Picture of baby elephant - Kenya
AfricaInspiration

Helping Protect Kenya’s Elephants and Giraffes

The unspoiled savannahs of Kenya are renowned as an untamed wilderness. Left unchecked, nature would take its course and species would thrive and falter as they may. But many animals are vulnerable to human interference such as poaching, loss of habitat due to human encroachment, deforestation and drought. These all threaten populations—and nature’s balance—leaving newborns as orphans and herds at risk. That’s where two remarkable organizations come in to play, and you’ll visit them in a small group during our Kenya Safari Exploration.

Nurturing Orphans Back into the Wild

It is not uncommon for the passionate and caring staff of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) to encounter baby elephants alone in the bush. In many cases, they have wandered from their families, victims of poaching; the little calves have been spared because they have not yet developed ivory tusks. To aid these helpless creatures, the DSWT developed the Orphans’ Project, the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.

The adorable little elephants are brought to the Trust’s farm-like clinic, fed a steady diet, and taught skills by the staff that they will never learn from their mothers and aunts, all while being eased out of the trauma of loss. It is a remarkable thing to witness as these miniature beasts bond with staff, following them wherever they go.

Since its founding, DSWT has successfully reared many dozens of elephants and reintegrated them into the wild. In fact, many wild-born calves are reared in the wild by elephants that were nurtured back to health at the clinic, a hopeful note that the work they do has fostered entire generations.

Elephants are not the only focus of DSWT. Black Rhinos, also prized for their tusks, are also raised at the clinic. The Trust’s efforts also include anti-poaching initiatives, protecting the natural environment, raising community awareness, animal welfare and veterinary services to wild animals. Founded in 1977, it is one of the pioneering wildlife conservation organizations in East Africa.

Saving a Threatened Giraffe

Nearby, the Giraffe Centre, part of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, has similar goals to support the preservation of the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe. It is thought that just several hundred of these majestic creatures remain in the wild, and you just might spot some during your game drives at Lake Nakuru National Park, distinguishable by their creamier-coloured coat and the “white stockings” above their hooves. Curiously, the Rothschild’s is also the only species to have five ossicones on its head, the stubby antler-like horns. (Most other species only have two.)

Founded in 1979 as a breeding centre, the Giraffe Centre today also serves an educational role for Kenyan youth. Their vision is to create a harmonious relationship between man and nature by raising awareness in the next generation. This is no small task considering the vast natural resources and wildlife that Kenya hosts. But all of the centre’s programs are offered to schoolchildren free of charge, so we can hope that this brings greater access and with it much success.

The focal point of the centre is the giraffe feeding platform, a raised structure that lets you meet these gentle giants at their level. Inside, an auditorium offers talks to guests. And it is all charmingly decorated with artwork created by local schoolchildren – inspired by the giraffes, of course!

The small group size of our Kenya Safari Exploration lets us experience these remarkable places at their fullest. We hope you’ll visit them with us.

Landscape view of Mount Rushmore
InspirationUSA & Canada

It’s All Here. Cultural Treasures, Remarkable History, Jaw-Dropping Beauty

It’s all here in the United States. From the magnificent sweep of their national parks to bustling cultural centres, from coastal beauty to southern charm, Gate 1 pulls the curtain back on this remarkable country that you only thought you knew, all at a value that you never thought possible. 

The full roster of our itineraries in the U.S. is here. But we hope you’ll take a few minutes to read more about our favourite corners of this great nation below.

North by Northeast: Rich Histories and Seductive Charms

We’ll begin where the U.S. began. You’ve long heard about the birth of the nation and the gently rolling hills outside Boston, Massachusetts, that were the stage of the American Revolution. It’s quite a moving experience to witness firsthand the historic places that carry echoes of pre- and post-colonial days. It all comes startlingly to life in New England, particularly at the first settlement at Plymouth Rock. 

Of course, Boston was the hub of it all. Legendary sites like the Old North Church, Beacon Hill, and the Boston Commons—the oldest public park in the country—take you back to inspiring moments in history. There’s more inspiration in Hyannis on Cape Cod, lined with beautiful sandy beaches and home of the Kennedy Compound, witness to so much national pride and tragedy. Massachusetts also nurtured some world-renowned literary and artistic talents. One stands apart at the Norman Rockwell Museum, where you will gain incredible insight into the life of a man whose work has stood the test of time. 

Those lovely rolling hills of Massachusetts rise into dramatic mountains in Vermont and New Hampshire. Traversing these stunningly beautiful states—much of them protected U.S. Forest Land—you’ll pause to explore charming, steepled New England villages and admire sweeping vistas of granite cliffs and hills blanketed in evergreen.

There’s more northern beauty along the legendary lakes that surround Michigan. This truly is one of the undiscovered corners of the U.S. But Michiganders are in the know about the tranquil beauty here, from inviting shores lined with Victorian gems and green forests to the charming Bavarian village of Frankenmuth. Major moments in history have also played out here: Detroit’s Henry Ford Museum chronicles the achievements of American inventors and Fort Mackinac was erected by the British to fend off the new colonists during the American Revolution.

The South: Grace and Vitality

The American South is a virtual gumbo of history, culture and beauty. Antebellum charms, pretty green parks, and trees dripping with Spanish moss line the streets in Charleston, South Carolina, and Savannah, Georgia. These inviting and very walkable cities are home to some of the country’s most treasured Greek Revival, Revolutionary Era, and plantation mansions. It’s easy to imagine sipping a mint julep on any of the sprawling porches of these gracious cities. Nearby, St. Augustine, Florida holds the torch as the country’s oldest city. Straddling the Matanzas River near its mouth, it was founded by Spanish conquistadors in 1565, more than two centuries before independence.

For a completely different southern experience, you can visit New Orleans, where life is lived slowly and strains of jazz echo on the bayou. Home of Bourbon Street and the annual Mardi Gras festival, New Orleans’ French Quarter is one of the most captivating musical centres in the country—a place to let your hair down and join in the fun. But the state of Louisiana has much more in store. You can take time to explore its rich history in its fascinating museums; take in the blend of Spanish, French, Creole and Cajun cultures in Baton Rouge; and witness the natural beauty of the Atchafalaya Basin, the largest River Swamp in the U.S. 

There’s music to be danced to, as well, in Tennessee. For country and rock music lovers, the state is home to revered pilgrimage sites. In Nashville, you can visit the Grand Ole Opry and the Country Music Hall of Fame. In Memphis, music clubs lure you in with twangs and strums spilling onto the famous Beale Street. And, of course, no visit here should bypass Graceland, the palatial home of Elvis Presley. Another musical legend, BB King, is memorialized at his namesake museum in the Mississippi Delta.

Our National Parks: Magnificence Preserved

West of the Mississippi, the plains open up to some of the grandest vistas in the country. Symbols of the grand American ideal, many are protected as American Parkland.

Perhaps one of the most interesting parks, South Dakota’s Mt. Rushmore is more known for its man-made wonder than its natural ones. For many visitors, its quartet of presidential sculptures carved into the granite cliffs of the Black Hills serves as an altar to democracy. In Wyoming, endless grassland and soaring peaks set the stage for the drama of Yellowstone. Its countless hot springs, massive mountain faces, and towering waterfalls are truly stunning, but the “Old Faithful” geyser steals the show. Not to be outdone, the Grand Teton massif, with its distinctive and spectacular craggy range, is a humbling testament to the West’s natural beauty.

In Arizona and Utah, fissures in the earth have carved out breathtaking natural wonders. Almost 280 miles long and up to 18 miles wide, the Grand Canyon is the great American icon. Though the colossal chasm was sculpted over millennia, it is celebrating its 100th anniversary as a national park in 2019. It was February 26, 1919, when Woodrow Wilson signed the Grand Canyon National Park Act. In Utah’s Bryce Canyon, conical-shaped rock formations stand like sentries among pine-dotted hillsides. And at Zion National Park, red sandstone canyons are kissed by cascading waterfalls, flowing rivers and vivid desert colours. Though it is nowhere near the size of the Grand Canyon, it’s been said that its beauty far surpasses that of its larger cousin.

More startling earthen colours and stunning rock formations grace the landscapes of Canyonlands National Park. Ascend to its 1,500-foot mesa to marvel at red-rock vistas, including the legendary Mesa Arch. Many more of these astonishing natural sculptures – the densest concentration in the world – greet you in Arches National Park. In Colorado, you can get a glimpse of how ancient peoples lived amidst such ruggedly beautiful terrain at the Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings in Mesa Verde National Park, home to 5,000 known archaeological sites.

Farther north, you might answer the call of the wild in Alaska. Mt. McKinley watches over an untouched wilderness in Denali National Park. This is a pristine world of magnificent panoramas cut by babbling streams and salmon-rich rivers. A deluxe train journey and a tour of the tundra highlight it all. Incredible scenery is everywhere in Alaska; even our transfer days take the breath away! And no trip here would be complete without seeing its impressive glaciers. Kenai Fjords National Park and its 300-square-mile Harding Ice Field are one of the best spots to witness them as they calve into the icy waters. You can watch from a safe distance during a spectacular cruise among soaring, snow-capped peaks.  Alaska also offers visitors the opportunity to search the skies for the Northern Lights (Aurora Borealis), among the most spectacular phenomena on earth.

The West: Glittering Cities Amidst Natural Beauty

Picture of Couple at Napa Valley

The western U.S. has a lot more to offer than its national parks. California, especially, is home to beautiful cities that enjoy magnificent settings. To be sure, the hills of San Francisco, its situation on its famous bay, and the iconic Golden Gate Bridge make for one of the most breathtaking skylines in the world. Exploring the city—with its bustling Union Square and Ghirardelli Square—and the vineyards to the north—with their inviting wineries and galleries—is pure pleasure. 

The star of California’s coast is the “17 Mile Drive.” Widely called one of the most scenic panoramas in the world, this road follows the jagged Big Sur coast to the Del Monte Forest. Sweeping vistas unfold around every corner, from crashing surf on rocky shores to multi-million-dollar homes hugging hillsides. And of course, one cannot visit northern California without laying eyes on its towering redwoods, which you can do during visits to Redwood National Park and Humboldt Redwoods State Park.

Long heralded as one of the most magnificent corners of the U.S., the Pacific Northwest offers an enriching blend of natural beauty and rich culture. If you want to get a sense of how much Oregonians love and respect the wilderness that surrounds them, just consider that Portland ranks high on the list of the most “green and livable” cities in the world. From here, an exploration of the Columbia River Gorge, an 80-mile-long twisting river canyon fed by plummeting waterfalls, takes the breath away. The lush, rugged Oregon coast and Crater National Park punctuate the state’s unrivalled natural diversity.

An entirely different landscape mesmerizes all who visit New Mexico, where starkly beautiful desert vistas have long inspired artists and craftspeople for generations. Glimpse the old Pueblo ways in Albuquerque at the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center and the Bandelier Monument, one of North America’s oldest settlements. In Taos, explore the streets of Taos Pueblo, a typical ancient village preserved as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. And get to know the life and works of the region’s most famous artist, Georgia O’Keefe, at her home known as Ghost Ranch and at Santa Fe’s renowned museum named for her.

Gate 1’s U.S. Escorted Tours: The Ultimate in Convenience and Value 

Here’s the real beauty of seeing this magnificent country on a Gate 1 Escorted Tour: We take care of everything for you. This saves you countless hours of planning—arranging airfare and car rental, researching sites to visit and making sure you have driving directions, hoping you’ve picked a decent restaurant for your meals. Plus, you’ll gain insight and learn more about your destination than you ever would on your own, thanks to the expert knowledge of our tour managers. Simply put, the only thing you have to worry about is enjoying yourself and taking in our country’s glorious sites.

What’s more, our buying power with hotels and other travel providers ensures you the lowest possible price for your overall trip. In fact, if you were to try to duplicate any one of our trips on your own, you would end up paying far more. 

Convenience and ease … the unmatched value of our buying power … magnificent and awe-inspiring destinations … a comprehensive trip made all the more fascinating by our expert tour managers. If you’re planning to explore your own country, then a Gate 1 Escorted Tour is your ticket to a trip unlike any other. Join us!

La Paz Bolivia
EuropeInspiration

Bolivia: A Wealth of Culture, History and Nature

Its isolated, land-locked locale lends it a cultural richness unparalleled in any other South American nation. It boasts one of the planet’s lowest population densities and most dramatic geographic extremes. The peaks of the Andes soar to some 19,000 feet. Glassy surreal salt flats shimmer under the sun. It is home to the highest navigable lake in the world. And that’s only part of the story.

You might ask why you would explore Bolivia with a Discovery Tours small group. But with its many-layered cultures, remarkable history, and astonishing natural wonders, the real question is, “Why wouldn’t you?”

La Paz: City of Peace

All three of Bolivia’s show-stopping qualities – culture, history, and nature – converge in its bustling capital. Its setting is truly breathtaking: nestled in a vast canyon carved out by the Choqueyapu River and spread at the foot of Mt. Illimani, one of the highest Andean peaks. To get a full view of the city’s splendid urban and mountain vistas, just board one of the Mi Teleférico aerial cable cars, said to be the longest and highest-altitude such system in the world. From its heights, the entire patchwork of La Paz unfurls below, from its red-roofed villages clinging on hillsides to its glittering glass skyscrapers, all encircled by a ring of spectacular mountains.

Where architectural treasures meet. Of course, to experience the city fully, you’ll need to come down from these lofty heights. A central place to begin exploring is the Plaza Murillo. This vast city square was named for national hero Pedro Domingo Murillo who, in 1809, likened the revolution against Spain to a growing flame that no one would be able to extinguish. He was right. A local uprising here in La Paz kickstarted the liberation of all of South America. 

Still, many monuments to Spanish colonialism remain as an important part of Bolivia’s past. On the square, the Presidential Palace (known to locals as the “Burnt Palace” for the number of times it has caught on fire) is home to the nation’s leader. Adjacent, the La Paz Cathedral is a stunning example of neoclassical and baroque ingenuity. The National Congress building, with its stately façade, was a convent and a university before it was transformed into a house of legislature. Nearby, the distinctive San Francisco Cathedral is a stunning blend of baroque and mestizo style—the epitome of indigenous-influenced colonialism. 

Where ancient and modern cultures converge. The cultural gems of La Paz are, in a word, spellbinding – especially at the Witches’ Market in the Cerro Cumbre district. Browsing its stalls, you might think Hogwarts of Harry Potter fame was transplanted right here in the Andes. If you wish, you may visit with the local yatiri, indigenous Aymara witch doctors with their tell-tale black hats. Perhaps you’ll purchase dried frogs, armadillos, or potions and talismans that promise good luck and long life. 

For an outing with a more modern flair, visit the many museums along the city’s famed Jaén Street. This historic neighborhood looks much as it did when the Spanish ruled here. Today, it boasts ten different cultural institutions. To glimpse ancient history, visit a replica of a semi-subterranean temple from the Tiwanaku culture that thrived in Bolivia from around 100 to 800 AD. And to feel the pulse of the city’s heart, head to El Prado, the main avenue where families stroll, merchants sell their wares, and cholitas don traditional bowler hats as they go about their daily errands.

Beyond La Paz, Astonishing Nature and a Long History

North of La Paz, the highest navigable lake in the world straddles the border with Peru. Lake Titicaca sits at 12,500 feet above sea level and has witnessed some of the region’s most stirring and pivotal history. On the Isla del Sol, or Island of the Sun—a short boat ride from the mainland town of Copacabana—Inca ruins date to the 1400s. The island is said to be the birthplace of Inca civilization; more than this, they believed it was also the birthplace of their sun god. Ample evidence of the Inca can be found among the island’s terraced gardens, ancient temples, and even a reputed fountain of youth. Much of the island’s pre-Columbian past is chronicled at the Inti Wata Cultural Complex. Here, you can witness a Kallawaya ceremony and the ancient craft of weaving the lake’s tortora reeds into water-tight boats. Today, the island’s rocky and hilly terrain hosts just 800 families who live off the land, the lake, and tourism. 

South of La Paz, a surreal landscape unfolds in the Valle de la Luna, the Valley of the Moon. The land here is composed of clay, not rock, which has left it prone to dramatic erosion. Tall, craggy spires and countless canyons have been carved by strong winds and rains over millennia. Its mesmerizing palette of colours is explained by the varying minerals of the earth here.

The town of Colchani is our gateway to the magnificent Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. Stretching some 4,000 square miles, the salar is covered with several feet of salt which covers a pool of brine below. Over the entire surface, its elevation only varies by a few feet; this means that rainfall leaves a thin layer of calm water, creating the world’s largest mirror. During your visit, head out to an “island” in the flat to see its thousands of giant cacti standing as high as 26 feet and stop to explore the remarkable Chiquini Cave, formed underwater before the lake that covers the salt flat dried up.

From the history and culture of La Paz to the beguiling beauty of the planet’s largest salt flat, we can’t think of a reason not to visit Bolivia with Discovery Tours. And you can, when you join our new Natural Wonders of Bolivia & Chile small group tour! Join us!

EuropeInspirationMediterranean

What if Westeros was Europe?

If you’re a Game of Thrones (GoT) fan, there’s a good chance you have dedicated a fair amount of time to comparing the fictional continent of Westeros to modern day Europe.

George R.R Martin based Westeros on ancient Europe so it’s tempting to start drawing comparisons around things like Hadrian’s Wall and The Wall, and the English Channel and The Narrow Sea (or is that the Strait of Gibraltar, George?).

We have popped on our thinking capes and researched what we believe each of the Seven Kingdoms (and outlying lands) equate to. Read on and have your mind blown.

1. The North is Scotland

The Northmen in Game of Thrones are most likely based on the Picts, a group who largely banded together to fight off the Romans or, in the case of GoT, the Southerners.

2. North of the Wall is Greenland

While this makes no sense geographically, it makes sense historically. The Vikings arrived in Greenland at the end of the 10th century. They were led by Erik Thorvaldsson, known as Erik the Red because of his red hair.

3. Norway is the Iron Islands

It’s a bit of a giveaway that the Iron Islanders behave very much like vikings: pillaging and destroying villages. They are master seamen and women, and the fact that one of the main captains in the books is a woman is also reflective of Viking society where gender equality was the norm.

4. London is Kings Landing

It’s not too much of a stretch to gather that King’s Landing – home of the Iron Throne – is based on London. Many of the events in the book are inspired by the Rose Wars. The houses mirror Lancaster (Lannister), York (Stark), Plantagenet (Baratheon) and Henry VI was Aerys Targaryen. Of course the city of Dubrovnik in Croatia has been the setting for the capital city of King’s Landing since the beginning of the show.

5. Spain is Dorne

The sunny mediterranean landscape featuring olive groves and palm trees is a hint. Also in the show the nobles of House Martell reside in the Alzacar in Seville which is the oldest palace still in use in Europe.

6. The Riverlands are Germany

Constantly being raided and ransacked, Germany has been bathed in blood for eons, eventually being split between the Prussians and the Bavarians.

7. The Vale is Switzerland

We’re not really sure why. It’s pretty, hilly and chilly?

8. The Reach is France

The Tyrells were a stylish, open-minded bunch. They also came up with a bloodless way to get rid of a certain prince, resulting in less dry-cleaning for everyone. A very French solution to a rather ugly problem.

9. The Stormlands is Wales

The weather is bad and people tend to avoid going there. While we’re not saying that Wales is unpopular, the weather can be a little tricky.

10. England is the Westerlands

Home of the Lannisters, Westerlands is a shrunken down England with a terrifyingly ruthless family at its head. While the modern day Windsors aren’t exactly scary, some of their ancestors loved a good beheading.

If you’d love to visit some of the filming locations featured in Game of Thrones check out Gate 1 Travel’s escorted Europe tours here.

Mediterranean

Turkey: The Crossroads of Europe and Asia

Hoşgeldiniz and welcome to the Mediterranean country that is not only home to the city that straddles Europe and Asia but also has a history more diverse than any Asian or European country. Turkey, or officially the Republic of Turkey, has a comprehensive history of culture, religion, trade and commerce, making it a fascinating country to visit. On your tour, you will explore a 1,000 year old cathedral turned into a museum, a 4,000 year old city and central location for a very bloody battle, a bazaar where bargaining is an art form and many more unforgettable experiences. Join us on our journey through the country in the centre of the world as we take you exploring through Turkey!

Istanbul, the City that Straddles Two Continents

Istanbul, formerly Constantinople and Byzantium, is the largest city by population as well as the centre of the country’s economy. Due to its location along the Silk Road, the city is on the strategic path from Europe to the Middle East and contains the only route between the Black and Mediterranean Seas. Since its founding in 660 B.C., Istanbul has been one of the most coveted cities in the world. Ancient sailors would journey at sea for days through the Bosphorus Strait but today tourists can easily cross from Asia to Europe on the Marmaray metro line. Can you imagine having breakfast in Europe and then sitting at a café later in the day in Asia? While in Istanbul, view the Blue Mosque with its six minarets and over 21,000 blue Iznik tiles and Hagia Sophia, a 1,000 year old building. Visit what was once considered the greatest church in Christendom and is now a museum. This Byzantine cathedral has a huge dome and was created in the 6th century.

Konya, Ankara; Cultural Hubs in the East

The intriguing thing about Turkey is the amount of culture and history you can find in each one of its cities no matter on what side of the country. Konya is a city that is renowned for its architecture but is also the home of the famous Whirling Dervishes. You will also find the incredible Mausoleum of Mevlana, a historic mausoleum and home to the dervish museum. Ankara is the capital of the country and the second largest in population after Istanbul. In Ankara, you will view the Mausoleum of Kemal Ataturk, founder and first president of the Turkish Republic and the Anatolian Civilizations Museum, which features Anatolian artefacts dating back to the Paleolithic Age.

Çanakkale, Kuşadası, Izmir and Antalya; Historic Wonders of the West

Enjoy the western part of the country where we find some of the most important biblical, historical and archaeological sites in the entire world. Çanakkale is your gateway to the 4,000 year old city of Troy. Here you will find the city made famous by the Trojan War which was documented in the Illiad by Homer. Visit the port city of Izmir, historically known as “Smyrna”, home to countless archaeological sites and a history dating back over 3,500 years. Kuşadası is just down the coast and believed to be the birthplace of Homer. It has become a hub for cruise ships, marketplaces and restaurants. Relax with a nice cup of Turkish tea or try some traditional Turkish food while spending time in this coastal city. Antalya was founded by King Attalos of Pergamum as “Heaven on Earth” and has become a resort destination in Turkey. It is now popular for shopping, beaches, nightlife and history, a true heaven on earth for visitors.

From Izmir or Kuşadası, you will have a perfect gateway to Ephesus, Turkey. This UNESCO World Heritage site is one of the most important in the Bible and is filled with important sites and places of pilgrimage. Visit the House of the Virgin Mary, where it is believed the mother of Jesus was taken by Saint John and lived the remainder of her life. The Temple of Artemis, one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World, is a temple built by the ancient Greeks to worship the goddess. The Basilica of St. John sits here and was built over the believed burial site of one of Jesus’ apostles, John. This holy landmark was built in the 6th century and is a popular pilgrimage spot for Christians. The largest historic building here is the Library of Celsus, an ancient Roman building that was completed in 114-117 A.D. This building was built to store thousands of scrolls and also served as the burial site for Celsus, a citizen who became a senator and benefactor of Ephesus.

Cappadocia and Its Whimsical Rock Formations

The otherworldly area of Cappadocia is a true highlight in this Middle Eastern country. This UNESCO World Heritage sight is a rocky wonderland filled with fairy chimneys, homes carved into mountains and rock-face churches. This magical place is located in a semi-arid climate near several volcanic peaks. Cappadocia is actually the name for the region and it is compromised of smaller towns including Güvercinlik, Uçhisar, Paşabağı, Devrent Valley, and more. Be sure to tour the Open Air Museum in Göreme Valley, a display of ruins of houses and dwellings carved into the surrounding volcanic rock. Also visit the underground cities, take a stroll through Monks Valley and perhaps enjoy a Whirling Dervish performance.

Hot-Air Ballooning

The hot-air balloon ride in Cappadocia is one of the most popular of its kind in the world, if not the number one experience. The ride takes you high above the sights of this area to see the mesmerising carvings, dwellings and geological formations from high above the earth. One of the most exciting things about the balloon ride is the pictures you will get and the view of all the other hot-air balloons you will see floating through the sky with you. Charge up your phone and camera batteries and bring your binoculars for this unforgettable experience above Cappadocia. Some call Cappadocia the most magical place in the world.

Whirling Dervishes

The Whirling Dervishes are a true highlight of the country of Turkey. The term describes a dance called the “Sema” which is performed to express emotion and achieve the love of Allah. This religious dance is Islamic in origin and is thought to have originated in Turkey. Konya is the home of the practice but it is also performed in other parts of the country like Istanbul and Cappodocia. All of the dress and dance has meaning with the white skirt symbolizing the shroud of the ego and the open arms raised towards the sky that are ready to receive God’s acceptance. Sit back and observe the passion and discipline found in this beautiful dance.

Photo courtesy of @Yasenia & Rafael

Bazaars of Turkey

Whether it is spice, clothing, crafts, souvenirs or household items, Turkey’s many incredible bazaars have you covered. One of the most visited bazaars includes the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul that sees 400,000 people daily. This bazaar is the city’s oldest covered market and has a history dating back to the 15th century. Here you will find textiles, gems, home decor, apparel and even restaurants and cafés. Bargaining is an art here so be sure to have your game face on. The Spice Bazaar is also located in Istanbul and has a storied history including two fires in 1691 and 1940, both of which the market survived. Spices, herbs, jewelry and gift shops can all be found at this famous stop. Kemeralti Bazaar is located in Izmir and is the largest open-air bazaar in the country. Purchase crafts, jewelry and choose from a huge array of fresh spices and herbs. The Kuşadası Bazaar is located in the coastal town of Kuşadası and is the second largest bazaar in Turkey. The Kuşadası Bazaar is actually compromised of two smaller markets called the Grand Bazaar and Orient Bazaar. Find anything in this area from designer knock-offs, Turkish textiles, jewellery and more. If you love to shop or need a gift for a friend or family member back home, you must venture to the bazaars of Turkey and see the colours and excitement of these thriving shops. Some suggested items to buy include the Turkish glass lamps with their colourful mosaics, Turkish black tea which is offered as a sign of welcome or a delicious box of Turkish delights, a desert sure to thrill any sweet tooth.

See “More of the World for Less” with Gate 1 Travel on a tour to beautiful Turkey and learn about the culture, history and people of this ancient country. Gate 1 offers you an experience at a value that cannot be matched. We will take you around Turkey in style and comfort as you explore the cities and sights mentioned and so much more.

Explore the land where the east and the west converge by joining Gate 1 Travel in Turkey

Book any Gate 1 Travel Turkey Escorted tour by the 31st of May, 2019 and save $250 per person when you quote the promo code FDTKY250A at the time of booking. Click here for more info.

**Please note: Sightseeing varies per itinerary

AfricaNews

Helping Protect Kenya’s Elephants & Giraffes

The unspoiled savannahs of Kenya are renowned as an untamed wilderness. Left unchecked, nature would take its course and species would thrive and falter as they may. But many animals are vulnerable to human interference such as poaching, loss of habitat due to human encroachment, deforestation and drought. These all threaten populations—and nature’s balance—leaving newborns as orphans and herds at risk. That’s where two remarkable organisations come in to play, and you’ll visit them during our small group Kenya Safari Exploration.

Nurturing Orphans Back into the Wild

It is not uncommon for the passionate and caring staff of the David Sheldrick Wildlife Trust (DSWT) to encounter baby elephants alone in the bush. In many cases, they have wandered from their families, victims of poaching; the little calves have been spared because they have not yet developed ivory tusks. To aid these creatures, the DSWT developed the Orphans’ Project, the most successful orphan-elephant rescue and rehabilitation program in the world.

The adorable little elephants are brought to the Trust’s farm-like clinic, fed a steady diet, and taught skills by the staff that they will never get to learn from their mothers and aunts, all while being eased out of the trauma of loss. It is a remarkable thing to witness as these miniature beasts bond with staff, following them wherever they go.

Since its founding, DSWT has successfully reared many dozens of elephants and reintegrated them into the wild. In fact, many wild-born calves are reared in the wild by elephants that were nurtured back to health at the clinic, a hopeful note that the work they do has fostered entire generations.

Elephants are not the only focus of DSWT. Black Rhinos, also prized for their tusks, are also raised at the clinic. The Trust’s efforts also include anti-poaching initiatives, protecting the natural environment, raising community awareness, animal welfare and veterinary services to wild animals. Founded in 1977, it is one of the pioneering wildlife conservation organisations in East Africa.

Saving a Threatened Giraffe

Nearby, the Giraffe Centre, part of the African Fund for Endangered Wildlife, has similar goals to support the preservation of the endangered Rothschild’s giraffe. It is thought that just several hundred of these majestic creatures remain in the wild, and you just might spot some during your game drives at Lake Nakuru National Park, distinguishable by their creamier-colored coat and the “white stockings” above their hooves. Curiously, the Rothschild’s is also the only species to have five ossicones on its head, the stubby antler-like horns. (Most other species only have two.)

Founded in 1979 as a breeding center, the Giraffe Centre today also serves an educational role for Kenyan youth. Their vision is to create a harmonious relationship between man and nature by raising awareness in the next generation. This is no small task considering the vast natural resources and wildlife that Kenya hosts. But all of the center’s programs are offered to schoolchildren free of charge, so we can hope that this brings greater access, and with it much success.

The focal point of the center is the giraffe feeding platform, a raised structure that lets you meet these gentle giants at their level. Inside, an auditorium offers talks to guests. And it is all charmingly decorated with artwork created by local school children – inspired by the giraffes, of course!

The small group size of our Kenya Safari Exploration lets us experience these remarkable places at their fullest. We hope you’ll visit them with us.

Inspiration

8 amazing facts about the Wonders of the World

Here are our favourite 8 lesser known facts about some of the Wonders of the World:

The Great Wall of China

Did you know that parts of this wall date back to the 7th Century? Emperor Qin, the leader who unified China, started extending the wall around 220 BC. Subsequent dynasties continued building and reinforcing the wall until it reached its current length: 21,196 kms. That is just over half the circumference of the earth.

The Lost City of Petra

Petra is not the original name of this city. It was originally called Nabataea and at its height, had a population of 20,000 people. The Nabataeans were nomadic Arabs who used the city as a place to do business due to its proximity to key regional trade routes. The rock wall carving that Petra is best known for is actually a mausoleum for a Nabataean king name Aretas IV. It was built in 1000 AD.

The Great Pyramid of Giza

This, the largest of the three pyramids at El Giza, took an estimated 20 years to build, with workers moving 800 tonnes of stone every day. This equates to 12 blocks per hour, 24 hours a day for 20 years. The pyramid was built as a tomb for a pharaoh named Khufu, as well as his wives and some of his nobles. The outside of the pyramid was original smooth but the limestone casing stones have since eroded. Before this deterioration occurred, the pyramid stood at 146.5m tall. This is equivalent to a 44 storey building.

Machu Picchu

Did you know Machu Picchu was only ‘discovered’ in 1911? A Yale professor named Hiram Bingham led an expedition to South America in search of the last Incan capital. He discovered Machu Picchu and incorrectly dubbed it the capital. He also explored and documented a city called Vilcabamba that was later identified as the last Incan capital. In the local Quechua language, Machi means ‘old’ and Picchu means ‘chewing coca’ or ‘pyramid/pointed mountain’.

Panoramana of Machu Picchu, Guard house, agriculture terraces, Wayna Picchu and surrounding mountains in the background.

Chichen Itza

Chichen Itza on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula has a grisly history in the sense that it was a site of live human sacrifice. The upside is that being sacrificed was considered a great honour in Mayan society. A mass grave unearthed at the site corroborates this theory.

The Leaning Tower of Pisa

This wonder came about by accident. The foundations of this bell tower were unstable and the structure started to lean while it was being built. The tilt – said to be four degrees off being perpendicular – worsened over time. The tower took 199 years to build and architects working on later stages of the project actually built one side longer than the other in order to correct the lean, meaning the tower bends. The legendary status of the building has meant that modern engineers have reinforced the tower without correcting the lean.

Italy, Tuscany, Leaning Tower of Pisa, Cathedral Santa Maria Assunta

Taj Mahal

In today’s money, the Taj Mahal cost around $1 billion to build over ten years from 1633 – 1643. The Taj Mahal was built as a mausoleum for Mughal emperor Shah Jahan’s favourite wife, Mumtaz Jahan, who died while giving birth to her 14th child. The construction project employed some 20,000 artisans under the guidance of a board of architects led by the court architect to the emperor, Ustad Ahmad Lahauri.

Angkor Wat

Angkor Wat is one of the largest religious monuments in the world and is built on 402 acres located 5.5kms from Siem Reap. It was originally a temple devoted to the Hindu God Vishnu, and was later transformed into a Buddhist temple. Angkor Wat translates from Khmer into English as City of Temples.

Want to go and see them for yourself? Check out our 20 per cent off Wonder of the World sale here

InspirationNewsTravel Tips

Which Wonder of the World is right for you?

Are you sitting there wondering where to go next? We understand – that’s how we’ve spent our entire lives.

There is something so exciting about being on the brink of your next adventure. So, if you’re looking for some inspiration, take our quick quiz to figure out which Wonder of the World you should visit next.

1.In your past life you were:

  • A) A queen
  • B) A sports star
  • C) A nomadic trader
  • D) A drunk architect

2. Your idea of a fun night out is:

  • A) Shimmying the night away with a group of bellydancers
  • B) Drinking giant margaritas
  • C) Star gazing in the desert
  • D) Drinking wine in the village square

3. You like shopping for:

  • A) Leather slippers
  • B) Mexican wrestling masks
  • C) Spices
  • D) Hand painted crockery

4. Your favourite food is:

  • A) Ful medames – a hearty concoction of beans, pastas and spices
  • B) Fish tacos made with proper guacamole (no sour cream)
  • C) Mansaf – slow cooked rice served with saffron rice and yoghurt sauce
  • D) Pizza, pasta, gelato, risotto, arancini, antipasto… and that’s just to start

5. Your favourite place to relax is:

  • A) By the river
  • B) At a white sand beach with crystal clear water
  • C) Next to an inland sea
  • D) In the mountains

6. You describe yourself as:

  • A) Ancient and glorious
  • B) Solid and a bit gory
  • C) Majestic and fort-like
  • D) Wonky but classical

7. If you were a wonder of the world, you would want to be:

  • A) The oldest
  • B) The coolest
  • C) The most impressive
  • D) The weirdest

8. If you were a building, you would be:

  • A) Built to withstand the test of time
  • B) Full of secret passages
  • C) Sophisticated
  • D) Unique

9. If you could put a price on yourself, you would be:

  • A) Cheap and cheerful
  • B) Affordable and great value
  • C) Pricey but princely
  • D) Top of the range

10. If you were an animal, you would be:

  • A) A cat
  • B) A frog
  • C) A camel
  • D) A bird

If you answered mostly As

You need to visit The Great Pyramid of Giza. Cruise along the Nile, explore souks and cities, taste the local cuisine (and then walk it all off as you wander around ancient ruins).

If you answered mostly Bs

You’re headed to Chichen Itza in Mexico. Located on the Yucatan Peninsula, home to some of the world’s most beautiful beaches and cenotes (sunken swimming holes), this region combines ancient Mayan temples with super fun bars and beaches.

If you answered mostly Cs

You’re off to the Lost City of Petra. There is nothing more exotic than heading off into the desert aboard a camel. The good news is that Jordan is also home to delicious food, great swimming, snorkelling and diving, and surprisingly sophisticated ancient architecture.

If you answered mostly Ds

The Leaning Tower of Pisa is calling you, mi amico. Check out this architectural catastrophe while you enjoy la dolce vita. Dinner starts with aperitivo at 5pm and ends with gelato at midnight. Take your stretchy pants!

Want to book your next Wonder-filled trip? Click here and check out our amazing 20 per cent off Wonders of the World sale.

Europe

Eastern Europe: Old-World Charm & Robust Histories

By its very geography, Eastern Europe has been at a cultural crossroads since the emergence of the first civilisations. Valuable goods from spices and amber to silver and gold have been traded here, cultural traditions from clothing to dance have been shared and religions from Eastern Orthodox to Judaism have been practised. It all converged here. Which is why these far reaches of Europe are among the most fascinating and enlightening places to explore. Gate 1 Travel gets you there in comfort and style, and our knowledgeable local guides reveal the secrets and mysteries that make this such a captivating region.

Explore our north-to-south guide to Eastern Europe’s proud nations and cities on Gate 1’s itineraries: 

Lithuania: A Stunning Capital Emerges from the Forest

Flat landscapes blanketed with forests and lakes greet you as you drive through Lithuania. Indeed, Mother Nature has blessed this small country with soft contours and stunning green expanses under wide-open skies. The capital, Vilnius, is covered in beauty of another sort. The city boasts one of the largest historic quarters in Europe, a dizzying blend of Gothic, Renaissance, and Baroque architecture. Vilnius Upper Castle has lorded over the scene for centuries and its adjacent Gediminas Tower is a symbol of national pride. The city boasts more than 40 historic churches and former places of worship. Among them, the Gothic St. Anne’s captivated Napoleon so much that in 1812 he exclaimed he wanted to take it home to Paris “in the palm of his hand”.

Poland: Risen from the Ashes

For many, Poland stands out as one of Europe’s most resilient nations. Its beautiful capital Warsaw, straddling the Vistula River, plainly illustrates its beauty. The city saw dark times during World War II, as Jews were imprisoned in the Warsaw Ghetto. The city was completely destroyed by the war’s end. After the war, its citizens took to rebuilding their beloved Old Town exactly as it was constructed in the 14th century. Today, the restored cobbled lanes lead to Market Square, its heart, where the Royal Castle and Cathedral of St. John invite exploration.

Castle Square, Warsaw
Castle Square, Warsaw

Medieval Krakow dates back to the 7th century. Many consider this one of Europe’s most breathtaking cities. Its cultural and architectural heritage spans the centuries, leaving masterworks of the Gothic, Renaissance and Baroque eras in the Wawel Royal Castle District, in St. Mary’s soaring basilica, in the Sukiennice Cloth Hall, and all along its vast medieval market square. A more sobering sight are the remaining walls of the Jewish Ghetto and the Ghetto Heroes Square. Oskar Schindler employed more than 1,000 Jews in his enamelware factory to save them from certain extermination at camps such as Auschwitz, located right outside the city. 

On Poland’s scenic northern coast lies Gdansk, one of the most powerful cities of the medieval-era Hanseatic League, the mercantile guild that ruled the Baltic region. Remnants of its prosperity are visible everywhere along the city’s Royal Route, the pedestrian-only street that once hosted processions for the Kings of Poland. Admire pretty gabled houses, the Gothic-Renaissance Main Town Hall with its soaring tower, and St. Mary’s, the third largest brick church in the world. Perhaps the most fascinating relic from Gdansk’s golden age is the medieval crane that once loaded and unloaded cargo from docked ships, long before the industrial age!

Remarkably, the city of Wroclaw is a vibrant blend of almost all of Europe’s religions and cultures. Its heritage stretches back more than 1,000 years and has been shaped by Germany, Prussia, the Habsburg Empire, and the kingdoms of Hungary, Bohemia, and Poland. Today, it is a bastion of a culture rich in theatre, art, literature, and more. It boasts one of Europe’s most stunning market squares, lovely waterways and parks, and the famed cycloramic painting of the Battle of Raclawice in which the citizenry rose up against Russia in 1794. The city is also renowned for the largest beer festival in Poland, held each June.

That beer may go well with pierniki, the delicious gingerbread of Torun. This city was proclaimed one of the Seven Wonders of Poland for its incredibly preserved Old Town. Astronomy buffs can gaze upon one of its shining stars: the birthplace of Nicolaus Copernicus, the first to suggest that the sun, not the earth, was the centre of the universe. Less scientific, but no less enduring, are the miraculous powers attributed to the Black Madonna of Czestochowa, housed in the Jasna Gora Monastery. Millions flock here each year just to be in her presence.

Romania: Beyond the Myth of Dracula

There is much more to Romania than its legendary vampire stories. Stunning vistas at every turn, soaring Carpathian Mountains, deeply held folkloric traditions, and beautifully preserved Orthodox churches housed within medieval walled cities combine to make it one of travel’s best-kept secrets.

The nation’s capital, Bucharest, has been compared to Paris for its emerging elegance, wide boulevards, and intentional 1935 replica of the Arc de Triomphe. Neoclassical buildings and Orthodox churches dominate the cityscape of this former communist enclave. Today, museums, opera, and theatre set the tone for an increasingly creative cultural centre. The most imposing building of Bucharest is the Parliament Palace. Even its enormity could not satisfy the ego of former dictator Nicolae Ceausescu. It is the second largest administrative building in the world after the US Pentagon.

Amidst the bucolic landscapes of Transylvania—the land “beyond the forest” as translated from Latin—the charms of medieval Saxon villages beckon. BrasovSibiuand Sighisoara have been lovingly preserved and each evokes the seductive splendour of Old Romania. Narrow streets wind past steeply roofed 17thcentury houses. Intricately decorated buildings bring fairy tales to mind. Wooden dancing figurines within chiming clocks, rare book collections, gingerbread houses, tranquil monasteries, and museums filled with period furniture paint a rich picture of a pastoral past. Of course, in every fairy tale, a wolf lurks; Transylvania is home to the legendary Dracula, Bram Stoker’s vampire inspired by the towers and turrets of Bran Castle. Fortunately, you will also visit castles considerably less malicious: the 19th-century Peles Castle, the romantic summer home of King Carol I, and the 14th-century Hunedoara, with its soaring towers and dramatic drawbridge.

Farther north, two hidden gems of Romania await. Immerse yourself in Transylvanian culture in Targu Mures, once a rural hamlet and today a small city rich in local tradition. The Palace of Culture is the centrepiece, a magnificent Hungarian Art Nouveau treasure built in 1913. Mahogany woodwork, stained glass masterworks, marble staircases, and a hall of mirrors make this one of Romania’s most beloved buildings. The city’s library, founded in the late 18th century, is one of the country’s oldest and houses an astounding collection of manuscripts and artifacts.

And speaking of astounding collections, during your stay in Piatra Neamt, we’re giving you the option to visit Moldavia province’s renowned painted monasteries. Here, local princes and nobles employed painters to adorn ecclesiastical building from top to bottom with bright frescoes. These fully imagined canvases told stories of warfare and redemption to local villagers who were mostly illiterate.

Explore another side of Romania in Timisoara, the cultural centre of the West. This winsome city on the Bega River boasts many buildings from the Austrian Empire, earning it the nickname, “Little Vienna.” Opera, philharmonic, theatre, museums, and more cultural institutions line its gracious streets. There seems to be a performance every night in Timisoara, which might make you think everyone is still celebrating the Romanian Revolution, which started here in 1989. It’s no surprise that Timisoara has been declared the European Capital of Culture for 2021.

Bulgaria: Authentic and True

Perhaps it is because so few travellers visit Bulgaria that it remains one of Eastern Europe’s most authentic nations. Its capital, Sofia, lies scenically at the foot of Vitosha Mountain and is at the geographic centre of the Balkan peninsula. The city has been inhabited since 7000 BC and is rich in Roman and Thracian ruins. Remarkably, many of its Bulgarian Orthodox monasteries survived centuries of iron-fisted Ottoman rule. Today, the National Museum of History chronicles its long past while the gold-domed Alexander Nevsky Church stands proudly as a neo-Byzantine symbol of the city’s enduring spiritual heart.

Serbia: Where Life’s Simple Pleasures Endure

With rolling hills and enchanting villages, Serbia transports you back to the simpler times of the Balkans. There is much to endear you to its charms, particularly the three-kiss hello you will receive from the famously friendly locals. This is all despite the nation’s recent tumult, from which it has steadied itself with open-armed confidence. Nis, one of the oldest cities in Europe, resides in Serbia. Constantine the Great was born here before he went on to found Constantinople, today’s Istanbul. Today, this city on the Nisava River is rich in history, some of which you will witness at its Turkish fortress.

Skirting the Sava River, Belgrade is often thought of as the bohemian cousin to the continent’s more refined cities. It might have gotten this reputation in the Skadarlija quarter, which has often been compared to the artistic enclave of Montmartre in Paris. Soak it all in as you browse Republic Square and the café-lined pedestrian zone of Knez Mihajlova Street. To get a glimpse into the city’s long history and architectural treasures, visit the imposing Kalemegdan Fortress, erected strategically where the Sava meets the Danube. Equally impressive, Saint Sava Temple is one of the world’s largest Orthodox churches.

Uncover the countless wonders of Eastern Europe with Gate 1 Travel. When you do, you’ll close each remarkable day in comfortable accommodations, delight in local cuisine, and gain in-depth insight from local guides who call this destination home. Join us!

La Paz, Bolivia
Latin America

La Paz & Santiago: South America’s Dynamic Duo

At first glance, the difference between La Paz and sprawling Santiago is their scale. The compact size of the Bolivian capital is dictated by its geography; its dense position within dramatic canyon walls makes it seem far smaller than its 472 square kilometres. The metro area of Chile’s capital, on the other hand, spreads out over 15,403 square kilometres in a vast valley in the shadow of soaring Andean peaks. One-and-a-half million people call La Paz home, while there are five times as many Santiaguinos.

Visiting them both on one trip—as we do during our new Natural Wonders of Bolivia & Chile small group tour—provides an enlightening glimpse of how two cultural centres have adapted to and been influenced by their Andean locales. From arts and leisurely urban pursuits to cuisine and dress, here’s how these two remarkable cities compare.

The low-down on high altitude

  • La Paz: Your 12,000-foot elevation may require a cup of maté tea to combat altitude sickness.
  • Santiago: At an average of 1,700 feet, Santiago lies in the centre of a massive basin encircled by mountains.

Bird’s eye views

  • La Paz: Ride the Mi Teleférico cable cars, the world’s highest and longest aerial public transit.
  • Santiago: Ascend San Cristóbal Hill and share the view with a stunning statue of the Virgin Mary. 

Unique, culture-rich shopping and browsing 

  • La Paz: El Mercado de Hechiceria, or the Witches’ Market, boasts a curious collection of potions, talismans, and more.
  • Santiago: The bustling Mercado Central, a confluence of fishmongers, butchers, and greengrocers, invites wide-eyed wandering.

A snack break 

  • La Paz: Tuck into a delicious salteña, a meat-filled pastry.
  • Santiago: Go for a savory, cheese-filled empanada de queso.

A locally inspired cocktail 

  • La Paz: Try a yungueño, a mixed drink of local brandy, simple syrup, 
    and orange juice created in the valleys.
  • Santiago: Sip a pisco sour, a blend of brandy and tart pica lime juice.

Wine from nearby vineyards

  • La Paz: Sample Singani, distilled from white Muscat of Alexandria grapes in the high valleys.
  • Santiago: You’re in Chilean wine country, so uncork your favourite wine from any of numerous wineries.

The skinny on fashion 

  • La Paz: Try on traditional alpaca knitwear and bowler hats.
  • Santiago: Find 21st-century chic and sophistication at boutique clothiers in Bellavista.

Fascinating people-watching 

  • La Paz: Meander the cobbled streets around the San Francisco Cathedral.
  • Santiago: Grab a bench by the Simon Bolivar fountain in the Plaza de Armas.

Distinctive neighbourhoods

  • La Paz: Explore Jaen Street, the remarkably restored colonial district home to notable museums.
  • Santiago: Wander among the boutiques and avant-garde galleries of bohemian Bellavista.

Souvenirs and take-homes

  • La Paz: You’ll find ample offerings of coffee, alpaca sweaters and scarves, and silver.
  • Santiago: Duck into a bookstore for poetry by native Pablo Neruda, 
    or find copper trinkets in local markets.