small.jpg

A shot from one of the more “exotic” parts of the Ecuador trip from one of our Friendly Planeteers.

I told you how the economy is pushing many of our vendors to slash their prices. Well, our vendors in Ecuador have dropped their prices unlike anything I’ve seen in the 30 years I’ve been in this business. And we’re passing those savings on to you.
The press release announcing our Exotic Ecuador tour hit the wire today, so have a look for more information.

« Newer Posts

About Peggy

Peggy Goldman is a specialty tour operator and travel expert, who owns and operates Friendly Planet Travel, a full-service company that specializes in tour packages to exotic worldwide destinations at affordable prices.   More about Peggy

Tour & Cruise Packages Our specialty for 30 years! Find one now:
choose a region Europe Mediterranean Asia Middle East Africa Central America Caribbean South America South Pacific
  • Follow Friendly Planet Share the love of travel
    • Facebook
    • Twitter
    • Pinterest
McAfee SECURE sites help keep you safe from identity theft, credit card fraud, spyware, spam, viruses and online scams
Great Greece Giveaway: You could win a trip for 2 to Greece worth up to $6100!