Textiles & Blue City

Textile and Crafts Tour to Exotic Morocco
September 8 – 17, 2019  Depart for home on September 18.

Textile tour crafts art and architecture small group travel Chefchaouen Morocco

Lovely blue lane in Chefchaouen, the Blue City.

Highlights: This 10-night custom-designed tour to see the textiles of Morocco emphasizes art, architecture, culture, and cuisine, in addition to the textiles. Travelers are very welcome here; the country is peaceful, and no visa is necessary for most visitors! We’ll meet you at the Mohamed V International Airport in Casablanca (CMN) on September 8, and you’ll fly home from Tangier on September 18.
This trip takes you behind-the-scenes to share an authentic experience of Moroccan hospitality with a small group of friendly people. And we’ll take in 4-5 UNESCO World Heritage sites.

We’ll first go south to charming Marrakesh, see exciting places along the way, and end up in the north at Tangier. Along the way, we’ll visit Fes and beyond, to see the textiles and to meet many artisans: felt makers, metal workers, ceramic artists and more!. We’ll see the mellow blue town of Chefchaouen, famous for its stunning old city that is painted in watery blues, left. The far north of Morocco is not so often visited by tourists and with the help of our wonderful guide we will explore the northern regions. Exotic Tangier awaits our discovery too, and we’ll wend our way through the medinas to see mosques and madrasas, and find the most interesting textiles, jewelry. pottery and artwork.

Cooking class Maison Arabe Marrakech tajine lunch

Hand-painted traditional tajine dish. Marrakech.

Charming little hotels called riads will be our home bases. In a mid-morning workshop, we’ll learn how to knot the complex silk buttons, with a group of delightful ladies who will also serve us an amazing lunch! As we travel, we’ll explore the historic walled medinas, watch craftsmen at work, and poke around in the traditional little souks for spices and other treasures to take home. In cooking classes we’ll put our spice knowledge to work and create a delicious lunch that will include tajine, a typical, succulent vegetable stew, with or without meat. Everywhere we go, our guide will show us the hidden corners to visit and the most interesting people to meet!

Morocco cuisine textile tour food Marrakech souk medina 2019

Trip Details:
Arrive in Casablanca on September 8; depart for home from Tangiers on September 18. We’ll start by flying in to legendary Casablanca, check in to our hotel, and get a good night’s rest. Next day we’ll visit the fabulous Hasan II mosque, inside and outside, at seaside Casablanca, then we’ll head south to fabled and friendly Marrakech.

In Neolithic times, the region was primarily agricultural, and it wasn’t until 1062 that the town of Marrakesh was founded. The red walls of the city, built in 1122–1123, and various buildings constructed in reddish sandstone during this period, have given the city the nickname of the “Pink City.”

Marrakesh grew rapidly and established itself as a cultural, religious, and trading center. Today the popular city has modern businesses on the outskirts, but still manages to feel exotic and other-worldly, especially in the old fortified city area, called the medina. The Marrakech medina is a densely packed, walled medieval city with labyrinthine alleys where little market shops offer a treasure of traditional textiles, baskets, felted slippers, pottery and jewelry. Here we can meet master artisans at work, and wander the narrow, cobblestone streets of the market.  In Marrakesh we will stay in a beautiful and comfortable riad, as always decorated with traditional furniture, rugs, mosaics, and textiles of Morocco.

Feltmaker of Fes; felted boots in foreground. 

One morning we will have a professional cooking class, then eat our delicious creations for lunch! We will also see the stunning Majorelle Gardens begun by French painter Jacques Majorelle, and the excellent Museum of authentic Berber jewelry, clothing and textiles. Lunch that day will be in the  garden patio of the museum.

In the bustling open-air square called Place Djemaa el Fna, snake charmers vie for space between barbeque stands, musicians, and water sellers. Declared a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2001, this central square of Marrakech is chaotic and thrilling at the same time. Shopping nearby is also good.

Next we’ll drive north to Fes which has over a million inhabitants, but it’s primarily known for its ancient sprawling, medina or walled city, the best-preserved in the Arab world. The old medina is another UNESCO World Heritage site. Fez was founded in the 9th century and reached its apogee as the capital of the Marinid Dynasty in the 13th and 14th centuries. Major monuments in Fes date to that era. It also hosts the world’s oldest university, University of Al Quaraouiyine. We’ll spend several days in Fes, sleeping in a charming riad in the old medina area, and explore the mosques, madrasas and souks with their highly decorated mosaic walls. This medina is much calmer  than the one in Marrakech. Craftsmen still work and sell their products here, and like others, this medina is divided into areas by trade—the leather crafters, ceramicists and so forth.Wander in the medina to find the perfect carpet or pair of earrings.

We’ll tour a large ceramics factory where the craftspeople still hand-paint plates and vases. Other workers there paint tiles and cut the intricate tile pieces for zellij – complex mosaics composed of tiny geometric shapes – used to decorate walls, fountains and floors of mosques, madrasas (Koranic schools) and villas.

On the route north, we’ll visit a family where they make the famous ‘laine de Habba’ or the natural white sheep’s wool yarn somehow hand-spun with tiny pill balls added in. It is one of the most interesting textiles of Morocco, used to add interesting texture to high quality djellabas for men. It defies the usual spinning methods; see if you can figure it out!

Sleeping in ceramic couscous dish, Fes market

World Heritage symbol

Next, we’ll drive north to the famous blue city of Chefchaouen, noted for being one of Morocco’s most picturesque towns. This is a holy city with some 20 mosques and sanctuaries, where thousands of the faithful participate in an annual pilgrimage. For other visitors though, Chefchaouen’s chief appeal is in its incredibly photogenic streets with the white-and-blue-washed houses. Then we’ll drive to Tangier. We’ll explore the Kasbah of this city and see St Andrew’s Church, one of Tangier’s most interesting sites. Completed in 1905 as a gift from King Hassan I of Morocco, the church is a fusion of different architectures and religions, reflecting Morocco’s multicultural population. Although the church is a focal point for Christians in Tangier, it also exhibits Quranic inscriptions on its Moorish interior and marks the direction of Muslim prayer to Mecca. A visit to this religious holy site gives a new meaning to the interfaith experience. “If only we could all just get along….!”

Morocco crafts tour, mosaic art architecture 2019

Intricate mosaic or zellij floor of palace in Marrakech.

After lunch, stroll around the kasbah-medina area, and have an afternoon break of mint tea.  One day we’ll see the Great Moque and explore the Kasbah, where the sultan once lived. The gate opens onto a large courtyard, which leads to the 17th century Dar el-Makhzem Palace and the modern-day Kasbah Museum. This Museum brings together an amazing number of exhibits from Morocco’s history and there is also a large section devoted to Moroccan arts, with silks and illustrated manuscripts as well as centuries-old ceramics decorated from golden yellow to the famous Fes blue.

The Dar el-Makhzem Palace was enlarged by each successive Sultan. The carved wooden ceilings and marble courtyard showcase the intricacies of talented Moroccan craft-work.

Kathy & Sue relax at the leather shoe souk, Fes.

Salima Abdel-Wahab, Moroccan fashion designer, has a boutique in the Tangier kasbah. Last year we found some interesting clothing here and unusual jewelry and gifts in shops nearby. On our last included night of hotel (September 17) at the Farewell Dinner, we’ll take leave of old friends and new, and pack our bags, ready for flights home from Tangiers the next morning/day of September 18. Arrange your plane tickets to arrive on September 8 and to fly out of Tangiers on September 18, 2019. After the trip, you’ll receive a photo journal book to remember your trip. We welcome your photos to add to the book, so after the trip, send us some great group people pictures to be included.

Tour Price:  $  3695 for 6-8 travelers; $3525 for 9-12 .
Single Supplement:  $ 700

Bowl piled with brightly colored agave silk for weaving.

Vegetal silk made from Agave fiber or rayon, dyed and ready for weaving, Fes medina.

Includes the following:

  • 10 nights hotel accommodations (Sept. 8 through 17), (double occupancy), in charmingly decorated riads (small private villas with central courtyards), and excellent modern hotel in Casablanca)
  • All meals and non-alcoholic beverages–except 1 lunch and 1 dinner on your own.
  • All ground transportation by private van with excellent, professional driver.
  • Bottled water in the van for road trips
  • Transportation to/from airport on set arrival and departure dates.
  • English- and French/Arabic-speaking easy-going and professional guide to accompany the tour.
  • French- and English-speaking textile expert Cynthia Samake also to accompany itinerary.
  • A cooking class in Marrakesh to learn gourmet cuisine for your lunch.
  • Entrance to all historical sights, museums, etc., on the itinerary.
  • Beautiful custom photo book, created and sent once you get home, with group pictures, sites and recipes from our classes!

Not included: Personal items such as internet fees [our hotels have free/not-very-fast wi-fi]; laundry; overweight luggage; sites or activities not on the itinerary, between-meal snacks and bottled water when not in the van.

Note that not all hotels have hair dryers. Bring a dual-current hair dryer if you really need one.

*If you don’t want to do the cooking classes, the meal included during class time is on your own, since class participants will eat what they create. Cooking classes are lots of fun, but optional; we hope everyone will join in!

Please note that citizens of the USA, Australia, New Zealand, Great Britain, Canada, and many others do not need a visa to enter the Kingdom of Morocco and may stay up to 90 days.

Email:  [email protected] if you have any questions, or call 707-939-8874.

To sign up, click here for instructions and forms.


All photos  © Cynthia LeCount Samake except Dreamstime.com:
Chefchaouen blue lane

Previous Travelers!

Is YOUR group’s photo here?

Here are 75 photos of groups of previous travelers from the past twenty+ years, all the best digital shots we could find so far. See if your group is here.
Not in chronological order, sorry! Let me know if any dates are incorrect. We feel very lucky to have known all these wonderful people.

Textile tour visits renowned kente strip cloth weaver.

GHANA 2020: Susan just bought a big kente cloth from a renowned weaver on this textile tour; leader Barou Samake.


PERU 2019: Textile tour takes a break to admire Inka stonework at Sacsahuayman, archeological site above Cuzco.


BHUTAN 2019:  At a 14,000 foot pass, briefly – five of us knitting! Prayer flags flutter to bless departed family members. Tej, our excellent driver, at far left.


Morocco textile tour travelers with friend who makes trim for clothing.

MOROCCO 2019: Textile tour group shares a laugh with Bouchra who came to the hotel to teach us plaited trims; Fes.


ARGENTINA 2018: Knitters at the countryside estancia near Buenos Aires where we had a private knitting retreat and relaxing time on 200 acres.


BHUTAN 2020:  Hardy hikers who ascended to the famous Tiger’s Nest Monastery in Paro; other people decided to relax at the hotel for the day! Complete group below.


Cooking class in Bhutan hotel in Bumthang Valley.

BHUTAN 2020:  In the Bumthang hotel kitchen, we made buckwheat noodles and garlic potatoes for dinner. BTSA team’s guide Sonam at center and driver Tej on far right.


Lush garden by Niger River, Mali.

MALI 2011: Taking a break from painting mudcloth to crunch on fresh carrots in Papou’s riverside garden.

Previous travelers on Argentina Knitting tour with Cynthia Samake.

URUGUAY 2018   Happy knitters with big bags of yarn from the Malabrigo mill. Montevideo. I’m sure we all needed yarn….


Past group of knitters in Buenos Aires, knitting tour.

ARGENTINA 2016: Dressed up for the Tango Dinner and Show in Buenos Aires!


MOROCCO 2019: Taking a break from climbing around the Roman ruins of Volubilis, near Meknes.


Southern LAOS 2006: With Wat Phu Champasak in the background, UREP group relaxes before climbing to the top.


Ikat weavers, India.

INDIA 2018: Renowned family of master silk ikat weavers explains their complex technique of making double ikat on a slanted loom.


Group on steps in Chefchaouen Morocco.

MOROCCO 2018: We’re headed to a cooking class in the blue city of Chefchaouen. Great driver Abdul at right.



Cambodian cooking class group.

CAMBODIA 2018: We’re learning the basics of Cambodia cuisine while we make our delicious lunch; mangoes and sticky rice are for dessert!


LAOS: Textile tour travelers rest on the hike up to see spectacular Wat Phu, in the southern part of the country.


Archeological sites are included on most of Behind the Scenes textile tours of Turkey.

TURKEY 2005:  On the steps of ancient amphitheatre in Selcuk. Some of these loyal previous travelers have gone on many trips with us since this long-ago adventure!


INDIA 2015: Visiting a tea plantation and meeting the workers before a tea-tasting.


Group of textile tour people, India

INDIA 2018: Happy day at the salty lakes of northern Gujarat state; we had just seen a herd of wild asses!


Group of hikers on Turkey coast.

TURKEY 2013: Hiking trip on the woodsy Mediterranean coast with our wonderful guide Zeynep in purple and trekking guide Ozgur at left.


Knitting and weaving tour to the Andes. Group at hotel in Cuzco

PERU 2018: Textile Tour group with Nilda Callañaupa at center, heading out for a great natural dye workshop in Nilda’s hometown. Cuzco.


Group with bead artist, Cedi in Ghana

GHANA 2018: Barou and BTSA group, ready to start a bead-making workshop with Cedi, famous glass bead artist, at center.


Previous travelers with silk scarves made in dye workshop with Master Ali M. Katri

INDIA 2018: We just made the most beautiful tie-dyed scarves, with Master Bandhini artist and his sons.


group from the past Morocco textile tour

MOROCCO 2016: Argan tree with goats (above Ali’s head) who eat the nuts. The rest are made into argan oil.


Ghana textile tour previous travelers learn making adinkra printing ink.

GHANA 2018:  Peter shows the textile tour group how to make ink for the Adinkra printing workshop. Photo: Tour leader Barou Samake.


Group at Machu Picchu with Inca stones.

PERU 2009: We’ve climbed to the top of Machu Picchu and the Inca stonework is amazing!


Behind the Scenes group on textile tour sit on reed Urus islands in Peru.

PERU 2007   Previous travelers with Cynthia’s 2-year old god-daughter Anita. Her parents let the group participate in her first hair-cutting ceremony, and little Anita let a bunch of strangers snip at her hair! Urus Islands, Lake Titicaca.


group from the past in Turkey with Cynthia Samake

TURKEY 2012: BTSA textile/culture tour group among the columns of the Athena Temple, Assos-Behramkale.


Northeast India textile tour group rests on the steps of the Nunnery in Tawang.

NORTHEAST INDIA 2016: At Tawang Nunnery with drivers Daniel, Manoj and Nomo. Littlest nun on my lap; not visible are the dark red sheepskin boots I brought for her. Miraculously they fit her cold little feet!


Oaxaca Mexico textile tour group of previous travelers, at farewell dinner.

MEXICO 2010: Farewell dinner, previous travelers from our textile tour in Oaxaca; with Chloe Sayer in blue/black huipil.


INDIA 2009: To enter a New Delhi mosque, we donned colorful but very modest bag dresses that they have available at the entrance!


Group sitting on steps of old building in Bolivia.

BOLIVIA 2017  Carnival and textiles tour group. With Liz Rojas at Candelaria Hacienda outside of Tarabuco.


Lunch in Oaxaca Mexico

MEXICO 2010: One of the UREP research groups of previous travelers, headed to the Assumption Festival. With Chloe Sayer.


Group from the past, travelers to Peru in Lima

PERU 2015: We visited the little-known Museo del Andres Castillo, with its good collection of ancient artifacts, Lima.


TURKEY 2007:  Knitters hit the huge Yarn Market near the Grand Bazaar in Istanbul.


MEXICO 2013: Visiting the municipal art museum near Oaxaca city, with Chloe Sayer, far right.


MALI 2011: Our Tuareg friend Halis showed us around his Sahara Desert town of Timbuktu; yes, it’s real!


GUATEMALA 2014: Ready for the ride across Lake Atitlan to Santiago Atitlan, to see embroidered huipiles.


BOLIVIA 2005: My super students from University of CA Davis Summer School Abroad ‘World Textiles’ class; Tiwanaku archaeological site near LaPaz. One of my favorite groups from the past!


TURKEY 2008: Learning how rugs are knotted and woven – and how to judge quality – in a little carpet shop in Cappadocia.


PERU and BOLIVIA 2006:  Private tour ladies relaxing with our knitting at lakeside Titicaca hotel.


Relaxed group from the past, long ago in Thailand!

LAOS 2006:  University Research Expedition Program: Weaving group at dinner break by the Mekong River.


Athena Temple- Steve Chun

TURKEY 2014: Amidst the columns of Athena Temple at Assos; guide Zeynep bottom right. (Steve Chun photo)


Peru travel group in Lima.

PERU 2010: After a morning of seeing ancient textiles in Lima museums, we had lunch at El Bolivariano.


CAMBODIA 2018: Excited to be heading out to the fabulous Angkor Wat temple complexes.


Private tour at Tikal, Guatemala.

GUATEMALA Private tour with friends at Tikal National Park, Maya site.


TURKEY 2014:  At the UNESCO World Heritage site of Divrigi, beautiful and historical hospital-mosque.


TURKEY: Exploring Cappadocia’s eroded sandstone formations and visiting the painted cave churches.


MEXICO:  Waiting for the embroiderer to come back so we can see his work! Juchitan. Chloe Sayer, far left.


MEXICO 2010: Lunch in Teotitlan del Valle, famous rug weaving town, outside of Oaxaca.


TURKEY: Friends on a Textile and Cuisine Tour, at the famous and exquisite Blue Mosque in Istanbul.


LAOS 2009: We donated school supplies and met the teachers and girls at a rural elementary school.


TURKEY: We have just spent the night in a village homestay; super guide Fatih and best driver Ahmet at left!


Showing off our beautiful scarves! Turkey

TURKEY 2012: Showing off our hand block-printed scarves in Tokat. Many friends from Alaska on this trip.


INDIA 2013:  Happy with our hand-dyed and tied silk scarves made with the help of a Master Dyer!


ARGENTINA 2016: Knitters gather at the Estancia; fabulous cooks Rebecca and Maria on either side of Cynthia.


PERU 2006: UC Davis Summer School Abroad camps out in Paucartambo for the Virgin of Carmen Festival.


MALI 2011    Headed out to the mudcloth (bogolan fini) village, to try mud painting, with Barou Samake.


INDIA 2017   We’re proud of the scarves we stamped with hand-carved blocks at  friend Deepak’s studio.


MALI 2012  Nighttime celebration at Papou’s wedding festival in Barou’s hometown of Segou.


BOLIVIA 2006   At the Benito Cruz mask-maker studio before heading to Oruro for Carnival; La Paz


GUATEMALA 2016: Dear friend Tomasa with us at a restaurant outside of Patzun. She embroidered my huipil.


ARGENTINA 2016:  Taking a break on our Street Art Tour in Buenos Aires. It’s everywhere and all legal!


Group of women with white masks wait to tour a hat factory in Sucre.

BOLIVIA 2017: We’re here to tour the SUCRE Hat Factory, not to stage a hold-up! Masks ostensibly will protect us from flying fleece.


GUATEMALA 2014: Leaving the hotel for the airport, to fly to the Tikal Mayan ruins in the jungle.


MOROCCO 2008: Travelers at Volubilis Roman ruins; 32-day private tour. Mali and Ghana were next….


N.E. INDIA 2015  Ladies play dress-up in Saris at the Good-bye Party on the Brahmaputra River beach!


INDIA 2017   Checking out the organic cotton fields. The guide sews his own exquisite handspun cotton clothes!


CAMBODIA 2015  Angkor Thom – Ancient Khmer temple with strangler fig roots, and our driver, Sai.


GHANA 2011:  At Jamestown fishing port with school director Mark, who showed us the boat building processes.


ARGENTINA 2015  Happy Knitters’ group with Joji Locatelli and Alejandra Pont, and other great knitters!


BOLIVIA 2018: We just toured the Sucre Hat Factory.


PERU 2011 Visiting friends on the totora reed Urus Islands, floating in Lake Titicaca.


INDIA 2011: New Delhi visit to the tall brick minaret, Qu’tub Minar, a UNESCO World Heritage site, with great guide Manish.


Knitters in Cuzco hotel courtyard.

PERU 2008:  Knitters and two of my wonderful cousins. BTSA knitting and weaving tour group, in Cuzco hotel courtyard.


INDIA 2011: Showing off our hand-tied and dyed silk scarves with the master bandhini artist; Bhuj.

Textiles of India Tour

Our popular Textiles of India tour will be repeated in 2021. Check back for dates.

Family we met in Rajasthan on textiles of India tour.

A Rajasthani family. Women in this area are expert embroidery artists.

Come with us on the exciting Textiles of India trip, to the fabulous textile-producing states of Gujarat and Rajasthan, then finally relax in tropical Kerala!
• Print or dye your own fabric in three private textile workshops.
• Go on a desert Jeep safari to see elegant wild asses of Kutch.
• Travel with expert textile guide in Gujarat and Rajasthan.
• Visit our friends among the artists and craftsmen of the north.
• Meet Rabari women and learn their unusual embroidery stitches.
• Finally, head to Cochin and relax on a wooden houseboat in tropical lagoons.

This is a trip for creating, learning and observing the textiles of India as well as meeting the welcoming and wonderful Indian people. To start out, we’ll visit several museums to see historical textiles including the world-famous Calico (textile) Museum with its exceptional cloth and clothing collections. As we visit textile artists, we’ll learn the detailed techniques of the dyeing and printing processes, beginning with a visit to the place where slabs of wood are carved into intricate designs for the printing blocks. At the block-print studio, we will be welcomed to watch the artists stamping designs onto the cotton fabric to get the hang of it, before we start our own projects. After we have mastered block-printing, we’ll meet a Master dyer and he will show us how to make silk Bandhini-style dyed scarves. The Bandhini technique involves tying off or stitching the areas to be resisted from the dye, and results in exquisite scarves that you will be proud to wear at home. There may be an opportunity to purchase some of the Master artist’s beautiful work also, below.

Silk tie-dyed scarf before white threads were taken out.

Silk tie-dyed bandhini scarf before white threads were pulled out.

One afternoon, local women who are experts in intricate shisha mirror embroidery, one of the best-known textiles of India, will show us their secrets in our embroidery workshop. After shopping in the local market full of textiles, we’ll head north to meet the famous double-ikat weavers of Patan. They have organized an amazing private museum of the ikat technique with examples from all over the world. Seeing their own complex silk warp dyeing techniques and finished masterpieces is totally fascinating.

During the trip, we’ll travel by private van and plane, and stay in fascinating Heritage hotels in towns, [even a Majarajah’s palace!]. A couple of nights we’ll sleep out in the country in new, traditional bunghas in the little-visited northern Gujarati area of Kutch. The round earthen bunghas with thatched roofs are embellished with floral scrolls of bas-relief mirror. Hand-formed mud decorations around the windows and doors add a charming touch.
We will visit many ancient temples and other architecturally fascinating sites such as the famous Adalaj and Rani Ki Vav stepwells. These ancient and elaborate fresh water wells were built between the 11th and 16th centuries, with carved marble columns and decorated niches.

Amber Palace carved and inlaid flower panel

Cynthia with flower panel at Amber Palace in Jaipur.

In Jaipur we’ll meet the director and the girls at a workshop and home established to help girls stay in school and learn skills. Experience in sewing and craft projects that they learn to make and market will eventually help the girls to make a living on their own. If you’d like to bring them some sewing or school supplies, they would be thrilled! They need good quality scissors like Fiskar snips, trims, cloth scraps, and so forth. And they can always use pens, art materials, pencils and notebooks.

Later, in Jaipur, we will also visit the excellent Anokhi Printing Museum for a great introduction into our next workshops of wooden blockprinting! In a nearby village, we’ll visit an expert block print artist for a complete introduction into block-printed or stamped fabric. At his studio, you can print 2 yards of light cotton cloth suitable for clothing or a tablecloth, or a cotton scarf.

Then when we have made some wonderful projects in our workshops, and have seen all the art and architecture that we can possibly absorb, we will fly south to the state of Kerala. We land in pretty coastal town of Cochin, and see the Chinese fishing nets at the beach, India’s oldest synagogue, and Mattancherry Palace. The palace was a generous gift presented to the Raja of Kochi, Veera Kerala Varma (1537–61), as a gesture of goodwill by the Portuguese in 1555. There is also an excellent privately-owned folk art museum that we will visit, and we’ll see traditional Kathakali dances.

Cynthia dips her stamped piece in indigo dyebath.

Cynthia dips her mud-resist stamped piece in the indigo dyebath.

Finally we’ll head to the gorgeous backwater lagoons and spend twenty-four hours floating on luxurious, private wood and wicker houseboats with our own chefs!

Smiling man holding Indian hand-printed fabrics

Deepak gathers up new block print cloth at his Gujarat workshop.

We will float by trees full of weaver bird nests, as we enjoy the peaceful ambiance. Bring a ‘real’ book or a book on your iPad or Kindle, your knitting, or your yoga moves! Thoroughly relaxed from our houseboat cruise, at the end of our great tour, we return to our modern hotel on the water,  for the Farewell Dinner.
Next day, we fly home from Mumbai on September 18th. Plan your flights to depart BOM anytime after 9:30 pm.

TRIP PRICE:  $4960    (Single Supplement: $875)    Maximum 12 travelers.
17 nights accommodation (double rooms with private bath) in charming heritage hotels, modern hotels in cities, and clean local hotels in remote areas. On the houseboat, the comfortable, A/C cabins are double share (singles subject to availability).
The itinerary for the Textiles of India tour has been carefully planned to cover a lot of ground, but also not to move around every night. We spend 2 or 3 nights in each destination; for example, 3 nights in both Jaipur and Bhuj.

We’ll cruise tropical lagoons of Kerala in a lovely wooden houseboat!   

Finally, there will be a pre-tour of the Taj Mahal and SOS Bear  Rescue Center in Agra for those interested, at a modest extra cost. Info to come after you’ve signed up.

The following are included.

All meals and tea breaks, water/tea/coffee and soft drinks with meals.
Local transportation in good vans with professional, good-natured drivers.
Three interior flights to see as much as possible.
Bottled water on road trips and on houseboat.

All village visits and museum entrances as on itinerary.
All temple and cultural site visits as on itinerary.
Airport arrival and departure transport (on group arrival and departure days).
Luggage porter tips.
Professional English-speaking guides, with expert on textiles in India joining us for the Gujarat region.
American Cynthia Samaké to accompany entire itinerary
Plus a custom travelogue photo book sent to you after the trip.
Breakfast and Lunch only are included on September 18, departure day.

Not included: International airfare, visa for India, required travel insurance (recommend Travel Guard); alcoholic beverages, tips for guide and driver, laundry, between-meal snacks and water (although we will have bottled water in the van for all the day trips); internet charges if any, and camera/video fees if required. You will need a visa for India; information will be forthcoming for online application.
Tipping Guidelines will be sent with trip information.

Artist using small chisel to cut flowers into wood block for printing.

Hand-carving a woodblock to print Indian fabrics.

Indian Lord Ganesha elephant god of success and good fortune.

Fancy Ganesh, God of Prosperity statue at a temple in Gujarat.


Argentina & Uruguay

July 24 -August 5,  2018
(Arrive July 24, depart for home August 6.)

Knitting and Culinary Tour in Argentina and Uruguay
Knitting & Dyeing Retreat
with …..

Main house of the Estancia.

Highlights of this summer’s trip include a visit to the Malabrigo yarn dyeing facility in Uruguay, five days in exciting Buenos Aires, a fascinating Street Art/Graffiti Tour, four nights and relaxing days at a traditional ranch (right) with an exclusive retreat/workshop with Joji Locatelli, well-known Argentinian knitwear designer (below), and a dye workshop with expert dyer Alejandra Pont. We will also go to the Malabrigo sheep ranch and meet the Merino and Corriedale sheep that produce the famously soft Malabrigo fiber! Of course we will visit charming Colonia del Sacramento, a UNESCO Heritage site across the river from Buenos Aires in Uruguay, and peek into the many shops on the “Yarn Street” of beautiful Buenos Aires. There in the capital city, we’ll also have some amazing typical meals and we’ll enjoy a flamboyant Tango Show with our Farewell Dinner.

Joji with Shawls 2016

Joji with beginnings of our lace shawls.

Details of flexible itinerary:
We land in Buenos Aires at the EZE airport where you’ll be met by Cynthia or her assistant for the taxi drive into the city. Check into our charming hotel in the peaceful and pretty Palermo section of Buenos Aires. Spend time settling into the Argentine rhythm of life and discovering typical foods. We’ll take a ferry north across the Rio de la Plata to Montevideo, Uruguay, and there we’ll tour the Malabrigo yarn dyeing mill where we will each dye a skein of the most lovely fiber; photo below.

Dyeing.Malabrigo 2016

Cynthia and Gerardo dye merino at Malabrigo.



We can’t miss the UNESCO Heritage site of historic Colonia del Sacramento, founded by the Portuguese in 1680, and one of the oldest towns in Uruguay. Lonely Planet calls this town “irresistibly picturesque.” We’ll check out the main sights, then stroll the streets marveling at the colorful old homes and pretty plazas. You can take photos, visit the cool shops and art galleries. We will meet up with some delightful Uruguayan women who have a knitting group, and see what they are working on! Lunch and dinner on your own in Colonia; it will be fun to choose some interesting places near the hotel.

After a couple of nights in this charming and colorful town, we take the ferry back to Buenos Aires to relax and see more of the city. Then we drive south to the most gorgeous traditional Estancia (ranch). During four tranquil days here, we’ll immerse ourselves in knitting, making the pattern created especially for BTSA knitters by Joji, using our own hand-dyed Malabrigo yarn. She has designed a pattern that uses the yardage in the weight of Malabrigo yarn that they will let us dye!

La Sererna sheepThere will be plenty of time to relax, knit, eat and walk over the Estancia’s 250 acres, then drink some wine and relax some more! In addition to Joji’s workshop and Alejandra’s dye lesson, Cynthia will present an Update to Andean Knitting, Powerpoint showing examples of some of the new innovations and techniques done in nearby Bolivia and Peru. The estancia house has roaring fireplaces in the library and living room so it is very cozy for hanging out in the evenings. During the days, we can walk outdoors or knit or read a good book, between cold drinks!

Food at the Estancia is plentiful and delicious; we will savor the famous Argentine BBQ meats and sausages called asado; vegetarians will have other options. At the Estancia, we will enjoy some of Argentina’s most classic dishes and typical desserts. And one day we will make our own lunch of empanadas! People from last year’s trip are still craving the rich homemade caramel topping called dulce de leche! Every day we will have tea and cookies in the afternoon, then dinner later, as is the custom.

La Serena asado

BBQ (asado) and Picnic at the sheep ranch.

After we return to the capital, we’ll enjoy the scene at the lively weekend art and antique market, then we’ll see the fascinating Recoleta Cemetery which contains many elaborate marble mausoleums, decorated with statues, in a wide variety of architectural styles. Many Argentine presidents are buried here, as well as Eva Peron and other famous people. Then you can wander along the “Yarn Street,” within walking distance of our hotel; we found that the shops sold mostly synthetic yarns, but there are a couple that carry other fibers, and some of the synthetic is quite unusual and appealing. Dinner on your own tonight.

The next and final day is at leisure: shop some more, relax and wander around the neighborhood, then pack up your suitcases for the trip home! Lunch on your own this free day. Fabulous Tango Show and Farewell Dinner on last night.

Plan your plane departure time for the next day, August 6, but don’t leave too early in the  morning so you can enjoy the TANGO SHOW and Dinner and wine at Angelito’s the night before.

Street art Colonia 2016TOUR PRICE: $4350.
(Single supplement available for $825.)
Includes 13 nights accommodation in double/twin rooms in comfortable hotels with private bath, and at the historic estancia (hacienda) with some shared bathrooms; all meals except a few lunches and dinners on free days when the group is not together, soft drinks and water during all meals, dye and knitting workshops by >>>>>>, taxi transportation into city from Buenos Aires airports on group arrival date, all interior transportation by private Mercedes Sprinter van and professional driver, city taxis, and modern ferry boats (BuqueBus) across the river between Argentina and Uruguay; Street Art Tour around Buenos Aires, Tango Show and dinner, skein of Malabrigo yarn to dye for workshop project, new unpublished knitting pattern by >>>>>, just for us.

Happy Knitters with Joji in blue, center; Cynthia and Alejandra at far right. 2015

Not included: International air fare, airport departure transportation, alcoholic beverages, personal items such as luggage porter tips, and between-meal snacks and drinks (if you haven’t eaten enough at our bountiful meals!).

We will arrange your airport departure transportation for you, but it is not included because everyone departs at different times/flights.

If you arrive at either Buenos Aires airport on a different date from the group arrival date, you’ll pay the taxi into town, but the hotel will arrange your pickup at the airport.

For more images, see the Argentine and Uruguay trip Photo Gallery.

Textiles and Machu Picchu

Postponed to 2021. 

Knitting, Weaving, Machu Picchu, and Lord of the Earthquakes Procession in Cuzco.

(Arrive on March 28, fly home on April 8) This exciting 11-night textiles and Machu Picchu adventure goes from the superb museums and gourmet restaurants of Lima the capital city, to the Andean highland villages – with the jungles of Inca Machu Picchu, and beautiful colonial Cuzco in between!

Trip Details

Either Cynthia, or the hotel driver if after 10 pm, will meet you at the Lima airport upon arrival, on March 28. Check into the Hotel El Patio, below, for a good night’s sleep in this charming and cozy place that is overflowing with flowers and greenery, in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood.


El Patio Hotel in Miraflores, Lima.

In the morning, after breakfast in the hotel’s downstairs breakfast room, we will have a brief orientation about seeing textiles and Machu Picchu logistics. A friendly money-changer will come to the hotel lobby to change our crispy clean, new dollar bills to soles, the Peruvian currency. Cynthia will hand out currency conversion charts to use until you get used to the money exchange. The van driver will pick us up at the hotel to begin our adventure in Lima, Peru’s bustling and prosperous capital city.

Lima has world-class museums, flowery parks, interesting architecture, a fabulous crafts market, and great restaurants where we will sample typical Peruvian cuisine. We’ll spend a very full day in Lima, first seeing the wonderful ceramic and textile collections of the Rafael Larco Herrera Museum, housed in a beautiful old mansion with flowery gardens. It has just been renovated and the presentations are superb, but we still love the storage section with the floor-to-ceiling glass shelves of mostly Moche ceramics, like a huge library of pots, all carefully arranged and grouped by subject, crab pots, squash-shaped pots, llama pots, etc.

Cynthia at Machu Picchu

After lunch, we’ll go to the recently revamped Amano Museum which has one of the world’s best Andean textile collections! Our Welcome Dinner will be at one of Lima’s many excellent restaurants.

Machu Picchu LOW

Machu Picchu from the back left side.

Next day we fly over the Andes to Cuzco, and from the airport, drive to lower altitude. We’ll spend the night in a pretty hotel in Ollantaytambo, in the Sacred Valley. In the little shops and the handicraft market there, we can look for interesting textile finds or you can climb to the ruins of Ollantaytambo. Early next morning, we’ll take the train to the incredible, mystical site of Machu Picchu. The ‘Sanctuary’ site was overgrown by trees and brush but known by the local people, when American Hiram Bingham re-discovered it in 1911.

An expert local guide will accompany you as you walk around the site, and will explain the Inkas and their culture. Machu Picchu (now a National Park) and Cuzco town itself are both UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Machu Picchu is lower than Cuzco and the environment is very different. Rock cliff faces bristle with bromeliads; orchids and begonias line the sinuous road to the site. That night we’ll sleep to the roar of the Urubamba River and visit the Inka sanctuary again the next day, if you wish.

LosMarqueses CUZCO-low

Patio of our heritage hotel in Cuzco.

Our return train journey to Cuzco will be in the afternoon on the second day. Upon arriving in town, we’ll check into our historical hotel, a beautiful stone Colonial mansion built in the 17th century, and restored in 2004. The hotel is in the perfect location, on a quiet side street two blocks from the central Plaza de Armas, and close to many other historical sights.

Peru - Bolivia

Weaver picking up warp patterns with llama bone.

Cuzco was the center of the Inka Empire and you’ll see Inka stonework at every turn around the central Plaza de Armas. We’ll take it easy the first day in the altitude, walking nearby to have lunch. Then we’ll visit the good exhibition at the small museum of the Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco (CTTC), founded and managed by dynamic Peruvian weaver Nilda Callañaupa [English-speaking]. Cuzco is safe and easy to walk around in, mostly flat cobblestone streets, with some hilly areas. From Cuzco, we will drive to several remote Andean communities on day trips (coming back to our wonderful hotel, above, to sleep).

Sacred Valley of the Inkas with terraced hillsides.

In the villages, you’ll meet textile artists and will be welcomed to learn some new weaving or knitting techniques from these masters. One day, we will have a dye workshop in a village with the  women there. You’ll buy white alpaca yarn at the Michell Alpaca store, close to the hotel, and we’ll dye it with natural dyestuff such as cochineal, yellow flowers, green leaves, and more. (You can buy/dye as much yarn or as little as you want.) This day is market day in the village too, so you can check out the little local market, now as full of tourist souvenir textiles as local produce. We will also visit Nilda’s brother’s studio; Angel paints charming watercolors depicting various animals from local myths and legends, such as foxes and mice. These sweet and original souvenirs are for sale at his studio.

Causa, typical yellow potato cold dish with crab, peppers, avocado.

Festival of the Earthquakes!

Monday afternoon is time for the fabulous procession of the black statue of Christ on the cross. We will have good seats in a restaurant above the plaza to look down on the celebration, take photos, and to toss the symbolic red flowers onto the statue as it passes below (for blessings and luck).

Feeding some very hairy creatures!

The procession includes several priests, deacons, and perhaps a cardinal, military marching men in uniform and brass bands, city dignitaries, school children, and college students. By the end of the long celebration, the participants are all sprinkled with red flowers thrown from balconies along the route. We’ll have our Farewell Dinner in Cuzco the last night, then next morning after breakfast (April 8), we fly to Lima. You can either connect onward to home that afternoon/evening, or go to the Hotel El Patio to relax. You may want to shop in the neighborhood until time to go to the airport. We will suggest convenient flights for arrival and departure.

Typical Chinchero hand-knit cap.




Price:  $3650   

Single Supplement: $440 

* To sign up, click this Sign Me Up! link and follow instructions.

Included in the Textiles and Machu Picchu tour:

  • All meals, breakfast, lunch and dinner– except two lunches and one dinner on free days, when group is scattered.
  • 11 nights accommodation (March 28- April 7) in beautiful, small boutique or heritage hotels, all locally-owned, safe, and friendly. Private bath, double or twin occupancy.
  • Two interior flights (Lima to Cuzco round-trip) one hour each.
  • Day Room on April 8 until you depart for the airport which may be in the wee hours of April 9.
  • Explanations by Cynthia, on woven ancient/pre-Hispanic and contemporary knit/woven textiles.
  • Knitting workshop to learn ingenious knitting techniques; yarn provided.
  • Dye workshop with Nilda, and natural vegetal dyes, cochineal, etc. (Fiber not included; you’ll decide how many skeins you want to dye and we’ll go together to Mitchell alpaca store near hotel to buy yarn for dyeing.)
  • Peruvian Master Weaver, Nilda Callanaupa to accompany group for Andean village visit.
  • All interior transportation by private van with professional, known driver.
  • Bottled water on van rides (please bring a refillable bottle for personal use, or re-use one there).
  • Visits to typical, remote Andean highland villages to meet the textile artists; picnic lunch in a village.
  • Entrances to all museums on itinerary of Textiles and Machu Picchu tour.
  • Licensed, professional English-speaking local guide and guide tips for Machu Picchu.
  • Airport arrival and transportation on group arrival date
  • One-day Machu Picchu entrance, and shuttle to the site—(2nd day about $75 optional)
  • Andean textile expert Cynthia LeCount Samaké and a Spanish-English-speaking assistant to lead tour and accompany entire itinerary.

Cynthia and Claudia in a kiwicha field, Chinchero highlands.

Claudia dyes alpaca yarn with rock lichen. Chinchero.










Herpetology of Amazon

Herpetology and Photography Tour of the Peruvian Amazon
January 30 – February 9, 2019  (Organized by MT Amazon Tours.)
This trip is now FULL of happy herpers. Try next year, 2020!

The amphibians and reptiles of the Amazon range from the stunningly ugly to the bizarrely beautiful. And there are lots of them!  This ten-day expedition includes stays at two field stations where we routinely turn up more than 100 species of frogs, toads, caecilians, salamanders, lizards, snakes, turtles and crocodilians. Some species we encounter almost every trip while others are so rarely encountered that even jaded “veteran” herpers get excited. Of course, there is no such thing as “jaded” when it comes to these fascinating and diverse animals!

We’ll all fly to Iquitos, Peru, by way of Lima to meet and enjoy a Welcome Dinner. Then early next day, we’ll travel to the first site by motorboat while our luggage is handled by hired porters.

Our expeditions are land-based at biology research  stations operated by Project Amazonas. Splitting time between the  stations lets us take advantage of the unique specialties of each site. We also have an open skiff for exploring aquatic habitats, and one station has some kayaks for paddling (and maybe fishing?) in the river. Our use of the field stations helps fund and protect these special sites, and we are also adding substantially to knowledge of the herpetofauna of the region. Having a “home base” allows us to explore the rain forest by day and night. Each field site has its own specialties.

The first site where we’ll stay is the Madre Selva Biological Station. The area is excellent for a large number of hylid frogs that favor aquatic emergent vegetation. Atelopus spumarius, the Amazon harlequin toad is fairly commonly found, and with some effort, a floodplain lake with a population of black caimans (one of three species of caiman on the preserve) can be sometimes accessed by kayak or dugout canoe.

The second site where we will spend the rest of our time is the Santa Cruz Forest Reserve, the site of Peruvian records for several frogs and caecilians. It has also become the “go-to” place for finding the legendary Lachesis muta, or South American bushmaster.

While at the two remote stations, we’ll sleep in comfortable “tambos” (a Quechua word meaning ‘wayside stopping place’) or little screened buildings on legs, see photo. Inside each tambo are two single beds with sheets, foam mattresses and of course pillows, all encased in mosquito netting. There are ‘Western’ toilets and air-temp showers in the bath block, so while you are experiencing a remote environment, you will be still be comfortable! We’ll eat three delicious ‘buffet-style’ meals a day in the dining hall, just off the kitchen. The Peruvian cook and his assistants who travel with us make an excellent variety of dishes daily, often utilizing local fruits and vegetables such as yuca and cocona.

An amazing diversity of creatures will be encountered on this fabulous trip! In 2018, we found interesting birds, weird insects,  and tropical flowers as well as 100 kinds of herps! The organizing company, MT Amazon is the ONLY tour company in the Peruvian Amazon that dedicates 100% of its resources toward the preservation and welfare of the Amazon rainforest and its people. Click here for more info about this MT Amazon tour.

Tour leaders for herpetology and photography tour:
Mike Pingleton:
(Expedition Leader/Photographer/Herp & Bird Expert)  For more than forty years, Mike has been pursuing amphibians and reptiles in the field. Along with covering much of the United States, Mike has also pursued herps in Mexico, Panama, Belize, Peru, and most recently, Thailand.

Mike has written extensively about field herping, including articles for Herp Nation and the International Reptile Conservation Foundation.  Mike is also the author of a how-to manual on Redfoot Tortoises; he has written several children’s e-books about herps, and is currently working on two books related to field herping.

Matt Cage: (Expedition Leader/Herpetology/Photographer).  Matt has extensive experience guiding trips and traveling to the American tropics.  Matt has been a trip leader for MT Amazon Expeditions since 2010. Matt has traveled extensively and photographed wildlife in the Caribbean, Mexico, Central and South America. You can see Matt’s photos in many published books and papers (and the boa and horned frog here). Matt is a Wildlife Biology major from Colorado State University and currently lives in the Denver metro area.

BTSA Help Projects

Girls have come to school during summer vacation to see the new bathrooms! August 2014

Girls have come to school during summer vacation to see the new bathrooms!

As we travel the world with Behind the Scenes travelers, we all make wonderful friends everywhere! We are welcomed into homes, studios, offices, markets, shops, and schools. The local people show touching generosity and goodwill to us and the travelers with us. Often when we visit a school,  and start talking with teachers and school principals, we discover a pressing need for BTSA Help projects and/or donations of supplies.

The West African school visits can warm your heart, and break it too: classrooms are crowded beyond belief. Students often lack basics such as books and chalkboards. Sometimes students must sit on the floor or the ground because there are not enough chairs or desks. Or there is no bathroom, as you will see in the story below.
Our generous travelers have taken up the call, and on every trip, they bring school supplies and books that the group delivers to one of three schools we have adopted in West Africa.

We also have recently partnered with the California-based Olive Seed NGO to bring books to Morocco’s remote villages in the high Atlas Mountains. The dynamic OliveSeed founder Barb Mackraz started Morocco Library Project (MLP) in January 2014. Libraries are primarily in Amazigh (Berber) communities in desert and mountain areas. Collaboration with teachers and students helps to understand the local context, and thus to curate an enjoyable collection for them. Working with after-school English clubs, they also co-develop project-based programs including creative writing and the collection of oral stories.


Students say thanks!

Students say thanks for the bathroom to donor Ruth A.

Naturally we are aware that these efforts are the proverbial ‘drop in a bucket,’ but donations have been received with heartfelt gratitude by the teachers and principals, and with joy by the students.

SOUTHEASTERN SENEGAL:  This past January 2014, Behind the Scenes travelers brought several duffle bags of school supplies to give out to a special school. Our nice driver, Idrissa (for whom education is very important), knew of a school that needed supplies. So one morning we stopped and met the Principal, Mr. Sy, at a school along our route.  He showed us his small office and two bare-walled classrooms, plus a third temporary bamboo-walled space where students were working on French grammar on the blackboard.

We gave Mr. Sy the many pens, pencils, notebooks, and so forth that people had brought to donate. Of course he was very happy, and very touched by their generosity. He impressed us all with his sincerity and devotion to his students.
4 Then we went around back, where a 5-foot length of light bamboo fencing had been propped up in a semi-circle, as a shelter for the girls “bathroom.” Mr. Sy confided that what they really needed was a decent bathroom for the girls so they could have privacy and not be teased by boys walking by. As we walked back to the van, we all felt a bit stunned at the conditions. But Ruth A. of New York declared that she was going to do something about the lack of a girls’ bathroom!

So over the next few months, many email and phone conversations resulted in Ruth’s sending money for the project. The plan was two cement block bathrooms each,  for girls and boys. Barou kept in close contact with Mr. Sy, as a “project manager” from afar.  Ruth had frequent updates about the progress of the project — until yesterday when we received these photos of finished bathrooms! One person can make such a difference. Bravo Ruth!

Barou talks to 3rd and 4th graders about the importance of doing well in school--in French and Bambara!

Barou talks to 3rd and 4th graders about the importance of doing well in school – in French, then in their first language, Bambara.

SEGOU, MALI: Another school we visit is Barou’s old elementary school in his hometown of Ségou. The situation there has changed drastically from when he actually learned the 3 Rs; he was shocked to find that his 8-year old nephew has 168 other students in his chaotic classroom, with one teacher and her assistant, right. At this school, the last two BTSA groups to visit Mali with us donated big bags of pens and pencils, chalk, erasers and composition books. We are anxious to return to Mali with groups and continue the BTSA help projects as soon as it becomes more peaceful.

Director in Segou receives BTSA travelers' donations to the school.

Director in Segou receives BTSA travelers’ donations to the school. Our niece Katya holds on tight to new-found friend, Anne Duffey.

Staff of Segou school and BTSA travelers pose next to the classrooms in the bare schoolyard.

Staff of Ségou elementary school and BTSA travelers pose next to the classrooms. There is no play equipment whatsoever in the yard.

According to travel expert Jeff Greenwald’s “Ethical Traveler” guidelines, we make a point of not handing out pens and pencils and other items to kids in the street, — because among other problems, this can create a wild scramble, with fistfights among the would-be recipients. Donated school supplies are always handed directly to the school director or teacher in charge, because they know how to distribute the items fairly. Teachers sometimes save special sets of pens or fancy pencils and notebooks for class prizes.

Barou, with Augustine who is receiving BTSA donations for students.

Barou, with Augustine, the principal, who is receiving the BTSA donations for her students.

Students with BTSA travelers and BTSA driver, Robert, second from left.

Students with BTSA travelers and BTSA driver Robert, second from left; Ghana.

VOLTA REGION, GHANA:  In Ghana, there is another little school that we have become very attached to, in the south-eastern area called Volta Region, close to the Togolese border. It’s also a primary (elementary) school with a fanatically devoted principal named Augustine. Classrooms are not as crowded here as in the Malian schools, but they have equally bare walls. The children here wear uniforms and have shining faces because Augustine has good communication and rapport with the parents and she insists that the students come to school with clean faces and clean uniforms. Over the past few years, many BTSA group members have brought rulers, colored chalk, paper pads, and so forth, even children’s books because English is spoken in Ghana. Tedi Siminowsky even cajoled her Berkeley, CA, book club into donating a whole duffle bag of supplies for this school!

Tedi, standing in center, and BTSA group, being thanked by Augustine and other teachers.

Tedi, at right-center, and BTSA group, being thanked by Augustine and other teachers.

Sometimes BTSA help projects take the form of medical aid. Tedi also brought a large bag of medical supplies for the Bandiagara Hospital Clinic when she traveled to Mali with us a few years earlier. I called a physician friend in Bamako to be sure the items would be useful in a dusty, rural hospital before she departed with them. He said none of the items needed high-tech connections to be used properly.  Barou was nervous about the supplies being sold by one of the hospital staff, so he called in the City Mayor and a local newspaper reporter to witness the hand-off of thousands of dollars of pediatric medical supplies. He made sure the officials knew the items were being DONATED and were to be distributed free when needed. Apparently BTSA was in the local paper, but we didn’t get a copy of the news.
Behind the Scenes Adventures has asked travelers to consider bringing things to give away for over two decades — and they have all been so generous!

Claudia Avila, overjoyed at all the goodies donated for the remote Andean villages; Beverly's socks are in the foreground.

Claudia Avila, overjoyed at all the goodies donated for the remote Andean villages; Beverly’s socks are in the foreground.

Knitters traveling to Peru and Bolivia bring extra yarn and needles for knitters.  They also bring the little hotel bottles of shampoo and soaps so prized by the women living in the Andean highlands. Beverly Johnson is the “Champion of Andean Giving;” one year she knit 27 colorful sweaters for toddlers in the mountain villages. Later she knit 36 pairs of warm socks for village kids in the Cuzco area. My old friend in Cuzco, Peru, Nilda Callañaupa who travels to the knitting villages with us, had to devise a lottery system for the sweaters and socks because everyone wanted them!

We hope that if you decide to travel with Behind the Scenes Adventures, you’ll consider bringing items to donate to participate in BTSA help projects. Ask what is appropriate and most needed in specific areas. Every little bit can help, and you have been most generous so far!




  Arts, Nature & Culture

Thatched roofs of houses around Kedougou, SenegalSenegal is a peaceful West African country that is not often visited, but it makes a wonderful destination because of the remote indigenous villages, bustling markets full of textiles and folk art, unusual birds and wildlife, interesting archeological sites, pretty colonial architecture, and the fishing villages along the river.

This trip will be led by Malian Barou Samake who speaks English, French, and Bambara, a language common in both Mali and Senegal. Baoru will be accompanied by Idrissa (guide/driver/friend from Senegal), and local guides speaking local languages for village visits and wildlife forays. Senegal is not big, but there are many interesting places to see, and this trip covers as much as possible in 2 weeks – while still offering enough time to relax, visit market places, look for birds, buy some art, meet the villagers, float in a pirogue, take great photos, hug a baobab, or read a book. The 14-night itinerary is summarized below. Note however that this is Africa, and especially in the remote areas, the best-laid plans sometimes develop a glitch or two. The itinerary should be considered “flexible!”Wooden Mask; Senegal

You’ll go from the pulsing, modern scene of the capital city of Dakar with its folk art markets and great restaurants, to a north coast bird sanctuary and the pretty colonial era town of Saint Louis. Then you’ll head south through the big Niokolo-Koba National Park, with its plentiful bird and monkey life, to the most remote corner of southeastern Senegal. Over the next three days, with a local guide, you’ll venture into hamlets and meet some of the Bedik and Bassari people who live in circular houses with neatly trimmed thatch roofs (photo at top). We’ll also see one small village’s busy weekly market, where people from many remote villages come together to exchange goods and gossip. Abyssinian Roller Bird

The photo below shows the round hotel bungalows (with private bath and fan or AC) you’ll stay in when we’re in the more remote areas. In cities and towns, we stay in good, comfortable hotels with private bathrooms and A/C.  For starters, these are the Hotel Djoloff in Dakar and Hotel de la Poste in Saint Louis. You should plan to arrive in Dakar (direct flights from Wash. DC and JFK) on January 18 and depart for home on February 1. January 31 is the last included night of hotel.UNESCO World Heritage logo

Join us and you will also see SIX UNESCO World Heritage sites! •    Island of Goree -off coast of Dakar •    Saint Louis Island – historical town •    Djoudj National Bird Sanctuary •    Niokolo Koba National Park •    Bassari Country: Bassari, Fula and Bedik villages •    Saloum Delta-Shell tumuli in mangrove landscape


TOUR PRICE:  $4195 Cost is for double occupancy for 14 nights hotel. If you want a single room, there is a single supplement fee of $660.

Price includes: 14 nights Accommodation in good, comfortable or best available hotels with private bathroom, all meals and soft drinks/water with meals (B, L, D) except one lunch and one dinner on free days; airport transportation for arrival on group arrival day, all in-country transportation by private van,  pirogue ride in the mangrove estuaries, entrances to all sites and museums on itinerary, local guides in several areas, English- and French-speaking tour leader accompanying entire trip, and bottled water in the van on road trip days. Senegalese Chameleon

Not included: International air transportation, airport departure transportation, tips to local guides, internet usage, laundry, alcoholic beverages, between-meal snacks/drinks/water; and personal interest events/excursions not on itinerary, such as a birdwatching or fishing tour.

Flights home on February 1.

Turkey: Hike and Sail

Walk, Cruise and Explore: Turkey
(We would love to return to Turkey when the situation is calmer….Check back for future dates.)


Behind the Scenes’ expert guide Zeynep (Zee) Parlak (below), and Cynthia LeCount Samake, will lead this exciting trip that combines traditional Turkish culture and textile viewing/shopping with hiking and sailing. Zee is a Turkish native, speaks excellent English and is a licensed, experienced, professional guide who consistently receives rave reviews. Combining knowledge of her country’s traditions and history with her personal anecdotes, she is a delight to travel with! Zee will be joined by a specialist nature/adventure guide who has been walking the Mediterranean coastal trails for decades; he will explain the historical Roman archeological sites we encounter. He also knows first-aid for hikers.

Happy Zeynep, guide in Cappadocia, Turkey. Photo: Steve Chun

Happy Zeynep, guide in Cappadocia, Turkey.
Photo: Steve Chun

Istanbul cafe with chicken doner, or vertical grill--yum!

Istanbul cafe with chicken doner, on vertical grill–yum!

We start and end in Istanbul, visiting the most renowned monuments and the wonderful bazaar with its array of new and old textiles, ceramics and other crafts. (If you’ve been here before, you may want to find other things to visit or re-visit.)

Eroded formations in Cappadocia; note tiny cyclists passing by.

Eroded formations in Cappadocia; note tiny cyclists below.

Then we fly to Cappadocia with its amazing eroded landscape, a World Heritage designated area. It also features unusual Byzantine-era cave churches with beautiful frescoes, a cooking class/demo of delicious country cuisine with local village friends, our wonderful, atmospheric cave hotel, a visit to a carpet weaving workshop, and an optional hot-air balloon ride—a fabulous experience for the adventurous. We’ll have a free day here, so you can begin your hiking trip in Turkey by exploring the village paths near our beautiful hotel—or you can relax, read, or soak in the pool.

Looking down on our Cappadocia hotel at night, and the pool, below.

Looking down on our Cappadocia hotel at night, and the pool, below.

Cappadocia Hotel.pool LOW

One of the unique rooms at Cappadocia Cave Hotel

One of the unique rooms at Cappadocia Cave Hotel

A short flight takes us to Antalya, where we’ll have lunch in the historical part of the city with its cobblestone streets. Next, we drive to Cirali and begin walking the Lycian Way, a waymarked foot-path linking ancient pathways, mule and caravan trails, and back country roads.  You’ll carry only a day pack with water, sunscreen and camera; the van will meet us each afternoon at the hotel, with our luggage.

DT.Lycian path.trees7856332

The Lycian Way takes its name from the civilization that once ruled the area from the 15th to 6th centuries BC. The section we will traverse passes through typical villages, mountain hamlets, and ancient Lycian and Roman sites, as we wend through pine, juniper and cedar forests. In many places, the trail offers panoramic views of the bright blue sea and the picturesque harbors and islands.

The trail is well-maintained and the walk is listed as one of the Ten Best Walks in the World. The route is graded “medium;” it is not level walking, but has many ascents and descents as it approaches and veers away from the sea. We’ll hike a section that is not too strenuous, and we will take the time to explore some of the numerous archaeological sites along the way—many of which can be accessed only by the footpaths.

Harbor of Oludeniz, Turkish Mediterranean.

Harbor of Oludeniz, Turkish Mediterranean.

Then we’ll leave land behind and board the TAYAZA, our pretty wooden yacht or gulet, to cruise the Mediterranean. We’ll travel by sail when time and weather permit, stopping in little bays to give you time to swim in the crystal clear water.We will also dock in many places and go onto shore to experience more of Turkish village life. An expert Turkish chef will prepare our meals on board with fresh and healthy ingredients; he might even let you help to layer a bourek or roll a grape-leaf sarma—staples of the delicious Turkish cuisine!

Wooden yacht called Tayaza.

Wooden yacht called Tayaza.

In Byzantine times, the gulet was developed for transport and fishing in Mediterranean waters; it has a sharp bow, a broad beam and a rounded aft. Modern gulets are 2-masted yachts, and still traditionally handcrafted of mahoghany, pine and teak. They are fitted with sails and motor, and modern conveniences, designed for leisurely travel along Turkey’s stunning southern coastline.

Lounge on the Gulet Tayaza.

Lounge – on the Gulet Tayaza.

After our sailing, we’ll drive to the Dalaman Airport for the flight back to Istanbul. The rest of that day, and the next are free days in Istanbul. Cynthia will be happy to help you find the sights that you’d like to see: For instance, the Topkapi Palace, the Chora Church, the Museum of Archeology, the Museum of Islamic Arts (just totally renovated), the Spice Bazaar, etc. There are so many things to do that are easy to find, in proximity of our hotel, that you will find that you quickly feel comfortable in Istanbul!

Flights home on October 16; note the arrival and departure dates carefully when buying tickets. If you would like to spend a few more days in Istanbul after the trip, when you know how things work–or even before the tour–let us know and we will give you the hotel contact info and arrange for the hotel’s taxi to pick you up at the airport.

TOUR PRICE: $6250 USD in double room or cabin

Includes the following:

  • 18 nights “Boutique” Hotel* or Pension and Gulet (yacht) accommodations–in double rooms/cabins with private bathroom*
  • 4 nights Istanbul; 3 nights Cappadocia; 5 nights along Lycian Route; 6 nights floating peacefully on gulet
  • Optional day-trips on land, from boat. Swimming while we are anchored is a treat in clear blue sea…
  • All meals, all soft drinks and water with meals, except 2 lunches and 1 dinner during free days.
  • (* This will change if the group is fewer than 8.)
  • International Arrival airport transfers to IST hotel (on group arrival dates)
  • Local transportation with modern, A/C high-top vehicle and professional driver.
  • Three Domestic flights (Istanbul to Nevsehir; Nevsehir to Antalya; Dalaman back to Istanbul)
  • English-speaking, professional, Turkish native Guide
  • Trip Photo Book – Your fabulous experience in living color; a paper book and link to e-book!
  • Entrance fees for all natural and historical sites, as on itinerary
  • Group Transfers for domestic flights from airports of Istanbul, Nevsehir and Antalya
  • On the Lycian trail, lunches are mostly picnic-style bag lunches.

Tlos-tombs, Turkey


  • International Flights
  • Travel insurance –*Required*  (Suggested companies info later.)
  • Airport Departure transfer from Istanbul. Hotel Kybele desk will arrange transportation for you with the hotel van driver.
  • Between-meal snacks and drinks, ie. trail snacks and gulet snacks (I will bring some.)
  • Alcoholic drinks, and 2 lunches and 1 dinner on free days.
  • Personal expenses such as internet and laundry– and optional activities such as the balloon ride.
  • Tips for guide and driver. Budget about $100-150 total per person for guide and about $75 total per person for the driver. Naturally tip amounts are up to your discretion – and your appreciation of the services.

NOTE: Behind the Scenes Adventures and Cappadocia Tours reserve the right to change the itinerary or accommodations when necessary or desirable, to ensure the group’s comfort or safety.  In case of poor weather and/or sea conditions, the cruise program is subject to change without notice.

 Necessary Equipment for hiking: (More info to come when you sign up.)

  • Comfortable trekking Shoes– (Vibram soles) and water-repellent (Gore-Tex)
  • Walking clothes (WindBreaker, water-repellent)
  • Day Pack with water bottle to re-fill
  • Walking Sticks/poles if you like to use them.
  • Sunscreen, Sun Hat
  • Sun Glasses, flashlight
  • Swimsuit and water shoes optional

Far Northeast India

No dates for 2018. May be repeated in 2019

Six-hundred year old Tawang monastery built when this region was part of Tibet.

Six-hundred year old Tawang monastery built when this region was part of Tibet.

Buddhist Festival, Apatani and Monpa Village Visits, Silk Weaving, Kaziranga National Wildlife Park
Limited to 11 people.

Northeastern India remains the least-visited and least-populated region of the country — and the most traditional. In the seven northeastern states, over 200 ethnic groups speak as many dialects; this diversity is reflected in the clothing, architecture, and traditional arts and crafts.

Torgya dancer birdHighlights of this 20-night adventure include an exciting three-day Buddhist festival at the huge Tawang monastery; spectacular mountain and jungle scenery, silk weavers in Dirang and Biswanath Ghat, several superb Hindu temple experiences, and visits to friends’ families of Apatani people in Ziro Valley. After being on land for almost two weeks, we’ll board a fine new riverboat as transportation for the remaining days: to visit Kaziranga National Park, Majuli Island, and the mask makers there;  tea plantations, and silk weaving villages. We will be traveling in the states of Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, location map below. This area is very different from the rest of India!  Photo gallery with more images here.


Cynthia at SeLa Pass with prayer flags.

Details: We’ll start out in Delhi, check into the hotel any time after 12 noon, for the night. Then we’ll see a bit of Delhi before we fly to Dibrugarh on the banks of the Brahmaputra River (state of Assam), meet our wonderful guide and the three drivers, and visit the local market. Cross the Brahmaputra River on a ferry, then visit a Nyishi village. Our English-speaking expert guide and one driver are from the Nyishi ethnic group so these village visits are full of fun and photo ops!
Hong wedding PRINTContinuing on, with special ‘Inner Line Permits’ in hand, we cross into Arunchal Pradesh and drive north to to the beautiful Ziro Valley, home of fascinating indigenous cultures who worship the Sun and the Moon –a religion called Donyi-Polo. We know many families here and we’ll be welcomed to village homes, meeting mothers and grandmothers with the nose plugs typical of the Apatani people. Traditional dinner with the guide’s family.

Next we drive to Nameri National Park and spend the night in comfortable tents at an Eco-Camp, surrounded by tropical plants and birds. Then we’ll continue to Dirang where Monpa silk weavers make red jackets patterned with colorful cotton supplementary weft.

Our wonderful guide is a serious bird-watcher and he loves to photograph them whenever possible. There will be an (optional) early morning bird-watching foray to see Black-Necked Cranes in the valley here. Our route progresses from lowland agricultural valleys to pine forest highlands, then we arrive at starkly beautiful Sela Pass at 13,700 feet. After the pass, we descend on the winding mountain road to Tawang situated at almost 10,000 feet in the Himalayan foothills, site of the huge and impressive monastery — and venue for the festival.

IMG_1886_2To fully experience the festival and this lively and spiritual town, we will spend several nights in Tawang, taking time also to visit the big monastery with its enormous Buddha, a nearby nunnery which welcomes visitors, another incredible monastery with intricate mural-painted walls, and the Tawang town market. The guide speaks several indigenous languages, and can relay questions to the people we meet. Tawang is about twenty miles from the Tibetan and Bhutanese borders, in forested foothills of the Himalayas.
After the festival, we return to Dirang over winding roads following the tropical hills and valleys. Banana trees, rice fields, and tropical foliage are common along this stunning route. In Dirang, we can visit the National Yak Research Center’s fascinating farm/ranch and meet the first test-tube yak, among her friends!

IMG_1426From Dirang, we’ll head southwest through Bomdilla (market scene here) then into Assam, admiring dramatic scenery with bright chartreuse vistas of rice fields and darker green tea plantations. We’ll board our flat-bottomed riverboat, the MV. Mahabaahu, for a relaxing journey along the mighty Brahmaputra River. An expert naturalist will be on board with us, offering informal Powerpoint presentations about the culture, fauna and the River environment.
The riverboat has an open sundeck, swimming pool (although January may be a bit cold for swimming), excellent cuisine, and pleasant air-conditioned cabins. The staff of chef, cooks, and others is delightful, and the food is delicious. The chef will do a cooking demo if you are interested, and you can visit the engine room of this 4-year old ecologically smart, modern boat.

My Cabin Mahabaahu

Cynthia’s cabin on the MV Mahabaahu

Internet is almost non-existent while we are on the boat, except when we sail by a town and there is slow connection. Each day we moor the boat and go ashore (if you like) in the shuttleboat, to whatever the area has to offer! In Kaziranga National Park where we will take jeep safaris with the naturalist and our guide to see some of the rare One-horned Rhinos and other creatures in the wild. Birds, deer and perhaps some elephants complete the wildlife safari experience. Otherwise, the boat trip is a time to relax, read a book, participate in the early morning yoga class, sketch a rhino, or just dream the day away.

Finally we arrive in Guwahati, visit Peacock Island with the famous and rare Golden Langur population, perhaps shop a bit at
FabIndia, and then in the afternoon of Feb. 5, fly back to New Delhi to depart that night (typical departures are around midnight or very early next am. of Feb. 6.)


(Ask about the Extension to the Taj Mahal and Bear Rescue Sanctuary for 2 nights/2 days before the trip. Both places are thrilling, if you haven’t been there!!)

MAP. arunachal-pradeshTRIP PRICE:  $6725
Includes 20 nights accommodation (double rooms with private bath) in good modern hotels in cities, and clean local hotels in remote areas. On the riverboat, the luxurious modern cabins are double share (singles subject to availability).
All local transportation by 3 excellent, comfortable SUVs with professional, good-natured drivers; luggage stored on top of vehicles, and protected with plastic tarps.
Also included are TWO interior flights Delhi to Dibrugarh round-trip (return from Guwahati), comfortable, modern riverboat sojourn down the Brahmaputra, all meals and tea breaks, water/tea/coffee and soft drinks with meals; bottled water on road trips and boat; all village visits and museum entrances as on itinerary; all temple/monastery/nunnery site visits, yak farm visit with yak geneticist guide, land excursions, as on itinerary; airport arrival and departure transport (on group arrival and departure days), Inner Line Permit fee for travel in restricted area of Arunachal Pradesh; professional English-speaking guide from Arunachal Pradesh, and American Cynthia Samaké to accompany entire itinerary– and WOW! a custom travelogue photo book of your trip. Lunch and dinner included on February 5, departure night.

Red silk and cotton jacket on loom, Dirang.

Red silk and cotton jacket on loom, Dirang.

Not included: International airfare, visa for India (get by applying online from Travisa.com before departure); travel insurance (required, usually available inexpensively when you buy your airline ticket online); alcoholic beverages, personal expenses such as guide and driver *tips and luggage porter tips, laundry, between-meal snacks; internet charges, and camera/video fees if required.

Tipping guidelines will be sent with trip information.

Book Now

Glorious Guatemala

October 23 – November 4, 2018  (Fly home on November 5)

Textiles, Tikal National Park (UNESCO site), All Saints’ Day festivities, and amazing Giant Kite Festival!

Barilette KITETrip Highlights: This glorious trip includes colorful textiles, ancient Maya archaeology, village visits to meet the people and watch them making textiles, an exciting annual festival and cemetery remembrances for All Saints’ Day or Day of the Dead, gourmet cuisine and beautiful hotels!

We’ll meet you upon arrival, with the hotel van driver, at La Aurora International Airport (GUA), in Guatemala City and spend the first night in a restful and beautiful modern hotel. Next day we visit the exquisite collection of traditional handmade dress in the Ixchel Museum, and the nearby Popol Vuh Museum with collections of Maya ceramics and stonework. Then we head for the peaceful and charming town of Antigua, and our pretty garden courtyard hotel. Next we’ll join local friends for day trips to the exciting All Saints’ Day (Day of the Dead) festivities, and the Giant Kite Festival activities in a nearby town.

TIKAL DoD Newsletter

The fabulous Tikal archeological UNESCO site.

From the central and convenient town of Antigua, we’ll visit local rural villages, and meet weavers and embroiderers. Antigua boasts gourmet restaurants, interesting architecture, a Handicrafts Market, and a small Textile Museum. One day we will have a delicious traditional lunch prepared by a local family, who will also demonstrate their weaving techniques for us.

Friends in the ikat or Jaspé weaving center of Xela will show us the techniques of dyeing and weaving the stunning and colorful cloth famous there.

Finally we fly north to the town of Flores, jumping off point for our visit to the superb Tikal National Park. The Park contains some of the most fascinating archaeological remains of the ancient Maya civilization.

Hand-woven huipil from Chajul.


Hand-woven and embroidered huipil (blouse) from Nebaj.

Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya. Though monumental architecture at the site dates back as far as the 4th century BC, Tikal reached its apogee around 200 to 900 AD. During this time, the city dominated much of the enormous Maya region politically, economically, and militarily.

With a professional English-speaking guide, we first visit the ruins, then we’ll have free time to explore the area on our own the next day; the trip includes two nights at Tikal in a comfortable hotel right in the park, so no time is spent driving back and forth. Tikal is a UNESCO World Heritage site. We’ll fly from Tikal directly to the International airport to connect with our flights home. Carefully plan your return flight schedule on the 12th and check with us before buying your return ticket. Flights back to Guatemala City (GUA) from Flores-Tikal arrive around 9am, so plan a homeward-bound connecting flight that leaves around noon or later on November 5. Contact us if you need ticket help from the BTSA travel agent, Nancy Smart.

Transportation is by private van with professional, local driver. Plenty of free time allows you to explore and shop on your own, or relax and enjoy the Guatemalan pace of life.

(Arrive on October 23 and fly home on November 4.)

Hotel in Panajachel

Our lovely hotel in Panajachel with tropical gardens.


Hand-embroidered huipil from Patzun.

COST:  $ 3650 Minimum 6 people, maximum 12
Includes 13 nights hotel accommodation in small, charming boutique hotels with private bath; round-trip flights for Tikal, all interior transportation, expert local English-speaking guide at Tikal, local textile expert on village visits, airport arrival transportation, porter tips for luggage, all meals except the few as noted on itinerary.
Arrive on October 23 and fly home on November 5.

To sign up for this tour, email first to [email protected]
to be sure there is space on the trip.

Then download the two documents below, print and fill out, then send with your $500 deposit as a personal check to:
Behind the Scenes Adventures
900 Roanoke Drive, #111
Martinez, CA 94553
(All the sign-up info is also on the page called Sign me Up! linked at top right of Home page.)


BTSA Contract 2016-2017


November 2013 2 Trips!


PERU – Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Highland Villages: November 4-16  (13 days)
BOLIVIA – Lake Titicaca, Sucre, Potosi , Highland Villages:  November 17-26 (10 days)

Cyn& Roberto

These two exciting tours are led by me, Cynthia LeCount Samake, and Claudia Avila [below, dyeing wool], who is Behind the Scenes’ South America expert.
I’m an expert on Andean culture and indigenous textiles, and the author of “Andean Folk Knitting: Techniques and Traditions of Peru and Bolivia.” I have been to Peru and Bolivia about 42 times in the past 35 years, and every trip is magical!

Claudia is an experienced and organized trip leader, with excellent Spanish, a ready smile and a positive attitude. Her main specialty is world cuisine, and on these two trips, we will eat in some of the best restaurants in Peru and Bolivia. She will show us local markets with unusual traditional ingredients which you may want to try–such as purple potatoes or roasted Guinea pig!

Claudia dyes hotBehind the Scenes cultural and textile tours are for learning, exploration, expanding our worlds–and having a good time! Everyone is welcome!  We will visit highland villages where the people make all their own clothes, and we will explore Inka sites such as Machu Picchu and the huge ceremonial site of Sacsa-huayman.  In Bolivia, we stay at the edge of Lake Titicaca and visit friends on the Urus Islands in the lake; we also visit a working mine in Potosi and sleep in a historic hacienda.

TWO TOURS for Fall 2013:
PERU – Cuzco, Machu Picchu, Highland Villages: November 4-16  (13 days)
BOLIVIA – Lake Titicaca, Sucre, Potosi , Highland Villages:  November 17-26 (10 days)

SOAR ad maybeYou can sign up for either trip or both together.

The PERU trip includes the possibility of attending the optional weaving conference called TINKUY, the Weavers’ Gathering, sponsored by the Center for Traditional Textiles in Cuzco (CTTC). The Center helps highland villages to market their textiles and has had a very positive economic impact on many remote areas.

If you don’t plan to attend the conference, Claudia and I have planned some fabulous activities, see itinerary below, including visiting villages. Textile Center Director, Nilda Callanaupa and I have coordinated the dates of the PERU TOUR so that Tinkuy falls at the end it, then the BOLIVIA TOUR begins. A tax-deductible donation of $250 to CTTC is included in the tour price for the Peru portion.

Note that 3 meals a day are included except in a few places where a lunch or dinner is ‘on your own.’ Breakfast is always included, in our hotels.

Nov. 4  Arrive in LIMA today, usually in the evening. No visa necessary; they will stamp our passports at Immigration in the airport. You will be met at the airport by Claudia and/or Cynthia and taken to our charming Miraflores neighborhood hotel for a good night’s sleep. (If you arrive after 10 pm, the hotel will send the hotel taxi driver with a Behind the Scenes Adventures sign to pick you up.)

Nov. 5  A wonderful day in the temperate seaside city of LIMA! Two great museums: Larco Herrera for some textiles but especially Moche period portrait pots and other vessels such as bats, snakes, llamas, crabs, potatoes, even corn pots; and Amano Museum for fabulous pre-Hispanic textiles, especially Chimu cotton gauze weave shrouds. We’ll have lunch and dinner at some of Lima’s great restaurants. Each day during the trip, Claudia will take us to lunch and dinner at special places where she loves to eat!Pitumarka WVR.PPT

Nov. 6   Fly over the Andes to CUZCO, 1 hour flight. Check in to our centrally-located and heritage building hotel. Eat lunch then stroll around city to acclimate.
Visit the excellent Museum at Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco, CTTC. Buy white alpaca yarn from the Michell alpaca shop, around the corner from the hotel, for dyeing on Friday–white, and maybe some of the gorgeous colors!

Nov. 7  Textile village visit–Visit the Andean village of Pitumarca to meet our old friends here who are amazing knitters and weavers. You will be able to see the contemporary knitting and weaving of this Quechua-speaking community and buy some of their beautiful work. Picnic lunch in the weaving compound.
Visit the famous little Andahuaylilas church; meet male knitters from Sallac who employ the cleverest techniques for their complex, multicolored caps.

Nov. 8  Drive about an  hour, over beautiful rolling hills of quinua and potato fields, to Chinchero (Nilda Callanaupa’s village). We will have a half-day natural dye workshop with the ladies here. Color your white alpaca yarn with cochineal, one of their favorite dyes, or another choice from their supply of flowers, leaves and lichen that make their rich colors. Picnic lunch. Rest of afternoon free in Cuzco.

Nov. 9  Train to Machu Picchu National Park (UNESCO Cultural Heritage site), visit the magical place with professional guide, then free time in the ruins; overnight in Machu Picchu Village at Terrazas del Inka.


Nov. 10   Visit MP National Park again in the morning. The first shuttle bus departs for the site around 5:30 am. People talk of the ‘sunrise’ at MP, but in reality, it is most often clouded over. Maybe you’ll be lucky!
In any case, if you arrive early, you can climb Huayna Picchu, the peak at the far end of Machu Picchu. The climb is much easier than it looks, because there are steps the whole way, and even a firmly attached chain to hang onto, on the steepest part. I have climbed it 3-4 times, and the view is absolutely spectacular from the top! Return to Cuzco on afternoon train.

Nov. 11  Stroll through Cuzco town, peek into the Cathedral, continue across the Plaza de Armas, to the street of the 12-angled stone, one fabulous stone in a whole foundation of amazing stonework walls. Continue to Plaza San Blas, visit the Pre-Hispanic Museum, have tea or a drink at the beautiful old convent hotel. Walk back down and have lunch at Jack’s, just in case anyone is feeling homesick! After lunch, walk down Triunfo Street, visiting favorite jewelers, and the suede/textile bootmaker.

Nov. 12  FREE morning. Lunch then drive up to Sacsahuayman, spectacular Inka fortress /ceremonial site above Cuzco. Sacsahuayman is known for amazingly huge stones fitted into zigzag walls, set around a grassy central area. Continue to the Inka fountains/’baths’ at Tambomachay and admire the fabulous stone carving. We will also visit the Inka Museum, near the Plaza de Armas, above, right. 

OPTION: TINKUY event begins late this afternoon.

Cuzco cathedral

Nov. 13  Ascend to a remote village and meet many of my old friends: knitters, weavers and 7-year old Little Cynthia, my namesake! below, with her mom, Andrea. (Lil Cynthia’s father, Roberto, is in the photo above, with me also.)  This high, barren village is the least prosperous of the Textile Center’s project villages; you might bring school supplies that we can donate to the teacher here. These people will be working on their textiles.
You can feel 
comfortable here and in other CTTC project villages, watching interesting techniques and taking pictures. The weavers and knitters may have some intricately patterned textiles that you can purchase directly from the maker; items you buy greatly help to improve their standard of living; see weaver working on a complex pattern at right. Dinner on your own.Andrea + Little Cynthia-low

OPTION: TINKUY activities during the day.

Nov. 14  In the  morning, we’ll head out of Cuzco by van to see two fascinating sites. First Moray, the circular Inka agricultural terraces: note in photo below, right, the dots on different levels at 12 o’clock are people! Then we’ll view Maras, the huge site of salt evaporation pits, built into a hillside.

Visually Maras is also spectacular, white basins ringed with brown earth. When we return, we’ll have lunch in town then free time in the afternoon. (Cynthia can show you favorite little stores and artisans’ workshops if you want to buy something special.)    OPTION: TINKUY activities during the day.

Nov. 15  Morning visit to TicaTica, the women’s knitting cooperative that friend Hilda organizes, to see their work. These women design and make beautifully patterned alpaca sweaters, by hand and on basic knitting machines. There will be some of their colorful sweaters available here to buy. Lunch with the ladies.

After lunch, we’ll visit a ceramic studio where they make vessels but also buttons and beads. In late afternoon, free time. I will teach a mini-workshop on Andean decorative techniques to anyone interested. I can show you the little scalloped edging found on many knitted caps (chullos), and the bobbly finger-crocheted yarn made in several villages and incorporated into the knitting. Dinner on your own.   OPTION: TINKUY activities during the day.

Alpacas-cropNov. 16    FREE DAY in Cuzco. (Depart for home tomorrow, November 17 OR continue to Bolivia on the 17th.)

For the BOLIVIA TEXTILE TOUR travelers, this is your last day in Cuzco before we depart tomorrow for Lake Titicaca and Bolivia. By now you will know Cuzco well, and will probably want to return to some shops for final purchases, or museums for some more time with the ancient pieces. You might just hang out at the Starbucks above the plaza and people-watch all day! Lunch on your own. Andean Folk music show with Farewell Dinner.


PERU TEXTILE TOUR: $3705 plus $395 Tinkuy conference registration fee payable to CTTC
PERU TEXTILE TOUR: $3795 without conference

Both prices include a tax-deductible $250 donation to Textile Center of Cuzco.

Single Supplement  $550

• 13 nights accommodation in boutique or heritage hotels
• All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except a few meals on your own, as noted)
• Bottled water in the van on day trips
• LIMA – CUZCO round-trip flight – (or one-way if you continue into Bolivia)
• All transportation within Peru by private van
• All group airport arrival and departure transport on designated arrival day
• All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on the itinerary
• Natural dye workshop in village (you buy the white alpaca yarn)
• 2 Spanish- and English-speaking tour leaders/textile expert to accompany the tour
• Private professional, licensed guide at Machu Picchu.

To combine the PERU and BOLIVIA tours, American has good prices on Muli-City fares, for combining the itineraries.  FLY into LIMA [code LIM] and FLY HOME from LA PAZ [code LPB]


Altiplano.AlpacaNov. 17  Visit Pisac Market on our way out of Cuzco. Drive to Puno, over the high altiplano, seeing herds of specially bred white alpacas along the way. Stop to photograph them and the snowy peaks in the distance. Cross the La Raya pass at almost 15,000 feet, get out and feel the altitude take your breath away! Arrive in Puno for the night, at the edge of Lake Titicaca.

Nov. 18  Early next morning, we’ll board a motorboat to cross a small part of Lake Titicaca to visit the Urus Islands, home of my young god -daughter, Anita, above right. Her parents and family will show us island life and their traditions, then we head back to Puno. Pick up our bags from the hotel, and drive in the van to the border with Bolivia. Cross the border (we can get visas upon arrival–at a steep $135) and continue over the high plains dotted with small villages near the lake. Overnight in Copacabana at the edge of Lake Titicaca in a beautiful eco-hotel, where every room has a lake view, excellent restaurant here.

Nov. 19  Explore the little town of Copacabana this morning. There is an impressive Moorish-influenced Cathedral on the small plaza; check out the beautiful hand-carved doors with images of Lake Titicaca myths. Also there is a Poncho Museum that may be open. The super-energetic can climb up the hill of the Seven Stations of the Cross, for amazing 360 degree views out over Lake Titicaca.  Bus for LaPaz (same good company as hotel) leaves around 1pm, after we have lunch of delicious pink lake trout or other dish.  Arrive La Paz in a few hours and check in to hotel. Walk around the neighborhood which is in the interesting “Indian Market” area. We will have more time to explore La Paz when we return. You may also leave bags at the hotel when we head south to Sucre. Overnight La Paz.Potolo-Bolivia

Nov. 20   Up early for morning flight from LaPaz to Sucre, 1 hour flight. Check into our lovely hotel, in an 18th C mansion, with wonderful view terraces full of flowers. Lunch, then visit ASUR Textile Museum (Museo de Atre Indigena), in a 17th C colonial home. This small museum shows excellent traditional textiles from the towns surrounding Sucre—Ravelo, Potolo, Tarabuco, Candelaria, etc. Watch weavers at work in the courtyard, using different techniques and oblique looms (which we did not see before on our visits to weaving villages in Peru). Visit University Anthropology Museum, with good folklore and ethnography exhibits, if time/energy allow.

Relax on the hotel’s rooftop terraces or walk around Sucre’s pretty central plaza, only three blocks from our Hotel. Dinner near the hotel. (Since we will be coming back to this hotel, you may leave extra bags here in safe storage while we are on the road.) Overnight Sucre.

Nov. 21 Potosi
Drive in van to Potosi (3 hours with interesting stops along the way), considered the world’s highest city and known for the riches and tragedies of its mining history.  The founding of the city and the discovery of fabulously rich silver veins went hand in hand, in the mid-1500s. By the end of the 18th C, Potosi had grown into the largest and wealthiest city in all of Latin America, and many beautiful colonial churches and building still hint at this former splendor.

Lunch, then to the HACIENDA in afternoon. The Hacienda is a peaceful retreat in the valley near Potosi, and it dates from colonial times when the opulent mansion was owned by the Viceroy of Toledo. The hacienda remains a working farm, producing vegetables and dairy products for the city. Staying there is like relaxing in a comfortable home with a gracious friend—where antiques abound, and the library, private chapel and museum are fascinating. The focal point of the living room is a cozy fireplace. Family-style dinner at Hacienda, at long, antique table in historical dining room. Overnight POTOSI hacienda, below.

Hacienda PotosiNov. 22  Return to Potosi for a fascinating visit to a Cooperative Mine in “Cerro Rico” or rich hill. (Mine Tour is optional. Anyone claustrophobic can stroll around town.) Silver originally mined here is all gone; now they search for lead and other minerals. You will be outfitted with hard hats, slickers, boots and miners’ lamps. Be prepared for walking over muddy gravel through low tunnels for “an unforgettable look at debilitating working conditions of men doing the job from Hell, that should have gone out with the Middle Ages,” says Lonely Planet. Some mines are larger and have larger tunnels, better to visit. If you don’t want to visit the mine, you could visit the handicraft market, or the Royal Mint (Casa de la Moneda). Colonial coins were produced on a variety of interesting equipment, and the building also now includes a museum of colonial treasures. Lunch.

If time, visit the Carmelite Santa Teresa convent with its amazing art and artifacts, then stroll the Handicraft Market, before returning to Sucre for the night. Overnight Sucre.

DSCF2513Nov. 23  Drive out to weaving villages, 52 km. to Potolo. There’s an easy 2 to 4 hour walk through the countryside — possible for anyone interested. The villages of Potolo and Ravelo are indigenous towns where local women weave the well-known Jalq’a red and black textiles, above right, on loom. We will be privileged to visit local homes and see how the people live. These indigenous communities that belong to the Jalq’a ethnic group maintain their traditional culture in the architecture of the houses, the agricultural techniques and especially in the handmade textile production, which is totally unique.Possible to walk in this area, over age-old trails. Overnight SUCRE

Nov. 24  Buffet breakfast, then early morning van (2 hours) to Sunday Tarabuco Market. People living in this area maintain their traditional culture, evident intheir unusual dress, interesting customs, and Quechua language. Men typically wear rounded, black leather helmets, called monteras, reminiscent of the conquistadors’ helmets, with colorful hand-woven ponchos, pants and sandals. Women also wear hand-woven clothing with different hats, and adolescents wear yet another type of hat, a tightly crocheted, rigid, black version called a “tadpole” hat because of the tail down the back.KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

At the colorful, bustling market, villagers from nearby communities converge to purchase or barter for food and supplies. The market is quite touristic, but interesting nevertheless, and they sell some marvelous textiles in nearby stalls/shops. After lunch, we’ll continue back to Sucre. Free afternoon in Sucre. Overnight Sucre.

Nov. 25  Flight back to La Paz. Check back into our hotel, walk down Sacarnaga Street for lunch then spend the rest of the day exploring La Paz on your own. Overnight La Paz.

Nov. 26. Free day in La Paz. Or you could take an optional day trip to the archeological site of Tiawanaku. Our hotel’s tour department has convenient and good Tiawanaku tours which include lunch, for a nominal cost. The Museum of Ethnography and Folklore is very interesting with drawers full of very accessible textiles to admire. (Fine hand-knitted cap from North Potosi Department, below.) Lunch on your own.  Farewell Dinner. Overnight La Paz.

No_PotosiNov. 27 FLY HOME FROM LA PAZ, BOLIVIA. Breakfast only included today. Transportation to airport included this day Please note that we do not make airline reservations, but will be happy to give you the contact info for our good travel agent.

To combine the PERU and BOLIVIA tours, American has good prices on Muli-City fares, for combining the itineraries. FLY into LIMA [code LIM] and FLY home from LA PAZ [code LPB.

Single Supplement $400

If you want to join the Bolivia tour but not the Peru tour, you’ll fly into Lima, and then fly home from La Paz, so that you experience the altiplano and Lake Titicaca.

This route is done most easily on American Airlines, at around $1050 now from San Francisco–and the flight one-way to Cuzco is only $144 in November on LAN.

OR call about meeting the group in LaPaz, Bolivia. This possibility will cut 2 days off the itinerary, and the price will be different.

• 10 nights accommodation in boutique hotels, historical buildings or private hacienda
• All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except a few meals on your own, as noted)
• LA PAZ to SUCRE round-trip flights
• All transportation by private van to villages
• All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on the itinerary
• Visits to textile-producing villages near Sucre and Potosi
• 2 Spanish- and English-speaking tour leaders/textile expert to accompany the tour
• Specialized local guide for village tours

Be sure to call Cynthia if you have any questions about these itineraries.

Perhaps you have another idea about combining routes!   1-510-275-3662


Ladies going to Mass in Tehuantepec August 9-22 2013

Travel with the Experts!
Join Chloe Sayer, expert in Mexican culture and textiles, and Cynthia LeCount Samaké, expert in indigenous world textiles, on this 14-day discovery tour to the beautiful and tranquil state of Oaxaca, Mexico.

A comfortable hotel in Oaxaca City will be the base for day-trips to villages, local arts and crafts markets, magnificent colonial churches, superb museums and fascinating archaeological sites.  We will also visit many renowned artists in their studios; these are artist friends that Chloe has known for decades and has interviewed for her textile and costume books.

Woman attending vela, lady.2013

Then we travel south to the Isthmus region to attend the lively Festivals of the Assumption, meeting the Zapotec women who are world-famous for their spirit, beauty, and gala attire! We will also visit the skilled embroiderers who create the festival clothing.Isaac Vasquez.Chloe

As you see here, we love to dress in typical gala style for the fiesta; we’ll show you an entire market full of the beautiful embroidered huipiles for you to buy, or even rent so you can join the festivities!

Later we return to Oaxaca City for free time to enjoy the charms of the shady plazas, the superb restaurants and the fascinating markets and shops.

Arrive on August 9, depart for home on August 23.

Adventure in Turkey

Installment #1: Adventure in Turkey with the Muchachas–‘The Girls’ from Philly
I landed in Istanbul, one of my favorite places in the world, on a sunny morning in May. The “Muchachas,” a group of friends from Pennsylvania, had asked me to lead a private textile tour of Turkey and I had arrived a few days early. Although I hadn’t yet met the ladies, they’d been delightful in all correspondence thus far, and I was looking forward to the adventure with them.


At the Kybele Hotel, the friendly owners welcomed me back. Vefa stood smiling at the desk, under colorful hanging lamps, just a few of the thousand glowing lamps that give the Kybele its cozy ambiance. The brilliant turquoise paint job outside only hints at the Bohemian atmosphere of the establishment!
The hotel is named after the Phrygian Mother Goddess or Earth Goddess, Kybele (Cybele to the Greeks). Pretty cool name for a hotel owned by three brothers!
The Kybele Hotel is full of rich colors and beautiful Ottoman-period antiques. A strong kid sprinted up the winding marble staircase with my bulging suitcase, up two floors to my room. The suitcase must weigh about a ton–with all those chocolate bars I bought in Geneva on my way to Turkey–dark chocolate with creme brulé, dark with quinoa, milk with caramel crispies, dark with nougat crunch–all easy decisions in the block-long chocolate aisle. The Swiss have as many chocolate choices as we have cereal.
I headed up Yerebatan Cadessi [Street]. Along the pedestrian street, past numerous ATMs, cafes, fancy jewelry stores, and a Starbucks…in 6 minutes I was at old stone arch leading to the Nuruosmaniye Mosque, next to the Grand Bazaar. The mosque was undergoing repairs and restorations, and a serious heavy-gauge iron-roofed structure covered the walkway, protecting the faithful and the bazaar shoppers from any ancient chunks that might fall from above. Each tall, thin minaret was in a scaffolding cage and workmen tiptoed around the uppermost levels, scraping and patching.
I walked on through the huge arch, into shopper’s paradise. Istanbul’s Grand Bazaar is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, with over 4,000 shops.  Construction on the bazaar began in 1455! The whole complex now also contains two mosques, two hamams [Turkish baths], four fountains, and multiple restaurants and cafes. It’s also a textile collectors’ heaven. And the carpet sellers, who used to drag shoppers in by the sleeve, seem to have been re-trained to realize that tourists are more likely to buy a rug when not harangued into entering the shop and being force-fed little glasses of tea!
I was starving, after 15 hours of tiny airplane meals. I walked past long rows of shops, not pausing once to check out the sequined belly-dance outfits, hand-painted ceramic tiles, sleek leather jackets, pirated Prada bags, or the Evil Eye protector key chains. There it was! my favorite restaurant called Pedeliza, in a little courtyard, with tables all set up for lunch. Like many restaurants in Turkey, here the food is already prepared, which works perfectly for this kind of cuisine, often served at room temperature.
I looked over the selection of savory mixtures, and pointed to my lunch–a stuffed eggplant dish called “The Imam Fainted,” from pleasure I presume, since it is absolutely delicious. Another theory is that the thrifty Imam fainted when he found out how much expensive olive oil is used in the preparation… In the US, we don’t eat much eggplant and I think it’s because we don’t cook it enough; here eggplant dishes are baked in olive oil, into perfect tenderness, with tomatoes, cumin, chile and green peppers. Other eggplant dishes include cubes of lamb or ground beef, and are equally popular. The Pedeliza Restaurant is only open from noon to 3, and by that time the delicious food is GONE!

As I ate, I watched the chef at the outside corner of the restaurant, slicing thin pieces off a tower of meat, called döner kebab, literally ‘rotating roast.’ Traditionally made of lamb, döner kebab is cooked on a vertical spit and sliced off to order. A chicken version has become popular recently, and chefs sometimes layer carrots with the meat, so that the tower of succulent white meat is decorated with orange circles. I devoured my lunch more quickly than is polite, drank water from the little clear plastic container at my place, and paid the bill. Then I hurried off to find the textile stalls.

PERU: Cuisine, Textiles and Machu Picchu


March 10 – 23, 2016 (Arrive March 10; depart for home March 24)

El Senõr de los Temblores LOWThis trip includes the Cuzco Festival of ‘Lord of the Earthquakes,’ textile villages, exquisite cuisine, and Inca architecture at Machu Picchu.

Trip Highlights:
•  See the spectacular ‘Lord of the Earthquakes’ festival in Cuzco.
•  Visit textile villages to meet the knitters and weavers, dyers and spinners.
•  Dine in Peru’s most celebrated restaurants.
•  Thrill to Machu Picchu’s Inca engineering marvels.
•  Learn to prepare Lima’s specialties with a renowned Chef.
•  Savor a traditional village lunch with a local family.
•  Toss good luck red flowers onto the Christ statue in the procession.
•  Remember this once-in-a-lifetime experience with a custom Recipe
and Photo BOOK documenting your trip.


Vero and CynThis exciting new trip focuses on experiencing cuisine in Peru from a wide variety of cultures, influences, and climates –  from Lima’s haute cuisine spots to a typical savory soup enjoyed with Andean highland villagers. In between we’ll eat at neighborhood warikés (small out-of-the-way places) known locally for their superb food.

We will sample foods from the jungle to the highlands, and from the desert to the coast. Cuisine differs markedly from Trujillo in the north, to Arequipa in the south, and from dry coastal Lima to the verdant Amazon region– with many fusion elements in between.

MercadoOCTOPUSThis trip is organized and led by Cynthia LeCount Samaké (with 30 years travel experience in Peru)  and Peruvian Veronica Samanez, above.  We will see traditional Andean foods growing in the fields, such as red amaranth, quinua and quiwicha, native potato varieties, fava and lupine beans, and we’ll try various dishes incorporating them.

You will be able to decide what dishes to order. Adventurous meat eaters can try new and surprisingly delicious dishes such as herb-stuffed guinea pigs and grilled alpaca, or old favorites like Pollo a la Brasa. In a village high above Cuzco, we will watch the knitters and weavers, then share a traditional lunch of soup and boiled corn with indigenous Quechua speaking friends living there, photo below.

gastroSeafood lovers flock to Lima for the tender lime-drenched ceviche, paired with a savory yellow potato causa layered with a mixture of crab or tuna and other ingredients; right. The list is endless! Peru has a lively restaurant scene and we will dine in some of the oldest and most famous, as well as some of the newest and hippest places.

TRIP COST:  $4250

Single Supplement  $395


• 14 nights accommodation in boutique or heritage hotels
• All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except 3 meals on your own in Cuzco)
• Bottled water in the van on day trips
• LIMA – CUZCO round-trip flights
• All transportation within Peru by private van
• All group airport arrival and departure transport on designated arrival day
• All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on the itinerary
• Natural dye workshop in village (you purchase the white alpaca yarn)
• Spanish- and English-speaking tour leaders/textile expert to accompany the tour
• Private professional, licensed guide at Machu Picchu.
• Cooking class and demo in Lima
• Photo and recipe book documenting your journey!


Peru: Textiles & Festival

March 10 – 23, 2016 (Arrive March 10; depart for home March 24)

El Senõr de los Temblores LOWThis trip includes the Cuzco Festival of ‘Lord of the Earthquakes,’ Andean highland textile villages, exquisite cuisine, Machu Picchu, and beautiful, colonial Cuzco.

Trip Highlights:
•  See the spectacular ‘Lord of the Earthquakes’ festival in Cuzco.
•  Visit textile villages to meet the knitters and weavers, dyers and spinners.
•  Dine in some of Peru’s most celebrated restaurants.
•  Cooking class and Pisco-tasting in a private home in Miraflores.
•  Thrill to Machu Picchu’s Inca engineering marvels.
•  Savor a traditional village lunch with a local family.
•  Learn about ancient Peru at excellent museums.
•  Remember your fabulous experience with a custom Recipe
and Photo BOOK documenting the trip.

This adventure is organized and led by Cynthia LeCount Samaké (Andean knitting/textile expert with over 30 years travel experience in Peru) and Peruvian, Veronica Samanez from Miraflores, Lima.

Andrea + Little Cynthia-low

Andrea and Little Cynthia!

Cynthia (or the hotel driver if after 10 pm.) will meet you at the Lima airport, upon arrival, on March 10. Check into the Hotel El Patio, below, for a good night’s sleep in this charming and cozy place that is overflowing with flowers and greenery, in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood.

In the morning, we’ll all meet at breakfast in the hotel’s downstairs breakfast room. A friendly money-changer will come to the hotel lobby to change our dollar bills to soles, the Peruvian currency. Cynthia will hand out currency conversion charts to use until you get used to the money exchange. The van driver will pick us up at the hotel to begin our adventure in Lima, Peru’s bustling and prosperous capital city.

EL PATIO-LIMALima has world-class museums, flowery parks, and interesting architecture. We’ll spend a very full first day in Lima, seeing the wonderful ceramic and textile collections of the fabulous Rafael Larco Herrera Museum, housed in a beautiful old mansion with flowery gardens. It has been renovated recently, and the presentations are superb, but we still love the old storage section with the floor to ceiling glass shelves of Moche ceramics, like a huge library of pots, all carefully arranged and grouped by subject, crab pots, squash-shaped pots, llama pots, etc. After lunch, we’ll go to the private Amano Museum which has some of the world’s best textile collections–drawers and drawers of amazing pieces. Our Welcome Dinner will be tonight at one of Lima’s many excellent restaurants.

Vero and Cyn

Cynthia and Veronica toast over a plate of causa.


Next few days in Lima we’ll see the fascinating adobe pre-Inca ruins south of town called Pachacamac, and the huge pyramid right in downtown called Huaca Pucllana. We’ll visit overflowing local produce and food markets where  Limeños shop for everything from purple potatoes and cocoa pods to exotic cheeses and meats.

_DSC3061In Lima, we’ll have a Pisco-tasting and cooking class at a private home in Miraflores. And in our restaurant forays, you will be able to decide what dishes to order. Adventurous meat eaters can try new and surprisingly delicious dishes such as herb-stuffed guinea pig or grilled alpaca, or old favorites like Pollo a la Brasa, grilled chicken.

Peru has a lively restaurant scene with internationally known chefs. In both Lima and Cuzco, we will dine in some of the oldest and most famous, as well as some of the newest and hippest places. Seafood lovers flock to Lima for the tender lime-drenched ceviche, paired with a savory yellow potato causa layered with a mixture of crab or tuna; below. The list is endless! Cuisine differs markedly from Trujillo in the north, to Arequipa in the south, and from dry coastal Lima to the verdant Amazon region– with many fusion elements in between. We’ll sample foods from the jungle to the highlands, and from the desert to the coast.

Best Causa LOW useNext we will fly over the Andes to beautiful Cuzco, 1 hour flight. Then we will drive directly down to the Sacred Valley at lower altitude which will help us to acclimate. Relax at the hotel and the next day we’ll board the train for a ride through beautiful scenery to Machu Picchu National Park (UNESCO Cultural Heritage site). We’ll visit the magical place with a professional English-speaking guide, then have free time in the ruins; overnight in Machu Picchu Village.

Time next morning to visit Machu Picchu site again. The first shuttle bus departs for the site around 5:30 am. People talk of the ‘sunrise’ at MP, but in reality, it is most often clouded over. Maybe you’ll be lucky! Note that you now need a separate ticket to climb Huayna Picchu (the peak in back of MP with a fabulous view of the site) and they are limited. (If you are interested, let me know as soon as possible; so I can get the details to you.)

Hotel Marqueses in Cuzco

Hotel Los Marqueses in Cuzco

The climb to Huayna Picchu is easier than it looks, because there are steps the whole way, and even a firmly attached chain to hang onto, on the steepest part. I have climbed it 3-4 times, and the view is absolutely spectacular from the top! Climbing up to the Gate of the Sun gives a similar breathtaking view. Take the VistaDome train back to Cuzco in the afternoon and check in to our centrally-located and heritage building hotel, right. Eat lunch then stroll around city to acclimate. We’ll stroll downhill to visit Nilda Callanaupa’s excellent Museum at Center for Traditional Textiles of Cuzco, CTTC. Buy white alpaca yarn from the Michell alpaca shop, around the corner from the hotel, for dyeing later in our workshop.

Ocongate-KARIIn the next few days we will drive through beautiful rolling hills of quinua and potato fields, into the highlands to several Andean villages to meet good friends who are amazing knitters and weavers. Picnic lunch in the Pitumarka weaving compound one day, and visit the famous little Andahuaylilas church with its ornate painted ceiling and altar from the 16th C.

In another village high above Cuzco, we will watch other knitters and weavers (every village uses different techniques and motifs for their textiles), then share a traditional lunch of soup and boiled corn with indigenous Quechua speaking friends living there. We will also see traditional Andean foods growing in the fields, such as red amaranth, quinua and quiwicha, native potato varieties, fava and lupine beans, and we’ll try various dishes incorporating them at our village lunch.

We will have a half-day natural dye workshop with the ladies in one village. Color your white alpaca yarn with cochineal, one of their favorite dyes, or another choice from their supply of flowers, leaves and lichen that make their rich colors.

Cuzco cathedralIn Cuzco we’ll peek into the Cathedral to see the famous ‘Last Supper with Guinea Pig’ tableau, continue across the Plaza de Armas, to the street of the 12-angled stone, one fabulous stone in a whole foundation of amazing stonework walls. Walk back down and have American food for lunch at Jack’s, just in case anyone is feeling homesick! Later, walk down Triunfo Street, visiting favorite jewelers, and the suede/textile bootmaker.

Before the festival, there will be time to see Sacsahuayman, the spectacular Inka fortress /ceremonial site above Cuzco. Sacsahuayman is known for amazingly huge stones fitted into zigzag walls, set around a grassy central area. We eat lunch in a restaurant (a friendly place where we go annually) overlooking the main Plaza de Armas, where the statue passes below, and we will have a basket of the traditional red flowers to toss down from the balconies onto the passing statue in the procession–for good luck! You can get some amazing photos by shooting from the restaurant vantage point on the balcony. Once the statue passes below the restaurant, the procession continues to 3 or 4 other churches where the statue’s loincloth is changed in each. The festival is very exciting because of the large numbers of people participating, and the huge and very heavy black Christ statue being carried by over 40 men, who change off every 1/2 block or so to allow another group the honor. The Lord of the Earthquakes is an important religious event for the people of Cuzco.

At the end of the trip, we fly back to Lima and connect with flights for home.  Details on suggested flights to come.

Llama+babyTRIP COST:  $3850
Single Supplement  $450

• 14 nights accommodation in boutique or heritage hotels
• All meals, soft drinks and water with meals (except 3 meals on your own in Cuzco/Machu Picchu)
• LIMA – CUZCO round-trip flights
• All transportation within Peru by private van
• All group airport arrival and departure transport on designated arrival day
• All entrance fees to the museums, archaeological sites and group events on the itinerary
• Visits to Andean highland textile villages to meet knitters and weavers
• Natural dye workshop in village (you purchase the white alpaca yarn)
• Spanish- and English-speaking tour leaders/textile expert to accompany the tour
• Private professional, licensed guide at Machu Picchu.
• Pisco-tasting and cooking class in private home in Miraflores.
• Photo and recipe book documenting your cooking class and journey!


International airfare, alcoholic beverages, personal items such as laundry and internet costs (most hotels now have free wi-fi), second day entrance and shuttle to Machu Picchu, entrance fee to climb Huayna Picchu.





Guatemala Highlights

February 13 – 27, 2016  • Arrive Feb. 13, depart Feb. 28.

GUATEMALA: From Highlands to Jungle!

_DSC8485On this trip you’ll experience the best of this diverse and complex country: highland communities and markets where you’ll meet the people and admire their handmade textiles and distinctive clothing, verdant lowland coffee and macadamia plantations, elegant colonial architecture – and the dense green jungle where ancient Maya temples await discovery and brilliant birds glide overhead.

Trip Details:
We land in Guatemala City, usually in the evening. You’ll be met at the airport, and driven to the hotel to check in for a good night’s sleep. Next day after breakfast and a brief orientation/greeting/meeting, we’ll visit the the Popol Vuh Museum, home to one of the world’s major collections of Maya art. The museum is located on the campus of Universidad Francisco Marroquin. After lunch, we’ll continue next door to the Ixchel Museum, which houses a superb collection of mostly contemporary, traditional handmade costume, clothing and textiles. We’ll return to the same pleasant hotel for the night.

A short drive the next day brings us to the charming city of Antigua; with its cobbled streets, graceful plazas and tranquil ambiance, it’s so different from the capital that you’ll think you’ve been dropped in yet another country! Check into our pretty hotel, have lunch and take the rest of the day to stroll around town and get your bearings. Free afternoon to explore our neighborhood.
Antigua was founded in the early 16th century, and is one the earliest and outstanding examples of city planning in Latin America in which the basic grid plan, dating from 1543, has been maintained – so it’s hard to get lost!

image001Much of the town was destroyed in the late 1700s by earthquakes. Most of the surviving civil, religious, and civic buildings date from the 17th and 18th centuries and constitute magnificent examples of colonial architecture in the Americas. These buildings reflect a regional stylistic variation known as Barroco antigueño, and re-building has continued the typical building style, so that today the town retains the charm and beauty of its architectural unity. It has been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

During the next few days we’ll visit villages near Antigua, including Santiago Atitlan on the shore of Lake Atitlan. Women in Santiago Atitlan have embroidered amazingly intricate birds on their huipiles for many years (purple blouse, above); we will meet some of these talented people, and observe them at work.

_DSC8704We’ll spend one night in Panajachel, and one night near Santiago Atitlan, and then drive to Chichicastenango to see the market with its hundreds of handicraft stalls. To make travel easier, we will take just an overnight bag with us on this foray, and leave the bulk of our luggage at our Antigua hotel.

Then we’ll leave the lake area, and return to Antigua for a night, then take an early morning flight (included) from Guatemala City to the town of Peten, jumping off point for our visit to the superb Tikal National Park, another UNESCO World Heritage site.
UNESCO website: “In the heart of the rain forest, surrounded by lush vegetation, lies one of the major sites of Mayan civilization. Tikal was the capital of a conquest state that became one of the most powerful kingdoms of the ancient Maya.There are over 3,000 separate buildings dating from 600 BC to AD 900.

At its height, AD 700-800, the city supported a population of 90,000 Mayan people. During this time, the city dominated much of the Maya region politically, economically, and militarily. The ceremonial center at Tikal contains superb temples and palaces, and public squares which constitute some of the most fascinating archaeological remains of the ancient Maya civilization.

Toucans at Tikal. © Hugoht. Dreamstime.

Toucans at Tikal.   © Hugoht. Dreamstime.

The reserve contains the largest area of tropical rainforest in Guatemala and Central America, with a wide range of unspoilt natural habitats. Tikal protects 54,600 acres of rainforest. Over 2,000 plant species have been identified here, and fifty-four species of mammal occur, including mantled howler monkey, giant anteater, three-toed sloth, nine-banded armadillo, kinkajou, puma, margay, ocelot, jaguarundi, and jaguar. The avifauna comprises 333 species, representing 63 of the 74 families in Guatemala.”

With a professional guide, we first visit the Maya temple ruins with one of the many excellent guides in the park.
The second day at Tikal, there will be an optional private, Sunrise guided bird-watching tour, then you’ll have free time to explore the area, return to the site, read a book, take a hike, or just relax. Lunch on your own today.

Patzun embroid-hiAfter we return to Antigua, we’ll also visit several local markets and a macadamia nut farm near Antigua where we will have breakfast –of macadamia nut pancakes! There will also be free time at the end to shop and/or see anything you missed the first time.
Finally we fly back home on February 28. You might want to bring an empty duffle  in your suitcase, to take home all your gorgeous textiles and other folk art!

COST:  $ 3795  (Minimum 8 people, max 12)
Includes 15 nights hotel accommodation in small, charming hotels with private bath; round-trip flights for Tikal, all interior transportation by private van, a professional, local English-speaking guide at Tikal for one Maya Culture Tour and one Birdwatching Tour; airport transportation, porter tips for luggage (one bag limit), all meals except two dinners and two lunches, Cynthia and bi-lingual assistant to accompany entire itinerary.
Arrive on February 13 and fly home on February 28.