Eyes toward the Middle East

Maybe it’s the World Cup in Qatar that’s caused more eyes to turn toward the Middle East or maybe it’s that people are still looking for ways to spend their revenge travel days, but interest in Middle East travel is on the rise.

In a recent article, Travel Leaders guest author, Justin Gibson, gives his advice on the a few ways to experience one area of the Middle East, Saudi Arabia.

The views you’ll find can easily be described as “jaw-dropping.”

One of Justin’s top sights for Saudi Arabia is diving in the Red Sea.

The Red Sea is “a thriving biome, [that] plays host to well over 1,200 species of fish,” Justin said. “It’d be hard — nay, impossible — to try to touch on the adventure possibilities of Saudi Arabia without mentioning [it].”

Underneath the surface of the Red Sea lies a whole new world to discover

Another must-do for Justin is a camel ride. He suggests that “[w]hile you’ll find camels prolific all throughout the country, our recommendation is to charter a ride through Thumamah National Park.”

There isn’t a more authentic way to discover the desert than on the back of a camel.

Or, for the more modern “camel” ride experience, Justin recommends traveling by 4×4 dune buggy. But, Justin cautions that “steering and handling a dune buggy up several hundred meters of sand dune is nearly nothing like your typical highway drive, it’s wise to buckle up and let an experienced tour provider demonstrate how it’s done.”

Dune bashing satisfies a need for speed.

From under water to cliff-side hiking, from the deserts to the oasis, Saudi Arabia has a lot to offer travelers looking to experience the Middle East.

Ready to make your travel plans? Contact us today.

Sustainably Yours: The Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos Islands is a life list must for many people. And visiting the Galapagos Islands sustainably is an important part of making sure future generations can explore the area too.

The Sally Lightfoot crabs on a shore of the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador (photo: rawpixels)

Guest author, Justin Gibson, gives a few pointers to help make sure your time in the Galapagos Islands makes a check mark on your life list without leaving a mark on nature.

Justin’s first point is to make sure you visit the islands in small groups. The decision of how-big-is-too-big is made easier by the fact that mega-sized cruise ships can’t dock in the area and oversized guided tours can’t operate. But, focusing on companies that offer smaller, more intimate, experiences not only keeps less people from walking around the evolutionary landform, but it also offers travelers a more up close and personal experience.

Closeup of the Red-footed Booby on the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador (photo: rawpixels)

The second point Justin makes is to use reef-safe sunscreen. This tip is important not only in the Galapagos but anytime you enter a maritime area. The article also suggests “wearing sun-protective clothing to reduce your need for sunscreen.”

Panga ride at the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador (photo: rawpixels)

A third point in Justin’s post is to “take only photos.” Justin says, “do not pick anything up and stick it in your pocket. No seashells, coral, volcanic rocks, native wood or flora. Not even a little stone or pebble! Likewise, if you notice souvenirs like these being sold in nearby towns, don’t buy them!”

Likewise, he suggests to “leave only footprints.” This means, when you leave the Islands, there should be no trace that you were ever there– no markings, no trash.

The Galapagos land iguana on the Galápagos Islands, Ecuador (photo: rawpixels)

Finally, Justin suggests to travel to the Galapagos with a company you trust. There are several good, eco-focused, companies that offer the Galapagos. If you’re interested in travel to the their, contact KaliKosmos Travel and let us work to find the company that is best for your travel goals.

Aussie Aussie Aussie

After more than two years of waiting, it’s exciting for Australia to be back open and receiving travelers.

One great way to see Australia is with a circumventing cruise. As a our guest writer, Amy Mutscher, said “[o]n a cruise around Australia, you can cover miles of territory and only unpack once.”

On a circumventing cruise you can see places like:

Northeast and the Great Barrier Reef which is home to the Great Barrier Reef, Daintree National Park, the Gold Coast, and Byron Bay. Mutscher suggests travelers “[b]ring binoculars to watch the sea from your ship’s deck keeping an eye out for dolphins and whales, especially in summer when dwarf minke whales arrive from Antarctica to give birth.

Explore the Great Barrier Reef

Southeast and the Capitol Cities like Sydney’s Opera House, Bondi beach, and the nearby Blue Mountains or Melbourne’s European charm and tons of tasting options for foodies to enjoy.

Visit Sydney on an epic Australian cruise

South Australia full of wine and wildlife. Travelers can explore Kangaroo Island, one Australia’s top wildlife viewing locations. Mutscher suggests travelers “[b]ook a 4-wheel drive tour into rugged bushland to spot koalas perched high in the treetops and see one of the country’s most celebrated animals, the kangaroo.” In Seal Bay Conservation Park, travelers can see Australia’s endangered sea lions and in North Terrace, travelers and immerse themselves in Aboriginal culture.

Get up close and personal on Kangaroo Island

For those with extended travel time, Holland America Line can take you from San Diego around Australia with stops in Hawaii and French Polynesia. True luxury awaits you on the 69 day epic voyage.

Noordam in Sydney

Ready to make your travel plans to or around Australia? Contact KaliKosmos Travel and let us work for you.

Winter Travel is Around the Corner

I don’t mean to alarm anyone, but winter is only 122 days away!

For many people this means the winter travel season, such as a ski vacation, is equally close at hand.

There are some excellent ski resorts near and far —-consider the big ski slopes in Colorado or the fabulous Whistler resort in B.C.

For something extra special—consider a ski vacation in spectacular Switzerland or the Tyrol and Arlberg regions in Austria. 

And life in the ski resort doesn’t stop at skiing — there are relaxing spas, outstanding restaurants and fun apres ski activities!

Skiing and snowboarding in Colorado is a truly unique experience. The unmistakable peaks of the majestic Rocky Mountains, the sheer variety, volume, and breadth of the resorts, and plentiful annual snowfall make this state one of the most coveted winter playgrounds. The pandemic has given us all a renewed appreciation for the outdoors, and what better way to experience it this winter than at one of these eight Colorado ski resorts.

Each destination offers something unique, like world class art exhibits in Aspen, backcountry cat skiing in Crested Butte, or whiskey tastings in Breckenridge, to name a few, but the best ski resorts in Colorado have two major things in common: great winter weather (allowing for a longer ski season) and exhilarating terrain that makes for an unmatched skiing experience for all skill levels.

Colorado is a Swiss army knife of winter activity, and the key to unlocking it is the Epic Pass, a single season pass that covers different resorts across the US, Canada, Europe, and Japan (including several on this list). At each of the Colorado ski resorts, you can push your skills, master the terrain, and even enjoy some charming non-skiing activities in some of the West’s most idyllic towns.

Whistler Resort, which includes Whistler and Blackcomb mountains, has the largest ski area and two of the longest vertical drops on the continent, as well as one of the world’s most advanced lift systems.

But there’s more to Whistler than skiing and snowboarding; each winter people flow into the resort with no intention of riding a chairlift, preferring to explore the many spas, shops, and restaurants, as well as the varied nightlife.

During the rest of the year, they come to play four championship golf courses, race down the world’s largest downhill bike park, and hike the hundreds of miles of trails. Then there’s horseback riding along mountain ridges, zip-lining across Fitzsimmons Valley, or hopping aboard a helicopter ride to have lunch on one of dozens of nearby glaciers.

Whistler Blackcomb is also now a member of The Mountain Collective, a ski- and perk-pass program that’s good for half a dozen other top-notch resorts including Aspen and Jackson Hole.

The frontier between Tyrol and the province of Salzburgerland to the east is defined by mountains; four passes routed over them are what make access possible. To the west of Tyrol lies Vorarlberg—“before the Arlberg”—the mountain range straddling the border between the two provinces.

In winter you’ll find unrivaled skiing and tobogganing. The famous Arlberg ski resorts are cult destinations for skiers from all over the world. In summer, Bregenz, the historic state capital of Vorarlberg, becomes the “Summer Capital of Austria” when the Bregenz Festival opens with a performance by the Viennese Symphonic Orchestra. Thousands flock to see operas and musicals by the likes of Giuseppe Verdi, Georges Bizet, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, which take place on a huge floating stage with the Bodensee (Lake Constance) and the Swiss mountains as a backdrop.

Ready to start planning your winter travel experience? Contact us today and let’s make it a winter vacation to remember!

Twenty Years

This week marked my 20th year in the travel industry.

While not many advisors sell airfare anymore, over the past twenty years I’ve worked with churches on flights as their members travel to spread The Good News. I’ve worked with humanitarian aid organizations so their team can come to and from the field. I’ve worked to make it possible for people to be present at a grandchild’s birth and at a parent’s passing. Flights help bring people together and I’m honored to have worked getting clients from A to B.

Through the vacation planning side of my business, from Idaho to Israel, from Iceland to India, and so many amazing places in between, over the past twenty years I’ve curated experiences that allow people the opportunity to discover every part of this beautiful world.

This year I planned a honeymoon for a young man and his bride to Italy. Early on in my career I worked for the young man’s father and planned their family’s first experience in Europe. Twenty years in business and I’m now planning travel for the second generation. Memories of travel enrich lives and foster shared experiences that people carry with them for years to come. I am blessed to create these experiences for my clients.

To everyone I’ve planned travel for over the past twenty years, thank you for trusting me. Thank you for hiring me.

Here’s to the years of travel to come!

~Katie, CTA
KaliKosmos Travel

20th anniversary

Sandals® Royal Curaçao Is Now Open!

This month Sandals Resorts International (SRI) opened their 16th resort, Sandals Royal Curacao. This beautiful property stays true to the parts of Sandals couples expect while adding new concepts guests will love.

“Our vision for the Sandals Royal Curaçao experience was inspired just as much by the island’s natural beauty and colorful culture, as it was by our guests and the many ways they can engage with this amazing destination,” said Sandals Resorts Executive Chairman Adam Stewart. “This resort — a true labor of love years in the making with my father and our late founder, Gordon “Butch” Stewart, at the helm — is a testament to the transformative power of tourism via next-generation experiences that not only up the ante on all-inclusive vacations, but celebrate the local people, flavors and terrains every step of the way.”

In a recent Travel Leaders blog post, writer Dayna Engberg, reviews her favorite parts of this resort which include

  • New Restaurants
    • eight restaurants — including one perched over the ocean
    • three food trucks
    • you’ll never have to dine at the same place twice
Aolos (INCLUDED)
AT SANDALS ROYAL CURAÇAO

An authentic open-air Mediterranean dining experience.
Aolos (INCLUDED)AT SANDALS ROYAL CURAÇAO
An authentic open-air Mediterranean dining experience.
Sandals.com
  • Stunning Suites
    • the iconic Kurason Island Poolside Bungalows
    • the Amante One Bedroom Oceanview Royal Suite
    • Awa Seaside Butler Bungalows
Awa Seaside Butler Bungalow with Private Pool - ASP, Sandals.com
Awa Seaside Butler Bungalow with Private Pool – ASP
Sandals.com
  • and Luxurious Firsts
    • Dos Awa, the expansive two-level infinity pool
    • 38,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor event space
    • butler service and access to a convertible MINI Cooper to explore the island
44 Acres Set Within an Iconic 3,000-Acre Estate
44 Acres Set Within an Iconic 3,000-Acre Estate
Sandals.com

Ready to experience the new Sandals Royal Curacao? Contact your KaliKosmos Travel advisor and get started today.

Simply Tahiti

Whether visiting the Islands of Tahiti by boat with Paul Gauguin or island hopping over land with a Down Under Answers package, Tahiti is a tropical paradise worthy of exploring.

Tips for visiting Tahiti

  • The local currency is the French Pacific Franc, but USD and Euros, as well as credit cards, are widely accepted.
  • Tahiti is situated close to the equator which keeps local temperatures around 80 year round. Rain is common year round as well, but the wetter months are December through March.
  • Because Tahiti is so remote, your cell phone, even with an international plan, will likely not work. And, while some hotels offer WiFi, it’s often slow. You can purchase a sim card locally if communication is a must, but our suggestion is to take the chance to truly disconnect and enjoy the beauty of the region.
  • Make time for the locals. They love sharing their culture and traditions of music, dance, massage, food, lei making, and more. French and Tahitian are the main languages but many people, especially in the tourism industry, know some English.
  • The food truck craze has not missed Tahiti! And fear not foodies, these trucks offer delicious gourmet local dishes of open-sea fish, pork, tropical fruit, and coconut milk. They also offer New Zealand favorites of lamb and excellent Chinese chow mein.

Ready to begin planning your Tahiti experience? Contact your KaliKosmos Travel advisor and let us work for you!

The Hair Goes There: Seeking the Northern Lights

Last month my family and I went in search of those elusive beauties- the Northern Lights.

The best places for viewing the lights, scientifically called the Aurora Borealis, are, as exploratorium.edu explains, “near the magnetic poles. These include areas of northern Greenland, the Scandinavian coast, Siberia (brrr!), and Alaska in the north.”

We chose the viewing site of Fairbanks, Alaska, which allowed for our Northern Lights hunt to be a two-for-one as we checked off our 49th state road tripping as a family.

We’d explore the Fairbanks area during the day, having fun riding on dog sleds (and watching dog sled races), driving the treacherous Dalton Highway to the Arctic Circle, snowmobiling, and museum hoping. Then, at night, we’d bundle up in our super warm clothes and head out to sites like Murphy Dome and Clearly Summit.

We assumed we’d be able to see The Lights on our own- expecting to see them dance brightly across the sky like we’d seen it pictures. We assumed this kind of hunt was a no-guides-required experience.

We were wrong.

On one night we saw people get out of their cars, hold up their phones, and take pictures. We joked about how they were going to go home and photoshop in what, obviously, wasn’t there. And then we drove back to our accommodations to try and get some sleep, disappointed with our lack of a catch.

It wasn’t until we decided to use a professional guide, that we learned a valuable piece of information– the Northern Lights are more visible when viewed through a phone or camera than they are with the human eye.

Oh. My. Word. Those people weren’t pretending! They were seeing something we couldn’t!

On our last night, with the help of a professional, we finally saw them in all their glory!

If you’re interested in viewing the Northern Lights in Fairbanks, the season runs from August 21-April 21 and our tour providers – those who know the ticks and can help your hunt be successful too – already have their 2022-2023 season available for reservations.

Ready to make your Northern Lights plans? Contact us today!

Celebrating Britain

This summer Britain will celebrate Her Majesty The Queen’s Platinum Jubilee June 2-5. If you’re able to visit during the celebration you’ll be rewarded with special events both in London and throughout the country. But, even if you can’t be in Britain during the celebration, there is still plenty to do and see in the United Kingdom.

In her recent Travel Leaders Network blog post, TLN writer Amy Mutscher gives examples of ways to spend time when jumping across the pond.

London

Amy’s top suggestions include visiting movie and TV filming sights of

  • Scotland for the Outlander’s fans,
  • Liverpool for the Peaky Blinders fans,
  • Cardiff Castle for Doctor Who fans,
  • and Bridgerton Hall for Bridgerton fans.
Cardiff Castle

For those wanting an active tour of Britain, Amy suggests

  • climbing the historic Cutty Sark and zip lining over the River Thames,
  • taking a speed boat on the River Thames,
  • exploring Britain’s rivers, coasts and canals on a paddle board,
  • or clocking speeds of 70mph while zip lining in Aberdare, South Wales
The Cutty Sark

And for those visiting Britain with kids, Amy suggests

  • spending time at the Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground near Kensington Palace
  • and visiting The Shard for a special Peter Pan Afternoon Tea.
Diana, Princess of Wales’ Memorial Playground

With Britain removing most of the COVID restrictions, now is fantastic time to hire KaliKosmos Travel to plan your British experience. Contact us today.

The Hair Goes There: Virgin Voyages

In February 2020 I was set with a reservation for a sneak-a-peek aboard Virgin Voyage’s Scarlet Lady before she was released to the market.  But, COVID shut down that sailing.

I’ve been waiting for almost two years and earlier this month I was finally able to experience her industry-changing voyage!

One way Virgin Voyages is making waves of change is that their cruise is adult by design.  That’s right, no kids.  Zero.  No one under 18.  At.  All.  Their no-kids allows them to push the envelope with their avant-garde,  Vegas style entertainment.

And, their no-kids policy also allows for a more adult-focused contemporary design for their lady ships. The wide open spaces and cozy resting nooks call sailors to breathe deep and enjoy their time at sea.

Secondly, their waves of change are seen in their inclusion of all group works.  Morning yoga, cycling, bungee cardio, HIIT, and more!  If working out is your thing, your thing is included at no extra cost.

Thirdly, their waves are shown in their all-food-included policy.  There are no off-limits eateries, no extra pricing to enjoy a good steak.  From the Galley’s food truck style choices to the culinary tasting experience of the Test Kitchen or from Pink Agave’s Mexican fusion to the Wake’s steak and seafood, your food in over 20 eateries is included.

And, finally, their waves of change are seen in their crew.  It was so refreshing to see crew that was able to be who they are- colored hair, tattoos, flare, and all!  And all of the gratuities for these friendly, happy people are included with the cruise fare.  All the time.  Every time.

Want to learn more about Virgin Voyages?  Or, are you ready to experience the Virgin Voyage sea change for all?  Contact KaliKosmos Travel’s Katie Hartman, a gold tier First Mate with Virgin Voyages.