Category Archives: Indigenous culture

President’s Corner: Getting to Know the Real Costa Rica

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By Jeremy Sampson, President, GreenSpot Travel

At GreenSpot we love to experience destinations the way they were meant to be. We have a particular passion for indigenous communities, working with them to provide unique opportunities for our clients while protecting and celebrating traditions and cultural heritage.

Our US-based team visited our Costa Rica office in May, and spent several days traveling in and around communities which currently offer indigenous and rural tourism experiences. Our visits included the Bribri community in Talamanca and Brörán in the southern region on Terraba, which includes a quiet, rustic lodge called El Descanso – as the name implies, a perfect place to rest.

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Our time was spent exchanging stories and ideas with community leaders, while observing and reviewing what they have to offer visitors. We came away with several new ideas that we plan to incorporate into Costa Rica itineraries for travelers interested in meeting and learning from these amazing people.

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My personal experience in Brörán was an unforgettable one. Life moves at a different pace in their small village, and we made fast friends with our hosts. Spending time in a place like this, it’s impossible not to reflect on your own roots, on the importance of holding onto identity, family, and tradition in the face of deep-seeded modern challenges.

We ate simple (but perfect!) homemade meals cooked by the local abuelas (grandmothers). We walked to and swam in magical waterfalls. We prepared (and enjoyed) sacred cacao. We exchanged stories. We talked about the past and the present. We were shown hospitality one can only classify as “priceless”, even if it’s not the 4- and 5-star lodges we typically sell.

Costa Rica indigenous community

I believe this is an experience all travelers should have. The newfound perspective is well worth it, and I can’t wait to go back and see them again.

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Ecuador: Why 2016 is the Year to Go

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Why 2016 is the year to go

Have you been postponing those New Year’s resolutions? What about the one where you finally book that trip of a lifetime? Procrastination is not usually your friend, but if you’ve been putting off a dream trip to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands, waiting until now might have been a blessing in disguise.

Ecuador has always had a lot going for it, but the destination has stepped up its game in recent years, and last October it was named South America’s leading tourist destination at the World Travel Awards!

Here are a few reason why we think Ecuador is a 2016 hotspot:

Better Accessibility with New Flights

Starting in February, discount airline Jet Blue will fly nonstop from Fort Lauderdale to Quito. Also, Ecuador’s premier airline, TAME, recently introduced nonstop flights from New York to Guayaquil. Flying to Ecuador only takes a few hours from the southern USA. You can get there easily from Miami, Fort Lauderdale, Houston, Atlanta and New York. And if you’re headed to the Olympics in Brazil this year, you could seamlessly make Ecuador a stopover!

Quito’s Renovations

Ecuador’s capital city is complimenting its UNESCO heritage charm with some 21st century renovations. A handy new metro system* is opening this year, conveniently carrying people from the bus station to all of the important and historic districts across town. Coupled with a new, conveniently located airport and revamped train station, there is a fresh glow to Quito’s old-world appeal. Many colonial treasures remain in the heart of this city, surrounded by towering mountain peaks and volcanoes that call out to adventure enthusiasts.

Quito, Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador

Increase in Galapagos Penguins

Unlike their cold-water-relatives, Galapagos penguins are special because they have adapted to the warmer climate of the islands. Expert conservationists created shady nesting sites for this extremely rare and most endangered penguin species, and this has resulted in a doubling of their population. If you’ve ever wanted to see them, or perhaps even swim with them, you now have twice the opportunity!

Galapagos Islands cruise

Galapagos Islands Family Cruise

The Cultural Experience you Crave

There is a growing desire for more authentic and meaningful holiday experiences like the ones we offer at GreenSpot. This means travelers are seeking out destinations with significant cultural draw. Ancient traditions are alive and well across Ecuador. Stumbling upon authentic cultural encounters is as easy as strolling through a bustling market. Strike up a conversation with weavers who are making Panama hats – which are not only a hot fashion trend, but are in fact Ecuadorian.

authentic Ecuador town

Colorful Ecuador

Go Green in 2016!

For Ecuador, ‘going green in 2016’ is not just a catchy rhyme. Their Ministry of Tourism has recently adopted sustainability standards for the country’s tourism sector. This means that the country recognizes the importance of working toward sound tourism policies and will actively protect Ecuador’s heritage so that future generations can benefit from it. Also, responsible-minded travelers have plenty of award-winning, green hotels to choose from in Ecuador.

Ecuadorian hacienda

Ecuadorian hacienda

Contact us to discuss your 2016 dream trip to Ecuador.

*Updated January 25, 2016: Sadly, like many transportation and construction projects, we have received news that the completion of Quito’s new metro has been delayed.  However, it is coming and we will keep you updated!

In the GreenSpot Light: Ecuador

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Quito Ecuador

Quito, Ecuador

No stranger to bucket lists and Pinterest boards, there’s no denying that the Galapagos Islands are a remarkable place to visit. When asked about my favorite travel experience, snorkeling with Galapagos sea lions always ranks high on my list. In addition, those islands ignited my passion for wildlife and conservation.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

snorkeling with sea lions in the Galapagos Islands

The Galapagos may be Ecuador’s gem, yet we believe that mainland Ecuador deserves to share the spotlight with those famous islands. The mainland is so much more than a transfer point. Dig deep into the heart of the country and the incredible biodiversity, vibrant culture and potential for adventure will win you over.

As we get ready to launch our new Ecuador itineraries, we will be sharing an in-depth look at some of mainland Ecuador’s most notable attributes. Here is an overview of what’s to come and a look at some of the beauty of the country.

 

Unsurpassed Biodiversity

Ecuador is one of 17 megadiverse countries in the world and has the most biodiversity per square kilometer of any nation (whoa!). Essentially, that means that this small country contains a massive amount of the earth’s species. In part, this is due to the variety of ecosystems found in such close proximity to each other. In other words, you can be riding in a canoe in the humid, tropical rainforest in the morning and sitting next to a crackling fire, in the highlands of the Andes that evening.

Ecuador Hummingbird

Ecuador Hummingbird

Amazon rainforest canoe

Canoe in the Amazon

A Country with a Spirit for Adventure

Everyone’s idea of adventure is different. Have you ever experienced peddling a bike over a cloud forest? Well, Ecuador makes it possible. Whether you are climbing one of the country’s highest peaks, rafting class 5 rapids, horseback riding in the mountains or experiencing a gentle hike through the foothills of an ecological reserve, the options are endless.

Hiking Ecuador

Hiking in Ecuador

Mountain biking - Cotopaxi National Park

Mountain biking – Cotopaxi National Park

Culture and Tradition

Ancient traditions are alive and well in Ecuador. Stumbling upon natural cultural encounters is as easy as strolling through a bustling market. Strike up a conversation with weavers who are making Panama hats (which are actually Ecuadorian…but more about that later). Furthermore, the food in Ecuador is something to write home about.

Chicha, Ecuador

Ingredients for traditional chicha

Banos, Ecuador

Banos, Ecuador

People make the Place

As you delve into the culture and tradition of the country, it doesn’t take long to see the adoration that Ecuadorians have for their homeland. They are happy and proud to share the beauty of their country with travelers. Locals are hospitable and courteous and native guides will deliver an abundance of information that will enhance your travel experience.

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Ecuadorian hospitality

village children, Ecuador

We are looking forward to sharing more of this beautiful country with you. Stay tuned for more of Ecuador – or contact us to find out how we can help you get there.

The Music of the Mysterious Spheres

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What’s big and round and hangs out in the ground?

Frankly, no one is quite sure, but about 300 of them have been found and  date back to 400 B.C.E. The mysterious (and strangely alluring) stone spheres of Costa Rica have been uncovered primarily in the southern Diquis Delta, with some found as far afield as the Isla Del Cano.

Made of a granite-like rock called granodiorite and topping out at two meters in diameter and 16 tons, these giant marvels raise more questions about ancient native cultures than their discovery has answered. Who made them? How were they made so precisely (some are 96% perfectly spherical) with what must have been rudimentary tools? How were they moved 25 to 30 miles from the sites where the rock was quarried? And the number one question – why were they made?

There’s no shortage of theories about the spheres. Local legends suggest that the makers had a potion that softened the rock, and that each sphere houses a single coffee bean. If you’ve ever had Costa Rican coffee, that might seem like a fitting tribute, or perhaps an obsessive level of attention to freshness. More recently, archeologists have noted the stones’ proximity to burial sites and theorized a memorial or spiritual significance.

Workers employed by the United Fruit Company were among the first in the modern era to discover the spheres as they cleared land for banana plantations, and those fellas were convinced the spheres were full of gold. Solution? Drill holes and blow the spheres to the heavens with dynamite. So much for treading lightly on the land. Some of the reconstituted victims of their handiwork can be seen at the National Museums in San Jose. Other people believed that the spheres made excellent garden ornaments (the sizes vary from a grapefruit to the behemoths already described), so an actual count of all of the stones has never been made, and preservation has been a struggle.

We’re fascinated by these monumental marbles, and we hope to draw attention to the work being done to study and protect the spheres in their original settings. GreenSpot.travel trips have included stops at a major excavation site with tours led by the archeologists leading the effort to understand the role (and the roll) of these uniquely Costa Rican wonders. Call or email us (info@greenspot.org) if you would like to learn more about including the spheres in your travel itinerary.

See GreenSpot.travel and the mysterious spheres in Conde Nast List of 32 Dream Trips

 

Yaxhá or Tikal. Which one would you choose?

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Our travels in Guatemala wrapped up with a visit to the magnificent Yaxhá archeological site. Many of you may have been to Tikal, or heard stories. As amazing as our visit to Tikal was, we found what we think is an even better site to learn about the Maya. Why? One of the main attractions for us was to see some parts of the temples and edifications still buried under ground and covered by plants. The guide explained to us that it takes a lot of money and time for the archeologists and volunteers to keep excavating the site, so Yaxhá hasn’t been totally uncovered yet, and I think this gives your time there a more unique and authentic feeling Add to that the fact it doesn’t get as many visitors as Tikal, so spider monkeys, huge varieties of tropical birds and other wildlife are all around you while exploring the grounds.

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Nope, that's not a painting on the wall. It's the view from your bed while visiting one of our favorite hotels in Costa Rica's Arenal Volcano region.

The precise location is secret though! Contact us and we'll be happy to take you there.
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