Category Archives: Itinerary

Conscientious Traveler: Celebrated Experiences

 

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Welcome back to Conscientious Traveler—our monthly series in which we showcase one of our fantastic partners with projects that support the environment, wildlife and local communities. This month, we feature Celebrated Experiences.

 

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Celebrated Experiences offers customized trips to England, Ireland, Scotland, Wales and Italy. They curate perfect vacations with castles, boutique hotels, country hotels, small bed & breakfasts, and apartments (breakfast always included!). Itineraries can be highly personalized, with themes ranging from Gardens; Jane Austen, Shakespeare, Film Locations, History, Culinary, Genealogy — plus chauffeurs and guides.

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Their team personally inspects each property they book, and they constantly review, add and drop properties, ensuring great stays for our clients. Their destination experts and entertaining guides have walked the villages and explored off-the-beaten path locales in order to anticipate each guest’s need and wish. They are a marvelous travel company and just celebrated their 25th Anniversary. 

 

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Stay in a 12-Century castle in Tuscany, Italy

Wake up in Ballynahinch Castle in the heart of stunning Connemara, Ireland

Treat yourself at the luxurious, award-winning five-star Isle of Eriska Hotel, Spa & Golf on its own private island near Loch Lomond in Scotland

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Celebrated Experiences’ unique philanthropic program donates a dollar for every hotel room night! We at Willamette Intl Travel are proud to partner up with such great companies that take the time to give back. As 2016 was their most successful year ever, this year they are donating more than $23,500 to important causes!

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Foundations include Breast Cancer Research Foundation, Make-A-Wish, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and The Alzheimer’s Foundation. They also donate $500 to the favorite cause of each member of their team, including:

  • Wounded Warrior Project
  • St. Jude Children’s Hospital
  • Boys and Girls Club
  • Pediatric Cancer Foundation
  • Prostate Cancer Foundation
  • PAWS Atlanta
  • US Navy Memorial
  • Old Friends Senior Dog Sanctuary
  • Children’s Miracle Network  

Every little bit helps and no booking is too small!

Call Willamette Intl Travel to find out more about these exclusive properties: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

 

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Self-Drive Downunder with Goway

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BONUS: Receive a FREE Map of Australia or New Zealand if you comment to this post! (Subject to Availability)

What is self-drive? For a great example of a real self-drive itinerary booked with Goway by Willamette Intl Travel agents, check out our previous post on it.

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Itinerary: 13 Days in South Island

Today we are featuring a self-drive itinerary in New Zealand. This is an actual trip designed and created by WIT Agent Wailana for clients heading out in March 2013. They are picking up their car in Christchurch and heading out to take in the best the country have to offer in the way of cultural excursions, natural beauty, stunning landscapes, and rugged roads. Their mission? To make a loop around the South Island, exploring glowworm caves, Franz Josef, Milford Sound, the Cairns, and Lake Pukaki along the way.

Day 1: Arrive Christchurch.

After you arrive in Christchurch, take a day to adjust and shake off your jetlag. Spend the afternoon idly exploring the city. In Feb 2011, Christchurch was hit by a huge earthquake, and suffered the destruction of much of the city’s beloved neo-gothic architecture. In the past year, the city has made serious efforts to recover, and it still remains a beautiful hub for fine dining, comfortable hotels, and fun activities such as surfing or biking. If you have time, check out the thermal pools at Hanmer Springs and the vineyards in Waipara Valley.

(With more time, you can include the north coast as well, and take the ferry from the North Island. This enables you to build in Abel Tasman National Park and Auckland to your itinerary.)

On your second day in Christchurch, you’ll pick up your car at the airport. WIT recommends automatic cars, and if you’re heading to the mountains, pick up a 4WD. Two driving tips:Don’t forget to drive on the left side of the road, and be prepared to share the road with lots of sheep!

To keep yourself up to date with the latest info on Christchurch following the earthquake, check out these links:

http://www.christchurchnz.com/planning/christchurch-travel-update.aspx

http://www.lonelyplanet.com/new-zealand/christchurch-and-canterbury/christchurch/travel-tips-and-articles/76957

Accommodation: Two nights at Heartland Hotel Cotswold or similar.

Day 3: Drive Christchurch to Greymouth via Arthur’s Pass

If you’re driving from Christchurch to the West Coast, take Arthur’s Pass. Reaching more than 900 meters through Arthur’s Pass National Park, this is the highest and most visually stunning road of the Southern Alps. On the eastern side you’ll see wide riverbeds and oceans of beech forest. Descending on the western side, you venture through dense rainforest, driving along and over river gorges. You can either drive or take the spectacular Tranz Alpine rail. There’s plenty of hiking to do in this area, and chances to spot the rare alpine parrot, or kea. Check out the historic Otira rail tunnel or take a brief hike to the Devil’s Punchbowl Falls just outside of Arthur’s Pass Village. In wintertime, skiers and snowboarders head to the Temple Basin Ski Area.

Arthur’s Pass. Photo by Rickcox, Creative Commons

Day 4: Greymouth

Greymouth is a treasure trove for adventurers. Wander into Paparoa National Park—a land full of deep caves and gorgeous rivers. Go blackwater rafting through the stunning glowworm caves. This area is one of the few places you can spot greenstone, or pounamu, a durable rock important to the Maori culture. Check out the amazing Punakaiki Pancake Rocks and their blowholes—head over around high tide for the best action. There’s a lot to see around Greymouth so good thing you have your own transport!

Accommodation: Two nights at Ashley Hotel or an upscale option.

Punakaiki Blowhole. Photo by Sally Quiltsalad, Creative Commons.

Day 5: Franz Josef Glacier

Note: Between Greymouth and Franz Joseph the road also is shared by the railroad, so this can make for some exciting driving!

Next, head up to mountains and ice—the magnificent Franz Josef and Fox Glaciers. These glaciers, being some of the few that still flow to sea level, are among the most accessible in the world. Hike in to the foot of these massive ice giants, and spot the vast cliff scars from where the glaciers retreated. Fox Glacier is the larger of the two, over 8 miles (13 km) long and 300 meters thick above the river valley. For some unforgettable and spectacular views and adventures, book a helihike. You’ll be lifted up above the glaciers in a helicopter and taken on a guided hike on top of them.

Accommodation: Two nights at Glenfern Villas or similar lodging.

Franz Josef Glacier. Photo by edwin.11, Creative Commons.

Day 7: Queenstown

Queenstown is a popular destination for adventurers, with activities ranging from bungee jumping, sky diving, canyon swinging, jet boating, horse trekking, and riverrafting all year round. For more mellow travelers, check out boutique shopping, sample excellent cuisine, take a small hike, go on a city tour and indulge yourself at the spa. There’s so much to do that you may want to spend a few nights here!

Just minutes from Queenstown are several other fantastic destinations—Arrowtown a historic gold mining town, Paradise Valley, or Mt. Aspiring National Park.

Accommodation: Two nights at Copthorne Hotel and Apartments or similar lodging.

Day 9: Te Anau

Te Anau is the main stopping post for visitors of Fiordland National Park. The park covers over 1.2 million hectares and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Here we find three of NZ’s famous walks: the Milford, Kepler and Routeburn Tracks. Enjoy some of South Island’s rare fauna: the takahe, previously thought to be extinct, the kakapo, the world’s only flightless parrot. Cruise along Milford Sound, a stunning bay that Rudyard Kiping described as the 8th Wonder of the World. In the Fiordlands, there are endless places to explore, whether by kayak, airplane, or on foot.

Accommodation: Two nights at Kingsgate Hotel Te Anau or more upscale lodging.

Fiordland National Park. Photo by Harald Selke, Creative Commons

Day 11: Southland

Southland is a unique and vast landscape with some spectacular marine views. From Te Anau, drive through the Southern Scenic Route, which hugs the wild coast down through Te Anau, Invercargill, Manapouri and the Catlins. Don’t forget to stop and see the sights: the mysterious Moeraki boulders and Oamaru’s whitestone architecture. For more on this route, check out our blog post on it!

The Catlins are not to be missed on any itinerary of Southland. Take the Catlins River Walk that leads you through, a 160 million year old fossilized forest. Head over to the Nuggets, a dramatic seascape with a lighthouse, where you can enjoy fantastic glimpses fur seals, sea lions, spoonbills, gannets, shags, penguins, and sooty shearwaters. Drive down to Slope Point, the southernmost tip of the island.

When you’ve seen your fill and perhaps sampled the famous Oysters at Bluff, drive over to Dunedin. Dunedin is known as the “Edinburgh of New Zealand,” with a plethora of Scottish heritage, one of the best-preserved Edwardian cities in the southern hemisphere. Check out incredible wildlife, the world’s rarest penguins, and the world’s only mainland breeding colony of Royal Albatross at Taiaroa Head.

Accommodation: One night at Kingsgate Hotel Dunedin or more upscale lodging.

Day 12: Mt Cook National Park

Mt. Cook National Park (also known as Aoraki National Park) is an alpine wonderland—with towering peaks, massive glaciers and permanent snow fields. At 12,316 feet (3,754 metres), Mt. Cook is the tallest mountain in New Zealand. The park is very accessible by road, drivers can take the State Highway 80 up to Aoraki/Mt. Cook Village, which rests beside scenic Lake Pukaki. Don’t miss the mighty Tasman Glacier—stretching about 16 miles (27 km) in length! Hike around the surreal landscape and photograph yourself on the foreground of one of the park’s incredible milky lakes. For a real challenge—only recommended for the most experienced of mountaineers—scale Mt. Cook itself and count yourself among the best climbers of the New Zealand Hall of Fame. This impressive list includes Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man ever recorded to climb Mount Everest in 1953.

Accommodation: One night at The Hermitage, Aoraki Mount Cook Alpine Village or similar.

Mount Cook and Tasman Valley. Photo by awiemuc, Creative Commons

Day 13: Christchurch

Congratulations, you’ve made a full circle! After your self-drive adventure, park your car at one of the depots in Christchurch. Use the extra day to unwind and relax from your whirlwind of a trip, before heading out. Now all you need to decide is your next stop: the North Island? Or maybe Australia and the islands of the South Pacific?

Most of our agents have traveled to New Zealand, and we’d love to share all of our expertise and knowledge with you. Call us for more information at 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

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Filed under Features, Itinerary, New Zealand, Oceania, Travel by Car, Vendors, Where in the World is the WIT Client?

Argentina – Adventures

Argentina is a vast country that has much to offer, if you are a resourceful traveler. From towering peaks and rolling vineyards to frosty sailings, there seems to be no end to the adventures to be had. Here are some terrific opportunities that you may consider on your Argentina trip. The best part is—you don’t need to be an expert or an Olympic athlete to take advantage of the natural beauty and fun activities all across the country!

photo by Miguel Vieira

Take a Catamaran along the Beagle Channel

Take a catamaran tour from Ushuaia through the Beagle Channel. Experience the frozen beauty of the southernmost tip of the Americas, and glimpse a world of wildlife and glaciers. Float by small islands and coastal scenery, and keep your eyes peeled for seals, sea lions, and coastal birds. Admire the photo opportunities of Bird Island and Seal Island, before making your way over to the 74-foot Les Eclaireurs Lighthouse.

photo by Phillip Capper

Ride up to the Andes

Experience the best of the Andes along part of the Pan-American Highway. Walk in the footsteps of Charles Darwin for some incredible vistas! A well-qualified guide will take you to the panoramas circling the highest mountain of the Americas—Aconcagua. Stop at various cultural sites along the way including Puente del Inca rock bridge and Las Cuevas. Chat with the locals in the high alpine villages of Potrerillos and Uspallata, and scan the archaeological remains at Picheuta.

Paraglide over Mendoza

In Mendoza and had your satisfying fill of Argentine wine? Clear your head and pump up your adrenaline with a paragliding excursion! With spectacular, unforgettable views of the city and the surrounding Andes, it’s a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. Jump off the summit of Cerro Arco with an expert and let yourself soar like an eagle!

photo by Alex Proimos

Socialize with Gauchos

Experience Argentine culture at its heart—with local gauchos (cowboys). You’ll ride through the plans to a ranch and be welcomed by a reception at a pub with—what else?—empanadas and wine. Indulge in some traditional, succulent BBQ with locally brewed maté.

Enjoy the history of Santa Susana town and its museum and church, go on a horse-drawn carriage ride or horseback ride. During lunch, enjoy the lively tango and folk show, then the boleadoras, a performance of throwing weapons used by gauchos. Engage in the cowboy spirit while watching typical gaucho games of the ring race, animal herding, and the cuadreras race (a 400-meter horse race).

Ride a boat across the Rio de la Plata

Take a ferry from the Rio de la Plata into Uruguay. Enjoy a walking tour of the city of Colonia del Sacramento, a historic Uruguayan town just minutes away from Buenos Aires. Discover UNESCO World-Heritage architecture and enjoy a delicious lunch at your leisure. Wander around the historic quarter and take in the Portuguese-influenced city gate, drawbridge, lighthouse, basilica, and convent ruins.

photo by flopisubmarina

River Raft in Mendoza

Hop aboard with your fellow passengers and expert guide, and start paddling! Our preferred vendors offer a day rafting in Mendoza! Create a memorable excursion that will take you through the countryside of Mendoza to the town of Cordillerano de Potrerillos. With a professional guide, participate in this sport guaranteed to get your heart pumping, and learn to navigate level 3 and 4 rapids. Take home some unforgettable memories of racing through the Argentine torrent!

Teo Romera

Admire the Fuegian Lakes

Don’t have time for a full-length tour of Patagonia? Opt for a full-day tour to Lake Escondido and Lake Fagnano and uncover the stunning mountains and valleys of Patagonia. With a local guide and roundtrip transportation included, embark on a wild journey into the heart of the Fuegian region. Cross the rustic Garibaldi Pass, admire the curve of the gorgeous Andes, and delve into the local immigrant history. Your trip will conclude in Las Cotorras Valley, where you’ll indulge in a traditional lamb barbecue!

Willamette Intl Travel can arrange these trips and more well before your trip begins! Ask us about more opportunities abroad. Call us at 503.224.0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

 

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Guide to Argentina: Buenos Aires

The capital of Argentina is composed of a series of central barrios (neighborhoods). From the business district of the Centre to the wild tango clubs of Palermo, Buenos Aires has something for everyone.

Take an Empanada-Making class. Professional, local chefs will teach you all you need to know about the classic Argentine empanada. Afterward, pair the fruits of your labor with succulent Malbec wine, juicy steak, sweet biscuits and mate. Whether you’re an expert hobbyist or a novice, local chefs and guides with delight you with their local knowledge of cuisine and customs.

photo by Jameson Fink

Go on a food-themed walking tour or a pub crawl. Meet the friendly locals in popular, hip neighborhoods of San Telmo, Recoleta or Palermo. Led by an expert guide, you’ll be introduced to the best the culinary world has to offer. For a daring traveler, we recommend black pudding, liver, and sweetbreads.

photo by Pablo Dodda

Sample the drinks. Meet a local sommelier at a wine bar, and learn all there is to know about Argentina’s famous wines from Mendoza. Sample wine that has been carefully paired with tapas—crackers, cold cuts, cheese, and nuts. For a drink, sample the ingenious cocktails and browse through the 3,000 list of Argentinean reds and whites.

photo by Sergio Aguirre

Head to the Temaiken Zoo. Spend a day trip to the zoo just outside Buenos Aires. See animals from all over—sharks, white tigers, hippos, tapirs, alligators, penguins and more. Go on a Tuesday, when tickets are 50% off. Check out the Interpretive Centers, where audiovisual presentations educate the visitor on biology, the ecosystem, and the importance of nurturing the environment.

Lose yourself among the Dead. Take a sobering trip to the labyrinth of tombs and mausoleums of Cementario de la Recoleta. This is a necropolis of the good, bad and beautiful—from presidents, Nobel Prize winners, the granddaughter of Napoleon, and others. Pay homage to Eva Peron’s grave, then head to her collection of costumes, jewelry, and paintings on exhibit at the Museum Evita.

photo by Chimpanz APe

Learn to Tango. You know you want to, and where else but the birthplace of the dance? Spend an evening at a Milongas, or tango club, and admire the masters from afar or join in with the novices. Combine a tango show with delicious cuisine at the beautiful Palazzo Rossini. To see the cream of the crop, try the Centro Cultural Torquato Tasso. To delve more into the history, visit the Museo Casa Carlos Gardel, which celebrates tango’s first superstar.

photo by Gustavo Brazzalle

Sip at a Café. Café in Buenos Aires is nothing like watery American coffee—it’s thick, rich espresso. Nibble on a succulent medialuna (Argentinian croissant) while you dive into the liquidated warmth of freshly roasted beans. Delve into the countless pastries served here, from biscuits, cakes, ice cream, crepes, bonbons, flan—and the king of them all, the dulce de leche.

photo by Phillip Capper

Have a Picnic. Buenos Aires is a city of parks and picnics. Head over to the Reserve Ecological Constanera Sur and chow down on your lunch while enjoying the skittering iguanas, 200 species of birds and that oddest of fauna, the jogger. Moonlight tours can be booked ahead of time.

Marvel at Masters—Old and New. Head over to the art exhibits and galleries of Recoleta and Malba. Take a tour through the Coleccion Constantini, which boasts impressive pieces from Frida Kahlo, Diego Rivera, and Tarsila do Amaral. Fashionistas might discover funky boutiques in Palermo Viego. For the antiques collector, your best bet is hunting for relics in the bric-a-bracs of San Telmo and its main street, the Calle Defensa.

Willamette International Travel can arrange some of these experiences beforehand, and connect you with locals who live and breathe the city of Buenos Aires. Ask us about Marisa, our dedicated, personable tour guide whose vast knowledge and love of her city have charmed many of our clients.

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Pueblos Blancos

Itinerary: 5 Days through the Pueblos Blancos

Today we are featuring an itinerary suggested to some of our clients. Their goal is to drive from the Costa del Sol to Seville, taking a slow route through idyllic landscapes, visiting picturesque towns and staying in boutique hotels. So we at Willamette International Travel have planned the following week for them, complete with transportation and hotels. They will be leaving Casares, where they are attending a wedding, and spend a few days journeying through the small white villages in the mountainous regions of Andalucia, before reaching their final destination of Seville.

photo by Lee Cannon

Pueblos Blancos

The Pueblos Blancos, or “white villages,” are fortified hilltop towns, so named for their whitewashed décor in the Moorish tradition. There is plenty to see in the quiet countryside, gorgeous vistas of valleys and cliffs, and a bounty of architectural masterpieces that spans religions and centuries.

Day 1. Casares to Ronda.

Ronda is a city of dramatically perched houses and amazing views of 500-foot gorges. Ronda is the spiritual home of bullfighting and heir to a Moorish and Spanish blend of traditions. Check out the city for some spectacular architecture, from the Plaza de la Ciudad, the church and its former minaret, to the mosaic-decorated Palacio Mondragon and the frescos of biblical scenes and South Americans on the Palacio del Marques de Salvatierra. There are some great walking excursions on the footpaths, which lead you to ruined Moorish mills, waterfalls, the old mansion Casa del Rey Moro, the 18th century Puente Nuevo bridge that runs over Tajo Gorge. This area is also great for birdwatching, cycling, rock-climbing, and horse-riding. One of Willamette Intl Travel’s own agents, Pam, stayed here—she says the ancient Roman bridge is still in use!

photo by Benjamin Vander Steen

Day 2. Base in Ronda. Day trip to various towns.

From your base in Ronda, take a day trip around to the various sites. Check out the town of Montejaque and the nearby Hunidero cave; Benaojan, with its Pileta caves and Paleolithic cave paintings; Olvera with its stunning 12th century Arab castle. You can also enjoy a view of Grazalema Nature Park nearby. From here a path to the right leads to Garganta Verde, a gorge with an impressive cave known as Ermita de la Garganta. At Grazalema Park, walk around ancient Roman and Arab settlements and artistic churches.

Day 3. Drive to Arcos de la Frontera. Stop at Zahara de la Sierra.

On the languid drive to Arcos de la Frontera after breakfast, make sure to stop in Zahara de la Sierra, a National Monument town with uneven streets, 12th century Moorish castle, and impressive cliffsides. Pam recommends the slow but scenic route through Parque Natural de Sierra.

Arcos de la Frontera clings impossibly to an outcropping of rock with the Guadalete River at its foot. Navigate carefully up its labyrinth of narrow alleys and old quarters up to the ruins of an Islamic castle. Once a Moorish stronghold, the Reconquista reestablished a Christian presence still evident in the Gothic-Mudejar church, the Gothic Iglesia de San Pedro and the Renaissance Palacio del Mayorazgo. “I drove through this area several years ago,” says Pam. “Stayed in Arcos which was beautiful. We had a balcony jutting out over a cliff (we looked down and could see birds flying underneath us!). Lots of little winding streets leading to the top of a mountain with a church, a nunnery, and some houses in the village. Very beautiful.”

photo by cayetano

Day 4. Base in Arcos. Day in Jerez de la Frontera.

The main reason to visit the larger city of Jerez de la Frontera is to check out the bodegas where sherry is made—and fans of the delicate fermented wine must make a stop here. Tours with tasty samples usually run from 9am to 1pm, so plan your time accordingly. The varieties produced here are fino (extra dry and light), amontillado (dry and dark), oloroso (medium, golden), and dulce (sweet). Due to popularity, its best to call ahead for a reservation! The Jerez region is also renown for quality horse-breeding—the Lippizzaner horses, still used at the Spanish Riding School of Vienna, originally came from this area. If you happen to love horses, check out trainers and their mounts at the Real Escuela Andaluza de Arte Ecuestre.

photo by Michael Osmenda

Day 5. Drive from Arcos to Carmona or Doñana National Park.

At this point, you can choose either to head west, to the National Park of Doñana, or northward past Seville to Carmona. Carmona has a fantastic architectural atmosphere, with the polished arches of Plaza de Arriba, archaic Seville Gate, and the lavish and ornate churches. Don’t miss the Roman necropolis! The food is also excellent—tapas, chicken soup, gazpacho, curdled eggs, patrirdge, Serrano ham, etc.

If you have the time or just prefer to explore wild nature, head now to the National Park of Doñana, one of Europe’s greatest wetlands. In 185,000 acres of marshes and sand dunes, you can spot rare species such as fallow deer, red deer, imperial eagle, flamingo, lynx, umbrella pine, and lavender. Be advised however that you must book an officially guided day tour in order to cross the wetlands.

Day 6. Seville.

Conclude your tour of the magnificent Pueblos Blancos and the Andalucian countryside by heading over to the bustling city of Seville. Celebrate with an idyll afternoon and a glass of sherry.

 

Willamette International Travel assists clients in customizing their itineraries. We do the research and legwork so you don’t have to! Email us at info@wittravel.com or call 800.821.0401 for more information.

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