Category: South America

Galapagos Islands Governmental Travel Requirements

Galapagos Islands Governmental Travel Requirements

(Quito / August 4, 2020):In light of the world Covid-19 pandemic,Ecuador’s Ministry of Tourism has issued a series of travel requirements designed to protect travelers seeking to visit the Galapagos Islands, as well as residents of the islands. These requirements — for international visitors and Ecuadorian travelers alike — consist of the following:

FOREIGN TOURISTS: REQUIREMENTS FOR ENTRY INTO GALAPAGOS ISLANDS*

All foreign tourists traveling to Galapagos will meet the following requirements:

  • Personal travel documents (valid passport, etc.)
  • A negative result of an RT-PCR test performed in your country of origin up to 7 days before arrival in Ecuador. (Tests not required for minors)
  • RT-PCR test performed upon arrival in Ecuador at the Quito or Guayaquil airport, paid for by the tourist. The tourist will remain in Quito or Guayaquil until receiving a negative result of this test, which will enable them to then enter the Galapagos Islands.
  • Safe-conduct pass issued in the tourist’s name by the tourist services provider in the Galapagos Islands.
  • “Traveler’s Health Declaration” form, with an indication of the tourist’s place of stay in continental Ecuador and in the Galapagos Islands [this form will be filled upon arrival in the country].
  • Mandatory health insurance.
  • Payment of established fees to enter Ecuador’s Galapagos Province and the Galapagos National Park.

ECUADORIAN RESIDENTS: REQUIREMENTS FOR ENTRY INTO GALAPAGOS ISLANDS*

All Ecuadorian residents traveling to the Galapagos Islands must meet the following requirements:

  • Personal travel documents (national ID card: a “cedula”).
  • A negative result of an RT-PCR test carried out up to 96 hours before entering the Galapagos Islands.

(tests not required for minors).

  • Safe-conduct pass issued in the traveler’s name by the tourist services provider in the Galapagos Islands.
  • “Traveler Health Declaration” form, with an indication of the traveler’s place of stay.
  • Payment of established fees to enter Galapagos Province and the Galapagos National Park.

(*) Travel agencies, operators, hotels, and other tourist service providers must inform the tourist of the requirements and details regarding the guidelines for entering the Galapagos prior to their trip.

Surtrek’s Approach to Covid-19

Surtrek’s Approach to Covid-19

We at Surtrek continue to liaise closely with global health authorities and government agencies. In addition to the government advice, we remain in close contact with our own agents on the ground in affected destinations to get first-hand information and insights.

Our team will be in contact directly with any guests planning to travel next year or in the next several months, in addition to those who remain on vacation.

If you have any concerns regarding forthcoming travel arrangements, please contact one of our Surtrek Travel Consultants.

SOUTH AMERICA PREPARES FOR SAFE & GRADUAL

TRAVEL RE-OPENING

Quito’s Illa Hotel: Taking pro-active measures
Quito’s Illa Hotel: Taking pro-active measures

As Ecuador prepares to slowly re-open — carefully and in line with the advice of renowned national and international health authorities — Surtrek and its hospitality service providers have already begun taking measures that will serve to protect clients traveling throughout South America, including mainland Ecuador and our Galapagos Islands.

As an example of the detailed and exacting measures now being put in place in the country, Surtrek wishes to share those adopted by one of our partner hotels: Illa Experience Hotel, a luxury hotel based here in Quito.

We hope that by reviewing this detailed list of precautions being taken by our partner, the comfort level will be increased for those considering to travel to South America in the not-so-distant future.

Biosafety and Sanitation Measures

Biosafety and Sanitation Measures

A. MAIN CONCEPTS

  1. Every operation process such as check-in, cleaning of rooms and facilities, experiences, etc.) has been adapted, taking into account the Biosecurity measures necessary to prevent any disease.
  2. Use of Thermometer: any individual who enters the hotel will be measured the temperature with the use of an infrared thermometer (at a distance from the guest). The registration will be made in the Hotel Biosafety Log.
  3. Health form: the completion of this form is mandatory and it will be required to be carried out before the arrival of the guest at the property.
  4. Collaborators: our staff will be constantly reinforced, encouraged, and reminded about hygiene measures and respiratory labels, in addition:
    • Daily controls of temperature and state of health of our collaborators will be made at the time of entry and exit. The registration will be made in the blog of collaborators of Biosecurity of the Hotel.
    • Our staff will be submitted to periodical tests that provide a certificate of the health status of the collaborator.
    • The hotel will provide all the Bio Security implements (masks, gloves, etc.), additionally, a jumpsuit for external use will be given to each collaborator, upon entering the hotel, the jumpsuit will be removed.
    • Our staff’s uniform will remain in the hotel, and the external washing company will carry out the corresponding load. Said company is currently in the process of obtaining a Biosafety protocols certification
  5. Check-in: there is a Bio-Security Manual which details the measures to be considered as shown below:
    • Alcohol + Gel will be provided during the welcoming.
    • The temperature will be measured when entering the hotel.
    • Guest luggage will go through a Fog Tunnel.
    • When providing the welcoming towels, these will be opened in front of the guest, since these will come from the laundry company, completely sealed and gone through its respective biosafety process – the use of tweezers for handling towels is mandatory – once the towels are used, they are to be put immediately in the designated laundry cover for this. In the same way, the tweezers will be disinfected with antiseptic alcohol and disposable paper which will go in the metal disinfection machine found in the front desk.
    • Presentation of the housekeeper in charge of cleaning the rooms. This person will accompany the guest through the entire stay of the reservation – from check-in until check out. Said person will be designated for the exclusive management of the stay of the guests, including room cleaning, shoe cleaning, luggage removal, laundry service.
    • Guests will be given slippers as soon as they arrive at the hotel for use at the hotel.
    • At the end of the check-in process, our staff will comply with the internal procedures of properly washing your hands, placing disinfectant gel on your hands.We will continue with the form where guests fill in their previous origin and destinations before arriving in Ecuador. Additionally, they fill in questions about medical symptoms (headache, general discomfort, fever, cough, etc.). These forms are in the guest rooms.
  6. Shoe Shine: it will be freely available every time guests arrive at our house, however, the protocol has been modified to disinfect footwear.
  7. Laundry service: it will be carried out by the personnel in charge, that said, upon the arrival of the guests, an exclusive person will be appointed to handle the laundry.
  8. Galleries or Floors: Our stations will continue, one per floor, in front of the elevator.
    • Station with disinfectant gel dispensers; antiseptic alcohol and disposable paper.
    • Alkaline beverage station; hot water, sliced ​​lemon with ice in its appropriate container, napkins, and cups.
    • Disinfection with Ozone Nebulizers in Public Areas – one per Gallery.
  9. Rooms: We will continue including Antibacterial Soap and Gel within the amenities in the bathrooms of every room. In addition, instructions on the correct handwashing commissioned by the WHO are placed in visible areas, but restricting the possibility of manipulation.
    • Special Coverages: Foods high in alkalinity will be provided, such as welcoming coverages.
  10. 24-Hour Medical Service: We continue to work with our Home Healthcare Provider, if necessary, the provider will be contacted and within 30 minutes the guest will receive medical assistance.
  11. Documentation within the Room: With the implementation of technology, we will proceed to adapt welcome letters, restaurant menus, spa menus, snack bar menus, and everything that involves handling stationery and item handling in general.
  12. Tea Station Service: We will continue to provide it, but this time we will proceed to place it outside every room or, in effect, inside it.
  13. Experiences Service: We will continue providing it, however, it will be carried out with a distance of 1.5 meters between guests and artisans. Depending on the number of guests, it will be handled by groups and at different times. The Biosecurity protocol will be reinforced with the artisan upon arrival and the utensils used by them will be meticulously disinfected.

B. FOOD AND BEVERAGE SERVICE IN THE RESTAURANT

A significant distance will be kept in order to carry out the service – if possible. In addition:

  • It will disinfect the areas before and after each service.
  • Hygiene protocols will be reinforced in the restaurant services, while all dishes will be served individually.
  • The BPM Good Manufacturing Practices manual will include Bio Security stockings.
  • Breakfasts like any other service that the guests receive from the restaurant and will be served in the different areas of the Hotel, providing guests exclusivity as they would not share nearby spaces. The spaces enabled will be:
  • The Restaurant halfway through the capacity.
  • Terrace with a view of the Virgen del Panecillo.
  • Garden
  • Water patio
  • In the same way, we will provide tables and chairs outside the room, so that guests receive their food service in the hallway, only if the guest wishes.
  • Rooms / Room Service

C. MAIN AREAS, ROOM AND AIR DISINFECTION

With the use of technological implements, the common areas and rooms of the hotel will be disinfected, both in the morning and at night.

The process of acquiring the following technological implements is beginning:

  • Ozone Machines: Ozone is considered, according to the World Health Organization, as the most efficient disinfectant against all kinds of microorganisms, including viral agents. In the hotel we will use ozone as part of the cleaning and disinfection of the rooms, it has the advantage that it acts very quickly and effectively against bacteria, viruses, fungi.
  • Sanitary-grade electrostatic sprayers: Electrostatic disinfection fights against preventable infections, it is the most widely used at the moment both in Ecuador and worldwide. This procedure will be repeated in Social Areas twice a day.
  • Ultraviolet lights: Ultraviolet light has been used for decades to sterilize objects and rooms, currently some countries or are using it to disinfect hospital rooms, in the hotel it will be used to disinfect keys, keyboards, office supplies, room stationery and surfaces at reception.
  • Footbaths: Sanitizing tray + mat, dry and wet (renewed every week) to disinfect boots and shoes. Effectiveness depends on concentration; there are certain concentrations found for COVID extinction – moist.
  • Fogging tunnel: The guest’s luggage will enter there and will be sanitized.

D. COVID FREE CERTIFICATION

Suppliers: We have started to contact suppliers about BIO Security measures that they are taking, and if it can be done through a certification, much better, especially to the laundry company and anti-pest company that disinfects the Hotel weekly.

E. PROTOCOL FOR ILLAS COLLABORATORS

Our staff will be constantly informed, reinforced, and encouraged by our hygiene measures and respiratory labels.

  1. Attention to the Guest: Without losing our characteristic charismatic and helpful essence, the following measures will be taken:
    • Avoid direct physical contact with guests, have a social distance of at least 1.5 meters apart.
    • Always have paper, alcohol, and antiseptic gel at the reception and on the floors.
    • Our staff will be provided with face masks to be used when required.
    • Staff handwashing log every two hours.
    • At the end of the service process, hands must be washed correctly prior to the use of disinfectant gel; especially after handling suitcases and / or any object in contact with the guest.
    • Avoid touching eyes, nose, and mouth.
    • If any collaborator presents any symptom or is not feeling well, he/she must stay home and visit the doctor to present a certificate and diagnosis.
    • When coughing or sneezing, collaborators must cover their nose and mouth and use disposable paper to clean themselves and must discard it immediately, then proceed to wash their hands.
    • Clean and disinfect frequently touched objects and surfaces, such as a computer keyboard and pens.

F. ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

Protocol in case of a positive case at the hotel:

  • Immediately report to authorities.
  • The hotel has an Exclusive Area for quarantine if necessary, this Area is not located within the facilities, but its proximity allows it to be used
Breaking News on COVID-19 | Surtrek South American Travel

Breaking News on COVID-19 | Surtrek South American Travel

Surtrek Travel Information Regarding Coronavirus

With the recent and ongoing outbreak of Coronavirus (Covid-19) people have many questions regarding safe travel in Ecuador and throughout South America. We at Surtrek, of course, recognize the increased uncertainty that this may be causing, and have prepared this information for our existing and prospective clients.

BREAKING NEWS

ECUADOR’s Quito Airport Tentatively Set to Open June 1: According to Airport World, Quito Airport has announced that it is working with the airlines and airport community to resume operations on June 1 if given the green light to do so by the Ecuadorian government. The airport, which notes that it has remained open and operational for cargo and repatriation flights for Ecuadorians and foreign nationals throughout the coronavirus crisis, reveals that it been preparing to “adapt to a new way of traveling, with new processes and protocols to care for passengers and airport collaborators” for the past few weeks.

PERU Lockdown Extended Till June 30: Peru’s government is extending its state of emergency and the national lockdown until June 30th Along with the extension of the state of emergency, the president also announced that a series of flexibility measures will be incorporated to aid in the country’s economic reactivation.

ARGENTINA’s Lockdown Extended Until June 7: Argentina has also announced an extension of their national lockdown until June 7th, while still allowing international commercial flights to enter the country.

CHILE Extends Quarantine Measures Till May 29th: Chile has extended all quarantine measures put in place until the May 29th and have already lifted the lockdown in Vitacura, Providencia and Las Condes. Santiago’s City Center and 2 neighborhoods in Antofagasta will remain under lockdown until further notice.

Home-Country Advisories

Though the Covid-19 pandemic seems now to be slowing, most governments continue to advise against all non-essential travel worldwide – which, of course, includes travel to mainland Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands and all other countries in South America.

For your country’s official advisory related to travel to South America during the Covid-19 pandemic, please visit one of the following English-language websites:

Ecuador Leader in Heath Protocol

(Quito/ August 25, 2020): Ecuador is the first country in South America to be officially recognized and certified for its health-security protocols for tourist operations. The certification, known worldwide as “Safe Travels,” was awarded by the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).

Even prior to this recognition, since August 15, the mandatory quarantine of travelers arriving in the country was suspended as visitors have been required to provide a negative PCR test for Covid-19 from their country of origin.

What’s more, because Ecuador’s main attractions are natural and historic tourism sites that operate in a sustainable manner, social distancing is not a problem for small groups and individual travelers. What this means is that Ecuador is an ideal destination for post-COVID-19 travel.

For these reasons, tourists can now arrive with increasing confidence of being able to enjoy the natural wonders of Ecuador in a safe and secure environment!

USA Lifts Restriction On Some Travel Abroad

(CNN Español – August 7, 2020) — The United States Department of State partially lifted a global coronavirus travel alert on Thursday, but still recommends its citizens not to travel to 20 countries in Latin America and the Caribbean.

Previously, on March 19, the U.S. Department of State issued a Level 4 “Do Not Travel” global alert — the highest travel notice in the country — urging Americans not to travel abroad because of the covid-19 pandemic.

Currently, “With health and safety conditions improving in some countries, and potentially deteriorating in others, the Department is reverting to our previous system of country-specific travel advice levels (with levels 1-4 depending on the country-specific conditions) to give travelers detailed and actionable information to make informed travel decisions, “the State Department indicated.

The Latin American and Caribbean countries that are still at “Do Not Travel” level 4 alert are:

  • Argentina
  • Bahamas
  • Belize
  • Bolivia
  • Brazil
  • Colombia
  • Costa Rica
  • Cuba
  • El Salvador
  • Guatemala
  • Guyana
  • French Guiana
  • Haiti
  • Honduras
  • Mexico
  • Nicaragua
  • Panama
  • Peru
  • Dominican Republic
  • Venezuela

Other places in the region at in Level 3 of travel advice, which recommends travelers “reconsider the trip”:

  • Antigua y Barbuda
  • Aruba
  • Barbados
  • Bermuda
  • Chile
  • Curazao
  • Dominica
  • Ecuador
  • Grenada
  • Jamaica
  • Paraguay
  • Santa Lucia
  • San Vicente y las Granadinas
  • Surinam
  • Trinidad y Tobago
  • Uruguay

The Galapagos Islands Establish Re-opening Measures to Ensure Traveler Safety

With Galapagos Islands tourism operations set to reopen on July 1, the islands’ have organized a set of guidelines for ensuring the safety of travelers during their entry, stay and exit from the world-famous archipelago. Measures at island airports include the presence of health professionals who will perform temperature control and pose respiratory triage questions upon arrival of all flights. Passengers will also be required to present proof of a real-time PCR COVID test performed no more than 72 hours prior to landing. In addition, island professionals will carry out epidemiological follow-up and investigations of any suspicious respiratory symptoms or suspected cases of COVID-19.

Travelers in Argentina Required to Re-book with Different Airline as LATAM Suspends Domestic Flights

The Latam airline is suspending all domestic flights in Argentina until further notice, meaning that most domestic flights in that country will be booked with Aerolineas Argentinas. Therefore, any travelers who have already booked a domestic flight(s) with Latam must request a refund and reschedule their flights with Aerolineas Argentinas.

Surtrek Adopts International Travel Protocols

To achieve effective coronavirus recovery protocols, Surtrek tour operator is implementing the action plans developed by the World Travel and Tourism Council (WTTC). These concrete measures optimize recovery efforts in the tour operator sector so that the future of travel is safe, secure, seamless, and provides authentic and meaningful experiences for travelers. As it has been noted, these WTTC protocols are consistent with those recommended within Ecuador.

Resumption of Commercial Passenger Flights in Ecuador

The resumption of regular commercial passenger flights at Ecuador airports has now been approved by government authorities. While each airline is being allowed only 30% of their previously assigned frequencies, limited demand is also expected for these flights as they reinitiate operations.

The restart commercial flights at Ecuador principal airports are as follows:

Quito airport: International and domestic flights re-starting June 1, 2020.

Guayaquil airport: International flights re-starting June 1, 2020, domestic flights reopening June 15, 2020.

However, all travelers arriving in Ecuador must comply with protocols such as Mandatory Preventive Isolation (up to 14 days of uninterrupted quarantine upon arrival in Ecuador) and/or coronavirus “PCR” testing within 72 hours prior to their trip.

Galapagos Islands Tourism Resuming July 1 (El Comercio)

Ecuadorian government officials, when noting that the Galapagos Islands are free of covid-19, announced that tourism activities will be able to restart from on July 1, 2020 in those Ecuadorian islands. However, the country’s vice president stressed that that the safety, hygiene and distancing protocols will continue to be enforced throughout the archipelago.

Initial Flights Restarted in Quito, Ecuador

Quito International Airport resumed operations on commercial passenger flights on Monday, June 1, applying strict sanitary security protocols. The first international connections with the Quito airport are Miami and Houston, operated by American Airlines and United Airlines.

Several other international airlines have already submitted proposals for dates to resume their operations at the Quito airport beginning in July.

Still, passengers are being recommended to take their flight in the safest and most efficient ways:

  • Buy your flights through airline websites and travel agencies. Air tickets are not being sold at airports.Check in online to avoid processes and save time in the terminal.
  • Check in online to avoid processes and save time in the terminal.
  • Only passengers with a confirmed flight presenting a boarding pass or flight ticket may enter the terminal. The entry of family or companions is prohibited.
  • Arrive at the airport four hours in advance for international flights and two hours for domestic flights.
The “Camels” of the Andes | Surtrek South American Travel

The “Camels” of the Andes | Surtrek South American Travel

When thinking about the Andes, most of us picture snow-capped mountains, vast green plains, indigenous peoples …and herds of llamas. And yes, these are some of the main characteristics of the mountainous South American region – including the llamas. In fact, American llamas and their close cousins inhabit the immense and frigid plains and slopes along the entire 4,000-mile mountain range. Possessing both beauty and elegance, with their thin necks and slender legs, they are placed in the same family as their more distant relative, the camel – from which they get the name “camelids.”

In South America, four species of these camelids exist, and here we’ll point out some of their features, similarities and differences.

Llamas: The Sacred Camels of the Incas

Among the Andean camelids, the llama is the largest. Their most striking feature is that they’re not a natural species, but a “creation” of human beings. Specifically, some 5,000 years ago, the people of the highlands began domesticating guanacos (see below), breeding them to constitute today’s llama. The animal’s geographical distribution is now wide, since it became a trade commodity during the Inca Empire. For the Incas, the llama was a sacred animal, believing that each llama on Earth had its “mirror” in the “Celestial Llama”: a constellation that could be seen from certain sacred places.

Today, llamas are found principally in the Andes of Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Ecuador, and Argentina, where they have traditionally been used as beasts of burden, though they are also still used for their wool and meat. As their wool is thick and strong, it’s highly valued – particularly because it doesn’t have to be chemically treated.

Alpaca: Sheep on Stilts

The alpaca is a smaller species, though, like the llama (and camels), it has the habit of spitting as a method of defense. Alpacas differ from llamas, though, in that they are not used as beasts of burden but were domesticated for thousands of years for their highly-valued wool – considered the finest among camelids. Alpaca wool is used to make products as diverse as blankets, ponchos, scarves, vests, and sweaters, while their meat is considered a delicacy by some peoples of Andes. These camelids stand at just around one-meter high and weigh between 50 and 55 kg. They are found mainly in Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina, although countries such as Australia, the USA, and New Zealand possess small numbers as breeders are making great efforts to increase their populations.

Guanaco: The Antelopes of the South

Elegant, possessing fine bones, and a fast runner (reaching up to 64 km per hour), the guanaco is also a threatened species of camelid, even scarcer than llamas. The animal is sociable, especially when young, though later they become more aloof in relation to humans while roaming in large herds in semi-desert areas. They have thick and soft coats that protect them from the cold, which is helpful in that they live mainly in Peru, Chile, Bolivia, and Argentina. Guanacos can weigh up to 140 kg and measure 1.70 m in height. Their coats are of three shades: beige on the upper body, white on their stomach areas and gray on their heads. Their wool and leather are used to make fine and highly valued garments.

Vicuña: The Babies of the Bunch

The vicuña, a patriotic symbol of Peru, is a smaller herbivorous camelid. Reaching a length of 80 cm and weighing between 40 and 50 kg. These sedentary animals have long legs and, in a sense, are ecological because the soles of their feet have a kind of pad that prevents them from digging up vegetation; in this way, they contribute less to erosion. They have a very structured and organized social system, with adult males living with a harem of two or three females and their young. The wool of the vicuña is some of the best of its type, since, in the world of haute couture, a square meter can cost up to $3,000. High fashion labels, especially Italian and French companies, use vicuña wool for the production of exclusive clothing; however, due to the intense hunting of these animals since ancient times, vicuna are now in danger of extinction. Like alpacas and llamas, they live mainly in Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, Peru, and Ecuador.

As for similarities, the four share some characteristics: for example, their ability to breed with each other and their sexual dimorphism (which means it’s not easy to distinguish their gender). Also, alpacas, llamas, and vicunas have another common feature: they live in highlands, while guanacos can live at sea level. Also, llamas and alpacas are domesticated species, while the sleeker vicuñas and guanacos are found only in the wild.

No matter how they vary, there is much to discover about these graceful animals. When traveling through the Andes, it’s worth seeing them up close and personal in the rugged landscapes in which they reign.

Top Destinations for Vacationing in the Andes in 2021

Top Destinations for Vacationing in the Andes in 2021

As we slowly return to normalcy, 2021 offers the possibility of again exploring the world around us. One of the sites worth discovering is the longest continental mountain range in the world: The Andean highlands, which stretch the length of South America’s western coast. Amazingly long (4,300 miles in length), and surprisingly thin (between 120 to 430 miles wide), the Andes is also the world’s highest mountain range outside of Asia …high enough to leave you breathless in more ways than one.

The Andes extend from north to south through seven South American countries: Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, and Argentina. Within this region are of several high plateau, some of which host major cities that are ideal destinations for a 2021 summer vacation.

The following five Andean cities deserve special consideration for those seeking unforgettable Latin American travel experiences ahead.

Bogotá, Colombia

Today, as the Colombian Tourist Board’s slogan boasts, “The only risk in visiting Colombia is wanting to stay.” While this expression acknowledges the country’s turbulent past, it also highlights the new feeling of hope and optimism that defines travel experiences here.

This new spirit is no more apparent than in the nation’s vibrant and passionate capital city of Bogota. Home to 10 million people, Bogota’s energy as the metropolitan heart of Colombia is in part fueled by its hundreds of eclectic dining hot-spots, fantastic wines, and increasingly frequent “foodie” festivals. Whether you visit its historic Candelaria district or go on an indulgent shopping adventure on the city’s North Side, Bogota is well worth a visit.

Medellin, Colombia

This is another Colombian city deserving of serious consideration and a good look. Though infamous 30 years back for dangerous gangs and drug activity, Medellin has been transformed: It’s now a vibrant destination for travelers seeking a culturally rich vacation.

The city’s pleasant climate has earned it the nickname of the “City of Eternal Spring,” putting pep in the step of locals and visitors alike. Meanwhile, the city’s skyline seems to grasp for the heavens, as the clean lines of modern high-rise apartment contrast sharply against a backdrop of jagged mountain peaks. This bounce is especially apparent on weekends, when Medellin lets its hair down. This is when the city’s throngs of discos attract some of the most beautiful people in all of Latin America.

Quito, Ecuador

With a historic district considered the most beautiful city in all of South America, Quito is the jewel in Ecuador’s crown. Ensconced in a long and narrow Andean valley, while skirted by the peaks of the area’s “Avenue of the Volcanos,” most travelers sense of a wave of sheer awe the moment they touch down in the Ecuadorian capital city.

Because of its remarkable colonial architecture, the city was designated the planet’s first UNESCO World Heritage City in 1978 (ahead of cities like Bruges Belgium and Venice, Italy). Strolling through its narrow, cobblestone streets is like taking a journey back in time. Only a 20-minute walk from the history “old town” is Quito’s modern “new town.” A completely different world, here you will come upon trendy cafés, international restaurants, travel agencies, cybercafés, bars, and small hotels. For travelers, its heart is the colorful Mariscal Sucre district, which definitely lives up to its nickname of gringolandia (“gringo land”), though locals also flock here in droves on the weekend.

[As an aside, keep in mind that Quito also serves as a convenient jumping-off point for traveling to the nearby Amazon rainforest as well as for taking a short flight to the country’s legendary Galapagos Islands.]

Machu Picchu

Still the uncontested Mecca of Latin America, Machu Picchu reigns supreme. In a spectacular location, it’s the best-known archaeological site on the continent. This fabled “lost city of the Incas,” is South America’s greatest attraction, one that draws ever-increasing numbers of visitors from across the globe.

The attraction of Machu Picchu (which in the Quechua language means “old mountain”) is apparent: this 550-year old citadel was constructed by the most advanced pre-Columbian society. There is still no agreed-upon explanation as to how the Incas could have moved 20-ton stones to the top of the fortress … a mystery that adds to this uniquely spiritual and beautiful site.

Rising to 7,973 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu is high; so high in the clouds that this awe-inspiring ancient city was never revealed to the conquering Spaniards. Machu Picchu is also large. The ruins are the size of a small village, and —combined with the adjoining jungle and wilderness park — its area covers more than 116 square miles. Though the Incas carefully concealed Machu Picchu, it is no longer the “Lost City.” These days, you can reach it by high-speed train or a more labored two- to four-day trek. But no matter how you get there, though, Machu Picchu will remain unequaled in its mystery and magic.

Bolivia

“Nuestra Señora de La Paz,” commonly known as La Paz, is the Bolivian capital city that’s dizzying in every respect. Located in western Bolivia at an altitude of 3,650 meters (almost two miles above sea level), its height alone is enough to induce a touch of vertigo. At the same time, its striking beauty — with the city’s buildings clinging to the sides of a canyon and spilling spectacularly downwards — is likely to leave you woozy. Overlooking all of this is the towering triple-peaked Illimani Mountain, always snow-covered and visible from many parts of the city on clear days.

Bolivia’s harsh mountain landscapes and thick Amazonian jungles impeded Spanish conquest and large-scale European immigration, which has meant that La Paz has suffered few changes. You can see this in the way indigenous peoples of the city have managed to retain many of their traditions, while villages around the capital have remained virtually untouched for centuries. The result is that many people consider La Paz the most quintessentially South American capital city. You can absorb all of this by wander at your leisure through the alleyway and lively markets, marvel at the city’s fascinating museums, chat with the locals while having lunch in a comedor, or relax over some freshly brewed coffee in a neighborhood café.

(In addition to this colorful capital city, the jaw-dropping Uyuni salt flat is just a few short hours away)

In sum, on a summer vacation to this region, you’ll find snowcapped Andes Mountains towering above you as they seem to glow in the moonlight. The Andes of Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia or Peru are well suited for everything from active travel adventures to indulgent shopping and dining in its big cities. The Andes are also perfect for more relaxed activities like city exploring, hikes, and archeological digs. All of this earns this region definite consideration when planning your 2021 summer vacation.

10 Spectacular Tours of Peru (Part 2) | Surtrek S.A. Travel

10 Spectacular Tours of Peru (Part 2) | Surtrek S.A. Travel

In the Part 1 article of this article on Peru tours, we presented the first five of what we consider “must-see” travel destinations in Peru. Here, we continue with another five destinations that upscale travelers in particular will find well worth uncovering in this “Land of Hidden Treasures.”

In Part 2, we continue with the following five destinations:

1. Arequipa: The White City

The second biggest city in Peru, Arequipa is known as the “White City” thanks to its unique architecture, which is why the city’s historic district has been a UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site for more than a decade. Its historic district embodies a rich mix of the indigenous and Spanish colonial cultures. Examples of Spanish colonial architecture can be found throughout the city center, characterized by charming streets, and colorful facades, and flower-filled parks. The entire city of Arequipa is surrounded by three picturesque volcanoes, the most imposing being the Misti Volcano, a snowcapped figure that will accompany you throughout the city. Meanwhile, the beautiful countryside is bathed in the picturesque Chilli River. Arequipa’s eternal spring means that any time of the year is perfect for visiting. All of this explains why Arequipa has long been a popular Peruvian tour destination; a charming destination and a well worthwhile destination, Arequipa is also a great jumping-off point for heading to Colca Canyon.

2. Colca Canyon: Scoot over Grand Canyon!

Much deeper than the Grand Canyon, reaching down 4,160 meters, Colca Canyon is one of the deepest in the world and therefore one of the most popular tourist attractions in Peru. From the canyon’s Cruz del Condor viewpoint, you can develop an equally deep appreciation for the immensity of this astounding place, as well as a have chance to witness majestic Andean Condors in flight. Possessing more than the amazing sightseeing, there’s something for everyone here, everything from vibrant culture to extreme sports.

3. Explore the Peruvian Amazon onboard a Floating Boutique Hotel

The Peruvian Amazon is not naturally inviting. Thoughts of impenetrable jungle, poisonous plants, flesh-eating fish, insufferable heat, and high humidity aren’t easy to contend with. In reality, though, this river and region are filled with attractions like its extraordinary biodiversity, fascinating indigenous cultures, and exotic jungle life untouched by civilization as we know it. To open this area up to the more demanding traveler, a tour on an Amazon riverboat allows you to visit these remote ecosystems while enjoying all the comforts, commodities, and services of a 5-star boutique hotel. On a luxury cruise in the Peruvian Amazon, you can enjoy an expansive observation deck, outdoor Jacuzzis, and an alfresco lounge after having trekked into the jungle to meet with remote indigenous communities, listen to howler monkeys, and view parrot clay licks. A Peruvian Amazon riverboat cruise is one of the most memorable times you could ever hope to experience.

4. Ballestas Islands: The “Other Galapagos”

A must-see for all wildlife lovers, the Ballestas Islands are a group of rocky islands located off the Pacific coast near the town of Paracas. Home to thousands of birds and mammals — including penguins, sea lions, Inca terns, and pelicans — this abundant wildlife has earned these islands the nickname of “The Poor Man´s Galapagos,” as they constitute a unique experience for those who unable to travel to the Galapagos. Don’t be put off though; the area possesses some of the most upscale and elegant accommodations you’ll find anywhere in Peru.

5. Nazca Lines

Sitting quietly on a high arid plateau of Peru’s northern Pacific coast is one of the earth’s greatest mysteries. Here you can discover the Nazca Desert, world-famous for its more than 70 ancient geoglyph drawings of animals and other shapes. So large that almost all of them can only be seen from the air, these drawings — called the “Nazca Lines” — are found between the towns of Nazca and Palpa. Created between 200 B.C. and 700 A.D., these range from simple lines to stylized figures of spiders, lizards, monkeys, and even people. Thanks to the dry, windless and stable climate of the Nazca Desert, these lines have remained uncovered up through today. For an incredible out-of-body Peru tour experience, travelers can witness these enigmatic patterns by taking an early morning flight in a light aircraft, or by viewing three of the figures from an observation tower along the Pan-American Highway.

10 Spectacular Tours of Peru (part 1) | Surtrek S.A. Travel

10 Spectacular Tours of Peru (part 1) | Surtrek S.A. Travel

Peru tours have long been a backpacker’s paradise, however this “Empire of Hidden Treasures” has now entered into the limelight as a must-see travel destination for upscale travelers as well. From riverboat expeditions deep in its exotic rainforest to journeys along its vast coastal desert – traveling via the breathtaking peaks of the Andes in between – Peru tours provide a staggering variety of places to visit. Indeed, Peru is a country that offers something for everyone. In this “Part 1” article, here are the first 5 of our 10 favorite spots.

1. Machu Picchu: The Mecca of South American Travel

The thought of a Peru tour typically evokes the image of this country’s emblematic Machu Picchu, the “Lost City of the Inca.” Peru’s most popular tourist attraction, and one of the planet’s most perplexing archaeological enigmas, Machu Picchu is located 7,000 feet (2,100 meters) above sea level in the Andes Mountains, which begs the existential question as to how many of its stone blocks, some weighing more than 50 tons, reached the site and were cut and fitted together in such a precise manner. A UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site and one of today’s Seven Wonders of the World.

For its breathtaking beauty situated in such rugged geography, amazed and entranced visitors make their once-in-a-lifetime Peru tour pilgrimage to this site to contemplate its houses, temples, fountains, and baths, in addition to agricultural terraces and evidence of an irrigation system. Most leave with only one word to describe the experience: “incomparable.”

2. Cusco: The historic capital of the Inca Empire

Typically a jumping-off point for exploring the nearby Machu Picchu citadel and the Sacred Valley, Cusco is a destination that should definitely not be shortchanged in haste during a Peru tour. The historic capital of the Inca Empire, the city possesses pre-Columbian buildings that earned it UNESCO’s “World Heritage Site” designation. Inca palaces of supreme beauty will be part of your daily walk through the streets, as will be the fine plazas, splendid churches, and denizens who are welcoming of visitors. The heart of the city is the main square, the “Plaza de Armas,” which is surrounded by restaurants, cafes, and churches, while just outside the city limits is an important Inca site known as Sacsayhuaman, an enormous walled complex constructed of large limestone boulders. All of this makes Cusco one of the most important Peru tours.

3. “Sacred Valley of the Inca” (Urubamba Valley)

Together with Machu Picchu, Urubamba Valley (also known as the “Sacred Valley of the Inca”) is one of the must-experience Peru tours. Though the valley roughly lies between Machu Picchu and the city of Cusco, its altitude is more than 600 meters lower, thereby providing it with a warmer micro-climate and allowing travelers to better acclimatize to the region’s high altitudes. A visit here allows one to truly appreciate the grandeur and high level of development of the Inca civilization.

Once the heartland of the Inca Empire, today this area is the site of numerous archaeological remains and several typical indigenous villages, where you can get a sense of authentic day-to-day Andean life. These sites include the Inca towns of Písac and Ollantaytambo, with their stone-paved streets, stairways, arches, and atmospheric plazas; the Artisania and Chinchero markets, the Chincero Church… and so much more.

4. Lake Titicaca and the Floating Islands of Uros

In ancient Andean cultures, Lake Titicaca is considered the birthplace of the Sun God, and today its shores and islands remain the home to peoples such as the Aymaras and Quechuas, who are amongst Peru’s oldest ethnic groups, who predate the Incas by a thousand years. This means that traveling to this lake will allow you to explore traditional villages where Spanish is a second language and where ancient myths and beliefs still hold true. In addition, you will see for yourself that this mystical and fascinating lake is South America’s largest (at 8,372 km2, or 3,232 miles2) and is the world’s highest navigable body of water (at 3,856 meters above sea level). Beyond the touristy, a good Peru tour operator can introduce you to an authentic cultural experience at this idyllic destination.

5. Lima: A World Center of Gourmet Fusion Cuisine

Hungry for Peru? Get a taste of both local life and local cuisine with any visit to Lima. Recognized worldwide, the capital city’s food scene is hot, but it’s not just a flash in the stove-top pan. In recent years it has been widely touted as one of the world’s culinary hotspots, offering an array of exotic tastes that appeal to demanding palates.

Lima’s laidback yet vibrant dining scene ranges from backstreet cevicherías to gourmet restaurants. And when you combine these restaurants with local peñas, great casinos, salsa discos, pubs, and great nightclubs, you have combinations that can’t be beaten. Lima itself is Peru’s largest city. Known as “The City of Kings,” this sprawling metropolis possesses an architectural blend of pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern infrastructure. Its historic district features fascinating attractions that consist of colonial-era churches, monasteries, Spanish palaces, and one of the oldest universities in the Americas. Perched on scenic bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, you will find upscale residential districts such as Miraflores, San Isidro, and Barranco (“the Cliff”), which each offering an abundance of plush hotels and trendy restaurants for your Peru tour.

To discover Peru tour travel experiences like these found from the heights of Machu Picchu to the depths of the Sacred Valley, we suggest that you select a knowledgeable tour operator such as Surtrek, who can work with you to custom design such adventures. Our expert travel coordinators will help you to plan and seamlessly carry out a tour that introduces you to the real – authentic – Peru and South America, and in a sustainable manner that leaves the most minimal impact on this nature-rich continent.