Easter celebrations, an opportunity for adventure in Latin America

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    Actors portray the life of Christ during traditional Easter procession in Mexico

    Actors portray the life of Christ during traditional Easter procession in Tlalnepantla, Mexico. (shutterstock)

    Tired of the same old sightseeing and guided tours? Adventure traveling might offer you an exciting experience at a price not cheap but that might be worthwhile

    The Catholic Church has an additional reason to celebrate Semana Santa (Holy Week) this year, a spiritual Catholic tradition intertwined with local Latin America religious rites that exceeds the importance of Christmas or other religious holidays.  This year, the Church elected a new Latin American Pope, Francis I, who is seen as the “spiritual hope for the poor” in his native continent.

    In the liturgical calendar, the Holy Week commemorates the passion and suffering of Jesus Christ that began on Palm Sunday and ended with his resurrection on Easter Sunday.

    Easter celebrations in some Latin American countries

    The Holy Week is the most celebrated Catholic festivity in some Latin American countries. It is customary for regions in Mexico, Guatemala, Ecuador, Peru and others to hold a celebration that is planned months ahead—sometimes year round—with great pomp and exuberant performances.  If you are a Roman Catholic or a traveler interested in different cultures, this is the time of year to be in Latin America.

    However, to really dig into the minutiae of each celebration and out of the usual sightseeing routine or the guided tour is no easy task. If your goal is getting involved in the crowds, eating at the local markets and finding decent accommodations this time of year in busy Spanish-speaking small towns, then you need to reach out to your “adventure travel agent.”

    Adventure travel, a growing experience

    An industry that has been growing at a healthy pace in the last couple of decades, adventure travel involves more than stops and hotels. From jungle tours, to whitewater rafting or spiritual and cultural trips, researchers at George Washington School of Business found that the adventure tourism industry is reaching a sizable market worth considering.

    Kristin Lamoureux, director of WGSB International Institute of Tourism Studies explains that “… adventure tourism often relies heavily on the natural and cultural resources a destination already has to offer. For many developing destinations without the resources to build infrastructure, adventure tourism is a realistic alternative and provides a strong argument for preserving a destination’s resources.”

    The study, conducted with the participation of the Adventure Travel Trade Association, showed that adventure travelers spent over $89 billion—excluding airfare and gear or clothing expenses—in 2009, to many usual and unusual destinations across the world. The study considers the adventure market has gained 26 percent of the general tourism market, and growing.

    What do you get for your buck?

    Most adventure travelers agree they live a different experience. They are freer to make their own decisions with their time and money during the trip, and able to enjoy specific interests. Most adventure travelers also tend to be educated, have deep pockets and are environmentally or culturally inclined to focus on non-traditional aspects of tourism. They like to include activities, sports and exploration and tend to make their decisions online, one of the characteristics with which this industry was born.

    An array of services and groups can be found online, you just have to be patient. These are not your Expedia or Travelocity pre-packed offers. Most sites ask for your personal information, reach out to you and work with you to customize your trip.

    However, trips and prices examples can be found.  For instance, Adventure Life—a Montana-based company that was formed out of the passion for traveling, volunteering and travel guiding of its partners—offers a Guatemala Easter Festival adventure trip that runs at $1425 for eight nights, nine breakfasts and seven days of private guide service but excludes other meals (around $200) and optional excursions.

    Rei Adventure, a California-based group that began with 23 mountain climbing buddies and has reached national recognition, offers a Machu-Picchu explorer trip the same week at around $2700 for six-seven nights hotel accommodations with private bath, some meals, bilingual guides and all ground transportation within Peru but does not include air transportation to and from Cusco, gratuities and other traveling expenses.

    The trip is rated as “moderate activity” where hikes and walks are daily and some may include “short, steep ascents and descents and climbing numerous flights of stairs at various ruins complexes,” the website anticipates.

    A lower end option would be to travel with TrekAmerica BOLT tours (Buses or Local Transport), designed specifically for young, international travelers aged 18-38. The 14-day LA to Mexico City BOLT trip runs at around $1700 but uses an affordable “mix of hotels and hostels, with most nights on a twin or triple share basis” and ground transportation.

    Whatever makes you tick, a different Holy Week surrounded by the spiritual power of the Latin American people and the adventure of exploration might be the “different vacation” you have been craving.

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    Source: Susana G. Baumann

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