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Go Now to Experience Cuba as an Authentic Cultural Destination

We are now down to our very last spots for Cuba trips in 2016.

Remaining 2016 Cuba availability for Americans is now limited to our September departure. As of today (August 11, 2016) our September 24, 2016 – October 2, 2016 departure has space for 2 people. Unfortunately, these are the LAST TWO SPACES for Americans in 2016.

(For Canadians, and other nationalities, we have a few other spaces available in October and December, but these remaining spaces are also still quite limited. Call us for details. And, as much as we wish we could open more American spaces, September is the ONLY date with remaining American availability.)

The time truly is now to experience Cuba. Prices in Cuba are rising rapidly. Cuba’s local tourism industry providers understand the country’s position as a hot destination, and because of limited supply (hotel space and transportation network infrastructure is simply not built up enough in Cuba for the new demand), Cubans are beginning to charge a premium to anyone wanting to experience Cuba during this time of change. And there is no guarantee that prices won’t continue to rise again in the future either.



“While some of you may be considering waiting, here’s what you should know. I’ve been talking with industry friends about the Cuba situation a lot recently. And here’s what we think. Cuba, as an authentic cultural destination, is at risk of extinction. The once quiet, time-worn streets of Havana are now starting to bustle with tourists. And while prices may eventually decrease again to levels more comparable to other tropical destinations (when Cuba’s infrastructure has had time to catch up to demand), the risk is that you’ll be experiencing a sanitized, glossy version of Cuba that is flooded with more tourists than locals. We’ve seen this happen in other destinations, and the signs are all pointing to this happening in Cuba. While Cuba is certainly a bit rough around the edges and seems pricey to some of you, the real value in going there now is in seeing this, the real Cuba. While it lasts.”
– Trish Sare, Founder/Director BikeHike Adventures



What about American travel to Cuba? We’ve recently recorded this update for you. 

And here’s an update we recorded a few months ago about the hotel crunch in Cuba. 

You may be wondering — what are the roads like in Cuba? Is there much traffic in Cuba yet? What is the cycling terrain in Cuba?

Trish, BikeHike Adventures’s owner, answers this question for you in this brief video. The footage used was captured by a recent BikeHike traveller.

The Packing Expert’s Guide to Packing for an Adventure Travel Tour

Packer extraordinaire, Trish Sare (Owner of BikeHike Adventures) is always on the go and knows the art of packing efficiently. In fact, she has refined the art of packing effectively for an international trip down to a very precise science.

Here’s the short little video tutorial she recently filmed for you to show you how to pack like a pro for your next trip!  This video shows you how to make the most of your carry on luggage as well as packed luggage. You’ll save a load of  time when preparing for your next international trip. As you’ll see in this video, Trish keeps many of the essentials ready in advance so that she won’t forget them!

Some of the brands Trish loves most?
Eagle Creek! Specifically, Eagle Creek cube packs! Trish says they’ve changed her travel life. She’s their #1 fan!
And her other must-have item: Hummingbird memory foam travel pillow. She can’t live without it (and often uses it on and off the plane)!

Five in-flight carry-on packing essentials: 
1. Hand cream. It’s always dry on the plane!
2. Ear plugs & earphones. You never know if there will be someone noisy around you, when you want to relax or sleep, and planes rarely provide earphones for free anymore (even when/if they offer free in-flight movies)!
3. Blanket or long wrap. Planes are notoriously cold, and rarely provide blankets anymore.
4. Travel Pillow. It will make your long flight so much more comfortable.
5. Blind fold / eye mask. It makes getting to sleep on a bright flight so much easier.

To learn more about how to pack for your next trip, watch this highly informative tutorial. It’s truly an expert packing guide for international travel!

The guide reviews are in: What you love most about our guides

We love our guides. So, we’re thrilled to hear that you do too! Here are a few guide review highlights from our notebook at the office. We love hearing from our travellers, and this post is a mere sampling of the great reviews we’ve been hearing from you lately. We just couldn’t keep these to ourselves!

PERU

Our Peru trip has always been such a hit with our travellers lately. And our guide there, Miguel, is a large reason for this. We absolutely adore Miguel, but you don’t have to listen to us. Here’s what one of our recent travellers had to say about Miguel.

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“Miguel was an outstanding guide, very passionate about his country and his role with BikeHike. He was extremely considerate regarding the clients, always helpful and accommodating. He took great length to explain all aspects of the trip, history, local lore, etc…he was by FAR the best guide (and I listened to others with other companies). Excellent demeanor, pleasant, unflappable, can’t say enough. High personal and professional integrity, fun-loving and understood the individual clients.”

GALAPAGOS / ECUADOR

We cannot stop singing the praises of our Ecuador (mainland) and Galapagos guide, Jorgen…and apparently neither can you. Nearly all of the our messages from travellers sound like this one that recently landed in our inbox.

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“Jorgen. What a guy. That guy is just so nice, personable…and knowledgeable! He is also a master of logistics, I have to say.  We would not have been able to accomplish nearly as much on our trip had it not been for his expert knowledge of the islands and the people there… man does that guy have connections. He moved us around the islands seemingly effortlessly (but I know it was really that he just makes it look easy!). Thank you BikeHike for having such a super Galapagos guide!”

VIETNAM

Virtually every picture we have of our Vietnam guide is a smiley one. And, little surprise, our travellers are usually in the same photo frame beaming with joy too. Here’s a snippet from a recent traveller raving about our star Vietnam guide, Hoa. He is really the key ingredient that makes our Vietnam trips special.

“We just finished our trip but I had to write to you right away to tell you how much we enjoyed having Hoa as our guide. Hoa is fantastic.  He was so good at anticipating our every need. He is so good at reading people that he knew what we were thinking and needing before we even told him! Top that with the fact that he is a fun, upbeat guy. He also taught us so much about his culture and Vietnam’s people, places, and history  Outstanding trip and guide.”

SLOVENIA

Slovenia may be off of some people’s Europe radar, but this destination is truly a rising star and provides the European charm you’re seeking without the massive tourist crowds. And, as with all BikeHike destinations, we have a guide there who is incredibly focused on providing the best experience there possible. Here’s what a traveller wrote to us earlier this summer.

“The guides made our trip… I felt they really went above and beyond… The guides welcomed us both with open arms and really made this trip special… Jure’s passion for Slovenia is 2nd to none…”

What to Eat in Peru? A Peru Food Guide

Reflecting Peru’s mixed history and its fusion of cultures, Peru’s cuisine is equally eclectic. Peruvian cuisine’s influences include local ingredients as well as recipes from Europe, Asia and West Africa. Some would say that Peru sets the standard for world class fusion cuisine.     

So, let us offer you this guide to Peruvian cuisine. It doubles as a great checklist of recommendations to try while visiting Peru!

First, let’s tease you with these delicious Peruvian food photos…

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Traditional staples in Peru:

Corn, quinoa, chili peppers, beans, potatoes and other root vegetables

Here’s a handy Peru cuisine dictionary:

Lomo Saltado – stir-fried beef dish with onions, vinegar, ginger, chili, tomatoes & fried potatoes

Ceviche – Shrimp / sea bass marinated in lemon, chili & onion

Papas Rellenas – Stuffed baked potatoes

Palta Rellena – avocado stuffed with chicken salad

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Picarones – deep fried flour fritters made with eggs and served with honey

And while we’re at it, here’s what to drink in Peru: 

Inca Cola – lime green soda pop that tastes like fizzy bubble gum

Pisco Sour – alcoholic beverage made with white grape brandy

Mate de Coca – tea made from coca leaves

From Our Journal: Hiking Torres del Paine National Park

If you decide to complete one of the world’s most impressive trekking routes, the W Trek in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, you may want to have a rough idea of what is ahead. To give you an idea of what you’ll experience, here are some journal snippets from one of our recent travellers in Chile’s Patagonia (provided to us with permission, of course).

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Day 1: Santiago – Punta Arenas – Torres del Paine

“Our group consisted of 9 individuals, predominately from United States and Canada. We started the journey from Punta Arenas early morning. After 3 hours of flat landscapes we broke our journey in Puerto Natales, the “entrance door” to this mountainous area of Southern Chile. Here we were introduced to our guide, passionate about the outdoors, with over 20 years of experience in Patagonia. We had no doubt that we would learn a lot from him! As the day progressed, we were stunned by the natural beauty, the immensity of the mountain range… That night, we reached our sustainable hotel – EcoCamp Patagonia, where we were in awe of the surroundings and had forgotten about our tiredness. The evening ended with a delicious Patagonian Fusion meal and we returned to our domes for a good night sleep, gazing at the stars through the window and dreaming about our long-awaited Torres del Paine W Trek.”

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Day 2: Torres del Paine – Paso Los Cuernos – The Horns (Hike)

“After a hearty buffet breakfast and an astonishing pink sunrise, we left the camp to start our trek along the beautiful snowcapped Almirante Nieto Mountain. It was the middle of spring, and a mix of red and yellow flowers were in bloom and covered the beginning of the trail. We stopped to admire the Horns (Los Cuernos) – dark horns towering the skyline – and Paine Grande, the highest mountain of the national park… After lunch we trekked through the beautiful red Firebush flowers. At the end of the day, we compared thoughts about the day’s hike and although we came from different backgrounds, we all seemed to feel an equal admiration for our achievements and the surrounding landscapes. Later, we devoured a hearty dinner while chatting I realized what a great group of us was gathered here to complete this amazing trek.”

Day 3: Torres del Paine National Park – French Valley (Hike)

“After an overnight rain, and a light rain in the morning, the surrounding forest felt mystical as the morning fog hung in the air. We started trekking despite the rain and soon forgot about the weather. Instead, most of us were mesmerized by the surroundings. Later, we reached the famous French Valley, which stretches between The Horns and Paine Grande. After climbing a steep one hour uphill, we reached the Paine Grande Lookout. The view was worth the climb! That night, we were ready for a well-deserved rest at the Paine Grande refugio but first the group met for dinner, discussing the day’s events, and through our experience we were quickly becoming close, forming friendships that would likely last beyond this week in Chile.”

Day 4: Torres del Paine National Park – Grey Glacier (Hike)

“We left Paine Grande early in the morning and began making our way through a quiet valley covered with extraordinary rock formations. After a short hike uphill, we reached the western area of the W Trek, where the feet of the western side of Paine Grande meets Grey Lake and there are huge icebergs, that have broken off the glacier, floating in this famous lake. From there, we were transferred back to EcoCamp which felt deliciously welcoming and cozy. Dinner that night was a wonderful treat, and I felt I would be well rested for the next day’s hike, the W Trek’s most challenging hiking day.”

Day 5: Torres del Paine National Park – Valle Ascencio (Hike)

Today, we trekked out from the camp at 8:30am. The first few kilometers were quite easy as we trekked over flat land. Then, we crossed a few bridges and started the long, ascent along the roaring Ascensio River. We enjoyed a well-earned break at El Chileno refugio. After this welcome rest, we continued through the lush green forest to start another uphill climb. We were surrounded by an indescribable energy in the forest, and the adrenaline of our hiking achievement made us feel like we were hiking on clouds. That kind of happiness is actually difficult to describe with words. That evening at EcoCamp, we gathered in the famous community dome and reflected on an incredible day, one we would likely never forget.”

Day 6: Torres del Paine National Park – Eastern Lakes (Hike)

“Our last trekking day was along a relatively easy natural trail that would take us to a great view of the Paine mountain range. While trekking we came across a herd of guanacos and a few ñandus – a kind of Patagonian ostrich. We also saw the beautiful condor, one of the biggest birds in the world, flying in the distance! After another short ascent, we were also delighted to discover ancient rock paintings, left by tribes that inhabited the area 6500 years ago. We weren’t expecting to see that and it was amazing. Next, a short drive brought us to the picture perfect Laguna Azul (“blue lagoon”). This was a perfect picnic spot and we enjoyed a great picnic lunch while admiring the breathtaking views. On our drive way back to EcoCamp, we stopped at the Paine Waterfalls (Cascada Paine), a magnificent cascade of magical waterfalls. It was a great night back at the EcoCamp afterwards, where we quenched our thirst with a beer at Ecobar and celebrated the end of our trek! The group exchanged details to that we could stay in touch and we enjoyed our last evening together over great food and drinks.”

Day 7: Torres del Paine – Punta Arenas

“Alas, the trek was over and it was time to head back to our normal lives again. But we would never forget these majestic mountains and our trek across these valleys. My muscles were a bit tired, but they had adjusted to the routine and my endurance had built up. And we were all now members of the W Trek Alumni Club, having taken about 92,000 steps together — burning at least 7000 calories during that week hiking! We said a sad goodbye to our guides. Without their skills, dedication and passion, it is sure that  we would not have been able to complete this trek. We boarded the van back to Punta Arenas to catch our flights, and all seemed to look back out the windows dreamily as we drove off…”

BikeHike Adventures runs this Hiking the W Route in Chile’s Patagonia weekly from October through February.