The Romance of Discovery

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Cox and Kings’ Brazil: Colonial Roots itinerary starts off in Salvador. (Cox and Kings)

There’s something wildly romantic about walking in the footsteps of ancient civilizations and historic cultures, and Latin America has more than its share of world-class antiquities and living cultures.

Ancient Cultures of the Inca
Think Peru, and our first thoughts are almost always Cusco and Machu Picchu, the best-known of the fabled monumental remains of the Incas. However, the Inca were the very last in a long line of rich and fascinating pre-Columbian cultures—the Moche, the Wari, the Chimu—who populated the Andes and particularly the North Coast, a region often described as the Egypt of South America.

“I love the area,” says Latin American Escapes’ president Peggy Newfield, “for its tranquil ruins, Trujillo’s colonial charm, great surf beaches, excellent birdwatching, and none of the altitude-issue worries that often come when planning for Cusco and Machu Picchu.”

The operator’s 12-night Insider’s Peru itinerary starts in Lima, then guests fly to Chiclayo, with the first stop in the North to visit recently excavated sites such as the Royal Tomb of Sipan, then continues to the Royal Tombs of Sipan Museum to view these artifacts, as well as the archaeological site of Tucume, whose pyramids are still being studied. Next, guests spend time in colonial Trujillo; outside town they visit the El Brujo site, and walk around astonishing Chan Chan, the world’s largest adobe city and a tribute to the Chimu civilization. Later, guests fly on to the land of the Inca to explore Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. Price is $2,995 pp dbl.

Maya Legends
Recommend clients take a fascinating 8-night journey with Wildland Adventures through the Great Cities of the Maya, the 2,000-year-old heartland of the Maya people, exploring the ruins of their great city-states in Guatemala and Mexico. En-route, guests discover the highlights of the history, legends and archaeological finds of Central America’s most creative ancient people, and learn about the way of life and customs of the modern Maya, embellished with the personal stories of this trip’s special guide. Departures for 2016 are Oct. 8, Nov. 19, and Dec. 23.

Tour highlights include visits to colonial Antigua, the K’iche-Maya market in Chichicastenango and Lake Atitlan, and traveling by boat to Tzutujil-speaking San Juan La Laguna to learn about local weaving techniques. There are also stops in Flores in Guatemala and the Maya ruins of Palenque in Mexico, as well as a boat ride on the Usumacinta River to view the seldom-visited Pedras Negras, famous for its clay figurines and well-preserved temple inscriptions. Guests fly home from Villahermosa. The price pp dbl starts at $3,650.

Beyond exploring the world of the Maya, Wildland Adventures’ president Kurt Kutay looks to Argentina, singing the praises of the northwest region. “With its indigenous and colonial cultures, grand wines, dramatic Canyonlands and active adventures, Salta province is the unsung corner of Argentina. This regional discovery—we combine it with Mendoza—perfectly suits both the first-time and repeat traveler.”

Colonial Influences
With its 9-night Brazil: Colonial Roots private journey, Cox and Kings USA invites travelers to explore and savor the rich history of the Portuguese colonizers and African slaves who arrived in Brazil during the sugarcane boom and Gold Rush days of the 17th century.

The journey of discovery begins where Brazil was born, in Salvador da Bahia, a colonial gem and home to lively Afro-Brazilian culture and colorful markets. The city’s San Francisco Church is dazzling, while its Afro-Brazilian Museum traces the influence of Afro-Brazilian culture on modern Brazil. Clients fly on to Ouro Preto, the most famous of the colonial gems known as the Gold Towns—Mariana, Tiradentes, Congonhas, Sao Joao del Rey—and actually pan for gold in the Passagem mine. The towns’ signature attractions are baroque churches, impressive mansions and treasure-rich museums. Gold was shipped from here to beautiful Paraty, a beautiful drive south from Rio along the Costa Verde. With historic houses in a rainbow of colors, little baroque churches and cobbled streets, Paraty is indeed a treasure; activities here range from bathing in nearby waterfalls to touring a distillery making cachaça liquor from sugarcane. Rates start at $4,995 pp dbl.

Brazil might be getting all the attention now due to the Olympics, but Ignacio Vallin, destination manager, Latin America & Antarctica, Cox & Kings USA, believes it’s also time to discover Uruguay, no longer as just an add-on to Argentina. “The basics are there: a safe country that offers good value for the dollar.”