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Up Coming Travel Tours

San Miguel de Allende

 

San Miguel de Allende #1 City in the World

(By Conde Nast Readers, topping the list of the top 25 cities in the world)

San Miguel de Allende, in the state of Guanajuato, is a little city with big appeal. Colonial charm and a sophisticated cosmopolitan atmosphere draw flocks of travelers every year. It has two claims to fame in that it is both a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a Mexican National Landmark.

San Miguel de AllendeSMA is easily walked from one end of town to the other, providing baroque and neoclassical architecture that finds expression in churches, monasteries, mansions, gardens, plazas.

The archeological site of Canada de la Virgen, only 10 miles away, is an impressive Toltec fortress. Explore the seven enormous pyramids, plazas, ball court and more.

Artists discovered the beauty and charm of the city in the 1940s and is to this day is a vibrant arts community. The Allende Institute and School of Fine Arts thrive on patrons and students of the arts from around the world. November’s Festival of Jazz and Blues is one of Mexico’s largest music festivals. Concerts abound throughout the city in theaters, the cultural center, amphitheaters and the town center, the Jardin.

On our tours we always visit Atontonilco, one of Mexico’s most unique shrines, just outside the city. The fantastic world class folk art is highlighted on colorful murals and frescoes, gilded alters, sculptures and more. The Baroque artwork is so fine, the shrine has been known as the “Sistine Chapel of the Americas” and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Language schools also draw a lot of students to the city. My husband (Chuck) and I (Sue) spent a large part of one summer in this charming colonial city living in a private home. It was a great way for Chuck to further his Spanish. In addition to taking Spanish classes in a language institute, our “ home” spoke no English.

The famous San Miguel shoes are made here. On our Colonial Cities Tours, we always include a visit to the store that actually manufactures them. I (Sue) find them very comfortable for my narrow feet and I have them in purple, royal blue, turquoise, as well as normal colors..

Copper Canyon Bus & Train Tour

Copper Canyon

“The Balderrama hotels exceeded my expectations! The driver & guide were excellent!” P.D., AZ

At S & S Tours, we are Copper Canyon specialists! This magnificent 25,000 square-mile canyon system in northwestern Mexico is deeper, greener and wider than Arizona’s Grand Canyon. Copper Canyon is home to primitive Tarahumara Indians, some of whom still live in cave homes. The railroad trip through the Canyon has been described by the Reader’s Digest as the “most dramatic train ride in the western hemisphere.”

cc-sueerica-cc2Because this is a remote area it is difficult to access by plane, S & S Tours in association with the Balderrama Hotels now offers an innovative 10-Day; 20-50 passenger monthly scheduled group bus tours between Phoenix and Copper Canyon. The last one this year is December 4-13, 2016. The hotels in this remote area have all been chosen with great care. We utilize the best hotels in the canyon system, Balderrama Hotels, wherever available.

Your adventure begins and ends in Phoenix, Arizona. We pick up people in Tucson and Green Valley, AZ, along the way.

An overnight on the spectacular Sea of Cortez breaks up our bus journey.

The picturesque colonial town of El Fuerte, founded in 1564 deserves two nights of lodging. Famous for being the legendary birthplace of Señor Diego de la Vega, you will meet the charming Zorro at 6:00 happy hour. From there, we board the famous Copper Canyon train. The Copper Canyon train ride is an inspiring journey that took more than 100 years to construct. National Geographic calls it an engineering marvel. Imagine yourself riding a train that will take you from sea level to almost 8,000 feet elevation into the heart of the majestic, rugged western Sierra Madre Mountain Range (25,000 square miles of unspoiled landscape).

A visit to Sue’s favorite place in the canyon system—the small rural village of Cerocahui—allows you an expansive rim view of the deepest canyon in the system, Urique Canyon.

Our hotel on the rim of Copper Canyon is the prime location in all the 25,000 miles of Canyon system. Your room will have a balcony overlooking the Canyon. Zip lining and a cable car ride across the Canyon are available here.

On the way home we overnight in the famous pottery making town of Casas Grandes. We have a demonstration in one of the pottery family’s homes.

Gray whale watching tour

“A Dream Come True” Gray Whale Watching in Baja California, Mexico

 

Gray whale watching tour

Baja California Whale Watching

Even though I was raised in Iowa with no whales anywhere near to be seen, I have been fascinated by them since I was a very young girl. When my parents took me to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (they even had a mine there), they asked me how I liked it and my answer was “They do not have a whale here.”

The first few times I went whale watching in Magdalena Bay out of La Paz, my clients commented that they watched me as much as the whales. I was so excited about every sighting and could not express enough my enthusiasm for these “gentle giants.”

The Grays have migrated to Baja California to rest from Orcas, their prime predator, to breed and to calve in the protected lagoons. These elite migrant mammal travelers, journeying up to 12,000 miles round trip, come from the ice-plagued waters of Alaska’s Bering Sea to bask in the warm waters of Baja California’s bays.

The babies thrive in the warm waters as they have no protective layer of blubber at birth. It is a wonder to watch baby grays rolling over onto Mom’s back, teasing her all the while, or swimming under our skiff as though stuck to mom’s side. Whales breaching and spy-hopping add to the awesome adventure.

Friendly whales are common in this area and some will actually approach the skiff as though to say “hello.” Whale researchers have speculated if whales see the boats a potential mate as they can come up under the skiffs and rub against them. Or, perhaps some whales are just friendly.

 

Mexico City Travel Tour

We are excited to announce our new scheduled destination, Mexico City, Puebla and Cholula,
January 26-February 2, 2017

Entrance to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico city

Entrance to the National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico city

The tour emphasis will be Archeology, Anthropology and Arts. Mexico City’s historical city center is a UNESCO World Heritage Site with important structures from the 16th to the 19th centuries. Walk through the past and present of the Zocalo square (Main Plaza), the second largest in the world, built above the ruins of the Aztec City of Tenochtitlan by the Spanish after the conquest. Off the plaza you will find the Templo Mayor of the ancient Aztec capital, the Cathedral and National Palace with the mural painted by Diego Rivera. View more of Diego Rivera and Frida Kahlo paintings at Dolores Olmeda Patino Museum located in the colonial neighborhood of Coyoacan in Frida Kahlo’s home.

Stroll through 3, 500 years of Mexican history in the world-famous Museum of Anthropology located inside the Chapultepec Park where Lord Pakal’s tomb treasures from Palenque lay.

One of the most important Aztec ruins of the world is found in Teotihuacan, “the place where men become gods”. The pyramid of the sun and the moon are among the best-recognized structures in these ruins.

We can’t exclude a showing of the world-famous choreographed art of the Ballet Folkloric, founded by Amalia Hernandez. This mesmerizing dance features arts and dance from regions throughout Mexico.

This group tour also features Puebla and Cholula. Under the striking view of Popocatepetl and Iztaccihuatl Volcanoes in the center of Mexico is Puebla. The “heroic” city where the French army in 1862 was defeated in the infamous Battle of Puebla or known to many as the Cinco de Mayo celebration. Colonial architecture in Puebla reveals exuberant European style palaces built by the Spanish conquistadores who also brought with them the sturdy and colorful Talavera ceramic. Cholula does not fall behind in its Talavera wares. The city of Cholula is mostly known for its 365 churches and the hidden pyramid of Cholula.

Join us on our first scheduled group tour. If you have been hesitant about visiting on your own, this is the perfect opportunity to see Mexico City and Puebla. Our knowledgeable and personable guides will provide an enjoyable and enlightening learning adventure tour

UNESCO World Heritage Sites Tours

UNESCO World Heritage Sites:

S & S Tour Offerings to Some of These Sites

Seville palace garden2In 1978, when UNESCO published its first list of protected places, there were just 12 World Heritage Sites.  These included one of S & S Tours offerings this year in May:  The Galapagos Islands.

Today there are 1031 UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

The top ten nations for the World Heritage Sites listed according to ranking in the number of sites are Italy, China, Spain, France, and Germany, Mexico, India, UK, Russia and  USA. Italy, China, Spain and  France possess 51, 48, 44 and 41 respectively,  France is the most popular country in the world, with Spain not far behind.  Spain is one of my favorite countries and we tour there every few years with clients.

As you can see  Mexico rates #6 in the top ten UNESCO World Heritage Sites.  We offer various tours to these Sites all over Mexico—archeological sites, architectural sites, natural history sites, designated cities, etc.

One of the new wonders of the world is one of the best known and most visited tourist destinations in South America, Machu Picchu, does not fail to disappoint visitors and even though I have been there 10 times, I am ready to go again next year. S & S Tours has a popular 12-day tour here in April this year and plans to offer another one next April.

We are so fortunate the Spaniards did not discover the 550-year old citadel, built by the Inca civilization in the 15th century. It perches high in the Peruvian Andes at 7,973ft above sea level.

Machu Picchu (which means “old mountain” in the Quechua language) can be reached by a hike on mountain trails or by a scenic train trip through the “Sacred Valley.” We take the Vista Dome Train and  follow the Urubamba River up to the  foot of Machu Picchu.  We stay two nights at Aguas Calientes so we have plenty of time to wander around the ruins and even climb Wayna Picchu if we desire (“new mountain.”  )  This is the widely photographed peak at the back of Machu Picchu.

Sue Stilwell

Copper Canyon Mexico Travel Tour

Discounted Bus/Train Tour from Phoenix to Copper Canyon , Mexico

 Copper Canyon Travel TourWe designed this trip to be the easiest, most economical, most convenient way to visit this world-famous Canyon system as you cross the border with a guide and have no need to fly into Mexico on your own.  There is so much to offer here– spectacular views, primitive Indians, memorable train ride, 5 climate zones, zip lining and cable car rides in the Adventure Park. Going from sea level to 8000 feet elevation, the train ride into the Canyon is “the most dramatic in the western hemisphere.”(according to Reader’s Digest.)  As you pass through many of the 87 tunnels and “fly” over the 39 bridges, do a 180 degree loop inside the mountain and loop over yourselves on the train, you have to applaud the persistent visionaries who saw this railroad as the best direct shipping route to the Orient.  It was international from its inception.  It is noted to be 1000 feet deeper, and wider and greener  than Arizona’s Grand Canyon.  Our clients give us valuable feedback:  “S & S Tours staff live up to their giving personal attention in planning a wonderful adventure.  We give them a 5 star rating—the best.”  “Copper Canyon, Mexico was indeed everything and more than we anticipated.—all the result of the professionalism, the experience, the efficiency, the friendship and the reputation of S & S Tours.”  “You have not seen or experienced Mexico if you have not seen it with S & S Tours.  They are exceptional in experiencing the culture, food and fun to be had there.”  (from a client who traveled 15 times with us.)

Begins and ends in Phoenix.  April 3-12, 2016.  $200 discount for a $1195 price p/p per double room.  A minimum of 20 required.

Sue (Susy) Stilwell        Owner, S & S Tours
Web:  www.ss-tours.com;  www.coppercanyon.com

$1195 per person per double room.

Ph: (520) 803-1352; (866)780 2813; Fax:  520 803 1355

4250 S. Hohokam Dr.; Sierra Vista, AZ 85650

Learning Adventures with S & S Tours, LLC

In Mexico, Costa Rica, South America and Spain

Machu Picchu Travel Tour

Machu Picchu

 View from Guardhouse 2Since I was a young girl, I had wanted to visit Machu Picchu in Peru,  the cradle of the Inca civilization.   I have now been there at least 10 times.  We are going again this spring. It is truly a privilege to stand on this site that was once the refuge for Incan rulers to get away from it all. One client who had traveled to 45 destinations in the world commented “this is the ultimate.”   One just wants to sit on the grassy areas on the different levels of the ruins, watch the animal “lawn mowers”, the Llamas, and contemplate what the city was like when it was occupied.  We are so fortunate the Spaniards never discovered it or, it would not be available to us.  The best experience is to watch the sun rise on the site and see it chase away the shadows on the magnificent structures as it moves across the ruins.  It is also a wonderful experience to travel on the narrow gauge railroad to Machu Picchu through the gorgeous,  scenic Sacred Valley with the towering Andean Peaks on both side.  A personal highlight of this tour was to climb Wayna Picchu (the old mountain) twice with chains and rings to pull me up.  It is the pointed peak always seen at the back of the Machu Picchu (young mountain) photos.   As one stands at the top, the full sweep of Machu Picchu is below and it is a breathtaking moment.    Those of us who want to do so, walk 4 miles on the Inca Trail to the Sun Gate, so we can boast we walked part of the Inca Trail.  The Inca Suspended Bridge is another optional destination while there.  It was one of the varied entrances into the site.   We also actually visit  the Floating Islands in Lake Titicaca in reed boats.  I had studied them in grade school.  The pigs, the school and the church each have their own floating islands!

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Begin and end in the capital of the Spanish civilization– Lima, Peru.

April 19-30, 2016.  $3995 p/p per dble rm. A discount available.

Galapagos Islands Travel Tour

Cruise the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador in a double catamaran.

 Galapagos delivers nature with a capital N.  You will get closer to the wildlife than in a zoo!

Millennium Yacht -Galapagos 2012It was one of the thrills of my lifetime to snorkel with Blue Footed Boobies, miniature penguins sea lions and more. The Blue-Footed Boobies have gorgeous sky blue feet and are in abundance everywhere, looking like sentries posted on the rocks as we cruised by .  The animals on the Islands have no fear as they are protected so you can almost pet them, but, probably not advised.  We had to be careful where we stepped to avoid  many colorful Sally Lightfoot Crabs and lizards on every rock by the water.  The Crabs are actually afraid of the water and stay near the edge.  Our catamaran was so comfortable with a picture window and a deck in each cabin.  I enjoyed sunning on the top deck of the boat when not being active.  I will never forget waking up one morning and a sea lion had hitchhiked a ride with us and was on the deck snoozing.  Visiting the Darwin Research Center was so informative and I spent  a lot of time observing the Giant Galapagos Turtles there, the superstars of the reptile world.  I was especially taken by Lonesome George, who was over a hundred years old.  My granddaughters had studied about him in school. He was the last of one of the species of Galapagos.  They have not located any mate for him.  They attempted to mate him with some similar species, but, it did not take. He died just after my last trip there. A sad loss.  It was a treat to travel with some tourists from other countries too—Israel, Asia, Australia.

You begin and end in Guayaquil, Ecuador, and then fly out to your catamaran in the Islands.  April 30-May 7, 2016      Tour price is $3795.  On sale now.