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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!

Latin AmericaRegions

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!

MediterraneanRegions

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.

VENTURE BEYOND THE ESSENTIAL
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!

News

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

EuropeRegions

The Remarkable Monasteries of Armenia & Georgia

The cultural heritage of Armenia and Georgia reaches back to ancient times. Perhaps because of their proximity to the Holy Land, in the 4th century they were the earliest countries to embrace Christianity as the official religion. Faith was so central to daily life that dozens upon dozens of monasteries were built amid awe-inspiring mountains and valleys, villages and cities. In Gate 1’s Discovery small group, we access 8 of these most sacred of places.

In Armenia:

Geghard (4th century). This UNESCO World Heritage Site was partially carved into a rocky mountainside. Gregory the Illuminator, who is credited with converting the country to Christianity, built the monastery where sacred waters sprung from inside a cave. Its original name, Ayrivank, means “Monastery of the Cave,” while the current name translates into “Monastery of the Spear,” referring to the Crucifixion weapon which wounded Jesus and was later brought here by the Apostle Jude. Seemingly carved from the cliffs, it is an astonishing and inspiring sight.

Khor Virap (7th century). Because of its proximity to Mt. Ararat – the peak on which Noah’s Ark is said to have landed after the floods subsided – Khor Virap is one of Armenia’s most visited pilgrimage sites. Set on a hill in the Ararat plain with crystal-clear views of Noah’s mountain, this is where, centuries before the church was built, Gregory the Illuminator healed the King of Armenia, Tiridates III, who went on to convert his country.

Noravank (13th century). This UNESCO World Heritage Site was built in a narrow gorge carved by the Amaghu River. The gorge’s brick-red cliffs create an otherworldly setting for this historic monastery. Soon after its opening, it houses the region’s bishops and subsequently became a major gathering place for religious, cultural, and academic pursuits. Noravank’s stone carvings and rust-hued architecture feature highly artistic flourishes that take the breath away.

Tatev (9th century). Perched on a rocky outcropping, Tatev has played a vital role in the culture and heritage of Armenia. Here, in the 14th and 15th centuries, the University of Tatev educated students in science, religion, philosophy, and the arts. In those days, visitors had to hike far distances to get here; today, you will reach its heights via the “Wings of Tatev,” the world’s longest non-stop double-track cable car.

Haghpat (10th century). Located on a green hillside in a mountainous amphitheatre, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is hailed as one of the highest expressions of Armenian ecclesiastic architecture. A centre of learning in the Middle Ages, its church remains much as it was when it was constructed. The scriptorium still has holes in its floor, used to hide valuable scrolls when marauders and thieves came calling.

In Georgia:

Alaverdi (6th century). Set in an emerald valley against the drama of alpine peaks, Alaverdi boasts the second tallest cathedral in Georgia (the tallest is in the capital, Tbilisi). When the Assyrian monk Joseph Alaverdeli arrived here and founded his monastery, he had to be sure-footed: the village’s pagan population worshipped the Moon. Alaverdi is located in the world’s oldest wine region; still today the monks who live here make their own.

Ikalto (6th century). Founded by a group of 13 Assyrian missionaries who came to Georgia from Mesopotamia to spread Christianity, Ikalto became a bustling centre of culture and learning. All manner of studies took place here in the 12th century, contributing to the Renaissance-like Golden Age of the region – from theology to astronomy, philosophy to geometry, wine making to pharmacology.

Jvari (6th century). Dramatically perched atop a hill, this UNESCO World Heritage Site overlooks the small town of Mtskheta. Its origin seems to rest in the 4th century, when a female evangelist, Saint Nino, raised a large wooden cross on the hilltop where a pagan temple once stood. The cross is said to have performed miracles, which attracted pilgrims from throughout Caucasus.

No matter your beliefs, these ancient monasteries inspire – with their dramatic settings, their innovative architecture, their intricate decoration and their perseverance over a long and sometimes turbulent past. We know you’ll discover some inspiration of your own during our new Armenia & Georgia Discovery small group tour.

Travel Tips

Gate 1 Photo Friday from Budapest!

The Széchenyi Baths are located in Budapest, Hungary, and make up one of the largest bath complexes in all of Europe. This complex has a total of 21 pools and includes thermal/medicinal pools, saunas, massage therapies, facial treatments, lockers, aqua-fitness and much more! The baths are open to all and have user-friendly hours, so do not miss this truly unique and refreshing experience when visiting Budapest.

Szechenyi

 
This week’s #g1photofriday was uploaded by user @ Paul Maruszak using the hashtag #gate1travel. This exciting view was taken in Budapest, Hungary at the Széchenyi Thermal Baths. Be sure to tag your photos on social media with #gate1travel or #g1photofriday to be featured. Check out Gate 1 Travel’s Budapest trips here!

Asia & PacificRegions

The Allure of Southeast Asia

Few regions of the world embody our ideal vision of paradise: emerald forests, turquoise waters lapping at palm-fringed beaches, an all-embracing and peace-loving religion, and a simple way of life even amidst the bustle of a sweeping metropolis. The nations of Southeast Asia show varying shades of all these things, and so much more. And for many visitors, what stands out is the relaxed ease and welcoming smiles of its residents. Gate 1 Travel helps you experience it all, with the help of our experienced local guides, who know the ins and outs of these enigmatic and beautiful lands.

Temples of Bangkok

THAILAND

Bangkok: A Polished Jewel

Bangkok is Thailand’s bustling and electrifying capital. Thais call it Krung Threp, or City of Angels. The more western name by which we know it translates into “riverside village of wild olives.” No matter what you call it, it’s sure to mesmerise you with its floating markets teeming with longboats, its ornate architecture and tropical gardens, and its glittering temples. It’s also a culturally diverse city, where paper dragons adorn the windows of Chinatown and the fragrance of curry wafts through the streets of Little India.

The city’s largest and oldest temple is Wat Po, the Temple of the Reclining Buddha. Within these hallowed halls, its namesake golden-hued deity is massive, stretching 150 feet long. The soles of its feet are intricately etched in mother-of-pearl. It is an extravagant show of spiritualism – and an echo of the nearby temple complex of the Grand Palace. Home to monarchs until 1925 and the fairytale setting of The King & I, today the Grand Palace serves a ceremonial function and is open for enraptured travellers to explore. Its Emerald Buddha in the Royal Temple is considerably more petite than the Reclining Buddha, standing only 26 inches, yet it is the most revered statue in the nation.

Vestiges of History

Statues such as the Reclining Buddha and the Emerald Buddha serve as spiritual touchstones for the Thai people. There’s another destination right outside Bangkok cherished by locals as the spiritual birthplace of the city: the ancient capital of Ayutthaya. The golden era of Thai history unfolded among what are now temple ruins and incredibly preserved streets. This was once a powerhouse of Southeast Asia. Its palaces, monasteries and temples inspired French King Louis XIV to compare the burgeoning metropolis to European capitals. It fell to the Burmese in 1767, after which the capital was moved to the riverside site of present-day Bangkok.

In Kanchanaburi province, a dark chapter in Thailand’s history is memorialised at the Bridge over the River Kwai & War Museum. In 1942, here in the tranquil countryside, the Japanese forced POWs to construct a 255-mile railway across Thailand in the blazing heat. More than 7,000 conscripted workers died. The bridge was the frequent target of Allied bombing and gained notoriety as the subject of the 1957 Alec Guinness movie by English director David Lean.

In central Thailand, a vast archaeological site tells ancient stories of Thailand’s founding. In fact, Sukhothai is to Thailand as Giza is to Egypt. Before Ayutthaya, this was Thailand’s first capital through the 13th and 14th centuries and its artistic and architectural remains are astounding. Part of what makes this city so fascinating are the philosophies under which its kings ruled: Sukhothai’s leaders respected the wishes of the people. Cultural and religious freedom set the tone for this flourishing civilisation. The UNESCO World Heritage Site enjoys a lush setting among leafy hills and peaceful lotus ponds.

Lush Northern Cultural Capitals

Established in 1262, Chiang Rai is one of the oldest cities in Thailand. This is the heart of Thailand’s northern Lanna Kingdom, the “Golden Triangle” historically shaped by its proximity to the borders of Burma (today’s Myanmar) and Laos. Gate 1 travellers have the chance to visit these countries, ascending a mountain in Myanmar for views of the stunning countryside and embarking on a serene cruise to the small Laotian island of Don Sao. Thailand’s renowned hill tribes eke out a living in the hills around Chiang Rai, too. An optional tour ventures into the jungle to introduce you to the fascinating and welcoming Akha, Long Neck and Salong tribes.

The capital of the Lanna Kingdom, Chiang Mai, hugs the banks of the Ping River among green hills. Elegant temples, cultural emporiums and long leisurely strolls await you in this graceful city surrounded by a canal. Chiang Mai is mostly known for its crafts culture, which you can dive into at the shops along Sankampang Street. Silk, lacquer, silver, wood and bronze are all transformed into intricate artwork here and you’re sure to come across a demonstration or two by craftspeople who keep their traditions alive.

Seaside Resorts

If the cultural heart of Thailand lies in the central and northern parts of the country, then a beach-going, laid-back spirit lounges around in the south. But it’s not all sun, sand and surf. In Pattaya on the Gulf of Thailand’s East Coast, break up your beach time with forays into a lively city and with a visit to one of the largest Floating Markets in the world.

On the island of Phuket, a traditional way of life lingers among infinite blue horizons and breathtaking natural beauty, as you’ll see when you browse the local Thai village, admire the Sino-Portuguese architecture and witness serene monks making their rounds for alms. Without question, it is the perfect island paradise for relaxation and doing nothing at all. But if you do want to explore, you can consider a visit to the mangrove jungles and towering limestone peaks around Phang Nga Bay and Lawa Island.

But perhaps no other Southeast Asia country is as linked to the sea as Vietnam.

Friendly faces of Vietnam

VIETNAM

A Rich History and Colourful Culture North to South

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.

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 among 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.

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, in the nation’s south. 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 vibrant 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.

An entirely different culture greets you right next door. Indeed, you are sure to be enchanted by Cambodia’s authentic charms and Khmer legacies.

Cambodia’s famous Angkor Wat Temples

CAMBODIA

Grand Temples & Cultural Treasures

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 symbolize 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.

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, increasing its depth to 27 feet, and setting in motion the fishing season for surrounding villages.

Cambodia’s capital, Phnom Penh, is the nation’s historic and cultural centre. 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 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 bejeweled Buddha statues.

Explore Even More of Southeast Asia at a Terrific Value

If you’re travelling this far, it would be a shame to miss out on all the riches that make Southeast Asia one of the most mesmerising destinations in the world. Gate 1 Travel makes it easy and affordable. Many of our itineraries combine the above destinations into one scintillating itinerary. Plus, you can indulge in even more experiences that bring this magical region to life. Step into Laos and explore the unspoiled charms of Luang Prabang, participating in a baci welcome ceremony, giving alms to orange-robed monks, and marvelling at the hundreds of Buddha statues during a boat trip to Pak Ou Caves.

Or marvel at the more than 2,000 pagodas, stupas, and temples that dot the golden plains of Bagan, Myanmar, just one exciting highlight of an enlightening cruise along the fabled Irrawaddy River.

With Gate 1 Travel, your possibilities in Southeast Asia really are endless. And our value is matchless. Feature for feature, you won’t find a program that beats our price and quality. Come and discover Southeast Asia for yourself!

Paris France
Travel Tips

How to go it alone & not have to worry

Gate 1 is renowned for our escorted tours that provide quality inclusions at affordable prices – but did you know that we do the same thing on our independent packages?

Not everyone wants to travel with a group, we get that, and you might want a holiday that gives you the flexibility to indulge personal interests or see particular sights that you’ve had on your bucket list. You could even want to pre-book some of your trip and then do your own thing or add on other arrangements later. So that’s where Gate 1 can help and you can take advantage of our special rates.

Typically an independent package includes your accommodation and daily breakfast, then depending on the destination there can also be train tickets between cities or car hire and flights as part of the pre-arranged deal. Having the essentials taken care of gives you the time to concentrate on what matters most, having a great holiday!

We offer independent holidays in Europe, Asia and South America. Here are 6 of our most popular Independent Vacations and tips on what you can see and do in these exciting cities.

1. 8 Day Venice, Florence & Rome by Rail
Starting at under $550 per person, this neat little package ticks off the big 3 in Italy, with 2 nights each in Venice, Florence and Rome. Spend less time in airports and enjoy the value of Plan D in 3-star hotels, or lap up all the benefits of upgrading to Plan B with First Class rail and 4-star hotels. The optional tours are a great way to get your bearings and then enjoy wondering at your leisure later on. You can even choose a tour to take you out of the cities and expand your Italian experience, like the Half Day Chianti Tour that explores Tuscany’s famous wine region.

Top tip: Visitors to Venice will tell you it’s so easy to get lost along all those canals, so take the morning walking tour to guarantee seeing the Golden Basilica of San Marco, Marco Polo’s House and more!

2. 7 Day Buenos Aires Vacation
Affectionately known as the ‘Paris of South America’, even though its European flair is a little faded, this city is a must-visit for anyone who loves discovering new cultures, exploring historic neighbourhoods and immersing yourself in vibrant city life. There’s time to enjoy the atmosphere of the city’s major squares, including Plaza de Mayo, Plaza San Martin and Plaza Congreso. To discover more of Argentina beyond its capital, you can join in a traditional Gaucho party. This is a day to remember, complete with ranch activities, a typical Argentine BBQ and folklore show with live music and dancing!

Top tip: Don’t leave Buenos Aires without dancing the tango! This is your chance to step out of your comfort zone and into the arms of a professional dancer. Or if you really can’t see yourself on the dance floor, then make sure you see a tango show and discover why this alluring dance is a cultural expression, with a plot of myths, values and traditions.

Malahide Castle Ireland

Malahide Castle, Ireland ~ photo by Tamara Erdley Cosby


3. 8 Day Irish Castle Fly & Drive
No need to rely on the luck of the Irish, this deal has everything organised. Fly into Dublin, pick up your car and enjoy 6-nights based in your own castle hotel. It’s an easy 50 km drive to the city, where you can enjoy views of the River Liffey, visit Trinity College and view the 8th century Book of Kells, or take time to appreciate Ireland’s most famous export at Guinness Storehouse. Travel further afield and you can enjoy a day in Belfast, a drive to Wicklow Mountains National Park for a glimpse into Ireland’s wild side or visit the mysterious burial mounds at Newgrange in County Meath.

Top tip: Make a visit to the scenic coastal town of Malahide, with a picturesque marina and diverse selection of boutiques, bars and restaurants. Its historic castle has been recently resorted and they welcome visitors to wander through its unique walled garden with exotic plants from around the world.

4. 7 Day Tokyo Vacation
This fantastic 5-night trip takes care of your flights and central accommodation, but also includes a half day city tour of Tokyo Tower, Meiji Shrine, Imperial Palace East Garden and Ginza shopping district. After getting your bearings you can make the most of your leisure time. Will it be strolling through Ueno Park, visiting Tokyo National Museum or really experiencing traditional Japan and enjoy a Kimono Dressing & Tea Ceremony Lesson?
Prices start from $1819 per person if you get in early and only $30-70 more per person during cherry blossom season!

Top tip: Get to the heart of Japan and visit Mt Fuji. You can pre-book a day tour that will take you through Japan’s scenic countryside to symbolic Mt Fuji, where you’ll ascend to the 5th Station on Japan’s highest mountain.

5. 6 Day Paris Value Vacation
Now don’t let anyone accuse you of being cheap when it comes to romance, because what this 4-night package lacks in big bucks is more than made up for with ways to impress your loved one. Hotels in the divine Montmartre district and all within walking distance of the famous Basilica of Sacre Coeur and alluring Moulin Rouge. You have the opportunity to visit Versailles Palace to witness the grandeur of French classical architecture, or cap off an extraordinary day in Paris with a Louvre Museum Evening Tour to experience the unique atmosphere of this impressive collection.

Top tip: See the ‘City of Lights’ at night. Paris comes alive after dark with flood-lit views of its most celebrated monuments, including Place Vendome, Pont-Neuf, Saint-Germain-des-Pres, Notre Dame and of course the iconic Eiffel Tower.

Blue Lagoon Iceland

Blue Lagoon, Iceland ~ photo by @suelee124


6. 6 Day Iceland’s Northern Lights
This trip tops our most popular list of independent packages and even visiting a country when it’s cold and dark isn’t a deterrent! Of course winter is the time of year to see the phenomenal Northern Lights and while they can never be guaranteed, this itinerary is specially designed to have a few nights available to give it your best shot at success.

Top tip: It’s worth booking your Blue Lagoon Experience. Located in the middle of a lava field in the pure, beautiful Icelandic wilderness is a pool of mineral-rich geothermal water that will be your most amazing spa experience ever! Only a limited number of entrants are permitted each day and it’s extremely popular, so if you don’t want to miss out, make sure you pre-book.

These top trips are just a small selection of the many independent adventures that you can enjoy with Gate 1 Travel. See our destinations pages and scroll to the bottom to discover all of our Independent Vacations and find a package that’s the perfect fit for you!

News

Our 12 Most Popular Tours in 2018

Finally, Gate 1 Travel gives you an answer to the question so many of you keep asking – what are our most popular tours? Today we are sharing the 12 best selling tours thus far in 2018 because you deserve to know!

These tours vary greatly in destination, but they all excel in showing you must-see sites, beautiful cities, unique cultures and natural beauty all in one escorted tour! We are giving you a countdown of our top 12 tours that may offer some inspiration when it comes to planning your next unforgettable adventure. Journey with us from Ireland to Vietnam to the United States, with a whole world in between.

Blarney Castle Ireland
12. 9 Day Enchanting Ireland
Enchanting Ireland is right. Ireland is a beautiful country known for a warm culture, lush greenery and excellent sites to see. While on this tour of Ireland you will see some of the can’t miss spots including the city of Dublin, where you will enjoy a city tour, visit Trinity College to see the Book of Kells and have free time to explore. Also enjoy the Killarney area where you will drive through the world-famous Ring of Kerry and see sites on your way. On this tour you will also see Blarney Castle, Waterford, Bunratty Castle, Cliffs of Moher and Galway. If you have been wanting to visit Ireland, there is no better time than the present to go green.

11. 7 Day Essential Vietnam
Vietnam is a country that is so incredibly different from anywhere else that its popularity is no surprise. Your tour of Vietnam will begin with a visit to Ho Ch Minh City, formerly Saigon, where you will have the chance to take an optional excursion to Cu Chi Tunnels, enjoy a optional half day tour of the city or explore the city on your own at your leisure. You will also visit the incredible Halong Bay, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and see caves, grottos, islands, stalactites, stalagmites and waterfalls, to name a few! You will also have a full day in Hanoi to either leisurely explore the city or take optional tours that include the Museum of Ethnology and a Cyclo Ride/Water Puppet Show. This genuine country will win you over and you will enjoy every minute of it.

10. 8 Day Classic National Parks, Mt. Rushmore, Yellowstone & Grand Teton
What better way to see what the world has to offer than by visiting some of the planet’s best national parks? Although the Unites States doesn’t have a history as old as some other countries, they do have amazing sites, national parks, natural phenomenon and plenty of great cities with their own special elegance. On this tour you will see 3 national parks, stay in 6 different locations and have the experience of a lifetime, all in 8 days! Visit Rapid City, the gateway to South Dakota’s Black Hills and iconic Mount Rushmore and Crazy Horse Memorial. Experience the beauty of Yellowstone National Park, the first national park in the United States and home to “Old Faithful”, hot springs, thermal features, rock cliffs and more! You will also get to visit Grand Teton National Park, with its dense forests and rich wildlife and then continue to Salt Lake City, Utah. It’s time to see what the United States has to offer and explore some of our greatest treasures.

Halong Bay Vietnam
9. 14 Day Cambodia & Vietnam
This excellent tour gets you seeing two of the greatest countries of Southeast Asia and experiencing some of the greatest sites they have to offer. In just over two weeks you will experience 7 different cities and add two different countries to your list! While on tour, visit Siem Reap, home to some of the most famous sites in the world; Angkor Thom and Angkor Wat. Travel to Ho Chi Minh City and enjoy leisure time or take optional tours to get to know this fascinating city. During your Cambodia & Vietnam tour you will also see the city of Phnom Penh, Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia, the ancient town of Hoi An, Hue; home to a wealth of palaces, temples, museums and libraries, Halong Bay and Hanoi. This tour covers so much of these two amazing countries that it is a truly unmissable experience.

8. 13 Day Turkish Treasures
Welcome to the true crossroads of Europe and Asia; Turkey. This country has history that dates back to B.C. and has ancient sites to see that are some of the oldest on earth! On your journey to Turkey you will tour the city of Istanbul and see the Blue Mosque, Hippodrome, Topkapi Palace and the Spice Market. Traverse the ancient city of Cappadocia with its surreal rock formations, rock-cut temples and plenty of hot air balloons in the sky, with an option to have your own hot air balloon ride! This extensive tour also includes visits to the classical city of Troy, the port city of Izmir, the resort town of Antalya and Ankara the modern capital of Turkey. Learn about the country and sites you have read about in books like The Illiad and venture to this country today.

7. 13 Day Kaleidoscope of Central Europe
Central Europe has so much to offer in such a small area of the world. On this tour you will visit 5 major cities with a few stops along the way, and potentially add 5 new countries to your list. You will travel to the medieval city of Krakow, Poland, a city that was greatly affected by WWII and see the Jewish Quarter and Ghetto of the city as well as taking a solemn visit to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Experience the former centre of the Hapsburg Empire; Vienna, Austria, where you will view Schonbrunn Palace, Empress Maria Theresia Monument, Votive Church, City Hall, Parliament and more. This tour will also bring you to more unforgettable places such as Warsaw, Czestochowa, Budapest, Bratislava and Prague. If you enjoy history, culture, music and experiencing unforgettable places, this tour is perfect for you.

6. 11 Day Affordable Croatia & Slovenia
Croatia is a travel location that is increasingly popular for good reason! This seaside country has excellent cities by the water and a neighbouring country of Slovenia that you will not want to miss. This tour includes stops in 7 towns and cities with optional tours to see even more. This extraordinary tour takes you to Dubrovnik, the walled and cobbled-street city that you have probably seen on Game of Thrones, as King’s Landing, and in many pictures. Also explore the lake-side city of Bled, set among the Julian Alps and one of Slovenia’s most popular resort towns. Opatija, Zadar, Split, Krka National Park, Vodice, Zagreb and Ljubjana, Slovania are all included on this fully-packed tour. Come see why so many people are visiting this country and discover many of your own reasons!

Vatican
5. 11 Day Enchanting Italy
Italy is always a great idea and this tour covers places you have always wanted to visit. If Venetian canals, the Leaning Tower of Pisa, Michelangelo’s David, and Pompeii are things you have dreamed about, this tour covers it all and so much more. Visit and stay in the city of Florence, where David, the Duomo, Ponte Vecchio and Signoria Square await you. Take a tour of ancient Rome, home of the Colosseum, excellent food and a tiny country called Vatican City. This tour will also take you to Venice, Tuscany, Pisa, Assisi, Pompeii, Sorrento, Bay of Naples and more! If a friendly culture, excellent food and beautiful sites are on your travel list, you will surely cross them off with this tour of Italy.

4. 8 Day Essential Greece
This country, in the heart of the Mediterranean, is home to some of the most famous landmarks in the world; the Acropolis, Olympia and Delphi. This tour has an unbeatable price and gets you all around Greece in just over a week! You will likely arrive in Athens, the capital of Greece and home to the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Acropolis. Take a tour of the archaeological site of Olympia and see where the games were first held in 776 B.C. Visit the excavated site of Delphi, enjoy the coastal road to the mighty Corinth Canal and take an optional day tour to Hydra, Poros and Aegina Islands. Discover this ancient country that is the birthplace of democracy and the cradle of Western Civilisation on this unforgettable tour.

3. 12 Day Danube River Cruise with Prague
A river cruise through Europe is an excellent way to see many destinations while returning to the comfort of a ship between each. Being on a cruise means that while you are busy sleeping or enjoying the ship, you are being whisked away to a new and exciting destination. On your river cruise you will sail along the Danube river and visit Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, and Germany, you will also see the Czech Republic on this specific tour. Visit the essential Danube village town of Melk, Austria, where you will walk along medieval cobblestone streets leading to 16th century houses and wine taverns. You will also visit the city of Prague on this tour, where you will see the world-famous Astronomical Clock. The Town Hall, Jewish Quartre and many more sites. Other stops on this tour include Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Durnstein, Linz, Passau, Vilshofen and Regensberg. It’s time to experience Europe in one of the most unique and special ways; on a European river cruise with Gate 1 Travel!

2. 10 Day Affordable Peru
Seeing Machu Picchu is on the bucket list of many travel enthusiasts. If you are one of these fanatic explorers, this tour was made for you. Visit the city of Lima, the capital of Peru, and its excellent landmarks including the Palace of the Archbishop, the Government Palace and the Cathedral of Lima. You will, of course, experience the ancient capital of the Incan Empire, Cuzco, which contains some ruins of its own and will be your gateway to touring the incredible Machu Picchu. This tour also visits Sacred Valley, Ollantaytambo, Uros Islands, Puno and more! This exceptional tour brings you to some of the most photographed and visited places in the world and is affordable as well. Get out your comfortable walking shoes, because Peru awaits.


1. 13 Day Kaleidoscope of Morocco
If you have not been to Morocco yet, it is a must-visit! This up and coming country has been hugely popular this year thanks to its unique culture, vast array of things to do and excellent pricing! This tour offers many essential locations in Morocco including Fez, an ancient city with breathtaking views that you can decide to discover on your own or join the optional city tour. You will also visit Marrakesh where you will visit the Saadian Tombs, Koutoubia Minaret, the Medina and the Bahia Palace. On this Moroccan tour you will also visit Rabat, Erfoud, Rissani, Ouarzazate and Casablanca. There’s no better time than now to start seeing the world and all its beauty and culture. What better way to explore, than to enjoy our most popular tour of the year to beautiful Morocco?

EuropeRegions

The Perks of Work: Danube River Cruise

The Danube River runs through several countries in Europe, with the featured itinerary visiting Germany, Austria, Hungary and Slovakia.

A river cruise is a great way to travel if you enjoy seeing many different cities and countries, travelling through beautiful waterfront views and enjoying amenities on board while you are not at port. We caught up with Billy, one of our Gate 1 Travel team, who recently enjoyed a Danube River Cruise, and we got the inside scoop on his trip!

Q: Why did you choose a Danube River Cruise and what had you heard about the places it visits that made you decide on this trip?

A: Being able to go to 4 different countries on one trip was very appealing. I knew about the alpine landscape in Austria, but I was eager to learn more about the other destinations.

Aggstein Castle, Wachau, Austria

Aggstein Castle, Wachau, Austria


Q: The Danube River is a very popular international travel destination, how was that reflected in your trip?

A: Our local guide told us that tourism is the number one industry in Austria. It was so beautiful, I can see why everyone wants to go there.

Bratislava Opera House

Bratislava Opera House


Q: What were some of the highlights of your trip?

A: My favourite city was Bratislava, Slovakia. The old architecture was so charming and it was very easy to walk around the city. We were lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the Lipizzaner Stallions in Vienna, Austria. The best thing was waking up each morning and having a different view out of our ship’s window.

Q: What was your favourite meal or what food did you have that you really enjoyed or felt was very authentic?

A: The best meal was lunch on the optional tour of Salzburg where we had real Wienerschnitzel and it was delicious. The best food was in Regensburg, where we could smell the Bratwurst from outside the restaurant. They were mouth-wateringly good!

Q: How was the shopping and did you visit anywhere specifically great for shopping?

A: There were local crafts to buy everywhere as well as more touristy shops. What I love is to buy local artwork while on holidays. Outside the Schonbrunn Palace, I purchased a one-of-a-kind painting from a local student that still hangs on my wall at home.

Schonbrunn Palace Austria

Schonbrunn Palace, photo thanks to Gerry Dyer


Q: What travel tips would you give to someone preparing to go on this trip?

A: Do the optional tours! The Schonbrunn Palace Tour was amazing and really worthwhile.

Q: How did you prepare for this trip?

A: I made sure to be ready to take a lot of photos and I was glad I did. Europe is beyond beautiful along the Danube River.

Q: Would you go back?

A: Absolutely; but I also want to take the Gate 1 cruises on the Main and Rhine rivers and in Holland & Belgium during Tulip Time!

MS Monarch Empress crew

“MS Monarch Empress staff, superb!”, thanks to Suzanne Murphy


Q: How was your tour manager and what were they like? In what ways did they effect your trip?

A: Our tour manager was great. He was very friendly and answered all our questions. He was very knowledgeable and funny too! I often hung out at the back of the group taking photos and noticed that even when we had a local city guide, he was watching to make sure everything was going well.

Q: What did you feel was the overall impression of your trip? 

A: Convenience. When most of your meals are included and the travel between cities happens while you sleep, all you have to worry about is waking up from your afternoon nap in time for dinner! We also only had to unpack one time. To top it all off our tour manager was always ready to answer questions or give suggestions.

Q: Did being on an escorted tour make a difference?

A: It was great to meet new people and have interesting conversations over meals.

Budapest

Budapest, a great place to start or end your river cruise experience!


Q: Would you recommend this trip to family and friends?

A: I would recommend this trip to anyone; art & architecture lovers, history buffs, adventurers, and anyone who likes to have a good meal and drinks with new friends!

Think this sounds like the journey for you? Gate 1 Travel’s 2019 European River Cruises are available now and get in early for great savings!