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Celebrate Like A Kiwi – Hike New Zealand’s Milford Track this Christmas

Anyone living in the northern hemisphere will be familiar with the term ‘white Christmas’… but have you ever heard of a ‘golden sand Christmas’? Or a ‘lush green rain forest Christmas’? Maybe a ‘glass of wine as you’re sun baking beside a lake, high in the Southern Alps Christmas’? Ok, we’re getting carried away now, but what an amazing idea – a Southern Hemisphere Christmas! Summer solstice lands on December 22nd in New Zealand this year, so during the Christmas/New Year period our days are the longest, warmest, and it’s the perfect time to be exploring the great Kiwi countryside. This also means it’s the most popular time to visit New Zealand, but I’m here to tell you that the crowds don’t matter – if you choose your trip wisely. Most Christmas travellers from the Northern Hemisphere will have 2 or 3 weeks of vacation time, and the most popular way to spend that time is 1 week on the North Island, and 2 weeks on the South Island. Along the way you’ll want to hit a few beaches, visit a few wineries, get off the beaten track to hike a few local hiking and biking trails, and most importantly; hike a handful of New Zealand’s Great Walks. Of the 9 Great Walks, the Milford Track is without a doubt the most famous, and for many travellers it’s the single most important reason for choosing to travel to New Zealand. The Milford Track is one of the longest established and best-known walking tracks in the country. It starts on the eastern shore of Lake Te Anau and crosses McKinnon Pass to Milford Sound, taking in glacial peaks, a mountain pass, New Zealand’s highest waterfall and the dense rain forest of the West Coast. Some hikers choose to hike the Milford Track in its entirety on a guided walk, or take a day walk it, along with a handful of nearby Great Walks. Fiordland National Park is home to 3 of New Zealand’s 9 Great Walks; the Milford Track, the Routeburn Track and the Kepler Track. All of which are a short drive from one another, but all 3 of these Great Walks have very distinct personalities, and the scenery you’ll experience on each trail clearly distinguishes it from the others, meaning that day hikers can absorb a greater variety of countryside, in the same time as others hike one trail in its entirety. For those keen hikers looking to complete the Milford Track in its entirety, it’s possible to hike the track solo, or with a guided walk. The Department of Conservation has placed a limit on the number of hikers entering the track to prevent overcrowding and excessive damage to the trail – so with only 40 independent hikers allowed on the trail each day, and Christmas hiking passes sold out months in advance – the next option is to take a guided walk. The Milford Track guided walk is four days of breath taking scenery. It’s loaded with additional benefits over doing it solo,

14 Days in Patagonia: The Ultimate Explorer’s Itinerary

So you like to be active, huh? That’s totally cool with us. In fact, our new tour features the best of the best when it comes to an active vacation—hiking volcanoes and kayaking fiords—and you may just see some really amazing things along the way. Here’s the perfect itinerary for 14 days in Patagonia for all of the ultimate explorers out there:   Day 1: Get your bearings in Bariloche with an authentic Patagonian meal. We all know travelling takes a lot out of you. One of the best jet lag cures? Food! And you’re going to love Patagonian cuisine. Your arrival to Bariloche brings you to the chocolate capital of Argentina. Artisan chocolate shops line the streets, beckoning you inside. And why not? You’re about to spend two weeks on the move—live a little! Dinner tonight features a typical Patagonian meal. Entrees include beef, spit roast lamb, trout, king crab, and wild boar. Served alongside your meats are potatoes, breads, and cheeses. All of the foods come from the surrounding landscapes, from the glacial rivers (trout) to the dense forests (wild boar) to the Atlantic Ocean (king crab).   Day 2: Warm up your hiking legs with a trek to Cerro Llao Llao and cool off with a dip at Playa Tacul. It’s your first official day on the trail! And what better way to spend it than amongst the lakes and peaks of Patagonia. Cerro Llao Llao sits in the midst of three different lakes, all of which can be seen from the top of your hike. Popping up in the distance are the tops of Cerro Lopez and Cerro Capilla. Wind your way through a wooded trail to the top for a mid-morning tea break, a very “Patagonian” thing to do! After finishing your tea (or maybe mate!), descend Cerro Llao Llao to lake-level. Here you can walk the sandy shores of Playa Tacul or even jump into the crystal clear and clean waters of the lake. No matter how you choose to spend your time, you are sure to love the lago (that’s Spanish for lake!).   Day 3: Get your heart pumping with a brisk climb to Cerro Bella Vista—you won’t believe the views. It’s day three in Argentina, and you may be feeling one of two ways: Completely ready for the next adventure or exhausted as your body is still trying to adjust to Patagonian life. The good news is you get to choose how you want to spend your day! For those ready to hit today’s Patagonian path, head to Cerro Bella, which literally means “beautiful views.” You’re going to want to make sure you have your camera and/or smartphone for this one. Binoculars wouldn’t hurt, either. It’s quite a trek to the top, with a heart-pumping ascent above the treeline, but it’s well worth it for 360 degree views of the myriad lakes and crowded horizon line of huge peaks. If you’d rather spend the day exploring Bariloche and its surroundings, that’s completely fine too! Who wouldn’t want to sample the rich and smooth chocolate the town is

7 Surprising Reasons South America Is the Ultimate Winter Destination

Looking for a better way to spend your winter instead of staying inside all season long binge-watching Netflix? No offense to the binge-watchers out there—it certainly has its time and place! But after awhile, don’t you crave something a little more… adventurous? Sure, you could travel to the beaches of the Caribbean, along with every other coworker in your office. Who wants to lay out on a cramped beach or wait in a long line for a cocktail? Traveling just a little further south—south of the equator, in fact, takes you to a continent basking in the warm, golden rays of the sun, but also filled with many natural phenomena just waiting to be explored. This place is full of magnificent mountains, wondrous waterfalls, and amusing animals. Don’t believe it? Here are seven reasons why South America is the ultimate winter destination:   1. Escape from the bitter cold to a continent with both tropical and temperate climates. While those wallowing in winter in the Northern Hemisphere are freezing, South Americans at or below the equator are enjoying warm weather conditions. Ecuador, while partially in the Northern Hemisphere, straddles the equator, giving the whole country a tropical climate year-round. It’s particularly pleasurable January through May, most of which are cool months for Europe and North America. Just below Ecuador is Peru, known for its mountains, lakes, and Machu Picchu. November through April is considered the “wet season,” but that doesn’t mean it’s a bad time to visit. On the contrary, during these months the trails are much quieter—better to enjoy your scenic surroundings. Conservation work takes place on the Inca Trail during the month of February, but it is still possible to reach Machu Picchu and explore the magic of the ancient site. Patagonia (made up of Argentina and Chile) is at the base of South America. Here the climate is more temperate during the Southern Hemisphere’s summer months, perfect for hiking Chile’s Andes Mountains or kayaking across Argentina’s many lakes and rivers. Peak traveling season for Patagonia is January-March, but if you want to avoid the crowds while still escaping the cold, consider visiting during November or December.   2. While everyone back home is skiing, snorkel off the shores of the Galapagos Islands. You’ve heard of the Galapagos Islands, right? They make up an archipelago just off the coast of Ecuador famous for century-old tortoises and Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species. But these islands are more than just pieces of land in the Pacific Ocean—they are teeming with life, both flora and fauna. Want to know an amazing way to see all that these islands have to offer? Climb on a bike! Starting at the top of San Cristobal’s highest point, cycle your way down from the highland cloud forest that covers the top of the island to La Loberia, a beach home to a large sea lion colony and nursery. Ready to get up close and personal with the cute and cuddly creatures as well as other marine life? Snorkel or scuba dive around Isla Lobos and watch

Preparing for a Hiking Adventure: 8 Fitness Tips for the 50+ Explorer

“Am I too out-of-shape for an adventure trip?” It’s the number-one question we’re asked by so many travellers inquiring about our trips. It’s the nagging worry that especially keeps 50+ adventurers from taking the plunge on the vacation of their dreams – and that’s a shame, because anyone who loves the outdoors is a good candidate for an adventure tour. Of course, that doesn’t mean there aren’t things you can do to prepare before your trip to make it more enjoyable. A little investment in your overall fitness before you go pays big dividends in terms of what you can accomplish out on the trail. That doesn’t mean you have to join the gym or punish yourself with a triathlon-level training regimen. There are a lot of common sense steps you can start right now to get yourself ready for the adventure of a lifetime. So if you’re a 50+ adventurer and wondering where to start, try these eight fitness tips to give yourself the confidence to achieve your personal goals.   1. Give yourself time to prepare. In general, it can take your body from three weeks to three months to really see a significant improvement in your fitness level and to respond to a change in routine. So if you’ve already booked your trip, you’d best get started now!   2. Focus on your cardiovascular fitness. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 150 minutes of aerobic activity a week for people 50+ with at least 30-minute sessions at a time. The best aerobic activities for mature athletes are swimming, cycling, brisk walking or jogging—all of which are great preparation for an adventure like exploring Peru and Machu Picchu. Even if you can’t get outdoors or make it to the gym, there are lots of great cardio exercises you can do at home to get your heart pumping. Jumping jacks, half-jacks, squats, leg raises, hops, and even plank-jacks are great bodyweight exercises that require no special equipment or skill. If you’re doing a hiking adventure (like Mt. Everest perhaps), high-intensity interval training (HIIT) is particularly beneficial because it improves both aerobic and anaerobic fitness and prepares your body for the bursts of strength you’ll need on your climb. HIIT sounds more complicated than it really is – it’s simply adding a short period of more strenuous exertion into your daily walking, jogging, swimming, or biking routine. For example, if you take a 45-minute brisk walk, try to jog for 30 to 60 seconds every 5 to 10 minutes of your walk. Same if you swim or bike – add a few sprints during your usual routine. A note of caution for you mountain adventurers: Even if you’re in pretty good shape, it’s important not to push yourself too hard at higher altitudes. Exertion is a key driver of altitude sickness.   3. Focus on leg strength. Strength training is generally a good idea for athletes of all ages, but for hikers, leg strength is essential for an enjoyable experience. Your

Multi-day Hiking in New Zealand’s Backcountry, and 8 Reasons Why You Should Go Guided.

Hiking up Siberia Valley in Mt Aspiring National Park The team here at Active Adventures are an outdoorsy bunch. Every weekend you’ll find a handful of us out there in the hills, or on the rivers, getting stuck in to New Zealand in all its natural beauty. One of our favourite ways to spend a long weekend is by grabbing a backpack, packing a toothbrush, a cooker, a few meals, and a sleeping bag, and heading for one of the 950 huts dotted all over the country. Here we’ll talk about spending time in the backcountry on overnight ‘missions’ and offer some advice on how best to tackle the great New Zealand outdoors! Angelus Hut on the edge of Lake Angelus in Nelson Lakes National Park Background on New Zealand’s backcountry As kiwis, we are lucky enough to have some of the best walking in the world, in our backyards. New Zealand has hundreds of trails, amongst vast mountains, rainforests, coastline, glacial valleys, and volcanoes. Even better than that, is that those trails, and (most of) the 950 huts that serve them, are maintained by the Department of Conservation, DoC. The huts started appearing in the 1800s, and were initially a network of shelters for hunters overnighting in the hills. Today they’ve become a big contributor to tourism in New Zealand, and a part of our national identity. For us the most unique thing about hiking in New Zealand is the variety of landscapes you can immerse yourself in. That’s why we love getting out there, because every time (and every hut!) is different. Taking a moment for reflection on the stunning Milford Track Few people who think of New Zealand do so without thinking of Milford Sound. It’s one of the things that put this country on the map, we don’t deny it. And it is absolutely stunning in its scale, and its untouched nature. The Milford Track is one of New Zealand’s nine Great Walks – walks of stunning natural beauty, maintained by DoC, and taking in the most impressive scenery in the country. But the Great Walks are not the only walks worth doing when you get here! There are quite literally hundreds of multiday walks here, and between us, we’ve probably knocked off most of them! Learn More About Multiday Hikes Why are we so addicted to getting out there? We’d describe our love for multiday adventures in the hills as natural, and an essential part of growing up, and living in New Zealand. Being able to get away from traffic noise, light pollution, even cell reception, in a matter of minutes from home, is a special privilege, and not one we waste. There’s something primitive about arriving at a hut under your own steam, after a tough day, and being greeted by a log fire, smiles, and a cosy bunk. When you’re in a backcountry hut, sharing the experience, and stories, with others, you’re living in the moment; the last thing you’ll worry about is work, or bills. Instead you’ll be worrying about who’s

“For me, this was the best experience I’ve ever had.”

The crew from Andrea’s ‘Kiwi’ trip celebrating at Braemar Station. Over the last twenty years or so we’ve been honing our skills in adventure travel. We started with a group of three guests on a trip around New Zealand’s South Island in 1996, and have progressed to taking groups to nine different countries on four different continents. As kiwis we are famous for our hospitality, we love welcoming people, taking care of people, and sharing in experiences with people. When our guests finally arrive in New Zealand, they’ll often pop into our office in Queenstown mid-trip, because like us, friendships are so important to them. We love being able to put a face to the voice we hear on the phone before the trip! A group of Active adventurers meet Lynette and Fiona at Active HQ in Queenstown. That hospitality, and the sharing of experiences with new visitors to any of the countries we travel in, are the reasons we love doing what we do. And it’s guests like Andrea Rudolph (recently returned from New Zealand adventures) who help us to remember that: ‘Not only was the scenery breathtaking and the tour well run but our fun loving adventurous group made it even more special. Even the experienced travelers in our group felt it was the best tour they had ever been on. It’s been difficult to settle back into my ’normal’ life after such a life-changing experience.’ We find that guests on our adventures, because they always share common interests (adventure being just one!) really buy in to this idea that sharing the experience makes it so much more powerful. The willingness to be honest and open with one another about your life, and your achievements, and even your regrets, adds another dimension to the experience in a way that we find difficult to put in to words.   Andrea wrote some lovely comments about her South Island Explorer trip the ‘Kiwi’. On top of that she also took the time to write an awesome poetic review about the trip, here’s some of our favourite bits: Active Adventures had everything planned For a ‘better than average’ trip to Kiwi land Our fearless leaders, Rachel and Koru In every instance knew what to do prepped us on schedules and weather every day And tried hard to make us listen to what they’d say.   Koru told myths of Maoris and war His tales were creative and never a bore He showed us plants like the silver fern This land is so varied there’s a lot to learn.   The Hector’s dolphins near the beach were rare They amazed us by doing flips in the air At the wildlife center we saw kiwis being fed And heard how they’re kept safe till they’re bred.    Braemar gave us bright stars at night Sharing toilets and co-ed showers was also a delight We ran through the hills, and drank lots of wine Singing old songs and jingles, it was divine.   New Zealand is perfect except for the sandflies Which bite all our legs as they drop from the skies They even dare follow us into the van Where we smash them on windows as

6 Tips and Tricks for Hiking the Inca Trail

My flight was booked! My dream of hiking the Inca Trail, and walking through the sun gate to Machu Picchu was finally becoming a reality. But then, the reality hit me. I have never done an overnight hike before! What do I pack? How do I get into shape? Is it safe? Do I go alone or with a group? As excited as I was, I realized I had a lot of planning ahead of me, but every moment of preparation (and sometimes extreme anxiety) was all worth it. Here are a few tips and tricks that helped me not only survive the Inca Trail, but have the trip of a lifetime! Find an Incredible Tour Group Before booking my trip, I was not sure how I felt about going with a tour group. I was worried that traveling with a group of strangers would take away from the trip. However, after plenty of research, I decided to go with Active Adventures on the Ultimate Peru Adventure. Our trip leader was not only full of helpful and interesting information, but became a friend who gave local tips, and made me feel comfortable and safe. I became close friends with my small tour group of 10 people, and still keep in touch with them. Picking a quality tour group like Active Adventures not only helped take the stress out of travelling logistics, but is truly what made my trip an enjoyable experience. (And for all the foodies out there, our Inca Trail chefs were incredible). Get Fit On the Inca Trail we had people of all ages, sizes, and fitness levels. However, I highly recommend preparing your body a little, and familiarizing yourself with how your body reacts to high altitude. But, don’t worry, you don’t need to an extreme amount of training. To prepare, I went on one to two hikes a week, and did plenty of dog walking. My hikes on average ranged from 3 to 7 miles. However, as fit as you are, everybody reacts differently to altitude. Try finding a hike in your area that has somewhat of a higher altitude. I only had the opportunity to do one higher altitude hike. It was not as high as the Inca Trail, but it still gave me an idea of how my body feels in high altitude. But don’t stress out too much! Your tour leader has helped many people hike the Inca Trail, and will be there to help you if you start to feel sick, or simply need a little extra motivation. Technology Tools I am a firm believer in digital detoxing when traveling, but when hiking in the wilderness, it is comforting to know that I have helpful resources at my fingertips if I ever need it. When hiking or traveling, there are always a few resources and apps I like to have on my phone or iTouch to stay safe. As a traveler, we are more vulnerable to security threats or identity theft on public computers and Wi-Fi. I choose to

5 Ways To Get The Most Out Of Solo Travelling

Planning a little solo jaunt across the land? If this is your first time planning your virgin solo adventure, I understand completely how excited and nervous you are. I was once in your shoes. Before you slap on your backpack and march out that door, here’s a small checklist of things you might want to do to ensure a better trip. Image courtesy of bluetidalwave.com Research, Research, Research It doesn’t matter if you’re headed into uncharted territory or a bustling metropolis, it only helps if you already know what to expect when you set foot in your destination. A quick google search should give you enough information on things like the local culture, geography, weather and political climate to start with. Oh, and do not forget to check out the local laws, either-written and unwritten. People have in the past gotten into trouble for using the wrong gesture or for looking the wrong person in the eye. Did you also know that shaking your head can be interpreted as ‘yes’ in India? “Hi, would you like to buy some drugs? – Nervously shakes head – “Great! Here’s two kilograms of cocaine!” Kuh-Myoo-Nick-Ashion Learn a few words and phrases from the local language and the appropriate situations to use them in. You would be surprised at how much a ‘Yallah’ or a ‘Habibi’ can get people to warm up to you in the Middle East. Also, knowing the language makes ordering food that much easier. Just saying. Who Ya’ Gonna Call? It’s very useful to have in hand a bunch of contacts that you can get in touch with if-knock on wood- you should ever find yourself in trouble, eg: Your home country’s Embassy/Consulate(stolen passports are a thing in some countries you know?), local emergency numbers etc. If you have friends or relatives in the country/area, make sure you have their numbers as well. There’s no telling what kind of emergency you might encounter on the road. Link Up With Other Travellers And Locals! This is for many people, the single greatest reward of solo travel-meeting new people. There’s so much you discover from engaging with people from different cultures and backgrounds. Yes, I’m being captain obvious here, but it’s a point that just had to be reiterated.  Being alive in the internet age has its perks. A slew of apps and websites have made it that much easier for travelers to get in touch with people at their destinations. It doesn’t matter if you’re just hanging out with your host from ‘AirBnB’ and ‘Couchsurfing’ or finding fellow travelers to share in your adventure from ‘Penroads’, you’re guaranteed to meet some cool people on your journey. As a matter of fact, Penroads is the best way for you to connect with international travellers coming in from all over the world, so it’s definitely a useful tool to have (It’s a shameless plug. I am so sorry. But it really works!). Stay Healthy! Last but never the least, take care of your body. Stay hydrated. It’s no good if your mind yells “Onward!” and your body groans “Hell no!”. Find out if you

Hike Machu Picchu: Routes to Get There and Hikes to Enjoy on Site

So you've decided to hike Machu Picchu? Well great! There's no doubt that you're in for the experience of a lifetime. However, the truth of the matter is that now you've got some additional decisions to make. You see, there's more than one route to arrive to the world-famous Inca site, and even once you've arrived there are a few choices to make as well. But don't fret! If you're looking to hike Machu Picchu, we've got the information you need to start planning your trip. Hike Machu Picchu: Arriving to the Site 1. Classic Inca Trail The Classic Inca Trail is a four-day trek stretching some 42 kilometers along an ancient road built by the Incas themselves. This is undoubtedly the most famous route to Machu Picchu, and it's the one way that offers the opportunity to enter the city through its storied Sun Gate. Frankly, we've got tons of information on the Inca Trail on other pages of our site, so we won't waste too much space being redundant here. Check out these pages for more information on the trail's itinerary as well as for access to an Inca Trail map. 2. One-Day Inca Trail Whether you're crunched for time or simply don't feel physically up to four full days of trekking, don't fret--a small taste of the world-famous Inca Trail is still available to you! A number of tour companies offer an abridged version of the trek, either one full day of hiking or a shortened day followed by a night of camping and a dawn arrival at Machu Picchu. Besides the Inca Trail's famed destination, the one-day version of the trek also takes you past Wiñay Wayna, another favorite ruins along the trail. The bad news here is that you'll still need to reserve one of only a few hundred daily Inca Trail passes, meaning that, just like the full Inca Trail, you'll need to book this trek months in advance. 3. Lares Trail Just north of the world-famous Sacred Valley sits the comparatively lesser-known Lares Valley, and whereas the former can be swarmed with tourists especially during the high season, life in the Lares Valley continues humming along relatively unchanged. So whether you're looking for a simpler, more culturally-immersive experience or if you just didn't book an Inca Trail pass in time, the Lares Trail is an excellent option! Lucky for you, we've already gathered plenty of information on the Lares Trail including the trek's daily itinerary and a side-by-side comparison of the Lares and Inca Trails if you're struggling to decide how to hike Machu Picchu. 4. Vilcabamba Traverse Route Warning--this option is neither for the faint of heart nor the out of shape! The Vilcabamba Traverse Route is one of the newest on the Peru trekking circuit, clocking in at nearly 100 kilometers over the course of a week of trekking. Though very difficult, the route is especially rewarding--think a variety of diverse biomes and the ruins of Choquequirao, often compared to Machu Picchu although less than 40% of the site has been excavated (pictured

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