Trip Report: Norway Fjords: September 2016

Pulpit Rock

Pulpit Rock

Staff Member: Dan Crandall
Travel Dates: September 9-16, 2016
Destinations Visited: Bergen, Norway and Norwegian Fjord Country

Overview:  Bergen is Norway’s second largest city and gateway to the nation’s remarkable fjord region. Fjords are long, narrow sea inlets with high cliffs created by glacial erosion.  Fjord Norway is a stunning land of contrasts – you find both rugged and peaceful scenery, with all kinds of outdoor activities. From wandering on long white beaches in March, to seeing the apple blossoms of May, to skiing in July on snowy glaciers, to seeing the fall colors in late September, many little surprises awaits travelers. Fjord Norway has everything you could wish for — mountains, fjords, glaciers, fresh air, quaint cities, plus alluring hikes, rafting trips, bike trips and boat tours among many other outdoor adventures.  

Day 1 / September 9: Arrival in Bergen, Norway

Bergen is surrounded by beautiful Nature

Bergen is surrounded by beautiful nature

I arrived in Bergen via Oslo at 3:00pm on Norwegian Air, an up-and-coming discount carrier now serving more and more destinations internationally, including JFK, where I boarded the flight.

The transfer to the city center from Bergen Airport took about 20-25 minutes.

Bergen, Norway’s second-largest city, is busy yet beautiful, ringed by seven mountains and the sea.  Situated on the coast, for many this is the gateway to the nation’s remarkable fjord region.

Before our walk to the restaurant this evening, we took a brief art tour at one of the main art museums in town, the Kode 2, featuring one of the largest collection of Edward Muench’s works.

Dinner was at Lysverket – one of Norway’s best restaurants – highly recommended. Be ready for a “neo-fjordic” culinary experience with an excellent wine selection.

We had our overnight in Bergen at the Villa Terminus, a special on-site but separate property of the famous Hotel Grand Terminus, which is next to the historic train station that now serves as a shopping center.

Day 2 / September 10: Bergen and Haugesund


The zipline near Bergen

This morning, we rode the funicular in downtown Bergen to the surrounding hills, specifically Mt. Floyen. The funicular ride is 90 Kroner return (7 Kroner to 1 US dollar). It was cloudy – Bergen’s weather can be compared generally to Seattle’s, so be prepared for mist, clouds, and light rain – but we enjoyed a short hike around a small lake, where canoes are stacked and free to use if interested. Paths are well signed, with some cute ones included, saying things like “If you are looking for a sign, this is it” and “If nothing is going right, go left.” Hikers can choose to walk on paved paths or more rugged footpaths. Bikes are available for rent as well. Loads of fresh mountain air and quiet serenity.

One can do a scenic 17 km hike from the funicular top across the alpine ridges to the Ulriken cable car if time allows – it takes between 3-6 hours depending on your speed and physical condition (hikers can take a city bus back to downtown Bergen). Instead of hiking, we descended and took our tour bus to Ulriken to save time. A cable car takes you up the steep slopes. The wind died down and we were allowed to do the fun zipline (300 Kroner), advertised as “Norway’s fastest.” Alpine scenery abounds at the top, with wide open views of Bergen, the hills and fjord country below. Also, at the top is a beautiful lodge paneled with picture windows offering coffee, wine, beer, and fine food. We ate lunch there – a gourmet meal of cod – at the Sky Scraper restaurant.


  • Bus departure to Haugesund via Troldhaugen

In the afternoon, we visited the Edvard Grieg Museum, with a tour of the villa and museum of Norway’s most famous composer, known for “The Hall of the Mountain King.” It was a short and pleasant walk from the parking lot to the museum which overlooks the water.


  • Departure by road from Solstrand
  • Ferry crossing Halhjem – Sandvikvåg
  • Arrival Våge, continued by road to Haugesund

Our overnight in Haugesund was at the Clarion Collection Hotel Amanda. This property is right along the waterfront, making it convenient for boat excursions.

Haugesund is a pretty and lively large town along the fjord that literally gave Norway its name – “the North way.” We enjoyed a walking tour of this very walkable old city center before dinner, strolling this attractive town’s wharf lined with outdoor cafes and bars.

Day 3 / September 11: Viking history / Stavanger Old Quarter and Street Art

The medieval church

The medieval church at Avaldsnes

Today we received a fascinating taste of old Viking history. We set sail on the Johanne Karine, a wonderfully restored wooden sailboat from 1854, from outside the hotel to the Viking Farm at Avaldsnes. We took a guided tour of the replica farming settlement on the rugged coast here, with a quick stop at the Nordvegen History Museum, which deserved more time but we were in a hurry to catch a ferry. Before we left, however, we walked over the famous standing stone here – perhaps thousands of years old – that marked a meeting place for ancient peoples of the area. Right next to the towering stone is the picturesque fortified medieval church at Avaldsnes, built in the 1200s.

** Suggestion: Allow for about 2 hours for this visit and take in more of the museum. Dress according to the weather and bring good walking shoes.


Endless street art in Stavanger

Endless street art in Stavanger

After arriving in Stavanger, a large working town situated on the coast with a very attractive old quarter area full of boutique shops, we took to the old world streets by Segway, which was a lot of fun (though maybe that was because our guide let us zip around the streets at high speeds).  While the focus was on this town’s impressive array of street art – featuring works from noted artists from around the world – we learned a bit about the town’s history and took in some historic sites like the ancient fortified church (dating from 1150) and the attractive modern oil and gas museum that hosts a colorful and unique playground for kids, like nothing I’ve seen before. There are other museums too like the canning museum that we didn’t have time to check out but would be worth a visit. Allow for about 2 hours for the tour which starts near the port and old quarter. Be sure to bring a camera, not just for the artworks, but also the beautiful little houses that line the cobblestone streets. The Segway takes about 1 minute to get the hang of and it’s very easy from then on.

Our overnight in Stavanger was at the Thon Hotel Stavanger in the old quarter area very near the port, within easy walking distance of the old quarter and many major attractions.

Day 4 / September 12: Pulpit Rock hike


  • 8am ferry from Stavanger to Tau
  • Bus Tau to Preikestolen Fjellstue
View from Pulpit Rock

View from Pulpit Rock

This morning we did the unforgettable hike to famous Pulpit Rock, rated by Lonely Planet as one of the top 10 most spectacular vistas in the world. This moderately difficult hike is about 2 hours each way, plus allow for about 30-45 minutes on the cliff plateau. People afraid of heights might reconsider the hike, as at the top, there is no railing and the cliff is huge, while the trail is fairly narrow. Pulpit Rock is essentially an overhang in the cliff overlooking a grand fjord, with luscious views all around. Imagine a great Yosemite viewpoint with a rugged fjord below you. Simply awesome! Wear hiking pants and bring layers for your top, and good waterproof hiking boots are recommended.


  • Drive to Lofthus. 4.5 hours non-stop driving
  • Part of the drive is a necessary ferry –Ferry Nesvik – Hjelmeland – 10 min crossing the fjord

Our overnight was at the Hotel Ullensvang.

Day 5 / September 13: Scenic Train / Bike descent to Flam / Sea Kayaking in Flord


  • Drive from Ullensvang to Voss
  • Train Voss-Myrdal
  • Arrive in Myrdal / Bike descent to Flam
Fun bike descent from mountains to sea

Fun bike descent from mountains to sea

Myrdal is a stunning train whistle-stop high in the mountains. Here at the train station, we picked up bikes for our 20 km descent to Flam (pronounced “Floam”). Inexperienced riders may want to walk their bike through the very first part as it is very steep with loose rock, though the path is wide enough to fit a small truck. The bike ride is simply gorgeous, as you pass numerous waterfalls during your bike down the mountain-lined valley. Plan to make numerous stops for photos.

Suggestion: Dress for a proper mountain area biking trip, bring a daypack, rain jacket, water bottle, and wear comfortable shoes.

The destination was Flåm, a beautiful small mountain town of 200 people on Sognefjord. A million visitors trek through this picture postcard town so if overnighting, be sure to book your hotel well in advance. Also, try to visit the Ageir microbrewery’s bar situated in a beautifully restored wooden church; excellent ales add to the atmosphere.

Who needs a ferry when you have a kayak?

Who needs a ferry when you have a kayak?

This afternoon, following lunch, we embarked on an easy-going sea kayak trip into the fjord. A short stroll got us to the beach in Flåm where the kayak operation was based. We paddled the “Old Kings Path” tour – this was an ideal way to experience the fjords of Norway, practice or learn basic sea kayak skills with professional guides, and learn a bit about local Viking history. Notably, we passed an ancient Viking royals’ burial site, which was located right next to shore, looming under one of the myriad sea cliffs in the fjord. The tour lasted about 2 1/2 hours with instruction included. A kayak skirt, kayak jacket, and dry bag were provided.

Suggestion: Equipment you may want to bring includes warm, wind- and weatherproof clothing, sunglasses, water and boots or sneakers.

On occasion, travelers see sea eagles, but today we were content with a bright shining sun, a sea lion sighting, calm lake-like waters and the majestic mountain scenery all around us.

Tonight we enjoyed a buffet dinner at our historic hotel, the Fretheim Hotel. This property has wonderful glass panels  lining the dining and lounge areas for magnificent views and attractive rooms.

Day 6 / September 14: Fjord tour by zodiac plus a “Farm to Table” hike and lunch

After breakfast, we walked to the nearby Flåm harbor for the Fjord Safari.

Fjords of Norway

Fjords of Norway

The boats for this excursion were large, souped-up zodiacs with comfortable seats. A full body flotation suit was provided, not so much to protect you from a maritime disaster, but more to provide some wind and weather resistance as you blasted down the fjord. It was a surprisingly peaceful experience, zipping along the glass-like waters of the fjords, watching mountain after mountain unfold in front of you. A highlight was getting up close to the substantial Sagfossen waterfall, the largest of the fjord.

Evocative boathouses hearken to a long gone era, like this one at Skjerdal dock

Evocative boathouses hearken to a long gone era, like this one at Skjerdal dock

After our visit to the waterfall and a brief encounter with harbor seals and harbor dolphins, we enjoyed a special farm-to-table experience. We off-loaded at Skjerdal dock, where we started the moderate but steep path to beautiful Leim mountain farm. This hike took about an hour, passing family homes and farms, waterfalls, and small flocks of sheep and goats. Sandwiched between the mountains, lay the farm, which features a boutique goat cheese producer and intimate al fresco dining area.  This bucolic goat farm is a proud practicing member of the slow and local food movements. Following a brief tour of the goat cheese making process, we enjoyed a great lunch of locally sourced cheeses, cured meats, breads, and salads, while looking at the magnificent fjord below.

We hiked back down and hopped in the waiting bus for our return to Flåm.


  • Drove the Aurlandsfjellet (road nr. 243) from Aurland to Lærdal with stops along Aurlandsfjellet including Stegastein viewpoint, part of the National Tourist Road
  • Continued drive to Marifjøra
  • 10 minute Ferry from Fodnes to Mannheller across the Sognefjord

The drive over the mountains was fantastic, with the birches just beginning to change colors and waterfalls, tarns, and rugged alpine ridges abounding. Spectacular! What’s great is this area gives a traveler an excellent glimpse at what much of the grand interior of Norway looks like, so even if you are focusing on fjords, you can get a sense of what much of the rest of the country resembles.

We had dinner and our overnight at the lovely Tørvis Hotel, another wonderful historical hotel.

Day 7 / September 15: Glacier Hiking & Return by scenic ferry to Bergen

Jostedal Glacier, the largest in continental Europe

Jostedal Glacier, the largest in continental Europe

Today we departed by road approximately 45 minutes to mountainous Jostedalen.

Hiking across Jostedal Glacier

Hiking across Jostedal Glacier

We met our mountain guide from Folgefonni Breførarlag at the equipment depot at the car park by the glacier lake, which is the trailhead.  We took an exhilarating blue ice hike, outfitted by the company with crampons, harness, and rope, and we ascended a tongue of this massive glacier, continental Europe’s largest. The ground beneath us glowed blue as we passed over ice ridges and through glacial troughs. We walked up about 1 hour and then descended. The hike from the trailhead to the start of the glacier hike is moderately difficult, with several strategically placed ladders and bridges to cross. Waterfalls, alpine scenery and fresh air were all around us on this beautiful day on the ice – spectacular!  The ice hiking itself is not for people with a severe fear of heights, but anyone can do it with the right attitude and a modicum of physical fitness.

** Preparing for glacier hiking: Bring warm, wind- and weatherproof clothing, sunglasses, water, and a packed lunch to eat at the excellent visitor center, about a 10-minute drive from the trailhead. Wear solid waterproof hiking boots – which can be borrowed in a pinch if you don’t have your own. Clothing must cover the whole body. Hat and gloves recommended.


  • Drive approximately 2 hours to Leikanger
  • Departure by comfortable express boat from Leikanger to Bergen

On arrival in Bergen we had an easy walk – about 5-10 minutes – to our hotel, the Scandic Neptun Hotel – from the boat terminal. After a late but delicious dinner at Bryggen Tracteursted, we had our final overnight in Bergen.

Day 8 / September 16: Walking tour in Bergen & Departure

Bergen's fish market area, along the wharf

Bergen’s fish market area, along the wharf

After breakfast, we departed from our hotel lobby on a morning walking tour of the historic port area of Bergen, taking in some of this city’s beautiful architecture and upbeat vibe along the way. We passed a number of leafy public squares commemorating famous Bergenians of old, plus the fortress, the port, the lookout tower and more. The highlight, however, was the UNESCO heritage site at Bryygen. This tightly packed section of ancient homes is renowned for its vintage Hanseatic-era tenements, fish houses, and shops. Twisting narrow alleys thread through the original colorful wooden buildings, leading you to quaint restaurants and contemporary shops. Bryygen may be the most photographed scene in Norway and justifiably so.

After the tour, I took the easy airport shuttle (about 115 Kroner/cash/person each way) direct from downtown Bergen, paying the driver as I got on. These shuttles run approximately every 10-20 minutes from a number of stops in Bergen during peak travel times and once an hour on off-peak times (your hotel can help you with finding the nearest pickup area, confirm the price for you and suggest the best time to connect with your departure flight). I said farewell to Bergen and Norway soon after, with a profound sense of awe at what this peaceful country of just 5 million souls has accomplished. The modern infrastructure is simply magnificent yet the country retains all of its old world charm within one of the world’s most scenic settings.



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NEW KENYA TRIP — 7-Day Biking and Hiking in the Rift Valley!

7-Day Biking and Hiking in the Rift Valley

AWR announces a new trip to Kenya designed for people who want a more active tour with hiking or biking almost every day —  7-Day Biking and Hiking in the Rift Valley!

Starting at $1995/person!

This itinerary is ideal for anybody who wishes to have a little adventure as part of your Kenya safari. The hiking and biking are moderate and anyone can do these activities with ease. The program is not an extreme adventure, but those young at heart can push themselves. The idea is to let anyone to cycle or hike as little as they wish or as much as they wish, because we have a backup car and an adventure guide. We provide bicycles, but you can also bring your own.

You can easily extend this trip for 2-3 days to the Masai Mara.


  • 7-Day Biking and Hiking in the Rift ValleyHiking Mount Longonot Crater
  • Biking in Hell’s Gate National Park
  • Boat ride at Lake Naivasha
  • Nature walk at Crescent Island
  • Biking at Lake Bogoria
  • Biking in Kerio Valley
  • Walking or running with Kenyan Marathoners
  • Game drive at Lake Nakuru


  • 7-Day Biking and Hiking in the Rift ValleyDAY 1: Drive to Longonot, Hike to Mount Longonot Crater, Drive to Lake Naivasha
  • DAY 2: Lake Naivasha: Biking at Hell’s Gate, Boat ride and nature walk at Crescent Island
  • DAY 3: Biking at Lake Bogoria
  • DAY 4: Biking in Kerio Valley
  • DAY 5: Kerio Valley: Choice of activities (jog with Marathoners, bicycle, local community)
  • DAY 6: Drive to Lake Nakuru, afternoon walk/bicycle at Kenana Farm
  • DAY 7: Morning Lake Nakuru game drive, afternoon drive to Nairobi (or continue your safari to the Masai Mara)


  • $1995/person

Price is based on 6 people.  Accommodation is in good moderate, hotels on half board basis. Lodging upgrades are also possible.

We provide bicycles, but you can also bring your own.


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Climb Kilimanjaro for the Innocent Eyes Project

Have you dreamed of climbing Kilimanjaro to watch the sunrise over Africa from the top of the highest free-standing mountain in the world?  In July 2017, you can make a difference in the lives of children and experience Africa on this extraordinary Kilimanjaro trek designed and led by award-winning photographer and travel writer, David Noyes.

Read about David’s sunrise summit on Kilimanjaro >>

This fundraising climb will help provide children in East Africa with a second chance at a quality education by supporting one of our heroic program partners. Each participant should be prepared to raise at least $3500 for the climb and charitable donation to the Innocent Eyes Project. One easy way to ask for support of your climb is by setting up a fundraising page with First Giving or a similar page. Come climb for this great cause!

The trip will include

  • Visit to the Make a Difference orphanage
  • 7-day Machame Trek
  • Safari to Arusha National Park


Day 1 2-Jun-17 Arrive Kilimanjaro Airport, Transfer to Moshi
Day 2 3-Jun-17 Visit Make A Difference, Kili briefing (B)
Day 3 4-Jun-17 7-DAY KILIMANJARO MACHAME TREK / Drive to Kilimanjaro National Park Machame Gate, Hike to Machame Camp (BLD)
Day 4 5-Jun-17 Hike Machame Camp to Shira Camp (BLD)
Day 5 6-Jun-17 Hike Shira Camp to Lava Tower to Barranco Camp (BLD)
Day 6 7-Jun-17 Hike Barranco Camp to Karanga Camp (BLD)
Day 7 8-Jun-17 Hike Karanga Camp to Barafu Camp (BLD)
Day 8 9-Jun-17 Hike Barafu Camp to Summit, down to Mweka Camp (BLD)
Day 9 10-Jun-17 Hike Mweka Camp to Mweka Gate, drive to Moshi (B)
Day 10 11-Jun-17 ARUSHA DAY TOUR / Arusha National Park Safari Day Trip, Transfer to Kilimanjaro Airport (BL)






Posted in Kilimanjaro, Sustainable Tourism, Tanzania | Leave a comment

NEW TRIP! 13 Day Active Bhutan with Day Hikes

13-Day Active Bhutan with Day Hikes
AWR announces a new trip to Bhutan designed for people who want a more active tour with day hikes almost every day — 13-Day Active Bhutan with Day Hikes!

Just $2995/person!

13-Day Active Bhutan with Day Hikes

Making traditional textiles

In this tour, you arrive in Paro, the main city of Bhutan, and then fly the eastern region. From there, you will drive back to Paro seeing all the cultural highlights plus day hikes to amazing monasteries and mountain vistas almost every day.

This is a great option for people who want to explore Bhutan’s culture and history, but also want to be more active.

  • REMEMBER:  All of our trips can be customized for your group.  This trip can be shortened, or you can schedule it around one of the popular festivals (Tshechu).


DAY 1: Arrive Paro, transfer to hotel, afternoon sightseeing
DAY 2: Fly to Bumthang, afternoon sightseeing and hike (10km/2hrs hiking)
DAY 3: Bumthang sightseeing and hike (3hrs hiking)
DAY 4: Tang Valley sightseeing and hike (1.5hrs hiking)
DAY 5: Drive to Trongsa, visit Trongsa Dzong, drive to Gangtey (135km/5-6hrs driving)
DAY 6: Half day hike in Jigme Singye Wangchuk National Park (4-5hrs hiking) (2hrs driving round-trip)
DAY 7: Drive to Punakha via Wangdi, hike, visit local farmhouse and dinner with family (2hrs hiking)
DAY 8: Punakha sightseeing (Punakha Dzong) and hike (3hrs hiking)
DAY 9: Drive to Thimphu via Dochula Pass, hike to Divine Madman and sightseeing (National Library, Tashichho Dzong) (30min hiking) (77km/3hrs driving)
DAY 10: Thimphu sightseeing and hike (Cheri Monastery, Zilukha Nunnery) (2-3hrs hiking)
DAY 11: Drive to Paro, afternoon sightseeing
DAY 12: Hike to Tiger’s Nest Monastery (4-5hrs hiking)
DAY 13: Transfer to airport for departure


  • $2995/person with mid-range accommodations
  • $4095/person with luxury accommodations

Price valid for a group of 3-5 people.

See 13-Day Active Bhutan with Day Hikes >>


Posted in Bhutan, Trekking | Leave a comment

Trip Report: Rwanda Gorillas & Golden Monkeys: July 2016

Staff Members: Robin Paschall & Dean Paschall
Travel Dates: July 30 – August 3, 2016
Destinations Visited: Kigali and Volcanoes National Park in Rwanda

Rwanda is best known for gorilla trekking, but there is so much to see and do there!  We did a 5-day trip that included the gorillas, golden monkeys, and the genocide memorial in Kigali.

DAY 1 – July 30- Arrive Kigali

Arrival at Kigali Airport:

Upon arrival at the Kigali Airport, there is a line to get your Rwanda Visa.  It is $30/person, and they take USD or credit cards.  Then, you get in line for passport control.  If you got your visa ahead of time, you can go right to the passport control line.  There are people at the airport to help you. You will want your yellow fever certificate handy as well.

After passport control, you will collect your luggage and go through customs.  There are free carts to help you carry your luggage.

When you exit security, look for a driver with a sign that says “Adventures Within Reach” and your name.

Mille Collines Hotel:

We stayed at the Hotel des Mille Collines (“thousand hills”), also known as Hotel Rwanda.  It is a high-rise, modern hotel on top of a hill in central Kigali.  It has great views of the city, a large swimming pool, nice outdoor bar and dining area, fitness center, free WiFi, and the Panorama Restaurant on the top floor.

We arrived at night, but the bar and outside dining area were still open, so we were able to enjoy the evening outside as our other travel companions arrived.

DAY 2 – July 31 – Kigali City Tour and Genocide Memorial

Today, we spent the morning doing a Kigali City Tour and visiting the Genocide Memorial.  We had lunch back at the Mille Collines Hotel, and the afternoon was a 3-hour drive to the Volcanoes National Park area.

Genocide Memorial:

This is a must-do in Kigali.  The tour starts with a short video, and then you have an audio guide tour through the museum.  You finish with the outside burial area for the victims.  A very powerful experience.

Mountain Gorilla View Lodge:

We spent 2 nights at the MGVL.  This is our mid-range accommodation, but it is quite nice.  Each room is a separate cottage, which is very spacious with a separate sitting area, fireplace, outdoor patio, and large, if rustic, bathrooms.

All the meals are buffet but with a good selection.  There is also an espresso bar.

At 5:00pm every day, a local dance group performs Intore style dancing for tips, which our group joined in.  They also offer massages, rental gear for trekking, WiFi, and free shoe cleaning after trekking.

DAY 3 – August 1 – Gorilla Trekking

Gorilla Trekking

From the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge, it is a 20 minute drive to the national park headquarters.  We left about 7:10am and got there about 7:30am.  The national park seems to be both organized and disorganized at the same time.  It is quite an effort to get all the groups organized, but it also takes them a while before they get the groups together.

Upon arrival, there is a local dance group that performs Intore style dancing for tips.  There is also coffee, tea, toilets, and free WiFi.

After 30 minutes or so, there is a briefing with the gorilla guide in your group of 8 trekkers. Our group was the Amaroho group.

All the groups head out to different parking areas.  Ours was about a 40 minute drive.  The last part of the drive was on one of the bumpiest roads I have ever experienced.  Children ran alongside the car trying to sell their drawings of gorillas.  It was very cute, but our guide says that if the kids make money, then they don’t want to go to school, so he discouraged us from buying them.

At the trailhead, you get a walking stick and can get a local porter.  The local porters are $10 and are a good way to help the local community.  They carry your day pack and also help you on the steep and slippery sections.

We started hiking at 9:00am.  It was about 1 hour of walking through farm fields with views of the volcanoes until we reached the edge of the forest.  It was another 1 hour of hiking on a well-traveled trail until we reached our gorilla group.

The 3 trackers bushwhack a trail into where the gorillas are, so the trail is rougher.  All packs are left on the trail with the porters before going to the gorillas (just cameras).

You get exactly 1 hour with the gorillas.  Our family had babies, females, young males, and 2 silverbacks.  When we first approached them, there were 2 youngsters chasing each other in the trees, some adults were laying around, and 1 silverback was just beyond.  They started to move up the hill, so we followed.  There was a mother with a very young baby just cuddling and playing.  We followed the rest of the group further up the hill where they were eating.  They spread out a bit, so we would go from one to another just watching them.  The trackers were great at finding them in the bushes.  This part was on a steep hill and slippery.  The hour went by so fast!

A GoPro or other video was handy.  A long lens was not necessary as we were very close to them.  Long pants and shin-high gaiters were nice as there are stinging nettles.  It was dry on our hike, so hiking shoes were fine.  If it is wet and muddy, hiking boots would be a necessity as well as a rain jacket.  Layered shirts to adapt to different temperatures was helpful.  The lodges rent rubber boots, pants, and jackets.

After our time with the gorillas, we went back to our packs for a snack.  It was nice to have some extra snacks to share with the trekking group as well as the guide, porters, and trackers.

It was another 2 hour hike back down to the parking lot.  We saw an elephant in a meadow at the bottom of the hill.  Our guide said that in 16 years of gorilla trekking, that was the fourth time he saw an elephant.

You need exact change for the porter.  You don’t have to tip the porter or guide, but I think it’s nice.

We reached the parking lot at 2pm, and it was a 15 minute drive to the Mountain Gorilla View Lodge.  The lodge serves buffet lunch until 3pm, and it has a nice outdoor dining area.

See Rwanda Day Pack Packing List >>

DAY 4 – August 2 – Golden Monkeys, Village, Kigali

Golden Monkeys

The Golden Monkeys trek starts at the same national park headquarters with a similar orientation process.  There is currently no limit on the number of people that go to the Golden Monkeys, they split us into 2 groups of 20+ people.

The Golden Monkeys are fun because they are very animated, jumping from tree to tree, swinging up in the trees, and running on the ground.

We got to the parking area around 9:00am.  It was a 1 hour hike in, 1 hour with the monkeys, and 1 hour hike out.  There are hiking poles at the trailhead, and you can get a porter for $10.  Similar to the gorillas, you leave your backpacks with the porters before going into the monkeys.  We had a short break after seeing the monkeys for snacks, which we shared with the guide, porters, and 3 trackers.

They are further away than the gorillas, so a long lens was important as well as video with zoom.  The GoPro wasn’t as useful.

You need exact change for the porter.  You don’t have to tip the porter or guide, but I think it’s nice.

Iby’Iwacu Traditional Village

After the Golden Monkeys, we went to the Iby’Iwacu Traditional Village.  This is a local village project that was created to help stop poaching by giving ex-poachers an alternative income.

There is a king’s house where you can see how the old kings used to live and how they ruled.  Then you see a medicine man with traditional medicines.  A blacksmith demonstrates how they worked with metal.  A woman shows how she ground grains and made dough.  There is a small shop to buy handicrafts.  Finally, they perform local drumming, singing, and dancing.  It is a nice cultural experience.

Heaven Restaurant

For our last night in Rwanda, we had dinner at the Heaven Restaurant.  The food was great, it was a fun atmosphere, and there is a cute art gallery next door.  It is a short walk from the Mille Collines Hotel.  Your guide can drive you, or it is safe to walk in Kigali at night.

DAY 5 – August 3 – Depart Kigali

Departing Kigali Airport

As we drove into the Kigali Airport area, we stopped at a security checkpoint, which was searched by dogs.  One car had to remove all it’s luggage and people, but the other car did not.

There is a line outside the airport to check tickets, passports, and yellow fever certificates.  It helps having a copy of the e-tickets to get through the line faster.  There are luggage handlers, who can help with your luggage all the way to the ticket counter (for a tip).

All luggage and travelers have to go through an x-ray/metal detector to enter the airport.  Computers and iPads out, shoes off.

Then, you check in at your airline counter and check luggage.  RwandAir has a 60 lb. luggage limit for checked bags, which can be in 1 or 2 bags.  Carry-on has a limit of 10kg.  All carry-on luggage gets a tag (except purses).

Next is passport control, where they look at tickets, passports, and yellow fever certificates.

The waiting area has 2 shops, snacks, and toilets.

Then, you go through a final security checkpoint to get to the boarding area.  You are given a color-coded boarding card.  You wait in the boarding area until your flight is called.  There are no services in this area.

You will take a bus to the airplane where you hand in your color-coded boarding card.

The RwandAir flight to the Kilimanjaro Airport is only 1.5 hours long on a Dash 8, but they offer a hot meal and free wine/beer.

See all Gorilla Trekking in Rwanda >>


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Origin – New First Class Cruise Ship in the Galapagos Islands


Introducing the Origin — the newest first class cruise ship in the Galapagos Islands!

The Origin is an improvement over other first class vessels in the Galapagos as it is 50 percent more spacious, uses approximately 30 percent less fuel, is 30 percent faster, and provides the lowest crew-to-guest ratio to provide the premier cruise experience in the Galapagos.


origin_kingThe Origin’s ten cabins have one large king bed or two twin beds. The beds are prepared with luxurious linens, memory-foam mattresses, and soft pillows and your cabin will stay pristine with twice-daily cleanings. Cabin amenities include: ample sectional closet, nightstand, seating area, modern décor with local art work, fine linens and towels, climate controls, Apple TV with pre-loaded movies, universal docking station, and safe deposit box. A light laundry service is also available. The private cabin bathroom includes a modern shower, two-flush toilet, sink, hair dryer, waffle bathrobes, biodegradable soaps, and shampoo.



The Origin caters to the gourmet, with meals using locally sourced ingredients from sustainable providers. The dining room offers tables with space ranging from couples to large parties of 10. And of course, passengers can eat lunch outside on the sundeck. At the end of the day, passengers can enjoy the open bar.



Even though the Origin is at sea, passengers can continue their normal workout. The fitness center contains: a treadmill, an elliptical, free weights, and yoga mats, and other exercise equipment. Or, if you just want to relax, you can slip into the Jacuzzi hot tub.


The Origin’s 13 experienced crew members, high-level captain, two expert naturalist guides, and a full-time concierge are all prepared to provide world-class service to you.

Please visit AWR’s web page containing more information about the Origin.

Book your Galapagos Islands cruise with AWR today!

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NEW TRIP! 6-Day Rongai Trek (Alternate Route)

6-Day Rongai Route (Alternate)

AWR announces a new route on Kilimanjaro — 6-Day Rongai Trek (Alternate Route).  Our 6-day “alternative” Rongai trek includes a night at super scenic Mawenzi Tarn Hut camp. Soak up the rugged mountain views while camping in the shadow of one of Kilimanjaro’s tallest sub-peaks, Mawenzi.

Starting at $1845/person!

This trip is a hybrid version of our “easiest” trek (the 7-day Rongai) and our standard 6-day Rongai, which also has one of the highest success rates possible. If you are looking for a slightly more challenging hiking experience than the standard Rongai trek, yet something still “easier” than a 6-day Machame, then this is an excellent choice! On a standard 6-day Machame, you have 2 long days of hiking; on this trek, you have just one, on Day 2.


  • DAY 1: Drive to the trailhead, hike to Simba Camp
  • DAY 2: Hike Simba Camp to Kikelewa Camp
  • DAY 3: Hike Kikelewa Camp to Mawenzi Tarn
  • DAY 4: Hike Mawenzi Tarn to Kibo Hut
  • DAY 5: Kibo Camp to Summit and descent to Horombo Hut
  • DAY 6: Final descent, transfer to Moshi


  • 2-3 People: $2145/person
  • 4-6 People: $1995/person
  • 7+ People: $1845/person
  • Save $150/person when you book a Kilimanjaro Trek and Safari in 2016!
  • Low Season: Discount $50/person in April, May, and November

6-Day Rongai Trek (Alternate Route) >>

Posted in Kilimanjaro, Tanzania, Trekking | Leave a comment

NEW TRIP — 4 Day Thailand Beach Extension to Ko Samui

4-Day Thailand: Beach Extension to Ko Samui

AWR announces a new trip extension in Thailand — 4 Day Beach Extension to Ko Samui!  This is a great combination with any of our other trips in Southeast Asia.

Starting at $405/person!

Krabi, Phuket and Koh Samui are the three most popular beach destinations in Thailand. Trying to decide which one to visit? Use Thailand’s climate to guide you.

Thailand has 2 distinct monsoon seasons. One – the main one – occurs in Thailand’s interior and west cost, while another occurs on the Gulf side. Monsoons are not just marked by heavy rains but also rough seas, which can really jeopardize good-time fun on the beach. Avoid the monsoon at the beach by picking the right beach destination at the right time.

Travelers typically visit Samui from April through August, while Phuket or Krabi is better November through April. The good news is that no matter the time of year may want to travel in Thailand, you almost always have a nice beach area to visit with good weather.


  • DAY 1: Fly to Ko Samui
  • DAY 2: Relax on the beach or optional kayak tour
  • DAY 3: Relax on the beach or optional snorkel tour
  • DAY 4: Depart


  • 3-STAR MODERATE: Samui Jasmine, Deluxe Building, garden view
  • 4-STAR LUXURY: Zazen Boutique Resort & Spa, Garden Deluxe bungalow
  • 5-STAR ELITE LUXURY: SALA Samui, Deluxe balcony

*** Optional tours are available on both of your free days if you’d prefer to be a little more active and see more of the area.


  • 3-STAR MODERATE: $405/person
  • 4-STAR LUXURY: $695/person
  • 5-STAR ELITE LUXURY: $795/person

*** Prices listed are valid from November 2016 through October 2017.

4 Day Beach Extension to Ko Samui >>

Posted in Southeast Asia, Thailand | Leave a comment

NEW TRIP! 9 Day South Vietnam: In Depth

9-Day South Vietnam: In Depth

AWR announces a new trip — 9 Day South Vietnam: In Depth!  On this special trip, we explore in-depth the deep traditional ways of life in the south, enjoying countless encounters with gentle genuine people living on the land and rivers, the lifeblood of the region.

Starting at $1095/person!

For trekking, rugged mountains, Hanoi and Halong Bay, travelers will want to visit North Vietnam, but for travelers seeking a quieter, personal look deep into the traditional river cultures of Southeast Asia and specifically Vietnam, plus some quality beach time in a beautiful beach area, South Vietnam beckons.

As a stark and colorful contrast, we also tour bustling Saigon (Ho Chi Minh City), the gateway for this trip. Saigon is a fascinating mix of Chinese and Vietnamese cultures, and is the undisputed economic hub for the country.

We wrap up the tour with relaxing days on the beach island of Phu Quoc. You’re welcome to add days here if you’d like more beach time.

One easy way to extend your trip is the 4-day Angkor Wat and Siem Reap in Cambodia, just over the border and a quick flight from Saigon.

*** The best time of year for this trip is November through May, the dry season and the time we see the calmest seas.


  • DAY 1: Ho Chi Minh City Arrival
  • DAY 2: Explore Ho Chi Minh City
  • DAY 3: Travel Ho Chi Minh City – Ben Tre – Cho Lach
  • DAY 4: Culture and countryside of South Vietnam
  • DAY 5: Nga Nam Floating Market and Pagodas / Can Tho
  • DAY 6: Delta explorations / Speedboat transfer across the sea to Phu Quoc
  • DAY 7: Free day on the beach
  • DAY 8: Free day on the beach
  • DAY 9: Transfer to airport / Depart


2-3 People:

  • 3-STAR MODERATE: $1345/person
  • 4-STAR LUXURY: $1545/person

4+ People:

  • 3-STAR MODERATE: $1095/person
  • 4-STAR LUXURY: $1295/person

9 Day South Vietnam: In Depth >>

Posted in Southeast Asia, Vietnam | Leave a comment

Peru Overnight in a Sky Lodge with Ziplines and Via Ferrata

2-Day Via Ferrata/Zip Line/Sky Lodge in the Sacred Valley

For a truly unique adventure experience, spend the night in the Sky Lodge!

2 Days / 1 night: Just $415/person!

2-Day Via Ferrata/Zip Line/Sky Lodge in the Sacred ValleyThe Sky Lodge is a clear luxury “capsule” that hangs off the top of a mountain in the Sacred Valley near Cusco, Peru.  This hanging bedroom offers a spectacular 300-degree view of this beautiful valley.  There are 3 capsules with 4 beds, a dining area, and private bathroom.  They are 24 feet long, 8 feet wide, and 8 feet high.  Gourmet dinner with wine and breakfast are included.

To reach the Sky Lodge, you must climb 1300 feet of via ferrata or hike up a steep trail. Decent is by repelling or via zip lines to the base of the mountain.

2-Day Via Ferrata/Zip Line/Sky Lodge in the Sacred ValleyA via ferrata is a method of climbing a mountain with ladders, metal handholds, and bridges.  This allows a non-rock climber to climb the mountain safely and more easily.  Everyone climbs with a guide and wears a climbing harness, helmet, gloves, and via ferrata lanyard.

There are 7 zip lines from 150 meters to 700 meters long for a total of 2800 meters.  You access the zip lines by a 30-40 minute hike, or doing the via ferrata.  Everyone goes with a guide and wears a climbing harness, helmet, gloves, zip line kit, and via ferrata lanyard.

2016 Price: $415/person

Price includes:

  • 1 night accommodation in the Sky Lodge
  • Via ferrata or zip lines (extra cost for both), equipment, and guides
  • Gourmet dinner with wine and breakfast
  • Transportation from Cusco or the Sacred Valley round-trip

See 2-Day Via Ferrata/Zip Line/Sky Lodge in the Sacred Valley >>

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