Highlights of Northern India

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India is a spectacular country, full of natural beauty, artistic wonders, and rich culture. Northern India is particularly exemplary of these qualities: it is a proud, vibrant region that beckons to travelers time and time again with its promise of once-in-a-lifetime opportunities, which is why it remains an Acanela favorite. To understand what we mean, check out the following highlights of Northern India-- and just try not to start daydreaming about booking your flight out there!

Jungle Safari

Talk about once in a lifetime-- when is the next time you’ll have the opportunity to ride an elephant through the jungle, looking for tigers and other wildlife to photograph? Jaipur is a can’t-miss stop on your Northern India tour, as Ranthambore National Park offers some of the most beautiful natural views in the whole country, and opportunities to see rare creatures such as tigers, leopards, monkeys, and more!

Jodhpur

Venture into the Blue City of Jodhpur, where you’ll be in awe of the turquoise, cube-like buildings that dominate the city’s landscape. Breathe in the scent of incense and flowers as you wander through the many bazaars, which are famous for the quality of their textiles and spices. You should also leave time to explore Mehrangarh Fort, where you can marvel at the colossal red sandstone architecture and catch golden hour setting over the city down below.

Temple Tours

India is also known for its rich religious history, and you can’t miss out on exploring the beautiful temples that dot the region. The Ranakpur Temples in the city of Udaipur are true artistic wonders and definitely worth a tour: the temples in the complex are world-renowned for their architectural style and significance as the most important temples of the peaceful Jain religion. The intricate designs won’t disappoint, and you’ll gain a new appreciation for the beauty of Jainist culture in India.

Cooking Classes

Of course, not all of your travel activities have to be sight-seeing: why not try something more hands-on, like a cooking class in one of the world’s culinary hotspots? Learn about the various spices that make Indian food so great, and then try your hand at making traditional (and delicious) curries and naan. You’ll leave India with some new skills and yummy recipes to try on your friends and family at home!

Taj Mahal

This one almost goes without saying, but our list would be remiss without including the Taj Mahal! Known as the jewel of Muslim art in India, this splendid marble mausoleum is universally considered a masterpiece. It’s an incredible sight at all times of day, but we recommend you head over for a viewing at sunrise or sunset, when the monument and its sprawling pools and gardens will be bathed in a beautiful soft light. After a tour of the monuments interior, grab a bite to eat at one of the restaurants overlooking the Taj, before saying goodbye to this stunning emblem of Indian heritage.

Travel with us to India! See all of the highlights of our expedition HERE!

Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt

Make an IMPACT Through Travel | Hyderabad, India

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Join the first Acanela humanitarian group in majestic India this summer! If you are a seamstress or knitter, you can contribute your talents in an intimate travel opportunity to teach women in a rural community of Hyderabad, India how to make traditional Indian clothing and useful household supplies. 

This artisan teaching program was carried out 2 years by trip leader Sarah Burroughs, resident of Salt Lake City, Utah.  30 women in Hyderabad were taught how to sew and make jewelry.  Shortly after the volunteers returned to the USA, all of the Indian women found employment at a local sewing shop or as entrepreneurs in their area! Now, there's another group of eager women anxious to learn from you!

Along with teaching a 2-week sewing program, you'll be immersed in the rich Indian traditions and beauty that hit all five senses. 

SMELL

Jasmine, the "belle of India", is a scent that is best experienced in India! It's used for celebrations, welcoming, worship, but most commonly in the bride's hair when she is getting married as an honor to the beauty of their hair and as a symbol of fortune and prosperity. It's natural scent releases anxiety, boosts energy, and increases focus. No wonder the Indian people are so positive and stay up so late!

SIGHT

Ever wonder what it would be like to be in "Indiana Jones"? Well that's exactly what it's like walking around and exploring Golconda Fort! Spanning 7 square miles, this 1000-year old fort was once the capital of the medieval sultanate of the Qutb Shai dynasty, contained several royal chambers, tombs, mosques, and even stored the world's famous Koh-i-Noor and Hope diamonds, found in the same region. 

TOUCH

It is every makers dream to roam the streets of India and indulge in the stunning textiles and jewelry! You'll find everything from smooth traditional silks to thick, tightly woven rugs just 20 minutes from our housing. From organic cottons to authentic pearls in historical Charminar. Wrap yourself up in a sari or stock up on fabric for your fantasy garment or project. Plan on bringing home an extra luggage, wink wink.

HEARING

I don't know which I love more.. The still quiet mornings of India or the busy music of the streets. But one of my favorite moments in Hyderabad was a mixture of both. While hiking up 484 steps up to Moula Ali Dargah, there was a call for prayer throughout the city below us. I turned towards the sound from the speakers and felt an overwhelming sense of peace and appreciation for my life, and for the people surrounding me in India. 

TASTE

Hyderabad, India is nationally known for it's Biryani, uniquely flavored with nutmeg, cinnamon, ginger, coriander, and bay leaves. And while all of the food is packed full of spices and taste, it tastes even better sitting on the floor and with your hands!

Spots are limited - so sign up fast! This is a trip that will change your life and the lives you meet in India! Check out our impact trip HERE for more information!

Sarah Burroughs, designs and manages her own brand of womens' bags out of Salt Lake City, and works with local refugee employment services to identify and hire refugees to help manufacture the products. She's taught sewing in Uganda, Africa, and thrilled to be returning to Hyderabad for her second time. She received the Humanitarian Honoree Award at the Fashion and Arts Humanity Fete Awards in Chicago, November 2016. 

What to Do on Your First Trip to Greece

Greece is an alluring destination to many travelers because of its reputation as a beautiful and laid-back country, but some don’t realize what a truly multifaceted country it is. Greece caters to so many different types of people and offers such varied experiences that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed or unsure of what you should do. To help you get the most out of your trip to Greece, we’ve highlighted some of the best things to do during your stay!

Historical Adventures - 

Greece’s rich cultural history shouldn’t be underestimated, and you should allot plenty of time to exploring it. The ancient city of Athens is the perfect place to kick-off your trip, as it is home to some of the most important sites in the Western world, like the Acropolis. The ancient citadel is marked by remnants of sanctuaries and monuments, including the famous Parthenon temple, and all the gleaming marble stone is a dazzling sight to behold. While in Athens, you should also be sure to visit the ancient amphitheater: otherwise known as Dionysus’ Theater, it was a gathering place for thousands of people to come together to appreciate the dramatic arts, and is still a staggeringly impressive sight today. If you can’t get enough of the ancient history, Greece has many more treats waiting for you: from the Palace of Knossos on Crete to the grounds of the first Olympic Games, you’ll have many opportunities to walk along ancient paths and appreciate Greece’s role in Western development.

 

Photo by: @OurTravelPassport | Ryan & Samantha Looney

Photo by: @OurTravelPassport | Ryan & Samantha Looney

Relaxation -

Of course, sometimes you just need to relax-- don’t worry, Greece has you covered there too. Santorini is a favorite of many travelers: with its idyllic, cliff-backed white houses, superb sunrises, and famous black sand beaches, it’s sure to capture your heart. The islands of Mykonos, Crete, and Corfu are also worth a visit, as some of the best beaches in the whole country can be found there beside the dazzling Aegean sea. Greece also has plenty of natural thermal springs, known for their relaxing and rejuvenating properties since ancient times. Many of them are located within “spa towns,” so if you’re craving more after bathing in one of the thermal springs, you can treat yourself to a full-fledged spa!

Photo by: @OurTravelPassport

Photo by: @OurTravelPassport

Outdoor Excursions -

In a country famed for its natural beauty, what better way to experience it than by hiking through some stunning landscapes? The Samaria Gorge is one of Greece’s National Parks located on the island of Crete, and its vertical walls and flowing river make it an inspiring sight to behold. If you’re lucky, you’ll also see some golden eagles flying overhead, or maybe even the rare, endangered wild goat known as the kri-kri. If you like adventuring, head to the Peloponnese region to hike the Mani, a rugged region of Greece that is as beautiful as it is wild. The Mani is known for having some of the most diverse scenery in all of Greece, from snow-tipped mountains to sparkling coasts to many olive groves, and despite being connected by walking trails, most of it is relatively untouched. You won’t want to miss this special opportunity to explore the majesty of rural Greece!

 

Photo by: @OurTravelPassport

Cuisine -

Here’s something you definitely want to take advantage of while in Greece: the food! Explore world-renowned wineries on Santorini and Crete, or take some cooking classes and learn how to make your very own spanakopita (a savory spinach pastry) and loukoumades (hand-made donut holes sprinkled with honey and cinnamon). Even if you’re not up for cooking, you can have a great time just by savoring the many culinary delights on every island: from fresh seafood to hearty stews to delicious pastries to simply some olives and feta cheese, your tastebuds will be in for a treat no matter what city you find yourself in!

Enough with all of this reading! Take a chance and enter our "Win A Trip To The Greek Isles" Sweepstakes! This sweepstakes only lasts until June 15, 2017! Click HERE to enter!  

Blog post by: Hannah Hunt

Photo and video content provided by: Our Travel Passport | Ryan & Samantha Looney

Top Experiences On Each Of The Hawaiian Islands

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Hawaii is a dream destination for many, and with good reason! The islands seem to have it all: beautiful weather, delicious food, tranquil beaches, and lush landscapes. Top all of that off with the warm hospitality of locals, and it’s no wonder why the state is held in such high regard. But with so many islands to choose from, it can be overwhelming to try to figure out where you want to go: we’ve put together a few highlights for each Hawaiian island, to help you get the most out of your trip to the Pacific!

Hawaii (Big Island)

The state’s namesake island, otherwise known as the Big Island, is perhaps most famous for its volcanic history. You can’t miss out on visiting the Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, an amazing preserve that displays the results of approximately 70 million years of eruption, migration, and land evolution. In addition to the plethora of hiking opportunities, you can take a drive around Crater Rim and stop to walk along scenic points such as the natural steam vents and the “lava tube,” a prehistoric tunnel created by hot lava rushing through millions of years ago. When you want a more relaxing day, check out some of the farmers markets the Big Island famous for. The markets in Hilo, Kona, and Volcano Village are particularly stunning, with fresh flowers, food, and unique gifts that are sure to draw you in. Quiet neighborhoods transform into beautiful open-air markets, where hundreds of people flock for good food, live music, and a taste of the “aloha spirit” Hawaii is known for.

Maui

Maui is often hailed as the favorite island of many who visit Hawaii, and it’s not unwarranted. For first-time Maui goers, the Old Lahaina Luau is a must-see! The luau, which prides itself on adhering to traditional Hawaiian customs, is a great introduction into Hawaiian culture. Devote an evening to watching skillful hula and fire dancing, all while dining on Hawaiian specialties like kalua pua’a, poi, and of course, fresh mahi-mahi. During the day, treat yourself to a relaxing day on one of Maui’s many enticing beaches, where the sand is soft and the ocean is crystal-clear.

Molokai

Ask any local what to do in Molokai and they’ll likely point you in the direction of Kalaupapa National Park. The Kalaupapa peninsula used to be an isolated leper colony, before a cure for the disease was invented. Today, Kalaupapa is a beautiful national preserve, and a photographer’s dream with its towering sea-cliffs and expansive ocean views. For a unique experience on the island, you can take a guided tour down the 2,000 foot sea-cliffs on the back of reliable mule, and breathe in the gorgeous views from atop the cliff. The Halawa Valley hike is another special opportunity in Molokai: you’ll walk through a lush rainforest before reaching a spectacular waterfall that you can swim underneath.

Kahoolawe and Niihau

Unfortunately, the islands of Kahoolawe and Niihau are closed to the general public, so visits there are a little more rare. Kahoolawe was closed in order to increase conservation and restoration efforts, and visitors are only allowed for Hawaiian cultural, spiritual, or subsistence purposes. However, you can still sign up for a volunteer trip to the island, and work to protect the natural fauna of the area. Niihau, an island with a population of just 170 people, also offers limited tourist opportunities, but if you’re lucky enough to visit you’ll take a helicopter tour around the island, where you can spot reef sharks swimming in the bay. Once the helicopter lands, you’ll spend the day relaxing on one of the pristine beaches, sunbathing and snorkelling to your heart’s content.

Oahu

Oahu is a particularly well-loved island, offering many unforgettable experiences for visitors. One of the best spots on the island is Hanauma Bay, a special conservation area and underwater park. Various lookout points offer spectacular panoramic views of the bay itself, but snorkelling is the real attraction. The calm, translucent waters are home to a variety of colorful marine life that you can swim with easily with just a snorkel and a pair of fins, making it an incredible opportunity for visitors of all ages! If you need a break from the many beaches of Oahu, take some time to visit a few of the important museums on the island: from the Polynesian Cultural Center to the Pearl Harbor Museum, you’ll have the opportunity to learn more about Hawaiian history and culture.

Lanai

Lanai, a small island in the middle of the Hawaiian chain, is a nature lover’s dream. The island often goes forgotten by tourists, meaning it’s not heavily crowded. Lanai is home to all sorts of natural attractions, like the barren, mars-like terrain of the Garden of the Gods, the rainforests leading up to the towering Mount Lanaihale, or Hulopoe Bay, a secluded white sand beach frequented by dolphins and sea turtles. When you start craving a taste of civilization, head into Lanai City, the island’s only town and home to an eclectic, colorful assortment of cafes, boutiques, and local art.

 

Kauai

Kauai is nicknamed “The Garden Isle” for the rainforest that dominates most of its landscape. The Napali Coast State Park is a must-see, as its dramatic cliffs provide some of the most stunning views of all the Hawaiian islands: from the Pacific Ocean to the lush Napali Valley to powerful waterfalls, it’s no wonder that the Napali Coast has been used as a backdrop in countless Hollywood films. During your stay in Kauai, you should also make time to see Waimea Canyon, otherwise known as the Grand Canyon of the Pacific. The views will leave you breathless, and the earthy hues are complemented by the rainbows that frequently shine over the canyon!

We are pretty biased - but Hawaii is definitely a trip you need to add to your travel bucket list.  Don't have time to plan a getaway to all of the islands? Let us do all of that for you

Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt

Experience The Sing Sing Festival In Papua New Guinea

So your first thought is - where's Papua New Guinea? If you look at a map, Papua New Guinea is located right above Australia and actually shares land borders with only one country - Indonesia. Papua New Guinea may seem small but they have a population of over 6 million people.  Now you're wondering - why should I travel to Papua New Guinea? We are here to tell you that we have 8 limited VIP spots to a very special kind of festival - The Sing Sing Festival! 

This is not your traditional festival, this is not Coachella or Stagecoach.  Every September, thousands of people from over a hundred tribes come together in Goroka, Papua New Guinea, to celebrate their unique culture. In this traditional festival, called a sing-sing – the biggest of its kind in the world – there’s a mêlée of dancing, singing and a rainbow of colourful outfits on show. You will get to immerse yourself in vibrant tribal cultures that have remained unchanged for centuries, while cruising rivers and exploring some of the most remote corners of the globe.  

Like I said above - we have 8 VIP tickets for September 2017 and we are collecting inquiries to get interest for this exciting Acanela Expedition! 

Check out these amazing photos by: Fabien Astre via Roughguides.com to get a better picture of what this unique trip is all about!

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The Cenotes and Mayan Ruins of the Yucatán

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Mexico’s Yucatán Peninsula is a dreamer’s destination, with its stunning beaches, mysterious jungle landscapes, and remnants of Mayan history. A trip to the Yucatán blends together nature and history: explore ruins of the Mayan civilization, walking along ancient pyramids and imposing temples of one of the most powerful early civilizations. When you need to relax, ditch the crowds by the beaches and escape to the world of cenotes, hidden pools of mineral-rich water where the ancient Mayans communicated with their gods. Cenotes offer a truly “off the beaten path” experience, providing an opportunity sure to amaze you (and satisfy your camera!). There is so much to see in this area of the world, but to spark your daydreaming we’ve compiled just a few of the must-see sites in the Yucatán!

1. Tulum Ruins 

The city of Tulum was founded in the thirteenth century, under Mayan rule. The remnants of limestone walls, palaces, and temples take you back to the time of Mayan civilization, an ancient world that still remains a mystery to many historians. The ruins and salty sea breeze will undoubtedly spark your imagination, leaving you to wonder what life was like in this forgotten city. It can get hot wandering through the ruins, but luckily Tulum also happens to be an ancient Mayan seaport-- so when you’re finished exploring, head down to the beach for a swim in the translucent waters of the Caribbean!

2. Chichén Itzá

Out of all the great Mayan temples of the Yucatán, Chichén Itzá is arguably the most famous. This UNESCO World Heritage Site is home to many significant ruins, but some must-see attractions include the awe-inspiring Kukulkán pyramid (named one of the New Seven Wonders of the World), the impressive “Temple of the Warriors,” and “El Caracol,” a lone round building that is theorized to have been used for astronomical viewings. Spend the day exploring the spectacular attractions of Chichén Itzá, discovering secrets of Mayan culture and retracing the steps of history. Take a tour with us HERE!

3. Cenote Dos Ojos 

The name “Dos Ojos” is Spanish for “Two Eyes,” referring to this cenote’s two distinct pools: one body of water is clear blue, while the other is dark and mysterious. The “black eye” of the cenote is famed for its virtually light-free snorkelling-- divers take a small flashlight to cut through the dark waters and illuminate the intricate stalactites when they come up for air. But if spelunking in the dark isn’t your cup of tea, you can relax in the “clear eye” of the cenote: the water is sparklingly clear and sunlight pours into this hidden waterhole, meaning you can float or snorkel to your heart’s content. 

4. Cenote Azul

This turquoise pool is often bypassed by tourists, meaning you’ll have the place virtually to yourself. If you peer into the clear water, you’ll spot a myriad of tropical fish darting around, and many more underwater sights await you under the surface. Snorkel, wade, or float your way around the cenote, taking in the tropical jungle scenery that encircles the pool. And if you want
to get your adrenaline going, try jumping off one of the mini cliffs into the water!

Travel with us to Yucatan, Mexico and enjoy a traditional cooking class, tour of Chichén Itzá and Mayan Ruins, salsa dance classes, tour of the city center and a snorkeling excursion in Tulum! Inquire about our trip HERE!

Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt

3 Reasons Why You Should Travel To Indonesia

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Beaches, reefs, volcanoes, rice paddies, jungles, great food, and more: Indonesia has it all.  With 17,000 islands and over 300 languages are spoken, Indonesia is a place of contrasts and cultural diversity.  Come and experience it for yourself.  From an orangutan lounging in a tree to a Balinese dancer executing precise moves, to a deserted stretch of blinding white sand set off by azure surf breaks and the tales of the beautiful Banda Islands, to the ominous menace of a Komodo dragon and the delicious flavors of a Balinese restaurant - this ever-intriguing, ever-intoxicating land offers some of the last great adventures on earth.  But we don't want to take too much of your time - so here are the top 3 reasons why you should travel to Indonesia!

1. Explore Pristine Island Beaches:

There are more than a handful of beaches that are perfect in every way.  Americans have been flocking to Bali for years. Its reputation for being ultra-luxurious while also offering a total escape (as well as the Eat, Pray, Love­­­ effect) has travelers heading to the gorgeous island in droves. For many, the idea of a Bali vacation seems out of reach. Fortunately, that’s not necessarily the case. Backpackers find themselves trekking through the jungle and napping on the many beautiful beaches every day.

The white and black sand that line each beach is as iconic as the waves that crash into them. Each beach has its own perks, and visitors of all types can find one to fall in love with.

2.  Meet Friendly Orangutans:

Embark on a journey to Sumatra to visit some of the most friendly creatures in the world - the Orangutan! You will first fly to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia and stay overnight. Then we will transfer you to Sumatra for your new journey.  The excursion starts with a short walk along the river bank and crossing the river with rubber boat, continuing the hike until you reach your home in the jungle - the orangutan wildlife reserve. In this tropical primary rainforest, you can see the varieties of: Sumatran Orangutan, birds, butterflies, white handed gibbon, hornbills, Thomas leaf monkey, various reptiles and a big chance to see a Sumatran Tiger or elephant. 

During the course of your trekking experience in the jungle, you will learn the medicinal qualities of the jungle plants – known for centuries to the local people as well as gathering local plants for your jungle lunches and dinners.  Your local guide is well versed in “camp cooking” as well as the flora and fauna of the area - and you will learn a lot as dine under the stars surrounded by the magical sounds of the jungle. This will be an amazing experience you will never forget!

View our Orangutan Trekking Experience Here

3. Stand Admist Volcanic Craters:

*Bali volcano, also referred to as Kintamani volcano or Mount Batur as a whole, is a popular sightseeing destination in Bali's central highlands. The magnificent views of the 13sqm Batur caldera lake serves as the main attraction, surrounded by the captivating Mount Batur range. You can find plenty more reasons to linger around the crater itself, while those with a penchant for adventure can also take a winding road down along the lake shore to Toya Bungkah, Ulun Danu Batur temple, and a collection of hot springs. The Kintamani area consists of three main villages, namely Penelokan, Batur, and Kintamani. There are also some old Balinese villages around Batur Lake, often referred to as Bali Aga villages. Penelokan is a popular stopover, serving as a vantage point at the southernmost of the crater rim, offering sweeping views over the Bali volcano.

The fertile Kintamani area is a top producer of fruit and vegetables in Bali. Additionally, the northern part at approximately 400 metres above sea level, is known as the biggest bamboo producer on the island. Lake Batur is the main source of irrigation water for most of Bali. Locals also breed freshwater fish here. The water temperature at the Toya Bungkah hot springs can reach up to 45 degrees Celsius. Kintamani is in Bangli, the only district on the island without a shoreline. The best panoramic views are enjoyed from 10:00 to 15:00. Hiking up Mount Batur usually takes at least three hours. Official guides are recommended, and it’s best to organise them through travel agents. Lucky for you - we plan all of the logistics out for you

Either way - our love for Indonesia is too big for us to handle, so that's why we want you to come travel with us and feel the same love for Indonesia that we do! From pristine beaches, to orangutans, to volcanic craters - this is definitely a trip to remember! 

See All Our Indonesia Experiences Here

*http://www.bali-indonesia.com/attractions/kintamani-volcano.htm

Why Andalucía Should Be Your Next Travel Destination

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Cities like Madrid and Barcelona get all the attention from tourists in Spain, but visitors who ignore the Andalusian region of the country are missing out on an exceptional opportunity to explore new dimensions of Spanish beauty and culture. If you’re unsure what Andalucía has to offer, let us convince you why it should be next on your bucket list!

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1. Seville
Seville is the quintessential Andalucían city: exuberant, charismatic, and layered with history. According to myth, the city was founded some 3,000 years ago by the Greek demigod Hercules. Today, Roman ruins testify to the city’s ancient past, and relics from Islamic Spain remind visitors of the role the Arab world played in shaping Analucía’s history. A must-see attraction is the Alcázar, an intricate fortress built in the 1300s that now acts as both a museum and architectural wonder. Of course, Seville has always be able to adapt to the times: it’s an increasingly creative, modern metropolis, as evidenced by architectural endeavors like the Metropol Parasol, a head-turning museum that claims to be the largest wooden building in the world. Seville is also known for having some of the best food in Spain, so you can complement your sightseeing with some delicious tapas!

2. Córdoba
If you can only see one thing in the beautiful city of Córdoba, make it the Mezquita. Universally recognized as one of the most stunning works of Islamic architecture, the Mezquita symbolizes the rich Islamic culture that thrived in Spain when the rest of Europe was still in the Dark Ages. The building itself is spacious and serene, and is famous for its many symmetrical arches. The entire city of Córdoba acts as a window into the past, with relics that boast of a time when Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived side by side and created glorious works of art and culture. You can explore the rest of Córdoba easily on foot, so enjoy the blend of ancient and lively modern life in this special city. 

3. Granada
Set in a crook of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, Granada never fails to enchant visitors with its deep history and culture. The striking Alhambra palace, the last stronghold of the Moors in Western Europe, is a cultural landmark that perfectly suits the city’s elegant, dramatic atmosphere. Wind your way through the city’s narrow streets, exploring markets, parks, and the plethora of tapas bars available. From street art to frequent flamenco performances, the modern culture in Granada radiates creativity, so you’ll love immersing yourself in this charismatic city!

4. Las Alpujarras
If you want to get out of the cities (or need to work off some of the delicious food you’ve been eating), head for a hike through Andalucá’s Sierra Nevada and explore the canyons and “white villages” of Las Alpujarras. The trail has many bite-sized sections, so whether you want a longer trek or merely a quick jaunt outdoors, you’ll be able to breathe in the majestic scenery and visit some Moroccan-style villages nestled in the mountains, many of which sell beautiful artisanal crafts. 

5. Tarifa
Tarifa draws visitors to its laid-back beaches and charming whitewashed buildings every year. Tarifa is the meeting point of the Mediterranean and the Atlantic, the tip of Spain just before you reach Morocco. The old Roman settlement has a distinctly international feel, a lively blend of Western European, Mediterranean, and North African cultures that makes it the perfect place to top off your exploration of Andalucía. Take this chance to relax on one of the many beaches, or do as the locals do and try your hand at kitesurfing or windsurfing on the sparkling blue waters! 

Enough with the reading - make your dreams come true and book your dream Spain Trip and come on an amazing culinary adventure with Acanela Expeditions! Check out our trip HERE!

Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt

 

Best Eats in Portugal

Portugal has so much to offer visitors, but in-between sightseeing and sunbathing, make time to enjoy the variety of authentic Portuguese food available to you. From markets to restaurants to small cafes, there’s never a shortage of things to eat! Portugal is world-renown for its seafood and spices, but truly excels in all the culinary arenas: be it soup, dessert, or drinks, you’ll have your pick of delicious meals!

Photo Credit: Cookdiary.net

Photo Credit: Cookdiary.net

1. Bacalhau

Bacalhau, otherwise known as king codfish, is a national obsession in Portugal. There are hundreds of different variations on this classic meal, but it’s traditionally served “à Brás” with eggs, olives, and fries. If you’re looking to try authentic Portuguese food, bacalhau has to be at the top of your list!

2. Cozido

Cozido is the meal that unites the northern and southern regions of Portugal: typically eaten as part of a big lunch, it’s a stew filled with beef, pig, chicken, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, turnips, and an array of sausages. This dish may sound odd, but it comes together as a delicious rich, savory meal beloved by the Portuguese.

3. Queijo

No trip to Portugal would be complete without taking time to drool over the country’s many selections of cheese. The Serra da Estrela cheese is specifically famous for its wonderful taste and rich cultural background. This cheese comes from the highest point in Portugal and the mountain it takes its name from, the Serra da Estrela. On the mountain, traditional shepherds (and their loyal sheepdogs!) dedicate their lives to herding the sheep responsible for making the delicious, gooey cheese. 

4. Peixe Grelhado

Eating grilled fish in Portugal is an experience you can not miss-- wander through any market, be it in a big city or tiny coastal town, and you’ll discover the many display cases of fish for you to choose from. Olhao’s waterfront market is particularly famed for its seafood, so why not grab a bite to eat as you stroll through the crowds?

5. Café

Portugal is well-known for its “coffee culture.” People always find time for a coffee break, and love to sit around a cup while they talk. It helps that the coffee in Portugal is so good-- rich and strong, the smells of roasted coffee beans will captivate your senses the moment you walk down the city streets. 

6. Arroz de marisco 

Rice is a staple food throughout all of Europe, but no country consumes as much as Portugal-- meaning that the Portuguese know how to create some pretty delicious rice dishes. Arroz de marisco is one such meal: rice cooked in a garlic and cilantro-infused tomato sauce, and topped with all the shellfish you can eat. 

7. Pasteis de Nata

These little custard tarts are the quintessential Portuguese dessert. Everyone makes their tarts a little differently, so you’ll have an excuse to try one everywhere you go in Portugal! If you can’t get enough, head to Lisbon to visit one of the oldest houses of production for these delicious desserts. 

Now that you've read about all of the foods that we love in Portugal now it's your time to try one of our favorite foods out! Here is an easy recipe for our Pasteis de Nata (Portuguese Egg Tarts) below!

  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 1/2 vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup white sugar
  • 6 egg yolks
  • 1 (17.5 ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C.) Lightly grease 12 muffin cups and line bottom and sides with puff pastry.


In a saucepan, combine milk, cornstarch, sugar and vanilla. Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens. Place egg yolks in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk 1/2 cup of hot milk mixture into egg yolks. Gradually add egg yolk mixture back to remaining milk mixture, whisking constantly. Cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes, or until thickened. Remove vanilla bean.


Fill pastry-lined muffin cups with mixture and bake in preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until crust is golden brown and filling is lightly browned on top.

But let's say you don't want to make these yourselves - why not travel to Portugal and try them from a local café or restaurant? We have our Portugal expeditions going out year round - check out our expedition HERE!

Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt

Why the Balkans should be your next travel destination (Croatia - Greece):

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Why the Balkans should be your next travel destination:

When you think of a trip to Europe, what countries come to mind? If you forgot that countries like Bosnia, Macedonia, and Montenegro existed for a minute, then you need to join us on our trip through the Balkans this summer! From Croatia to Greece, the Balkans are an incredible blend of Central, Southern, and Eastern European cultures. Though the nations may be small, they’re all culturally rich and distinct in their beauty. Break out from the Western Europe mold and experience life from the Eastern side of the continent-- you won’t be disappointed!

Croatia: Dubrovnik is one of those towns that never loses its charm-- between the Old Town’s marble streets, baroque architecture, and white stone walls, you’ll never tire of walking around the city. Get to know Dubrovnik’s storied past by wandering through the multitude of museums, take a cable car up to Mt Srđ for stunning views of the city, and get lost roaming the narrow streets that are full of local color. Once you’ve exhausted yourself, take a dip in the shimmering Adriatic sea to relax.

Bosnia: The Stari Most -- or Old Bridge -- of Mostar, Bosnia is a world-famous UNESCO heritage sight. Rebuilt in 2004, the bridge symbolizes the nation’s rich trading history, and draws the focus of everyone who visits. Head out during golden hour for some spectacular photo opportunities, as the pale-colored stone perfectly throws back the light of sunset. Even better, the Stari Most is dotted with numerous cafes and restaurants, so you can sit back and enjoy some delicious Bosnian cuisine while you take in the view in front of you.

Montenegro: Travel along the Adriatic coast to Montenegro, a tiny country packed with a powerful amount of history and culture within its walls. The town of Kotor is a perfect example of Montenegro’s living history and brooding atmosphere-- wedged between mountains overlooking the bay and filled with medieval architecture, you can’t help but feel transported to another time. During your stay, you can visit the famous St. Tryphon Cathedral, pop into some of the numerous local artisan shops, and take in the buzz of street life from a cozy cafe.

Albania: It took a while for Albania to launch itself as a tourist destination, but now it’s done so with full force, and has put together a range of unique attractions that are sure to enchant you. The mountain scenery is to die for, so be sure to take in the spectacular views along the coastline. Feeling a little worn out after your travels? Head to Saranda, a charismatic beach town where you can relax on the sand and swim in the turquoise waters. After you’ve rejuvenated, stop by Tirana, Albania’s capital and one of Europe’s quirkiest cities. New buildings are highly modernized and painted in bright primary colors, but many Ottoman and Communist relics still dot the streets-- creating a fascinating contrast that will compel you to fall in love with this crazy city.

Macedonia: Macedonia is truly a hidden gem among the many hidden gems of the Balkans-- the country is typically overlooked by tourists, meaning that you can enjoy the scenery without being jostled by thick crowds. Macedonia is perfect for nature-lovers, with plenty of hiking paths in the mountain forests that reward with stunning views. For a taste of history, head to the bazaars for a look into Ottoman culture, or simply wander around the many ancient churches and mosques that fill the winding streets. And of course, don’t miss out on visiting Lake Ohrid, with its translucent waters and gorgeous cliff-backed setting.

Bulgaria : Bulgaria is best known for its beautiful capital, Sofia. Don’t mistake the laid-back vibe of the city to mean that it’s nothing special-- as one of the world’s oldest cities, Sofia offers an array of Ottoman mosques, Red Army monuments, and awe-inspiring cathedrals like the massive Alexander Nevski Cathedral. The city also contains many pleasant parks and gardens to stroll through, and plenty of markets to visit if you want to shop and talk with locals.

Greece: Top off your trip to the Balkans with a visit to the Greek islands. Known as the birthplace of Western civilization, the Ancient Greek culture is an important one that everyone should experience at some point in their lives. Though all the islands offer something new, you can’t beat Athens: take in the view from the Acropolis and Parthenon, wander through the Roman Agora, and scour for handcrafted items at the Monastiraki Flea Market. If you need a break from the city after all that walking, head to the coastline and bask in the warm Greek sun. And of course, budget time for numerous stops into local restaurants to get your fill of delicious Mediterranean cuisine!

Author:  Hannah Hunt

Travel to Petra

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If you didn't know already - Acanela has been traveling around the Middle East the past 3 weeks! We've been to Egypt, Jordan and now we are in Israel.  Our founder Kylie Chenn, has been documenting her travels through her blog post - Wokingtheworld.com! Here's a little excerpt of our time in Jordan, seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World! 

"If you have not been to Petra - add it to your list RIGHT NOW.  These beautiful Nabatean ruins are something that you have to see at least once in your life.  We stayed at the Petra Guest House, one of the top accommodations right outside of the entrance to Petra.  Here we were able to leave bright and early in the morning to explore one of the most beautiful sites in the world.   Upon entering Petra, you walk through a large slot canyon (much more grand than any canyon I have ever seen in the Southwestern United States).  You walk for about a mile until the canyon opens up into your first glimpse of Petra - the Treasury... One of the most beautiful FAcades of the entire city.  What most people do not realize about Petra is that it continues on for miles, the city is HUGE and we had the entire day to explore it!"

-Kylie Chenn (Wokingtheworld.com)

We want YOU to travel with us next time! Check out our latest expeditions coming up HERE!

Why Botswana is the Top Travel Destination of 2017

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Why Botswana is the Top Travel Destination of 2017

Botswana is truly a hidden gem of the world. From opportunities to spot rare animal species to delicious culinary experiences, the country is sure to enchant you-- even better, its central location gives you the opportunity to sightsee around the neighboring countries of Zimbabwe, Namibia, and Zambia. We’ve put together 10 reasons why Botswana should be your next travel destination!  

If reading this list gets you itching to hop on a plane to Botswana, enter our newest Travel Giveaway, or travel with us on our featured Safari Expedition!

 

1) Hands-on Encounters with Meerkats and Baobab Trees

Make some new friends at Jack’s Camp, where you can sit and play with the famous burrow of “Meerkat Manor.” Watch as they play with each other (and you), keep a lookout for predators, and scrounge up any food in sight! These curious little creatures are not tame-- they’re just used to the non-threatening presence of humans, so you’ll be in for a truly unforgettable experience. The camp is also located in the Makgadikgadi Pans, one of the oldest salt flats in the world and home to ancient Baobab trees. These huge, otherworldly trees are a must-see in Botswana, as they’re native to only a select few of African countries.

 

2) Viewing Safari in a Tribal Mokoro Boat through the Okavango Delta

The mokoro, a traditional canoe-like boat, is the perfect way to participate in a viewing safari on the famous Okavango Delta. Spend a day gliding comfortably past a colorful variety of birdlife and beautiful marsh landscapes-- if you’re lucky, you might even spot a hippo, or approach an elephant munching on reeds. You won’t run the risk of scaring off animals with the motor of a car, so have your camera ready! 

 

3) Walk with Lions and Cheetahs in Livingstone, Zambia

Ever taken a lion for a walk? You’ll have the chance in Livingstone, Zambia, located right across the border from Botswana. You’ll feel like a member of the pack walking with gentle cheetahs and lions through the African Bush, in an experience far from your typical safari. Under the supervision of your knowledgeable guide, you’ll feel the thrill of seeing these majestic animals up close.

 

4) Cruise along Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe

What traveler can resist a stunning sunset or landscape view? Take another quick trip across the border to Zimbabwe, where you can’t miss out on a cruise across Victoria Falls. As you take in the sights from one of the natural wonders of the world, keep your eyes open for hippos, crocodiles, birds, and maybe even some elephants and zebras on the shore. The cruise vessels provide gourmet cuisine and excellent service, so you can relax and enjoy the spectacular scenery. 

 

5) Experience Exotic Fruits, Vegetables, and Game Meats in a Traditional Tribal Feast

During your stay in Zimbabwe, be sure to stop by the famous Boma restaurant for a total immersion of the senses. Going to Boma Night, known as “the Place of Eating,” is a cultural and culinary experience all in one. It’s all a celebration of African vibrancy: traditional dancing, drumming, face-painting, and storytelling reign throughout the night, and you’ll have the chance to sample delicacies such as warthog steaks, game stews, and Bush vegetables. 

 

6) Visit Chobe National Park for the Best Chances at Spotting a Rhino

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No trip to Botswana is complete without a trip to Chobe National Park-- the safaris offered there have been rated as one of the best wildlife experiences in the world. Over 460 species of birds have been sighted, along with elephant, impala, giraffe, warthog, monkey, hyena, lion, and leopard. Most amazingly, though, you’ll have your best chance at seeing the extremely endangered white rhino, whose population has thankfully begun to rise due to Botswanan conservation efforts. Don’t miss out on your chance to spot one of these rare (and adorable) animals!

 

7) Visit the San Bushman Tribe in the Kalahari Desert

One of the reasons we love traveling is because it gives us the chance to celebrate new cultures and perspectives. The San people of the Kalahari are a dignified and culturally-rich group, and visiting with them gives a unique insight into their tribal civilization. Guests have the opportunity to participate in age-old ceremonies and get a window into a world that has been relatively untouched by modernity. Go on bush walks with San trackers, witness medical rituals, or visit the sacred caves of Tsodilo Hills to see 200 individual ancient art sites. A visit with the San is an unforgettable experience, so don’t miss out on getting to know these special people.

 

8) Take a Quick Trip to Namibia and Climb Dune 45

One of the best things about Botswana is its proximity to so many other beautiful countries. Hop across the border to Namibia, and be sure to leave time to climb the tallest sand dune in the world, Dune 45. The dune reaches more than 560 feet, and the orange-gold sands and views from the peaks lend themselves to stunning photographs. Wake up early to catch the sunrise over the top of the dune and take in the expansive views!

 

9) Stay in Beautiful Fly Camp or Luxury Lodge in the Middle of the Safari Lands

You don’t have to rough it to enjoy the beauty of Botswana. Enjoy your stay at the Bush with airy rooftop lounge areas, private pools, and lavish bedrooms, all with a fantastic view of passing wildlife like elephants and zebras. Staying at a luxury lodge will ensure that you’re well-rested, for all of those early morning game drives through the safari lands! After a day spent adventuring in the Bush, there’s nothing like watching the sunset from the patio of a beautiful camp. 

 

10) Take a Cooking Class in a Local Village and Learn How to Make Traditional African Cuisine

Learning how to make the traditional foods of a nation is a great way to learn about the culture of a country. Immerse yourself in Botswanan life by learning how to cook traditional dishes like seswaa, a meat meal often served with maize, or pap, a maize porridge that’s a staple in Botswanan cooking. Taking a cooking class in a small village also gives you the opportunity to interact with locals, giving you a more authentic travel experience-- and you’ll end the day with a delicious meal to boot! 

 

Blog Post Author: Hannah Hunt

Top 10 Most Unusual Places to Stay Abroad

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We all know that where you stay on your travels can make or break a trip. Booking unique accommodations is a great way to make your experience memorable, giving you lots of amazing photo ops and stories to tell.  We’ve gathered 10 of the most unusual spots to live while abroad, to inspire you to plan your next adventure!

1) Giraffe Manor: Nairobi, Kenya

How many times have you had breakfast with a giraffe? At this boutique hotel, situated next to Nairobi’s Giraffe Centre, you’ll have some very friendly neighbors-- the animals love to stick their necks through the windows of the dining room in search of treats. The manor is also beautiful in its own right, with classic 1930s architecture and 140 acres of indigenous forest to explore. You’ll be sure to leave with incredible photos (and a new love for giraffes). Let us help you book the Giraffe Manor as an extension to our Tanzania Safari Excursion!

2) Bamboo Eco Cottage: Bali, Indonesia 

One of the best things about traveling is getting to be completely immersed in a new location. This eco retreat, nestled in the rice fields of Bali, will make you feel like a part of nature. The cottage is completely open air, and is surrounded by lush fields, rushing streams, and breathtaking hiking opportunities. It’s the perfect spot to unwind and disconnect from the rapid pace of city living-- the operators even have an in-house masseuse if you fancy a massage on the terrace at sunset. If you want to experience the full beauty of Indonesia, check out our trip by clicking here!

3) Magic Mountain Lodge: Chile

You’ll feel like you’re living in a fairy tale at this Chilean lodge. The so-called “Magic Mountain,” located between the southern Andes, is a spectacular volcano from whose peak a magnificent waterfall rushes down. The lodge is part of the Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, in the middle of the Chilean Patagonian Rainforest, and the reserve boasts 100,000 hectares of land with incredible biodiversity. You won’t find any other spot like this in the world, so don’t miss your chance to experience the magic!

4) Hotel Marqués de Riscal: Elciego, Spain

Enjoy a different sort of European experience at this unique luxury hotel. This hotel stands out as a modern gem against the medieval architecture and breathtaking vineyards of the town of Elciego. Designed by the legendary Frank Gehry, the hotel’s whimsical steel and titanium exterior will have you reaching for your camera. And taking inspiration from the surrounding vineyards, the resort offers many activities perfect for wine lovers: stop by the spa for a a Merlot wrap, the library to read up on wine and art in Spain, or the famous “City of Wine,” a project dedicated to the holistic experience and understanding of wine. 

5) The Manta Resort: Tanzania 

Ever wanted to live underwater? You can have your chance at the Manta Resort in Tanzania. This resort gives you the incredible opportunity to stay in your own private floating home, with three levels of jaw-dropping beauty. The landing deck, at sea level, is perfect for lounging around in the sun or jumping off for a quick dip in the turquoise waters. A short ladder leads up to the roof, where you can lie back at night and gaze at the Milky Way galaxy without any light pollution. And the downstairs leads you into your underwater bedroom: surrounded by glass panels, you can watch rare reef fish and other sea creatures swim by, all from the safety of your own room. When you’ve gotten your fill of underwater living, come join us on our Tanzania safari expedition to see another side of this wonderful country! Let us help you book the Manta Resort as an extension to our Tanzania Safari Excursion!

6) Skylodge Pods: Peru

If underwater isn’t your thing but you’re still craving adventure, try something on the other end of the spectrum: stay overnight at a Skylodge pod overlooking the Sacred Valley of Peru! The pods are secured to the cliffs 600 meters above the valley, giving you a perfect view of the vast landscape and of the stars at night. If you want to explore what else Peru has to offer, join us on our trip!

7) Aqua Wellness Resort: Nicaragua 

For the trips when you just need to unplug and relax, head to this luxury beach resort in Nicaragua. The tree houses offer you a unique way to enjoy this tranquil paradise. The resort is blessed with a beautiful natural environment, and you’ll likely see monkeys, parrots, and sea turtles during your stay. The resort also offers yoga, a spa, and of course, plenty of water activities. Whether you want to relax on the white-sand beaches or snorkel your way through the bay, you’re sure to leave Nicaragua feeling refreshed and invigorated.


8) The Seashell House: Isla Mujeres, Mexico

Photo Courtesy of Airbnb.com

Photo Courtesy of Airbnb.com

This whimsical home will make you feel like a mermaid, with its unique shell details and sparkling private pool overlooking the beach. The house matches the location perfectly: Isla Mujeres is a prime location for beach lovers, with abundant opportunities for snorkelling, sunbathing, and surfing. You’ll never be at a loss for photo ops at this enchanting rental!
 
9) EcoCamp: Patagonia 

Photo Courtesy of Outsidego.com

Photo Courtesy of Outsidego.com

If you want a rustic adventure, EcoCamp is for you. The camp is situated in the heart of Torres del Paine National Park, one of the most must-see destinations in South America. Home to some of the world’s most breathtaking trekking routes, the park is home to forests, glaciers, lakes, and fjords, not to mention a diverse range of animals for lucky travels to see. The domes are the perfect spot to return to after a day of adventuring, as they act as a complete buffer against wind and have ceiling windows perfect for stargazing. Come explore the magical Chilean wilderness with us this year!

10) Kakslauttanen Arctic Resort: Lapland, Finland

What could be better than seeing the magnificent Northern Lights from the comfort (and warmth) of your own glass igloo? Each tranquil hideaway includes a private sauna and a bedroom with a glass ceiling, allowing you to take in the snowy wilderness of the Arctic and the beauty of one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the world. If you’ve ever dreamt of seeing the Aurora Borealis in person, join us on our trip to Finland next winter!

Blog post by: Hannah Hunt
 

Top 10 Animal Encounters to Add to Your Bucket List

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We can't even explain how much our love for animals have been broadened throughout our travel experiences.  From sea turtles in Costa Rica to llamas in Peru to elephants in Sri Lanka - We can't get enough of these cute creatures when we are traveling.  We've rallied up our top 10 favorite animal encounters from our expeditions so you can add them to your travel bucket list!

1) Sea Turtle Expedition: Costa Rica

An unforgettable adventure for all ages! Witness the captivating egg-laying ritual of endangered sea turtles. This nighttime experience takes place in nearby Camaronal Beach where you will search for turtles as they peacefully emerge from the ocean. Your guide will use a special red light to avoid disturbance. This is made possible by Hotel Punta Islita in partnership with the Costa Rican Ministry of Environment and conservation NGO’s. Click the hyperlink above to join us in Costa Rica! (Seasonal: July to November)

2) Orangutan Trekking: Indonesia

See the critically endangered Sumatran Orangutan in its natural habitat. Where you will earn memories to last a lifetime - walking, sleeping, living in the vast tropical rainforest jungle. Your expert guide will continue jungle trekking to explore the park till the tent.  In this tropical primary rainforest, you can see the varieties of the Sumatran Orangutan, but also birds, butterflies, white handed gibbon, hornbills, Thomas leaf monkey, various reptiles and a big chance to see a Sumatran Tiger or elephant. It is one of the last few places on Earth to see the Orangutans live in the wild, enough said.  So what are you waiting for? Add Orangutan Trekking in Indonesia to your bucket list!

3) Diving with Whale Sharks: Mozambique, Africa

The coastline of Mozambique has some of the most intact reef ecosystems in the World and you can enjoy some spectacular diving in Pemba, Tofo, Pomene and the Quirimbas Islands. Swim with Whale Sharks and Manta rays from September to February. See many endangered species of turtle and perhaps if you are very lucky see a very rare Dugong.

Mozambique diving is an excellent all year-round activity and a range of exciting and varied diving itineraries can be organized. Barracuda, manta rays, moray eels, sharks, huge schools of kingfish, giant lobsters, and numerous species of reef fish are commonly seen. The whale shark, the largest fish in the world which can reach lengths of up to 14m and weigh up to 15 tons, can be spotted between December and April. Face your fears and check out our Mozambique expedition HERE!

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4) Discover Polar Bears: Churchill, Canada

Prime viewing times are in October and November, when the bears begin their move from their summer habitat on the tundra back to seal-hunting territory – the pack ice that forms every winter over Hudson Bay.  Ride in a Tundra Vehicle made to ride over snow and ice smoothly and make your way to Polar Bear Nation. Churchill is one of the few human settlements where polar bears can be observed in the wild. Thousands of visitors from around the world visit each fall/winter for the excitement of seeing these magnificent animals. You can be one of those visitors HERE!

5) Gorilla Trekking: Uganda, Africa

You will set off for your thrill experience of the Gorillas in the Mist. Hiking within this mysterious and wonderful forest offers quite a lot to see as you make your way to see the Mountain Gorillas. The wildlife including additional primates, butterflies, mammals and birds, will certainly be very beautiful and really enhance this extremely special experience.

The tracking / trekking can entail some thorough climbing as well as hiking although when you come face to face with the tranquil yet potent Mountain Gorillas, watching them only a few meters away from you observing the group, the baby with the mothers, the gorillas partaking their everyday routine just right in front of you is all very overwhelming.  You can never find any mountain gorillas living in the zoo, save for just in this not large area of Africa where a number of the remnant mountain gorillas can be seen. Gorillas are one of our favorite animals and we can't wait to cross this off our travel bucket list with you! Find out more about our Tanzania/Uganda expedition

Photo by: Tate Drucker

Photo by: Tate Drucker

6) Trek with llamas on the Inca Trail: Peru

Not only will Machu Piccu take your breath away but why not add to the fun of hiking when you can hike with cute llamas?!  These sturdy animals are native to the Andes…but not that sturdy. Instead, you’ll be leading the animals (at times, they may be leading you!) along the rocky trail to the Inca city. And they’ll be carrying the lion’s share of your supplies, so you can make the trek without getting super-exhausted. Ready to trek with some llamas? Find out more HERE!

7) Monkey & Sloth Quest: Costa Rica

Did you know that Howler Monkeys are the loudest land animal?  Costa Rica's rich natural diversity is fascinating!  The raucous howler monkey is among the largest monkey species in the Americas. Its whooping growl can be heard over a 3 mile radius. Highly social, howler monkeys travel in groups of up to eighteen members.  You will also have a chance to encounter with real sloths - aren't they the cutest?! Your guide will bring a spotting telescope to better enjoy a close-up look at these creatures.  Join us in Costa Rica! 

Photo by: Tate Drucker

Photo by: Tate Drucker

8) Ride a camel across the Sahara: Morocco 

At a small town on the edge of the desert, we’ll board camels and embark on a journey deep into the epic dunes of the Sahara. The journey will take us approximately an hour until we arrive at a Bedouin campsite where we’ll be spending the night sleeping under the stars. We’ll partake in a traditional dance and welcome dinner, play the drums, sip mint tea, and have a nighttime star photography lesson.  Morocco is such a beautiful setting to ride a camel across the Sahara - find out more info and add this one on your travel bucket list!

9) Walk with Lions: Botswana, Africa

Sounds a little scary, doesn't it? Well we've done it before and trust me - the lions in this Safari park are super friendly! You'll have the chance to sleep in Safari tents where you’ll fall asleep to the sounds of lions and elephants in the distance, and spend each night enjoying delicious meals prepared by our tour’s private cook. Does that get any better or what? Learn more about our Botswana trip

10) Ride Elephants in Asia - Sri Lanka

I think riding elephants is on everyone's bucket list.  These large elephants in Sri Lanka are very well-known and it's an adventure of a lifetime you don't want to miss out on!  During our time in Periyar we will have the opportunity to take a wildlife safari by boat.  During our three hour jungle journey we will have the opportunity to watch birds, see beautiful butterflies and spot larger wildlife such as elephants and tigers.  We will even have the opportunity to enjoy a magical elephant ride through the jungle.  While our days will consist of exploring the beautiful nature around us, our evenings will be filled with delicious curries, aromatic spices, and hand-on cooking lessons.  Save your spot on our India & Sri Lanka trip HERE!

Why You Should Travel to Mozambique

Whether you know it or not - Mozambique has a lot to offer.  Unspoiled, undeveloped, and untamed, Mozambique is fast-emerging on the international tourism circuit with its wild beauty and exotic influences.  With its long, dune-fringe beaches, Art Deco-inspired capital, well-preserved corals, and pounding surf in the south - you can never go wrong with a holiday visit to Mozambique.  

Here are 5 reasons why you should travel to Mozambique: 

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1. One of the best places to dive in the world: 

The coastline of Mozambique has some of the most intact reef ecosystems in the World and you can enjoy some spectacular diving in Pemba, Tofo, Pomene and the Quirimbas Islands. Swim with Whale Sharks and Manta rays from September to February. See many endangered species of turtle and perhaps if you are very lucky see a very rare Dugong. 

Mozambique diving is an excellent all year-round activity and a range of exciting and varied diving itineraries can be organized. Barracuda, manta rays, moray eels, sharks, huge schools of kingfish, giant lobsters, and numerous species of reef fish are commonly seen. The whale shark, the largest fish in the world which can reach lengths of up to 14m and weigh up to 15 tons, can be spotted between December and April.

2) Experience both an underwater and overwater Safari:

You can tell that we really love the water!  Above the waves, dolphins are frequently encountered as are leatherback, loggerhead and green turtle. Humpback whales can be sighted between August and October while the lucky few may get to marvel at the sight of the rare dugong. Most lodges in Mozambique are pleased to welcome all levels of divers and lessons can be arranged for both beginners and intermediates.

Experience the thrill of swimming with totally wild dolphins out in the Indian Ocean. These excursions take place from Ponta do Ouro in southern Mozambique. You will be accompanied by researchers who have been studying the dolphins for years. Learn about how intelligent and playful these mammals are. Some of the dolphins are very friendly and will even let you touch them.

3) Delicious African/Portuguese Seafood:

THE FOOD! We can not get enough of Mozambique cuisine.  The cuisine of Mozambique has deeply been influenced by the Portuguese, who introduced new crops, flavorings, and cooking methods.  The staple food for many Mozambicans is ncima, a thick porridge made from maize/corn flour. Cassava and rice are also eaten as staple carbohydrates. All of these are served with sauces of vegetables, meat, beans or fish.  Typical other ingredients include: cashew nuts. onions, bay leaves, garlic, coriander, paprika, pepper, red pepper, sugar cane, corn, millet, sorghum and potatoes.

Some of our favorite dishes are - prawns (marinated grilled shrimp), Matapa (stewed cassava leaves (similar to spinach), ground peanuts, garlic and coconut milk. It’s either eaten on its own or with rice and prawns), prego roll (a steak covered in peri peri sauce (a fiery red sauce made with chillies, garlic and vinegar)) and all of their tropical fruit! 

4) Pristine, untouched beaches to explore:

Mozambique is blessed with almost 2,500 kilometers of coastline and countless offshore islands. It's easy to see why Mozambique is fast becoming one of Africa’s favorite beach holiday destinations. With an enticing mix of Latin-infused culture and natural, unspoilt beauty, its coastal resorts cater to everyone from campers and beach-bumming backpackers to those after an exclusive slice of paradise. With some of southern Africa’s best surf breaks and species-rich coral reefs, Mozambique’s beaches will keep the adventure-seeker happy, while traditional sailing boats will easily whisk you away to luxury islands where few feet tread.  

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5) Beautiful photo opportunities

Last but not least, you can't forget about all of the beautiful photo-ops you can get while traveling to Mozambique! Whether you want to travel by yourself or with an expert photo guide - you will get beautiful photos wherever you go.  If you do want to go with an expert, our amazing guide, Tate Drucker is guiding her very own Mozambique trip!

Trip highlights include: 

  • Experience landscapes from Mozambique's vivacious capital to savannas and sparking coasts
  • Immerse yourself in local communities and experience tribal village life
  • Come face-to-face with enormous whale sharks, coral reefs, and neon fish during unique snorkeling and scuba-diving experiences

Inquire about our trip with Tate Drucker HERE!

India with Acanela Expeditions

One of our favorite kind of trips are relaxation and wellness.  To be specific, our favorite countries that are famous for their yoga retreats, wellness activities and overall good health are:  India, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Indonesia, and even Peru.  Experience for yourself one of these retreats to India & Sri Lanka, as you read the journal of our dear friend Susan who has has traveled with us to many locations around the globe, writing about her experiences...

"Close your eyes and imagine what a yoga retreat in the Cardamon hills of southwestern India might look like, smell like, and taste like.  What are your feelings, your inner sense as you sit looking out over the dense jungle vegetation, layer after layer of hills and mountains in the distance.  The local equivalent of crickets are buzzing, bird songs you’ve never heard. The grounds are manicured by local Indian gardeners.  Hibiscus, calla lilies, roses.

We took our shoes off to enter a simple building of grey rock, white walls, and orange roof tiles.  We each were offered a wet washcloth soaked in lemon grass oils.  Next, we drank a “tea” of refreshing ginger, lime, and mint juice.  Our rooms are simple, and beautiful, with a balcony and a view out over the tea and spice plantations below.  

The food here is strictly vegetarian and the activities include yoga, bird watching, waterfall, spice and tea plantation walks.  This is otherworldly beauty, and a deep sense of peace.  We all want to stay for a week, as two nights is too short and we want to enjoy every minute."

We drove up into the mountains—from sea level to almost 4,000 feet, passing monkeys in the jungles, looking out over spice plantations and waterfalls, stopping to go on an elephant ride, watching women harvest the bright green tea bushes, manicured in rows on the hillside.  And now, the retreat.  

Tonight we went for a walk through the tea plantations and our tour guide told us all about the process.  We had watched the women trimming the tea bushes, actually harvesting the top bright green leafy layer.  The remaining leaves are a darker green.  So, the plant, even though it could become a tree, remains a bush by the harvesting twice a month and then the once-every-three-year pruning to keep the bushes in a bush form.  There are rows between the dense green foliage, where the women who harvest the tea can walk.  They make about $10 -$12 dollars a day, which is actually a pretty good salary here for the lower class.  Caste systems, although abolished, still exist in the way people treat each other, the jobs they can have, who they can marry.

Have you ever watched women weave traditional saris?  The designs were beautiful—with white cloth and large gold borders.  Saris can be purchased here, according to quality, varying from between 100 and 100,000 rupees.  There are 60 rupees per dollar.  Interestingly enough, when we arrived, rupees were unavailable at the banks or ATMs.  The 500 and 1000 rupees were withdrawn from the market due to misuse of these bills in Pakistan.  Today, we waiting for about a half hour in order to retrieve 2000 rupees from an ATM.  There were long lines everywhere.

There are 1.25 billion people in India and 321 million people in the US.  India has three times our population and the land mass is only about a third of ours.  Did you know that China has the most population with a total of 1.3 billion, then India, and the next most populous country is the US?

It is so wonderful to travel and learn new things, experience new sights, broaden your mind and heart.  It helps you to ask new questions and to see the world as a vast place with many different ways of doing things beyond your own everyday routine at home.

At the same time, the travel to India was long, fatigue comes in waves, and sometimes life can be dirty and messy here.  Nonetheless, it has been delightful.  

I always love the jungle, tropical flora and fauna.  Here, people are more wealthy than in northern India.  This is because of the tea and spice plantations, the increased level of education, and the larger Christian population.  In the north, people are primarily Hindu or Muslim.  There we saw children begging on the street or sitting at night on the sidewalk with their families.  Not here. The beauty of nature in these Cardamon Hills is magnificent.  So, life is good.

 We ended the day with another cooking class, and, after an abundant lunch, were not able to eat much.  It was delightful to get to know the Indian family who hosted us in their home. They were wealthy by Indian standards with a five bedroom home, air-conditioning and a flush toilet.  We finished off our trip to India by dipping our feet in the Arabian Sea, visiting the church that was built by the Portuguese in the early 1500's, visiting a Jewish synagogue, and shopping in the spice and sari market.  I purchased a traditional handwoven sari, bordered in gold.

This morning we rose at 4:00 a.m. to get ready and be driven to the airport - we were sad to say goodbye to our Driver Biju, who was so wonderful to us in India.  We had several hours to relax before boarding the plane for Sri Lanka.  Sri Lankan airlines had some fun new features on the plane.  On the screen in front of you, you could watch the scenery go by below the plane and the scenery in front of the plane--I guess on something similar to GoPro cameras.  We saw the water below us and then the lush greenery which is Sri Lanka.  

Upon arrival, we greeted our bus driver Andrew, cheerful and friendly.  We drove on narrow side roads through gorgeous scenery, mile after mile of bright green rice paddies, surrounded by coconut palms and jungle growth and, in the distance on both sides of the road, mountains rising above the jungle floor.  The peaks of these mountains rise 8,000-9,000 feet.  Men were working out in the rice paddies, manual labor accomplished with a simple hoe.  The fields were dotted with white egrets. 

We arrived in Pinnawalla just in time to see the elephants crossing the road.  These are "orphanage elephants," rescued when they are lost.  They are fed and cared for and twice a day, they walk through the streets and are taken down to the river to bathe, splash and be splashed by a big stream of water arching over the river.  They are led down to the water and taken back across the road by men with long sticks who make sure they don't bother the tourists and don't stray from the water.  These elephants were having the time of their lives!  There were a couple of baby elephants guided by the adults, playing in the water.  What a unique experience.  

After driving again for a couple hours, we arrived at our beautiful resort hotel, complete with a pool, walkways to separate "villas" and an abundant buffet for dinner.  

Today we will climb a large rock called Sigiriya, an iconic landmark.  This was a 5th century AD fortress where the ancient king ruled, complete with a lion's paws entrance and beautifully painted murals, still intact.  On the top of this massive rock fortress, terraced gardens are still grown, watered by some of the original cisterns.

Next, we enjoyed the ancient caves of the Golden Temple of Dambulla, the walls covered with murals depicting the life of Buddha. And, to end the day, we went on a guided tour of another spice and herbal garden to witness a cooking demonstration and eat lunch.  Delicious."

-Susan Manser

Top 10 Activities To Do In Eastern Europe

Eastern Europe is becoming more popular every day to individual and group travellers.  From Prague's fairytale city to medieval walls in Croatia, there is a lot to see and do while you travel to these amazing countries.  

1. Walk along the Medieval City Walls in Dubrovnik, Croatia

Regarded today as one of the world's most exquisite places, Dubrovnik's character reflects its storied past as an independent city-state that rivaled Venice. Also known by its Latin name, Ragusa, this was a fortress city that served as the base for a fleet of ships that carried trade between much of Europe and the Middle East. The city-state's period of autonomy extended from 1358 to 1808. In the early 1990s, some of Dubrovnik's historic sites sustained damage during the Balkan conflicts, but the city has been peaceful for more than 15 years and largely restored under UNESCO supervision. Spend an afternoon walking along these beautiful medieval walls, gazing out at the beautiful red roofs glimmering against the Mediterranean sea...  Click Here to join us in Croatia

2. Savor a Piece of Bosnian Lepinja Bread (Hot from the Oven) in Mostar, Bosnia

Lepinja Bread is the daily bread of the Balkans.  You will see the locals eating this bread from breakfast until dinner, and with everything from meats to soups!  The origin of the bread comes from the Middle East, but the flavor and taste are very different from that of the Middle Eastern Pita Bread.  When you are in Bosnia, make sure to find a local bakery to try this bread - or even better, get them to teach you how to make it!  Click Here to join us in Bosnia

3. Paraglide in Skopje or Ohrid Lake, Macedonia

Macedonia is truly an amazing country for adventure sports. The mountainous region in Skopje and Mavrovo, the beautiful view upon Ohrid Lake and the rocky region in Prilep will for sure take your breath away. Macedonia has several professional paragliding clubs where you can get full equipment and professional guides for this sport.  Paragliding as a recreational and competitive adventure sport of flying paragliders is widespread all over the country. These regions have amazing landscapes that are certainly worth to be seen. Click Here to join us in Macedonia

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4. Row across Lake Bled, Slovenia

Surrounded on all sides by mountains and forest, the lake itself has famously clear waters and is perfectly blue. The fairy-tale atmosphere is only increased by the castle perched on the lake and the church built on the island in the middle.  Grab one of the many boats on the shore and take an adventure to the island for a picnic lunch and relaxing afternoon.  Bled is also excellent for outdoor sports, from swimming to bungee jumping and whitewater rafting, there’s something for everyone!

5. Climb to the fortress in Kotor, Montenegro

Kotor, Montenegro is one of the most beautiful villages in Eastern Europe. When you are in old town, look for signs leading up to the "Fortress" trailhead.  Be prepared because the route has around 1,000 stairs and watch out for other hikers along the way.  Once you get to the top, the view will be worth the struggle of hiking up there.  You will see Kotor Bay's beautiful fjords and church steeples, and sit at the top of ancient ruins and enjoy this moment.  Exciting!  Click Here to join us in Montenegro

6. Hike (or take the Cable Car) to the top of Mount Dajti in Tirana, Albania

If you life stunning views, abundant wildlife, and beautiful nature - visit the Albanian Alps - specifically Mount Dajti!  You can choose to hike to the top or you can even get to the top of Mount Dajti by cable car at the entrance to the national park.  The greenery is very abundant at Mount Dajti and you may spot some big mammals - wild pigs, wolves, foxes, rabbits, brown bears and even wild cats.  Click Here to join us in Albania

7. Explore the Antiquities of Prague Castle

Prague Castle is one of the city's most visited attractions.  Our favorite part of the Prague Castle is The Golden Lane.  Originally, it used to be a goldsmiths lane of shops but now these medieval buildings house displays of armor, textiles and local crafts.  Take a step back in History and learn about the cultures, peoples, and mysteries of Eastern Europe...  Click Here to join us in the Czech Republic

8. Dine on Delicious Goulash Stew in Budapest, Hungary

Goulash is a Hungarian stew originating from an ancient Eastern European Recipe that combines meats, vegetables, and a variety of spices together to create a delicious palate of flavors.  What makes this dish unique is the use of Hungarian Sweet Paprika that comes from the sweet peppers that are picked in the hills of the Hungarian countryside. Try your hand and making some of this delicious stew during a local cooking class - or even better, grab a bowl of Goulash from a local eatery and enjoy it as you sit overlooking the beautiful Danube River that runs through the middle of Budapest... Click Here to join us in Hungary

9. Dance along the Yellow Brick Road in Sofia, Bulgaria

Most of Sofia's main historic sites lie along the Yellow Brick Road - a road built through Bulgaria connecting all the main historical sights of the country.  Walk (or dance) along the yellow cobblestones – passing in front of the Bulgarian Parliament, and many other beautiful buildings and important landmarks. “True” Sofianites are said to “have been born on the yellow cobblestones.”  There is a lot of history pertaining to The Yellow Brick Road - definitely check them out if you are ever in Bulgaria!

10. Ride through the Tunnel of Love in Ukraine

The Tunnel of Love is a beautiful spot in Klevan, Ukraine - where a three kilometer railway was built directly through a "tunnel" of greenery leading to a famous fibreboard factory.  The train goes three times a day and delivers wood to the factory. However, the trees make a green corridor, which attracts many couples, as well as photographers for its eye catching avenue.  It is said that if you and your beloved come to the Tunnel of Love and sincerely make a wish, it will come true.  This might be a new romantic place to discover!

 

Travel with us:

 

10 Travel Myths About Cuba

In 2016, a lot of changes were made to travel to Cuba.  President Obama's historic trip to Cuba opened the doors to many Americans who never realized they could ever travel to that small Caribbean Island of 11 million people.  We want to talk about the top 10 travel myths about Cuba - so you are well informed when you travel to this amazing country! (Maybe with us?)

 

Myth 1: Entering Cuba is a bureaucratic nightmare

Truth: It depends on your passport and your reason for travel. Most likely you'll breeze through three forms and a photo. However, international travelers who hold a "USA" passport must declare one of 12 legal reasons to travel:

1. Family visits; 2. Official business of the U.S. government, foreign governments, and certain intergovernmental organizations; 3. Journalistic activity; 4. Professional research and professional meetings; 5. Educational activities (people to people); 6. Religious activities; 7. Public performances, clinics, workshops, athletic and other competitions, and exhibitions; 8. Support for the Cuban people; 9. Humanitarian projects; 10. Activities of private foundations or research or educational institutes; 11. Exportation, importation, or transmission of information or information materials; 12. Certain export transactions that may be considered for authorization under existing regulations and guidelines.

Acanela travelers travel to Cuba under reason number 5 Educational Activities, as our trips focuses entirely on people to people interaction, experiences, and learning.

Myth 2: Cuban food is awful

Truth: Local produce is usually fresh and often organic. There is little factory farming in Cuba, and the food is not pumped full of hormones and artificial fertilizers – partly as a result of the constraints of their past.  Cuba was a pioneer in the use of ecologically sound farming, all of which means that the ingredients do tend to be full of flavor.  When we travel to Cuba we make sure to try all their best dishes - including their amazing pork and bean dishes!  See a list of our favorite Cuban dishes below:

Frijoles Negros, Arros con pollo, Mijito, Picadillo, Sofrito, Boliche, and Cuban Bread!

 

Myth 3: Cuba is safe for independent female travelers

Truth: Just as many other countries - Cuba is completely safe for Female Travelers!  Just ensure sure you always have someone with you, or travel in groups for safety precautions. 

Myth 4: You Can't Bring in Laptops, Fancy Camera Equipment, Or Smart Phones

Truth: Understanding what is and isn't allowed through Cuban customs can be a bit tricky, especially since the list of prohibited items can constantly change! There is always conflicting information online, and many travelers are often nervous about bringing in our electronic equipment.  We always get through just fine with our DSLR cameras, laptops, and iPhones - so most likely you will to! The most up-to-date list of permitted and prohibited items can be found on the official Cuban customs website

Myth 5: The Cuban people don't like their country

Truth: Some Cubans might be disgruntled about their country - but most of the locals we encounter on our trips seem to genuinely love and admire their country!  From the airport staff to the hotel porters and taxi drivers - they will have more than enough good things to say about their homeland and country.  From the beautiful beaches to old colonial cities and delicious food - who wouldn't be proud of Cuba as their home.

Myth 6: Cuba is inexpensive for tourists

Truth: The dual currency and the lack of visible price tags may mean that Cuba can be a more expensive place to visit than other Caribbean destinations.  While the locals use the National Peso, tourists are usually required to use the Convertible Peso (CUC) which is designed to bleed money from tourists who have no option but to use it while they are in the country (as it is a currency that is not traded internationally).  In addition their is a penalty tax (usually around 10%) when exchanging USD to Convertible Cuban Pesos upon arrival to Cuba.

Myth 7: There is no internet

Truth: Cuba does have a stable internet and wifi infrastructure. Wifi is available in almost all hotels and usually offers very good connection (although not always).  In some locations hotels require a surcharge to use the internet (wifi fee) but it is usually always available.  

Myth 8: Cuba is untouched by American culture

Truth: Cuba has gained the reputation of being an island that’s untouched by time and outside cultures, but that is quickly changing.  American shows play on television screens, they listen to American Music, and they talk about American politics in the Bars & Restaurants. Cubans will eagerly tell you about where Beyonce and Jay-Z ate when they came to visit!  That being said, Cuba still holds onto it's unique culture, a culture that is fascinating in many ways - and one that should be visited and explored!

Myth 9: Havana is unsafe

Truth: Online photos show Havana's crumbling buildings, dusty streets, stray animals, and threadbare panhandlers - can put travelers on high alert when it comes to safety in Cuba.  Surprisingly we have found that theft & other crimes are incredibly rare in Havana.  Old Havana is usually crowded at all hours and full of tourists milling about together and warmly talking to each other and locals. That said, Havana is still an urban center, so be smart about your belongings. Leave the jewelry at home, keep your wallet tucked away (or use a money belt), and hold your bag in front of your body.  At Acanela - we make sure to prep you well before your upcoming trips - so no worries!

Myth 10: Avoid the water at all costs

Truth: Like most developing nations, water sources can often lead to many diseases.  We recommend that all of our travelers stick to safe bottle water for all their drinking - to avoid any possibility of sickness while traveling.

Travel with us on one of our upcoming Trips to Cuba (or elsewhere)...

Taste The World with Acanela Expeditions

This past Saturday on January 14th, 2017 we hosted our first Influencer brunch called "Taste the World with Acanela Expeditions!"  We started planning this event in November not knowing what would come out of this.  

We wanted to make this event intimate and unique that the influencers really wouldn't know what to expect.  We left details very vague and surprisingly we had a group of 7 influencers from the Los Angeles area attend our event!  We invited a variety of influencers from fitness, lifestyle, and fashion/style - but they had one goal: to travel more in 2017. 

Once the influencers started trickling in, we got them seated and ready for their 7-course meal they were about to dine on. Kylie created the menu months in advance and perfected it to be the best dishes from the countries that she picked.  See the menu below! 

Not to brag, but do the dishes sound delicious or what?! They were plated so perfect and petite that everyone (including me) was wanting more. Our goal for this event was to have multiple discussions around travel.  We had everyone introduce each other, what they did for work / their blog, and where they wanted to travel to in 2017.  Some influencers said Greece and Italy, or to their homeland to the Philippines, Australia, and Peru.  The options were endless! Check out our recipes for our African peanut sweet potato stew and Moroccan Shakshuka

We had several guest speakers who we invited to talk to the influencers about their travel experiences with Acanela. We had Megan talk about her time in Southeast Asia while the Pomelo Salad was being served.  She also talked about how traveling can produce a happy lifestyle. Then we had Kendra speak about her time in Peru and she showed us amazing textiles she brought from Peru.  Hannah traveled to Finland with our guide, Tate Drucker and raved about her experience traveling with one of her greatest role models. Thank you Megan, Kendra and Hannah for coming! 

We later had a discussion on how stepping outside our culture affects us in a positive way. I loved this discussion because it showed me how where ever you travel, you will learn something new no matter what. Whether it's going to the different markets to buy local produce or new styles / fashion you can learn in a city across the world! 

To conclude the event, Kylie talked about how travel can grow your business whether you are in the fitness, lifestyle/travel, or fashion/style world.  We talked about how Acanela can help them make their 2017 travel dreams a reality! I keep replaying this event over and over in my head because it was such a great experience for everyone.  This event was probably different from other events that the influencers have attended in the past but we wanted to make this special and unique in the Acanela way.  Check out the photos below and what the influencers had to say about the event! Also, give them a follow! If you are interested in attending our future events - email me at liz@acanela.com!

Melina Nasab - @melnasab

Veronica Prince - @veronica.prince

Remi Ishizuka - @RRAYME

Meagan Kong - @meagankong

Melissa Eckman - @melisfit_

JNEL - @jnelv

Michelle Carigma - @_modernfit

Photo Credit: Remi Ishizuka

Photo Credit: Remi Ishizuka

Photo Credit: Remi Ishizuka

Photo Credit: Remi Ishizuka

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Top 10 Travel Destinations in Canada

Canada was named the #1 place to travel to in 2017 by Lonely Planet! Who knew that our friendly neighbors up North would be the #1 travel place of 2017! Well, we are excited nonetheless and we've compiled the top 10 travel destinations in Canada just for YOU. So start your travel bucket list right now, 2017 will come and go before you know it! 

1. Banff National Park

Banff National Park is one of the world's finest unspoiled ecosystems.  Banff is one of the world’s premiere destinations, spanning a region of unparalleled majestic mountain scenery. Every year, millions of visitors make the pilgrimage to Banff to take in its stunning views and arsenal of activities. 

How to get there: From the airport, rent a car and take Trans-Canada 1 west from Calgary straight into the park, through Banff and Lake Louise. A direct bus service from the airport or downtown Calgary is also available to Banff and Lake Louise, as are shuttle services through tour operators.

When to go: Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2017 and, to celebrate, it's offering everyone free admission to its national parks. Open year-round, Banff offers amazing wildlife viewing and sightseeing, plus plentiful shopping and dining options, any time of the year. Summer is popular for hiking, paddling, mountain biking and cycling, photography, and climbing. The best time for viewing seasonal color is fall, when the larch trees—the only coniferous trees to lose their needles in winter—turn yellow.

Weather in the Canadian Rockies can change quickly. A single day can have a mix of sunshine, snow, wind, and rain, so dress in layers. Summers are warm with low humidity. Temperatures average a high of 70ºF (21ºC), and daylight lasts until 11 p.m. Autumn brings cool nights and crisp air. Winters can be frigid. In January, the average daytime high is minus 19ºF (minus 7ºC), but by April it is 49ºF (9ºC). (Nationalgeographic.com)

2. Jasper National Park

Like I said above, Canada is celebrating its 150th anniversary in 2017 and, to celebrate, it's offering everyone FREE admission to its national parks - FREE! You definitely have to check out Jasper National Park. You'll meet some furry friends, like grizzly bears, moose, and elk along the way. Its landscape covers an expansive region of rugged backcountry trails and mountainous terrain juxtaposed against fragile protected ecosystems as well as the world-renowned Columbia Icefield. 

How to get there: The town of Jasper is situated at the intersection of Highway 16 (Yellowhead Highway) and Highway 93 N (Icefields Parkway). It is straight west 225 (362 kilometers) miles on Highway. 16 from Edmonton and west from Calgary along Trans-Canada 1, then north on Highway 93 from Lake Louise, 256 miles (412 kilometers) in total. Major national and international carriers service both Edmonton and Calgary’s international airports, with multiple flights arriving daily. Renting a car at the airport is the easiest way to make the trip, but rail travel to the park is also available through VIA Rail and the Rocky Mountaineer. Shuttle services are available through tour operators.

When to go: The park is open year-round, but the weather and scenery are generally spectacular in late summer and early fall. Forest fire season in North America also winds down in the fall, so the air is clearer—especially important for photo enthusiasts.

Wildlife viewing can happen any time of year, but your best bets are early in the morning or late in the evening during the slow seasons (fall and spring), particularly for bears, elk, and sheep. The best time to watch the annual elk rut, when males bugle and compete with each other for females, is August to September along the Athabasca River. Camping is very popular in summer. Most campgrounds are open until Labour Day weekend; some stay open later in the fall. There are winter campgrounds as well. Skiing and snowboarding at Marmot Basin typically runs from November to April. (Nationalgeographic.com)

3. Lake Louise

Lake Louise is what makes Banff National Park the phenomenon it is, an awe-inspiring natural feature that is impossible to describe without resorting to shameless clichés. Standing next to the serene, implausibly turquoise lake, the natural world feels (and is) tantalizingly close, with a surrounding amphitheater of finely chiseled mountains that hoist Victoria Glacier up for all to see. Famous for its teahouses, grizzly bears and hiking trails, it's also well-known for its much-commented-on 'crowds,' plus a strangely congruous (or incongruous – depending on your viewpoint) lump of towering concrete known as Chateau Lake Louise. But, frankly, who cares? You don't come to Lake Louise to dodge other tourists. You come to share in one of the most spectacular sights in the Rockies, one that has captured the imaginations of mountaineers, artists and visitors for more than a century. (Lonelyplanet.com)

When to go & how to get there: See #1

4. Churchill, Canada

No paved roads lead directly into the tiny town of Churchill, Manitoba, on the remote, southwestern shores of Hudson Bay, so you'll have to arrive by train or plane to see the area's most famous seasonal residents—polar bears. From July to November, about a thousand migrate to Churchill, earning it the nickname the "polar bear capital of the world." Here, the planet's largest land carnivores spend the summer and await winter, when the bay freezes and they can perch on the ice and hunt for ringed seals. Summertime also brings thousands of migrating beluga whales to the town's coast—another reason to visit. Check out our Churchill, Canada expedition HERE!

When to go: Climate change has altered the seasons in Churchill and with it, the animal migrations, Goodyear says. For visitors, that means adjusting your travel plans accordingly. The most popular time to see the polar bears is from the middle of October to the end of November. On these trips, custom-built tundra vehicles shepherd visitors (safely) into the path of migrating polar bears. For this time of year, reservations are a must, as many services quickly become fully booked. Churchill's summer season begins in early July and can run into early September, during which beluga whales show up by the thousands in Churchill River estuary during long days of sunshine. Sighting of polar bears walking along the coastline or swimming in the Hudson Bay are also common in the summer.

How to get around: In winter, the best way to see polar bears is by tundra vehicle tours offered by operators like Frontiers North Adventures and Great White Bear Tours. In summer, travelers can snorkel with the beluga whales by arranging the activity through Sea North Tours or Lazy Bear Expeditions. The latter also offers a polar bear viewing experience by boat during the summer months. Whenever you visit, bring waterproof hiking boots. Most anywhere in town is within walking distance and, depending on the season, you're going to encounter dirt, mud, slush, ice, or snow.

5. Wapusk National Park

Photography by: Norbert Rosing, National Geographic

Photography by: Norbert Rosing, National Geographic

Manitoba’s Wapusk National Park is one of the few places in the world where, in late February, visitors can watch tiny, three-month-old bear cubs explore their snowy new world for the first time under the watchful eyes of their mothers. But no roads or trails lead into this massive park made up of rough subarctic forest, tundra, muskeg, and part of North America’s largest expanse of peat bog, which shelters one of the largest known maternity denning areas for polar bears. Wildlife-watching, especially for polar bears, is why people visit.

6. Great Bear Rainforest, British Columbia

Photo by: Paul Nicklen, National Geographic

Photo by: Paul Nicklen, National Geographic

This remote expanse is home to many First Nations communities as well as abundant wildlife: coastal gray wolves, grizzly bears, Sitka deer, cougars, mountain goats, orca, salmon, sea lions, sea otters, humpback whales, and its most celebrated resident, the rare, cream-colored Kermode bear, or spirit bear, considered sacred by the T'simshian people. (Spotting a spirit bear takes a lot of patience, even more luck, and the expert tracking skills of a local guide.)

When to go: From late August to the middle of October, thousands of returning salmon draw wildlife to the local rivers, making this the best time to view grizzly bears and the elusive Kermode bear. Trout fishing is in season year-round, and different Pacific salmon species run the rivers from April through October. 

7. Quebec City

Quebec is a tale of two cities: On one side of 400-year-old stone walls, gas lamp-lit cobblestone streets and horse-drawn carriages preserve the historic feel of Canada's oldest city, established as a French colonial outpost in 1608. On the other side of those walls is a city whose reinvigorated neighborhoods are bursting with sexy nightclubs, funky restaurants, and a laissez-faire French vibe. A beloved French culture means late-night nibbles and lingering sips from well-replenished wine glasses next to architecture as varied as its conquerors. Everything in this city is served with a view: stylish shoppers at a French bistro perch, city lights from a St. Roch-area nightclub, and the mighty St. Lawrence River flowing by.

When to go: July to September, when music festivals, outdoor concerts, and special exhibits are held across the city. October brings fall foliage tours and the annual jazz festival. In January and February, the 17-day Quebec Winter Carnival is billed as one of the world's largest, attracting nearly 650,000 hearty revelers. Events range from wacky ice canoe races across the frozen St. Lawrence to the spectacular International Snow Sculpture Competition.

8. Vancouver

Nestled on British Columbia's coast, Canada’s third largest city is known for its rich cultural offerings and easy access to the sea and mountains—"Just a 20-minute drive takes you to landscapes seemingly untouched by humankind," says local award-winning designer and architect Omer Arbel. Here you can snowboard, kayak, and play beach volleyball all within the same day, then head to a chic restaurant to dine on sustainable seafood dishes paired with a top-notch local bottle of wine. At once charming and edgy, Vancouver is constantly reinventing itself: Granville Island, a one-time industrial wasteland, is a pedestrian-friendly oasis of artisan shops and galleries. In historic Gastown, you’ll find hipster boutiques and bars where there were once dilapidated storefronts. A few blocks away in one of North America’s oldest Chinatowns, old-world customs and flavors mingle with edgy, all-too-21st-century aesthetics.

9. Prince Albert National Park

Photo by: Kevin Hogarth, Canada Parks

Photo by: Kevin Hogarth, Canada Parks

Typical of its era, Prince Albert National Park was created to serve as a recreational playground—its stewardship value would only be recognized much later. The park spans a slender transition zone between the northern boreal forest and the southern aspen parkland. Its rolling hills of spruce, pine, aspen, and birch shelter pockets of fescue and sedge meadows. Year by year, forestry concerns and encroaching civilization have threatened this ecosystem elsewhere, making Prince Albert today a precious preserve.

When to go: The park is at its best between Victoria Day and Labour Day. The extra-long days around the end of June are especially glorious. The aspen and tamarack reach their height of tangerine color around mid- to late September, when you will have the park mostly to yourself. However, many businesses will be closed, so call ahead. Freeze-up and winter arrives quickly and there is usually enough snow for skiing from early December through late March. Recreational options are most limited in April, when the lake ice is unsafe and the roads and trails are muddy. Remember, all of the national parks are FREE in 2017!

10. Yellow Knife and Great Slave Lake

Photography by: Jason Pineau

Photography by: Jason Pineau

Yellowknife, the capital of the Northwest Territories, is an isolated mining town built on gold and now sustained by diamonds—an outpost of civilization surrounded by a vast, austere landscape of rock and tundra and water—most notably, the enormous Great Slave Lake, on whose shore the city is built. Come for the wilderness and stay for the people, who know how to make their own fun in this raw country.

When to go: Summer in the Northwest Territories is short and sweet. Folk on the Rocks, an outdoor music festival on Long Lake and the biggest event of the season, lands in mid-July. Due to its location, Yellowknife is blessed with spectacular views of the northern lights, best seen near the fall and spring equinoxes. March is when the city celebrates winter with a pair of festivals: the Long John Jamboree is a long-weekend event featuring ice fishing, helicopter rides, crafts, and kids’ activities; the monthlong Snowking Festival is held in a genuine snow castle on frozen Great Slave Lake and includes theater and musical performances, story slams, and film screenings.