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Why Greece is the Perfect Family Getaway

greece_new

You’ve wanted to go to Greece your whole life.

The allure of those idyllic Greek islands surrounded by endless crystal-clear turquoise waters.

The abundance of marble ruins scattered across the land, each with a tale of a mythical legend or a philosophical genius that would forever shape our civilization. Or maybe you simply want to over-indulge in a Mediterranean diet with fresh fruit, fish, vegetables and seasoned with virgin olive oil to nourish your appetite.  

But you’re not just taking a holiday for you anymore.  You’ve got children, and maybe grandchildren, and nothing is better than exploring the world with those you love.

Instead of doing another family vacation to a resort or a theme park, you want to take them somewhere exciting, vibrant in culture, rich in history and with jaw dropping scenery that will create memories to last for the rest of your lives.

You already know the reasons why you want to go to Greece, but here is why it is also your next perfect getaway for the entire family.

Fun for all ages

Depending on your age, if you well into your golden years and planning a retirement vacation,  just starting a family, an adrenaline seeking teenager or an inquisitive pre-teen, your idea of ‘fun’ might be different than the next member of your family.

Greece has a way of making everyone feel young again as each destination creates a sense of excitement. Whether it is standing in the shadow of the Acropolis, climbing a 17th century Venetian fortress, testing out your vocal abilities in a 2500 year old theatre or wandering the pirate-proof alleys of an idyllic Greek Isle before finding one of the many beaches that makes Greece so dreamy.

We craft each journey to make sure our excursions are varied and interesting. When we explore a museum in the morning, we do gentle walking tour in the afternoon. The next day goes in a completely different direction and lets imaginations run wild while visiting an historic castle or set of ancient ruins.

The point is to keep each day fresh, with a focus on the best of what there is to offer but never let the trip hit a dull moment. Guided tours aim to be equally informative and interactive, so that no eyes get glazed over in the process of learning. We enjoy the outdoors as much as possible, because we all know kids benefit with freedom that comes with fresh air.

Easily accessible and comfortable

For family tours, one key component of ensuring a comfortable journey is in simple details like spending at minimum 2 nights in the same hotel. No unpacking means more time to explore and less fuss. Less fuss is always good when travelling as a family.

Hotels are always well appointed, close to the action but in a quieter part of the city. With a tour, someone else always takes care of the details, leaving you time to relax. We always use the highest of quality in transport, whether that is a large hydrofoil or ferry or an air-conditioned motor vehicle or a taxi. When it comes to the travelling between sites, none of the distances we travel in Greece are too great, all of the routes are incredibly scenic, so you won’t have worry about who’ll be first to ask ‘are we there yet?’

Memories that will last a lifetime

The most important part of a family vacation is to have fun in a meaningful way. As you travel Greece in a smaller group sizes, you’ll find it to be a more rewarding experience that you’ll remember for years to come.

In the Greek culture, family is the strongest bonds one will have and from the moment you touch down in Athens, locals will make you feel like you’re apart of their family.

Greeks give a hearty and warm welcome to all ages, and our destinations are low in crime so that everyone feels safe to exploreWhether you are a first time explorer or a seasoned traveller, Greece has the ability to leave a mark on its visitors.

Your memories of long days of laughter will be set with a backdrop of Mykonos’ sugar-cube houses. Your sense of awe will be awoken in marble ruins fit for the gods and you’ll be telling intriguing stories for years that could rival the legends of Hercules.

You’ve known forever that you’ve wanted to go to Greece; why not share your sense of adventure with the whole family?

Experiencing Vietnam’s Culture to the Fullest

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Vietnam is a country of contrasts. It is also a country that stimulates every single one of the senses.

Fast-changing city skylines feel miles away from the breathtaking rural villages and timeless landscapes bursting with beauty. The country’s pulse beats at a quick pace in the thriving metropolitan cities, complete with a never ending hum of moto­taxis and lingering scent of spicy street food stalls open from dawn until well after dusk.

Just the opposite: the countryside encompasses an eternal pause that could define the word zen. Water­logged rice paddies stand still in the lines snaking through the valley floor between the karst mountains, as the sunset melts into a golden dream beyond the emerald green waters of Ha Long Bay.  Once a country so divided and overwhelming news stations with stories only of unimaginable horrors, the current Vietnam is a complete dream to travellers. Rich in both modern and ancient history, culinarily gifted,  boasting surreal landscapes and a nation filled with determined people who are incredibly generous friendly and generous.

For a first timer, a trip to Vietnam can be sensory overload, so how can one experience Vietnam’s culture to the fullest?

Here are three easy steps that will ensure you experience it all:

Seek out the new and the old

With a human history dating back 25,000 years, to say Vietnam has a varied culture is an understatement. Throughout its years, Vietnam has been invaded or occupied by the Chinese, the Mongols, the Dutch, the French, the Americans, the Japanese, and the Chams, to name a view.

While historically a nomadic people, the hill tribes of Vietnam vary greatly as well. Even in the smallest of villages one can find several different tribes, each with its own customs. While traditional stilt houses remain intact and in use for some tribes, most of the cultures of these people are beginning to transition into a modern era in which they are more interactive with outsiders.

Perhaps the mix of historical influences is best discovered with architecture. Easily found are Japanese pagodas, Imperial “Forbidden City” characteristics fit for the Chinese emperors, Hindu temples, neo­classical lines of a French colonial opera houses or European style balconies and cafes to a distinctly Vietnamese mix of all.

Less ancient history takes one to tunnels where the Vietnamese escaped during the brutal war bombings. Everything took place beneath the soil: living, dying, weddings, and births.

For the visits good for the soul, one can seek an abundance of religions. Roman Catholic churches brought by the French, delicate temples dedicated to Hinduism created by the Chams and 20th-century icons of the eye used in humanistic religions popularized by the mass following of dispossessed peasants.

With a small group tour, the sensory overload of new and old is easily broken down to understand and appreciate both the large and grand sites and the small unexpected ones.

Eat everything

Ask the most seasoned of Vietnam travellers what their favourite part of Vietnam is and the food experience will likely be at the top. From the fresh fruit and fish markets, the outdoor street vendors with plastic chairs and hot soup, to the upscale restaurants with million-dollar views to sip rice wine from or the small cafe serving French baguettes, ­ there are plenty of options to choose from.

Try to indulge in the pho (soup) and taste the difference between the Chinese-influenced variety in the North, the spicier take in the South, and the more complex soups with more herbal infusions in the coastal areas.

You’ll be hard pressed to escape without testing a seafood dish and the coffee lovers will relish a cup perfected after being brought over in the early 1800s during the French colonial era.

With a tour, your taste buds will have a variety like never before and each meal planned to show you the best flavours to represent the country.

Learn from a local

It’s no secret that those who live in a place know it better than any outsider can. With a small-guided group tour of Vietnam, you’ll be taken on a journey to explore both the old and the new. Guided visits to museums, world heritage sites, cities, national parks, rural villages and more. This makes it one of our top destinations for seniors or those looking for a richer cultural experience. Meals will be in local establishments, not hotel buffets, and with a small group you’ll be able to move easily within the at times chaotic cities.  You’ll always be able to hear the guide, the pace will always be mindful of rest time that allows you to have some independent time to explore and soak up all the first-hand knowledge you’ll learn along the way.

Take a tour of all the highlights of Vietnam to best experience its culture.

Every one of your senses will thank you.

patagonia rachel kristensen

Chasing glaciers in Patagonia

On the southern tip of South America straddling Chile, Argentina and the Andes lies a wild and far flung region with little settlement but big landscapes.

Wide sweeping plains give way to mountains that tower in the horizon with granite peaks that scratch the skyline. Huge glaciers crash into the blue lakes that form at their melting point, and icy breezes blow icebergs to the shorelines.

In every direction of Patagonia paints a worthy sight.

It truly is a place you need to see to believe.

Here are just a few highlights from a recent tour of Patagonia, previously posted on tour leader Rachel’s instagram:

 

Take the long way home. @adventuresabroadtravel | | #Chile | | #Patagonia

A photo posted by Rachel Kristensen (@meandertheworld) on

All roads lead to adventure. @adventuresabroadtravel | | #Chile | | #Patagonia A photo posted by Rachel Kristensen (@meandertheworld) on

If only there were some views on this walk. Said no one ever. @adventuresabroadtravel || #Argentina || #Patagonia

A photo posted by Rachel Kristensen (@meandertheworld) on

Trekking at the end of the world, Ushuaia. @adventuresabroadtravel | | #Argentina A photo posted by Rachel Kristensen (@meandertheworld) on

The more you know, the less you need. -Yvon Chouinard @adventuresabroadtravel | | #Chile | | #Patagonia

A photo posted by Rachel Kristensen (@meandertheworld) on

Just a little mountain day dream. A photo posted by Rachel Kristensen (@meandertheworld) on

Mother nature is a beautiful thing. @adventuresabroadtravel | | #Argentina | | #Patagonia A photo posted by Rachel Kristensen (@meandertheworld) on

Ice, ice baby. Did I get that song in your head now? @adventuresabroadtravel | | #Argentina | | #Patagonia

A photo posted by Rachel Kristensen (@meandertheworld) on

Don’t forget to look up. @adventuresabroadtravel || #Argentina | | #Patagonia A photo posted by Rachel Kristensen (@meandertheworld) on

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These photos were taken on Adventures Abroad Tour of Argentina and Chile.

For more info on Adventures Abroad and small group tours, click here.

What a Tour of the 5 Stans Looks Like

For the adventurous, the list of worthwhile destinations is long. Usually near the top of that list, is the Five Stans.

Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan.

The five former USSR nations are rich in history dating back thousands of years and for centuries this region was part of the major trade routes from Asia to Europe.

The traditionally nomadic people retain much of their culture to this day.  Cities with beautiful Islamic architecture mix with Soviet art museums that are in stark contrast to the vast wilderness of mountain ranges with locals living in yurts and sprawling deserts which are just some of the highlights in this far corner of the world.

A former resident, tour leader Jonathan Hodgson takes us along for the ride on his latest tour of the 5 stans with these beautiful photos on his instagram.

 

 

 

The necropolis of Chor Bakr. #Uzbekistan #silkroad #travel @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

The Ark. #Bukhara #Uzbekistan #centralasia #silkroad #travel @adventuresabroadtravel A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Chor Minor medressah. #Bukhara #Uzbekistan #centralasia #silkroad #travel @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Bibi-Khanum Mosque. #Samarkand #Uzbekistan #silkroad #centralasia #travel @adventuresabroadtravel A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

The Registan at night. #Samarkand #Uzbekistan #registan #centralasia #silkroad #travel #night @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

For more information on our tours to the Stans, click here.

What is the history of the symbols of Portugal?

Not counting the flag or the coat of arms, there are a few symbols of Portugal that you will undoubtedly see on any journey here.

Here’s two.

symbol of portugal

The Rooster of Barcelos

The small black rooster is a curious object in Portuguese folklore.

The story acompanies a 17th century calvary, from the city of Barcelos. Today the ceramic rooster is found in nearly every touristy shop and on countless postcards. But it stems from a legend in Northern Portugal where a mans life was nearly determined from a cooked dinner.

A pilgrim was making the pilgrimage to St James’s resting place of  Santiago de Compostela, and passed through the Braga county in Northern Portugal. Unfortunately for the pilgrim, the whole town was on the hunt for a thief who had stole the silverware from a rich landowner.

Despite declaring his innocence, the court was unconvinced and sentenced the pilgrim to death by hanging. In his final request, he pled his case once more to the authorities, just as they were sitting for dinner.

It is as certain that I am innocent as it is certain that this rooster will crow when they hang me.” 

Unsatisfied with his defence, he was sent away to be hung. But, losing their appetites, the dinner was postponed and the rooster never was ate.

On the minute of his hanging, the rooster came to life, just as the man declared.

Luckily, St James had intercepted and the poor pilgrims life was spared not by a pardon, but by a terribly knotted rope.

symbol of portugal

The Sardine

Lisbon is home to the sardine trinket and the sardine festival, both of which honour St Anthony.

In the 13th century, St Anthony – the patron saint of Lisbon – left to Italy to preach his gospels. Unfortunately for him, only the sardines would listen.  While the people of Rimini, Italy ignored him as he spoke along the shoreline, it is said that the sea was filled with millions of sardines, heads above the water, listening to his every word.

Now-a-days the sardine is a symbol of love as well.

St Anthony also doubled as the matchmaker saint with boys and girls going crazy to invoke the saints help. A single person may hold water in their mouths for hours on end, waiting for the name of their love to be spoken. They may write the name of their crush only to put it in a bowl of water and hope St Anthony works his magic. Or, if all else fails, they’ll take the idol of St Anthony and place it upside down in the garden until he find them a true love.

The sardine festival in June is one of the most high spirited times in the old city of Lisbon, with the sardines being sold on every street corner and people joining for dancing and drinking at all hours of the day.

While both symbols developed from religious stories, today they both present symbols of good luck in life, love and fortune.

 

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If you are interested in joining a tour of Portugal that takes you to some of the most historic cities, towns with a focus on food as well as past and present culture – follow the link for our tours of Portugal here.

 

Iceland and Greenland Tour: Photos of Lunar Landscapes and Barren Beauty

iceland and greenland tour

When you think of going on an Iceland and Greenland tour, images of icebergs, hot springs and waterfalls probably come to mind.

For good reason – the regions are brimming with them.

Last month, senior tour leader Jonathan Hodgson took a group and followed the path of Vikings. Circumnavigating Iceland, finding glacial lagoons, mineral hot springs, boiling mud pots, and almost too many waterfalls to count.

Afterwards, the group explored the west coast of Greenland’s fjords and seaside towns. With human history dating back over 4500 years and few tourists that visit, our group enjoyed interacting with locals and discovering how the Inuits live today in their gorgeous scenery.

Here are a few highlights from the trip that Jonathan shared via his instagram account (cover photo from his Facebook account):

  Iceberg factory at Jokulsarlon. #Iceland #nature #glacier #Vatnajokull #travel @adventuresabroadtravel A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

 

 

Amongst the icebergs at Ilulissat, Greenland. #Greenland #nature #travel #ice #icebergs @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Icelandic waterfall #2359. #Iceland #waterfall #foss #nature #travel @adventuresabroadtravel A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

 

Gullfoss. #Iceland #waterfall #nature #travel @adventuresabroadtravel A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

Steam vents at Hverir. #Myvatn #Iceland #nature #travel @adventuresabroadtravel

A photo posted by Jonathan Hodgson (@owilybug) on

For info about our next tour to Iceland and Greenland, click here.

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.

source:Wikipedia

Source:Wikipedia

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.

Belize

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.

Tikal

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.