Columbia = A Surprise!

Long time, no see! I had a VERY busy summer with lots of travel (more on that later) and fall is always busy for me. 
Here’s the last of my trip report during spring break to Easter Island and Columbia. Leaving Easter Island, I used 20,000 United miles to fly to Medellin, which was better than paying almost $1,400! I just want to mention that I never felt afraid or unsafe in Columbia – it’s quickly becoming a tourist destination. 
Medellin was rainy and we didn’t have much time, but we did take the metrocable up and also visited Botero Plaza, check out Botero’s artwork in the rain (excuse the quality).
The next day we had arranged a private guide for visiting El Penol and Guatape; El Penol is 650 feet tall, with views all around. The 600+ steps are not really that difficult, especially for views like this!
Guatape, the most colorful town/village in Columbia, exceeded my expectations! Zocalos, colorful representations in bas relief on the lower panels, tell the story of the family or business. This place was my favorite and you can see why in these pictures!
We left Medellin for Pereira and the coffee triangle. We stayed at the Hotel Spa La Colina, a small family-owned hotel with great views!
Our guide worked at the hotel and one day we visited some small towns in the area, stopping for coffee along the way, as we made our way to Cocoro Valley, a magical and mysterious place, especially in the rain and fog. It’s a national park filled with wax palm trees and was simply spectacular! 
We stayed our last night at the Wyndham in Bogota, before flying home via Delta business class. This flight was valued at $2,789, but I booked it using my Amex points.
This trip was a dream come true; I LOVED Easter Island and Columbia was a complete surprise! 
Next up, fall in New England, then my summer trip! 

Easter Island!

This is a two part trip report of my spring break trip to Easter Island and Columbia. I used 57,500 American Airlines miles and $11 to fly business class Lan Airlines to Santiago. the value of that ticket was $3,688! We then bought a round trip business class ticket to Easter Island, only $329, with a partial refund from my Citi Prestige card. Upon landing, you buy your park ticket, which includes admission to all sites.
We stayed at Tekarera Inn four nights and purchased a package deal, which included our accommodations, full day tour, and a one day rental car. It was the perfect amount of time to spend there and we saw all the standing moai! 
A must do on Easter Island is sunrise at Tongariki and we did that one morning, and we also saw it other times during our drives. The island has one road that rings most of the island and another road through the middle. You can easily drive it (without stops) in a half day.
Even though there’s no written record, researchers believe the 900 giant moai on the island were created in the image of chiefs. They all face inward, away from the sea for protection. They are very important to the Rapa Nui people, the natives on the island.  The ahu is the mound or pedestal upon which the moai stand, and are about four feet high.
 Tahai was within walking distance of our hotel, and I went every night for sunset pictures!
 Orongo is known as the Stone Village and was a ceremonial village during the birdman era. The houses in this village are all made of stone, built to withstand the strong winds and gales from this exposed part of the island.
 Rano Raraku is the quarry where 95% of the moai were carved out of volcanic ash and where 397 remain, some standing, some leaning, and some flat on the ground. 
Anakena Beach was just beautiful and the very last place you expect to see on Easter Island ~ you just don’t think of palm trees, sandy beach, and moai together!
Here are some stats on the moai averages: height is over 13 feet and weight is 13.8 tons! This trip was a dream come true and I’m so glad miles and points enabled me to see this part of the world!

Greek Isles off the beaten path…

I’ve thought about writing so many times, but life interferes! This is my last trip report of my epic summer trip! We spent the last few days exploring the Greek Isles of Skopelos and Skiathos.

 We arrived at Skiathos and did a walking tour of the town, some shopping, and took a boat ride that evening.

A ferry is the only way to get to Skiathos, where we stayed at Theo Home Hotel, a charming place situated on a hilltop…

One mistake we made on Skiathos was not renting a car – the island is easy to navigate and using buses and taxis got old, but we were able to appreciate the views that way! We enjoyed Panormos and Kastani Beaches…I’ll let the pictures show the beauty of these beaches…

Another day we went to Agio Ioannis, where “Mamma Mia” was filmed, and it was just incredibly beautiful!

We ate at Agnanti Restaurant in the charming town of Glossa and enjoyed the view and food. My favorite food was a Greek salad – so very fresh and delicious, with loads of feta!

After ferrying back to Skiathos, we flew to Athens and spent the night near the airport. And I flew back Air France, business class, using 70,000 Delta points and costing $334, but only costing $134, since I used my Amex Platinum annual $200 credit! Here are some photos…

Santorini = Beautiful!

(This is part of a trip report, using United miles to fly business class for five flights, costing $86 and 160,000 miles, and the value of this trip was $11,758. I flew from the USA to Istanbul to Africa to Seychelles to Greece!)

Santorini was magnificent and a place I’ve always wanted to visit. I flew there on Turkish Air, still using that original United Air multi-city booking – what a deal! But of course, we had paid flights from Athens to Santorini ~ Aegean Air! 

We stayed at Anemoessa Villa, near Oia. It was a simple room with a pool and a sunset view! 

Our first day, we did the Oia to Fira hike and those beautiful views of the caldera were worth it! The walk is approximately six miles and will take two hours plus. (Be sure to wear sunscreen and bring water). We stopped for lemonade in Imerovigli and then took transport to Fira, where we ate and walked around the town.

One afternoon we enjoyed a sunset cruise; there are no words, just look at these pictures…

Walking around Oia was such fun, and the bay there is so very Greek. We just loved all the Greek food – the salads are unbelievably delicious!

Our last evening was spent at the Lioyerma Café Pool for sunset views.

Next, two more Greek isles, then home…