Root Glacier Alaska
USA & Canada

A Gigantic Glacier Adventure in Alaska

As far as top travel experiences go, few can match hiking on the gleaming surface of a glacier. Crisp, clean air embraces you at every step. Snow-covered slopes rise for miles to dramatic peaks. And the only sound you hear is the crunch of your crampons digging into the snow and ice. It is tranquility and serenity at its most sublime.

Thanks to the small group size of our Alaskan adventure, you can do all of this along the breathtaking Wrangell range in Wrangell-Saint Elias National Park. One of America’s natural treasures, the park was established in 1978 by President Jimmy Carter. Remarkably, the park is larger than the nation of Switzerland.

Root Glacier is one of North America’s few accessible glaciers, and your journey leads you into a virtually untouched and pristine wilderness. Because this majestic mountain range is almost completed draped in white glaciers, geological studies have never been conducted of the rocky contours of its slopes. Despite this lack of in-depth surveys, it is believed that the mountain range has an ancient, eroded wall that once surrounded a volcano’s crater. In this primitive environment, it’s easy to imagine a time eons ago when lava and fire exploded into the sky and poured down the mountainsides.

Root Glacier is more than a mile wide and flows for 15 miles through the dramatic valleys. As you can imagine, this surely once played a part in the lives of the people of Kennecott, an abandoned mining camp where copper was once extracted. Today, the camp is a National Historic Landmark District, rich in history and lore. A fascinating walk among its preserved shacks and work houses will get you acquainted with this often overlooked corner of the United States.

Your glacier walk begins right from the old mining camp. With your guide, you will strap on crampons and venture onto the thick ice floe. All around you, a white wonderland of unforgettable beauty stretches upward and outward as your guide helps you understand the glacier’s minuscule movements and the ways it has carved out this magnificent landscape.

Above you, Mt. Blackburn soars into the sky, the highest peak in the park. As you explore, you’ll walk past the stunning, mile-high Stairway Icefall, a 7,000-foot vertical wall of ice alongside the shores of Erie Lake. This is just one spectacular natural feature you’ll marvel at during your walk. Turquoise blue pools and massive formations of ice sculpted by the elements mark your progress during this truly incredible outing.

Join Gate 1 Travel as we show you the side of Alaska that large tourist groups miss and immerse yourself in the astonishing beauty of an adventurous walk on Root Glacier. Follow this link to learn more about our new 11-day Alaska’s Natural Beauty tour.


Is a Gate 1 Travel River Cruise Too Good To Be True?

“People say that when a deal sounds too good to be true, it usually is, so avoid it. I’m glad to say we ignored that and you well and truly proved them wrong.”

Sandra F. from NSW, Australia, shares this advice and feedback from her recent 16 Day Classic European River Cruise

“We approached the trip with much trepidation, thinking that as Gate 1 Travel was so much cheaper than other companies – not just by a few hundred dollars, but thousands – that we were going to be missing out somewhere, but I can honestly say I don’t know of anything that anyone could have done better.

From the beginning with our Qatar flight (again another bargain which Gate 1 booked) 23 hours on a plane is never going to be fantastic, but the airline did everything to make it a good experience. We were met at Amsterdam airport by a really luxury car, compliments of Gate 1, even though our flight from London was an hour late our friendly driver was there waiting. At the ship, the driver and crew didn’t let us lift a finger and we were escorted to the lounge as we had 3 hours before check in. A lovely light lunch was waiting and we soon got chatting to another 2 couples, who were to become our new best friends and we will remain in contact with them and I’m sure have many reunions.

Once we got to the cabin another nice surprise – it was roomy, loads of cupboard space, light, airy and big windows to enjoy the view later.

Dinner that night we added another couple to increase our Aussie gang to 8 and met our favourite waiter, Sevann, who was always happy and with a few tricks to make us laugh.

I was on a lactose-free diet but the food I had was delicious, usually the same as the others but made without the lactose so I never felt I was missing out. The food was always great. In the two weeks we never a bad meal and so many courses – how they do such a good job in such a small space is a credit to the staff and those poor waiters up and down the stairs and still smiles on their faces. The cheese waiter at the end of the meal was great entertainment value.

With only 100 on board you soon got to know everyone, which is really good. You’re never short of someone to talk to. We did swap around tables, as is encouraged, so we got to experience all the lovely waiters and fellow passengers.

The shore excursions I expected would be just a walk around with one of the crew sharing whatever knowledge they had, but no – certainly not, we were always met by an experienced tour guide and our earphones where great, especially for the hard-of-hearing like my husband, so they didn’t miss anything. Even with the guide, our trusty tour director Peter was always there, usually bringing up the rear making sure the tour kept a pace every one could keep up with and always with a hand up and down steps and of course the cry of “watch out, bike coming”.

During those excursions we always saw the tours from others ships, so they were doing the exact same thing as us only paying more. If we weren’t close to town a coach was always laid-on and we were given plenty of time to do our own thing if we wanted.

Evenings were always great entertainment with Peter on the Piano, fun games with our cruise directors, Mick Adrien and Peter, and we even won some prizes. Our bar staff Adriana and her husband were always there and they both had a really good sense of humour – we had a few half-price happy hours which went down
well with our Aussie group!

I was fortunate to celebrate my 70th birthday on board and received a lovely bottle of champagne in our room from Gate 1 and a wonderful happy birthday – complete with delicious cake – at dinner. I was lucky it was half-price drinks too that night. I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate my birthday and of course everyone on board knew, so I had so many good wishes.

Afternoons laying on the bed resting your feet, watching the beautiful scenery, is a great experience and when there was lots to see there was always an excellent commentary on the sundeck or lounge. Truly on a river cruise the world comes to you, you just sit and enjoy.

Every member of the cruise was so friendly, the guy who tied the ship up at locks always gave us a wave when finished (couldn’t be easy, all those people watching to see if he managed to get the rope over), the reception staff who returned all for lost property (I always leave something on my chair), the lovely Charmaine who looked after our room, the cool drinks when we got back on board after excursions and all the staff in the background who made everything go so smoothly.

Thank you so much Gate 1 for a wonderful trip. I never heard one bad comment from anyone, we all agreed it was a top class experience at a cut price rate. I am busy recommending you to any one who will listen, especially those who are wasting money on those expensive cruises.

Thank you for the experience, Sandra”

Click here to find out how you can afford a European River Cruise and see more of the world for less with Gate 1 Travel.

USA & Canada

Celebrating America’s National Parks Centennial

This year, August 25 marked the 100th birthday of the US National Parks Service and we thought we’d celebrate the historic milestone by sharing some National Park Service facts and honouring many of the world’s most impressive parks.

Did you know?

  • Over 400 National Parks, monuments and historic sites are managed by the National Park Service
  • California has the most National Parks with 9 & Alaska has the most parks & sites
  • Alaska is also home to the largest National Park – Wrangell-St.Elias
  • The most visited National Park, with over 10.5 million visitors a year, is the Great Smoky Mountains National Park in North Carolina & Tennessee
  • Yellowstone was the first National Park in the world created in 1872

Ways to Celebrate:

  • Free entrance days – there are just two remaining Free Entrance Days of the 16 that were offered in 2016, so get out your hiking boots now for September 24 and November 11!
  • Google Arts & Culture has released a collection of videos & 360 degree tours highlighting 5 different parks
  • The National Park Service is encouraging users to post to social media with the hashtag #findyourpark
  • Explore the National Parks with Gate 1 Travel on one of our 15 packages that visit US National Parks!

Gate 1 Tours highlighting National Parks:

For more information on all of our Gate 1 USA & Canada Tours click here, check out a few of our National Parks Videos here.

Seen any of these incredible National Parks for yourself? Tag your photos with #gate1travel on Instagram and share your photos on our site.

Rhine River Cruise

Explore Europe with the Ease & Convenience of a River Cruise

Imagine unpacking your bag and settling in to a room with an ever-changing view. Your ship offers a generous array of amenities and Europe’s most charming villages, lush vineyards, bucolic landscapes and vibrant cities are delivered to your door.

Along the way, you indulge in three mouthwatering meals a day, savour local wine, and have a seasoned cruise director by your side to fill you in on the fascinating history and rich culture of thrilling ports.

We’re sure you’ll agree it’s the most relaxing way to see Europe. And because Gate 1 now owns and operates our own river ship, it’s also the most value-packed way: With no middleman to consider, we can pass our savings directly to you.

Embark Gate 1 Travel’s MS Monarch Empress

Built by Gate 1, Controlled by Gate 1

In 2016, we introduced the MS Monarch Empress, the very first European river ship built by Gate 1 specifically to suit our travellers.  Come aboard and you’ll enjoy some of the most spacious and comfortable accommodations on Europe’s rivers. Cabins range in size from 140 to 210 square feet and include large bathrooms. A full 80% of rooms offer French balconies, providing private views as the stunning riverbanks unfold, and rooms can be configured with one or two beds.

With room for just 144 passengers, the ship is designed with the view in mind, with large windows in the cabins, dining room, lounge and other public space – and with few exterior visual obstructions on the outside decks. Throughout, you’ll find soothing blue and white interiors with cherry wood accents, top of the line furnishings and stylish décor. At mealtimes, you’ll have full outdoor views through floor-to-ceiling windows. Lounge on the sun deck and watch the passing scenery or share a drink with fellow travellers in the lounge. Curl up with a book or surf the internet in our generously sized library. Indulge in a massage or spa treatment. Plus, an elevator will whisk you between decks. The MS Monarch Empress promises all the comforts and pleasures of a deluxe floating hotel.

What’s more, because we own the ship, we fully control the quality of your experience. The Monarch Empress is staffed by Gate 1, with Tour Managers, waitstaff, chefs, housekeepers and more all committed to ensuring you have the most memorable experience on Europe’s waterways.

More Gate 1 River Ships Mean More Discovery

For 2017, the Monarch Empress will be joined by our two privately chartered ships, the first class MS Monarch Queen and MS Monarch Baroness. Built in 2006, with a maximum capacity of 144 passengers, these intimate sister ships features 68 spacious outside cabins and 4 suites (170-255 sq ft) each fully air-conditioned with private bath facilities, shower, telephone and flat screen satellite TV.

These two ships will sail amidst the rainbow of colours along Holland’s waterways in Spring 2017. After the height of the tulip season, both the Monarch Empress and Monarch Queen will introduce travellers to the romantic waters of the Danube, sailing between Regensburg and Budapest. For her part, the Monarch Baroness will explore the lilting waters of Germany’s Rhine River between Basel and Amsterdam. She will also be joined by the Monarch Queen with our 14-night sailings along the Rhine, Main & Danube Rivers between Amsterdam and Budapest.


Sail Through Five Countries on One Sweeping River Cruise

With the 1992 opening of the Main-Danube Canal, a 106-mile wonder that links two of Europe’s most fabled rivers, river ships could traverse the entire continent from Holland to Hungary. Our Classic European River Cruise takes full advantage of this engineering triumph, delivering you from sea to sea in 16 days, spanning the entire continent of Europe in the process.

THE RHINE: From Dutch Treats to Rich German Culture

Begin among the waters that fan out from the Rhine River into the North Sea. Amsterdam, the charming canal-laced city of gabled houses and graceful bridges, was built on the wealth of the Dutch Golden Age. This cultural centre is rich in treasures, from the art collections of the Rijksmuseum to the bustling stalls of the Albert Cuyp market. As “old world” as Amsterdam feels, it’s Nijmegen that is Holland’s oldest city. And it enjoys a lovely setting on the Waal River. As you wander its charming streets, you are tracing 2,000 years of history.

Soon after entering Germany, the unmistakable twin spires of the Cologne Cathedral come into view. This stunning piece of architecture has watched over the city for centuries and it’s a thrill to tour the atmospheric Old Town, lined with timber-framed houses and distinctive brauhausen (pubs) in its towering shadow. Koblenz, nestled where the Rhine meets the Moselle River, enjoys a picturesque setting, dotted with stunning Romanesque architecture and imposing defensive towers that recall the town’s founding as a Roman stronghold that protected the rivers’ convergence.

THE MAIN: Into the Charms of Franconia

The beautiful medieval town of Miltenberg, with its 14th-century hilltop castle of the same name, is one of the Main River’s true treasures. Its narrow crooked streets lead to half-timbered houses and are a pleasure to explore. Wertheim, too, boasts a hillside fortification, this one of stunning red sandstone. Taken together, these tiny riverside villages remind travellers of the depth of history that has unfolded on these riverbanks. Castles such as these once collected tolls from cargo ships and defended the sovereignty of kingdoms.

In Wurzburg, the “Pearl of the Romantic Road,” Germany’s scenic route that reveals the heart of Franconia, another castle looms large: the Marienberg fortress. But the scene stealer here may be the ornate Bishops’ Residenz Palace, a baroque masterpiece that boasts the largest ceiling fresco ever painted. More beauty greets you in Bamberg, set on the old Regnitz Island. This city suffered very little during World War II and so its buildings are remarkably preserved; more than 2,000 of them are listed as historical monuments.

THE DANUBE: Austro-Hungarian Treasures

History remembers Nuremberg best as the site of Hitler’s rallies and as the host city of the post-war Nuremberg trials. But this historic and lovely city has a colourful side, too. Accented by half-timbered houses, cobbled streets and a history of crafting delightful toys, it rests on the Main-Danube Canal.

Downriver, Regensburg graces the river’s banks. This is a true European gem, one of the continent’s best preserved medieval cities thanks to its escape from World War II bombing. As the Danube approaches the Inn and Ilz rivers, Passau emerges where the three rivers meet. Surrounded by tranquil waterways, it enjoys a singular and pretty setting. Passau also enjoys fame as the home of Europe’s largest pipe organ; its 17,774 pipes grace Passau with their musical grandeur from the baroque St. Stephan’s cathedral.

Austria’s Benedictine Melk Abbey perches like a confection on a bluff overlooking the Danube. Its imperial rooms house a library of 85,000 historic volumes, and views of the Wachau Valley from the abbey’s terrace are stunning. This architectural masterwork is the perfect prelude to the wonders of Vienna, elegance unparalleled. Its circular roadway, the Ringstrasse, is lined with some of the most graceful buildings you’re every likely to see, like the famed Opera House. And the city’s sprawling palace of Schonbrunn is a glittering monument to the Habsburg Dynasty that ruled the region for centuries.

Soon, the Danube forms Austria’s border with Slovakia. The latter’s capital city, Bratislava, is the only European capital to share a border with two other countries, Hungary being the third. Its hilltop 16th-century castle is a sight to behold. But little compares to cruising into the heart of Budapest, the Danube’s grand dame. The fortress of Fisherman’s Bastion rises on one bank and the mighty Parliament watches over from the other while the iconic Chain Bridge arcs over the water like a crown.

Tailor your river cruise to your liking: Choose from shorter itineraries.

If a shorter itinerary is more to your liking, Gate 1 Travel has the itinerary for you.

Tulip Time River Cruises. Explore the waterways of the Low Countries, Holland and Belgium, in the springtime. There’s no better way to witness the vibrant colours of tulips, daffodils and countless other blooms than by river ship. Along the way, you’ll explore medieval cities, see the famed windmills of Kinderdijk, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and breathe in the clean air of the North Sea as you cruise through the vast Rhine delta system. If you wish, you may select our Tulip Time itineraries that include city stays in Amsterdam, Paris, or both.

Rhine River Cruises. Germany’s wine country comes to life as you drift along “Father Rhine,” lined with vineyard-laden sloping hills, welcoming wine-making villages and storybook hamlets. You’ll follow the Rhine where it forms the border of Germany and France and explore French Strasbourg and its charming Old Town.  Add time in Lucerne and you’ll experience more of the allure of Swiss culture.

Danube River Cruises. Experience the best of Bavaria, Austria and Hungary during a cruise into some of Europe’s most scenic corners. Visit all the Danube ports discussed above, plus have the chance to visit Salzburg, Austria’s alpine-ringed city where The Sound of Music was filmed; Cesky Krumlov, an inviting Czech artists’ colony in a beautiful setting; and Bratislava, the Slovakian capital with an atmospheric Old Town. While you’re in this corner of Europe, you can elect to also spend time in Budapest, Prague, or both.

Join us … and discover the ease of exploring Europe by river cruise!

All the exciting corners of Europe are waiting to be explored by river ship with Gate 1 Travel! No matter which itinerary you select, you’ll enjoy an intimate experience that only a small ship allows … included city tours at all ports … the full services of a Tour Manager … and an incredible all-inclusive value. All while unpacking your bags just once and letting Europe come to you!

Vietnna Townhall Christmas Decorations

Always Wanted to See Europe’s Christmas Markets?

We might be longing for the arrival of Spring right now, but soon Christmas will be here in the blink of an eye. So this is the ideal time for Gate 1 travellers to book your visits to Europe’s festive and colourful Christkindlmarkts!

It’s been said that the off-season for tourists is the on-season for some of Europe’s most intimate and delightful cultural festivals. Christmas markets are just one example of this adage, as Central Europe’s old squares come alive with local traditions that conjure Christmases past. Each year, the cities of Germany and Austria offer a feast for the senses. Aromas of cinnamon, gingerbread, baked apples and roasting chestnuts waft through Old Town squares. Gaily decorated stalls brim with handmade ornaments, toys and endless ideas for Christmas gift-giving. Artisans are often on hand to demonstrate their crafts, carollers roam about the snowy squares and stalls are decorated with the finest trimmings. It’s hard to find a more perfect place to ring in the festive season than in Central Europe.

Christmas Markets Steeped in German Tradition

Two of Gate 1’s Christmas Market itineraries feature time to experience the city in which the market tradition began: Nuremberg, Germany. Blanketing the squares of the old walled city, this market dates back to the 1600s. Here, almost 200 stalls illuminated by candlelight cluster in the Haupmarkt competing for the “Plum Person,” a prize for the most breathtaking display. And everywhere, you’ll marvel at the gingerbread houses and Zwetschgenmannle, or dried plum statuettes, for which Nuremberg is known.

The spirit of Nuremberg echoes in cities throughout Germany. Munich’s Marienplatz in the Old Town hosts one of the world’s largest Christmas markets. Its twinkling lights and draperies of garlands vie for your attention amidst a sea of ornament-filled stalls. Under a canopy of festive lights in Berlin, you may discover the perfect hand-blown glass ornament, meticulously painted wooden nutcracker, or an intricately designed Weihnachtspyramide keepsake, a captivating multi-level carousel powered by the rising heat of candles; these precious treasures were first carved in Germany’s Ore Mountains. Dresden, too, boasts its own Striezelmarkt, named for the beloved Stollen Christmas cake. And in neighbouring Leipzig, more than 250 stalls offer a profusion of seasonal delights in the shadow of St. Nicholas Church, final resting place of Johann Sebastian Bach. If you listen closely, you might hear echoes of his celebrated Christmas cantata floating from within.

Smaller German cities also take part in the holiday cheer. In Heidelberg, delight in the treats of the city’s elegant market square in the Old Quarter, including lebkuchen, a tasty cookie. The millennium-old Cathedral of St. Martin in Mainz adds a hallowed air to the brightly decorated stands brimming with wooden toys, straw stars, colourful ceramics and more.

The Magic of Austria

Vienna is one of Europe’s grandest capitals any time of year. But during the Christmas season, it is illuminated and festooned unlike anywhere else. The city’s markets date back to 1298, when Albrecht I allowed his people to hold a Krippenmarkt in December. Today, 20 markets spread out across this elegant city, from the platz in front of City Hall, where international choirs sing carols, to the makeshift village at Belvedere Palace. As you browse, you’ll want to have a delicious vanillekipferl in hand, a crescent-shaped biscuit dusted with sugar.

In Salzburg, city of The Sound of Music set amidst Austria’s stunning alpine landscapes, the brass sounds of a turmblasen band echo among richly adorned stalls. As you peruse the countless crafts in beautiful Cathedral Square, you just might spot wandering among the stalls the fabled Christkind, dreamy figures in white and gold robes donning feathered wings. And you’ll no doubt want to avoid the Krampus, mythical creatures who accompany St. Nicholas in case the children behave badly.

Deck the halls with Gate 1 Travel this year during one of our three festive itineraries that bring the joy and fun of the Christmas season to vivid life in November and December. Don’t miss out! Just select from one of the trips below!

8 Day Christmas Markets of Germany & Austria

9 Day Alpine Christmas Markets

10 Day Christmas Markets of Germany

Cuzco women
Latin America

The Other Side of Peru

Andean Vistas, Unspoiled Cultures & Seldom-Seen Ruins

Snow-capped Andean peaks scrape at the sky. A patchwork of chequered farmland – neat squares of emeralds, olives and browns – stretches over vast valleys, then climb hillsides to altiplano plateaus. Pristine alpine streams race through fields. There is something ethereal at work in the tranquil countryside of Peru. And once you lay your eyes on such sublime beauty, it may come as no surprise that in the religion of the ancient Inca (and many of their modern-day descendants), these forces of nature – mountains and streams and valleys – are revered as apus, or spirits.

For today’s traveller, the most profound way to get in touch with the Inca’s spiritual side is to venture beyond the typical sites and head deeper into this unspoiled country. Don’t get us wrong – we know that no trip to Peru is complete without explorations of Machu Picchu and the Incan capital of Cusco, and we’re sure to bring you to these magnificent places. But behind these cultural treasures, away from the well-trodden tourist paths, another side of Peru beckons… a side embraced by apus, and graced by a history rich in colonial and indigenous heritage.

Behold a Gleaming City of White
The southern outpost of Arequipa is the perfect starting point for deeper Peruvian explorations. Its geographic isolation has allowed it to evolve with little outside influence; today, the city remains a unique and fascinating mix of Spanish and indigenous descendants. In fact, when UNESCO bestowed World Heritage status on Arequipa, it called the city’s historic centre “a masterpiece of the European creative coalition and native characteristics.”

This praise owes much to the beauty of the city’s architecture. Its pearl-white colonial buildings gleam in the Peruvian sun; Spaniards built their city from the sillar – cream-colored volcanic rock – that carved this Andean region over millennia. The striking cityscape has earned Arequipa the nickname, “Ciudad Blanca,” or White City. You can almost imagine that its buildings literally rose out of the earthen rock.

From the Depths of Colca Canyon to the Heights of Lake Titicaca
The landscape surrounding Arequipa, formed by a string of 80 volcanoes and epic tectonic shifts, is at once peaceful and dramatic. Andean peaks are everywhere, as we’ll discover during magnificent drives past pre-Inca farming terraces that climb fertile slopes. But one of our most memorable stops won’t have you looking up at mountains, but down into the yawning crevice of the Colca Canyon. This impressive crag in the earth is more than twice as deep as Arizona’s Grand Canyon; its walls, though not as steep, drop 13,650 feet from the rim. We keep our eyes open for the Andean condor as it rides air currents wafting up from the canyon floor.

Our route traverses the beauty of southeastern Peru. It’s not uncommon to come across shepherds herding their sheep or alpacas across these immense plains. It is a classic Peruvian tableau, despite that the horses they ride are not Peruvian at all, but were brought here by the Spanish. But on the lake known as Lagunillas, plenty of indigenous flora and birdlife hug the shores – no imports here! It is a startling pool of blue amidst a solitary landscape.

Despite Lagunillas’ undeniable beauty, another body of water captures our interest, the highest navigable lake in the world: Lake Titicaca, which straddles the Peruvian and Bolivian border. The small city of Puno is our base for exploring the home of the legendary Uros people, a resourceful tribe that centuries ago built vast rafts from the lake’s tough totora reeds so they could escape the wrath of an approaching enemy. On their newly made flotilla-homes, they cast off from shore to avoid decimation. As threats grew on other shores, they simply relocated their Islas Flotantes, or Floating Islands, to another part of the massive lake. The Uros were eventually conquered by the Inca, but their reed-island cultures survived. Today, they no longer have reason to move around like lake nomads. The threat of marauding tribes is gone, yet 44 of their islands – a rich and revered part of their heritage and lifestyle – remain.

Beyond Machu Picchu: Uncovering an Ancient Past
Near Puno, the fascinating Peruvian burial site of Sillustani comes into view amidst a barren landscape. It might at first appear to be a series of smokestacks. But these stone towers were actually funereal chambers for elite members of the Aymara people. An entire family was placed into each tower, called “uta Amaya,” or “houses of the soul” by the Aymara. Openings on the tombs all faced east, where the sun was reborn each day. The more remarkable features of Sillustani are the carved stones that comprise each tower. With their cut rectangular edges and uniform size, the craftsmanship behind them is considered more complex than that used by the Inca, even though the Aymara pre-dated them.

Of course, the Inca were brilliant engineers too, as we see at the seldom-visited complex of Raqchi, one of holiest sites in the Inca Empire. This temple was enormous, more than 25,000 square feet and covered by what was perhaps the largest single roof of the empire. Priests lived in adjoining quarters, and 100 round granary houses held corn and quinoa that were likely used in ceremonies. Incas worshipped here by the thousands.

We can be thankful that even the conquistadors saw Raqchi fit to at least partially preserve. But the contributions of the Spanish throughout Peru are also breathtaking. Off the beaten path, 30 miles from Cusco, the 17th-century church of Andahuaylillas stands as testament to their artistic and religious heritage. Don’t be fooled by the nondescript exterior of this cathedral. Inside, the artwork is dazzling. A rich mix of red and gold hues surrounds a gilded altar. Its painted ceilings and frescoed walls have inspired some to compare this church to the Sistine Chapel.

Untouched cultures … spectacular natural beauty … little-known pockets of rich history. This is the other side of Peru, and our small groups allow unfettered access to its glories. Read more about our Peruvian Legends tour and our Bolivia & Peru: Andean & Amazonian Culture tour, and call to find out more today!

Europe river cruise

And the Winner is…

We are excited to announce the winner of our Gate 1 Travel Subscriber Competition!

R. Corfield, NSW

The prize is a fantastic Danube River Cruise for two people, valid for travel in 2016 or 2017.

The random draw was conducted by SAM Sales & Marketing, Vic, on 8 July, 2016.

We are still waiting to hear from the winner and if the prize is not claimed by 1 September, 2016, there will be another random draw from all eligible entrants and new subscribers between 1 January and 30 June, 2016.

Thanks to everyone who entered and we hope you are enjoying receiving The Deal e-newsletter each week, with it’s huge travel savings and exclusive offers!

The Promoter is Gate 1 Travel Australia Pty Ltd of Suite 6, 10 Hoddle Street, Abbotsford VIC 3067 Australia. A.B.N. 74 169 034 575. NSW permit number LTPS/15/10083

Asia & Pacific

Vietnam & Cambodia: Cultural Treasures of Indochina

Westerners often think of mainland Southeast Asia as a lush paradise of emerald-hued mountains overlooking tranquil villages, terraced farmland tilled by plow-pulling oxen, and French-flavoured cities frozen in time and buzzing with bicycles and motor scooters.

It is, indeed, all of these things. And two nations on this vast peninsular region south of China — Vietnam and Cambodia — stand out as the undeniable cultural core. Each is brimming with ancient sites that have had a dramatic influence in the region, natural beauty found nowhere else and rich traditions that celebrate an enduring heritage.

Vietnam North to South

A profound sense of humanity and harmony infuses every aspect of Vietnam. This mysterious and beautiful country boasts 2,140 miles of coastline, bays crowded with a maze of limestone towers, stunning French-colonial architecture, soaring mountains and a river and delta system that hosts a rich array of wildlife and supports an ancient rural way of life. Gate 1 travellers witness it all in the most enriching manner possible.

Hanoi recently celebrated its 1,000th birthday. For much of its history, it has been the political and cultural capital of the country. During the nation’s more turbulent times, it was the capital of French Indochina (1902-1954) — during which its elegant colonial-era buildings were constructed — and of North Vietnam (1954-1976). More than 50 ethnic groups have shaped Hanoi and the surrounding region; many of their stories and cultural relics are on exhibit at the Museum of Ethnology. But perhaps nowhere is the nation’s heritage more dramatically represented than in the world-renowned water puppetry that originated here. These fascinating shows are performed over a pool of water, depicting ancient folktales and long-cherished lore set to traditional music and Cheo, a form of opera.

Halong Bay Vietnam

Nearby, more than 3,000 islands rise from the shimmering waters of Halong Bay, many of them several hundred feet tall. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is shrouded in myth and legend. According to one tale, the gods sent dragons to this coastline to protect the country and they spat out jade and other jewels into the water. These precious stones protected the land from enemies approaching by sea. Gate 1 takes you sailing through this breathtaking archipelago of karst cliffs on a traditional junk. Floating fishing villages and inviting sandy beaches cling to the shores and vast echoing caves have been carved within the hulking rocks over millennia.

Though Hue was the capital of Vietnam for only 143 years, from 1802 to 1945, its cultural influence on the region has been immeasurable. This may be because the Nguyen Dynasty that ruled from here constructed such a vast and imposing complex of palaces and fortresses. Their Imperial City has undergone remarkable restoration. Its most notable structures are the 1.5-mile wall that surrounds it, the Imperial Enclosure, Thai Hoa Palace (or the Hall of Supreme Harmony), Hall of the Mandarins and the Forbidden Purple City, named after its Chinese counterpart.

Hoi An Vietnam

For a stroll through Vietnam’s past, there is no place in the world like Hoi An, a remarkably preserved trading port. The buildings and streets of its Old Quarter remain much as they were more than 500 years ago. As far back as the 8th century, a thriving spice trade brought unprecedented wealth into the region. Much later, a vibrant trade with Japan, China, India and Holland lured settlers here from those countries. With such a rich past, it’s easy to understand why Hoi An is an important UNESCO World Heritage Site. The spirit of its origins live on in the fascinating Old Quarter, as artisans fashion paper lanterns and residents carry goods in wicker baskets hanging from sticks slung over shoulders.

Like in Hanoi, the city’s French colonial influence is prevalent in the glorious architecture and wide boulevards of Ho Chi Minh City. The twin-spired, neo-Romanesque Notre Dame Basilica was built with materials imported from France. The Saigon Opera House carries echoes of the Petit Palais in Paris. Even the Post Office was designed by a Frenchman, one Gustave Eiffel. The true Vietnam here lives in the city’s lively and mesmerising markets. Dong Khoi Street captures the pulse of the city with its colourful shops and aromatic food stalls. At the intoxicating indoor emporium of Ben Thanh Market, all things Vietnamese can be found, from handicrafts to ao dai, the traditional silk tunic worn by women. And at the city’s fascinating floating markets, ancient houses and canal-side stalls are orbited by traditional longboats laden with all manner of goods and produce plucked from local farms.

Legacies of Cambodia’s Ancient Past

The centerpiece of any visit to Cambodia is the ancient city of Angkor, 40 square miles of stupendous architectural treasures unrivalled anywhere in the world. Its famous temple, Angkor Wat, took 25,000 workers 37 years to complete. Many historians call it the largest single religious monument in the world. Its five lotus-style spires are said to represent the five peaks of Mount Meru, home of deities from Hindu mythology. Its walls and moat symbolise Meru’s surrounding mountains and ocean. Remarkable in scale and design, it is considered a perfect example of the high classical style of Khmer architecture.

Angkor Wat Cambodia

The bustling and laid-back city of Siem Reap is the gateway to this spectacular site. Its streets lined with colonial and Chinese-style architecture are a delight to explore, and the city’s artful Apsara dancers cast their spell on all who attend a performance.

The city is also a launching point to one of the region’s most fascinating natural phenomena: Tonle Sap Lake. Loosely translated as “Great Lake,” Tonle Sap has an unusual geographic feature that affects village life on its shores. The flow of water exiting the lake changes direction twice a year. The lake empties into the Tonle Sap River, which later spills into the Mekong River and the Mekong Delta. During most of the year, the lake is fairly small and just three feet deep. But during monsoon season, the delta backs up. The resulting backwash reverses the Mekong’s flow and pushes water up the Tonle Sap River into the lake, enlarging its size six times and increasing its depth to 27 feet, setting in motion the fishing season for surrounding villages.

Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is the nation’s historic and cultural centre, and its capital. One of the prettiest French-built cities at its colonial height, it was known as the “Pearl of Asia” and was named for 14th-century Wat Phnom, still the city’s tallest structure. Elegant architecture and gracious boulevards set a sophisticated tone here and the city’s stunning temples are simply spellbinding. The Royal Palace, especially, boasts magnificent treasures such as the Silver Pagoda, with its floor of 5,000 shimmering tiles and bejewelled Buddha statues. On a more sobering note, the city commemorates a dark chapter in its history at the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, set in the former high school used as a security prison by the Khmer Rouge, the notorious regime that sent millions to their deaths in the late 1970s.

Explore the River that Connects Cultures

Vietnam and Cambodia are inextricably linked in so many ways, not the least by the Mekong River. Gate 1 Travel’s cruises along this fabled waterway are the most awe-inspiring way to connect with this forgotten world of stilt houses, narrow sampan boats, and locals sporting traditional straw hats.

Along the river’s banks in Cambodia, hilltop temples at Wat Hanchey and Kampong Cham overlook stunning landscapes. Tiny villages welcome you into their communities and schools. A call on Phnom Penh allows for exploration by 3-wheeled cyclo and a chance to pay homage at the Choeung Ek “Killing Fields.” As the river flows into Vietnam, small riverside towns open up to you, revealing long traditions of handmade mat-weaving and floating fish farms in the Cao Dai region. French influence lines the Mekong’s shores further downstream toward Sa Dec, lined with old mansions and merchant homes. In and around Cai Be Harbour, more than 500 vendors gather in boats and at dockside stalls to sell fruits, vegetables and handmade wares. It’s an intoxicating atmosphere, all unfolding in the shadow of the massive French Gothic Cathedral.

So Many Ways to Explore Vietnam and Cambodia with Gate 1 Travel

Gate 1 Travel shows you the best of these remarkable countries and their captivating cultures. You’ll enjoy comfortable accommodations every step of the way, the expert and welcoming services of our Tour Managers and generous features that bring the local culture to life – all at the Gate 1 value you know and love.

We hope to see you in Vietnam and Cambodia!

Elephants wrestling in Kenya

Heavyweight Wrestling, Kenyan-style

Gate 1 traveller Sharon (@sharon_berardino) caught a glimpse of these two playful elephant teens in action on Gate 1’s small-group Discovery tour 11 Day Kenya Safari Exploration.

“My Kenya experience with Gate 1 exceeded all expectations! Every day was a truly magical adventure – from navigating washed out roads, spying leopard and cheetah in the afternoons, looking forward to finding out what our next delicious meal was going to be, remembering to tie up our tents in the morning to keep the pesky (albeit adorable) monkeys out – it was absolutely perfect across the board!”

elephant friends

Sharon and her travelling companions got an up-close view of elephants in their natural habitat. “We had such an amazing morning that day – several elephant families were crossing the river (babies and all) as we pulled up in our jeep with Rafael, our guide. We stopped and watched for a good half hour or so, taking in all of the elephant antics! The two elephants in question were estimated to be “teenagers” and you know male teenagers! Always horsing around!”

Check out the 11 Day Kenya Safari Exploration & plan your African adventure today!