Category Archives: South America

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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Filed under Antarctica, Australia, Brazil, Europe, Hawaii, New Zealand, South Africa, South Africa

Travel News: October is National Cruise Month!

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October is the National Cruise Month!

October is National Cruise Month, with loads of opportunities to save on your next cruise. Looking for a last-minute romantic getaway? Want to take the kids on a fun sail-a-way? Cruises are hassle-free, relaxing, diverse way to see many places and do many activities in a short span of time. This month, most major cruise lines are offering major discounts and/or added benefits if booked and deposit paid the month of October. Over 5,000 cruise lines and travel agencies are participating! Our agents at Willamette Intl Travel can answer all your questions and help find a cruise that’s right for you and your loved ones. So what are you waiting for? Give us a call: 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com.

Snapshots from National Cruise Month

  • Professional racer Dale Earnhardt Jr. will make an appearance on the first official Nascar-themed Cruise, with Norwegian.
  • Disney Cruise Line Taps Broadway Talent for Frozen the Musical.
  • Lip Sync Battle coming to Carnival cruise ships.
  • Norwegian Cruise Lines Turning 50 with Special Anniversary Cruises!
  • PLUS: This new super yacht looks like a UFO on the water

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Latest Reports on Hurricane Matthew from Friday

At 500 am this morning Matthew is about 40 miles east southeast of Cape Canaveral or about 90 miles southeast of Daytona Beach. Maximum sustained winds are 120 mph and the storm is moving north northwest at 13 mph. Minimum central pressure is 938 mb. A turn toward the north is expected tonight or Saturday. On the forecast track, the center of Matthew will be moving near or over the east coast of the Florida peninsula through tonight, and near or over the coasts of Georgia and South Carolina on Saturday.Matthew is a category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. Although weakening is forecast during the next 48 hours, Matthew is expected to be a category 3 hurricane as it moves near the coast of Florida today. Hurricane-force winds extend outward up to 60 miles (95 km) from the center, and tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 185 miles.

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Tourism in Argentina Expected To Increase Thanks To A New VAT Refund

With a view of boosting tourism in Argentina and revitalizing the local hospitality sector, the government presented the official plan for a VAT refund on accommodation services for tourists coming from overseas. Under the new system, foreigners will pay a lower fee for accommodation services in the country. In other words, through this reform, the cost of renting a hotel room in Argentina will be cheaper for visitors. The refund will be automatic and will be given directly to the card that pays for the services and, according to official information, the measure will cover the entire supply chain of the hospitality sector.

IcelandAir To Offer Nonstop Service To Reykjavik From Tampa

IcelandAir will offer nonstop service to Reykjavik from Tampa International Airport beginning Sept. 7, 2017. Reykjavik is Iceland’s city and capital. The service will be twice a week. This will be the fourth international carrier in its growing lineup of carriers. The IcelandAir announcement comes on the heels of the one-year anniversary of Lufthansa’s nonstop flight to and from Frankfurt at Tampa International Airport, which began last September. IcelandAir offers flights to 39 cities in 16 countries, including 18 destinations in the United States. The new flight to Tampa will be the carrier’s second to Florida. IcelandAir also offers service to Orlando International Airport. IcelandAir is known for its stopover program, which encourages travelers from Europe or North America to “stop over” in Iceland on transatlantic flights for up to seven nights at no additional cost. The carrier’s main hub is at Keflavik International Airport, where it offers connections to dozens of destinations around the world.

LOT To Launch Los Angeles Flights

Polish airline LOT will connect Warsaw with the US West Coast from April, 2017. Although as yet there has been no official announcement, Business Traveller can reveal that Warsaw-based LOT will launch a four times a week non-stop service between Warsaw and Los Angeles on April 4. The flight will be operated by a three-class B787 configured for business, premium economy and economy. LOT would appear to be following in the footsteps of Vienna-based Austrian Airlines who recently announced that it too would launch flights to the US West Coast this coming April. Austrian Airlines will be providing the only non-stop link between Central Europe and Los Angeles while LOT will operate the only non-stop link to the US West Coast)from a city in the former Eastern Europe. Flight time is 12 hours, 20 mins for Warsaw-Los Angeles and 11 hours, 20 mins for Los Angeles-Warsaw.

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KLM Runs Pilot Project With Artificial Intelligence
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is taking the next step in social servicing by testing artificial intelligence (AI) to help answer customer questions. When an agent needs to answer an incoming question, he or she gets a proposed answer through AI, which is trained on more than 60,000 KLM questions and answers. The agent decides whether the proposed answer is the right answer to the question, adjusts it if necessary and sends it across the appropriate social media channel. The system learns based on what the agent does, and becomes smarter in real time. KLM receives around 100,000 mentions per week via social media and this number is still growing. A dedicated team of 235 social media service agents personally engages in 15,000 conversations. The DigitalGenius AI system is integrated directly into KLM’s Customer Relationship Management tool, and provides a layer of deep learning and artificial intelligence to service agents in real time.

Holland America Bans Smoking On All Its Cruise Ship Balconies
Beginning January 2017, Holland America cruise line will ban smoking on all cabin balconies. No smoking of any kind will be permitted on any stateroom verandah. A “smoking of cigarettes, cigars and pipes is already not permitted in any stateroom. The new policy has been announced to better align with guest wishes and health concerns.” Holland America is the last major U.S. cruise line to enact the smoking ban; the most recent line to do so was Norwegian Cruise Line in November 2014. Royal Caribbean announced its smoking ban three years ago, followed by Carnival Cruise Line in July 2014. Holland America’s no-smoking-on-balconies ban will roll out fleetwide over five months on a staggered schedule.

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Filed under Argentina, Celebrity Cruises, Cruises, Crystal Cruises, Disney Cruises, News, Oceania Cruises, Princess Cruises, Un-Cruise, UniWorld, Viking Cruises, Windstar Cruises

The Conscientious Traveler Series: Inka Terra Asociación

Welcome to The Conscientious Traveler!our blog series focusing on vendors with projects that support the environment, wildlife and local communities. Did you know that there are tons of opportunities to combine your love of travel with a good cause? In our series we highlight tour operators, hotels and tour guides who play such active roles in their community. 

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Today’s Highlight: the Inka Terra Asociación

Inka Terra is a Peru-based partner of Willamette Intl Travel and a pioneer in ecological research and conservation funded by tourism. They have a number of quality hotels in Cusco and Madre de Dios, which together host more than 200,000 travelers every year. 

Inka Terra’s nonprofit offshoot Inka Terra Asociación (ITA) is a far-reaching foundation that supports scientific research for the conservation of biodiversity and the sustainable development of the community. Since its establishment in 1978, ITA has devoted its efforts to the conservation of Peru’s biodiversity, encouraging scientific research in the Amazon rainforest, the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and many more locales across the country. ITA believes that learning about ecosystem dynamics and key species leads to better conservation strategies and education. 

Principal among their projects are: 

  • The Andean Bear Rescue Center, which studies the only bear species native to the Southern Hemisphere. 
  • The Inkaterra Canopy Walkway, a hanging bridge system to study wildlife in the rainforest canopy.
  • The Cabo Blanco Technical Study to justify the creation of Peru’s first marine reserve in the tropical sea off Cabo Blanco. 

For more info, check out their website: http://www.inkaterra.com/inkaterra-asociacion-org/

Support by Spending a Night in Luxury at an Inka Terra Hotel

Willamette Intl Travel has had a lot of success for clients staying at one of Inka Terra’s five hotels. We’ve received rave reviews of their cabins and eco-guides. Patrons of the hotels really feel like they are contributing to ecological efforts. On their blog they keep a journal for wildlife sightings at their hotels: Sunbittern bird, Andean Spectacled Bears, Jaguar, Harpy Eagles, Puma, Tapir, Deer. Last year, legendary filmmaker Werner Herzog visited three of the properties as part of Inka Terra’s 40th Anniversary. Send us a message to learn more: info@wittravel.com or 503-224-0180. 

From the desk of our client Julie V., who stayed at Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel in 2014:

“…we were treated as royalty. What an incredible place. After our little orientation with nice, cool tea we were told that we were being upgraded to a suite. And…it was spectacular. The room was huge, the bathroom included an indoor or outdoor shower, and we had our own garden Jacuzzi. We checked into all the activities and signed up for the orchid tour, the evening tour with lanterns, and the spectacled bear visit. The first two we had that afternoon and evening and they were excellent. We enjoyed time just relaxing in our suite and tasting the Pisco that was included. Dinner at the restaurant that evening was one of the best ever. We had a delightful server that we are staying in contact with, as we want to follow her career. She is outstanding. 

The next morning we had arranged to take the Andean bear tour. These are endangered bears that are being kept on a part of the Inkaterra property to ultimately prepare them for returning to their habitat. While it wasn’t quite what we expected we were glad we had taken the tour and learned a great deal about these bears. Breakfast was next and it was delicious and I even got the recipe for their quinua (English quinoa) pancakes.

Suggestion: Anyone going to MP must stay at least one night at Inkaterra. It is almost indescribably wonderful, relaxing, and beautiful. Truly a must do.”

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Filed under Conscientious Traveler, Peru, South America, Travel by Holiday

10 Things You Didn’t Know About Rio de Janeiro

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With the Summer Olympics coming on, Rio de Janeiro is more popular than ever. With beautiful beaches and a vivacious flavor, it’s no wonder why this amazing city attracts millions of visitors each year. Rio is a fantastic destination and a favorite port-of-call of many a cruise ship—but do you know everything there is to know about the Cidade Maravilhosa? Here are 10 things we’re sure you didn’t know:

1. The River of January. Rio de Janeiro translates to “River of January” in Portuguese, the month that it was discovered by Portugal. That said, locals are called Cariocas, a word that derives from kara’i oka (in the indigenous Tupi tongue, “white man’s house”). 

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2. There are more than 30 miles of beaches in Rio. Rio’s beaches are world-renowned for their clean and soft sand, and so conveniently accessible from most hotels and hostels. Along the beach you’ll also find a plethora of rental tents and chairs, wet trails, free showers, bars and cafes. Soak in the sun at Copacabana and Ipanema, the more popular of the beaches. You can practice your surfing skills or down a sanduíche natural, a cold sandwich with vegetables and mayo. Prefer to avoid the crowd? Opt for Leblon, the quieter sister beach but equally as beautiful.

3. The city is divided into three zones. The Zona Norte, the older Centro and the beach-lined Zona Sul. n the North, you’ll find a few monuments of note, like the Zoo, National Museum and the Observatory. In the Center, you’ll find the historic churches, monuments and squares at the city’s old waterfront. The South is where you’ll find the bulk of its famous beaches: Copacabana, Ipanema, Leblon.

4. The city’s drink of choice is the Cafezinho. The cafezinho is a popular welcome drink in Brazil, and are often imbibed at work, in the home, and sophisticated boutiques. The minute you walk into any door, don’t be surprised if someone asks you “você quer um cafezinho?” (Do you want a cafezinho?) When in Rome! Do as the Brazilians do and pair a cafezinho (little espresso) with a pão de queijo (cheese bread). There’s an excellent café in Leblon called Cafeína to do just that.

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5. The Caipirinha, Brazil’s national cocktail, was created in 1918 as a cure for the Spanish flu. Cachaça, hard liquor distilled from sugarcane, is blended with sugar and lime to create the masterful and succulent Caipirinha. The name originates from the word caipira, or “hillbilly.”

6. It took 9 years to complete Christ the Redeemer. Finished in 1931 on Mt. Corcovado’s peak, it’s become the cultural icon for both Rio and Brazil. Pre-10AM is the best time to check out the statue—best to avoid the queues and crowds—so hop in a taxi your first morning in Rio. It has been dubbed one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

7. “The Girl from Ipanema” was inspired from an actual girl. Songwriters Antonio Carlos Jobim and Vinicius de Moraes teamed up to write the lyrics to the song when they were struck by the beauty of a seventeen-year-old girl named Heloísa.

Interested in Brazil and Beyond? Call us up for a chat about South American Travel! Call 503-224-0180 or email info@wittravel.com. 

Photos courtesy of Flickr Creative Commons, Nicholas Bittencourt, Christian Haugen, Diego f. Garcia and Deni Williams. 

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Filed under Brazil, News, South America

Top 10 Travel Destinations for 2016

2015 has been a great year for travel! Our clients have embarked on amazing trips to the Loire Valley, Dolomites, Kyoto, Istanbul, Cook Islands, Maldives—the list goes on and on and on! We’ve seen tried-and-true destinations enjoy resurgent popularity (á la Costa Rica), and watched as trends for up-and-coming destinations come up on the rise.

To commemorate the New Year, we’ve come up with a list of new must-see countries to look out for in 2016. These are the places still bursting with new life, under the popular tourist radar and waiting to be discovered. With so many rising stars, we were hard-pressed to include only 10!

Wittravel’s Top 10 Destinations for 2016:

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10. Panama

Panama has blossomed as a destination that appeals both to chill and to thrill. Flights from the US have decreased significantly in the past few years, giving rise to Panama as a cheap alternative to Caribbean travel. However, the turquoise country does more than pull its fair share of weight—with coffee farms, colorful local markets, cloud forests and resplendent waters. Snorkel the rainbow reefs of Bocas del Toro, cruise through the famed canal, or sip a cocktail in the historic district of Casco Viejo. Learn about rum distillation, orange grove trade, and distinct Panamanian Folklore. Meet the indigenous Emberá while traveling upriver on a dugout canoe. Whether you’re looking for luxury or adventure, Panama is a tropical nirvana.

One of our clients recently stayed at the Punta Caracol Acqua-Lodge, a stunning abode reminiscent of Polynesian water bungalows. Call us for discounted rates. 

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9. Poland

Poland is fast becoming a major hub for culture, cuisine and fashion in Central Europe. In the past decade, Wroclaw in particular has enjoyed a cultural makeover, and is now popping with art galleries, beer gardens, restored bell towers and the beautiful and iconic Old Town Hall. The city has been elected 2016’s European Capital of Culture, a continent-wide event that promotes festivals, concerts and conferences in select cities. Other remarkable attractions of Poland include the historic and picturesque Old Town of Kraków, the 141,885-hectare Białowieża Forest, home to elk, wolves, lynx and 900 bison and the the Wieliczka Salt Mine, a deep labyrinth of salt tunnels distributed over 300km.

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8. Croatia

In recent seasons, Croatia has been exploding on the map as travelers seek out a new, special European experience. The Dalmatian coastline is famous for its pink sunsets, glittering Adriatic sea and breathtaking landscapes. The cities are a cultural delight, strewn about with medieval streets, blending Mediterranean and Slavic influences for a flavor all its own. “Those who seek paradise on Earth must come to Dubrovnik,” wrote George Bernard Shaw.

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7. Norway Coastline & Spitsbergen

Discover your inner adventurer by embarking on a coastline cruise off of Norway and Spitsbergen. Boats will take you from charming Bergen, through stunning fjord lands and up to the icescapes of North Cape. Enjoy Norway’s frosty beaches, kayak through picturesque inlets and spot rare seabirds and walruses. High in the north, experience a dogsled in the warm company of the indigenous Sami people. Some boats even continue up to the Svalbard archipelago and Spitsbergen island for a glimpse of polar bears and reindeer.

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6. Iran

Iran is a beautiful, diverse country with a history and culture that dates back thousands of years. The national is home to a whopping 19 UNESCO-registered sites! So it’s wonderful to hear about the ease of diplomatic relations between Iran and the rest of the world. Our certified friends over at Caravan-Serai offer a fascinating  tour into the heart of Iran. Join an expert guide and delve into ancient Persian history at the fabled cities of Shiraz and Esfahan. See classic poetry spring to life in the halls of exquisite mosques and madrassas. Departures run Feb 29, May 15, Sep 23, Oct 23—call Wittravel for full details.

Click here to read our client’s trip report of Iran: http://wittravel.com/reports/Iran_April08.pdf

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5. Burma

Since 2011 due to government reforms, Burma is now enjoying a resurgence in tourism. Since the country was isolated and closed to many outsiders for decades, the area is unspoiled by tourists: pristine countryside, true sense of locals and lifestyles. The best way to go is with a small group, led be an expert in history or archaeology. Burma’s rich heritage of architecture, lacquer, music dance and textiles. You’ll visit Bura’s cities, sail the Irrawaddy River, visit Inle Lake and the Plain of Pagodas. Attend a cooking lesson or enjoy a traditional puppet performance, or take a hot air balloon ride over the plains

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4. Hokkaido

Hokkaido is Japan’s most northern and most remote island. With its heavy snowfall and wild mountains, the nature is relatively unspoiled and isolated from the rest of Japan. This is a destination for outdoorsy types—skiers, snowboarders, cyclists, hikers—so grab your boots and skis and hit the road! Nature rules here: top jaunts include Daisetsuzan National Park, Shiretoko Peninsula, volcano-laden Shikotsu-Toya National Park, Kushiro wetland (home to thousands of Japanese cranes), and the countless hot springs all over. Our one recommendation—call us up soon, because the best time to go is early in the year. The Sapporo Snow Festival, a world-famous event, is held from February 5 to 11, 2016. Millions of visitors attend the festival to marvel at the gigantic and spectacular ice sculptures. Later around mid-April and early May are also a great time to go, as the cherry blossoms burst in all their exquisite, delicate beauty. We recommend Alexander & Roberts as a great guide into the Land of the Rising Sun.

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3. Estonia & Latvia

Estonia is a quirky country—a unique blend of Eastern European and Nordic influences. Just a ferry hop away from Helsinki, the land is rich in summer isles, diverse national parks, and quiet lakes. The charming capital of Tallinn keeps its heritage alive with Renaissance towers, cobblestoned streets and a Gothic Town Hall. Directly south lies Latvia, known for its wooden architecture, old-growth forests and pristine beaches. The capital of Riga is still bursting with life from its 2014 reign as the European Capital of Culture—with plentiful art festivals, operas, and exhibitions still in motion.

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2. Malta

Malta is a small archipelago in the heart of the Mediterranean Sea, a spot that has led to multiple waves of cultural influence over the centuries. Sicilian, Arab and Italian heritage blends deliciously in the local cuisine and tongue. It has been the base for Romans, Normans, Moors, Spanish, the list goes on. Maltese is technically an Arabic dialect bombarded with Italian, Sicilian and English words. With prehistoric temples, coastline watchtowers and hilltop towns, the atmosphere feels distinctly out of time. There’s also loads of fun activities to be had here—snorkeling, hiking, cycling, yachting, to name a few.

We’re excited to announce that our very own WIT Agent Pam will be going to Malta in March 2016. So stay tuned for her tales and photos of the quirky islands come Spring! In anticipation of her trip, we’ll also be posting a few Malta-related posts on this blog in the coming weeks.

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1. Cuba

Cuba is our Top 1 Choice, especially for Americans. Cuba is ripe with cultural riches–smooth music, luscious beaches, and a vibrant love of life! As legislation prohibiting travel relaxes, the land of antique cars and melodious tunes is more popular than ever. Our agents get calls almost daily, and we’re seeing tours already selling out for 2016! Unlike many travel professionals, who are just beginning to tap into this lovely island, we have been sending our clients there for years. Cycle around the plantations, explore the sultry streets of Havana, or embark on a slow, multi-day cruise that takes you into the heart of the Cuban culture.

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Filed under Asia, Caribbean, Europe, News, Panama, South America

The Salt Flats of Bolivia

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In the remote southwest corner of Bolivia, lies a blinding white sea of pure salt. The ghostly landscape is dotted with erratic rock formations and islands of cacti. Here, the land is always thirsty.

The salt flats of Uyuni are the largest in the world. Stretching an impressive 4,500 square miles at an elevation of 12,000 feet, the desert landscape is nothing short of primeval. There’s little but white hexagons and pentagons, everywhere you look.

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Once part of a prehistoric salt lake, the flats have since dried up into a severe beauty. Memorable characteristics are deafening silence, seasonal cerulean puddles, and colored mineral lakes. Wildlife is rare here, but if you’re lucky you may glimpse a flock of pink flamingos or the odd herd of wild vicuñas.

Uyuni is a fantastic destination for travelers who love the outdoors, or who have seen Peru and Iguazu and are on the lookout for something a bit different. The salt flats and their eerie, otherworldly scenery also attract photographers of NatGeo caliber from all over the world.

Bolivia is one of the most remote countries in the Western hemisphere. Up until as recently as 2011, Uyuni Airport serviced mostly mining companies. Now they have daily flights from La Paz. Tourism is still a budding industry—so we encourage our clients to check out this beautiful destination before it gets too crowded!

Avanti Destinations offers an incredible 3-day package that includes all air/ground transportation, 2 region tours, 2 nights accommodation and all meals. Hop your 4×4 jeep with your expert guide out to see the miniature pyramids of salt, the train graveyard, or Colchani the village of salt.

Spend 2 nights at the Luna Salada Salt Hotel, a superior 3-star resort constructed from salt blocks, with exquisite views of the flats. Or take a deluxe trip in an airstream camper into the heart of this otherworldly landscape.

This is a perfect add-on to a greater trip to Peru or Bolivia or other neighboring country.

Trips depart March to November (during dry season). For full details, click hereOr read more about Avanti Destinations here.

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Filed under Avanti, Bolivia, South America, Travel by Car

Embark on an Incredible Voyage on the West Coast of South America

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Looking for that adventure of a lifetime? In 2016, Canadian-based G Adventures is sending its MS Expedition to the West Coast of South America. The ship will voyage from Ushuaia up the Chilean coast to Peru, and onward to Panama and Colombia.

The Expedition carries a maximum of 134 guest passengers, not including crew, so you can expect a personalized, one-of-a-kind voyage. Trips often include pre/post nights in hotels, guided tours, land excursions, transfers, and educational programs onboard. Meals are international and provided by professional chefs.

The trip is comprised of 3 core legs. You can join any of them for a two-week expedition or embark on a longer adventure by combining two or all three.

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Leg A: 15 Days Chilean Fjords, Ushuaia to Santiago. Ushuaia – Punta Arenas – Puerto Natales – Angostura Guia – Laguna San Rafael – Puerto Chacabuco – Ancud, Isla de Chiloe – Talcahuano – Santiago/Valparaiso.

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Leg B: 15 Days Santiago to Guayaquil. Santiago – Valparaiso – Caldera – Arica – San Juan de Marcona – Callao/Lima – Trujillo – Salinas/Guayaquil. Between Lima and Trujillo, your guides take you on a 3-day included trip overland to the Sacred Valley and explore Cusco, Ollantaytambo, and Machu Picchu (local flights are additional).

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Leg C: 12 Days Guayaquil to Cartagena. Guayaquil/Salinas – Isla de La Plata – Bahia Solano – Punta Alegre – Pearl Islands – Panama Canal & Panama City – San Blas Islands – Capurgana – Cartagena.

Combos:

28 Days Ushuaia to Guayaquil. Combination of the first two trips.

25 Days Santiago to Cartagena. Combination of the last two trips.

38 Days Ushuaia to Cartagena. Combination of all three trips.

Solo Adventurers: Traveling solo but want to bunk with a fellow voyager? G Adventures will guarantee a shared cabin with one of the other guests. If you’d rather have a private cabin, G Adventures can offer one at a supplement.

Read about G Adventures in Antarctica here: https://wittravel.wordpress.com/2015/04/20/g-adventures-in-antarctica/

Departures are in March and April 2016. Call your Willamette agent at 503-224-0180 to discuss options!

In the Portland area this Fall? Drop by our office on Wednesday September 9 at 6:30pm. Join staff from Willamette Intl Travel and G Adventures for an evening of adventure travel! We’ll highlight Galapagos and Antarctica as well as G Adv’s special Arctic Cruise.

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Filed under Chile, Colombia, Panama, Peru, South America, Travel by Ship