March 15, 2004 -- There's more to South America than the Big Three of Argentina, Brazil and Chile; the other nations havetheir own particular charms and virtues as well. Despite economic upheaval and social unrest in places such as Colombia and Venezuela, there are enough tranquil spots to attract even the most nervous traveler. We've got deals for getaways to Ecuador (including the Galapagos Islands), practically unknown Paraguay, Bolivia, and Venezuela.
You can make a quick trip to Ecuador with Marnella Tour's "Ecuador Adventure" of six days and five nights. The price out of Miami is just $639 per person in a double room, out of Boston/Philadelphia/Washington, D.C. $829. From Chicago, it's $859, from Los Angeles, San Francisco or Denver $959. From New York the price is $779. All flights are on Lan Ecuador, and additional flights are available from most US cities using a variety of airlines. The package includes the air transport to Quito and back, airport/hotel transfer services, and five nights in the Fuente de Piedra Hotel, as well as two city tours. The latter include a Colonial city tour and an Otavalo Indian Market Classic Tour. Optional tours range from $85 to $600, the latter for a three-day/two-night trip to the Upper Napo River, with Full American Plan.
The same firm has a seven-day/six-night "Galapagos Passport" package costing just $1,839 out of Miami, $1,979 from New York. This gives you roundtrip flights to Quito, two nights there at the Radisson Royal Hotel on the outbound trip, your flight to the Galapagos Islands roundtrip, and a cabin on the M/Y Coral for three nights, entrance tax fee to the Galapagos National Park, and another night at the Radisson Royal in Quito on the return trip home.
Contact Marnella Tours at www.marnellatours.com or by phoning 866/993-0033.
If you want a joint tour of Peru and Ecuador, that includes visits to Machu Picchu, Cuzco, Lima and Quito, plus a journey through the jungle, give one of our favorite companies, Djoser USA, a try. They have a 16-day/14-night trip that costs $2,095 out of Miami ($2,195 from Los Angeles), with departures once a month from April 2004 through May 2005. Included are your international and domestic flights, ground transport, airport transfers, hotels, tour leader services and excursions. Contact Djoser at www.djoserusa.com or by phoning 877/356-7376.
Gate 1 has an interesting package for a Galapagos cruise of eight or 11 days, including airfare from Miami. Prices start at $2,299 for eight days, $3,269 for 11 days, with transfers, cruise accommodations and sightseeing. You can add on optional 2-, 3- or 4-day guided packages to Cuenca, Quito and Otavalo starting at $169. Contact Gate 1 at www.gate1travel.com or at 800/682-3333.
The Adventure Center has a fascinating cross-continent trip, "Southern Cross East," operating through Bolivia and Brazil, departing twice a month from April 2004 through April 2005, costing $1,425, in conjunction with G.A.P. Adventures. The itinerary runs from La Paz in Bolivia through Uyuni and the Salt Lakes to Potosi, then to Sucre, Santa Cruz and Puerto Suarez to Corumba and Pantanal. Then on to Bonito in Paraguay and Iguassu Falls, ending up via Curitiba in Rio de Janeiro. You spend 19 or 20 nights in "simple" hotels, two to three nights on buses, two nights camping (Pantanal). Food is included only while visiting the Uyuni Salt Flats and in the Pantanal. Otherwise, you buy your own en route. Maximum of 12 travelers, minimum of four, with a G.A.P. leader throughout. You can also take the trip in the opposite direction. Contact the organizers at www.adventurecenter.com.
Finally, consider a Venezuela trip with Tara Tours. Their "Venezuelan Express" puts you up at the Anauco Hilton in Caracas and the Marina Bay on Margarita Island for $1195, including airfare on American Airlines from Miami. (Add-ons $80 from New York, $350 from Los Angeles, for example.) The package also includes room taxes and service charges, all transfers and ground transport, meals as mentioned in the itinerary, tours with guide and entrance fees when required. You have a half day tour of Caracas, a full day to the Colonia Tovar Village, then fly to Margarita and relax. Until March 31, 2004, add $100 for high season rates, and again from June 18 to August 15, 2004. Contact Tara at www.taratours.com or by phoning 800/327-0080.
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