Travel News

By Judy Newell

Mexico Travel News

Islas Marietas: Idyllic nature preserve

Just off the coast, Mexico’s islands offer unspoiled getaways and havens for scuba divers and snorkelers. One such area is Islas Marietas in Riviera Nayarit, which gained fame in part thanks to Jacques Cousteau’s conservation efforts. Marieta Islands National Park is a federally protected nature reserve, 45-minutes by boat west of Punta Mita.

A small boat called a panga takes visitors through waters inhabited by sea turtles, stingrays, and colorful tropical fish en route to several scenic stops, including a secluded beach reachable by swimming through a natural tunnel. This is Playa Escondida (Hidden Beach), the greatest secret of the Marieta Islands. The park is home to various species of birds, among which are the blue-footed boobies (famed in the Galapagos Islands). This group of islands is one of the most bio-diverse sanctuaries in Mexico.

Visit western movie sets in Durango

The bustling northern city of Durango, founded in 1563, has a historic center that rightfully holds a place on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites. But visitors can enjoy a decidedly different take on history when they tour the movie sets here that have served as backdrops for dozens of westerns.

A few miles away you will find Villas del Oeste and Chupaderos, two villages with dusty streets teeming with saloons, sheriff offices, and banks. These villages have been the scenes for some 150 national and international films, from the 1955 flick White Feather, starring Robert Wagner, to 2004’s Bandidas, with Penelope Cruz and Salma Hayek.

Movie fans can watch cowboy shows, go horseback riding, and visit old-fashioned saloons with cancan dancers. John Wayne made seven movies here from The Sons of Katie Elder in 1965 to Cahill: US Marshal in 1973. There is also a Mennonite colony nearby that was established in 1929.

The streets, squares, churches, and stately colonial buildings of historic Durango have been included on the “Camino Real de Tierra Adentro” (Royal Inland Road), a UNESCO World Heritage Site. There you can see more than 21 architectural wonders, including the baroque-style Cathedral Basilica. An upgraded highway now makes Durango an easy day trip or overnight excursion from the beach resort of Mazatlan (it’s about 90 minutes each way).

Cruise News

Cruise deals to the Mediterranean with air included

A Voyage of Discovery has been named the Best Niche Cruise Line for four years running by the British Travel Awards. With just 540 passengers, its small ship Voyager has a relaxed atmosphere and has earned the reputation as one of the best programs at sea for its destination lectures from guest speakers and port lecturers.

Cruises in August, September, and October offer surprising value, including flights from the USA, overseas transfers, port charges, airport taxes, gratuities and onboard service charges, all meals, enriching workshops, and entertainment.

Sample itineraries with round-trip air from JFK New York include: August 29, Colors of the Mediterranean, 12 days, Marseille to Piraeus, from US$3,899 per person; September 9, Adriatic and Aegean Serenade, 15 days from Piraeus to Istanbul, from US$3,799 per person; October 17, Mediterranean Icons, 12 days from Dubrovnik to Barcelona, from US$3,099 per person.

The offer expires June 30, 2015. All fares shown are per person in US dollars based on two people sharing lowest stateroom category currently available. Fares include coach class round-trip flights from JFK, MIA, or LAX, depending on the cruise. Airfares are available from many other US and Canada gateways upon request; an additional charge may apply.

International News

Ethiopian Holidays

Ten tour packages have been introduced by Ethiopian Airlines to the North American market under the brand Ethiopian Holidays. They can be combined for longer holidays and customized to suit individual preferences of clients.

The principal program is the Northern Historic Route, a six-day itinerary that visits the capital city of Addis Ababa. It travels to the Blue Nile Falls and Gondar, the capital of Ethiopia from 1632 to 1667 and the site of an impressive cluster of castles from that period. It also visits Lalibela, the site of 11 churches cut into the pink granite bedrock of Roha Mountain. Also included is a trip to Axum, the capital of the Axumite Kingdom, the site of some of the world’s largest monoliths and where the Ark of the Covenant is supposedly kept.

Other programs include Addis Ababa and Lalibela (five days); Historic Route‒Axum and Lalibela (six days); Historic Route‒Gondar and Bahar Dar (five days); Historic Route and Exotic Harar (10 days); Southern Peoples and Culture (10 days); Ethiopia North and South Combined (17 days); Trekking‒Semien Mountains (11 days); Trekking‒Bale Mountains (seven days); Face the Fire‒Ertale (nine days).

Deal of the Week

Uniworld’s Cruise and Air Savings

Couples save US$2,500 (when booking economy class air) or US$3,500 (when booking business class air) for select 2015 all-inclusive itineraries in Europe with Uniworld Cruises. Uniworld’s all-inclusive boutique river cruises include gourmet dining, unlimited beverages onboard, award-winning service, all gratuities onboard and onshore, scheduled airport transfers, and shore excursions led by local experts, with options to personalize.

Grand European Discovery, Basel to Vienna, explores four countries in 15 days: June 14 and 28, July 26, August 9. Legendary Rhine and Moselle, Amsterdam to Basel, explore five countries in 13 days: July 20, August 1 and 25, October 24, November 5. European Jewels, Budapest to Amsterdam, explore four countries in 15 days: June 10 and 28, July 12, 22, and 26, August 9, October 18, November 1 and 15.

This offer expires May 31, 2015. Cruise and Air Savings require full payment of cruise and air with Uniworld at the time of booking.

Judy Newell heads the travel company Perfect Journeys specializes in tours, cruises and travels for the discerning traveler. Please contact Judy for reservations or further information on any of the Travel News topics; cell phone 415 111-8765; Vonage 949 300-3682; email or view the latest travel specials on the website where you can book your hotels, tours, and cruises online.

Sources: Riviera Nayarit CVB; Independent Traveler; Voyages of Discovery; Ethiopian Airlines; Travel Pulse; Uniworld Cruises


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