We've Been Nominated for an AFAR Award!

We’ve Been Nominated for an AFAR Award!


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If you’ve got an opinion about your favourite places to travel, or your favourite operators to travel with, then please vote in the AFAR Travelers’ Choice Awards. If you’d be willing to vote for our Patagonia Hiking Adventure ‘Condor’ trip, in the category of Photography Expedition (that’s question 6 of the survey!) we’d really appreciate it! Click here to vote now!

We’re absolutely delighted to be shortlisted for the AFAR Travelers’ Choice Awards, in the category of Photography Expeditions – The Patagonia Hiking Adventure ‘Condor’ trip has been selected among the best trips you can go on, if photography is your passion. So we’re calling on all of you – that means past Condor travellers, past Active Adventures travellers, and all of you guys who think we’re pretty cool but haven’t been on a trip yet, to jump in and vote, we wanna win this thing!

Click Here to Vote Now

If you’re not familiar with our ‘Condor’ adventure, or you’re not sure it’s the perfect Photography Expedition then check out the video below, and some photo submissions from our past guests.

Guest Patrick Nguyen captured this shot on his Condor trip in January 2017 (The road approaching Torres del Paine National Park, and Mt Fitz Roy).

Torres del Paine

This is another one of Patrick’s from his January 2017 Condor trip (Guanacos in Torres del Paine National Park).

Guanacos Torres del Paine

This shot of the Condor bird, on his Condor trip, was captured by guest Justin de Beer in November 2017.

Condor bird

This photo was taken by guest Sarah Lundeen on her Condor trip in February 2017 (Gazing at Mt Fitz Roy and the glaciers, Torres del Paine National Park).

Mt Fitz Roy Sarah Lundeen

Still not convinced that our ‘Condor’ adventure is the ultimate photographic expedition? Check out our album of favourites here. And don’t forget to vote!

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Milford Wanderer sails the fiord.

What to Expect From Your Milford Sound Cruise


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Whether you’ve arrived into Milford Sound under your own steam via the Milford Track, or ridden the exciting 950m (3100ft) final descent from the Homer Tunnel to sea level by bus, we’re sure you’ll agree it is a magical place. The scale of the granite mountain faces, the flooded glacial valleys, and the mostly untouched forests, are simply breathtaking. Rudyard Kipling described this place as the eighth wonder of the world; it’s easy to see why.

Mitre Peak and its reflection in the still water of the Fiord.
A still day on Milford Sound gives a perfect reflection of Mitre Peak and the surrounding peaks.

So where does the name Milford Sound come from?

Milford Sound has had a bunch of name changes since it was discovered in 1812 by Sealer Captain John Grono, who named it Milford Haven after his home town in Wales. As us Kiwis have become more conscious of conservation, and protecting our Maori culture and influence, Milford Sound became Milford Sound/Piopiotahi in 1998. But wait! There’s more! Milford Sound is actually incorrectly named… A sound is a river valley which has been flooded by the ocean, and just like so much of our dramatic South Island, Milford was formed by glaciers, and so it’s a fiord. This is a popular trivia question, so take note for your New Zealand adventure!

Milford Sound has several permanent waterfalls, including Stirling Falls – more than three times the height of Niagara Falls. And Lady Bowen Falls; a short distance from the wharf area. Seeing as the granite landscape doesn’t absorb a drop of the annual 6,412mm (252in) rainfall, it made sense for Bowen Falls to be used to power the small town of Milford Sound.  It is during the regular periods of rain in Milford when the waterfalls really come alive. Hundreds of new falls cascade down the steep faces of the mountains, and if you catch Milford on a rainy day, why not name your own?

Group of kayaks approach Lady Bowen Falls
A group of Kayakers approach Lady Bowen Falls.

Overnight Cruise on Milford Sound

If you choose to take an overnight cruise on Milford Sound, you’ll be choosing luxury, tranquillity, and stunning natural beauty. You’ll board the ‘Milford Wanderer’ mid afternoon and cruise the 15km (9.3miles) out to the Tasman Sea, passing by Lady Bowen Falls, and getting close enough to Stirling Falls to feel the fresh spray from the Wanderer’s deck. As the afternoon fades into the coloured light of evening the captain will drop anchor in a sheltered cove, where you can go exploring with specialist nature guides, either by kayak or in the vessel’s small craft, until it’s time to climb back on board for your carvery buffet dinner and some stargazing with a glass of New Zealand wine.

Milford Wanderer sails the fiord.
The Milford Wanderer cruises, under sail, on the fiord.

The next morning we suggest emerging from your private cabin in time to watch the sunrise, it should help to clear your head if you really enjoyed the Kiwi wine! Then tuck in to a hearty buffet breakfast. Your captain will once again point the Milford Wanderer in the direction of the Tasman Sea, take this opportunity to do some wildlife spotting: Dolphins of three different species, New Zealand Fur Seals, and Fiordland Crested Penguins can all be seen at the right time of year in the Sound, alongside New Zealand’s vast array of native and introduced bird life. Occasionally, and most recently in 2016, a pod of Sperm Whales made the 15km (9.3miles) trip into Milford from the coast, marine biologists attributed this to the uncharacteristically low levels of rainfall for that time of year, which in turn allowed Phytoplankton to thrive, the whales’ main food source. If you get to see whales on your cruise you’ll be among a very lucky few – don’t forget your camera!

A seal swims amongst kayakers
A New Zealand Fur Seal playing amongst the kayaks.

Finally the Milford Wanderer will return to dock at the wharf, and we’re sure you’ll disembark rejuvenated, full of good food and great memories, to continue your New Zealand adventure.

Highlights of the Overnight Cruise:

  • Full length Milford Sound Cruise.
  • Optional access to a section of the Milford Track (guided).
  • Three course buffet dinner, fully licensed bar, cooked or continental breakfast.
  • Overnight on the Fiord in Harrison Cove.
  • Specialist Nature Guides for duration of the trip.

 Check out our Tui trip, Essence of the South Island, for an itinerary that includes the overnight option.

Day Cruise on Milford Sound

Several of our itineraries involve cruises on Milford Sound, it’s definitely one of the best ways to get out there and do it, to get up close with nature. The day cruise is included in our Weka itinerary, as well as our Kiwi, and Manuka trips.

Several companies operate daytime cruises from Milford Sound wharf, and we always aim to pick the most personal experience for our guests. We like the guys who only allow their vessel to be booked to half capacity, leaving you with plenty of room to chill out, roam around the decks, or visit the open wheel house and have a yarn with the Captain.

The two-hour Milford experience starts with a slow cruise up the left side of the fiord. Your captain will point out hanging forest, permanent waterfalls, and name some of the tallest peaks. The specialist nature guides on board can also help answer your questions about the geology and wildlife.

Once your vessel arrives at the Tasman Sea, the captain will turn her around and head slowly back up the opposite side of the glacial valley. On the return journey they like to point the bow towards Stirling Falls, and give you a chance, if you want, to be drenched by the spray of one of Milford’s highest permanent waterfalls. If there’s rain and wind, keep an eye out for Milford’s waterfalls to nowhere – try and grab a photo of the cascade before the wind blows it away.

A day trip boat points its bow into Stirling Falls.
A day trip boat points its bow into Stirling Falls.

We know that Milford Sound is right up there on many people’s bucket lists, and can be the greatest reason our guests choose to come to New Zealand in the first place. We have put together a list below of our trips that include either the overnight cruise, or the day trip. If you’d rather have a workout whilst you explore Milford, check out our Rimu itinerary for a kayaking option, or read our page on kayaking Milford Sound here.

kayakers taking a break on Milford Sound
Two kayakers enjoy a moment of quiet on Milford Sound.

Whichever you choose, know that the majesty of this place is reserved by its remoteness, and that by making the journey to Milford Sound itself, you are experiencing somewhere special, somewhere truly New Zealand in all its rawness, and somewhere that will stay with you long after you leave.

The Tour du Mont Blanc with Active Adventures
Facts About Machu Picchu To Outsmart Your Tour Guide

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"the best experience I've ever had."

“the best experience I’ve ever had.”


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A group cheering and waving near Mt Cook.
The crew from Andrea’s ‘Kiwi’ trip celebrating at Braemar Station.

Over the last twenty years or so we’ve been honing our skills in adventure travel. We started with a group of three guests on a trip around New Zealand’s South Island in 1996, and have progressed to taking groups to nine different countries on four different continents. As kiwis we are famous for our hospitality, we love welcoming people, taking care of people, and sharing in experiences with people. When our guests finally arrive in New Zealand, they’ll often pop into our office in Queenstown mid-trip, because like us, friendships are so important to them. We love being able to put a face to the voice we hear on the phone before the trip!

A group poses for a photo at Active Adventures HQ.
A group of Active adventurers meet Lynette and Fiona at Active HQ in Queenstown.

That hospitality, and the sharing of experiences with new visitors to any of the countries we travel in, are the reasons we love doing what we do. And it’s guests like Andrea Rudolph (recently returned from New Zealand adventures) who help us to remember that: ‘Not only was the scenery breathtaking and the tour well run but our fun loving adventurous group made it even more special. Even the experienced travelers in our group felt it was the best tour they had ever been on. It’s been difficult to settle back into my ’normal’ life after such a life-changing experience.’

We find that guests on our adventures, because they always share common interests (adventure being just one!) really buy in to this idea that sharing the experience makes it so much more powerful. The willingness to be honest and open with one another about your life, and your achievements, and even your regrets, adds another dimension to the experience in a way that we find difficult to put in to words.

 

Andrea wrote some lovely comments about her South Island Explorer trip the ‘Kiwi’. On top of that she also took the time to write an awesome poetic review about the trip, here’s some of our favourite bits:

Active Adventures had everything planned

For a ‘better than average’ trip to Kiwi land

Our fearless leaders, Rachel and Koru

In every instance knew what to do

prepped us on schedules and weather every day

And tried hard to make us listen to what they’d say.

 

Koru told myths of Maoris and war

His tales were creative and never a bore

He showed us plants like the silver fern

This land is so varied there’s a lot to learn.

 

The Hector’s dolphins near the beach were rare

They amazed us by doing flips in the air

At the wildlife center we saw kiwis being fed

And heard how they’re kept safe till they’re bred.

 

 Braemar gave us bright stars at night

Sharing toilets and co-ed showers was also a delight

We ran through the hills, and drank lots of wine

Singing old songs and jingles, it was divine.

 

New Zealand is perfect except for the sandflies

Which bite all our legs as they drop from the skies

They even dare follow us into the van

Where we smash them on windows as fast as we can.

 

I tried really hard to write something clever

To celebrate our group and the best trip ever

Though our journey is over and we’re all back home

We can laugh and remember when we read this poem.

So when our guests return home, from adventures in New Zealand, South America, Nepal, or Europe, they return home with a warm fuzzy feeling that never wears off. And it’s that warm fuzzy feeling, and those unforgettable moments that so often lead to our guests travelling with us again: ‘I’ve spent lots of time researching my next trips. I will definitely go on the Iguana trip. and I will definitely keep checking your website for new trips I can take in the next several years.’ And when those guests take the time to write such amazing comments as the ones Andrea sent us, that warm fuzzy feeling is transferred to everyone involved with Active Adventures, and reminds us all why we love this job.

 

Multi-day Hiking in New Zealand’s Backcountry, and 8 Reasons Why You Should Go Guided.
The Tour du Mont Blanc with Active Adventures

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8 Reasons To Go Guided When Overnight Hiking in New Zealand

8 Reasons To Go Guided When Overnight Hiking in New Zealand


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5 hikers in colourful gear walk a flat track along a valley surrounded by snowcapped hills.
Hiking up Siberia Valley in Mt Aspiring National Park

The team here at Active Adventures are an outdoorsy bunch. Every weekend you’ll find a handful of us out there in the hills, or on the rivers, getting stuck in to New Zealand in all its natural beauty. One of our favourite ways to spend a long weekend is by grabbing a backpack, packing a toothbrush, a cooker, a few meals, and a sleeping bag, and heading for one of the 950 huts dotted all over the country. Here we’ll talk about spending time in the backcountry on overnight ‘missions’ and offer some advice on how best to tackle the great New Zealand outdoors!

A backcountry hut sits in a basin next to a large alpine lake.
Angelus Hut on the edge of Lake Angelus in Nelson Lakes National Park

Background on New Zealand’s backcountry

As kiwis, we are lucky enough to have some of the best walking in the world, in our backyards. New Zealand has hundreds of trails, amongst vast mountains, rainforests, coastline, glacial valleys, and volcanoes. Even better than that, is that those trails, and (most of) the 950 huts that serve them, are maintained by the Department of Conservation, DoC. The huts started appearing in the 1800s, and were initially a network of shelters for hunters overnighting in the hills. Today they’ve become a big contributor to tourism in New Zealand, and a part of our national identity. For us the most unique thing about hiking in New Zealand is the variety of landscapes you can immerse yourself in. That’s why we love getting out there, because every time (and every hut!) is different.

A person lays back above a glacial valley enjoying the view.
Taking a moment for reflection on the stunning Milford Track

Few people who think of New Zealand do so without thinking of Milford Sound. It’s one of the things that put this country on the map, we don’t deny it. And it is absolutely stunning in its scale, and its untouched nature. The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks – walks of stunning natural beauty, maintained by DoC, and taking in the most impressive scenery in the country. But the Great Walks are not the only walks worth doing when you get here! There are quite literally hundreds of multiday walks here, and between us, we’ve probably knocked off most of them!

Learn More About Multiday Hikes

Why are we so addicted to getting out there?

We’d describe our love for multiday adventures in the hills as natural, and an essential part of growing up, and living in New Zealand. Being able to get away from traffic noise, light pollution, even cell reception, in a matter of minutes from home, is a special privilege, and not one we waste. There’s something primitive about arriving at a hut under your own steam, after a tough day, and being greeted by a log fire, smiles, and a cosy bunk. When you’re in a backcountry hut, sharing the experience, and stories, with others, you’re living in the moment; the last thing you’ll worry about is work, or bills. Instead you’ll be worrying about who’s taking up the most boot space around the fire, or who’s next in line at the sink to wash their dishes. It’s a special experience, and it’s made special, in part, by the sense of achievement, but so much more than this by those you share it with.

Two pairs of boots dry on a fence at the head of a valley.
Hiking Boots drying out at Siberia Hut in Mt Aspiring National Park.

And guess what! Aside from the warm fuzzy feeling that multiday hiking gives you, there’s also a whole heap of health benefits, and not all of them are physical! Maybe that’s why people say us kiwis are such a friendly bunch?!

Benefits of going guided

Over the years our guides have learned a few tricks when it comes to overnight hiking. And we know how valuable local knowledge is. When you’re on the trail you’ll want all sorts of information about the area you’re hiking in, its history, the plants, birds, even the elevation changes for each day – your guides can share that with you. And that kind of knowledge adds so much to an experience in the backcountry. They’ll also share a few secrets to having a successful trip, the kind of things you didn’t know you needed to know, or to pack. They’ll take you to the best viewpoints for the perfect photo, and tell you how to make your own pillow – no need to pack one. All you have to do is turn your sleeping bag stuff bag inside out, and fill it with your spare clothes. Now you can rest easy!

A group of hikers and their guide stand on a ridgeline.
Guide Andy, and his group of adventurers on Robert’s Ridge in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Our guides have comprehensive training in all sorts of areas, some of which we hope they’ll never need. They’re trained in outdoor first aid, efficient radio communications, and river crossing techniques, to name a few. And they’re also backed up by an awesome Operations Team here at Active HQ. The team is always just a phone call away, anytime day or night.

Two hikers on the trail, a river running beside, and a small aircraft flying overhead.
To hike in Siberia Valley you’ll need to catch a plane in!

Everyone’s number one priority in the outdoors is safety, especially on multiday hikes. Because of its separation from other large land masses, New Zealand gets some very interesting weather. Add that to the geography of the country, and particularly the South Island, with the Southern Alps dictating weather patterns as they do, and we end up with very changeable conditions. Our local guides have spent their lives amongst those conditions, and are always prepared for four seasons in one day. They’ll approach every hike with a plan A, a plan B, and often a plan C. Rivers can change course, or rise rapidly, groups can be super keen and want to hike further, or struggling, and need to do less, or rest more often. A guide is ready for anything, they’ve seen it all before, they’ll react calmly, and smoothly, and ensure you’re comfortable and safe.

Panoramic shot of glacial lake, icebergs floating, and a group sitting on the shore.
Icebergs floating in Crucible Lake in Mt Aspiring National Park. The kind of place you wouldn’t know to visit without a guide!

Our guides are also logistical magicians, and they work in pairs. You’ll hop off the bus for a hike from A, and the bus will pick you up at B just as you arrive off the trail, or back at civilisation from the hills. They’ll also give you some advice on the best way to ensure you get a comfy bed when you arrive at each hut – if it’s not pre booked. Your guides will carry the little extras, like bug repellent, hand sanitizer, and candles too. They’ve spent heaps of time in the hills, they know exactly what you need for a perfect trip. And to top it all off, they’re masters of the backcountry cooker! You’ll be fed delicious, nutritious meals after a day’s hiking, and wake up ready to go again.

 Why go guided recap

  1. Knowledge of flora, fauna, mountains, rivers, and viewpoints.
  2. Tricks of the trade e.g how to pack your bag, or make a pillow.
  3. Comprehensive safety training.
  4. Backed up by an Operations Team.
  5. Experience of the conditions – plan Bs+Cs in place.
  6. Logistics – arranging transport, organising beds, putting up tents.
  7. Providing the small things that are easily forgotten – bug repellent, hand sanitizer etc.
  8. Excellent cooks.

We’d advise…

So if you’re itching to head out into the hills, and see what the real New Zealand is all about, we reckon your best bet is to do so with a local guide. The best advice we can give you though, is to embrace the whole experience, trust in your guides, and keep in mind that it’s sharing these experiences that makes them special. Head for the hills willing to share your space, and your stories, because it’s the story that you’ll remember long after you’ve taken your boots off.

Check Out Our Guided Trips

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Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer
“For me, this was the best experience I’ve ever had.”

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Preparing for a hiking adventure

8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer


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Preparing for a hiking adventure

“Am I too out-of-shape for an adventure trip?” It’s the number-one question we’re asked by so many travellers inquiring about our trips.

It’s the nagging worry that especially keeps 50+ adventurers from taking the plunge on the vacation of their dreams – and that’s a shame, because anyone who loves the outdoors is a good candidate for an adventure tour.

Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to prepare before your trip to make it more enjoyable. A little investment in your overall fitness before you go pays big dividends in terms of what you can accomplish out on the trail.

That doesn’t mean you have to join the gym or punish yourself with a triathlon-level training regimen. There are a lot of common sense steps you can start right now to get yourself ready for the adventure of a lifetime. So if you’re a 50+ adventurer and wondering where to start, try these eight fitness tips to give yourself the confidence to achieve your personal goals.

 

1. Give yourself time to prepare.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

In general, it can take your body from three weeks to three months to really see a significant improvement in your fitness level and to respond to a change in routine. So if you’ve already booked your trip, you’d best get started now!

 

2. Focus on your cardiovascular fitness.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week for people 50+ with at least 30-minute sessions at a time.

The best aerobic activities for mature athletes are swimming, cycling, brisk walking or jogging—all of which are great preparation for an adventure like exploring Peru and Machu Picchu.

Even if you can’t get outdoors or make it to the gym, there are lots of great cardio exercises you can do at home to get your heart pumping. Jumping jacks, half-jacks, squats, leg raises, hops, and even plank-jacks are great bodyweight exercises that require no special equipment or skill.

If you’re doing a hiking adventure (like Mt. Everest perhaps), high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is particularly beneficial because it improves both aerobic and anaerobic fitness and prepares your body for the bursts of strength you’ll need on your climb.

HIIT sounds more complicated than it really is – it’s simply adding a short period of more strenuous exertion into your daily walking, jogging, swimming, or biking routine. For example, if you take a 45-minute brisk walk, try to jog for 30 to 60 seconds every 5 to 10 minutes of your walk. Same if you swim or bike – add a few sprints during your usual routine.

A note of caution for you mountain adventurers: Even if you’re in pretty good shape, it’s important not to push yourself too hard at higher altitudes. Exertion is a key driver of altitude sickness.

 

3. Focus on leg strength.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

Strength training is generally a good idea for athletes of all ages, but for hikers, leg strength is essential for an enjoyable experience. Your legs are doing the bulk of the work, after all.

Lunges, squats, and calf-raises are all good exercises you can do at home. Try slowly stepping on and off a step or exercise platform, gradually increasing the height as you progress.

Setting your treadmill at a higher incline is also great preparation – or just walking up a few hills on your evening stroll.

 

4. You need a strong back to carry your pack.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

Your adventure pack and a few bottles of water are a portable gym to help you get in shape just about anywhere. Strap on your pack and practice “step ups”. This will really get your calves and back ready for the weight you’ll be carrying on a hike! Walking up and down the stairs with your pack is also great training.

Push-ups and planking with a loaded pack build up essential muscles in your core, shoulders, and upper body that you’ll need on longer hikes. Here are some good exercises you can do with your pack to strengthen your back.

 

5. Don’t neglect your core.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

Your core muscles are your abdominal muscles, back muscles, and the muscles in your pelvis and they give you balance and flexibility – and underpin just about every other physical activity you’ll do on an active adventure.

Crunches, bridges, and planks are some of the best exercises to build a strong core. You can tune up your core by sitting on an exercise ball while you read or watch TV at night; step up your core fitness game with these stability ball exercises.

 

6. Keep it balanced.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

This sounds too simple to mention, but a few minutes spent improving your balance can prevent injuries on your trip and give you more stability when you climb. Walking heel-to-toe with your arms out at your side and your eyes looking straight ahead is an easy and effective balance exercise. So is simply standing on one foot for 30-60 seconds at a time (longer if you can manage) before switching to the other foot.

Here’s a great video with some easy exercises to improve your static and dynamic balance (and you’ll need both on the trail).

 

7. Don’t forget the practice hikes.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

Now’s the time to put all those exercises to work for you with a few practice hikes. Look for places with variable terrain and elevation so you can get the feel for how your body responds to the stresses – and areas where you may want to improve.

Remember to wear your pack and toss in a few water bottles, adding more as you progress, so you get used to handling your body with a weighted pack.

The practice hikes are essential for one more extremely important reason: You’ll get a chance to break in your boots – or buy a new pair if the ones you have aren’t supporting you correctly. There’s nothing worse than hitting the trail with a pair of painful, poorly fitting boots.

Remember that new boots rarely feel great right out of the box. The lighter models may break in with just a few hikes, but some of the sturdier leather ones may take weeks to really conform to your feet. Keep that in mind if you’re considering a new pair of hikers before your trip.

 

8. Mental preparation is important, too.

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

Fear is the enemy when it comes to trying something new. Combat it with physical preparation – knowing you’re doing positive things to get your body ready for the trip.

Focus on the “why,” the personal benefit you hope to attain by completing an adventure: “I want to hike the Inca Trail because I will _______________________.” Keep that benefit firmly in mind when you’re feeling discouraged, both in your preparations and on the trail.

Finally, visualize success. See yourself standing on the vast Tibetan Plateau or hiking Grey Glacier in Patagonia. Seeing success is the first step toward achieving it.

Don’t be afraid of a little self-doubt – it happens to everyone, even the most well-prepared. But you can combat it by knowing why you’re taking an adventure tour in the first place and what success looks like to you.

Of course, a really knowledgeable and supportive trip leader can make all the difference, too.

 

Final thoughts…

You don’t have to be in the best shape of your life to have a memorable and successful adventure tour. But it helps to give yourself confidence with a little preparation before you go.

Just remember – no matter how you feel when you leave, you’ll return renewed, refreshed, and alive with a sense of accomplishment.

If you’re ready to take the next step and start planning your own active adventure, why not contact us today to talk about your travel goals?

And if you’re not ready to have a conversation, but want to know more about adventure vacations and how to plan and prepare for them, sign up for our free email course today.

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination
Multi-day Hiking in New Zealand’s Backcountry, and 8 Reasons Why You Should Go Guided.

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7 surprising reasons

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination


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7 surprising reasons

Looking for a better way to spend your winter instead of staying inside all season long binge-watching Netflix? No offense to the binge-watchers out there—it certainly has its time and place! But after awhile, don’t you crave something a little more… adventurous?

Sure, you could travel to the beaches of the Caribbean, along with every other coworker in your office. Who wants to lay out on a cramped beach or wait in a long line for a cocktail?

Traveling just a little further south—south of the equator, in fact, takes you to a continent basking in the warm, golden rays of the sun, but also filled with many natural phenomena just waiting to be explored. This place is full of magnificent mountains, wondrous waterfalls, and amusing animals. Don’t believe it? Here are seven reasons why South America is the ultimate winter destination:

 

1. Escape from the bitter cold to a continent with both tropical and temperate climates.

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

While those wallowing in winter in the Northern Hemisphere are freezing, South Americans at or below the equator are enjoying warm weather conditions.

Ecuador, while partially in the Northern Hemisphere, straddles the equator, giving the whole country a tropical climate year-round. It’s particularly pleasurable January through May, most of which are cool months for Europe and North America.

Just below Ecuador is Peru, known for its mountains, lakes, and Machu Picchu. November through April is considered the “wet season,” but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to visit. On the contrary, during these months the trails are much quieter—better to enjoy your scenic surroundings. Conservation work takes place on the Inca Trail during the month of February, but it is still possible to reach Machu Picchu and explore the magic of the ancient site.

Patagonia (made up of Argentina and Chile) is at the base of South America. Here the climate is more temperate during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer months, perfect for hiking Chile’s Andes Mountains or kayaking across Argentina’s many lakes and rivers. Peak traveling season for Patagonia is January-March, but if you want to avoid the crowds while still escaping the cold, consider visiting during November or December.

 

2. While everyone back home is skiing, snorkel off the shores of the Galapagos Islands.

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

You’ve heard of the Galapagos Islands, right? They make up an archipelago just off the coast of Ecuador famous for century-old tortoises and Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species.

But these islands are more than just pieces of land in the Pacific Ocean—they are teeming with life, both flora and fauna. Want to know an amazing way to see all that these islands have to offer? Climb on a bike! Starting at the top of San Cristobal’s highest point, cycle your way down from the highland cloud forest that covers the top of the island to La Loberia, a beach home to a large sea lion colony and nursery.

Ready to get up close and personal with the cute and cuddly creatures as well as other marine life? Snorkel or scuba dive around Isla Lobos and watch the sea lions catch a meal. Afterwards, cruise to Kicker Rock to swim some more with turtles, tropical fish, and maybe even some sharks at the remains of an underwater volcano.

Want to see a volcano on land? Try hiking Sierra Negra Volcano, which rises nearly a mile above the ocean. As you ascend, the vegetation changes before your eyes from full flora to a barren lunar-like landscape. Its caldera is one of the largest in the world—seven miles wide! Bird enthusiasts will appreciate the opportunity to see Galapagos hawks, short-eared owls, finches, and flycatchers in this region.

These are just some highlights of the many ways to explore the Galapagos Islands. Enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime trip island-hopping, something that only a handful of people will ever have the chance to do.

 

3. Explore beautiful mountain ranges without all of the ice and snow.

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

Sure, you will see some snow-capped mountains while hiking in Peru, but thankfully the snow stops at approximately 4,500 meters in mountain ranges close to the equator, allowing for exceptional exploration! Start your journey in the ancient Incan city of Cuzco (not to be confused with a certain grooving emperor) in the Andes Mountains. Make your way to Sacsayhuamán (meaning House of the Sun) fortress, an awe-inspiring archaeological site that represents a set of jaguar’s teeth. Each massive “tooth” is perfectly fitted and can weight up to 130 tons.

If the idea of exploring Sacsayhuamán is enticing, just wait until you hike to Machu Picchu. This centuries-old Incan city is mind-blowingly advanced for its age. How and why did they build the tall walls and carve the magnificent terraces and ramps? It’s a mystery we’ll probably never know the answer to, but part of the fun when exploring this UNESCO World Heritage Site.

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

Can’t imagine going all the way to South America without seeing the Amazon rainforest? Well, forest fans—rejoice! The Amazon Jungle extends into Peru, providing perfect wildlife viewing for any adventurer. Motorized canoes glide you down the Tambopata River, one of the many headwaters of the Amazon, into the forest basin. Tropical birds like the macaw fly overhead through the canopy as howler monkeys fill the air with their call. The diverse flora includes many medicinal plants. There truly is no place like it anywhere else on earth.

Finally, it wouldn’t be a visit to Peru without kayaking on Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America and the highest in the world that is still navigable. The lake’s colour is a deep blue unlike any water you’ll have ever seen. Make your way across the immense body of water to Capachica Peninsula, then hug the shore line, grazed by sheep and shadowed by ancient remnant agricultural terraces. For those seeking a more thrilling vacation, consider all that Peru has to offer.

 

4. You don’t have to travel to Antarctica (or be freezing!) to hang with penguins.

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

At the bottom of South America lies a completely different land than that of Ecuador or Peru. This is Patagonia, a vast area of land that starts in the plains of Argentina and moves to the mountains of Chile, finally reaching the edge of the world.

What’s a better way to start your trip than with a visit to Magdalena Island, home not to humans, but to Magellanic penguins. Hike across the island, exploring all the nooks and crannies. Cameras are essential for this hike—you don’t want to miss out on capturing the tuxedo-wearing bird and other wildlife!

Hiking continues for a special trek, the legendary four-day “W” hike! This journey inside Torres del Paine National Park takes you across granite peaks, snow-clad mountains, glacial lakes, and the thick Magellanic forest. On the first day of your hike, you’ll come across the stunning Torres del Paine (that’s ‘Towers of Blue’)—three monstrous mountain peaks rising to a height of 3,000 feet and thought to be the highest natural cliff faces in the world. These natural wonders are breathtaking.

After completing the “W” trek, give your legs a rest and let your arms do some work. Kayak across Grey Lake, known for its grand glaciers and immense icebergs.

If cycling is more your speed, you’re in luck, Argentina’s landscape provides a better terrain for bikes. Ride through the valley basin of River de las Vueltas, viewing river vistas and waterfalls along the way.

 

5. Even kiddos need to “get away” sometimes!

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

These days, it’s more important than ever to get kids outdoors and spend time with their families. With all of the distractions in our lives—from technology to school work to work projects—it can be hard to find enough time to bond with our loved ones.

Want the chance to get away as a family? Embark on a family-friendly adventure to Peru! Together you’ll journey through the Amazon rainforest with some incredible wildlife viewing opportunities. You might spot a capybara, or macaws perched atop the river banks or hear the howls of troops of howler monkeys from the tropical forest canopies above. Hike to Las Salineras and learn about salt production, and explore the ancient Incan cities of Cuzco and Machu Picchu.

What could be better than a vacation that gets the kids active, and also educates them? Not to mention, it’s a ton of fun!

 

6. Heat things up while visiting Ecuador’s volcanoes and hot springs.

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

Maybe you like the idea of adding some rest and relaxation into your adventurous trip? Ecuador is the place for you.

Begin your trip at a ranch on Cotopaxi, learning about Ecuadorian farm life. Try your hand at milking cows, take in the serene scenery surrounding the ranch, or just curl up with a good book that you’ve been meaning to read.

The next day, pick up the pace as you cycle down Cotopaxi, which, by the way, happens to also be a volcano. The views on your way down are unparalleled—the Valley of Volcanoes provides vistas unlike anything you’ve ever seen.

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

Ready for a hike? After traveling into the heart of Ecuador’s rainforest, you’ll find yourself hiking through waterfalls, making your way to the Papallacta highlands and cooling yourself off at the same time. At the end of your day, soak in a steaming hot spring that is right outside your lodging for the night.

At the end of your trip, fly out of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador. But before you leave, consider enjoying some free time in this historical mountain city.

 

7. Biking is way more fun when you’re under the golden sun!

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

Want the best of both Peru and Ecuador? You got it! Enjoy seeing highlights from both countries as well as island-hopping around the Galapagos Islands.

An important part of any trip abroad is to take in the culture around you. One of the best ways to get up close and personal with the locals is via bike. While in Peru, cycle through the Sacred Valley of the Incas, the once great civilization of the Andes Mountains before they were conquered by the Spanish. Speaking of the Andes, did you know they stretch all the way from Venezuela to Chile, making them the longest mountain chain on land?

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

On your cycling excursion, ride through breathtaking scenery, dotted with local villages and surrounded by the massive, green slopes of the Andes. Finish your ride at the small town of Pisac, a typical Peruvian village. A must-see is the colorful mercado artesanal, a fresh market full of local fruits and vegetables.

Finish your time in Peru with visits to Machu Picchu and Cuzco before departing for Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands are just a plane ride away and will enthrall you with their lush vegetation, diverse marine life, and peculiar land animals.

 

Quiero visitar América del Sur? Want to visit South America?

Your South American winter adventure is waiting for you. Don’t have the same old winter holiday as everyone else—embark on a journey that both challenges you and feeds your soul. Get in touch today to see how easy it is to plan the winter trip of your dreams, or sign up for our free email course if you’d like to know more about adventure travel in South America.

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary
Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

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14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary


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Patagonia

So you like to be active, huh? That’s totally cool with us. In fact, our new tour features the best of the best when it comes to an active vacation—hiking volcanoes and kayaking fiords—and you may just see some really amazing things along the way.

Here’s the perfect itinerary for 14 days in Patagonia for all of the ultimate explorers out there:

 

Day 1: Get your bearings in Bariloche with an authentic Patagonian meal.

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

We all know travelling takes a lot out of you. One of the best jet lag cures? Food! And you’re going to love Patagonian cuisine.

Your arrival to Bariloche brings you to the chocolate capital of Argentina. Artisan chocolate shops line the streets, beckoning you inside. And why not? You’re about to spend two weeks on the move—live a little!

Dinner tonight features a typical Patagonian meal. Entrees include beef, spit roast lamb, trout, king crab, and wild boar. Served alongside your meats are potatoes, breads, and cheeses. All of the foods come from the surrounding landscapes, from the glacial rivers (trout) to the dense forests (wild boar) to the Atlantic Ocean (king crab).

 

Day 2: Warm up your hiking legs with a trek to Cerro Llao Llao and cool off with a dip at Playa Tacul.

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

It’s your first official day on the trail! And what better way to spend it than amongst the lakes and peaks of Patagonia. Cerro Llao Llao sits in the midst of three different lakes, all of which can be seen from the top of your hike. Popping up in the distance are the tops of Cerro Lopez and Cerro Capilla.

Wind your way through a wooded trail to the top for a mid-morning tea break, a very “Patagonian” thing to do! After finishing your tea (or maybe mate!), descend Cerro Llao Llao to lake-level. Here you can walk the sandy shores of Playa Tacul or even jump into the crystal clear and clean waters of the lake. No matter how you choose to spend your time, you are sure to love the lago (that’s Spanish for lake!).

 

Day 3: Get your heart pumping with a brisk climb to Cerro Bella Vista—you won’t believe the views.

It’s day three in Argentina, and you may be feeling one of two ways: Completely ready for the next adventure or exhausted as your body is still trying to adjust to Patagonian life. The good news is you get to choose how you want to spend your day!

For those ready to hit today’s Patagonian path, head to Cerro Bella, which literally means “beautiful views.” You’re going to want to make sure you have your camera and/or smartphone for this one. Binoculars wouldn’t hurt, either.

It’s quite a trek to the top, with a heart-pumping ascent above the treeline, but it’s well worth it for 360 degree views of the myriad lakes and crowded horizon line of huge peaks.

If you’d rather spend the day exploring Bariloche and its surroundings, that’s completely fine too! Who wouldn’t want to sample the rich and smooth chocolate the town is known for? Or maybe do some souvenir shopping?

 

Day 4: Hike the “Road of the Seven Lakes” to Cerro Falkner and panoramic views of Argentina’s Lake District.

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

If you signed up for spectacular sights, today is the day for you. Your journey today takes you through the “Road of the Seven Lakes” to Cerro Falkner. The trail twists and turns through lush forests, by cool-blue lakes, and past wondrous waterfalls. Feel free to take a dip in the water if you’re feeling so inclined!

Soon, the base of Cerro Falkner emerges ahead, and you’re ready to begin your climb to the top. The trees you pass are coihue and ñire, the latter of which is the southernmost tree on earth as it was found on Hoste Island. Once you reach the tip of the mountain, you’ll be happy for every step you took on the way up. Marvel at all seven of the lakes from a bird’s eye view, it’s just amazing.

 

Day 5: Enter the “Ring of Fire” with a trek up the south face of Volcan Lanin.

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

If you can’t stop singing a certain Johnny Cash tune right now, no one will blame you. That’s right, we’re headed into the “Ring of Fire.”

Volcan Lanin straddles the border of Argentina and Chile and has two National Parks on its slopes (one for each country). The wild woods of the mountain enhance your hike. Lookout for the peculiar Pehuén, or monkey puzzle tree.

As you encounter the volcano’s snowline, you might think you’ve gone “North of The Wall” as snow exists year-round here. Mountains upon mountains go as far as the eye can see, creating a breathtaking backdrop.

 

Day 6: Immerse yourself in the Chilean rainforest at the Huilo Huilo Reserve.

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

After one last Argentine ascent (the red-hued Cerro Colorado), you’re on your way to Chile. Once over the border (that’s another stamp to your passport!), board a ferry on Lago Pirihueico for a ride to Huilo Huilo Reserve.

This private, biological reserve is 600 square kilometers of Chilean temperate rainforest. There’s a high amount of precipitation here and relatively warm temperatures during the summer. Wildlife enthusiasts will be in Patagonian paradise. There are 81 known species of bird throughout the forest as well as the phantom puma — we say phantom because you will most likely never see the big cat due to its timid and nocturnal nature.

Here you’ll never be far from the local flora as your hotel is literally shaped like a mushroom. Reino Fungi Hotel pays architectural homage to the fungi found in the forests near the lodging. Enjoy a house-brewed beer as a nightcap before getting a good night’s rest. Tomorrow has a lot in store!

 

Day 7: Explore the Valdivian forest and waterfalls along the Fuy River.

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary
© Marcos Escalier

We won’t have to go too far for our hike today. The Fuy River and Valdivian forest are practically on our doorstep. As you wander through today’s trail you’ll feel as if you’re in a fairytale. Songbirds serenade you from the treetops, and picture perfect waterfalls break up the many tributaries.

While these sights are amazing, you can choose instead to have a relaxing day at the hotel, if you’d prefer. Soak up the sun with lakeside views and a coffee or hot chocolate. Or perhaps you’d rather soak yourself in the lodge’s hot pools. Whatever your fancy, you can’t go wrong at our friendly, fungi inn.

 

Day 8: Raft the Petrohue River past four magnificent volcanoes. [Free day option]

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary
© amira_a

Welcome to Puerto Varas! There are so many options for you to consider today, but no matter which you choose, you’re going to have a blast. It’s a free day in this Chilean town, but that doesn’t mean there is no adventure to be had.

A great way to spend your afternoon is rafting the rapids of Petrohue River. As you navigate through the white and wild waters, be sure to look up at the four vast volcanoes that line the river.

Cyclists will appreciate the opportunity to show off their skills at the Osorno Volcano pump track. And of course, you can always choose to stay within town limits for shopping, sightseeing, and sampling of local cuisine.

 

Day 9: Check out the Chilean fiords and hike Hornopirén National Park.

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

On the Chilean coast is the village of Hornopirén, its name derives from the nearby volcano and means “snow oven.” No matter where you look, the views are outstanding. The Andes Mountains are dissected by the Chilean fiords, and glaciers cover their slopes.

Lunch at the local market brings you closer to understanding the Chilean culture. Try a fresh catch of Merluza or Congrio (Southern Hake and Conger Eel) or grab one of the many colorful fruits and vegetables.

Bellies full, it’s time to get inside Hornopirén National Park, renowned for its mountains, glaciers, and volcanoes all packed into a relatively small area. Animal lovers will also love the wide variety of fauna residing in the untouched temperate forest. A ferry ride to Llancahue Island takes you home for the night.

 

Day 10: Soak in the hot springs at Cahuelmo Fiord.

It’s your 10th day in Patagonia. You’ve seen some incredible sights, but you might be feeling in need of a “pick me up.” The hot springs of Cahuelmo Fiord will do just the trick. The springs are located inside Parque Pumalín, created by the late American entrepreneur and ecologist Douglas Tompkins, founder of The North Face.

One of the things that makes this park so unique is the way in which the local economy thrives alongside conservation. Within the park you’ll find small organic farms with activities such as animal husbandry, cheese making, ecotourism, wool handicrafts, and honey production.
Beginning with a short boat ride on Quintupeu Fiord, you’ll see wonderful waterfalls and granite peaks. The azure waters of the fiord are met with the steep, emerald forested walls of the Andes.

Following up the spectacular scenery will be spectacular springs. In the temperate rainforest lies Cahuelmo Fiord, which produces relaxing hot springs just waiting to be lounged in. Let any tension in your body flow out into the warm waters. There’s no better way to end your day than with a reflective soak in the hot springs.

 

Day 11: Kayak where fresh and saltwater meet—and maybe meet some friends along the way.

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

Water-lovers will enjoy getting on tandem kayaks on the Reloncavi Fiord. Kayaking is the best way to see the snow-capped mountains, cascading waterfalls, and even certain sea-friends (sea lions and dolphins might just swim by!).

After disembarking from your kayak, lunch will be a special treat at a locally owned farm for an authentic asado (lamb barbecue). Meet the Yolanda family, who have been living on the banks of the fiord for three generations. Chatting with the Yolanda’s will allow you to fully embrace Chilean culture and understand the Andean way of life.

 

Day 12: Test your limits on a trek to Desolation Pass on Osorno Volcano—the views are absolutely worth it.

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

Hiking Osorno Volcano takes you through many different kinds of landscapes. First, your trek will begin on a lunar landscape—rocky and desolate of any vegetation. As you climb further up the slopes, lush woods emerge, bringing you back down to earth. Finally, as you ascend to the top (known as Desolation Pass), the stunning skyline comes into view. Below is Lago Todos Los Santos, it’s crystal clear waters reflecting the surrounding sights.

Back at your home-away-from-home for the night is a hearty meal complete with a glass of red wine. If you’re looking for more than a libation to relax, try lounging in the wood-fired hot tubs.

 

Day 13: Take a catamaran cruise across Lagos Todos los Santos before crossing the Andes into Argentina.

It’s your last full day in Patagonia. Take a minute and soak in your surroundings. Got them locked in your memory? Okay, here we go…

Today’s travels begin on Cruce Andino, or the lakes route. Cruise on a catamaran over Lago Todos los Santos towards your lunch in Peulla. Then, it’s time to get back to Argentina, but not before a dramatic crossing over the Andes Mountains.

On the other side are even more lakes just waiting to glide you across their mirror-like surfaces. A boat ride, bus ride, and catamaran cruise later and you’re back at Bariloche, where this journey began.

 

Day 14: Celebrate your Patagonia adventure with a farewell tour of Bariloche.

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

Before departing the paradise of Patagonia, be sure to get in some last minute activities in Bariloche. Fill up on a festive Argentine feast with your new found friends, before heading to the airport. Do some last minute shopping for souvenirs to take home to loved ones (postcards are great for remembering your favorite sites!). Delight yourself with some delectable desserts in the corner chocolate shops or take one last stroll around the city for beautiful, Swiss-style architecture.

As you board your flight, headed home, reflect on the last two weeks. Maybe you like to journal. Maybe you have a blog of your explorations. Perhaps pictures on your phone are the best way to remember the good times you’ve had. Adios, Argentina! It was fun.

 

Want to get active in Patagonia?

Between the sights, activities, food, and people, you can’t go wrong with an adventure in Patagonia. Click here to start planning the adventure of a lifetime. Or, if you aren’t quite ready to book but would love more information about this tour, sign up for our free email series.

Celebrate Like A Kiwi – Hike New Zealand’s Milford Track this Christmas
7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

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Female hiker walking a New Zealand Great Walk with forested mountains in the background

Celebrate Like A Kiwi – Hike New Zealand’s Milford Track this Christmas


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Female hiker walking a New Zealand Great Walk with forested mountains in the background

Anyone living in the northern hemisphere will be familiar with the term ‘white Christmas’… but have you ever heard of a ‘golden sand Christmas’? Or a ‘lush green rain forest Christmas’? Maybe a ‘glass of wine as you’re sun baking beside a lake, high in the Southern Alps Christmas’? Ok, we’re getting carried away now, but what an amazing idea – a Southern Hemisphere Christmas!

Summer solstice lands on December 22nd in New Zealand this year, so during the Christmas/New Year period our days are the longest, warmest, and it’s the perfect time to be exploring the great Kiwi countryside. This also means it’s the most popular time to visit New Zealand, but I’m here to tell you that the crowds don’t matter – if you choose your trip wisely.

Most Christmas travellers from the Northern Hemisphere will have 2 or 3 weeks of vacation time, and the most popular way to spend that time is 1 week on the North Island, and 2 weeks on the South Island. Along the way you’ll want to hit a few beaches, visit a few wineries, get off the beaten track to check out a few local hiking and biking trails, and most importantly; hike a handful of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Of the 9 Great Walks, the Milford Track is without a doubt the most famous, and for many travellers it’s the single most important reason for choosing to travel to New Zealand.

Female hiker on the Routeburn Track guided walk

The Milford Track is one of the longest established and best-known walking tracks in the country. It starts on the eastern shore of Lake Te Anau and crosses McKinnon Pass to Milford Sound, taking in glacial peaks, a mountain pass, New Zealand’s highest waterfall and the dense rain forest of the West Coast. Some hikers choose to hike the Milford Track in its entirety on a guided walk, or take a day walk on it, along with a handful of other Great Walks nearby.

Fiordland National Park is home to 3 of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks; the Milford Track, the Routeburn Track and the Kepler Track. All of which are a short drive from one another, but all 3 of these Great Walks have very distinct personalities, and the scenery you’ll experience on each trail clearly distinguishes it from the others, meaning that day hikers can absorb a greater variety of countryside, in the same time as others hike one trail in its entirety.

For those keen hikers looking to complete the Milford Track in its entirety, it’s possible to hike the track solo, or as part of a guided group. The Department of Conservation has placed a limit on the number of hikers using the track to prevent overcrowding and excessive damage to the trail – so with only 40 independent hikers allowed on the trail each day, and Christmas hiking passes selling out months in advance – the next option is to take a guided walk.

New Zealand Great Walk guide making coffee on a stony creek bed

The Milford Track guided walk is four days of breath taking scenery. It’s loaded with additional benefits over doing it solo, and everything’s provided along the way. Hikers enjoy hot showers, bedding, specialist Milford Track guides who will give you an incredible understanding of the local flora and fauna, and there are even hair dryers in the mountain lodges (with upgrades to private rooms upon request). As hikers complete their journey, entering Milford Sound at the end of the 33.5 miles (53 km), it becomes immediately apparent why Rudyard Kipling referred to Milford Sound as the 8th Natural Wonder of the World. Giant granite peaks explode from the black ocean, without a beach in sight. Huge waterfalls land directly in the ocean, where you’ll see native fur seals playing and (often) dolphins or sperm whales too!

Kayaks in Milford sound on a cloudy day

So if you’re from the northern hemisphere and you’re thinking about swapping out your winter woollies for your best pair of hiking boots this Christmas – the great Kiwi countryside is calling your name. Whether you’re hiking the Milford Track solo, hiking it as part of a Milford Track Guided Walk or discovering a handful of New Zealand’s Great Walks – you’ll be heading deep into New Zealand’s pure wilderness – avoiding the crowded shopping malls, bustling cities and hectic beaches.

So start planning your Christmas adventure today, before everyone else finds out about these wilderness hideaways!

Start Planning Your New Zealand Hiking Tour

5 Personality Types Who Love to Trek in South America
14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

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5 Personality Types Who Love to Trek in South America

5 Personality Types Who Love to Trek in South America


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Ever wondered who takes an active vacation trekking in South America? The type of folks who will be your fellow adventurers on an active tour of Peru or Patagonia?

The answer might surprise you—because there is no one answer. We see an endless panoply of unique and interesting individuals, but they do share a few common traits: Openness, curiosity, enthusiasm, courage, and more than a little love of adventure.

Over the years, we’ve identified a few general personality types that many—not all, of course—of our guests tend to display. Take a look at our list and see if you can find yourself or someone you know in one of them. Let us know in the comments if you think we’ve hit the nail on the head with any of them, or know of a type we missed.

 

Aaron the Adventurer – Age 56

5 Personality Types Who Love to Trek in South America

Aaron is a bank VP by day, with a corner office overlooking a bustling cityscape. He’s a classic adventure personality, escaping the stress of his job with active weekends hiking, biking, and kayaking. Each year, he plans one extraordinary adventure to test his limits, to pit himself against Mother Nature and all she has to offer. Last year, Aaron spent 12 days hiking and kayaking the fiords of Norway.

This year, he’s trekking somewhere new—Patagonia and the infamous “W” trek in the Torres del Paine National Park, a four-day journey through snow-covered mountains and sheer granite cliffs, summiting at one of the most incredible and widely recognized mountain landscapes in the world. At a height of 900 meters (about 3,000 feet), the “Towers of Blue” are believed to be the world’s highest natural cliff faces.

Even that isn’t enough for intrepid Aaron. He’s going to strap on his crampons and shoulder his pick axe to ice climb Grey Glacier in Chile before exploring Argentina’s breathtaking Perito Moreno Glacier. He’s debating a third week to explore Northern Patagonia and the Ring of Fire, the volcanic belt in the Chilean Andes.

 

Culturally Curious Carl and Christine – Ages 48 and 47

5 Personality Types Who Love to Trek in South America

Carl, an architect, and Christine, a social worker, met 25 years ago on a cultural tour of China during their last year at university, and they’ve always shared a passion for cultural travel. They’ve recently made the last tuition payment for their daughter’s university education and decided to celebrate their new financial freedom with their first couples’ holiday in 13 years—a cultural exploration of Peru seemed like the perfect fit.

They’ll begin in Cuzco, in the heart of the Incan Empire, visiting the archaeological marvels at the “House of the Sun.” They’re excited to hike the Lares Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and watch the morning sun break through Inti Punku, the Sun Gate. They’ll even do some trekking through the Amazon rainforest.

What really speaks to their heart, though, is travelling through the farms and villages of the Andes, especially visiting the Quechua people near Lake Titicaca and experiencing their ancient culture, unchanged over the centuries.

 

Bucket-List Betsey – Age 61

5 Personality Types Who Love to Trek in South America

Betsey recently retired from her job as a public school administrator and is excited to begin checking items off her bucket list. She was widowed four years ago, but refuses to let her single state prevent her from taking part in the lifetime adventures she always dreamed about. She’s excited to visit the Galapagos Islands to snorkel with the gentle reef sharks, hang out with the marine iguanas, and visit a few giant tortoises.

One of the best parts for Betsey is being part of a congenial travel group—the thought of finding suitable travel companions on her own nearly derailed her plans. She’s excited for the opportunity to meet new people who share her passion for travel and unusual destinations. Spending a few days at a gorgeous seaside lodge and photographing a few friendly dolphins on her journey are just icing on the cake.

 

Zest-for-Life Zoey – Age 33

5 Personality Types Who Love to Trek in South America

Everyone knows a Zoey. Ours is a city planner in Chicago who lives for stolen weeks away from her cubicle. Single and fun-loving, Zoey loves nothing more than escaping the city and trying new things, preferably far away from the bustle of urban life. She takes a few short getaways during the year and saves for one exceptional adventure each year. Last year, she did the glaciers in Jasper and Banff, but this year, she’s looking for some fun in the sun.

Zoey and two friends are heading for Ecuador and some lifetime adventures—like cycling down Cotopaxi Volcano, hiking the Amazon rainforest, marveling at a cloud forest, and soaking in some amazing hot springs. They’ve got their cameras ready in case they spot the elusive spectacled bear in the grasslands around Quito. They plan to end their excursion with an Ecuadorian street food tour of that ancient mountain city, because what’s better than street food if you want to get to know a city?

 

Globe-Trotting Gabe and Grace and their children Ethan and Amelia – Ages 41, 39, 11, and 8

5 Personality Types Who Love to Trek in South America

Gabe and Grace own a commercial real estate company—the hours are long and the business tends to consume their lives. They love to unwind and reconnect as a family with international travel. Their last two trips were two-week DIY tours of Italy and France, but the planning process, arranging all the details, was so labor intensive, that quite honestly, the trips felt almost like work. This time, they want an interesting, exciting adventure vacation that the whole family could enjoy in a completely stress-free way.

It’s no surprise that our Capybara Peru adventure fits the bill. Everything from logistics to meals are arranged for them so they are free to immerse themselves in unforgettable experiences like motorised canoe rides through the Amazon rainforest (with night-time excursions to spot the nocturnal caiman), shadowing macaw researchers, exploring the Incan ruins of Cuzco, kayaking Lake Titicaca (and learning a few dances from the Quechua people), and even taking a guided tour of Machu Picchu. That Gabe and Grace get a free afternoon in Cuzco while the Active Adventures staff entertains the kids is an almost unbelievable bonus.

They’re even planning to extend their trip for a few days to explore the history and culture of Lima—not to mention the gastronomic delights (Lima’s long been recognized at the food capital of South America).

 

Ready to Embark on an Adventure of Your Own?

Did you recognize yourself in any of our South America travel types? Or find inspiration for your next active adventure holiday?

Why not get in touch today to see how easy it is to arrange the perfect South American adventure trip for you, and even your family? And if you’re not quite ready to chat with a member of our team, sign up for our free email course. You’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about the amazing experiences waiting for you in South America.

N.b. Characters are fictional and do not match those in images.

Celebrate Like A Kiwi – Hike New Zealand’s Milford Track this Christmas

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WINNER! Stan Jacobson, Annapurna Sanctuary Trek

Top 10 Guest Photos 2017


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Hello and Happy New Year! There are certain things that you come to depend on, events that happen consistently and predictably. We like to think our annual photography competition is one of these events! Every year the team here at Active HQ gather around a big screen in the staff lunch area to let the competition entry images soak in – we let ourselves be inspired. Fresh from our own adventures over the festive season, it’s easy to let the mind wander… “what it must be like to gaze up at the Paine Massif in Patagonia, or how nice it would be to escape to Siberia Valley and walk across the early morning dew accompanied only by the waking birds”.

Once the lucky winner is chosen, one of our team get the enviable task of letting them know they’ve just won a 2 for 1 deal on any of our Active Adventures – that’s here in New Zealand, Nepal, Europe and throughout South America. If you’re coming on an adventure with us in 2018 be sure to take your camera, because you may be the next winner!

It’s usually hard to pick a #1, but we have to say that this year there was a clear winner (read on below to find out who that was…) in fact their photos were SO good, we had a hard time trying to decide which ones to leave out of our top 10!

See the 2013 Top 10 // See the 2014 Top 10 // See the 2015 Top 10 // See the 2016 Top 10

Here’s our top 10 for 2017, in no particular order:

1. Terri Donati, Ultimate South Island Adventure ‘Rimu‘ trip

Terri Donati, Ultimate South Island Adventure 'Rimu' trip
The view from Braemar Station, over Lake Pukaki towards Aoraki Mt Cook in the background. Ahhh… What a classic! This is a view that we never tire of, which is why it’s part of our perennial favourite ‘Rimu’ trip, and a location that always surpasses our guests’ expectations.

2. Patrick Nguyen, Patagonia Hiking Adventure ‘Condor‘ trip

Patrick Nguyen, Patagonia Hiking Adventure 'Condor' trip
The ‘Condor’ trip in Southern Patagonia really does lend itself to stunning photography… For a short season between November and March the weather settles enough to allow intrepid hikers, like Patrick, the chance to measure themselves against glaciers, towering peaks and rolling tundra.

3. WINNER! Stan Jacobson, Annapurna Sanctuary Trek ‘AST‘ trip

WINNER! Stan Jacobson, Annapurna Sanctuary Trek 'AST' trip
“I pointed at my camera. Then I pointed at her and when I raised my eyebrows beckoning if it was OK to take a photo, she broke into this wonderful smile!”. Stan has been a finalist in our annual photography competition in 2014 and again in 2016. All of his photos are truly amazing. Congratulations Stan! Well deserved.

4. Dianne Czarnecki, Ultimate Peru Adventure ‘Jaguar‘ trip

Dianne Czarnecki, Ultimate Peru Adventure 'Jaguar' trip
Diane has captured the sense of elation at reaching Machu Picchu – a great achievement in anyone’s eyes. She and her fellow group members hiked the Classic Inca Trail, a 4 day hike reaching an altitude of 12,100 ft, as part of their 14-day ‘Jaguar’ trip. This photo has great colour and has already been a popular choice with the team at Active.

5. Jack Taylor, Mont Blanc Circuit ‘Tour du Mont Blanc‘ trip

Jack Taylor, Mont Blanc Circuit 'Tour du Mont Blanc' trip
You may have heard of Jack before, he’s been a guest on a few Active Adventures trips, along with various members of his family. His latest adventure was the circumnavigation of Mont Blanc, on which he carried a video camera the whole time and produced an excellent film. Somehow, he also managed to take some incredible photos, like this one of Aiguille du midi.

6. Danny Rigg, Ultimate North Island Adventure ‘Kauri‘ trip

Danny Rigg, Ultimate North Island Adventure 'Kauri' trip
Wide brimmed hats, singlets and shorts pretty much sums up the Far North of New Zealand. This is a quintessential shot of our ‘Kauri’ group hiking towards Cape Brett on a glorious summer day.

7. Pirko Hamer, Galapagos Land and Sea Adventure ‘Tortuga‘ trip

Pirko Hamer, Galapagos Land and Sea Adventure 'Tortuga' trip
It comes as no surprise that the ‘Tortuga’ trip nearly always features in the annual photo competition, with a wildlife shot. This photo of a heron by Pirko is composed beautifully with the dark blue horizon, the luscious green and the stark grey of the bird and rocks.

8. Steven Edwards, Everest Base Camp Trek ‘EBC‘ trip

Steven Edwards, Everest Base Camp Trek 'EBC' trip
“Gone for the season” was the caption on this photo by Steven, who hiked to Everest Base Camp with us in November. And it’s reassuring to hear from Steven, that this trek was not only “successful, but enjoyable too”! A great photo and a great bucket list achievement – well done!

9. Lindsay Busch, Essence of the South Island ‘Tui‘ trip

Lindsay Busch, Essence of the South Island 'Tui' trip
Who knows what this early riser is pondering, as they gingerly step through the tussocks that are being warmed by the early morning sun. The Siberia Valley Wilderness experience offers a once in a lifetime opportunity, to truly escape the confines of development. It’s often the slightly unusual photographs like this one, that catch our eye.

10. Jenny Wada, Ultimate Dolomites Adventure ‘Dolomiti‘ trip

Jenny Wada, Ultimate Dolomites Adventure 'Dolomiti' trip
What a perspective! Jenny must have had her heart in her mouth as she peered down to the valley far below. Although completely safe, and anchored to the rock, Via Ferrata is not for the faint-hearted. In this case, in Jenny’s words it was “The Best Day Ever!”
5 Personality Types Who Love to Trek in South America

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