By Intrepid Travel

 

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There is a certain allure to Colombia that is undeniable. Its rough past paired with the vibrant nightlife of Medellin, graffiti lined streets of Bogota and romantic colonial vibes of Cartegena have placed Colombia on everyone`s must-see list for 2017. But one destination that is often overlooked (and shouldn`t be) is Colombia`s Cocora Valley. Nestled away in the Eje Cafetero region – a coffee growing region, this natural cloud forest is home to the world`s tallest wax palm trees reaching 60m (196 ft.) tall, offers hours of hiking trails and is an entry point for travelers looking to explore the Los Nevados National Natural Park.

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Just a quick jeep ride outside of the picturesque town of Salento, the Cocora Valley is an increasingly popular paradise for travelers looking to escape the bigger cities and explore the rolling hills of the Colombian Andes. Boasting altitudes between 1,800 to 2,400 meters (5,900 – 7,874 ft.), the main hiking loop can take up to 6 hours and will guide you through the cloud forest to some of the best vantage points in the Valley. The combination of the scenery and altitude in this protected area is sure to take your breath away. It is best to start your days early and prepare for rain and muddy trails as the climate here can be quite temperamental.

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After a few short hours on the trail you`ll arrive at Acaime, an unexpected highlight of the hike. Featuring a small estate, this hummingbird sanctuary makes the perfect place to break during your day and grab a snack – the hot chocolate and cheese here is a delicious treat and come highly recommended. Hummingbirds are difficult to snap a perfect photo of because of their impressive speed, so put your camera down and just enjoy the views before continuing onwards.

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After trekking a few more hours along the narrow trails, balancing carefully across river crossings and wooden suspension bridges and climbing the steepest section of the hike, you`ll reach the best views the valley has to offer. The lush green rolling mountains are dotted with hundreds of spindly wax palms for as far as the eye can see. The clouds sit heavy in the air and roll in as they please, adding an element of mystery to this already dramatic landscape. Take your time walking back to the entry gates, this is the only place in the world you can find views like this so enjoy them for as long as you can.

 

You can escape to the Cocora Valley on Intrepid Travel`s 9-day Café Colombia tour.

 

About Intrepid Travel

We’ve been running small group adventures for over 25 years, so we’ve got a fair few travel tales to share. Likes: exploring, getting lost, eating, drinking, hiking, driving, flying, sailing, dancing, meeting new people, getting outside of our comfort zone. Dislikes: staying still for too long.


By: Terry Dale, President and CEO, USTOA



Israel is known as a historic and religious hub, but this diverse destination also offers awe-inspiring landscapes, adventure and a growing culinary and cosmopolitan culture in cities like Tel Aviv. Whether you’re interested in following in the footsteps of Jesus in Jerusalem, taste local flavors during lunch at a kibbutz, or float in the buoyant salt waters of the Dead Sea, now is the time to uncover everything the diverse destination of Israel has to offer travelers.

Jerusalem Old City Skyline

Credit: Insight Vacations

The following is a sample of itineraries from USTOA member tour operators to explore Israel’s past and present.

Tauck’s Israel and Jordan itinerary brings travelers on a journey to Israel’s most iconic sites, including the Western Wall, Dome of the Rock, Church of the Holy Sepulchre and more. Guests also will cruise on the Sea of Galilee aboard a working replica of a 2,000-year-old fishing boat and will explore Israel and Jordan’s antiquities guided by local experts and Tauck Directors. This 14-day journey is available for various departures in September, October, November 2017 and throughout 2018 from $5,790 per person based on double occupancy. www.tauck.com
Jerusalem - Old CIty view

Credit: Tauck

Goway’s The Great Israel Adventure offers travelers an adventurous escape with the opportunity to partake in an archaeological dig in Jerusalem, kayak down the River of Jordan, a 4×4 Jeep ride at the Golan Heights and more. Guests also will travel to the Dead Sea, the lowest point on Earth, where they can enjoy the mineral-rich waters. The itinerary includes visits to the Western Wall, Jerusalem’s New and Old City and the Jewish Quarter. This 10-day trip is available July 18, 2017 and December 12, 2017 starting at $2,578 per person. www.goway.com

Jerusalem - preferred pic of IGTO

Credit: Goway

Globus’ Journey Through the Holy Land nine-day itinerary brings travelers on a faith-based tour, through some of Christianity’s most important sites. Journey through the city of Jerusalem to the Garden of Gethsemane, where Jesus prayed the night before his arrest, and the Upper Room, where Jesus and his disciples had the Last Supper. Guest also will visit the village of Cana, where Jesus changed water into wine and more. Available May through November 2017, from $2,442 per person. www.globusfaith.com

Discover some of the most significant sites in the ancient world during Collette’s Israel-A Journey to the Holy Land 10-day trip. Bethlehem, Nazareth, Caesarea and the oldest city in the world, the ruins of Jericho, await history buffs as well as UNESCO World Heritage sites such as Baha’i Shrine and Gardens, Acre, and Jerusalem’s Old City. Guests also will taste local flavors during lunch at a kibbutz, a communal settlement, and enjoy a dinner at Jerusalem’s most popular restaurant. Departures are available September 6, October 25, November 8 and November 29, 2017, and February-October 2018 from $2,249 per person. www.gocollette.com

Go Ahead’s The Wonders of Ancient Israel brings guests on a tour of the cosmopolitan Tel Aviv before traveling to holy lands that set the foundations for many faiths, including one of the oldest cities in the world, Jerusalem. In Jerusalem travelers will visit the Holocaust History Museum and the Israel Museum. The trip also includes visits to Mount Zion and the Dead Sea. The nine-day trip is available for departures throughout 2017 and 2018 from $1,839. www.goaheadtours.com

Travelers are treated to a Friday night Shabbat dinner in the vibrant city of Tel Aviv during Insight Vacations’ Israel Discovery itinerary. Guests also will visit important religious sites like King David’s Tomb on Mount Zion, and journey through the ever-changing landscapes of the Jordan Valley, past ancient Jericho to take a dip in the dense salt waters of the Dead Sea. Available from $3,050 per person on various dates throughout 2017. www.insightvacations.com

Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem

Credit: Insight Vacations

Guests on Abercrombie & Kent’s Israel: Crossroads of History itinerary will explore Biblical and historic sites in Bethlehem, Nazareth and Jerusalem, and will enjoy a private cruise on the Sea of Galilee. Guests will learn about life in these iconic cities and will visit iconic sites like the Sermon on the Mount. This eight-day trip is available on various dates throughout 2017 and 2018 from $5,695 per person. www.abercrombiekent.com

IL011538Credit: Abercrombie & Kent USA

 

Editor’s Note: Information was correct at time of writing. All tours/packages subject to availability. Prices may vary from time of writing, based on currency fluctuations.


By Terry Dale, President and CEO, USTOA

 

Safety and security have always been the top priorities for The United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) and our members.  The unparalleled knowledge and relationships built within each destination our members take guests help build engaging and memorable experiences, but also ensures an informed and swift reaction should an emergency situation occur before, during, or after a scheduled trip. Keeping passengers safe while communicating necessary information creates a priceless peace of while traveling.

As avid travelers and global citizens, the presidents of our tour operator members are laser-focused on the security and safety of all travelers, both at home and abroad. We’ve commissioned a couple of them to share their thoughts on how traveling with a tour operator provides security, knowledge and peace of mind to travelers in today’s sometimes uncertain world climate.

 

Here’s what they had to say:

 

Stephen Birkett, Co-President & Co-Owner of Premier World Discovery:

One of the main reasons travelers traditionally select tours is to have all the unknowns taken care of for them. Hotel selection, meals, sightseeing and transportation are a big part of what a tour operator provides. Given the current world climate with safety concerns, the tour operator is again taking care of another unknown aspect of travelling to another country. Obviously, we cannot cover every scenario regarding safety, but we are not going to take passengers into questionable areas and we have proven experience in the places we are travelling to.

Additionally, on all of our tours we have an experienced guide leading the group and their experience should provide that peace of mind that travelers seek and in case of emergencies they are right there to help and guide.

Ian Swain, President and Owner of Swain Destinations:

Last month, a cyclone barreled through Australia’s Great Barrier Reef Islands. As soon as the cyclone made the forecast, our response team began preemptively rearranging itineraries, hotel arrangements, experiences and flights for active and upcoming travelers, to ensure their journeys would be uninterrupted and safe. This is the benefit you receive when working with travel company members of USTOA.

Travel companies like Swain have teams on the ground that intimately know a destination, allowing them to proactively address any travel challenges. Their destination network becomes your network, providing the security and peace of mind to truly enjoy your experience. Swain Destinations has spent over 30 years curating trips, acquiring destination knowledge, and setting up the support infrastructure and the proactive policies to effectively communicate with our travelers.  Regardless of the current world climate, traveling with a travel company instills confidence that you always know who to contact in any event.


By Terry Dale, President and CEO, USTOA

 

Summer is around the corner but there’s still time to book an unforgettable summer family vacation! With 80% of USTOA tour operator members offering multi-generational/family travel, travelers looking to get away with the ones they love the most have plenty of options. Here are a few itineraries spanning the globe that are sure to please even the pickiest of family members.

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Credit: Austin Adventures

Families looking to cross something off their bucket list can journey to Peru on Adventure by Disney’s Peru and Machu Picchu Family Vacation itinerary. Adventure awaits on this nine-day journey through Peru visiting the Peruvian Andes, river rafting down the Urubamba River, and of course, a tour through the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu. Delicious Peruvian food and local experiences like a visit to the local market are also available on this trip. Departure dates are available from June 7, 2017 to December 24, 2017 starting at $5,129 per adult/ $4,879 per child. www.adventuresbydisney.com

Families can join Austin Adventures on the six-day journey through the Land of the Midnight Sun with its Alaska Family Vacation package. Kids and adults can pan for gold, kayak through Resurrection Bay and hike to the Harding Ice Field during their summer break this year. Austin Adventures encourages families to enjoy America’s last frontier while also connecting and creating memories as a family. Available on various dates June-August 2017 and starts at $3,698 per person and $2,958 to $3,328 per child. www.austinadventures.com

glacier_23754774134_o_28277581744_o

Credit: Austin Adventures

Tauck Bridges offers families the chance to discover the history of Western Europe during its eight-day Castles & Kings: London to Paris itinerary. Guests are invited to kick off their vacation with a classic double-decker bus ride through London before embarking on a speedboat adventure along the River Thames. A visit to the infamous Château de Versailles, Musée du Louvre and more await families in Paris. Departures are available June-August 2017 starting at $4,630 per person. www.tauck.com

Families looking for a luxury safari experience will enjoy Abercrombie & Kent’s Family Tanzania Safari itinerary. Guests will participate in game drives in Tanzania’s greatest wildlife refuges while staying in family-friendly safari lodges and a luxury tented safari camp. A family treasure hunt through a local Tanzanian market and a visit with a Maasai village elder will also delight family members of all ages. The eight-day Luxury Small Group Journey is limited to 18 guests and is available for various departure dates July and August 2017 starting at $6,495 per person. www.abercrombiekent.com

Summer vacation already booked? Travelers can join a once-in-a-lifetime winter vacation trip to the southern tip of the world on Lindblad Expeditions’ Journey to Antarctica: The White Continent. Families will spend six days on the world’s most remote continent enjoying almost 24 hours of daylight, perfect for admiring huge icebergs and photographing thousands of Gentoo penguins with photo tips from a National Geographic photographer. Guests also have the chance to see a 40-ton whale surface off the bow of the ship. Expeditions available in January, February, November and December from $13,760 per person. www.expeditions.com

What are you waiting for? Click here and plan your dream vacation now!

 

Editor’s Note: Information was correct at time of writing. All tours/packages subject to availability. Prices may vary from time of writing, based on currency fluctuations.

 


By Terry Dale, President and CEO, USTOA

 

Whether it’s trekking through the Himalayas, sea kayaking in Croatia or zip lining through Costa Rica, a recent survey of USTOA tour operator members showed that more than half of the membership offers adventure itineraries diverse enough to fit all levels of thrill-seeking travelers.

Ready to get your adrenaline pumping? Be inspired by these adventurous itineraries from USTOA members…

 

Perillo’s Learning Journeys offers an otherworldly journey to some of the most sacred sites in the Hindu religion on its India Himalayan Spiritual Adventure-Source of The Ganges. Travelers will trek through the Himalayas on a quest to Gomukh at the Gangotri glacier, the source of The Holy River Ganges. Daily morning yoga sessions and a pilgrimage to the Badrinath Temple also await guests on this itinerary. Starting at $2,850 per person, this 17-day spiritual journey is available in May, June and September 2017. www.learningjourneys.com

Perillo's Learning Journey India Himalayan Spiritual Adventure-Source of The Ganges

Guests climb high into the Costa Rican forest for their choice of a “Hanging Bridges” tour or a zip line course during Collette’s nine-day Tropical Costa Rica trip. Also available is the chance to explore the world’s largest butterfly gardens and participate in a nature walk through the Monteverde Cloud Forest surrounded by trees up to 100 feet tall. This South American adventure is available on select dates June-November, 2017 from $1,749 per person. www.gocollette.com

Travelers on Grand American Adventures’ Alaskan Highlights itinerary will discover some of Alaska’s most enchanting destinations including Denali National Park and Wrangell-St. Elias National Park. Guests also will participate in a guided wildlife cruise through Kenali Fjords National Park and can see a dog sledding demonstration and the Talkeetna Ranger Station to perhaps taste a local specialty, reindeer sausage. Available on select dates in June-August 2017, this 11-day trip starts at $2,807 (after 10% discount). www.grandamericanadventures.com

Grand American Adventures’ Alaskan Highlights

Adventure seekers can head east for Wendy Wu Tours’ China Trailblazer itinerary. On this expansive 21-day trip, guests will hike along the Jinshanling Section of the Great Wall of China and through the picturesque Bifeng Gorge to visit the Duijangyan Panda Base. Additionally, travelers will come face to face with the infamous Terracotta Warriors and enjoy daily Tai Chi sessions. Available for select departures in April, May, September and October starting at $5,590 per person. www.wendywutours.com

Why drive through the Irish countryside when you can cycle through the incredible landscape on VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations’ Cycling Ireland’s South: Counties Waterford and Tipperary? This easy/moderate biking journey immerses travelers in the spectacular cycling routes around Dungarvan Bay and along quiet country roads through quaint villages. Travelers can save $400 per person on the June 3 departure of this 10-day itinerary. Additional departures May to October 2017 starting at $3,395, including international airfare. www.vbt.com

VBT Bicycling and Walking Vacations’ Cycling Ireland's South: Counties Waterford and Tipperary

Discover the adventure of Botswana like never before during Abercrombie & Kent’s Botswana Safari in Style. During this luxury safari guests will cruise along the Okavango Delta in a traditional mokoro (dugout canoe), observing aquatic life from massive hippos to tiny frogs. Travelers will stay in intimate camps and lodges and get tips on capturing images of the “Big Five” during a private lecture from a professional photographer. Available on select departure dates throughout 2017, rates start at $6,995 per person. www.abercrombiekent.com

Adventurous travelers can explore the winter wonderland of Finland on Alexander+Roberts’ Finland’s Lapland – Winter Adventures in the Arctic Circle trip. Guests will spend four nights above the Arctic Circle in a private log cabin with attached glass igloo, enjoying outdoor activities such as dog-sledding, nighttime reindeer sleigh rides, and snowmobiling in search of the Northern Lights. Starting at $5,899 per person, the itinerary is available from October 30, 2017 to March 28, 2018. www.alexanderroberts.com

Alexander + Roberts Finland’s Lapland – Winter Adventures in the Arctic Circle

Avanti Destinations’ five-day Croatia: Split Adventure excursion offers travelers the chance to explore the city of Split through exhilarating activities such as sea kayaking, river rafting and zip lining tours. Available to book now through September 15, 2017 for travel from May 1 to October 15, 2017. Rates start at $845 per person, based on double occupancy. www.avantidestinations.com

Avanti Destinations’ Croatia: Split Adventure excursion

Escape the summer heat on Holland America Line’s 10-day Denali Alaskan cruise. Experience salmon fishing along the Alaskan port of Ketchikan, be enraptured by the sights of Denali National Park, cruise Glacier Bay’s ice-studded fjords, and more. Available on select dates from May to September 2017, rates start at $999 per person. www.hollandamerica.com

Chase the Northern Lights by husky sled, reindeer safari or horse sleigh ride on Europe Express’ action-packed Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort Winter Escape. For four nights, guests will ski, snowshoe or sled through snowy forests and stay in a glass igloo for Aurora Borealis spotting. Available from November 2017 through April 2018, prices start at $1,599 per person. www.europeexpress.com

Europe Express’ Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort Winter Escape

Traverse to the summit of Africa’s tallest mountain on Goway’s seven-day Kilimanjaro Climb – Marangu Route expedition. The journey features treks through the rainforest and awe-inspiring views of waterfalls before the final ascent to Uhuru Peak. During the demanding climb, trekkers will stay in dormitory style huts scaling almost 20,000-feet. Available throughout 2017, prices start from $2,155 per person. www.goway.com

Discover Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand on two wheels with Intrepid Travel’s Cycle Indochina 13-day itinerary. On this trip through Indochina, riders will cycle 37 miles each day along sites such as the Mekong Delta and Khun Dan Dam, Thailand’s largest dam. Available on various dates from April to July 2017, rates start at $2,230 per person. www.intrepidtravel.com

Intrepid Travel’s Cycle Indochina

Explore the remote country of Greenland by water on Quark Expedition’s East Greenland: Northern Lights 14-day itinerary. Guests have the opportunity to visit Northeast Greenland National Park and either hike through the Arctic tundra or journey Greenland’s waters via kayak. Prices start at $8,395 per person. An additional discount of up to $3,500 per person is available on the August 16, 2017 departure. www.quarkexpeditions.com

Quark Expedition’s East Greenland: Northern Lights

Families looking to spend quality time together are invited to experience Austin Adventures’ six-day Yellowstone Grand Teton Family Vacation Trip Solar Eclipse Departure. The trip includes views of the solar eclipse, whitewater rafting down the Snake River, a visit to Old Faithful, and a dip in a secret swimming hole. Families will also get the chance to spot a variety of wildlife, including moose and bald eagles. This special departure is available August 20, 2017 and rates start at $3,098 per adult and up to $2,788 per child. www.austinadventures.com

Austin Adventures’ Yellowstone Grand Teton Family Vacation Trip Solar Eclipse Departure

Head south during Adventures by Disney’s 10-day South Africa Destination package. This African adventure gives families a chance to take a three-day safari through the Kapama Game Reserve, hike in the Featherbed Nature Reserve, and more. Guests can also see African penguins at the Cape of Good Hope. Departure dates are available from June 10, 2017 to December 23, 2017. Prices start at $8,679 per adult and $8,249 per child. www.adventuresbydisney.com

Adventures by Disney’s South Africa Destination

Travelers looking for Canadian adventure can find it on Tauck’s Bugaboos Adventure Featuring Heli-Exploring. Invented in the Canadian Rockies by Arthur Tauck Jr., Heli-Exploring brings guests by helicopter to Bugaboo Lodge, high in the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia to participate in daily helicopter-assisted hiking excursions. Passengers also will discover the town of Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta. Departures are available in July and August 2017 from $5,990 per person based on double occupancy plus airfare. www.tauck.com

 

Editor’s Note: Information was correct at time of writing. All tours/packages subject to availability. Prices may vary from time of writing, based on currency fluctuations.


By Terry Dale, President and CEO, USTOA

 

As our neighbors to the north celebrate their nation’s sesquicentennial anniversary, there’s no better way to join the festivities than a trip to see Canada’s inspiring landscapes, vibrant cities, native cultures and much more. To honor this historic milestone, the members of USTOA are offering new Canadian itineraries and special savings throughout 2017.

From a thrilling Ice Explorer ride on the 1,000-foot-deep Columbia Icefield to whale watching in New Brunswick, below are a sample of itineraries from USTOA tour operator members in celebration of Canada’s anniversary. Find your dream vacation now.

Go Ahead honors Canada’s 150th anniversary with $250 off any Go Ahead tour through Canada departing in 2017 with promo code CA2017. From a journey on the Rocky Mountaineer railway to exploring the natural wonders of Canada’s epic national parks, Go Ahead Canadian itineraries give clients the chance to choose the best Canadian trip for them. Available from February, 1-March 31, this offer cannot be combined with other offers or group discounts. www.goaheadtours.com

Travelers looking for Canadian adventure can find it on Tauck’s Bugaboos Adventure Featuring Heli-Exploring. Invented in the Canadian Rockies by Arthur Tauck Jr., Heli-Exploring brings guests by helicopter to Bugaboo Lodge, high in the Purcell Mountains in British Columbia to participate in daily helicopter-assisted hiking excursions. Passengers also will discover the town of Banff and Lake Louise in Alberta. Departures are available in July and August 2017 from $5,990 per person based on double occupancy plus airfare. www.tauck.com

Canada's 150th - Tauck

Guests on Travcoa’s Uncharted Canada itinerary can celebrate Canada’s 150th anniversary by private air discovering eight Canadian cities across four provinces. Travelers help create their ideal trip with flexible daily options like the search for artic wildlife in Churchill, Manitoba, horseback riding or a thrilling river-rafting adventure in Lake Louise, Alberta, and a journey up the Orford River in British Columbia lead by a First Nations guide. This luxurious 15-day trip is available August 11-25, 2017 from $59,950 per person based on double occupancy. www.tcsworldtravel.com

smarTours’ 11-day Canadian Rockies & Badlands itinerary visits some of Canada’s famed natural wonders including two UNESCO World Heritage Sites, the Canadian Badlands, and Lake Louise in Banff, Alberta. Travelers will celebrate the adventurous side of Canada with a journey aboard the snow coach to explore the Columbia Icefields also in Banff. This Canadian journey begins at $2,399 per person and is available May-September 2017. www.smartours.com

Guests journey 500 miles north of the Arctic Circle on Quark Expeditions’ Artic Watch Wilderness Lodge expedition. Book before April 30, 2017 and receive a savings of $1,000 on eight-day trips, and $1,500 on 10-day trips for departures from June 2018 to September 2018. With 24 hours of daylight, travelers have abundant time to spot artic wildlife like musk ox, polar bears and beluga whales. Available from June 30, 2017 to August 3, 2018. www.quarkexpeditions.com

Canada's 150th - Quark Expeditions

Adventures by Disney invites active travelers to uncover adventure during its Montana and Alberta, Canada itinerary. This seven-day trip includes canoeing at Moraine Lake, biking along the Bow River, Banff Gondola visit and a Glacier Skywalk excursion. Departures dates from June 26 to August 9, 2017 start at $4,509 for adults and $4,289 for children. www.AdventuresbyDisney.com

Canada's 150th - Adventures by Disney

Discover the Canadian Rockies during Insight Luxury Gold Vacations’ Majesty of the Rockies with Alaskan Cruise. Travelers have a choice of 14 or 21 days of relaxation along Western Canada and Alaska, by road, rail and sea. Guests will cruise through glacial waters and embark on one of the world’s most romantic train journeys on the Rocky Mountaineer. Prices from $4,875 per person, and is available in May 2017 and September 2017. www.luxurygoldvacations.com

In honor of Canada’s milestone, Country Walkers has launched a new guided walking experience, New Brunswick: Bay of Fundy & Campobello Island. Travelers participate in a private whale watch, explore the summer home of Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and enjoy a walking route beside the village of St. Martins determined by the tides. This new itinerary is available in June, July and September 2017 from $3,298 per person. www.countrywalkers.com

Pleasant Holidays is celebrating with savings on stays at The Westin Bayshore in Vancouver. Guests can visit this diverse metropolis and save up to $100 off a five-night stay, up to $75 off a four-night stay, and up to $50 off a two to three-night stay. To save, travelers can book by March 26, 2017 for travel through July 31, 2017. www.pleasantholidays.com

Travelers can hike, bike, paddle and dine their way through Whistler, British Columbia on Austin Adventures’ six-day British Columbia-Whistler itinerary. Throughout this active trip, guests can participate in their own Biathlon at the site of the 2010 Olympic Games, shooting at Olympic targets, swim at the base of Matier Glacier and more. This western Canadian adventure is available June and September 2017 starting at $2,898 per person. www.austinadventures.com

Guests on Alexander + Roberts’ Canada by Land, Water + Rail: The Pacific to the Rockies itinerary begin their journey in the Pacific port of Prince Rupert before boarding the VIA Rail Canada for a two-day all daylight trip into the Canadian Rockies. Travelers then uncover the wildlife of Banff, Jasper and Yoho National Parks. This nine-day trip is available in July and August 2017 from $4,799 per person. www.alexanderroberts.com

Canada's - Alexander+Roberts

Travelers can discover the natural and historic wonders of Quebec on Collette’s Charming French Canada itinerary. Guests will stay at the luxurious European style hotels Fairmont Chateau Frontenac and Fairmont Le Manoir Richelieu in the Charlevoix region and tour Montreal by coach. Also included in this French-Canadian adventure is a trip to a local sugar shack to see how maple syrup is made and a ferry ride to a 19th century mill on an island in the St. Lawrence River. Available June-August 2017 from $2,499 per person. www.gocollette.com

Cosmos invites travelers to sit back and enjoy the view on its nine-day Via Rail and the Canadian Rockies trip. Highlights from this scenic itinerary include stops at Lake Louise, the Columbia Icefield, and the Butchart Gardens, which features 55 acres of floral displays. This western Canada tour is available on various dates May-September 2017 starting at $1,986 per person. www.Cosmos.com

Globus is offering travelers a 5% savings on all Canada Vacations until April 25th, 2017* including the 13-day Great Canadian Rail Journey from Toronto to Vancouver. Guests will travel across Canada on the historic railroad stopping to enjoy excursions to Niagara Falls, Maligne Lake, a cruise to Spirit Island and more. This expansive journey through Canada starts at $4,051 per person (land only) and is available various dates in June, July, August and September. *Some restrictions apply, see website for more details. http://www.globusjourneys.com

Canada 150 - Globus

ACIS America together with Visit Canada have created a new line of educational travel options in time for Canada’s 150th anniversary including three- and four-day trips to Toronto and Niagara Falls, Quebec City and Montreal. ACIS America is also offering a free trip for two teachers when a minimum of 20 students sign up, and for every additional ten students, one teacher will receive a free trip. www.acis.com/america

What are you waiting for? Click here and plan your dream vacation now!

 

Editor’s Note: Information was correct at time of writing. All tours/packages subject to availability. Prices may vary from time of writing, based on currency fluctuations.


By John Newton, AFAR Ambassador

I want to come clean about something, even at the risk of making USTOA somewhat uncomfortable. When AFAR first contacted me to find out if I would be interested in traveling to the Canadian Rockies on a tour with Collette, part of me was enthusiastic. I’d have the chance to see a province I’d never visited, Alberta, and its world-famous and UNESCO-recognized parks: Jasper and Banff. Another part of me thought, “huh, a tour?” I had images of being shepherded around with a group of camera-toting tourists and seeing the grandeur of the Rockies only from behind the windows of a bus. My experience traveling with tours has been limited to occasional day trips or walking tours except for one trip to Morocco almost two decades ago. Until this winter, and my Collette trip, I thought of tours as being only for people incapable of deciphering bus schedules and finding the best local restaurants on their own. A tour was, I dismissively believed, not for “real” travelers.

Collette's Canada Winter Wonderland

The Collette Winter Wonderland trip began to shake my preconceptions on the first morning. Our exploration of Edmonton, Alberta’s capital, began with a visit to the provincial legislature. It wasn’t open to visitors that morning, but Daniel, our guide, was able to use his connections to get us in for a private tour. The exclusive access was an obvious perk of traveling with Collette, but the tour itself was a surprise. On my own, I would have admired the chandeliers and regimental flags in the grandiose early 20th-century building, but with Collette, I found that my fellow travelers were seriously interested in discussing the history of the Alberta Social Credit Party (look it up on Wikipedia) and why most U.S. states have bicameral legislatures while most Canadian provinces have unicameral ones. If I needed more evidence that I was traveling with a bunch of fellow nerds, I also met Charlotte that morning. This German-born professor of nuclear physics from the University of Ohio would later that day be able to explain the uncertainty principle to me in a way that I finally understood it and its significance—a bonus of this trip that was not mentioned in any of the Collette descriptions of the itinerary.

Provincial Legislature Collette's Canada's Winter Wonderland

The provincial legislature was only the first of a number of activities on the Collette trip that I would not have experienced had I been traveling solo. Yes, theoretically individual travelers can sign up to go snow-shoeing and dog-sledding, locating outfitters and making arrangements, but I know that if I had been traveling on my own, I’d first have to figure out how to get from Edmonton to Jasper and then on to Lake Louise, Banff, and finally Calgary. Before searching out activities and sights, I’d need to plan where to sleep each night and eat each meal. And there were cultural highlights I would never have even known to ask about, like a talk by a jeweler about ammolite, a gemstone unique to the Canadian Rockies that I had never heard of before this trip.

Ammolite Collette's Canada Winter Wonderland

Charlotte was not the only person in our group who made this trip surprisingly rewarding for me. Without getting into my politics, Barbara, a Methodist minister also from Ohio, and I bonded over our similar views while snow-shoeing, while Ben, a farmer from southern Georgia, and I got into a sometimes heated but always friendly discussion, while savoring Alberta bison at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise. (This trip fell over the week that included the inauguration and march on Washington, so politics were hard to avoid.) It’s frequent these days to bemoan how isolated many of us are in our bubbles, and Collette drew me out of mine for a week. I knew that I would come back having seen a part of the world, Alberta, that I had never been to before. I didn’t realize I would also become friends with other Americans from places in the country far from my home in Brooklyn. Now not only are other guided tours on my must-do list, but places from Sandusky, Ohio to Hiram, Georgia and new friends in those places are on my must-visit list too.

John Newton and friends on Ammolite Collette's Canada Winter Wonderland

Interested in learning more about John’s journey? Read more about it on AFAR.com, the USTOA blog and check out Collette’s Canada’s Winter Wonderland itinerary.

John has almost 20 years’ experience in travel, both on staff at Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure and writing for other magazines, newspapers, and websites. He is AFAR’s Branded Content Advisor and the founder of Signal Custom Content, a travel branded content consulting company. His 2016 plans include Ireland, Manitoba, Japan, Netherlands, and California.


By John Newton, AFAR Ambassador

Collette's Canada Winter Wonderland

In almost 20 years of working as a travel writer and editor, I’ve often been reminded that a good strategy for experiencing any destination like a local is to visit in the off-season. Paris in July is wonderful, no doubt, but there’s also something appealing about it in November, when the museums and restaurants are less crowded; waiters and shopkeepers are less harried and have more time to stop and chat. It is part of why I jumped at the chance to join the Collette Winter Wonderland trip to the Canadian Rockies in January. While I know that Banff and Jasper Park in the summer must be unbelievably stunning (they are in the winter too), I’ve also heard that along with long summer days come long queues of buses and tourists outnumbering the bears. Here are six lessons in traveling like a local from this trip which I intend to practice on my next one too.

1)     Let a Local Be Your Guide. While the guide on this Collette trip, Daniel Boghen, is Canadian he isn’t from Alberta itself (he’s from Montreal). But having repeatedly led trips in the Canadian Rockies, he knows all the right people. He was able to arrange experiences that aren’t available to most travelers, like an off-hours visit to the Alberta provincial legislature, and knew the best places to stop for postcard perfect shots along the Icefields Parkway.

2)     Opt for Local Transportation. Traveling by train or bus is often a better way to experience a destination the way residents do than exploring in your own rental car. In Alberta in the winter, traveling like a local means putting on a pair of snowshoes or hopping in a dog sled. A snowshoe walk through the woods on this Collette trip was a chance to experience Jasper National Park in all its majesty without any crowds.

Dog Sledding on Collette's Canada's Winter Wonderland

3)     Do Your Homework. Having some context for the sights you see makes every trip richer, and I try to make time to read a history of any country I’m visiting, as well as fiction by one of its leading writers. Daniel made the homework part of traveling easier, providing us with printouts on the geology of the Rockies and explaining, in his lively way, aspects of Canada’s culture and history.

4)     Try Local Foods. From Nanaimo bars (a custard bar with a chocolate base) at the Bear’s Paw Bakery in Jasper to Alberta bison at the elegant Fairview at the Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise, the trip offered a number of opportunities to try local specialties. Sample them, though you may want to beware of eating too many maple candies and desserts unless you follow them with some cross-country skiing or a glacier hike.

5)     Join the Party. Alberta’s winter calendar is crowded with events to help residents get through the cold days till spring returns. Visitors are definitely welcome and our trip coincided with Banff’s SnowDays, complete with illuminated ice sculptures including a castle that served as the entrance to an ice-skating rink on frozen Lake Louise.

Ice Sculpture Collette's Canada's Winter Wonderland

6)     Get Up Close with the Locals. In winter, you won’t be able to see one of the Rockies’ most famous residents, its bears (as they are hibernating), but it becomes easier to spot many other animals—elk, foxes, wolves, mountain sheep, and mountain goats among them—thanks to the white backdrop of snow. Just remember to keep a respectful distance.

Elk Collette's Canada's Winter Wonderland

Interested in learning more about John’s journey? Read more about it on AFAR.com, the USTOA blog and check out Collette’s Canada’s Winter Wonderland itinerary.

John has almost 20 years’ experience in travel, both on staff at Conde Nast Traveler and Travel + Leisure and writing for other magazines, newspapers, and websites. He is AFAR’s Branded Content Advisor and the founder of Signal Custom Content, a travel branded content consulting company. His 2016 plans include Ireland, Manitoba, Japan, Netherlands, and California.


By Terry Dale, President and CEO, USTOA

 

Today’s travelers want more than to just see a destination and check the major attractions off their bucket list. They want an intimate look at authentic experiences off the beaten path.

From a river cruise around “The Golden Land” of Myanmar, to wading in the geothermal waters of Iceland’s Blue Lagoon, members of the United States Tour Operators Association (USTOA) reported Cuba, Iceland, Croatia, Sri Lanka, Vietnam, Myanmar, Iran, Africa (South Africa and Morocco), Cambodia and India as the top emerging destinations for 2017 in a survey released by PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP (PwC) in December. Here are a few sample itineraries to peak your wanderlust for these fascinating countries:

Cuba (Credit: Brandon Widener)

Cuba (Credit: Brandon Widener)

CubaAlexander + Roberts“Classic Cuba” itinerary is an exploration of this year’s top emerging destination. Island visitors will visit Ernest Hemingway’s home where he lived and wrote for almost 20 years, browse Cuba’s vibrant local markets and learn about Old Havana’s architectural history, Afro-Cuban art, and music. Guests can enjoy this seven-night trip from $5,595 throughout 2017.

Sri Lanka – Guests on Trafalgar’s “Wonders of Sri Lanka” journey will visit some of the country’s most enchanting sites like the Temple of Tooth and Udawalwe National Park, as well as a train trip to Sri Lanka’s tea country to learn the art of tea tasting. This trip also provides travelers with insider moments like dance lessons in the village of Habarana and lunch at a family home in the village of Katugastota. Beginning in April 2017, this 11-day trip is available throughout 2017 with prices from $2,385 per person.

Iceland – Travelers on Contiki’s “Iceland” trip will discover Iceland’s Nordic landscape and explore the vibrant capital city of Reykjavik. The four-day itinerary includes a stop at Iceland’s famed Blue Lagoon and a search for the Northern Lights. Available throughout 2017 with prices from $875 per person.

Myanmar – Avalon Waterways’ “Golden Myanmar & The Alluring Irrawaddy” itinerary is offered northbound or southbound along the Irrawaddy River and includes walking tours through local villages. Among other activities, guests will visit a monastery where they can offer alms to the monks and witness their lunch ritual. This captivating 14-day river cruise is available throughout 2017 and into 2018 from $3,659 per person.

To find your dream vacation, click here.

Sri Lanka (Credit: Trafalgar)

Sri Lanka (Credit: Trafalgar)

Note: Information was correct at time of writing. All tours/packages subject to availability. Prices may vary from time of writing, based on currency fluctuations.

A version of this post originally ran in the February 2017 issue of Vacation Agent Magazine.