With Culture Xplorers (tel. 866/877-2507; www.culturexplorers.com), it's not about how far, long or remote you go in your travel experience, it's about how deep you go into the lives and the customs of the people who inhabit the land where you go. Offering immersion trips to Mexico, Peru, Brazil and Guatemala (with Bolivia coming soon), the four-year old Philadelphia tour provider brings travelers and natives together with four key components in mind: people, traditions, celebration and impact. Trips are often scheduled around indigenous festivals and times of year when economic activities like harvesting or basket weaving are most prevalent. Inspiring, interesting and fun, Culture Xplorers might change the way you travel in the future.
With an eye toward family stays, small inns and time spent walking the countryside, Culture Xplorers aims to have a positive impact on the lives of natives and travelers by simply bringing people together in educational, real life settings where laughter, music, and relationships are the catalyst for interaction. With group sizes kept small from 4 to 12 people, Culture Xplorers stays agile and allows small groups to participate in family or village activities. By walking the countryside exploring single regions, Culture Xplorers can stop and really understand the lives of roadside and mountain villages.
"I was against big group travel," says Culture Xplorers founder Jim Kane, a lover of Latin American culture and people. "I wanted to eradicate those boundaries between traveler and native that are formed when the big tour bus pulls up and people just start snapping pictures. This is more than that. I want people to experience living culture."
The Peru trip uses the town of Cusco as its base of operations. Listed as "very active" with three days of two to five hour treks through thin mountain air, the Peru excursion treks to Machu Picchu through the Inca Trail. Peruvian highlights include the Villa El Salvador, a shanty town on the edge of Lima, a boat ride on Lake Titicaca, and a look at a weaving community accompanied by an expert on Peruvian textiles. Filled with picnic lunches and downhill treks through ancient villages, the Peru trip takes you into the spiritual life of Peruvians with a visit to an earth offering and through sacred Incan ruins. The 11-day trip starts at $1,980 with 15-days going for $2,790. Included in the price is an experienced bi-lingual leader present for the whole time, special day leaders and lecturers paying special attention to events and festivals, all lodging in three or four star local hotels with at least one night in the home of a Peruvian middle class family, two meals per day as listed on the itinerary, all entrance fees, all ground transportation via boat, van, bike, or raft, all airfare within Peru, travelers' insurance covering medical fees and evacuation up to $50K, and airport pick up and drop off. International airfare to Lima, one meal per day and the $30 Peru airport exit fee are not included in the price. Budget about $12 per day for the one meal you have to pay for yourself.
Departure dates include June 9, 2006 in conjunction with the Corpus Christi Festival and Second Annual Culture Xplorers Weavers Awards, July 7, 2006 in conjunction with the Virgin del Carmen Festival and September 22, 2006 in conjunction with the San Jeronimo Festival.
In conjunction with Nilda Callanaupa, the founder of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco dedicated to promoting the revival of the ancient tradition of basket weaving, Kane's Culture Xplorers co-founded the Second Annual Culture Xplorers Weavers Awards, an awards ceremony for weavers held in Chinchero, Peru. Attended by Culture Xplorer travelers, Kane, Callanaupa, some of Peru's top basket weavers, locals and some politicians, the awards' ceremony sheds needed light on an ancient Andes and Peruvian art all but extinct a few years back.
"Instead of just throwing money at Nilda's Center, we wanted to do something with long-standing impact," says an excited Kane. "These awards will hopefully help in the revival of an important and strong tradition." There's a video of the Peru trip with footage of the first awards show at www.culturexplorers.com/Pages/Impact_Action.html.
Billed as a "sensual experience," the Brazil trips focus on two regions of Brazil -- Salvador, the heart of the African-Brazilian population, and Rio de Janeiro. In Brazil, you'll watch a musical religious event in Salvador, see why the locals soccer so much, visit the poorest and the richest of Rio's diverse neighborhoods, and experience the late night musical and consumer madness of the Sao Cristovao "midnight market." The 11-day trip starts at $1,990 with the 15-day tour starting at $2,900. The busy itinerary, not as walking intensive as the Peru package, includes many village stops and time spent with locals of all ages from school age children to wiser adults. Like the Peru trip, all hotel and meals and entrance fees and sightseeing activities are included, but airfare in and out of Brazil as well as one meal per day is on you. This comprehensive trip departs August 11, 2006. Of course, samba and the art of Brazilian dance will highlight many excursions and festival events.
The Mexico trip departs on October 29, December 20, 2006 and on January 13, 2007. Three different lengths are available with a nine-day trip costing $1,980, an 11-day trip starting at $2,370, and 14- days costing $2,960. With arts and crafts a major focus, stops in villages and a lunch with a local painter or artist set up by a leader in the Mexican arts community are two highlights. Spending time in and around Mexico City, the Oaxaca region and the area known as Chiapas, this trip gives an in-depth account of the creative and family lives of the indigenous Mexican. Oaxaca and Chiapas have the largest indigenous population of any Mexican state. Towards the Southern tip of Mexico by Guatemala and Belize, Oaxaca and Chiapas combine fertile land, beach culture and remote village life to give a feeling of a people who have lived a certain way forever. Culture Xplorers takes you into that world.
In addition to these pre-arranged tours, Culture Xplorers will put together a private tour for groups up to twelve people. They also have a special "Educator's Express" ten-day trip to Mexico that focuses on global education in remote locations. This program includes interaction with local educators and students, tours of schools and classrooms in the Oaxaca region, shared stay lodging, and if desired, language immersion classes that extend the length of the trip.
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