Hear about travel to Helsinki, Finland as the Amateur Traveler talks to Inna from the Finnish Family Travel Blog about her hometown.
“In Helsinki the sea is around you all the time. You have an amazing opportunity to create a holiday with nature and the urban life. You can experience the sea easily without your own boat in Helsinki, because we have lots of islands here by the shore where you can take a day cruise and even the public bus ticket is valid on the boat. You can easily take a 20 minute ride to Suomenlinna Island which is one of the UNESCO Heritages. There are lots of restaurants on the island and most of the restaurants have their own boats. Most of them have a shuttle service every hour.”
We talk about some of the other sites in Helsinki like Rock Church, the Lutheran Cathedral, the Orthodox Cathedral and museums. We also talk about different restaurants you should try.
Helsinki is a walkable and bike-able city. Inna bikes everywhere, all year long and recommends you based yourself in the downtown for easy access to all the sites. Inna also recommends you get out of town to experience nature in some of the Finish National Parks nearby. And, of course, no trip to Finland is complete without a sauna.
Inna says that the Summer time is the best time to come to Finland, from May to September., but whether it is on a long summer day or a short winter one, come see what Helsinki has to offer.
Hear about travel to Patagonia as the Amateur Traveler talks to Jackie Nourse about this region of southern Argentina.
Jackie compares the northern region of Patagonia to Glacier National Park or Banff, “on steroids, times a hundred”. “The specific region where I was near Bariloche is known as the Lake district.Its very close to the Chilean border. There are so many lakes and these lakes are crystal clear green blue waters. The elevation is not too high there. The mountains do get higher and they are really dramatic.”
“In the mountainous region your going to find a lot of small towns and these villages built a church or a plaza, alongside a lake usually.” You are going to find National Parks, lots of hikes and volcanos.
Jackie recommends everyone flies during the day when flying from northern Patagonia to southern Patagonia because it is a very beautiful flight. “The are so many volcanos and there are glaciers. As you go further south the southern Patagonia ice field is the 3rd largest mass of connected ice in the world after Antartica and Greenland. There’s plenty of incredible nature to see out there. Its a great place for the adventure traveler to go and explore.”
She recommends a couple days in Bariloche for hikes and I recommend for you to use a coupon site like http://coupongo.org/ to save even more off discount flights. Head south from there. Climbers will want to stop at El Bolsón. “The big wow factor is in the south, the Calafate and Chaltén area where you have the Perito Moreno Glacier. I heard so much about this glacier. It sounded over done from what I was reading. I cannot even tell you how speechless I was when I walked out onto the boardwalks which offer a view directly across from the ice.” Jackie also took a guided hike out onto the glacier and high recommends it.
In addition to hiking Jackie, got out to the pampas area nearby to experience some of the Argentina cowboy culture. As someone who has lived for years in Montana, Jackie is used to beautiful scenery, but Patagonia wowed her as it will you.
Our final European adventure for 2016 wrapped up just a few days ago – the skies were clear, the meadows were green, the hiking was fantastic and the Dolomites proved their status as the most beautiful mountain range in the world.
With 13 past Active Adventures travellers, we explored the Alta Badia valley, the Fanes Sennes Braies Natural Park and the peaks and valleys surrounding Cortina. Its difficult to describe the Dolomites without breaking out the superlatives and grandiose terms, simply because there’s no other way to describe what you see and experience around every corner – “I don’t think Ive ever seen a more perfect setting”, “you’ve got to be kidding me”, “OK, my mind is blown”, “I just need to pinch myself and make sure I’m not dreaming.” These were just some of the comments we all heard ourselves making along the way. And let’s not forget the hiking and biking amidst this perfect back drop! Our days were also complimented with incredible local food and wine and comfortable, elegant accommodation, and even the occasional musical performance from local groups.
I’m slightly jealous that I may not be guiding this trip again for a wee while – that will be left in the very capable hands of Richard, our local guide, and Mike – our long time Active Adventures trip leader who now resides in Austria. If you’re joining this trip in the future, you’ll meet these guys, and no doubt share the same experiences! – Phil
It was around the early 2000’s when we started exploring the notion of running our style of adventure trips in Peru. One of the old hands at Active, Phil Boorman, had already spent years in Costa Rica surfing and teaching, as well as guiding groups overland through South America. So, combining his local knowledge with our team’s experience guiding adventure tours in New Zealand, Active Adventures South America was born.
One of the signature itineraries, which has stood the test of time proving to be popular year in, year out, is the Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar’ trip. Over the past 15 or so years thousands of guests have shared this 14-day experience with us, exploring Peru on foot, by bike and in a kayak. Of course, one of the bucket list destinations in Peru is Machu Picchu, and the Classic Inca Trail is the favoured way to reach this ancient citadel. The trail is well worn, which adds to the appeal, as hikers seek to follow in the footsteps of ancient Inca.
If you’re considering hiking the Classic Inca Trail yourself, don’t sit back and put it off! Lock in your spot, as hiking permits are limited and always sell out. Once you’ve got your spot secured, sit back, relax and enjoy our photo journey to Machu Picchu (and do a little hiking training to get in shape, if you’re not already!) All the photos you’ll see here are from our guests, taken during their ‘Jaguar’ trip.
The Journey to Machu Picchu begins in Cuzco
Having spent a couple of nights in Cuzco already and having hiked and biked in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, you’ll be nicely acclimatised and ready to hike! Topped up with any last minute hiking supplies, your group will leave town to make your way back through the Sacred Valley of the Incas to the start of the trail at Piscachuca.
Your hike begins at Piscacucho, or Kilometre 82
Eager and bristling with anticipation, there’s time for a fresh-faced group photo before the hiking begins. You’ll notice all the wooden hiking poles – those are available at the trail head, and widely used due to the ban on modern hiking poles with sharp points (as they degrade the historic track). You’ll hike through a few little villages, dip down into shaded river valleys and take in your first views of the huge peaks that will emerge even more as you hike further.
The trail winds its way up as you head towards Dead Woman’s Pass (4,400 metres or 14,435 feet)
Along the hike you’ll be rewarded with contrasting environments, as you gain altitude towards Dead Woman’s Pass. You’ll leave the shaded canopy of the forest and follow the winding trail up through a beautiful mountain pass with stunning panoramic views. There’s plenty of celebration as you reach the top. You’ll have worked up a thirst and will find yourself adding the layers of clothing back as breeze whips over the pass here! A short hike down the other side to Pacaymayo means a hot cup of coca tea, lunch and a chance to rest up for the remainder of the day and take in the views!
Time for a rest and a chance to take in views of the Rio Cusichaca
Above the tree line at Pacaymayo, you’ll want to have your sunscreen handy and plenty of water at your side. During the main season, from May to September the days are dry and sunny, ideal for hiking!
Along the way, admire the cobbled steps and Inca bridges, built over 500 years ago
After a cup of tea or coffee brought to your tent, you’ll be ready for the hike to Wiñay Wayna – the 3rd and last campsite on the trip. This is where you’ll enter the eastern side of the ranges that descend to the Amazon basin. There are several fascinating Inca fortresses to explore as you descend down into the cloud forest. And even the trail itself offers plenty of incredible glimpses into Inca craftsmanship, such as this bridge. There’s a sense of anticipation at Wiñay Wayna camp, as the Sun Gate and Machu Picchu are only a matter of hours away – it’s an early start the following morning!
Arriving at the Sun Gate…
After a hearty breakfast, you’ll hike in the dawn light towards the Sun Gate. Intipunku is from the Quechua language; ‘inti’ meaning sun and ‘punku’ meaning door, hence ‘Sun Door’ or ‘Sun Gate’ as it’s often called.
… For your first glimpse of Machu Picchu, as the fog lifts
At this spot, as the fog lifts, you’ll get your first view of Machu Picchu – it’s a surreal moment and a fantastic reward for your efforts. When Machu Picchu reveals itself, it’s an incredible sight. Even our long term guides who have hiked the trail dozens of times still get a rush every time they see it.
The day warms by the time you arrive at the ancient citadel
Once you arrive at Machu Picchu, you’ll be joined by a local guide who’ll show you around the ancient city. As you arrived early (before the visitors from Machu Picchu town below), you’ll have plenty of time to explore the many passageways and stone structures.
Huge smiles for a picture perfect postcard!
A trip to Machu Picchu would not be complete without a group photo!
Explore Aguas Calientes (now known as Machu Picchu town) after hiking the Classic Inca Trail
After three nights camping on the trail, it’s a welcome treat to return back to civilisation. Here you’ll have time to pick up any souvenirs and have a look around before we board a scenic train ride back to Cuzco.
Hear about travel to Qatar as the Amateur Traveler talks to Richard Parr from the Best In the World Podcast about this middle eastern country where he lived for 6 years in Doha.
Richard says “so many people fly through Doha airport with Qatar airways but no one ever goes through the doors to see what it has on offer. It is the kind of place where I would not recommend you go for a long holiday but I think if you were to go for 4 or 5 days there is plenty to do. If you like great weather there are certain times of the year you can relax and get a nice tan by a pool but you don’t want to go in the middle of Summer because it hits 50 degrees [Celsius, 122 Fahrenheit]. From the end of October to the beginning of May the weather is beautiful.”
“There very big on their cultural sites. You’ve got the museum of Islamic Art with lots of various artifacts from across the Middle East region.” The museum is on the bay in the Corniche area with a beautiful view of the city of Doha. For shopping the Villaggio Mall has an experience like out of the Venetian in Las Vegas with gondolas on indoor canals and shops that neither Richard nor Chris could afford. But they also have a modern Souq design in a more traditional style where you can buy your scarves or pashminas.
“There’s about 2.5 million inhabitants which is amazing because back in 1970 there were only about 100,000. The actual Qatareese are about 13% of that population so it really is an expat population.” There are a lot of Indians, Filipinos and other nationalities. “I didn’t really need Arabic in the country because there are so many people from around the world and most of them know more English than they do Arabic.”
Richard also takes us out of Doha to the Inland Sea near Saudi Arabia, to the north to a place where you can go kayaking among the mangroves and also to the desert where you can go four wheeling. He also takes to some small out of the way but wonderful restaurants and to places where you can sit with the locals and have a shesha. Come discover Doha and Qatar through the eyes of an expat.
Scott sent me a picture of he and his significant other having a pint with Amber from AmericanTourGuideInLondon.com who was our guest for a two part episode on London. She was there private tour guide for the day.