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2016’s Top Three South American Destinations

Cuzco, Peru

If you are planning to visit Machu Picchu though, best hurry. Further trekking limits may soon be put in place to protect the site and limit the number of hikers able to access the site, according to our local sources. While restrictions have been in place for a while already, there is talk that more restrictions are needed to preserve the heritage of the site. Now is the time to go.

While most travelers arrive in Cuzco to launch out on a trip to Machu Picchu, this gem of a town is worth more than just a fleeting visit. The longest-continuously-inhabited city in South America, Cuzco has much to offer in and of itself. At 11,000 feet above sea level, high in the Andes, this was once the center of the Inca world (around the 15th century). Cobblestoned streets, colonial architecture, and ancient Incan stonework tell visitors a story of mixed heritage.

Peru also happens to be one of the most affordable travel destinations for 2016 when spending US dollars.

It's time to see these sites in Peru while you still can...

It’s time to see these sites in Peru while you still can…

Rio de Janiero, Brazil

While you may not be attracted to the Olympic crowds, leading up to the 2016 Olympics, the city has been adding many exciting attractions that you can enjoy any time of year. The city has added a cable car going up to the famous “favela,” Providencia. The city has also just built the absolutely extraordinary Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã). This 15,000-square-foot museum, which has quickly attracted an international buzz, has exhibits that explore the science of outer-space and the future of life on earth.

Brazil is also another one of the most affordable travel destinations for 2016 when spending US dollars as the Brazilian currency has been historically low lately despite the upcoming 2016 Olympics. However, don’t expect this historic low to last. Now is the time to best capitalize on this great exchange rate and experience the best of the new Rio!

Quito, Ecuador

It may come as a surprise to most people, but Quito is one of THE top up-and-coming cities in South America. While it was once ruled by backpackers, this city is in the midst of a major revival. Investors are flocking to the city (many of them fuelled by oil money) and infusing the city with a sense of modern chic. Upscale hotels, high end restaurants, even art galleries are beginning to flavor Quito’s cityscape and beautifully mix in with the city’s Spanish colonial buildings. Quito’s La Floresta neighborhood is apparently the one to watch as it is where the best new restaurants and trend-setting businesses have begun basing themselves. Top that off with Quito’s new airport and a citywide underground metro in 2016 and this Ecuadorian capital, sitting high in the mountains, is on quite the roll.

It’s the perfect time to explore Ecuador. And while you’re at it, why not pop over to the Galapagos (also part of Ecuador)? The currency is US dollars in Ecuador so it’s another great destination to spend your travel dollars without losing on an exchange rate.

Three Unforgettable Family Travel Experiences

Only available to those with a local guide and connections, these are the sorts of family experiences that your entire family, whatever the ages and generations, is sure to treasure for a lifetime.

GALAPAGOS
Adventures as a Family in Darwin’s Playground

Galapagos Trip of a Lifetime BikeHike
photo: Swimming in the Galapagos (on a BikeHike Adventures tour)

A trip to the Galapagos offers all of the classic highlights of a great warm weather family adventure — snorkelling with tropical fish and island hopping to local spots where turtles and wildlife abound. More than a basic trip to a beach in Hawaii or Mexico, or a local trip to a zoo or an aquarium, when you travel to Galapagos as a family, everyone will return home with a greater appreciation of the wonders and diversity of life on this glorious planet. The Galapagos Islands have an astonishing level biodiversity. During a trip to the Galapagos Islands off of the coast of Ecuador, you can spend time bobbing through the ocean on sea kayaks, paddling alongside giant sea turtles, seals and bottle-nosed dolphin. You can go for a hike to watch giant tortoises foraging for food. You can jump in the water and snorkel with sea lions and turtles. To add an educational element to the trip, you can pay a visit to the Charles Darwin Research Center in Santa Cruz.

BikeHike Adventures offers a 10 day Land-based Galapagos trip year-round, visiting Isabela, Bartholome, Santa Cruz and Sante Fe islands: Galapagos Multi-Sport.

VIETNAM
Escape the Hustle to a Slower Pace of Life

Vietnam Trip of a Lifetime BikeHike

If life is getting a bit too hectic and your sense of family connection is feeling a bit lost in the midst of the daily hustle and all of the distracting gadgets, why not dial back time on your next family vacation? Vietnam is the perfect place to reconnect as a family as you ride your bikes along peaceful dirt roads that carve around mountains, through remote villages and alongside fertile meadows. There’s also the opportunity to kayak in UNESCO recognized Halong Bay, exploring hidden caves, stunning lagoons, pearl farms and fishing villages. And hike through remote villages, past terraced rice paddies, meeting locals and learning about Vietnam’s hill-tribe culture and witnessing their slower pace of life. Your entire family will return home with a greater appreciation for wide open spaces, a slower pace of life and all of the simple things in life.

BikeHike Adventures offers two multi-day itineraries in Vietnam: Bike, Hike & Kayak Northern Vietnam and Active Indochina.

GUATEMALA
The Real Mayan Experience Starts Here

BikeHike Guatemala Trip of a Lifetime
photo: Guatemala (on a BikeHike Adventures tour)

There’s not doubt that your family will return home from a trip to Guatemala with a greater appreciation of history as well as the simple joys and colours of life. Explore colonial towns, visit indigenous villages, explore ancient Mayan ruins. Historically, Guatemala is the true heart of Mayan culture and has more Mayan ruins than even Mexico! Guatemala’s most famous Mayan remain is at Tikal, the largest Mayan city uncovered there and one of the grandest ever built in Mesoamerica. No matter where you venture in Guatemala, the streets are alive with modern Mayan descendants, colours and culture. Meanwhile, wandering through the colourful colonial, cobble-stone street scenes of towns such as UNESCO heritage listed Antigua (founded around the year 1600) will remind you of the country’s more recent, Spanish history.

BikeHike Adventures offers a 9 day Guatemala itinerary, including hiking Pacayo Volcano and sea kayaking Lake Atitlan among local fishermen: Guatemala Mundo-Maya Multi-sport.

 

 

 

Cuba Travel Update

Interest in Cuba travel has been increasing exponentially over the past few months.

How is the country coping? How is this increasing demand — in the wake of various announcements related to the easing of US-Cuba relations — affecting the Cuba travel experience? BikeHike Adventures, a Canadian company, has been operating trips in Cuba for 4 years.

Here’s a short update from Trish Sare, BikeHike’s Founder/Director, about how increased demand is impacting Cuba travel and our current experience with Cuba travel bookings.

Your Vietnam Travel FAQs — Questions and Answers

YOUR TOP VIETNAM TRAVEL FAQS


Watch/listen to our recently recorded Vietnam FAQ video on Youtube here.

How has Vietnam travel changed over the years?

In the early days of Vietnam opening up to adventure travel, there were certainly not as many travellers there as there are today. However, it is still very possible to get off of the beaten track when travelling in Vietnam so that you do not feel you are just surrounded by other tourists. Overall though, numbers of travellers are definitely increasing as Vietnam becomes an increasingly popular destination.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

What is the best time of year to travel to Vietnam?

The best months for travel to Vietnam are October through May, after that it turns into the wet, typhoon season. Any month between October and May is a great time to travel to Vietnam. April and May is a popular time to experience Vietnam.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

Is Vietnam cheap? What are standard expenses in Vietnam?
Compared to the costs in North America, Vietnam is very economical. For example, a foot message for an hour costs a mere $5. Meals are very inexpensive and you’ll be served multiple plates of food in the restaurants. Hotel prices vary depend on the class of hotel, but overall the prices are relatively cheap. A three star hotel in Vietnam is also much nicer than a three star in North America, and often would be more comparable to a four star in terms of the rooms comforts, views and style. Three star hotels, though very economical, are often much like boutique hotels in North America and very tastefully decorated. Vietnam is an amazing destination for shopping, offering a great variety of arts and crafts. Hanoi, in particular, is great for offering fantastic selection of goods and crafts at very economical prices. Usually, on a package tour, you can easily get by with $300-500 spending money for the duration of your trip to include extra meals, shopping, tips and and other incidentals.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

What city should one fly into to start a trip in Vietnam?  

For BikeHike Adventures trips, many travellers fly into Hanoi or Ho Chi Minh City (Saigon). Many major carriers fly into Vietnam, including Thai Airways, Cathay Pacific, Japan Airlines, Singapore Airlines and Korean Airlines.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

Do you need a visa to enter Vietnam? 

This depends on your country of citizenship. However, Canadians and Americans do require a visa to enter Vietnam. It is possible to do a visa in advance, which we highly recommend to allow you to pass through customs much more quickly and easily. However, it is possible to get a visa last minute, though this requires a few added steps including a letter of recommendation from your tour operator stating your tourism activities in the country, and upon arrival in Vietnam you will enter a special customs line. At times, this line can be quite long. So, whenever possible, it is always better to try to arrange your visa in advance to save time at customs.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

How fit do you need to be to go on an adventure travel vacation to Vietnam?

This depends on the actual trip you choose. However, for BikeHike Adventures’ trips to Vietnam, there are two styles of Vietnam trips. Both of these trips, however, are rated as “moderate” trips. These trips include 4-5 hours of physical activity throughout the day, with many breaks along the way. The biking portions of BikeHike Adventure’s trips are the most cardiovascular portions of the trips, but there are always support vehicles available on our BikeHike Vietnam trips. During the biking section, our travellers don’t have to carry anything on their backs as any packs can be carried in the support vehicle.  During the hiking portions of the trip, the most you would have to carry on your back is a daypack.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

What kinds of cultural interactions can one expect travelling in Vietnam?

There is a lot a cultural interaction possible in Vietnam, as it is a very culturally rich destination. There are over 50 ethnic groups in Vietnam, each with their own languages, their own customs and dress. You’ll encounter them on their water buffalos as they’re working their rice fields.  Sometimes we’re even able to visit schools on our BikeHike trips. In the Sapa Valley, hikers actually pass through villages and have the chance to interact with locals in their homes. Even Hanoi, and its colour and chaos, is an incredible cultural experience.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

Is it possible to use foreign cell phones or wifi while traveling in Vietnam?

Yes, wifi and cell reception is available in most areas of Vietnam, mainly in the cities. However, while hiking and biking in Peru, there are perhaps a few areas where cell reception is unavailable. Most hotels are equipped with wifi in Vietnam. Whenever you are at a homestay in Vietnam, you’ll likely be without wifi as these families are unlikely to have a wifi connection.

Listen to a more detailed answer HERE.

 

Take a Hike! FIVE WORLD-CLASS HIKES

Chile — Torres del Paine National Park

DSC_5801

When travelling to Chile, you won’t want to miss out on the breathtaking natural wonders of Torres del Paine National Park. Among those wonders, the famous Towers of Paine are a must see.

A perfect day hiking/trekking to sight these massive sculpted granite peaks starts with a hike along dirt trails that carry you through this region’s gorgeously rugged wilderness. As you head towards the valley, you’ll pass dry mountain spots, beech forests and small rivers. While the first bit of the hike is meandering and relaxed, the last two miles is a slightly more challenging scramble on foot, along steep and rugged terrain, to arrive at the base of the incredible Towers of Paine. The Towers will suddenly come into full view, rising majestically before you, the sparkling glacial lake visible below. This is certainly one of the most breathtaking sights in the world. The Torres del Paine granite monoliths, at 2,900 m/9,400 ft, have been carved away by the forces of glacial ice. Sitting beneath the spires is the perfect place to enjoy a picnic lunch as you marvel at the intense power of the natural world.

BikeHike Adventures’ “On the Trail of Chile’s Patagonia” trip includes hiking Torres del Paine National Park

Northern Vietnam — Sapa Valley

Rice Paddies with Locals

The highlights of travelling to Vietnam include not only the landscapes, but also the culture. Both of these highlights can be combined in an epic hike through the Sapa Valley.

The lush mountain range in Northern Vietnam is where you’ll find the Sapa Valley, an area rich with rice terraces and Vietnam’s most remote hill-tribes, including the colorful Dzao hill tribe. Trekking through the Sapa Valley with a local guide will allow you the opportunity to learn about these families and gain insights into their daily lives in this valley. The hike is somewhat challenging at times, as lo you may need to balance your weight on the ledges of the terraced rice paddies and a trail that traverses the steep mountainside. If you are lucky, you may be able to have lunch with locals. If not, dining on a packed lunch along the side of a stream or rice field is equally spectacular.

BikeHike Adventures’ “Active Indochina” or “Hike, Bike and Kayak Northern Vietnam” both include hiking Sapa Valley.

Ecuador – Mount Fuya Fuya

Cuicocha - Ecuador

Fuya Fuya is located 20 kilometers (12.4 mi) south of the town of Otavalo. Hiking up this mountain will lead you to a spectacular view over one of Ecuador’s hidden gems, the Lagunas de Mojanda– three pristine crater lakes located at the base of the mountain. Mojanda, an inactive volcano of the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes in northern Ecuador, was last active 200,000 year ago.

A great hike to do starts from around 3,900m/14000ft and ascends to the summit of Fuya Fuya at 4,300m/14190ft. A typical area hike takes 2-4 hours and a typical hike is around 4km/2mi, making Fuya Fuya a very reasonable mountain hike, and a great introduction to the Andes before attempting even higher mountain peaks. When you reach the top though, the view of the collapsed crater of Mojanda is stunning and arguably one of the best views in Ecuador.

BikeHike Adventures’ “Andes to the Amazon” trip includes hiking Mount Fuya Fuya.

Panama – Amistad National Park

Panama-Waterfall

When most people think of Panama, they think about the Panama Canal, the massive manmade wonder of a canal that connects the Atlantic Ocean to the Pacific Ocean. However, Panama boasts so much more than just this amazing canal. And a hike through Amistad National Park, Central America’s largest nature reserve, is an absolute must during a visit to Panama. Amistad National Park was carved out by Quaternary glaciers and tropical rainforests now cover most of the park. In this very special rainforest, you’ll discover more than 100 species of mammals, including many primates like the howler monkey and black handed spider monkeys, tapir, olingo and shrew. During a hike through the park, you may also witness extraordinary cultural diversity. Four distinct indigenous tribes continue to occupy the area, and archaeological sites suggest that this area has also been occupied by many millennia.

With the guidance of a local, a perfect hike lasts about three hours, taking you just deep enough into this wild paradise to experience its splendor. Wander across rustic bridges, past secondary forests and through extraordinary bamboo groves. Waterfalls and natural swimming holes provide refreshment from the heat and provide a perfect stop along the way.

BikeHike Adventures’ “Rumble in the Jungle” includes hiking in Amistad National Park.

Galapagos – Sierra Negro Volcano, Isabela Island

Galapagos-Animals

It’s nearly impossible to think about the Galapagos Islands without thinking about Charles Darwin’s legendary research and discoveries there.

Isabela island is the perfect place to hike around while marvelling at the land that inspired Darwin’s research, Isabela’s rich biodiversity being unparalleled. The island is home to more wild tortoises than any of the other Galapagos islands because these extremely slow moving turtles were unable to cross lava flows to the expand their territory.

Wild tortoises roam roam free across the island and can best be spotting when hiking through the calderas In fact, spotting these tortoises is often a highlight on any Galapagos trip. However, you’ll also have the opportunity to many other incredible forms of wildlife, including huge land iguanas, Darwin’s finches and many more. Along the west of the island, you’ll find the best place in all of the Galapagos for spotting whales and dolphins.

BikeHike Adventures’ land-based trip, “Galapagos Multi-sport,” includes hiking on Isabela Island.