Tag: Central America

AfricaAsia & PacificEuropeLatin AmericaMediterranean

9 of the Best New Tours for 2019

Are you working on your travel wish list for 2019? Dreaming of sleeping in a riad in Morocco or knocking back a schnapps in the Swiss alps? Learning Salsa in Colombia or surprising your friends by heading off to Uzbekistan?

So where to go and what to do?

Check out our new tours visiting hot destinations:

1. Italy and Croatia

Quote lines from Gladiator at The Colosseum in Rome, taste local wines in Tuscany, Florence, Venice and Pisa, and head off Croatia to bask in the azure beauty of the Adriatic sea.

Did you know that Marco Polo was born on the Croatian island of Korcula? Visit his birthplace, explore ‘King’s Landing’ aka Dubrovnik just in time for the last season of Game of Thrones, and take in the natural beauty of the famed blue cascades in Krka National Park.

More info about the 17 Day Italy & Croatia with 7 Day Adriatic Cruise here.


2. Costa Rica

Do you know the way to San Jose? Not to be confused with San Jose in Northern California that The Carpenters sang out, San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and is a perfectly preserved Spanish Colonial town.

From this starting point, head out to an artisan village to learn about local art and craft, visit a dormant conical volcano, knock back some Costa Rican coffee on a plantation tour and put your head in the clouds at Monteverde Clouds Forest.

More info about the 14 Day Kaleidoscope of Costa Rica here.

Costa Rica

3. Colombia

Apart from having some of the most beautiful people and pumping salsa clubs in the world, Colombia is also one of South America’s undiscovered treasures.

Eat an empanada while you wander around Cartagena’s Colonial District, marvel at pre-Columbian gold at the Gold Museum, and view Fernando Botero’s famous paintings and sculptures.

More info about the 8 Day Affordable Colombia here.

4. Morocco

Enjoy a home-cooked meal in Fez, make like Bogey and Bacall in Casablanca, and wander through Chefchaouen, Morocca’s famous Blue City.

Connect with your nomadic spirit when you traverse the desert along an old caravan route, and marvel at the acrobats, performers, and snake charmers in Marrakesh’s Djemaa el Fna Square.

More info about the 18 Day Absolute Morocco here.

Sahara, Morocco

5. Switzerland and the Rhine River Cruise

The vantage point from a river or canal gives you a totally different aspect on a country. Glide under 14th Century medieval bridges in Lucerne, pass castles and cobbled streets straight out of fairytales, and enjoy a tipple in a quaint wine tavern in Rüdesheim. See the tiny storybook Principality of Liechtenstein from the bow of your ship and hop off for a close-up look at Marc Chagall’s stained glass window in the Fraumunster Church in Zurich.

More info about the 17 Day Classic Switzerland with Rhine River Cruise here.

6. Southern Italy, Puglia and Campania

Get off the beaten track by heading for the heel of the boot. This is the lesser known part of Italy is the birthplace of pizza and the home of Pompeii. Enjoy long farmhouse lunches, stroll through UNESCO Heritage-listed cobblestone streets and visit medieval ruins. Round out your trip with a visit to the Amalfi coastline for a look at one of the world’s most loved views.

More info about the 11 Day Southern Italy, Puglia & Campania here.

7. Central Europe

There is nowhere hotter than Central Europe for small group touring. With a burgeoning cafe culture and bohemian art scene, the Czech Republic is the place to hang out. On the flipside, take in Slovakia’s perfectly preserved town centres, castles and convents for a glimpse back in time at 13th century life.

More info about the Heart of Central Europe Discovery small group tour here.


8. Uzbekistan

Did you know that the oldest copy of the Koran in the world is held in Tashkent’s Muyi Muborak Madrasa? Visit this historic marvel before you head off down the Silk Road to explore the cultural treasures of this little known corner of the world. Learn how to make a traditional Pilav when you share dinner with a local family, relax in a yurt camp in the desert and take your credit card on an adventure at the ancient Siab Market.

More info about the Uzbekistan Discovery small group tour here.

9. Turkey

Wander through the back streets of Istanbul tasting regional specialities like stretchy icecream made from orchid roots, look up in awe at the dome of the Blue Mosque, and master the art of shopping in the Grand Bazaar. For a change of pace, spend a day cruising around Fethiye’s 12 Islands, explore an ancient underground city at Kaymakli and explore traditional Turkish Ottoman houses in Safranbolu on the coast of the Black Sea.

More info about Turkish Odyssey small group tour here.

And the best thing? People who book any of the above 2019 tours by 2nd December and quote the promo code CNNEW2019A to receive a $300 discount per person.

Latin AmericaRegions

Costa Rica & Guatemala: Wonders of Central America

Central America is one of the most unique regions in the world. Any visit reveals a compelling blend of Mesoamerican cultures, Spanish colonialism and a lush, untouched wilderness where you can experience mountain rainforests and coastal splendour in the same day.

For its welcoming spirit and passion in preserving its natural world, Costa Rica stands out. And its cousin to the north, Guatemala, shares an equal passion in keeping colourful Mayan traditions alive.

COSTA RICA: The Greenest Country on Earth
The Happy Planet Index, a measure devised by the new Economics Foundation, calls Costa Rica the greenest country on Earth. Little wonder: its varied terrain is blanketed in lush rainforest, towering mountains, sizzling volcanoes and pristine plains and coastlines. This small country (just a quarter of a percent of the earth’s surface) boasts a full 5% of the planet’s biodiversity. This is not a natural phenomenon alone; it is the result of the efforts of local ticos to keep their country unspoiled. Consider that 25% of Costa Rica’s land is protected as national parks and conservation areas and you’ll quickly understand why this tiny country is indeed a model for a happy planet. And Gate 1 Travel introduces you to its most magnificently preserved corners.

San Jose: Gateway to Breathtaking Beauty
Journeys in Costa Rica begin in San Jose, the capital built by coffee barons. As their wealth grew, they imported the talent of European architects and artisans to create a graceful cityscape of plazas and stately buildings. Affectionately called “Chepe” by locals (after the nickname for “Jose”), San Jose boasts a lovely mountain setting. La Sabana Park makes for delightful strolls along green pathways. The city’s finest historic buildings are the National Museum, housed in a butter-yellow 19th-century fortress, and the neo-baroque National Theatre.

Into the Highlands: A Magical Forest and a Soaring Volcano
North of San Jose, emerald hillsides undulate over soaring mountains and fertile plateaus fed by rivers and streams. Living is simple here, as a stop in the village of Sarchi shows. In this artisan town set among coffee fields, workshops produce wooden furniture and ox carts (carretas) painted with colourful floral scenes or geometric designs. Sarchi’s pastel-hued church in the town square is a sight to behold.

In these highlands, it’s easy to get a sense of how fully Costa Ricans respect their land. Endless sugarcane nurtured by rich volcanic soil covers the countryside as farmers tend their fields. The pace is slow and patient and tuned to the cycle of crops. And in the Monteverde Cloud Forest, a soft mist casts a mystical aura. These hills are often engulfed in clouds, the result of humid trade winds rolling up from the Caribbean Sea. The moisture supports a huge array of flora – more than 3,000 species – and more than 500 species of birds, including the elusive resplendent quetzal. Over 130 mammals, like the booming howler monkey, also roam the forest. We stop at a local finca, or coffee farm, to meet a farmer who makes a living from the ubiquitous bean that’s so central to Costa Rica’s economy. Optional walkway tours amidst the forest canopy and along hanging bridges let you peer into a world you never knew existed – the thriving life in the treetops.

North of Monteverde, a wonderland of lakes, forests, thermal-fed springs, and lunar landscapes awaits in the beautiful Arenal region. This outdoor lover’s paradise has been sculpted over thousands of years by the Arenal Volcano, whose towering conical form stands watch over the eponymous lake, dense forest and lava-strewn terrain. Hiking opportunities abound here, and Gate 1 travellers can explore along the Las Coladas trail, whose route snakes around the volcano’s base and passes otherworldly lava flows from past eruptions. You’ll also have the option to soak in some of the region’s famed hot springs and explore the shores of Lake Arenal on a boat tour.

Comb Costa Rica’s Caribbean & Pacific Coasts
Some of the most rewarding explorations of Costa Rica’s natural world unfold closer to its coasts. This is certainly true in Tortuguero National Park on the Caribbean Sea. The park was established to protect the nesting ground of the green turtle and covers 14 miles of tropical shores. The only roads here are canals and inlets, so we explore this watery wonderland by boat, stopping along the way for up-close views of caimans, otters and white-faced monkeys. We meet locals at a Tortuguero village and learn more about turtles – greens, leatherbacks and loggerheads.

On the northern Pacific coast, Guanacaste Province is home to more diversity. Volcanoes reach to the skies, rivers course through valleys, dramatic beaches with pounding waves draw a surfing culture and lush rainforests share the stage with arid woodlands and plains. It’s a region ripe for exploring and Gate 1 helps you do just that, with the option to sail along Costa Rica’s Gold Coast or relax on the beach.

Farther south, Manuel Antonio National Park unfurls its rainforest splendour along the Pacific. Though it only comprises about six square miles, it boasts an amazing biodiversity of flora and wildlife. Sightings of macaws, sloths, monkeys, and others are virtually guaranteed here; we’ll keep our eyes peeled along its trails. Our options to explore by horseback; ascend into the canopy for a bird’s-eye view; or snorkel, dive or fish in pristine waters promise even more thrills. En route to Manuel Antonio, we discover that there’s more to the breathtaking coast than its natural beauty as we visit the small town of Jaco, a national surfing center.

GUATEMALA: Mayan & Colonial Glories
Costa Rica is not alone as a “biodiversity hotspot” in Central America. Guatemala also boasts some of the greatest variety of flora and fauna on earth. But the country’s colonial and Mayan past enjoy more attention. Even the capital, Guatemala City, was famously built around the ancient Mayan city of Kaminaljuyu, now a cherished archaeological site with evidence of pyramidal mounds.

The historic city of Antigua is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, thanks to its Spanish-baroque architecture and colonial-era churches. You just might feel that you’ve landed in a city torn from Spain’s past as you admire the arcaded Palace of the Captains-General, resplendently preserved churches and monastery ruins.

But the region’s indigenous culture is still very much alive in Guatemala. Ancient Mayan ways are on full display in Chichicastenango, a mountain town best known for its outdoor market brimming with textiles, wood carvings, candles and pottery. Nearby, the town’s Church of Santo Tomas has overseen the scene for 400 years, ever since its foundation was first built over a pre-Columbian temple. More remnants of Mayan culture cling to the shores of Lake Atitlan, formerly a volcanic caldera and now the deepest lake in Central America. The 12 lakeside villages here are a delight to roam, nestled gracefully in a setting that Aldous Huxley called “too much of a good thing.”

Guatemala’s most dramatic echoes of the Maya whisper among the walls of its ancient cities, most notably Tikal. Exploring its brilliantly crafted stone pyramids, ceremonial sites, palaces, and temples—surrounded by dense forest and serenaded by exotic bird song—is a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

Explore Costa Rica & Guatemala Your Way with Gate 1 Travel
Costa Rica is such a diverse country, it calls for a diversity of travel styles. That’s why Gate 1 Travel offers so many ways to explore its natural wonders. If some destinations interest you more than others, you’re sure to find the perfect combination among our fully escorted itineraries, lasting as little as 7 days or as long as two weeks. Each trip includes accommodations, many meals, services of a Tour Manager and a full array of sightseeing, combined with time to explore on your own.

If you prefer the flexibility of arranging your own itinerary but still want to take advantage of Gate 1’s buying power, then choose one of our Fly & Drive options, lasting from 5 to 12 days. These unregimented trips include airfare, hotel and car rental, then you’re free to explore independently.

If your sights are set on Guatemala, Gate 1 can take you there during a 5-night itinerary. Or, combine your Costa Rica and Guatemala experiences into one adventure!

With so much spellbinding beauty and such rich and rewarding cultures to explore, and with the most affordable price you’ll find anywhere, Gate 1 Travel is your clear choice to explore Costa Rica and Guatemala!