Month: July 2018

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6 Reasons to Visit South America

There’s not much South America doesn’t have to offer those who wander this vast continent. From natural beauty, wildlife experiences and historical sights, to unique food, music and diverse culture – there’s something for everyone to discover in South America.

1. It’s diverse and otherwordly landscapes will leave you breathless
More than twice the size of Australia and possessing one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, South America has a nature playground for everyone. If you favour picturesque mountain peaks and mammoth glaciers then Patagonia is the spot for you. Once considered a trekkers paradise, there are now many ways to explore this region that are easier on the knees! Don’t miss Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina.

For those who prefer tropical climates and beaches, Brazil is unmatched. On the border of Argentina and Brazil lies the must see natural wonder of the world, Iguazu Falls. Boasting 275 waterfalls and home to the cheeky possum-like coatis, this attraction is unforgettable. Stunning Rio de Janeiro is another must visit. Relax on Ipanema beach with a caprihiana in hand admiring the view of the Two Brothers Mountain, known to locals as Morro Dois Irmaos.

Ancient Inca lost city Machu Picchu, Peru.

2 . It is the mecca of bucketlist experiences
Voted in 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is high on most adventurer’s bucket lists. Although still very much a mystery, historians believe that this 15th century Inca citadel located in the Cusco Region of Urubamba was built in 1450 and abandoned a century later when the Spanish conquistadors invaded. It remained unknown to the world until it was discovered by an American historian by the name of Hiram Bingham in 1911. Now over 1.5 million tourists visit the site every year, but with Gate 1 you won’t feel like part of the crowd because you’ll be there at the best times and escorted by the best local guides to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Another South American icon which is also listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World is the Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue which sits atop Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The statue is 30 metres tall and 29 metres wide and weighs 635 tons! While it is truly inspiring for those who visit, the attraction also provides stunning vistas of the city of Rio De Janeiro and neighbouring Sugarloaf Mountain.

3. Peru’s capital of Lima is one of the world’s leaders of gastronomy
Ceviche, lomo sataldo & picarones – oh my! Peruvian cuisine has recently exploded onto the international culinary scene and now Lima is a well-known hot spot full of gastronomic delights. Indigenous foods which have been around for generations have been infused with Spanish flair as well as Asian flavours, which were bought to Peru with a wave of immigrants. Some must-try Peruvian fare includes Peru’s national dish ceviche; a fresh fish dish whereby the fish is ‘cold cooked’ in lime juice. There’s also lomo saltado, a beef dish which represents the fusion of Chinese stir-fry with traditional Peruvian ingredients, and a type of doughnut called picarones for dessert. For the brave there is also Cuy, roasted Guinea Pig! Wash it all down with a pisco sour or a bottle of Inca Cola, a sweet, florescent yellow soda that’s much-loved by Peruvians and tastes like fruity bubblegum but is made with lemon verbena.

4. It has a diverse culture and rich history
South America is made up of 13 different countries, each with their own unique culture, heritage and even climate. Even countries with similar traditions and heritage have distinct differences which set them apart. For example, Peru and Bolivia both still carry on traditions from the early Incan civilisations, however their traditional dress is quite different. In Bolivia it is common for local La Paz women, also known as “cholitas”, to wear bowler hats and pleated skirts which were bought to the countries by Englishmen in the 1800s. Another example is Argentina and Chile, who both share similar climates and beautifully preserved colonial cities, however have distinct cuisines and Spanish dialects.

One cannot visit Argentina without trying their world-famous Asado, a barbeque cooked on a grill called a parilla or on an open fire. For history buffs, follow the steps of the Spanish Conquistodors and visit the cities of Cartagena in Colombia, Cuzco in Peru and Cuenca in Ecuador to gain insight into these country’s legacy and the era of colonial conquest.

One of the Galapagos Islands’ most famous residents, the giant tortoise

5. Astounding Wildlife Experiences
Unique close encounters and wildlife experiences await nature lovers in South America. The stand out is of course the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, which is home to 14 unique species of animals and birdlife. Made famous by Charles Darwin during his development of the theory of evolution in 1859, this cluster of volcanic islands provides visitors the opportunity to get incredibly close to the wildlife due to the isolated environment and lack of predators. Among the favourites are the Galapagos Tortoise, Marine Iguana and Blue-footed Booby.

Often referred to as the ‘world’s lungs’, the Amazon basin which crosses through 9 different countries is home to more than 40,000 species of plants and more than 4,500 animal species plus an estimated 200 local tribes. Travellers can visit the dense jungle in the northern parts of Peru or the drier pampas region in Bolivia. The Pantanal wetlands in Southern Brazil is another region known for its remoteness and those who venture there may even have the opportunity to spot a jaguar!

6. The festive culture will invigorate you
If the Amazon is the lungs of the world then Buenos Aires is the feet and Rio De Janiero its heartbeat. Music and rhythm runs through the veins of South Americans and they love nothing more than to dance, sing and get festive! Samba is the flavour in Brazil and Carnivale is its most famous celebration. More than two million people gather in the streets of Rio De Janeiro every day of the festival in February to celebrate in honour of the gods and to respect the great waters.

In Argentina the locals move to the rhythm of the tango which has its cultural home in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of La Boca. Further north in Colombia the salsa is the most popular form of social dance and has its own distinct style. Get inspired by the heat of the Latin night, grab a partner and learn some new moves. No matter where you are in South America there will always be time to move those hips!

No one knows South America like Gate 1 Travel, with expert Tour Managers hailing from the very countries they’re introducing you to. Their insider knowledge and connections are invaluable in ensuring you get the most from your visit. What’s more, our 30+ years of experience in the continent lets us offer you more ways to discover its magical wonders.

Explore the very best of South America with Gate 1 Travel’s 18 Day Classic Brazil, Argentina and Peru escorted tour, which includes visits to Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires. Or choose from our wide selection of trips in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and more!

G1 Photo Friday

Jordan Rocks Gate 1 Photo Friday

The city of Petra is known for being built and carved into the surrounding rock. This ancient city, located in the southwestern desert of Jordan, is surrounded by mountains with plenty of passages and gorges. The Siq is pictured and it is the main entrance to beautiful Petra. This passage gets as narrow as 10 feet at some points and walking through is a highlight of any visit.

This week’s #g1photofriday was uploaded by user @betbjbettyjean using the hashtag #gate1travel.

Be sure to tag your photos on social media with #gate1travel or #g1photofriday to be featured. Check out Gate 1 Travel’s Jordan tours here!


Seeing More of Israel…For Less

Gate 1 Travel knows Israel like no other travel company. Thanks to our longstanding and enduring relationships throughout the country, we can offer an unmatched experience that provides endless insight into its natural and cultural treasures, all at the best value you’ll find anywhere. There are as many reasons to visit Israel with Gate 1 Travel as there are historic and religious sites in this incredible nation.

Inspiration knows no bounds in Israel. Its culture, religion and history converge into a nation unlike any other. We invite you to join us in this land that we know so well.

Jerusalem: The Soul of Israel
Perhaps no other city in the world boasts such a dense concentration of religious sites as Jerusalem. Many call this city the soul of Israel, and it’s easy to understand why. Powerful emblems of faith appear on every corner of the Old City, as you’ll see in the Stations of the Cross that line the Via Dolorosa, or Way of Sorrows. Jesus is said to have walked this road while bearing His cross. This pilgrimage route – and our own walk – ends at the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, built on the site of His crucifixion. It’s a particularly moving visit – especially if you also pay homage at the place of His birth, Bethlehem’s Church of the Nativity, and at the Church of the Annunciation in the city of His youth, Nazareth.

In the Jewish Quarter of Jerusalem, the Temple Mount – crowned by the gilded Dome of the Rock – is said to shelter the Talmudic source of life, the site from where God gathered dust to create man. In Islamic faith, it is the location of Mohammed’s ascent to heaven. More than this, it is a symbol of unity, as Gabriel brought Mohammed here to pray with Abraham, Moses, and Jesus. The Western (or Wailing) Wall borders the temple – a pilgrimage site where the devout worship and insert prayerful slips of paper in the crannies between the mortar and rock. It is impossible to not be moved by the power of this place. We’ll examine it all as closely as religious law allows, then step outside the Old City for a breathtaking bird’s eye view from atop Mt. Zion – site of the ancient City of David.

Jerusalem’s new city is no less inspiring, as you might choose to discover for yourself. At the Israel Museum, art and archaeology from the country’s millennia of history are on display, none more remarkable than the fourth and fifth-century Dead Sea Scrolls, housed under an impressive white dome. From inspiring to sobering, you may also visit Yad Vashem, Israel’s memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust.

During your stay, you can join our excursion to test the Dead Sea’s buoyancy; its waters are 34% saline! Farther south, the towering massif of Masada tells the dramatic story of 960 Jewish rebels who, in AD 73, committed suicide rather than surrender to the Roman Empire.

Tiberias: Gateway to the Jordan River Valley: The “Garden of God”
The River Jordan played a crucial part in Christian theology, the scene of miracles, battles, and baptisms. Most notably, John baptized Jesus in its waters at a site that we’ll visit. Today, the valley’s fertile history is on rich display and you can unravel it all, and so much more, during an enriching stay in Tiberias, hugging the Sea of Galilee’s shores. Nearby Beit She’an, a city dating to the 15th-century BC, invites you to stroll through 5,000 years of history.

Thousands of years of Canaanite, Egyptian, Roman, Arab, Byzantine, and Ottoman history blanket the shores of the Sea of Galilee. There will be ample time to explore Tiberias on your own – perhaps sampling one of its soothing thermal springs. But we suspect you’ll want to set out to discover more of Israel’s wide variety of sites. In Upper Galilee, a mystical Kabbalah artists’ colony welcomes you, and in the Golan Heights, you may sample special vintages at a kosher winery. Perhaps, too, you will visit the remarkably historic port city of Acre, or Akko, where echoes of knights and crusaders whisper in Ottoman-era medieval streets and explore the ancient ruins of Capernaum and the fabled spot where Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, the Mount of Beatitudes.

Haifa & Tel Aviv: “Israel’s Riviera”
The Mediterranean Sea does not spring to everyone’s mind when they think of Israel. But some of the country’s most beautiful places grace its sun-kissed coast. The splendid terraced Baha’i Gardens offer magnificent views of Haifa. Mt. Carmel was the spot of Elijah’s sacrifice by fire by which he miraculously ended a drought. And in Caesarea, seat of Pontius Pilate and of impressive Roman and Crusader ruins, Herod the Great built a city to rival Rome. With the blue waters of the Mediterranean as their backdrop, these historic sites are all the more magnificent.

If Jerusalem is Israel’s soul, Tel Aviv is its beating heart. This young and vibrant city on the sea never sleeps and offers a fun and fascinating glimpse into the country’s modern lifestyle. Whether you prefer an hour on the beach or an afternoon shopping at the Dizengoff Center, Tel Aviv never disappoints. By contrast, in the city’s southern districts, Jaffa or Joppa is a wellspring of biblical and rabbinical history.

Our Essential Israel and Affordable Israel programmes offer Gate 1’s best value. But of course, there’s more to this magnificent country, from the stark beauty of its deserts and rich kibbutz culture to the staggering sites of its neighbour, Jordan. On these inspiring journeys, too, Gate 1’s value can’t be matched.

Take the Road to the Red Sea
In the south of Israel, the Negev stretches to the Red Sea. The desert makes for a mesmerizing drive through arid plains, but it’s not all barren land. At Kibbutz Sde Boker, the first prime minister of Israel, David Ben-Gurion, retired and passed away. We’ll stop to pay respects at his grave. Farther south, the small town of Mitzpe Ramon sits on the northern ridge of the Ramon Crater. This once-forgotten enclave, built as a camp for the workers who laid the road to the Red Sea, is coming into its own as an eco-tourist destination.

The sea resort town of Eilat is a geographic crossroads; Egypt, Jordan, and Saudi Arabia are all visible from this northern tip of the Red Sea. Our days here are unregimented, with lots of time to swim or snorkel. And there’s plenty more to explore: join optional tours to the magnificent ancient city of Petra or to the Timna Valley, home to incredible rock formations carved by desert wind and the once-active copper mines known as King Solomon’s Mines.

While You’re Here, Marvel at Jordan’s Wonders
Throughout our Israel trips, Jordan is always right across the border. So it only makes sense to select an itinerary that also explores this welcoming and remarkable country. Its gleaming capital Amman, called the “White City” for the stone used to build its houses, is rich in culture and tradition. Outside Amman, Jerash – the “Pompeii of the East” – provides incredible insight into the lives of the Romans in one of their more remote outposts. And on the summit of Mt. Nebo, you’ll not only have views of the Jordan Valley and the Dead Sea; you’ll also see the reputed burial site of Moses. But perhaps Jordan’s most magnificent gem is Petra, the red sandstone city carved into rocky cliff faces.

Unravel Israel’s Mysteries with Gate 1 Travel
No matter how you choose to visit Israel with Gate 1, you’ll discover that this small country holds countless surprises. We offer numerous comprehensive tours packed with sightseeing. One thing is certain: whether this is your first visit or your fifth, we’ll show it all to you at a price that beats any other tour operator. Join us!


Getting off the Elephant’s Back

Over recent months, Gate 1 Travel has undertaken an extensive review of our activities that include animal encounters, with particular focus on elephant riding and sanctuary visits.

We have done everything possible to ensure that the elephants and other animals that our travellers interact with are treated ethically, and we strive for experiences which are fulfilling for both the animals and tourists. However, the fact remains that for elephants, being ridden or performing tricks is not natural behaviour. It’s nearly impossible to guarantee that there has not been mistreatment during their training or that the animals were not illegally captured. On top of this is a disturbing increase in the number of attractions in Asia claiming to be sanctuaries, rescue centres or retirement camps, but sadly some of these facilities practice the same abusive training methods and deprivation that has lead to the tourism industry mounting a campaign against animal cruelty.

In consideration of these continued concerns and feedback received from our travellers, Gate 1 has decided to withdraw from our itineraries any sites and experiences with elephants, other than those encountered in the wild.

We hope you will join us in helping to protect elephants and supporting animal welfare.

Photo thanks to @davelaura