Taking the Cable Car to Kuelap

Taking the Cable Car to Kuelap

 

Taking the cable car to Kuelap

In 2017 Peru opened its first cable car. Climbing up a steep slope, bypassing a winding road, the cable car makes access to one of Peru most important archaeological sites much easier. No, this is not Machu Picchu – the cable car to reach the iconic Inca citadel is still in the planning stages and may never get off the ground. This is Kuelap, the largest city of the Chachapoyas culture in a remote part of northern Peru…

Kuelap – one of Peru’s most inaccessible historical sites.

Chachapoyas means ‘cloud warriors’ in the language of their Inca conquerors, and it is well-earned name. The Chachapoyas culture was around for a thousand years before the Incas arrived, and they built their settlements high up in the cloud-shrouded mountains. Instead of building their capital in the fertile river valleys, the Chachapoyas people built a city on a high ridgeline which dominates the surrounding landscape. At over 3,000 metres above sea level and encircled by walls which still stand up to 20 metres in places, the Chachapoyas people ruled from their stronghold for over a thousand years until the arrival of the Incas. Built a millennium before work began on Machu Picchu, Kuelap remains one of Peru’s most impressive historical sites.

Until the construction of the French-built cable car, it was also one of Peru’s most inaccessible historical sites. The only way to reach Kuelap had been a five-hour hike from the highway that follows the course of Utcubamba River, or a two-hour drive on a winding dirt road that clung precipitously to the edge of the mountain slopes. Now it takes just 20 minutes by cable car from the small town of Neuvo Tingo, just a short drive from the highway. The views along the way are impressive as the cable car climbs over 1,000 metres in altitude, dropping visitors off at a new visitors’ centre just 20 minutes’ walk from the walls of Kuelap.

With the cable car in operation, there has never been a better time to visit. At the moment, there are still relatively few visitors to this remote part of Northern Peru, but that is bound to change. The cable car station in Nuevo Tingo looks like it has been dropped in from space and is largely an empty shell. Spaces are marked out for gift shops and cafes which have yet to open, and there were just a couple of visitors waiting for the cable car when I arrived. However, there is the capacity to take many more visitors to Kuelap, and visitor numbers are increasing rapidly. The ruins of Kuelap hold a unique sense of ancient mystery, often swathed in clouds and overgrown with vegetation. It is worth visiting now while you can have the site virtually to yourself.

We feature Kuelap in our Lost Peru trip – or can include it in a tailor-made holiday itinerary for you.

Trying tailor-made

Trying tailor-made

Trying tailor-made

Tailor-made holidays are all about getting to do what you want, when you want, for as long as you want, and where you want. Fancy giving it a try?

…a personal holiday planning service…

It’s a personal holiday planning service. A tailor-made travel company such as Tribes will talk to you about what experiences you’re hoping for from your time away, and work with you to get as close as possible to your dream.

This flexibility means that you could, for example, choose to have a few days in a luxury lodge on the beach, but follow that with some real adventure trekking in the rainforest.  Or you might want to join a group trip for the first week of your holiday then have another week doing your own thing.

A tailor-made holiday also allows you to choose the specific accommodation and methods of transport that you fancy (subject to availability of course) and pick the most appropriate activities and experiences for your interests.

In comparison with a group holiday you will probably be paying extra, as you don’t get the economies of scale when it comes to sharing costs of transport, guides and so on.  However, you can still very much expect value for money.

Tailor-made doesn’t have to be all about taking a luxury trip. Sometimes set (or even flexible) itineraries, however great, just don’t fit what you need, whether that’s in terms of activities or even just timing. Recently, for example, we had a client who needed two mini-breaks tailored to sit either side of a conference her husband was attending in Costa Rica – she struggled for weeks to find a company to create these for her until she came to Tribes.

You get to talk to one of our friendly consultants.

Tailor-made with Tribes

When you talk tailor-made to us we start by getting a picture of what you want, whether that’s a set of parameters to work with or a highly-detailed wishlist, along with an indication of your holiday budget.

You’ll be dealing throughout with one of our friendly consultants, someone who loves, specialises in and really knows the region you want to travel to, and who can suggest improvements/amendments that might make your dream trip even better. They will know all about those added extras, such as bespoke experiences or excursions off the beaten track, that make a good holiday into a trip of a lifetime, and, once they understand how you tick and the specific requirements you and your fellow travellers have, can suggest things that you may never have thought of but that add immeasurably to the whole experience. And they don’t work on commission, so can give you truly impartial advice.

To help us get a clear picture of what would work best for you, in addition to bearing in mind your approximate budget, we’d need to know things like:

 

  • How many of you will be travelling – and will there be any children or travellers with specific needs (e.g. disabled travellers) in the party?
  • How long would you like your holiday to be and when (or approximately when) would you like to travel?
  • Is there are particular country orregion that you want to go to?
  • What you hope for from this holiday – is it for deep relaxation, an action-packed adventure, or perhaps you want to immerse yourself in culture?
  • If there is something specific you want to do – perhaps you’ve always dreamed of horse riding in Patagonia, hiking along the Inca trail or mastering the art of a particular cuisine?
  • Whether you’ve set your heart (and budget) on luxury hotels and spas throughout or have a yen for rustic lodges or perhaps wild camping in the African bush, and whether you want beach, mountain, desert, rainforest, city – or a bit of everything!

Then we start to plan your trip – always remembering that it is your trip.

You’re never presented with a ‘take it or leave it’ itinerary (unless there is a lack of availability), we work closely with you to truly create a bespoke itinerary that gets as close as possible to what you’ve set your heart on. And, once your trip is booked, we are still there for you, making sure you have everything you need both in the lead-up to and on your holiday.

 

© Shutterstock – Joseph Mortimer

A client who travelled tailor-made to India with us recently commented, “Paul put together a great holiday for us – he listened to what we wanted and made the itinerary accordingly”, while a client for whom we tailor-made a holiday in Ecuador said “It was planned to be a memorable and unique holiday and that’s how it turned out so we were delighted.”

Going tailor-made – what you need to know

Finding a really good travel company and consultant that you trust is key.  You need someone who is going to listen to you carefully so that they understand clearly what you are wanting from your holiday.

A consultant that has a good range of destination knowledge is also important, as they are able to compare different places for you, and so get you closer to the experience you are looking for.  Hopefully they have visited many of the places which are on your wishlist, and maybe also know quite a few of the lodges and hotels you could consider.

Obviously, for a really special and luxury holiday, you don’t want to worry about your services. You want to know that everything will run like clockwork, that the services are high quality, and that you also have good backup in case of unforeseen problems.  So, choosing a reputable company is critical. Look for membership of trade organisations such as AITO (Association of Independent Tour Operators) who have quality standards for their members.  And testimonials can give you a good idea of a company’s reputation, as long as there are plenty of them, so it’s obvious they’ve not been made up!

Here is a checklist of things to look for in a travel company:

  1. Has the company been going for some time?
  2. Are they members of AITO or other industry associations which promote quality?
  3. Do they have all the required licences? Are they bonded with ATOL (5802) and ABTOT so able to provide 100% financial protection?
  4. Do they have any regard to social and environmental responsibility?
  5. Are there testimonials from previous clients you can read?  Or perhaps even an actual client they can put you in touch with? Or maybe verified client satisfaction ratings?
  6. Do they have consultants who really know their destinations well?
  7. Do the consultants work on commission?  On the whole, you might expect a more honest service from those not on commission.
  8. Is the company independent and can therefore sell any services and properties they wish, or are they tied to certain hotel chains etc?   Don’t limit your choices unwittingly.
  9. Does the company put enough store on your health and safety?
  10. Do they have adequate back up services in case you have a problem?

Any good company should be able to answer all of these questions easily and positively.

So, for a very special holiday, don’t risk your money and your precious time. Get help from a good tailor-made holiday company. There are lots out there – and one right here!

Gluten-free in Zanzibar

Gluten-free in Zanzibar

Gluten-free in Zanzibar

 

With Coeliac Disease a gluten-free diet is a necessity not a choice. So a trip to Zanzibar – though enticing in so many ways – did fill me with some trepidation…

…wondering if I was going to be able to eat for 12 nights.

I am always nervous when travelling, not for the sake of travelling, but when you are travelling with a specific dietary requirement it can be pretty much hit or miss. It can be tricky trying to explain your needs to a waiter than knows only a few words of English, whether you are vegan, gluten-free or kosher. In my case, its gluten-free; not from choice or any desire to diet, but because a gluten-free diet is the only way to manage Coeliac Disease.

Whereas once a gluten-free diet was unheard of, now it has become a celebrity diet. I will not complain because it has meant more products available for us than ever before, but the result is also that many places think of it as a fad, an allergy or an intolerance. It can be all those things, but to me its much more! Eating a strict diet is my only way of staying well.

So, there I was, bound for Zanzibar wondering if I was going to be able to eat for 12 nights. I always take some supplies. My hand luggage always contains some basics that I can eat on the flight such as bread rolls and cheese, biscuits or chocolate. Do check that the country you are flying to has no restrictions on food as some are very strict and you may only be able to take enough for that flight, or certain products.

My first hotel was a small hotel in Zanzibar, in Stone Town. As expected, the waiting staff were not very knowledgeable on gluten-free and looked at me slightly confused. I explained as best I could, and they very kindly said they would get the chef for me so that we could discuss what I could have and be safe.

In fact, every hotel I stayed in from then on, I explained to the staff that I had this issue and maybe it would be best to speak to the chef. The result was some amazing meals throughout my stay on the island.

Fresh food cooked to order -what’s not to like?

As most hotels have limited set menus that are changed daily based on available produce, you know what you are getting is fresh. And in the smaller hotels, everything is made to order so nothing is wasted. Results were a lobster dinner big enough for 2 people, and amazing steak with a specially made brandy and peppercorn sauce, and a beautiful piece of barracuda, which I had never eaten before, in a saffron sauce. I always had options of rice and fresh vegetables, and the desserts… well! These ranged from pannacottas with fresh berries and sauces to flambé bananas with caramel sauce and ice cream. The bread wasn’t great, but then, it often isn’t and when you have such beautiful meals it’s not needed. At breakfast there was always choices of fruits and cooked options. Eggs whichever way you wanted them, bacon, and one hotel went out of its way to get gluten-free flour to do pancakes for breakfast and make bread so that I didn’t feel left out. That’s service!

So, would I recommend a stay on the island to anyone with particular dietary needs? Absolutely. My thanks to The Swahili House, Matemwe Lodge, Tulia Zanzibar, Breezes Beach Resort & Spa, Unguja Lodge and Fumba Beach Lodge for keeping me safe and healthy. Fresh food cooked to order and plenty of it. What’s not to like?

Off to market

Off to market

Off to market

There is something fascinating about a market. And when that market is in a foreign country, the attraction is even stronger…

Most of us like to include one or two shopping opportunities on our holiday, whether that’s exploring high-end shops in elegant galleria or perusing home-made wares spread out on a tablecloth on the ground in a Maasai village. But you don’t have to be intent on a major shopping expedition to enjoy visiting a market – it’s a fabulous way to see what daily life is like for the locals as they shop for essential supplies or sell their artisan crafts. It doesn’t have to be a ‘general’ market either – fish markets are fascinating places to visit for example, with the added bonus that there will usually be some excellent fish restaurants close by!

A  market can be colourful in more ways than one. Whether it’s table-upon-table piled high with pyramids of vibrant spices or fruits and vegetables, racks of brilliantly-coloured woven goods or simply the local colour provided by such a bustling environment as you’re surrounded by the indigenous languages and customs, a trip to a market is bound to be memorable. Just don’t forget to take your camera!

 

Images above – header image © Shutterstock – Curioso, inset image © Shutterstock – Dendenal

The vibrancy of Latin American markets

The markets in Latin America are every bit as vivid as one would expect. The Plaza de los Ponchos (Otalvo Market) in Otalvo, Ecuador, sells everything from weaving tools to fresh fruit, while the Flower Market in Lima, Peru, is a gorgeous explosion of colour and scent. Unmissable!

The Bolivian city of La Paz has a range of markets, from the Mercado Lanza food market (a great place to try a salteña – a Bolivian empanada), the Ayni artisan crafts market and Comart Tukuypaj, where you’ll find beautifully-made alpaca and llama goods, to the intriguingly-named Witches’ Market (see photo below). This latter sells herbs and traditional medicines, and fortune tellers will happily read your palm, but it also sells lovely leather goods and woven items. Haggling is fine in Bolivia, so you may get a bargain!

Ferias (farmers’ markets) about in Costa Rica. In addition to farm products such as cheeses many sell honey, wine, clothing and crafts. But even if you’re not in the market (so to speak) for plantains, eggs or balls of string cheese, if you get the chance to visit a feria while in Costa Rica, do go. You’ll find ferias in many towns, with particularly good ones in or just outside Tamarindo, Quepos and San Jose. The Tamarindo Feria (Saturday mornings) sells a lot of organic products and chocolates, cheeses, flowers etc.  and there are often live music performances. The Feria Verde de Aranjuez in San Jose is a large, organic gourmet market and the perfect place to spend a Saturday morning.

 

© Shutterstock – Saiko3p

“The markets in Latin America are as vivid as one might expect.”

While in Chile, look out for local fruits and vegetables such as lúcuma and chirimoya, as well as leather, silver, lapis lazuli, alpaca and wood crafts. Angelmo, the coastal bay just outside Puerto Montt, has a superb seafood market – you couldn’t get fresher fish! It is THE place to try curanto, the South Chilean delicacy of seafood, vegetables and meat cooked over hot stones.

Santiago has plenty of markets, the most famous being Mercado Central, which specialises in fish. Don’t miss trying a traditional fish stew in one of the local restaurants! A short walk from Avenida O’Higgins you’ll find the Santa Lucia market, with a wealth of gifts and crafts on offer. You’ll also find excellent local hand-made goods in Pucon’s Mercado Artesanal, while Valparaiso’s Mercado El Cardonal features great piles of fruit and vegetables, all housed in a historic market hall. Make sure you also visit the fish market in Valparaiso; check out the pelicans, seagulls and sea  lions hovering around hoping for scraps as the fishermen unload their catches.

“You’re surrounded by the indigenous language and customs.”

Local colour in Peru

The town of Pisac in Peru’s Sacred Valley is famed for being the Valley’s highest settlement, for the Inca ruins above the town and for its bustling Sunday market, when traditionally-dressed members of the Cusco region’s indigenous Quechua communities gather to buy and sell produce and supplies. However, there is also a daily artisan market in Pisac, so whichever day you visit the town you be able to buy crafts and gifts and capture all that local colour in some great photos.

In addition to the afore-mentioned Flower Market, Lima has a number of markets to explore, ranging from the Feria Artesanal craft market to Terminal Pesquero, the daily fish market and Mercado de Surquillo, a superb food market. Peru has some 4,000 varieties of potatoes, so the potato displays alone are incredible in Peruvian markets! And if the idea of the Witches’ Market in La Paz appealed, you could well find Mercado Modelo in the Peruvian town of Chiclayo equally fascinating, with its stalls selling essential ingredients for potions and spells.

Cusco and Chinchero have ecellent markets and, for something absolutely exotic, there’s the market adjacent to the floating shantytown of Belén, Iquitos, where jungle village residents sell their wares. If you have a hankering to taste fried leafcutter ants or Amazon worms, this outdoor market in the heart of the Peruvian Amazon is the place for you…

Coast to winelands

There are some great markets to be found in Africa too, from the sophisticated establishments in Cape Town and the Cape winelands to Maasai markets in Tanzania.

The Cape Winelands have some terrific markets in stunning locations, such as the Friday evening market at the Boschendal wine estate in Franschhoek. There’s great food and drink and incredible mountain views. And you get some  amazing views of the South Peninsula at the weekly Cape Point Vineyards Market. Sit here at sunset, marvel at the views, and chow down on wood-fired pizza as you sip a glass of the CPV’s own award-winning wine before browsing for jewellery and crafts.

In cosmopolitan Cape Town you will find a host of markets with a lovely relaxed atmosphere, and you can usually enjoy some fabulous food there.  Oranjezicht City Farm Market on the V&A Waterfront is operated by the innovative team behind the urban farms project. You can buy wonderful breads, honey, fruit, herbs and vegetables here and find specialist stalls selling chocolates, vegan food etc. The market has gorgeous views of the ocean, and is a great place to wander around, enjoy a pastry or crepe etc. The Waterfront’s Old Power Station now houses the V&A Food Market, with more than 40 food and drink stalls, including one with 23 varieties of South African gin!

Cape Town’s Good Company Market (Sunday), based in the Company’s Garden and near to the Art Gallery is fantastic for all the family, with food and craft stalls and plenty of family activities such as pony rides,

Don’t miss Elgin’s Railway market, an Art Deco delight in a converted apple warehouse.  Live music plays as you explore the clothing, jewellery, food and ceramics stalls, and there are some great cafes and restaurant. If you visit on a Saturday you can even travel to Elgin from Cape Town on board a historic stream train, then ride it back to Cape Town after a day at the market.

If you head out to Hout Bay you’ll find more than 100 stalls inside an old fish factory next to the ocean at the Bay Harbour Market. Musicians and street performers do their thing, the air is fragrant with the enticing aromas of freshly-baked bread and, in the distance, Chapman’s Peak presides over it all like a benevolent market manager.

From Maasai crafts to curios within earshot of the Victoria Falls…

Every Thursday afternoon hundreds of Maasai converge on Mto Wa Mbu village, close to Tarangire National Park and Lake Manyara in Tanzania, for the vibrant weekly Maasai Central Market, with an even bigger market held there on the 22nd of each month. It’s a really interesting break in your safari itinerary as you taste Maasai food, shop for their crafts etc. There’s also a Maasai market selling crafts and curious in Arusha, and the lively Kariakoo market in Dar es Salaam, which is hot chaotic and fascinating. It is very crowded though, so perhaps think of it more as an experience than a shopping opportunity!

Malawi’s roadside Lizulu Market is aimed firmly at the drivers and passengers in the passing cars and buses, giving it quite a different feel to many other markets. With its piles of fruit and veggies, it’s a definitely a place to get some memorable holiday snaps. There’s also a market in Dedza township. It’s not aimed at tourists, but among the essential items for everyday life here you will also find stalls selling straw hats, clay cooking pots and lovely woven and printed cloth. If you’re in Dedza you’ll probably also want to take a trip to the pottery, which has its own shop selling beautiful items – which can be personalised.

If you can tear your eyes away from the majestic Falls themselves, head to the Big Curio Open Market in Victoria Falls town (on the Zimbabwe side of the falls) where you will find crafts of all kinds, includig Shona sculpture.

Spicing it up in Dehli

As for India, well, there’s not enough room in this blog to do justice to the wealth of markets in the sub-continent! However, if you are in Dehli, pick up your camera and head to Khari Baoli, the largest spice market in Asia. You’ll find it near the historic Red Fort, and the market itself – which takes up the whole street after which it’s named – is a historic institution, heaving with endless shops and stalls selling spices, herbs, dried fruit, rice, tea and nuts. It’s colourful, incredibly highly scented and unique. Fabulous!

Let Tribes take you to market!

Many of our trips include the opportunity to visit a local market or two, and if we tailor-make a trip for you then we can craft an itinerary that takes in just exactly what you require in the market department.

Our Golden Triangle trip, with its tour of Old and New Dehli, is a great way to experience the scents, sights and sounds of the Khari Baoli spice market, while many of our Peruvian itinerarys, such as Classic Peru will include a visit to the famous market at Pisac. Peru for Foodies is a market-lover’s delight, featuring market shopping in Lima –  where you sample the local produce and buy the ingredients you’ll be taught to prepare for lunch – in Pisac and in Cusco, where you will be stunned by the huge variety of potatoes and other produce on offer in San Pedro Market.

Itineraries such as Costa Rica Coast to Coast include free time in San Jose, where you could fit in a market visit, while our Costa Rica Self-Drive Holiday takes you to Tamarindo, and its farmer’s market.

If you’re intrigued by the concept of the Witches’ Market in La Paz, our Bolivia Authentic Experience will do the trick for you, and our Trekking and Culture in Otalvo holiday puts you right in the heart of this Ecuadorian market town.

Those planning to take in the glaciers, deserts and cities of Chile will find visits to Santiago and Valparaiso markets possible on our Chile, Deserts and Glaciers trip, while no visit to Cape Town and the Winelands is complete without at least one (but probably rather more!) market explorations. Try our Cape Town and Winelands holiday or Cape Town, Coast and Mountains.

Our Maasai Culture and Wilderness holiday takes you to the Maasai market at Mto Wa Mbu and finally, if you’re drawn to the idea of market shopping to the thunderous audio accompaniment of the Victoria Falls, our Victoria Falls in a Nutshell Zimbabwe trip will deliver exactly what’s required!

Quito’s Traditional Healers

Quito’s Traditional Healers

Quito’s traditional healers

Go to any downtown market in Quito, Ecuador’s capital city, and you’ll probably notice the stalls belonging to the curanderas. Their display cabinets are often distinguished by garish, almost toy-like, little cartons depicting amorous couples, coupling, or beaming children. Typically they contain aphrodisiacs and fertility snake oil with unsubtle names like ‘Amor’ and ‘Macho’, or soaps promising ‘instant attraction’ with various magical and esoteric effects.

“They can easily draw on a natural larder.”

Curanderas, or traditional healers, remain very popular in Ecuador and here in the Andes they can easily draw on a natural larder comprising a hundred or more herbs within an hour’s drive of the capital. Traditional herbal preparations include rue, or herb-of-grace, to regulate menstrual cycles and even coax abortions, and cedron whose bitter seeds are believed to counter snake bites. There’s guayusa, a kind of holly, whose infusions with their caffeine-based stimulants are typically favoured by rainforest hunters whose nickname for it is the ‘night watchman’, and many other more run-of-the-mill herbs like camomile and lemon grass.

Edison, my guide, opted instead for the juice vendors’ stalls and ordered a fairly humble naranjilla alfafa. Grey-green in colour, it looked awful. Resembling a tomato, the obscure naranjilla, or ‘little orange’, is commonly used in juices across Ecuador but here Edison’s medicine was mixed with alfalfa grass and a quail’s egg. “It’s very healthy,” he assured me, licking his lips, “and rich in iron”.

As we continued around the market, Latin America’s rich array of ‒ to Europeans at least ‒ strange fruits and unusual vegetables was readily apparent. There were tamarillos, or tree tomatoes, and granadillas, oversized passion fruits, mountain papayas and oritos, or finger bananas, dozens of potatoes streaked with colour, heads of purple maize and curious cloves of intensely-flavoured ‘male garlic’. The latter, I heard, are used not just in food but as amulets to ward off the evil eye and bad luck.

Outside, more curanderas stalls lined a clutch of busy little streets, their signs incorporating close-up pictures of eyeballs superimposed with lists of ailments and afflictions. “You could also try a limpia,” said Edison. Puzzlement crept across my face.

In the curandero’s varied armoury it is the limpia which is perhaps the most profound and elaborate. The limpia is a kind of spiritual cleansing rooted in the ancient traditions of the region’s indigenes and remains a well-known practice across parts of Latin America. For locals it’s traditionally a cure for emotional trauma, something to counter a run of bad luck or feelings of disharmony and acute unease. For tourists it’s sometimes diluted as a kind of tonic or quasi-spiritual massage ‒ much depends, I suppose, on whether you’re a believer.

 

Back at my (totally respectable) hotel a few days later I stripped to my underwear for a session with a curandera. A stocky woman in her sixties arrived and ushered me into the bathroom where I sat on a stool. As if I were dusty and cobwebbed, she brushed me from top to toe with a hefty bundle of sage, nettles, basil and rue. She murmured and sucked in air while my skin tingled. Sprayed with scented water, she made me exhale over a chicken’s egg which was gently rubbed over my crown. The egg, it’s believed, can absorb impurities and anything causing an ‘imbalance’.

In many ways this was a ‘limpia-lite’ ‒ the process often involves a patient lying on the floor, arms outstretched like a crucifix, while recounting their trauma or whatever it is that’s bothering them. Some curanderas will even leap over their outstretched clients, frightening unsettled souls back into their rightful bodies.

After about forty minutes of this and that she was done, and I remain stout in body and soul. But I’ve never quite been able to look at English nettles in the same way since. 

Why visit Quito?

Named after the pre-Colombian Quitus tribe, the city was the capital of the Incas’ northern empire before the Spanish conquest in 1534. Now a World Cultural Heritage Site, Quito has  magnificent colonial architecture, but the city also offers an experience of contemporary Ecuadorian city life.

Quito highlights include: 

  • The Cathedral, home to the superb 18th century tableau The Holy Shroud. 
  • Plaza da Independencia – the city’s main square is a great place to people-watch and the neoclassical Government Palace lines one side. 
  • A vast array of shops, cafes and restaurant.
  • Enjoy the city and rural views from the rounded hill El Panecillo – the ‘bread roll’.  
  • Head just 25km north of Quito and you can cross the Equator!

Ecuador is a small, friendly South American country and a trip combines perfectly with a tour of the Galapagos Islands or a Peruvian adventure.  Trip ideas include:

 

 

Serious ‘chillaxing’

Serious ‘chillaxing’

Serious ‘chillaxing’

 

With Mother’s Day this Sunday, March 31, a straw poll of the mums in the Tribes office revealed (not surprisingly!) that the chance to relax would be a most welcome gift. This then set us off onto a conversation about some particularly relaxing holidays or holiday experiences, with spa treatments topping the list  – we’re talking serious ‘chillaxing’!

‘In India they quite rightly take relaxation very seriously.’

Images © Ananda in the Himalayas

In India they quite rightly take relaxation very seriously, and just reading about the Ananda Wellbeing Holidays had us feeling tensions diminish.  Ananda in the Himalayas is a splendid palace set in 100 acres of grounds high above the Ganges River Valley. It’s a true sanctuary where you feel miles – and years – away from the stresses of 21st century life. There’s a range of programmes to choose from, including Yogic detox, stress management, Ayurvedic rejuvenation and even an active programme for those who want to combine spa therapies with circuit training, white water rafting etc.  Expert therapists, doctors and chefs collaborate to provide an immersive experience – all in a beautiful setting.

Another wonderfully relaxing location in India is SwaSwara, which overlooks Om Beach. This sanctuary is focused on refreshing you mind, body and soul, with three programmes that range from five to 21 nights in length.

A river cruise is, by its very nature, usually pretty relaxing, but an Irrawaddy River cruise in Burma on board the elegant Sanctuary Ananda is another thing entirely in the relaxation stakes. Seeing the sun rise over the temples of Bagan is a glorious way to start a day, and, while the trip has a fabulous range of activities to make the most of your being in this fascinating part of the world – including ox cart and rickshaw rides, pagoda and temple visits and demonstrations by local artisans – life on board the Sanctuary Ananda is designed to make everyday cares float away. Styled rather like a 1930s steamer, this luxurious craft has its own spa offering a range of theraputic and beauty treatments,  plus a plunge pool and a sundeck, which is a perfect spot for yoga.

‘Life on board the Sanctuary Ananda is designed to make everyday cares float away.’

Image ©Sanctuary Ananda

‘Spa treatments with organic, locally-grown Andean plants and herbs..’

Images © Sol y Luna

A number of the hotels in Peru’s Sacred Valley have spas, making them the perfect place to relax after exploring the stunning landscape and remarkable Inca archaeological sites. The charming Sol y Luna, for example, sits in a wonderfully relaxing location in the Sacred Valley, set in 25 acres of flower and bird-filled gardens. The Yacu Wasi spa of this Relais & Chateaux property offers daily yoga sessions as well as spa treatments with organic, locally-grown Andean plants and herbs. Tribes’ travel experts would be only too pleased to help you plan an itinerary that includes not only Sol y Luna but also the Belmond Andean Explorer – this luxury sleeper train has its own spa car!

Nyara Springs in Costa Rica (pictured above and in the image at the top of this page) is in a fabulous setting in the Arenal Volcano National Park. The mere fact that each room has its own private plunge pool fed by natural mineral hot springs is sufficient to initiate the relaxation process. Add a beautiful spa perched above the rainforest, with open-air treatment pavilions and a stunning yoga pavilion, and you’re likely to find it very hard to leave!

Having a spa treatment while on safari is a great treat, and there are some excellent spas to be found amongst the safari lodges of South Africa, Tanzania, Kenya, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia, including The Elephant Camp (Zimbabwe) , Saruni Samburu (Kenya), Leopard Hills Private Game Reserve (South Africa), and Lemala Kuria Hills in Tanzania. This overlooks the plains of the Northern Serengeti. The Melengali Spa at Lemala Kuria Hills is a very relaxing place for a muscle-soothing massage – and the views from the bathrooms of the tented suites are fabulous too!

Or how about a classic Indian Ocean getaway? The White Sands Villa and Spa boutique hotel on the east coast of Zanzibar offers barefoot luxury and a beautifully-located spa in lush, colourful gardens a stone’s throw from the beach

Want to get even further away in search of peace and quiet? There’s no spa or massage service at Fanjove Private Island (pictured above) but, with just six guest bandas and requiring a flight in a small plane then a boat trip to get to it, this 1km x 300m piece of castaway seclusion in the Indian Ocean is hugely relaxing.

Or, if you want to get away from – pretty much – it all but still have a spa to hand, may we suggest Easter Island? A five hour flight from the Chilean mainland, Rapa Nui is an intriguing place to visit, and the Hangaroa Eco Village and Spa is a fantastic place to stay on the island. Spa Manavi overlooks the Pacific Ocean – fabulous!

‘Chillaxing’ at Lemala Kuria Hills in Tanzania…