• Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton
    Sydney Australia - credit Jackie Appleton

Country: Panama

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Panama is a small country situated at the southern end of the Central American isthmus. Rightly famous for its 82km ship canal running from the Pacific Ocean to the Caribbean, it is very much more than just this. With a booming economy and a growing tourist industry it offers you history, pristine rainforests with abundant wildlife and indigenous tribes and Panama City – three cities in one. This is a year round destination with tropical weather throughout the year and a dry season that runs from November to April.

Panama City firstly offers you the ancient ruined part known as La Vieja, the original Spanish city that they burned down when the Spanish authorities heard that Henry Morgan was on his way to capture the city.  Casco Antiguo grew up a short distance from the original and still has a very Spanish feel to it. Home to boutique hotels, interesting bars and restaurants it is a place to explore and enjoy yourself. Finally there is the modern skyscraper city that is lively and with some interesting architecture.

 

Away from the city you could transit the Panama Canal as an experience or just visit the locks at Miraflores which house a museum on the construction of the first Canal and a cafe with views over the lock so that you can watch the precision needed for large ships navigating their ways to and from the Caribbean and Pacific. The second Canal is already in operation and again worth viewing as it takes larger vessels along it.

 

Just a short distance from the city, you could be climbing into a powered dugout boat and racing up a fast river deep in the rainforest to meet the indigenous tribe that lives here. Enjoy time learning how they exist in the forest, their tribal structure, their herbal medicines, their arts and craft and even a dance or two. Perhaps include trek through the cloud forest at Boquete looking at the truly colourful flora and bird life.

In addition you could be lazing on the palm fringed white sandy beaches of Bocas del Toro. Here the waters are clear – ideal for swimming, diving and snorkelling.

All in all there are plenty of reasons to holiday in Panama or combine it with a trip to Costa Rica.

 

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Panama

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

Country: Cuba

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

The largest of the Caribbean Islands, Cuba has much to offer for those travellers that have an interest in history, current and ancient, music, architecture and stunning beaches. Add in friendly people, varied and interesting scenery and direct flights and it is a great destination for most at reasonable prices.

This is a Third World country with 97% literacy and one of the best health services anywhere. Doctors and nurses and the chief export of Cuba.  But money is scarce so do not be surprised that all of the roads have potholes that rival African ones. Of course cigars feature heavily in the economy as does sugar but tourism is very much a prime industry and a hope for their future. The horse, oxen and mule are still very much in evidence. For every cowboy you saw in the USA there are 5,000 Cuban ones and they do truly work on the land.

Because the US has enforced an embargo on Cuba for the past 55 years things have to last, be renewed, worked around etc. There are 75,000 old cars still running and they cannot be exported. Many are in a really good state and fun to ride in. The iconic photo of an ancient Buick, Ford or Chevy outside an ancient Spanish colonial era building is one that you will keep taking.

Things are changing slowly, so do not delay too long before heading out there.

 

 

Cuba

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Cuba

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Cuba

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Cuba

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

The Cuba Experience with Peter Ellis

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Cuba is a destination that is hugely popular at the moment, the increase partly due to changed relations with the US, and this in turn spurring on potential visitors to explore the island before it changes beyond recognition. Peter and his wife Julie visited for a holiday last month, and loved it! Below is their report.

With direct scheduled flights from Gatwick to Havana, and charters from both Gatwick and Manchester to Holguin, Cuba is easily accessible and well worth considering for your next Experience Holiday.

Havana
We stayed in B&B accommodation for almost the entire trip and they are recommended – better presented and family run. However there are good 5 star hotels with more on the way should this be your preference. The B&B’s are good value and often well located – ours was very central making everything very walkable for the Old Town.

You should consider a 4 night stay here particularly if the plane gets in late. There is so much to see and do and it is very worthwhile having a guided (themed) tour as many of the best sites are not obvious or easy to find. Added to which you will be shown the less touristy side of the city. Every kind of method of getting around from donkey carts to old Russian trucks squeeze through these streets so keep your eyes peeled. Certainly try getting around on a biki taxi, a coconut taxi and for sure book at least a 3 hour tour of the city and Hemingway Finca in a Classic convertible also taking in the fortress (the biggest in the New World).

We have a list of “Paladars” which are privately owned/run restaurants which are excellent but often fill quickly – so book some of them for the trip. Rum cocktails abound, especially mojitos which it is claimed were invented here.

Havana is a very safe, walkable place with huge contrasts in architecture and levels of renovation – from ruins next to renovated.

 

Guama, Bay of Pigs to Cienfuego
We took the long way down to Cienfuegos to take in the wilder Zapatas Peninsula which is a RAMSAR site and a big National Park. We stopped at a crocodile breeding centre (for the endangered Cuban croc) which was interesting and also the place to catch your boat to Villas Horizintes Guama. This is a good eco lodge deep in the Park and worth a night or two.

Bay of Pigs is the site of an abortive invasion of Cuba in 1960 but there is little to see here. It is also where you find “sink holes” connected to sea which are full of colourful sea fish. Take your swim suit so you can take a dip in one or to snorkel off shore. A good diving spot as well.

Cienfuegos is worth a one night stop as it has plenty of history, is very clean and some interesting architecture – Palacio de Valle is perfectly placed for outstanding views of the Bay and city. Cruise ships come in regularly, so get your sightseeing in early. The casa particular that we stayed in was eclectic and fun and had good food.

 

Trinidad and the drive there
Not too far to go from Cienfuegos but we detoured in to the mountains, Sierra del Escambray so that we could undertake a 3 hour hike through the mountains. There are caves, waterfalls, plenty of bird life and a chance to cool down in any of the cool clean pools you find along the trail. Well worth doing on the way to Trinidad.

Trinidad is a must see destination – a really well preserved Spanish/Cuban city which is very easy to wander around. Plenty to see and do, including dancing lessons and every evening dancing on the steps of the Casa de Musica. Live music is everywhere in Cuba and most of it is good. While here take the train to the sugar growing Valle Los Ingenios – slow but fun with a bar on board if you are missing your mojitos. Here visit the eighteen century mansions of the sugar barons and their slave quarters and learn about the sugar trade and those that worked for it.

On the Beach – Varadero
Finish a trip to Cuba on the beach. We went to Varadero which is well developed with large hotels and nothing like the rest of Cuba. The beach here is beautiful white sand, kept very clean and the water crystal clear. A great place to unwind and relax. Most hotels are all inclusive. All have entertainment and there are places away from the hotel to eat out at (one is Al Capone’s old home).

There are a number of other beach destinations which have their own appeal depending on your interests and preferences.

For more information on Cuba, give us a call or send us an email – we’d be more than happy to chat through ideas and possibilities with you.

Suggested itinerary link – Cuba Itinerary

   

All pictures courtesy of Peter Ellis.

Along the Limpopo River, South Africa and Botswana

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

This is a different side to both South Africa and Botswana which has the mighty Limpopo River as its main theme. The river and its tributaries support a huge variety of animals and birds. Add in evidence of human history that goes right back to our earliest times to give you another interest while here. A different type of safari in a different South Africa and Botswana.

Summary

Southern Africa and Botswana – Along the Limpopo River

 

Day 1:              Johannesburg

Day 2:              Madikwe         

Day 4:             Mashatu, Botswana

Day 7:              Limpopo

Day 8:              Kruger

Day 11:            Panoramic Route

Day 12:            Hazyview

Day 13:            Johannesburg

Description

Description

 

The northern border of South Africa is often described as a different experience of this country – wilder and more remote. Combining this with the Tuli Block in Botswana, known as the land of Giants for its elephant herds and huge baobab trees, and you have a smorgasbord of the unexpected and the best of the wild Africa.

 

Day 1: Johannesburg

Stay overnight in Johannesburg and consider a tour of the city, taking in Constitution Hill with its fort and the Constitution Court, a trip to Soweto to see the Apartheid Museum and a visit to the only street in the world where two Nobel Peace Prize winners have lived (Mandela and Tutu).

One night Johannesburg

 

Day 2: Madikwe

Drive towards the Botswana border. Your first stop is Madikwe Game Reserve home to the Big 5 and wild dog and with a mixture of plains, forest and rocky hills to vary your experiences. Being malaria free adds to the attraction of this Reserve and many of the lodges here are family friendly.

Two nights Madikwe

 

Day 4: Mashatu, Botswana

Head to the North West South African border with Botswana at Pontdrift and cross the Limpopo into the Tuli Conservation area of Botswana. Your days here focus on the wildlife that is abundant in this region, particularly large herds of elephant and good sightings of leopard, lion and cheetah. Take time to join a walking safari or take to mountain bikes and follow your guide as you negotiate the rough terrain and the wildlife you will encounter. Also make time to explore the history of the region going back to the beginning of man, the Great Zimbabwe era and the colonial past.

Three nights Mashatu

 

Day 7: Limpopo

Return to Pontdrift and then drive along the Limpopo towards the very northern part of the Kruger National Park. Break the journey with an overnight stay at one of the lodges that have views over the Limpopo River.

One night Limpopo

 

Day 8: Kruger

Enter the Kruger National Park by its most northerly gate – Pafuri. The river is a great attraction for animals and birds and sitting on a platform watching the coming and going at the river is a good way to spend a few hours. Your guide here will take you out through the Park to see a whole host of wildlife and stunning scenery such as the Fever tree forest (glows in the moonlight) and stone tools fashioned by stone aged people. If you enjoy birding this region has much to offer in the way of rare specimens.

Three nights Kruger

 

Day 11: Panoramic Route

Leaving the Kruger behind you will start your journey along the Panoramic Route. There are many attractions along the way to ensure you do not rush it, such as the Blyde River Canyon, Bourke’s Luck Potholes, the Three Rondavels, God’s Window and a number of waterfalls.

One night Panoramic Route

 

Day 12: Hazyview

End the Panoramic Route with a night in Hazyview and time to relax.

One night Hazyview

 

Day 13: Johannesburg

Return to Johannesburg for the end of your trip.

Africa

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Africa

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Africa

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

Africa

Picture courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Gems

Little Gems

Stand on an outcrop looking down on a herd of elephant as they make their way to a waterhole in the near distance while shaded by a baobab tree carved with the initials of Cecil Rhodes and his paramour, and sipping a sundowner.

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Uganda itinerary

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Picture courtesy of Bethan Evans. This itinerary ensures that you will see all the best that Uganda has to offer, both in wildlife and scenery.  It also gives you the chance to see the endangered and rare mountain gorillas.

Summary

Uganda

 

Day 1:     Kampala

Day 3:     Murchison Falls National Park

Day 5:     Kibale

Day 6:     Queen Elizabeth National Park

Day 9:     Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Day 11:    Lake Bunyonyi

Day 13:    Lake Victoria

Day 15:    Depart Uganda

Description

Description

 

The lesser known of East Africa’s countries, Uganda has a diverse offering in wildlife, scenery and experiences. Where else can you plan to see gorillas in their mountain homelands, watch chimpanzees range through the trees in search of fruit and anything else, see the Big 5 in classic African panorama and finish with a few days on a beach on Africa’s largest lake – Lake Victoria.

 

Day 1: Kampala

Take time to explore this lake side city and perhaps take a trip out to Mabamba Swamp for some seriously good bird watching. Amongst the highlights would be a good sighting of the incredible shoebill bird with its large flattened beak.

Two nights Kampala

 

Day 3: Murchison Falls

Next stop is Murchison Falls National Park where the River Nile is compressed from 47 metres wide to squeeze through 6 metre canyon and drop 40 metres making for a powerful view. This Park has all of the main plains animals and some unusual ones such as oribi and Rothschild giraffe. Join traditional game drives and then take a boat cruise to the foot of the Falls known as the Devil’s Cauldron. Going in the late afternoon ensures you will see all the wildlife coming down for their evening drink. Plenty of crocs and hippo to see along the way and over 450 species of bird are found here.

Two nights Murchison Falls National Park

 

Day 5: Kibale

Your drive takes you along the western rim of the Rift Valley and then to the Kibale Forest National Park. Here you will be guided by the expert trackers/rangers of the Park through the forest looking for the troops of chimps hunting through the trees. There are plenty of other monkeys to be found here, such as the red tailed monkey and grey cheeked Mangabey.

One night Kibale

 

Day 6: Queen Elizabeth National Park

Drive on into the Queen Elizabeth National Park and have a game drive looking for giant Forest Hogs on your way to camp. Here you have the conventional game drives looking for the usual plains game and their predators, most notably lion that climb in to the trees. Then take to a boat on the Kazinga Channel home to what is considered the largest number of hippo in Africa. Take a guided walk to the Blue Lake and the caves nearby which is home to millions of bats which in turn feed many python.

Three nights Queen Elizabeth National Park

 

Day 9: Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

Enjoy a game drive as you leave the Park and head to Bwindi Impenetrable Forest where you will meet the Batwa people who live here. Here you will receive briefing from the Park staff before your guide takes you through the forest to seek out the gorilla family that live here. You will have an hour with these gentle giants before returning to the lodge.

Two nights Bwindi Impenetrable Forest

 

Day 11: Lake Bunyonyi

Last tour through the forest before heading to Lake Bunyonyi where you can cruise out to Punishment Island where in past days unmarried pregnant girls where abandoned as punishment for conceiving before marriage. Relax in this beautiful location.

Two nights Lake Bunyonyi

 

Day 13: Lake Victoria

Back to Lake Victoria and a boat transfer to one of the islands on the Lake for some time to relax on a beach.

Two nights Lake Victoria

 

Day 15: Depart Uganda

Leave Uganda today for the onward or homeward journey.

Uganda

Picture courtesy of Bethan Evans

Uganda

Picture courtesy of Bethan Evans

Uganda

Picture courtesy of Bethan Evans

Little Gems

Little Gem

Being so close to a family of gorillas, who have accepted you as part of the day, and watching their family interactions. Magical, and worth the climb through the forest even in the wet.

What our client says

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Highlights of Cuba

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Cuba has always been a beach destination with perhaps a quick tour in to Havana, the capital. However it is so much more than just excellent beaches. The architecture is amazing with a heavy Spanish influence, the biggest fortress in North America, stunning mountain ranges and music of quality everywhere.

Summary

Highlights of Cuba

Cuba has always been a beach destination with perhaps a quick tour in to Havana, the capital. However it is so much more than just excellent beaches. The architecture is amazing with a heavy Spanish influence, the biggest fortress in North America, stunning mountain ranges and music of quality everywhere. The 75,000 old cars are a huge attraction and you will see 10 times more cowboys in Cuba than any country north of it. Friendly and welcoming people will make you feel you have chosen well.

It is a third world country that has suffered a 55 year embargo, so things like roads are poor, but they have a richness in other ways and make the most of life.

 

Day 1: Havana

Day 5: Guama, Zapatas Peninsula

Day 7: Cienfuegos

Day 8: Trinidad

Day 11: On the beach

Day 15: Havana

Description

Description

 

Havana has much to offer but you would be missing so much by just going there and the beach. What follows gives a flavour of other locations and activities to ensure you experience the richness of the largest Caribbean island.

 

Day 1 Havana

Arrive Havana and transfer to your B&B in the centre of Havana. Over the next few days explore the city on foot with a guide taking you from one magnificent square to the next, explaining the history of the places and giving you a taste of Cuban life. Experience different ways to travel around – from biki taxis, coconut taxis to a 3 hour afternoon drive in a classic old car. Eat out at Paladars (private restaurants) and immerse yourselves in to the night life and the music and dancing. Follow the Hemingway trail in the city and venture out to his Finca (farm) which is now a museum to his time in Cuba.

4 nights Havana

 

Day 5: Guama, Zapatas Peninsula

Transfer to the south and the Zapatas Peninsula and visit a croc farm that is breeding the endangered Cuban Crocodile. Then catch your boat to your Eco Lodge deep in the National Park. Time to relax in the pristine environment and to explore it further.

2 nights Zapatas Peninsula

 

Day 7: Cienfuegos

Catch the boat back to your transfer to Cienfuegos, stopping along the way at the Bay of Pigs and a “Sink Hole” connected to the sea. A chance to swim with the colourful fish found here or snorkel off the coast. Explore Cienfuegos on foot and enjoy the French inspired architecture and clean city.

1 night Cienfuegos

 

Day 8: Trinidad

Drive up to the mountains for a 3 hour trek through the forest, stopping to explore the caves, waterfalls and to swim in the clear pools along the path. Finish with a lunch in the mountains before continuing to Trinidad, one of Cuba’s jewels in the crown. It is a truly magnificent city, untouched by modern architecture and easy to explore. Here join a salsa class and then practice your moves on the steps at Casa de la Musica. Then take the train out to the Valle Los Ingenios to learn about the sugar trade, the sugar barons and the slaves that worked here.

3 nights Trinidad

 

Day 11: On the Beach

Stopping at Santa Clara to see the Che Guevera mausoleum before heading to one of the pristine beaches that Cuba is famous for. Time to relax and take advantage of the water sports on offer. Diving and snorkelling is excellent in certain places.

4 nights Beach

 

Day 15: Havana

Transfer back to Havana to catch your homeward flight.

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

Picture Courtesy of Peter Ellis

 

 

Little Gems

Little Gems

When in Havana climb to the top of the Edificio Gomez Villa and see the oldest “Camera Obscura” in the New World. This will give you a unique panoramic view of Old Havana and people moving across the squares. The camera zooms in magnificently on local sites.

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Star Clippers – Discover the Hidden Wonders of Thailand

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Star Clippers who offer a different sailing experience with the character of traditional sailing but still with the comfort and luxury found on most modern cruises, are offering an adventurous cruise around the hidden parts of Thailand and Malaysia.

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

 

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

These sailings explore some of the most iconic and beautiful parts known as the “Pearl of the Orient” with un spoilt beaches and islands that form part of the

National Marine Park here. The people are friendly, the water beautifully clear and the marine life amazing.

 

Nor do you have to bring your own snorkel and flippers, they are provided. If you need other activities as you sale around the islands and along the coast, you can try sailing, paddle boarding and kayaking – all complimentary.

 

 

 

For 7 nights cruising, 2 nights pre cruise in the Sala Hotel in Phuket and flights the cost is from £2179 per person and always subject to availability.

Please call us for more information on 01323 446550 or email: info@experienceholidays.co.uk

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

Picture courtesy of Star Clippers

Travel in Style across Peru

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Travelling across Peru in style has become easier with the launch of the Andean Explorer Train. This is seriously comfortable train travel with your own cabin and off train excursions to some of Peru’s most iconic sites. The journey has the following itinerary:

Picture courtesy of Jackie Appleton

Day 1

Board the train in the ancient city of Arequipa, settle in to your cabin and acclimatise to the unforgettable style of the train as you start the journey towards Puno. Join your fellow travellers in the bar car before sitting down to a refined Andean dinner in the dinner car. All the while the scenery changes as you settle in to luxury train travel

Day 2

The sun will be rising over Lake Titicaca as you awake and then head for breakfast before a day of exploration. Time to explore the world’s highest navigable lake, firstly in a traditional boat out to Uros, a man made island constructed of interwoven reeds. The people that live on the island also construct their homes, ships and tools from the same reeds.

From here you will head to Taquile Island with its stunning terraced agricultural strips. The inhabitants here live by the same social code that has been in place for the past centuries. Their hand woven fabrics are regarded as the best in Peru. Enjoy lunch on the Collata Beach followed by a performance of local dancers and a chance to watch artisans at work.

Return to the train for a delicious tea and relax as the train heads towards to Cusco.

Picture courtesy of Jackie Appleton

Day 3

Breakfast this morning is accompanied by stunning views as the train heads sets off from Marangani. You will have an off train excursion to Raqch’I archaeological site of a once important Inca settlement.

 

All too soon you will be arriving At Cusco, the former Inca capital. Time to bid farewell to the train crew and the start of your next Peruvian adventure.

Picture courtesy of Jackie Appleton

 

Picture courtesy of Jackie Appleton

Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

Travelling through stunning countryside, with opportunities for wildlife watching and plenty of outdoor activity, this itinerary covers the best parts of these two stunning national parks in the USA over a two week itinerary.

Summary

Yellowstone and Glacier National Parks

Travelling through stunning countryside, with opportunities for wildlife watching and plenty of outdoor activity, this itinerary covers the best parts of these two stunning national parks in the USA over a two week itinerary.

 

Day 1: Salt Lake City

Day 2: Jackson

Day 3: Grand Teton National Park

Day 5: Yellowstone National Park

Day 7: Cody

Day 9: Yellowstone via the Beartooth Highway

Day 11: Helena

Day 12: Glacier National Park

Day 15: Depart Kalispell or Missoula

 

Yellowstone & Glacier

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

Description

Description

 

Day 1: Salt Lake City

Arrive into Salt Lake City today, overnight here before starting your road trip tomorrow.

Salt Lake City 1 night

 

Day 2: Jackson

Collect your car and head north into the cowboy State of Wyoming; The wonderful village of Jackson is a great stop with excellent shops, restaurants, bars and galleries.

Jackson 1 night

 

Day 3: Grand Teton National Park

Continue your drive today heading into Grand Teton National Park. Stunning scenery includes the summit of Grand Teton and the plains of the valley floor here.

Grand Tetons 2 nights

 

Day 5: Yellowstone National Park

Today you head into stunning Yellowstone National Park through the south entrance for the first of two stays in the area. Abundant wildlife, rugged peaks and wilderness make up much of this incredible area.  The amazing geysers and thermal hot spots throughout Yellowstone are a big draw for visitors.

Yellowstone National Park 2 nights

 

Day 7: Cody

Depart through the Eastern Entrance of Yellowstone to the little town of Cody – this is a stunning drive through the Shoshone National Forest. Home to Buffalo Bill, no visit to Cody is complete without a tour of the famous Buffalo Bill Centre of the West which features five museums under one roof. In the evening take a drive to the edge of town to watch a rodeo.

Cody 2 nights

 

Day 9: Yellowstone via the Beartooth Highway

For todays drive head along one of the most spectacular alpine highways in North America, the Beartooth Highway. With sweeping views of snow-covered mountains and crystal clear alpine lakes as you wind your way to the summit and back down.  Return into Yellowstone through the Lamar Valley – a great wildlife viewing area.

Yellowstone 2 nights

 

Day 11: Helena

Leaving Yellowstone via the north entrance, drive on into the state of Montana. The drive takes you past rolling hills and mountains and on to Montana’s State Capital, Helena. Take a trolley tour through the Last Chance Gulch, the bustling and vibrant historic downtown area has great restaurants, micro breweries, bars and shops.

Helena 1 night

 

Day 12: Glacier National Park

Continue to Glacier National Park. This gorgeous park, straddling the US/Canada border boasts pristine forests, alpine meadows, rugged mountains, and spectacular lakes. With over 700 miles of trails, Glacier is a paradise for walkers and adventurous visitors seeking wilderness and solitude.  Drive the 50 miles along the stunning Going-to-the- Sun Road and spend three nights spent at two different areas of the park.

Glacier National Park 3 nights

 

Day 15: Depart Kalispell or Missoula

Say goodbye to Montana and head to the airport for the onward or homeward journey.

Yellowstone & Glacier

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

Yellowstone & Glacier

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

Yellowstone & Glacier

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

Yellowstone & Glacier

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

Yellowstone & Glacier

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Yellowstone & Glacier

Picture courtesy of Yvonne Dann

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Little Gems

Little Gems

What our client says

Client Feedback

Coming soon!

Walking in New Zealand

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Posted by:

Vicki Tester

 

New Zealand is a country known for its varied and stunning scenery, from rolling farmland, lush forests, deserted beaches and boiling mud pools to rugged mountains, dramatic glaciers and crystal clear lakes. A favourite pastime for locals and visitors alike, tramping (or hiking/walking as we would call it) is a wonderful way to get out and explore some of the most pristine wilderness the country has to offer.

Whether you’re interested in a short walk, a long distance walking track or something in between, the tracks are well marked, well maintained and the operators very professional.

Walks can be self-guided (making sure to follow sensible safety protocol such as ensuring the authorities know your intended route and timeframe), or you could opt to join a small guided group, with a knowledgeable expert on the region. In some cases, luggage can be transferred to the next accommodation each day, enabling you to simply travel with a day pack whereas on other routes, all luggage required for the walk will be carried by you. The long distance walking tracks should be planned and booked well in advance, and can be easily combined within a wider holiday to New Zealand.

There are nine designated ‘Great Walks’ in New Zealand, which are all long distance tracks:

 

Tongariro Northern Circuit

Winding its way past Mt Tongariro and Mt Ngauruhoe, the Tongariro Northern Circuit offers dramatic volcanic landscapes and a rich geological and ancestral past. From Alpine herb fields to forests, and tranquil lakes to desert-like plateau, you’ll journey through a landscape of stark contrasts with amazing views at every turn. To the north is Lake Taupo, to the east the rugged Kaimanawa ranges and on a clear day you may even catch a glimpse of Mount Taranaki on the west coast.

Tongariro Northern Circuit Oturere Hut_99914

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

Tongariro Northern Circuit Taranaki Falls_99913

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

This is a four day walk over a total distance of 43.1 kilometres. It can be walked in either direction, and is a looped route from Whakapapa Village. It is also possible to take just a one day section of this trip, which is called the Tongariro Alpine Crossing.

 

Lake Waikaremoana

A refuge amongst prehistoric rainforest with access to some of New Zealand’s most iconic birds, this Great Walk around the shoreline of Lake Waikaremoana is truly outstanding. Marvel at giant native trees, stumble upon beautiful remote beaches and be enchanted by the area’s fascinating cultural history. A visit to the heart of Te Urewera on the eastern side of the North Island will offer a glimpse of how New Zealand used to be.

Lake Waikaremoana, Suspension Bridge_99909

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

This is a four day walk covering a total distance of 46km. It can be walked in either direction, and goes from Onepoto to Hopuruahine Landing.

 

Whanganui Journey

This is technically a canoe or kayaking trip rather than a walk. Paddle your way from mountains to sea through a landscape of remote hills and valleys on the magical Whanganui Journey. Experience the scenic beauty, history and cultural significance of the winding Whanganui River in the southwest of the North Island.

Whanganui Journey On The River_99906

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

Whanganui Journey_99905

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Choose a five day journey from Taumarunui to Pipiriki (145km), or a shorter three day journey starting at Whakahoro (87km), featuring the most scenic stretches of the river.

 

Abel Tasman Coast Track

Blessed with a mild climate, golden beaches and lush, coastal native bush, the Abel Tasman Track has it all. Located in Abel Tasman National Park on the South Island’s northern shores, this gentle Great Walk showcases the best that the park has to offer. Marvel at naturally sculptured granite cliffs and crystal clear waters. Choose to hike the whole track, or water taxi and kayak between different locations at any time of the year.

Abel Tasman Coast Track Onetahuti Bay_99911

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

The whole track will usually take five days and covers a total distance of 55.2km. It can be walked in either direction.

 

Heaphy Track

If it’s varied and rugged landscape with mountain views you’re looking for, you’ll be spoilt for choice on the Heaphy Track. This is located in Kahurangi National Park in the northwest of the South Island and has a range of options to suit different fitness levels. Tackle the track in four or five days, or take your time and soak in the views over six days.

Heaphy Track Images_100655

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

Heaphy Track Images_100658

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

Heaphy Track Images

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

The track covers a total distance of 78.4 kilometres, and can be walked in either direction. It goes from Brown Hut to Kohaihai river mouth. There is also a popular two-day overnight return trip on the western side from Kohaihai to Heaphy Hut.

 

Routeburn Track

This is the ultimate alpine adventure, taking you through ice-carved valleys and below the majestic peaks of the Southern Alps. A short trip from bustling Queenstown, this Great Walk links Mt Aspiring and Fjordland National Parks in the Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. Weaving through meadows, reflective tarns and alpine gardens, you’ll be rewarded with spectacular vistas over vast mountain ranges and valleys.

Routeburn Track, Earland Falls_99923

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

This is a three day walk, covering a total of 32.1 kilometres. It can be walked in both direction, and runs between Routeburn Shelter and The Divide.

 

Milford Track

Follow this historic route through Fjordland National Park, part of Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. Take a pilgrimage along valleys carved by glaciers and through ancient rainforest, before reaching your final destination: the spectacular Milford Sound.

Milford Track, Anita Bay_99917

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

Milford Track, Bridge Over Arthur River_99920

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

 

 

 

This is a four day walk that can only be taken in one direction, from Glade Wharf to Sandfly Point. It covers a total distance of 53.5 kilometres.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kepler Track

This is an incredible wilderness experience right on Te Anau’s doorstep. It’s a fantastic opportunity to experience the most accessible of Fjordland’s Great Walks. It traverses Fjordland National Park in the southwest of the South Island and is part of Te Wahipounamu – South West New Zealand World Heritage Area. The remarkable scenery includes everything from remote lakes and peaceful beech forest backdrops to rocky peaks and exposed alpine tussock lands.

Kepler Track View From Ridgeline_112643

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

Kepler Track, Ridgeline_99915

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

 

 

It is a four day walk that can be walked in either direction, and is a looped route from the Kepler Track car park. The total distance covered is 60.1 kilometres.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rakiura Track

Escape on an island adventure, and exchange the hustle and bustle of the mainland for the tranquillity of the Rakiura Track. Located in Rakiura National Park on Stewart Island, the Rakiura Track is a leisurely three day hike suitable for anyone with a moderate level of fitness. Relax and unwind in the peaceful surroundings with the bush, birds and beach at your side. Stewart Island is one of the few places that kiwi birds can be found in the wild.

Rakiura Track, Log Hauler_99919

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

Rakiura Track_99918

Picture courtesy of The Department of Conservation NZ

 

 

 

The track is circular and can be walked in either direction. The total distance covered is 32.1 kilometres.

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