Category Archives: South Africa

The Garden Route: A Brief Guide

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No, the Garden Route is not a gallery of gently manicured bushes or sculpted sprigs or wrought-iron greenhouses.

South Africa’s Garden Route is a huge stretch of land, rich in natural vegetation, that extends over 200km along the Western Cape.

Within this scenic playground, you might find everything from lagoons, gorges, fragrant plantations, pine plantations, or sandy coves.

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But it’s the local culture that draws the curious traveler to explore the hidden nooks and wild crannies along this remarkable coastline.

For years, chefs, artists, fishermen, and carpenters have been carving out their niches in this area. Explorers are rewarded with curious craft galleries, colorful inns, and woodcutter workshops tucked away in sleepy inlets. Driving along the harbors, you’ll want to stop at the ostrich capital of the world, Oudtshoorn, or the green port town of Calitzdorp, or marvel at the aquamarine bays of Knysna.

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Nature-inclined adventurers can hike through ancient forests of Tsitsikamma National Park, or climb onto sea cliffs for faint glimpses of humpback whales or bottlenose dolphins. You can stay next in family bungalows at Wilderness National Park for easy access to the park’s wetlands and lagoons. For a more civilized road trip, Mossel Bay and Plettenberg Bay are the towns to hit for beachside resorts and package tours.

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How to Get There: The best way to tour the Garden Route is by car. Drive on the N2 main highway, which connects Cape Town with Port Elizabeth.

Call your agent at Willamette Intl Travel to book an unforgettable trip to South Africa. Nancy and Christina have both visited recently and would love to share their perspectives of this fascinating region. Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

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Infographic: 6 Destinations to Spot the Southern Cross in 2017

We at Willamette Intl Travel love tried and true destinations like these! Interested in one (or more) of the places below? Give us a ring! 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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The Next Best Destinations for 2017

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Happy New Year, dear Readers! We’ve made past the end of 2016, hopefully with some fun and meaningful travel memories racked up. But what does 2017 have in store for the traveler? Here are our Top Destinations in 2017:

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Cruise ship in Isafjordur, the West Fjords of Iceland

1. Iceland

It’s probably no surprise to anyone that Iceland has once again made the list. In the past 10 years, Iceland’s popularity as a travel destination soared to immense heights, capping 1 billion travelers to this dynamic Atlantean rock in the summer of 2016 alone. Most travelers have visited the gorgeous Golden Circle and the Glacier Lagoon, maybe even ridden an Icelandic horse or spied the Northern Lights–but what’s next for Iceland in 2017? Traveling a bit more off-the-beaten path, to Lake Myvatn area, to the West Fjords and the Westman Isles. We’ll have to see what this magical Viking isle has in store for us!

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Lake Bled in Slovenia

2. Slovenia (& the Balkans)

If you haven’t discovered this off-the-beaten-path trek in Europe, what are you waiting for? Slovenia is the oft-cited “playground of Europe,” with a range of activities to attract the thrill-seeker. Spelunking, hang-gliding, jet-skiing are just some of the more popular pursuits. Plus there are few city centers as pristine as Ljubljana’s. A great way to see the Balkan countries is to rent a car and spend a few weeks traveling around war-wounded Sarajevo, culturally bobbing Belgrade, and Croatia’s exquisite Dalmatian coast.

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Białowieża Forest, Poland

3. Australia & New Zealand

Australia & New Zealand have always been a popular destination for families, couples and backpackers alike. Sydney boasted the “best fireworks in the world” at the Opera this New Year’s Eve. Tazmania might just be the next prime hiking destination, with multi-day excursions and luxury ecolodges. And NZ has an array of fun food-themed fetes to enjoy, kicking off with Auckland Seafood Festival in January and then Marlborough Wine & Food Festival come February. Though the Northern Lights have attracted some fair attention these past few years, the Southern Hemisphere has it’s own bragging right: the unparalleled Southern Cross!

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River Boat sailing through Chicago, USA

4. River Cruises in North America

Domestic travel usually has to offer something unique to attract travelers, and we believe river cruises are that unique option. There seems to be no end to high quality river and lake cruises: the Great Lakes, roundtrip Nashville on the Mississippi River, Montreal and the eastern seaboard, and the Columbia River in the Pacific Northwest. Themes range from southern style comfort on the Mississippi to the pioneer history of the Oregon Trail. River cruises are small-scale, comfortable, unhurried cruises in American history that often sail year-round–without the spectacle afforded on ocean cruises. Plus one major advantage over Europe or South America: shorter flights to get there (if any)!

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Lisbon, Portugal

5. Portugal

Warm beach weather, delicious cuisine, and a charming ambiance makes Portugal a global destination. Lisbon has all the Old World beauty of a European small town, and the coastline draws its fair share of beachgoers and world-class surfers. In terms of food and wine, Portugal will certainly peak your interest, and the easygoing temperance of the locals will make you feel at home in no time.

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Oslo, Norway

6. Scandinavia

Though oft-cited as the most expensive destination in Europe, Scandinavia remains one of the best “bang-for-your-buck” destinations in the world. Thanks to recent trends following the Northern Lights and Iceland’s natural attractions, the region is receiving all the attention it deserves. World-class restaurants, leisurely cafes, and interactive museums still place it at the top of the list (and the map!). Not to mention how easy and accessible most travelers find Oslo, Copenhagen, Stockholm, and Reykjavik–most of the population are friendly, curious, polite and speak English.

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Reindeer in Finland

7. Finland & Estonia

Finland celebrates 100 years of independence from Russia in 2017, and a spirit of unity will be rampant in every town and city. Wander 39 national parks or visit the laid-back seaside capital, view the Northern Lights or take a dip in the local sauna. Helsinki has the familiarity and design-conscious layout of a Scandinavian town, with a cultural flair that’s uniquely Finnish. Estonia is also growing on the tourist horizon–Tallinn as a leading city of technology and entrepreneurship. Its heritage is part Baltic, with smatterings of Soviet Union and Finnish influence. A popular way to visit is via a cruise to the Baltic region–many of our clients have come back from a cruise excursion with tales of Tallinn’s enchanting city center.

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Paris, France

8. France

Throughout the centuries, France has never lost its charms. Even through recent security issues have scared off some travelers, the Loire chateaux, Bordeaux wines and sun-baked sands of the Riviera are still there and thriving. After a shaky 2016, France is bouncing back in a big way, and tourist bookings have increased exponentially for 2017. Tourists seem to have their eyes on provincial towns and the hidden secrets of the countryside. Is this the time to finally check out the Champagne region, or go wine-tasting in the Dordogne Valley?

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1950s/60s Cars in Cuba

9. Cuba

With relaxing entry regulations, Cuba has received quite the attention these past two years. The response from group travelers and cruise ship passengers has been wildly enthusiastic. Over 2 million travelers visited the island in the first half of 2016, compared to just 63,000 in 2010. But that may all change soon–some travel industry experts fear that the Trump administration will restrict travel there in the future. So now might be your only chance in a while to travel to the “Pearl of the Antilles.”

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The Majestic African Elephant

10. Africa Destinations: Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and South Africa.

Africa remains an ever-popular destination, with senior couples and large families booking safari trips in Kenya, Tanzania and South Africa. These regions are still within reasonable budget to catch a glimpse of wildebeest, lions, antelopes. South Africa is world-famous for their natural diversity and local cuisine, catering to all flavors and styles. Immerse yourself on a game drive in Kruger National Park, or indulge in wine-tasting in Boberg or the Breede River Valley. We’re proud also to include Namibia on our list. As some of our readers know, WIT Owners Christina and John guided a merry band through the red sands of Namibia. The landscape is like no other, with miles upon miles of arid desert, dotted with unique wildlife and local tribes who paint themselves with ochre. We expect to see a rise in interest for Namibia in 2017, and now you can receive firsthand travelers’ experience at our office in Portland.

Do you have a favorite travel memory or photo from 2016? We’d love to hear about it! Share with us in the comments!

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Reading List: South Africa

It’s time to get our read on! Inspired by Nancy’s recent trip to South Africa, we at WIT whipped up a reading list of books to entice your travel appetite. Stay tuned for Nancy’s firsthand feedback later this week!

Luli Callinicos, The World That Made Mandela. A coffee-table book of images that tell the story of Nelson Mandela through place. From his birth in Qunu, to the Old Fort in Johannesburg where he was held prisoner, these images follow the footsteps of his remarkable journey.

frankwelsh_historyofsaFrank Welsh, History of South Africa. This one-volume history of South Africa is a general and authoritative overview. Welsh follows the country through its turbulent history into the present-day “Rainbow Nation.”

JM Coetzee, Disgrace. This book won Coetzee the Booker Prize for a second time, the first writer to ever do so. An austere and compelling story of one man’s downfall in the chaos immediately following the overthrow of Apartheid.

Vincent Carruthers, The Wildlife of Southern Africa: New Edition (2008). This best-selling field guide features over 2,000 plants and animals, with texts by leading experts. Lauded as the definitive companion to game parks and hikes, the book also showcases hundreds of vivid illustrations.

Niq Mhlongo, Way Back Home. One of the newest voices in the post-apartheid literary scene, the book follows a South African exile who returns to Mzansi after the fall of the nationalist regime, and his ambitions that eventually lead him astray.

capetownNigel Worden, Elizabeth van Heyningen, Vivian Bickford-Smith, Cape Town: The Making of a City. An intimate look into the complex city of Cape Town, showcases an array of paintings, maps, sketches and photographs.

Ed. Michael Chapman, The New Century of South African Poetry. An anthology of poetry from earliest oral culture to post-apartheid verses, including translations from the nation’s many languages.

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Photos from South Africa 2015 are up!

This past May, our agent Nancy was invited by Giltedge to a two-week educational trip to South Africa. With the help of expert guides and service, she explored winelands, toured exquisite hotels, and hopped out on a couple spectacular safari drives through the Leopard Hills Game Reserve.

Check out her photos from the trip, now up in our Gallery!

Willamette Intl Travel has been organizing trips and escorting clientele to Africa for decades. We highly recommend Giltedge Travel for their exceptional service and customizable tours through South Africa and beyond. Call us to learn more: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Nancy in South Africa: Sneak Peek

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Over the next few weeks, we’ll be seeing a lot more of Africa on the blog. Wittravel Agent Nancy took a recent trip to South Africa in May, and WIT Owners Christina and John will be heading there in September through October. Nancy returned with some amazing photos, featuring safari jeep rides and more, so stay tuned for those as well as her firsthand report.

Nancy was invited courtesy of Giltedge Travel, a tour operator specializing in personalized African trips. Her two weeks’ tour was a whirlwind of sightseeing and safari trips. After arriving at Cape Town Airport, she transferred out to Camps Bay. With a trained guide, she explored the beautiful cape winelands and stopped for some hotel inspections along the way. She then flew to Durban, where she attended Indaba, one of the largest travel exhibitions in Africa. After the event, she flew on to the Leopard Hills Game Reserve, a major highlight as one can imagine! Activities included twice daily game drives and high tea. I bet she has some fantastic stories to share!

So stay tuned!

 

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