A Stroll through Lima’s Historic Pueblo Libre
This article was written by Mike Gasparovic, a freelance writer, editor, and translator who devotes his free time to studying the history, art, and literature of the Spanish-speaking world and learning about its people. He currently lives in Lima and wrote this article on behalf of South American Vacations, providers of tours to South America.
A strange kind of time warp awaits you when you visit Lima, Peru. One minute you'll be walking along a 21st-century street, bustling with 21st-century noise and congestion, and the next you'll turn a corner and be confronted with colonial houses dating from the early 1700s. Two blocks further, a KFC will abut ruins that date back a millennium. Such temporal telescoping is apparent all over the Peruvian capital, but nowhere so abundantly as in Pueblo Libre, a sleepy district some 20 minutes from both Miraflores and downtown Lima. Quietly residential and overlooked by most travelers, the district is nonetheless surpassingly rich in history, boasting 19th-century taverns, pre-Colombian ruins, a house shared by the heroes of Latin American independence, and the two of the best museums in Lima—all packed together within a single square mile. So if you're in Lima for a few days and longing to escape the tourist herds, check out the following walking tour—its 16 blocks will allow you to survey over 1,600 years of Peru's vast history. Bring your imagination.
Stellae and Sandwiches
Tours of Pueblo Libre inevitably begin at the Plaza Bolívar, the district's main square. Here you'll find two of Lima's prime attractions, the Museo Arqueológico and the Quinta de los Libertadores (Calle Antonio Polo cuadra 8, 463-5070).
The Archaeological Museum is the most comprehensive of its kind in Peru. Founded in 1924 by the great Peruvian anthropologist Julio Tello, it leads visitors through 3,000 years of the country's history, with special emphasis on the pre-Colombian civilizations that flourished along Peru's coast before the arrival of the Incas. Housed among its winding galleries are two world-renowned treasures from the prehistoric Chavín culture: the Raimondi Stella, a sacred stone carved with jaguar and serpent deities whose design changes depending on the direction from which it's read, and the Tello Obelisk, an engraved monolith that once served as a sundial in the great temple at Huantar. In the same building you'll also find the Liberators' Museum, a series of rooms once belonging to Joaquín de la Pezuela, Peru's last Viceroy before being occupied consecutively by Jose de San Martín and Simon Bolívar, the two great revolutionary leaders of South America. Swords, letters, and furniture belonging to the two generals afford a glimpse of their (highly intermittent) domestic lives.
After a morning spent imbibing Peru's history, you'll probably be hungry, so you'll want to head to the Taverna Quierolo (San Martín 1079, 460-0041), a Lima hallmark that's been in continuous operation since the late-1800s. Founded by an Italian immigrant who got rich selling locally made wines and piscos, it serves some of the best sandwiches in Lima. On the other hand, if you're up for heartier fare, the Restaurante Bolivariano (Santa Rosa 291, 261-9565) is right around the corner and dishes up superb versions of all of Peru's criollo classics. Especially recommended: seco de cabrito (stewed goat) or pescado a lo macho (fish in a spicy seafood sauce).
Haciendas and Sexy Pots
After lunch, should you need spiritual support before yet another round of Peruvian history, you can head down Sucre two blocks to see the Traveler's Cross (Av. Sucre cuadra 6). First erected some seven blocks away in 1579 and reconsecrated by Franciscan monks in 1672, this monument was a waystation where Spanish travelers setting out from Lima to the port at Callao would pray for divine protection against attackers. The ladder and hammer affixed to the structure represent the implements used to nail Christ to the cross.
From there, it's two blocks east to the Casa Orbea (Jr. Juan Acevedo cuadra 1), one of the few 18th-century haciendas remaining in Lima. The house has been amazingly well preserved, and sports enchanting balconies and a lovely baroque chapel. The original family still lives upstairs.
The final two destinations mark a return to Peru's deep past. For sheer dazzlement, not to mention the beauty of the grounds, the Museo Larco (Av. Bolívar 1515, 461-1835) is hard to beat. Lodged in a former hacienda bought by the archaeologist Rafael Larco Herrera to house his staggering collection of pre-Colombian artifacts, the museum sports impressive gold- and silverwork, textiles, and other artifacts from the Moche, Chimu, and Huari cultures. Check out the Moche tools used in ritual human sacrifices, and then slip outside to peek at the annex filled with pre-Colombian erotic pottery. If men and women have done it, it's depicted here on these pots.
Finally, from the museum, take Av. Bolivar west till you hit Calle Rio Huaura. Turn right, and in two blocks you'll find yourself in front of the Huaca Julio Tello, one of the many pre-Inca huacas (sacred sites) that dot the Lima cityscape. Surrounded by middle-class houses, this 1,000-year-old complex belonged to the Maranga tribe and serves as a reminder of the persistence of the past in Peru's great capital.
How to Find an Affordable African Safari
This article was written by Wendy Worrall Redal on behalf of Natural Habitat Adventures. To watch a herd of impala springing over the savannah with a cheetah in hot pursuit, or a big bull elephant sloshing in a water hole, or a graceful giraffe browsing in the acacia trees, is to know some of the earth's most primal and beautiful wildlife encounters. Then, to share adventure stories around a campfire beneath a sky strewn with stars before you drift off to sleep in earshot of a lion's distant roar... Well, it's no wonder an African safari is the ultimate grail for many nature travelers. Yet a safari can feel like an elusive dream if you're a budget traveler. Africa's premier safari camps and lodges are among the most exclusive accommodations in the world, frequently topping $1,000 per person per night. While such a figure includes gourmet meals, game drives and other activities, the fact is, a luxury safari is simply out of reach for the typical traveler. Once you factor in costly flights, it's not unheard of to spend as much on a safari for two as you would on a new car. Does that mean you should give up your hopes of visiting Africa? Emphatically not. While even "budget" safaris often aren't cheap, there are ways to experience Africa's wonders that are within reach of the savvy traveler who's determined to get there. Take these four strategies into account as you search for a safari adventure to suit your budget: TRAVEL OFF-SEASONIn Africa, high and low seasons revolve around precipitation patterns. The dry season is the most popular time to visit, because animals often congregate around water sources and are easier to spot when vegetation is sparse. Yet the "green season" can offer real benefits, and not just prices that are often 25-30 percent lower. Though the weather is wetter, rains are often brief and sporadic, enough to keep the dust down and the grass green. Many animals birth their young at this time. And the clouds in the sky can make for some stunning sunsets, a bonus for photographers. In many locations, such as Kenya's Maasai Mara, wildlife viewing is superb year-round. Low Season in East AfricaEast Africa has two rainy seasons, from March/April through May/June, depending on your location, and again from October/November through December. Choosing travel dates on either end of these periods can bring good shoulder-season conditions with lower prices—early December is especially appealing, since crowds are few before the holiday season. January to March, between the rains, can be an ideal time to visit Kenya and Tanzania, when it's typically dry and less expensive. Though the annual wildebeest migration across the plains of the Serengeti and Maasai Mara between June and September is a thrill to behold, it also spikes prices. Unless your heart is set on it, you'll get more for your money and still see plenty of game if you travel at a different time. Or, consider a few days at a Serengeti migration camp where the herds are in February, followed by a camp in the northern Serengeti, away from the migration, for a full Tanzania safari experience that includes both the migratory herds and resident wildlife. Low Season in Southern AfricaIn South Africa, the best off-season deals are when it's cold and drizzly in Cape Town and along the coast during the southern winter (May to September), yet still dry and sunny in the north, where the main safari areas such as Kruger, Sabi Sand and Madikwe are located. This means you'll find "low season" pricing when weather and wildlife viewing are actually best! As for Namibia and expensive Botswana, consider the shoulder months of May and November. Keep in mind, too, that Botswana's prices are high because visitor numbers are kept deliberately low to reduce environmental impact: Botswana's desirable safari camps are few and small, and vast tracts of land are dedicated to wilderness that shelters huge numbers of wildlife. Though you'll pay more for a safari in Botswana, the experience may be worth more accordingly. CHOOSE YOUR CAMPS WELLAfrica has thousands of safari camps and lodges, spanning the gamut from large, basic hostels to ultra-luxe bush camps with a personal butler for each opulently furnished tent. And the good news for cost-conscious travelers who want a quality experience on fixed finances is that there are a host of options in between. While 5-star camps may run a grand per night or more, there are plenty of others that offer very comfortable accommodations with personalized service, excellent meals and a full slate of safari activities for half that figure. It can be daunting, however, to know where to start looking. One option is a unique new online safari-planning tool called iSafari. It's a visually enticing, easy-to-use database that provides detailed information on nine African safari countries; parks, reserves and safari routes through those destinations; and a carefully vetted collection of several hundred high-quality camps, with reviews from actual travelers. (Think of the site as kind of a TripAdvisor for African safaris.) iSafari categorizes camps as Premier, Distinctive, and Traditional, terms that speak to style and level of luxury, but also, typically, to descending price. If you know you want to visit Botswana's Okavango Delta, for example, you can search for camps by region, then winnow them further by selecting a category tier. It's frequently the case that you may find a less-expensive camp that offers an equally rich wildlife experience, as on the Jao Concession, a private reserve in the delta known for its superb game viewing. While Jao Camp has a reputation for being one of Africa's most exclusive bush camps (and one of the priciest, starting at $1,242 per person), nearby Pelo Camp offers simple yet surprising comforts for one-third the price, including full beds with duvets and en suite bathrooms with flush toilets and running water. GO MOBILEIf $400 per night still sounds exorbitant, don't despair. There are ways to find a quality safari for less. The fewer creature comforts you require, the lower the price will drop. One option is mobile camping. While you can find luxury mobile camping options on par with high-end permanent camps (think king-size beds with high thread-count linens, en suite toilets, and dinners served on china and crystal), simpler set-ups provide equally good chances to see wildlife, if you choose your operator carefully. Fully Serviced Camping SafarisBudget-oriented mobile safaris can be either fully serviced or participatory. If you'd prefer to have someone else set up your tent and cook for you, check out a company like Wilderness Dawning. Based in Botswana and South Africa, they offer scheduled and custom safaris in some of southern Africa's best wildlife regions. A 10-day "Highlights of Botswana" safari starts at just $2,580, moving to $3,280 in high season. The package includes remote campsites in Moremi Game Reserve and Chobe National Park (as opposed to larger group campgrounds with shower blocks), plus a visit to Victoria Falls just over the border in Zambia. Group size runs 12-14 guests. While simple, camp facilities are far from primitive: Guests enjoy walk-in dome tents, raised cots, individual canvas wash basins, a shared toilet tent enclosing a flush toilet to sit down upon, hot-water bucket showers, and a dining tent where hearty meals prepared over the campfire are served by the camp staff. Of crucial importance to a successful safari, the guides employed by Wilderness Dawning are highly trained, typically hailing from the region in which the safari is conducted. As such, they know the area and its wildlife intimately and are able to track and find animals that less-qualified guides often miss. As long as you're going all the way to Africa, It's well worth coming up with the money to ensure an excellent guide, even If you have to cut corners elsewhere, such as shortening your trip by a day or two. Participatory Camping SafarisIf you don't mind pitching in with setting up camp, preparing meals and maybe even making a market run, a participatory camping safari is an even more economical option. Often referred to as "overlanding," this style of safari travel is frequently conducted in a large, open-sided truck, sometimes switching to mini-buses or 4x4s in the game parks. Participatory safaris are typically led by two guides: a driver and a cook, who may or may not be certified guides in the regions you're traveling to. Truck-based camping safaris usually take about 20 participants. The greater the number of guests, the lower the price tends to be, though keep in mind that your experience with wildlife will be less intimate, too. These safaris also tend to travel exclusively in heavily visited national parks and reserves, where it's not uncommon to see 10 or 15 vehicles surrounding a single lion. If cost is your paramount concern and you don't mind such tradeoffs, you can often score a trip like this for a remarkably low price, such as G Adventures' Kenya & Tanzania Overland, as low as $1,719 for eight nights of camping, three meals a day, and park entrance fees into the Masai Mara, Lake Nakuru, Serengeti, and Ngorongoro Crater. That figure is for a specially earmarked departure, however; list price is $2,149. However, note that in circumstances such as this, you may be able to find deep discounts if you can travel somewhat spontaneously. Some operators will slash prices a couple of months before a departure if they need to fill space. SELF-DRIVE SAFARISWhile the average traveler to Africa is probably not going to want to tackle an independent safari, it's certainly possible to do, especially in South Africa and Namibia which are well organized for such activity—indeed, many South Africans head off to Kruger National Park as readily as Americans flock to Yellowstone. A self-drive safari has the added benefit of setting your own pace and pursuing your individual interests, though it may be wise to hire a guide to join you at some point, since you're far more likely to spot wildlife and learn more than simply going it alone. If your budget precludes that, be sure you've got a guidebook and field guide specific to your destination. Once you've chosen a public game reserve or two, rent a car and explore the African bush on your own. It's perhaps the most economical mode of all, if you opt to hire camping gear and make your own meals, though it's also possible to stay in budget lodges and dine a la carte (Google "cheap hotels in Kruger National Park," and you'll find oodles—though be prepared to share them with lots of other safari-goers—not exactly a wilderness experience). And lest you fear that driving will take you off-track into the remote veldt where you're likely to get stuck or become food for a lion, fear not—most public parks have paved roads and signs, and as long as you stay in your vehicle, you'll be fine. If you like the adventure quotient of a self-directed safari but find the prospect daunting, consider making arrangements through a company like Namibia-based Self Drive Safaris, which takes care of all the arranging and follows you with a support vehicle. You drive at your own pace, stop at will, do your own camp set-up and cooking, yet you needn't worry about breakdowns or getting lost. Of course, the price for such services is significantly higher than doing it on your own, though much less than a high-end hosted safari. No matter which affordable approach you choose, the time you'll invest in researching options can pay off with real safari savings and a travel adventure that's tough to trump. Start exploring at isafari.com.
Spring Getaways to America's Coolest Small Towns!
I had a blast appearing on The Weather Channel's "Wake Up With Al" on Friday March 7. We talked about some of Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns 2014 as ideal spring getaways! (I didn't expect to sing Berlin, MD's signature bluegrass tune, "Cool Berlin," for an audience of 2 million!)
A Spiritual Journey to Myanmar
Maureen Santucci, originally from the U.S., has made Peru her home for the past five years. She writes for Fodor's Travel Guide as well as various travel blogs when she isn't escaping off to the mountains to hike, teaching Tai Chi, or treating patients in her acupuncture clinic. If you're looking for a different sort of vacation, a spiritual journey to Myanmar is something to consider. It doesn't matter if you are already Buddhist or even have an interest in it specifically—visiting the temples, and perhaps, taking part in a retreat at a meditation center, can help you to tap into your own personal spirituality. Although you may think of Thailand, China, or Japan first with regard to Buddhism, Myanmar is approximately 90% Buddhist. The main form practiced is Theravada and the most common form of meditation is Vipassana, something that has become quite popular worldwide. There are several meditation centers in the country that welcome foreigners to their courses. Before taking short classes or courses, you must complete at least 10 days of a residential class, and during these retreats, silent meditation is observed for the entire day during the course schedule. No fees are charged for the courses, accommodations, or for food and donations are accepted at the end of the course that will help foot the bill for future students. If you're taking a shorter course, a tourist visa is sufficient, however if you wish to study for more than 28 days, you'll want to apply for a 90-day meditation visa which must be accompanied by an invitation from the center where you will be meditating. Among the many places you can study are the Dhamma Joti Vipassana Centre, the Chanmyay Yeiktha Meditation Centre, and the Mahasi Sasana Yeiktha Meditation Centre—all popular schools in Yangon that have branches in other areas as well. There are also a variety of universities, monasteries, and institutions that provide instruction in the history and practice of Buddhism. If you decide to engage in a course of meditation here, you may want to tour some of the country's many temples before and after as part of your experience. Bagan, one of the main tourist areas (although the country does not yet have a huge amount of tourism) has more than 2,000 temples on its plains, an excellent way to get yourself into the spirit of the journey you are about to begin. Afterward, you might want to take a trip to Mrauk U, a more remote region that is home to hundreds of religious sites in a very small area. Actually, anywhere you travel in Myanmar, you are bound to find temples, monasteries, and other religious sites dedicated to the teachings of Buddha. Although we refer to Buddhism as a religion, Buddha is technically not worshipped, and it is possible to belong to another religion and yet be Buddhist as well. There's no need to feel conflicted if you have a different faith but wish to study Vipassana or any other form of Buddhist meditation. For some, studying meditation is a way of renewing and strengthening a sense of spirituality in their lives. For others, it's a much needed escape from the hustle and bustle of modern life. In either case, taking time for a meditation retreat, especially in a country so dedicated to it, is a great way to establish a daily practice that can help you with stress when you return home.
Don't Miss These Summer Travel Sales!
Tour packages, hotels, cruises, and train travel are all on sale this summer. Here's what you need to know. HOTELS • Room rates start at just $99 a night this summer thanks to the Stay & Play Longer package, part of the Hilton Worldwide Caribbean Summer Sale happening now thru Aug. 31st. You'll get a fourth night free, a $100 resort credit per room per stay, and best of all, kids stay free. Participating hotels and resorts includeHilton Barbados Resort; British Colonial Hilton Nassau; Hilton Curaçao; Caribe Hilton, San Juan; Condado Lagoon Villas at Caribe Hilton; Hilton Ponce Golf & Casino Resort; The Condado Plaza Hilton; Embassy Suites Dorado del Mar Beach Resort; Embassy Suites San Juan Hotel & Casino; El San Juan Resort & Casino, A Hilton Hotel; El Conquistador Resort, A Waldorf Astoria Resort; Las Casitas Village, A Waldorf Astoria Resort; Hilton Santo Domingo; Embassy Suites by Hilton Santo Domingo; Hilton Trinidad & Conference Centre; and Hilton Cartagena. • Marriott Hotels & Resorts want you to Celebrate Summer! Book your stay at one of 34 participating properties on the east coast, west coast, Hawaii, or in the central U.S. by Sept. 7th and enjoy room rates from $129 a night and up to $100 in resort credit per night that can be used towards dining, golf, spa services, and other on-property perks. Valid on stays thru Sept. 30th. • The Ka’anapali Beach Hotel in Maui is offering a special package this summer that gives you three nights' accommodations in a courtyard/pool view room, buffett breakfast for two at the hotel's Tiki Terrace Restaurant on the morning of your choice, daily rental car from Budget Rent A Car, and dinner for two at the Tiki Terrace Restaurant on the evening of your choice, from $757 per stay (based on single/double occupancy), a savings of 20 percent per person. Please refer to the Simply Simple package, valid now thru Jan. 4, 2016. • Planning to check out Orlando's legendary theme parks this summer? Save by staying at the Hilton Orlando, where family-friendly rooms start at $109 a night and give you access to special kid-friendly glow-in-the-dark games and other poolside activities now thru Labor Day. • You can save 65 percent on standard rates this summer at the Marigot Beach Club in St. Lucia. The Caramel Kiss Package starts at $99 a night and includes a spa treatment for two (caramel sugar scrub, chocolate facial, and caramel kiss pedicure), and daily breakfast. Valid from Aug. 1-31, 2015. • Don't miss the Experience El Yunque package from the Sheraton Puerto Rico Hotel & Casino that gives you 30 percent off overnight accommodations at the resort, a half-day guided excursion to nearby El Yunque National Forest for two, two bottles of water, snacks, and late checkout, from $279 a night. • The W Scottsdale in Scottsdale, Arizona, is offering special rates from $179 a night, a savings of 73 percent off regular high season rates. You'll get overnight accommodations at this luxe hotel, a W Scottsdale tote bag, sunblock and sunglasses, and a pitcher of Vitamin W, the hotel's signature cocktail, to celebrate. Refer to promo code VITAMINW when booking this deal online or call 877/822-0000 to book by phone. • Get ready for great views and savings in Arizona this summer. Room rates at the newly renovated Hilton Sedona Resort at Bell Rock, located along the 7.5-mile Red Rock Scenic Byway, start at $168 a night. • Visitors to Greater Williamsburg, Virginia, can take advantage of several specials this summer. Offers include accommodations at the Best Western Historic Area with breakfast and two passes to Busch Gardens Williamsburg from $99.99 a night (available now thru Sept. 7th), and savings on stays of at least two nights at the Days Hotel Busch Gardens Area from $69.99 a night including complimentary daily breakfast (valid now thru Oct. 31st), among others. • Get to know Baltimore with the Best of Baltimore package by Hampton Inn & Suites Baltimore Inner Harbor. You'll get overnight accommodations, complimentary WiFi and daily breakfast, and a 'Baltimore's Best' goodie bag that includes local treats. The best part: 10 percent of the money earned from this package will be donated to the local food bank at St. Gregory's Church. Valid on stays now thru Sept. 6th. • You can save 20 percent when you stay at Generator's London and Paris Hostels now thru Aug. 31st. With rates starting at $86 for a private room for two, or from about $26 per person for a dorm-style bed, you'll be saving big and staying in the heart of the action. Whichever location you choose, you're in for a treat: Generator Hostels are designed to look more like boutique hotels and offer a variety of fun activities—from pub crawls to game and movie nights—to help you get to know your fellow travelers. TOUR COMPANIES • Intrepid Travel is offering a special 10 percent discount on all of their family-style tours when you book by July 31st (valid on travel thru July 31, 2016). Check the latest deals page often, and don't miss Intrepid Travel's last minute deals page for further discounts of up to 25 percent off last-minute getaways. • G Adventures has several specials this summer, including 15 percent off select trips to Colombia, the Galápagos Islands, Europe, India, Japan, the Middle East, Morocco, Peru, the Himalayas, Southeast Asia, East Africa, South Africa, Australia, South Korea, China, Costa Rica, and South American cruises when you book by July 31st. Check this page to see their current promotions. • Attention 18-35 year-olds: Contiki is offering 10 percent off European tours that are ten days or more when you book by July 8th—use promo code EUROPEMAGIC to save up to $554 per person (valid on travel thru Mar. 31, 2016). Keep an eye on their Last Minute Deals page if you're looking to have an unforgettable adventure for less. • JourneYou is offering a special package during the Buenos Aires Tango Festival, held this year from Aug. 12-25. The tour, happening Aug. 21-26, includes five nights' accommodations at the tango-themed Tanguero Hotel in the heart of the city, airport transfers, a guided city tour of Buenos Aires, guided wine tour and tasting, a night of milonga "a lo guapo," a tango show at Café de los Angelitos, daily breakfast, and one dinner, from $1,190 per person. CRUISES • You can save up to $479 per person thanks to this last-minute European cruise sale by MSC Cruises. Save $50 per person on interior rooms, $100 per person on ocean view rooms, $150 per person on balcony rooms, and $200 per person on Aurea Suites and MSC Yacht Club rooms. Book your cruise by July 31st and use promo code AIRCREDT. RAIL TRAVEL •Rail Europe is helping families save on train travel with some great deals on their rail passes. This year, up to two children ages 4-11 can travel for free with an adult on the Eurail Global, Eurail Select, Regional Eurail, and select single-country Eurail passes. Families traveling in Switzerland with children under 16, for example, can book a Swiss Travel Pass and save with the Swiss Family Card (kids ages 6-15 can travel free with a parent or guardian-the card itself is free, just request it when you book your pass). The German Rail Pass also offers free travel for up to two children between the ages of 6-11 with each paying adult. OTHER GREAT SPECIALS • You can save $250 instantly this summer when you book an air-inclusive vacation to Nassau Paradise Island in the Bahamas for at least four nights. Book your beach getaway by July 8th for travel by Dec. 18th. Blackout dates do apply between Nov. 22nd and 27th. Click the link above for more details.