6 Ways to Travel the Amazon by Boat
This article was written by Andreas Ambarchian, a freelance journalist from England who writes about a variety of subjects including travel, wildlife and sports. This article was written on behalf of the Tambo Blanquillo, a family-owned lodge offering a home-away-from-home in the Peruvian Amazon.
The dense jungles of the Peruvian rainforest make boat travel the most common form of transport in the region. The final frontier before the Amazon in Peru is the city of Iquitos, unreachable by road and often the starting point for river trips in the area.
Long Distance Travel
While there are regular flights between international Amazonian cities, the cheapest way to traverse long distances is by river. Boat services are available on a regular basis from the Bellavista Nanay Port. Although departure times should be treated as little more than approximations, most services leave within an hour of the advertised schedule. Booking is not necessary—and not possible—while payment is usually made upon reaching a passenger's chosen destination.
In the main, collectivos are used by locals transporting rainforest goods around the area. Raw materials such as coal and wood can often be seen stowed up on the roof of such a vessel. The boats also take general passengers and, although they travel slowly, are very reasonably priced. From Nanay Port, as well as several other smaller departure points in Iquitos, the boats travel throughout the northern rainforest region, making a number of stops at various, obscure ports along the way. When attempting to confirm a route, it is a good idea to enquire on consecutive days, just to cross check the information. The best part: $2 is enough for almost all trips, even for the longer journeys, which can last several days.
These high powered boats travel the more popular river routes in the region, such as the one-hour trip upstream to the town of Tamshiyacu, located roughly 19 miles from Iquitos. The ride is quite loud and bumpy but, owing to the extra rate of knots, travel need only be endured for around a quarter of the time as would be necessary on a collectivo: in a rapido, the Brazilian border is only a matter of hours away, rather than days. On the flipside, the cost per ride in a rapido is around three times that of a collectivo, yet even that is still less than $10 for speedy transportation to your next destination.
Lanchas travel to the neighbouring areas of rainforests in Brazil, Ecuador, and Colombia. The larger ferries make slower progress, particularly when they travel against the current, meaning that the journey from Iquitos to the Brazilian border takes about three days at a cost of around $20. For this price, passengers are given hammocks and small meals, and can find cleaning facilities onboard. Private cabins are also available at an extra cost. Plug sockets can be found to connect electrical equipment but, while security is not a major issue, it is wise to keep an eye on your valuables.
Hiring a boat out for the day is a great way to get to know the Amazon and its tributaries. Boat hire for a day costs around $100 per vessel (including the services of a driver) from the Bellavista Nanay Port. If no overhead shelter is present on the boat, then sunscreen is a very good idea as the Iquitos sun can be relentless. Picnics also make a very pleasant accompaniment.
Other than a leisurely jaunt along the various rivers in the region, there are a few areas of interest that can be visited to give a trip a bit of direction. Monkey Island is a wildlife sanctuary located on the island of Timicurillo, about a 45-minute boat ride from Nanay Port, while day-time beach parties can be also found on many islands, improbably as it may seem in such an thinly populated region of the world—unless on a private beach, it is perfectly possible to moor and step on land for a drink. The area's famous pink dolphins can be found where the Nanay and Amazon rivers meet.
Cruises offer a mixture of short distance and long distance trips with standard and custom itineraries. Tour companies can be found in Iquitos, but bookings should be made in advance online as organization can take some time. From the Nanay Port, day trips can be taken down the river while longer voyages can last over a week and will take passengers deep into the jungle to visit some of the region's most treasured natural reserves. Costs can be quite high, upwards of $1,000, but, in general, passengers are travelling in relative luxury, with expert guides for company.
How to Win Budget Travel's Coolest Small Towns Contest!
What does it feel like to live in America's Coolest Small Town? Over the years, a bunch of folks have been lucky enough—and cool enough—to find out by winning Budget Travel's annual Coolest Small Town in America contest. Ask the residents of recent winning towns like Lititz, PA, Hammondsport, NY, and Beaufort, NC (pictured above), how good that feels! If you think your hometown—or your favorite small-town getaway!—has that awesome combination of edge and heart that we consider cool, we invite you to join in the thousands of nominations that are happening over at our Coolest Small Towns 2014 Nominations page! We're thrilled to see so many enthusiastic readers from every corner of America stepping up to crow about their cool towns. At the moment, we've noticed that some regions of the U.S. are especially well represented—congrats, Virginia, West Virginia, South Carolina, and Utah for getting out the word! For those of you who live in other (equally cool!) parts of the country, we invite you to start throwing elbows as our nominations enter their final weeks. Type in the name of your town and tell us a little bit about what makes it cool! And please remember, we're looking for American towns with fewer than 10,000 people (sorry, if your nomination exceeds that population we'll have to bump you from the list) and a certain something that no place else has—a world-class food scene, jaw-dropping locale, great music, innovative art, and the kind of community spirit that motivates supporters to take to Facebook, Twitter (use the hashtag #AmericasCoolestTowns to help spread the word from Budget Travel's Twitter feed!), Pinterest, and Instagram to propel their cool town to the top of the list. Visit early, visit often, and, as always, keep it cool!
6 Reasons to Visit Myanmar
This article is a guest post by Ja Racharaks. When you start investigating Myanmar as a travel destination, you'll discover how many monuments have been constructed throughout the country's history that exhibit truly grand scales of devotion and determination. Myanmar is the home to at least six of the world's greatest attractions—and although three of these items have technically lost their titles in recent years, all have retained their genuine sense of significance and beauty. The World's Biggest Book: Kuthodaw Pagoda, MandalayThe Kuthodaw Pagoda is located at the base of Mandalay Hill and within the complex lies 730 Kyauksa Gu, stone-inscription caves, which contain the "pages" of the book. Not a traditional paper item, the book's text, a complete copy of the Tipitaka, the Pali Canon of Theravada Buddhism, is written on both sides of marble slabs 3.51 feet wide, 5.02 feet tall, and 5.1 inches thick. In this instance, the marble slabs are the "pages" and the Kyauksa Gu are the "leaves" of the book. The World's Longest Teak Structure: U Bein Bridge, AmarapuraClose by Mingun, about 12 km down the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay on the eastern side of the river is Amarapura. Founded by King Bodawpaya as his capital city in 1783, the township is now a part of Mandalay. The bridge spans 3,937 feet across Taungthaman Lake, created from teak wood reclaimed from an old royal palace. Named after the mayor who had the bridge built, it's still used as an important passageway for locals. With fears that some of the 1,086 pillars are becoming dangerously decayed, efforts have been made to repair the bridge, with some of the pillars being replaced with concrete. The World's Largest Iron Buddha: Sandamuni Pagoda, MandalayAt the base of Mandalay Hill is the Sandamuni Pagoda, home to the world's largest Iron Buddha statue. Commissioned by King Bodawpay in 1802, it has made many trips around the country according to the placement of capital cities and wars, makingn its final move to Mandalay in 1874. Cast out of 18563.94 kg of iron, it's said that the image is endowed with the attributes of the Full Moon, which gives the image its name, Sandamuni. The World's Largest Reclining Buddha (Surpassed): Maha Bodhi Ta Htwaung, Monywa TownshipOtherwise known as the region of "a thousand great Bo trees," the area is famous for its standing and reclining Buddha as well as for thousands of images of the Buddha and Bo trees. On the hill, seen from miles around, are the Giant Reclining Buddha and the Giant Standing Buddha. The Reclining Buddha has a length of 333 feet and a width of 60 feet. What's more, you're able to explore inside the Reclining Buddha where there are more than 9,000 images of the Buddha and his disciples. The Giant Standing Buddha, otherwise known as Laykyun Setkyar, is actually the second largest Buddha statue in the world at a height of 424 feet with 31 floors inside. The Reclining Buddha has been surpassed by a stone reclining Buddha carved in China's Jiangxi Province to be completed at a length of 1,365 feet. The World's Largest Pearl (Surpassed): Nay Pyi Taw Gem Museum, Nay Pyi TawAmong the jade boulders and Myanmar's largest ruby, the Nay Pyi Taw Gem Museum also has what was previously considered to be world's largest natural pearl. The pearl is 6.2cm x 5cm x 3.1cm and weighs 845 carats. It was found in 2001 in a mother of pearl oyster during an oyster fishing expedition at Macleod Island in the Mergui (Myeik) Archipelago, in southern Myanmar. The current largest pearl is called the Pearl of Lao Tzu or Pearl of Allah, found in the Philippines inside a giant clam, is 24 cm in diameter, and weighs 32,000 carats. The World's Heaviest Functioning Bell (Surpassed): Mingun Pahtodawgyi, MingunAbout 11km up the Irrawaddy River from Mandalay lies the Mingun Pahtodawgyi, which is a spectacle in itself. Intentionally unfinished, the stupa was started by King Bodawpaya in 1790. He had stopped its construction at 50 meters after hearing a prophecy that foretold his death if he were to ever complete it, a 150 meter immense structure. In fact, some could call this (unofficially) the world's largest pile of bricks. To go along with the grandeur of the stupa, the king also commissioned a gigantic bell to be housed within it. At a five meter diameter and weighing 90 tons (199,999 lbs) the bell's bronze construction made it the world's heaviest functioning bell. The bell held its title on and off for almost 100 years but is now surpassed by the Bell of Good Luck in China.
Coolest Small Towns: The Race Is On!
Well, that didn't take very long, did it? Budget Travel launched its Coolest Small Towns 2014 Nominations last week and we've already got more than 70 towns elbowing each other for the top spot. At the moment, Weston, West Virginia, is in the lead with nearly 400 votes! We're super-psyched to see the list of nominations grow as folks across the U.S. show their hometown pride—or put in a good word for a cool vacation spot they love returning to year after year. Got a town you think is the coolest? Nominate it right here. And please remember, we're looking for American towns with fewer than 10,000 people (sorry, if your nomination exceeds that population we'll have to bump you from the list) and a certain something that no place else has—a world-class food scene, jaw-dropping locale, great music, innovative art, and the kind of community spirit that motivates supporters to take to Facebook, Twitter (use the hashtag #AmericasCoolestTowns to help spread the word from Budget Travel's Twitter feed!), Pinterest, and Instagram to propel their cool town to the top of the list. Visit early, visit often, and, as always, keep it cool!
10 Essential Vacations for Every Bucket List
Article by Jennifer Gilligan. LAS VEGAS The Run Down: Dubbed the city of sin, Las Vegas is an adult's playground. Between the drinking and the gambling, though, you may find yourself with a few hours to burn. During your downtime, check out the Bodies exhibit, Madame Tussauds, the Blue Man Group, Cirque du Soleil, and CSI: The Experience. You should check out the Miracle Mile shops as well. There's plenty of fun to be had in Las Vegas without drinking or gambling. The Culture: While Sin City is known for its gambling antics and adult entertainment, Las Vegas is also filled to the brim with museums and art shows. The people are extravagant and eccentric, and often times have a knack for being stared at by visitors to their fair city. However, you will not find a shortage of politeness here, nor will you find a shortage of the vulgar. It's a cultural mix that has a bit for everyone to taste and enjoy. PARIS The Run Down: Visit France and head to the city of love: Paris! While you're there, check out the numerous attractions, such as the Eiffel Tower and the Arc de Triomphe, a monument honoring all who fought and died for France during the French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars. The names of all of the French victories and generals are inscribed on the inner and outer surfaces. You should also check out Le Fumoir, the Musée de l'Orangerie, and the Centre Pompidou. The Culture: For those of us in the States who know nothing but the hustle and bustle of everyday life, Paris has a lot to offer. The people know how to relax and take it easy. While Americans seem to have everything at our fingertips ready to go at a moment's notice, Parisians take everything in the opposite direction and force you to sit down and enjoy the beauty of everyday life. If you were to grab a cup of coffee at your local Starbucks, you'd be in and out within a matter of minutes. However, Paris will remind you to enjoy the small things in life as the people aren't big on handing out "to-go" cups. Have a seat on the veranda and relax, you've earned it. CHICAGO The Run Down: For the hardcore sports fan, it's a necessity to visit Chicago. Check out a Chicago Blackhawks game, enjoy a Chicago Cubs game, and cheer as the Chicago Bears score a touchdown. Pose with the Cloud Gate sculpture for a new trendy new Facebook photo. There are several museums and theater companies in Chicago, so catch a show and discover something new that you'll enjoy. The Culture: Chicago has thrown itself to the forefront by introducing a new cultural program back in 2012. The city is trying to highlight the arts by giving all of those within the city who have talent and experience to the stage in order to offer various forms of social entertainment. VENICE The Run Down: Nestled on an island in Northeast Italy and only accessible by the Via Libertà, Venice should be on everyone's bucket list. After you've had your fill of the amazing architecture, you've got to experience drifting down the waterways on a traditional Venetian gondola. Enjoy some wine along with your genuine Italian meal and be sure to check out the Guggenheim collection before you go. The Culture: Venice lends itself to a very musical culture. The city has several elite music halls, museums, and other forms of socially entertaining attractions. Venetians pride themselves on living in the moment and living in the music. MAUI The Run Down: Another destination that should be on everyone's list, Maui is one of the most popular islands in Hawaii. There are plenty of surfable beaches, trails to hike, and beautiful places to explore. After you've had your fill of those activities, enjoy a stress-free nap in a hammock next to the ocean. The Culture: The Hawaiian Islands are filled with folks who are a little more than enthusiastic about their heritage. The locals are so heavily entrenched in their history, they are willing to go ahead and show their rituals and cultural gems to those around who may not have had the privilege of knowing exactly what it means to be a part of Maui. The people here are very polite and incredibly hospitable. If your journey takes you to Maui, then you'll love the inviting warmth and hospitality the islanders have to offer everyone they meet. ORLANDO The Run Down: Thanks to Walt Disney World and other area theme parks, Orlando is the family entertainment capital of the world. After you find deals on flights and book several days to party with Mickey Mouse, you may need a slight change in venue. Fret not, there are plenty of other theme parks to choose from: Visit Universal Studios, Islands of Adventure (home to The Wizarding World of Harry Potter), SeaWorld, or Discovery Cove. The Culture: Orlando is very tourist friendly. While some parts still harbor the big city mentality and overbooked transit system, a good majority of the city is brimming with smiling faces. Tourism is one of the major cash cows for Orlando, but that doesn't mean the city is without its museums and theater arts. Visit the Orlando Museum of Art, where you can wine and dine while looking at the different pieces of work hanging from the ceilings. WASHINGTON D.C. The Run Down: No traveler's list would be complete without a trip to our nation's capital. You'll get a true feel for this country's history at the National Mall when you visit the Lincoln Memorial, Vietnam Veterans Memorial, and Korean War Veterans Memorial. You'll also be able to check out many popular museums, like the National Air and Space Museum, the National Museum of Natural History, and the National Museum of African Art. The best part: everything I've just listed is completely free. The Culture: While Washington D.C. may be the headquarters for a lot of the United States' government operations, it is also filled to the brim with cultural attractions. The inhabitants are well versed in the essence of Jazz, the pain and rebirth spawned by the Civil Rights Movement, and the arts. LOS ANGELES The Run Down: Welcome to the nation's entertainment capital. For the true movie buff, there's nothing like driving around Los Angeles and recognizing places from their favorite movies and television shows. Pay your respects to your favorite entertainers who are no longer with us by visiting Forest Lawn Memorial Park in nearby Glendale. Stop and see a movie at the world-famous TCL Chinese Theatre (formerly, Grauman's Chinese Theatre). Swing by one of the last remaining large record stores, Amoeba Music, and see a live performance. End your trip by taking a quick drive to Santa Monica, one of Budget Travel's favorite boardwalks. The Culture: A lot of people sum up L.A. in one word: weird. Like their east coast counterparts, the folks of Los Angeles are willing to say and do just about anything they want. The city hosts a lot of opportunity for aspiring actors, actresses, performers, or the generally ambitious. There are several artistic venues to choose from when exploring—musical performances, theater arts, and even Hollywood film sets. If you've got the right amount of drive and ambition and feel like spending more than just a few days in the City of Angels, feel free to jump on the bandwagon. Just make sure you're wearing your running shoes because this city is never at a standstill. PRAGUE The Run Down: Fly out of the country and head to Prague. You can walk over the Charles Bridge, which spans 16 arches and is lined with 30 Baroque statues. This bridge was commissioned by King Charles in 1357, so you're walking over a huge piece of history. Check out the Memorial to the Victims of Communism, which houses photos, videos, and propaganda from the Communist era. Finish your visit by checking out Prague Castle, the largest ancient castle in the world. The Culture: While there was a time when the word Prague was synonymous with despair, it is now a center for dance and lively music, and the people there take every opportunity to bask in the music and luxury of the arts. Why not join in and enjoy the finer things in life? DUBLIN The Run Down: There are many things to check out in Ireland besides the beautiful scenery—visit the Abbey Theatre, The Little Museum of Dublin, and the National Museum of Ireland. You'll be able to fully relax in St. Stephen's Green, a beautiful, lively urban park. The Culture: Dublin is filled to the brim with relaxing Celtic landscapes, friendly locals, music, and a culture of endless hospitality extended to visitors and residents alike. We want know: what kinds of places and things are on your travel bucket list? Sound off below!