Author Archives: Rachel Kristensen

What makes a trip to New Zealand so special?

Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

For most travellers, a trip to New Zealand feels like a must do in a lifetime. The two islands provide a stark contrast from one another. The Northern half is a south Pacific Island that has typical idyllic palm fringed beaches. The south stretches to glacial fjords, and sprawling mountain ranges. All over is fertile flatlands, volcanically active wonders, and some of the best wine you’ll ever taste. Over 1000 years ago, the Maoris travelled here and called the island ‘the long white cloud’. The strong and fearless Polynesians were hunters and gathers creating pa villages that can still be found across the country. Today New Zealand is a blend of friendly, humble people from every corner of the world. Ask a Kiwi where their favourite destination is and they’ll describe something magical. Imagine cruising on a lake the size of Singapore. In an underground river lit up by glowworms. Or searching for Bluff oysters on New Zealand’s rugged coast. There are a million reasons and places in New Zealand that could warrant a visit, but instead of telling you about it, we’ll just show you photos.  

Waitangi Marae, New Zealand. #NZMustDO (pic: @corinwalkerbain) #Travel #NewZealand

A photo posted by New Zealand (@purenewzealand) on

Lupins at Lake Tekapo, New Zealand. #NZMustDO (pic: @linnea_lotte) #Nature #Lakes #Travel #NewZealand A photo posted by New Zealand (@purenewzealand) on

Spot the weka on Mou Waho Island, New Zealand. #NZMustDO (pic: @ecowanakaadventures) #Nature #Travel #Birds #NewZealand

A photo posted by New Zealand (@purenewzealand) on

For those wanting to explore this beautiful country, have a look at our tours to New Zealand.

Introducing Everyday Middle East

As part of the Adventures Abroad’s family, Lindsay MacKenzie is a name you may know well as one of our beloved tour leaders. Working also as a photographer and a multimedia journalist, Lindsay boldly started a project called Everyday Middle East to document life beyond the grueling headlines in both the Middle East and Northern Africa. The project is beautiful and we can’t express how proud we are of her accomplishments with this. Here is a quick look at the Everyday Middle East project on Instagram.  

Old City of Jerusalem. Photo by Wissam Nassar @wissamgaza @wissam.lens #Jerusalem #oldcity #everydaymiddleeast #everydayeverywhere

A photo posted by Everyday Middle East (@everydaymiddleeast) on

Waitstaff prepare to break their #Ramadan fast in #Dubai. Photo by @msomji everydaymiddleeast #uae

A photo posted by Everyday Middle East (@everydaymiddleeast) on

Explore the everyday Middle East yourself, join a tour to the Gulf Statestour Iran or explore many of our other Middle East tours.

7 incredible images of Argentina and Chile

If you’ve been, you know: Argentina and Chile, the southern end of South America, hold some of the world’s most stunning landscapes. Deserts, volcanoes, glaciers and rainforests all in vast wilderness areas that give a stark contrast to the chic cosmopolitan cities the countries also boast. These two countries are what dreams are made of. That is, if your dreams include nature, wildlife and exotic escapes. Here are seven incredible images that prove these two countries are simply the best:
Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Patagonia: At the far end of Argentina and Chile, this southern section of the Andes is this a wilderness comprising of of mountains, lakes, deserts and grasslands. It is one of the most diverse regions of the world.


Mendoza Some forget that Chile and Argentina also boast one of the best wine growing regions of the world. What better way to relax on an adventurous tour than to enjoy vineyards and the fruit of the land.
Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Tierra del Fuego With so many photos of glaciers and mountains of Argentina and Chile, we hardly see photos of the forests. Here a look at the sub-polar forests in Tierra del Fuego.
Source: Trip Advisor

Source: Trip Advisor

El Calafate As the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park, expect to see stunning icefields like this one on any day out in El Calafate.
Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Bariloche A lakeside town full of chocolate shops and beautiful vistas. Need we say more?
Source: Wikipedia

Source: Wikipedia

Torres del Paine Home to one of the most iconic mountain trails in the world, thoughts are Paine stems from an indigenous word for the word blue noting the piercing colours of alpine lakes found in the region.  
Source Wikipedia

Source Wikipedia

Atacama Desert The wild llamas aren’t the only thing special about the Atacama desert. Volcanoes provide the backdrop on red mars-like landscapes with thermal pools and lost lagoons dotting the park. It is also the driest non-polar region in the world. Take a tour of Argentina and Chile this year, next tour leaves soon.

An extraordinary adventure in the Canadian Arctic

You asked, we delivered. For over 25 years, Adventures Abroad has been taking groups to countries all over the world. But what about those exotic and hard to reach locations within our homelands. Each year we update our tours to keep destinations fresh, and often we’ll prepare private or one-off tours to unique locations. In 2015, one of these unique tours was to the Canadian Arctic with Martin Charlton. Below are some of his extraordinary highlights, as documented on his Instagram. Thank you for sharing Martin!  

Arctic exploration at the top of Baffin Island. Near Bylot Island and the flow edge.

A photo posted by Martin Charlton (@travelbug1970) on

Making our way across the ice to our camp at the floe edge. From Pond Inlet to Bylot Island.

A photo posted by Martin Charlton (@travelbug1970) on

Exploring the Canadian Arctic… high above the Arctic Circle.

A photo posted by Martin Charlton (@travelbug1970) on

What to see in Central America

Deciding what to see in Central America can be overwhelming. Spanning seven countries, it is hard to decide whether to focus on Nicaragua, Guatemala, Costa Rica, Honduras, Panama, Belize, or El Salvador. Allow us to break down what to expect while touring Central America.

Rachel Kristensen - Central America (4)

 Fire, ash and steam.

Located in the Ring of Fire, the Central American Volcanic Arc contains hundreds of volcanic formations.

No trip to Central America is complete without seeing a few of these dramatic landscapes, from watching actual lava to getting steamed with boiling mud.

Nicaragua’s Ometepe Island is picturesque with two volcanoes dominating its land, while the volcanoes surrounding Guatemalas colonial towns only add to the ambience.

These two countries offer the best in getting up close and personal to volcanic landscapes as well as far enough away to appreciate their scale.

Rachel Kristensen - Central America (2)

Churches and Cathedrals

Distinctly Spanish colonial architecture, most Central American cities were designed with a park or plaza with a beautiful cathedral located on its perimeter.

Eighty percent of Central America is Roman Catholic, the majority of the remainder are Protestant, which means even the smallest of villages often will have at least one house of worship.

Interestingly, in Guatemala, much of the Mayan population worships a fusion of Mayan gods and Catholicism which can be witnessed in both cathedrals and in personal houses.


Flora and fauna

The natural wonders of Central America are remarkable.

Those who enjoy exploring the underwater world will be treated to one of the most diverse and beautiful dive spots in the world, along the 2nd largest reef system.

Above water, standing underneath the lush green canopies with macaws and hundreds of other birds squawking, while monkeys swing from vines above you allows you to have your own imagination of a Tarzan lifestyle.

The best monkeys to encounter are the howler monkeys as, they give off this low growl noise that seems fit for a horror movie.  Just note that sometimes these monkeys have been known to throw things at people, so look up if you hear one!

Want a truly unforgettable experience? Mix in your explorations with a Mayan temples visit.


Temples, pyramids and ball courts

As one of the worlds great empires, Mayan structures are found all throughout Mesa-America.

In Tikal, enormous structures as high as 44m rise out of the forests and spread across the limestone and forested plain. Considering how amazing this place is and that dozens of temples still remain under dirt, I look forward to return in the years to come where more is excavated.

Copan, in Honduras, with its intricate carvings on the stone stellas are unlike any other Mayan site. Other than the scuba diving in the Bay Islands, most people give Honduras a miss, but Copan makes it well worth a visit.

Belize has Caracol and Lamanai temples close together that are both very rewarding visits.

For those looking for a look at modern Mayan life, there is no better place than the Sunday Market of Chichicastenango. The colourful fusion of Mayan gods, Christian deities and the smoking figure of Maximon is something you need to witness.

Ready to go? Get to know Central America better on our recently improved Central American highlights tour of Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras and Guatemala.

Quick facts about the Galapagos

gal Ever thought of visiting the Galapagos Islands, a group of volcanic islands that straddle the equator and sit 525 miles east of Ecuador? Well if you did, here are some quick facts about your next adventure location. Some may know that the Darwinian Theory of the Origin of Man was developed after studying the Galapagos Islands, but did you know that confluence of four ocean currents (Equatorial, Cromwell, Humboldt, and Panama) in this area is what gives it such an unpredictable and unique climate? Think that penguins are only found in the Southern Hemisphere? Wrong. Penguins found in the Galapagos Islands are the only penguins known to breed in the Northern Hemisphere. Ever wondered why the cormorants don’t fly away from the islands? Unfortunately (or possibly fortunately) for them they have evolved to grow too large to spread their wings and fly. The birds wings are only one third of what they should be for a bird of that size making this type of cormorant one of the rarest birds on Earth. Speaking of birds that can’t fly, the marine iguana is the only lizard that is known to swim. You knew the tortoises were another large animal on the island, but did you know they were almost 600lbs and can live up to 150 years? No trip to the Galapagos ever takes place without learning a great deal about nature and wildlife. Join us on a 22 day tour to Ecuador this once in a lifetime location and discover why so many people have fallen in love with the Galapagos. Click here for more information about our Galapagos tour and our shorter 8 day adventure.    

The Best of Brazil Tour – A Quick Photo Journey

As the world changes, so do our tours. We’ve recently improved our best of Brazil  tour, allowing more time to explore and enjoy the top sights. Our first run at the improved version ran in February and was hailed a success. Despite venturing to Brazil in what was supposed to be the rainy season, our group was gifted with sunny skies the entire trip. DSCN9427 For the first portion of the journey, we take you to an Amazon Lodge outside of the city of Manaus and inside the Amazon Rainforest. Explorations into the jungle are taken by boat and by foot with binaculars and cameras at the ready in case of any wildlife opportunities. From the Amazon, we make our way south with a pause at Brasilia, the capital city.   DSCN9455     Once a model town, this clearly 1960s creation is a social and architectural design experiment. We spend the day roaming from colossal political monuments to cement and stain glass churches, learning about Brazil’s modern history before moving to its largest wetland, the Pantanal.   DSCN9509   Birders rejoice as we set up at a ranch for a few nights rest. Farmers take us to explore the sprawling grounds by foot, horse, and boat. Toucans, parrots, and anteaters are just a few of the friendly animals found in this part of Brazil and likely encounters.   Rio Brazil Rachel Kristensen (2)   After our rural get-a-way, our journey continues to the big city of Brazil where we enjoy all the famous sites. From the beaches to the Cristo, our tour of Rio includes a fully guided tour of all the iconic spots.   Brazil Side Iguazu Rachel Kristensen   Last but not least, our tour finishes with a roar. The roaring waterfall that is. Of all the large waterfalls in the world, Iguacu usually ranks number one as the people’s favourite. We take in the falls from all sides and get soaked by the mist in the meantime. Join us on our next departure to tour Brazil this October or next February and click here for more info.      

Lessons from Ancient Greece

Ancient Greece (photo credit Rachel Kristensen)

When the ancient Greeks created something they did so because of their beliefs in bettering themselves in their body, soul, and minds. They knew that by acting in a ‘we’ mentality vs a ‘me’ mentality, that the stronger their individuals became, the strong their society would become.

Stadiums and gymnasiums were built across the country to train their soldiers. Competitive games such as the Olympics served for sporting purposes to perfect the body. Every four years, a sacred truce would be announced, no wars would take place for the one month leading up to the games and for the entire duration.

Boys and men from all over Greece would descend on Olympia, swear to Zeus while standing on a set of bull testicles (the origins of the world ‘testify’) that they had trained for the one year prior, they were 100% Greek and they would not cheat.

Cheaters were shamed with a wall of statues dedicated to Zeus, on display as athletes walked into the ancient tracks and would bear the disgrace of being spat on by every passerby for centuries to come. Winners were awarded with not only the olive crown but free food for life and a city-state that would boast your name for the duration of your life.

There was no greater honour than to have an Olympian in your community.

The games were similar in essence to our modern games. Sponsors had their forum, hotels for the wealthy were supplied, and competition was fierce.

Unlike today, we have to use our imagination as to how fast or how strong these nude athletes were. Glory was never recorded in times or distances, only in the names and years of their victory.

Imagine what the Olympics today would be like if weren’t focused on personal bests or world records.

For their souls, the Greeks erected many temples to worship in.

Temples for the 12 Olympic gods carved in fine marble, sprawling complexes built with stadiums and theatres nearby.

Olympia had the giant Statue of Zeus, an ancient wonder of the world crafted with ivory and gold that stood above an olive oil pool making Zeus life-like.

In Delphi, the Temple of Apollo stood above two tectonic plates emitting a hallucinogenic gas which allowed an oracle to invoke the spirit of the gods and speak with the people. She responded to questions in a very vague manner, and the gods required one to know thyself before deciphering their answer.

The ancient Greeks clearly understood that understanding your own self would keep you better connected with your soul.

For their last pillar of creating a better person, theatres became the natural setting to expand the mind.

As early as 5th century BC in theatres dedicated to Dionysus in Athens, Epidaurus or Delphi, audiences would watch performances based on real life tragedies that would pose moral dilemmas faced by the citizens or state.

Plagued by continual wars against outsiders like the Persians or internal wars where Greek city-states fought against themselves for power, the ancient Greeks were no stranger to the traumas faced by soldiers.

Plays such as Sophocles’ Ajax spoke directly to the people as a character and a dilemma many could relate to.

Ajax, a solider of the Trojan war, became enraged and tortured by his experiences. His depression, and anger left him with an inability to grip current reality from the murderous reality of war. In the play he is duped by Athena to try to murder his comrades but after he lashes out, he has to try to deal with a shame he brought to himself. Ultimately, the pain and shame is too much and he commits suicide.

This theme was written nearly 2500 years ago.

In no war has any army left with clean hands. No matter how small the fight, someone will ultimately lose and at the hand of another. The Greeks understood this and its enormous emotional impact on their people. If that impact was left without being addressed it would eat away at their society. So plays were performed as a therapy and a community forum to discuss the problems of soldiers.

Now picture this in our present day life.

Armies all over the world continue to fight battles. As an example, the largest military, the US Army has over 21 million veterans. In 2008, only 40,000 US soldiers were admitting to suffering some sort of post-traumatic stress syndrome. No one was talking about it, and at less than 1% of people admitting to the stress after war, something needed to be done.

In an effort to remove some of the stigmas attached to PTSDs, the internal depression and struggles that many soldiers face, the Americans created the ‘Theatre of War’. Ancient plays such as Ajax are being performed for groups of veterans for the same reason the Greeks performed it: as a therapy and community forum to discuss the problems facing soldiers.

If one considers how a society thousands of years old created not only art that has enchanted and is still treasured, a premier sporting event played today, but crafted a form of therapy that would be relevant thousands of years later,  it makes the magic of classical Greece even more impressive.

Join us and find out more about our next Classical Greece Tour.

Prague: The City of 100 Spires

Czech Tourism (Photo Credit of Prague: Czech Tourism)   Just how did this beautiful 15th century city gain the nickname of the City of a Hundred Spires? “Surely, there are more than 100” exclaim most of our travellers. We travelled past the astronomical clock, over the Charles pedestrian Bridge, and into the towers of dozens of cathedrals to find out. The origin of the name comes from Bernard Bolzano, a Bohemian mathematician who counted 103 spires at the beginning of the 19th century. Now two centuries later, we find the influence of art nouveau mixed in with the renaissance symmetry, the dramatic baroque play on light and shadows, and of course the ribbed vaults and pointed arches of the Gothic architecture style. Currently, there are over 500 spires in Prague, so our travellers are indeed correct in believing there are more than 100 spires. But regardless of the number of spires, Prague is truly a city that enchants. A city of wonder, set between seven hills, Prague was never touched by war and allows one to enjoy an old world charm of a city often listed as one of the best cities in the world. Join us on any number of trips to Prague, from active to cultural tours. Click here to browse our tours of Prague:

Touring the Five Stans: A Photo Journey through Central Asia

Stans   Often thought of as one of our most exotic explorations,  each Stan holds a unique history and culture that has been shaped over the centuries and influenced by many empires. While on tour to the Five Stans, expect to see 2000 year old fortresses, famous silk road cities that captured the imagination of leaders like Alexander the Great, cultural epicentres from the 14th centuries, remote oasis’, local bazaar, grand mosques, stunning 19th century palaces with European and Asian influences, and gorgeous drives through snow-capped peaks and deep valleys with vast vistas. Of course, also expect to see the old world charm mix in with Soviet era architecture. Our Five Stans tour has been a hit with our groups, and runs twice annually. Here is a preview of what you’ll see on this amazing 21 day tour through Central Asia, as shown by our senior tour leader and professional photographer, Jonathan Hodgson. All photos are from his Instagram account (@owilybug).

Zenkov Cathedral. #Almaty #Kazakhstan #travel #asia @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Zarafshan Valley. #Tajikistan #asia #travel #nature @adventuresabroadtravel A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Gur-e-Amir Mausoleum. #Samarkand #silkroad #uzbekistan #asia #travel @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Kalan Mosque. #Bukhara #uzbekistan #asia #kalanmosque #travel @adventuresabroadtravel A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Walls of Ichan-Qala. #Khiva #uzbekistan #asia #travel @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on