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Ancient Mysteries That Lurk in the Yucatan

TIMES STAFF WRITER

A 10-day study tour that leaves Feb. 23 visits some of the most remote and least-visited Maya temple sites in southern Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The trip, led by a native guide, journeys through rain forests to the tallest pyramids on the peninsula at Coba and to cliff tops overlooking the Caribbean at the temple of Tulum. Farther south, the tour explores Dxibanche, a site discovered in January. A ride on the back of a logging truck will take the group to the remote, hidden center of Rio Bec B. Other rarely visited sites include Xpujil and Becan. Finally, the tour travels to Palenque to view its unique sculptures; Villahermosa to see Olmec artifacts, and the westernmost Maya center of Comalcalco. Also included on the trip is a visit to the Spider Monkey Reserve; a portion of the registration fee is a donation to this project.

Cost: $1,995 per person, double occupancy, including most meals, lodging, airport transfers, ground transportation, guide fees, luggage handling, entrance fees and donation to the Spider Monkey Preserve. Not included: air fare to Mexico. Contact: Sacred Sites, 1442A Walnut St., No. 330, Berkeley, CA 94709; telephone (510) 540-0671, Ext. 330.

Semester in England

Riverside Community College is sponsoring a 14-week study program in Oxford, England, Feb. 22-May 23. Participants can take courses, such as world religions, history of England and reader’s theater, and earn credit while living in another country. Students will stay with British families. Also included are sightseeing excursions to London, Stratford-upon-Avon for a theater performance and four days in Paris.

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Cost: $4,542 per person, including air fare, lodging in a private room in a private home, two meals daily, field trips and classes. Contact: Jan Schell, International Education, Riverside Community College; tel. (909) 222-8340.

Jewish Poland

The University of Judaism is offering a Jewish heritage tour to Poland for eight days starting May 1. The tour will include a meeting with Marek Edelman--the last surviving leader of the Warsaw Ghetto Revolt against the Nazis, as well as a leader of the famed Solidarity Movement of the 1980s that helped to hasten the end of Polish communism. The group will see Auschwitz, Lublin and the Maidanek death camp memorial. Participants will go to the medieval university city of Krakow and follow Oskar Schindler’s steps in rescuing Jews from the Nazis. Next to Krakow is a restored section of the medieval town of Kazimierz, which is said to have had a substantial Jewish population for almost 1,000 years.

Cost: $2,385 per person, double occupancy, including round-trip air fare from Los Angeles, hotels, most meals, land transportation and guides. Contact: Eclectic Tours; tel. (310) 657-1802.

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Legends of Laos

A 16-day tour called “Laos: The Forgotten Land” departs Jan. 26 to experience the diverse culture and archeological treasures of this country. Participants begin the tour in the ancient Laotian capital of Luang Phabang, a town on the Mekong River and home to exotic temples, street markets and the former Royal Palace--now the National Museum. While in the city, travelers stay in a refurbished palace and enjoy a dance performance, local cuisine and a traditional welcome ceremony.

Side trips include a visit to small villages, swimming under a waterfall and a boat ride up the Mekong River to the Pak Ou caves, a mystical pilgrimage site filled with jewel-encrusted Buddhas left over the centuries by devoted followers.

In rugged Xieng Khwang province, the group will travel to the captivating “Plain of Jars,” an archeological site of unknown origin with mysterious stone jars--some as large as six tons.

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In Vientiane, the country’s capital, time is spent shopping at markets, sightseeing and on an optional excursion to a quiet country temple for a relaxing herbal sauna and traditional massage, followed by dinner hosted by a princess of the former royal family. Also on the itinerary is an elephant ride through tropical forests, a boat trip past the ancient Khmer ruins of Wat Phu and exploration of the sleepy islands of the lower Mekong River, where old Asia survives and freshwater dolphins may put on an impromptu sunset show.

Cost: $2,895 per person, double occupancy, including accommodations, meals and sightseeing. Not included: international air fare. Contact: Bolder Adventures, P.O. Box 1279, Boulder, CO 80306; tel. (800) 642-2742.

Patagonia Journey

Patagonia, the southernmost part of South America, is visited on two tours: one based in Chile and the other in Argentina. The tours operate from October through March.

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The “Patagonia Adventure” to Chile is a six-day tour that includes Punta Arenas, on the Strait of Magellan, which divides the mainland from Tierra del Fuego; Paine National Park, habitat of Andean condors, ostriches, swans and guanacos (llama-like animals) and site of the Paine Towers, twisted rock formations rising 7,000 feet above glaciers and lakes; and the Balmaceda and Serrano glaciers. Cost: $1,915 per person, double occupancy from Santiago, including transportation within Chile, hotels and most meals.

The Argentine itinerary takes in Puerto Madryn, a picturesque seaport surrounded by clear waters; the Punto Tombo penguin colony, habitat of more than 1 1/2 million Magellan penguins; Ushuaia, the world’s second-most southerly town; El Calafate on Lake Argentino, scattered with icebergs, and Perito Moreno glacier, covering more than 75 square miles. An eight-day tour of Argentine Patagonia costs $1,885 from Buenos Aires. Rates cover air and land transportation within each country, accommodations, most meals and sightseeing with English-speaking guides.

Contact: 4th Dimension Tours, 7101 S.W. 99th Ave., Suite 105-106, Miami, FL 33173; tel. (800) 877-1525.

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The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. These should be confirmed with cruise lines, travel agents or tour operators.


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