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Travel News

By Judy Newell


México News

Yucatan State looks to promote cultural tourism

México’s Yucatán State, situated on the north end of the Yucatán Peninsula between Campeche and Quintana Roo, is looking to promote itself to travelers as a destination in its own right, separate from its more famous neighbors.

“All of the Mayan culture, gastronomy, natural reserves, cenotes, and haciendas are right here, in the heart of the Mayan world,” says the tourism secretary for Yucatán State.

The area is primarily known for its relatively unspoiled beaches, as well as a number of archeological sites, including Uxmal, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. To help get the word out, the state is developing a number of programs focused around cultural tourism, the most notable of which will let travelers visit Mayan villages.

In terms of accommodations, 13 hotels are currently under development. Grupo Xcaret is also expected to open a cenote park near the colonial cities of Valladolid and Chichén Itzá next year.

For travelers visiting by cruise ship, the state is also looking to redevelop its main port, Progreso. Investment at both the federal and state level will go into building up Progreso’s infrastructure, including a complete reconstruction of the port area.

International News

Saudi Arabia will finally let women travel independently

Saudi Arabia has passed an amendment that loosens longstanding restrictions on female citizens’ travels.

The Middle Eastern nation maintains some of the world’s harshest restrictions on women, but loosened them slightly on August 1 by approving an amendment that allows Saudi women to apply for passports and travel on their own if they are 21 or older. According to the Saudi Arabia Ministry of Information, the decision is part of “efforts to promote women’s rights and empowerment, equal to men.” The new rules came into effect at the end of August.

Up until this new amendment, Saudi Arabian women needed permission from a male relative—a father, husband, or brother—to apply for a passport. If they couldn’t get permission from one, women instead received a page in their male guardian’s passport, which meant traveling independently was impossible.

It’s not the only recent change made under Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, who has spoken about advancing women’s equality in the country. In 2018, the kingdom issued women driver’s licenses for the first time. However, under Saudi Arabia’s male guardianship system for women, which falls at the intersection of social customs, laws, and regulations, women are still required to have permission from a male guardian for marriage or divorce or living on their own. Mixing between sexes at public events is banned, and legally, Saudi women are equal in status to minors. In recent years, there has been a rise in the number of women fleeing Saudi Arabia because of such restrictions.

“Cow cuddling”—spending time with calming bovine

If a therapy dog just isn’t cutting it anymore, you can now pay to spend time with a cow.

A 33-acre bed-and-breakfast in New York’s Finger Lakes region is charging guests US$75 per hour for “cow cuddling,” a therapeutic practice which involves brushing, petting, and chatting with a bovine, according to the New York Times.

Mountain Horse Farm is home to two cows named Bonnie and Bella. People come from miles away to spend time with the pair and perhaps work through some issues by spending calm time with the cows.

Although it may seem like an unusual practice, the owners were inspired by the Dutch, where “cow hugging” (koe knuffelen) is more common. A few specialized farms around the Netherlands train cows to sit with people in a calm manner. Sometimes they are even brought into cities for urban dwellers who don’t have easy access to nature.

Deal of the Week

Christmas market cruises

Embody the spirit of the holidays while experiencing the beauty of Europe in winter. Participate in festive traditions and meals with all the trimmings, plus browse enchanting markets filled with handicrafts from late November through December 22:

Christmas markets on the Danube

•Seven-night cruise from Budapest to Vilshofen or reverse. From US$2,799

•Budapest, Bratislava, Vienna, Linz, Salzburg, Český Krumlov, and Passau

•Hotel extension options include two nights in Budapest and three nights in Prague

Christmas markets on the Rhine

•Seven-night cruise from Amsterdam to Basel or reverse. From US$2,499

•Cologne, Rüdesheim, Heidelberg, Speyer, Strasbourg, Gengenbach, Riquwihr, and Freiburg

•Hotel extension option of two nights in Zurich and two nights in Lucerne

Iconic Christmas markets

•Seven-night cruise from Budapest to Nuremberg or reverse. From US$2,099

•Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, Salzburg, Vienna, and Budapest

•Hotel extension options include two nights in Budapest and three nights in Prague

Magical Christmas markets

•Seven-night cruise from Vienna to Nuremberg or reverse. From US$2,599

•Nuremberg, Regensburg, Passau, Salzburg, Linz, Český Krumlov, and Vienna

•Hotel extension options include two nights in Vienna and three nights in Prague

New Year’s cruises

Experience the countdown to 2020 from a whole new perspective! Ring in the New Year with AmaWaterways’ festive gala dinner onboard, attend street concerts, and marvel at impressive displays of fireworks in vibrant cities like Vienna and Linz.

Melodies of the Danube

•Seven-night cruise from Budapest to Vilshofen. From US$2,099

•Hotel extension options include two nights in Budapest and three nights in Prague

•Spend New Year’s in Grein, Austria

Romantic Danube

•Seven-night cruise from Vilshofen to Budapest. From US$1,999

•Hotel extension option of two nights in Munich

•Spend New Year’s in Vienna

Enchanting Rhine

•Seven-night cruise from Basel to Amsterdam. From US$1,999

•Hotel extension option of two nights in Zurich and two nights in Lucerne

•Spend New Year’s cruising from Strasbourg, France to Ludwigshafen, Germany

Judy Newell, an international travel consultant for over 40 years, heads Perfect Journeys and specializes in unique travel experiences to destinations around the world. She custom-designs journeys tailored to suit your interests, abilities, and budget. Please contact Judy for further information on Travel News topics and around-the-world travel; cell phone 415 111 8765; Vonage 949-300-3682; email Her office is in Rancho Los Labradores, Carr a Dolores Hidalgo. View the latest travel specials on the website

Sources: Travel Agent Central, Afar, Travel+Leisure, AMA Waterways


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