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TOURS & CRUISES

Times Staff Writer

MEXICO

A horseback tour through rural culture

RIDE horseback through the historical Iztaccihuatl region southeast of Mexico City on a weeklong tour Dec. 26. Departures are offered year-round, but the late December tour includes a traditional country Mexican New Year’s Eve celebration with fireworks and mariachis, a large banquet in Cuernavaca and a midnight ride by torchlight.

The focus will be on the history and culture of Mexico, said Karen Lancaster, president of Cross Country International, the tour operator. “We take the route through the mountains that Hernan Cortes took through Mexico City as he was conquering the Aztecs,” she said.

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Riders will stay in bungalows at an upscale family-owned ranch equipped with a covered, heated pool and 25 imported Appaloosas and American quarter horses.

Cost: $1,795 per person (no single surcharge), including accommodations for one or two, all meals, five days’ guided trail riding, horse, tack and transfers. Airfare from Los Angeles is not included.

Contact: Cross Country International, Millbrook, N.Y.; (800) 828-8768, www.equestrianvacations.com.

CALIFORNIA

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Get close to whales in La Jolla

PADDLE among gray whales in the ocean off La Jolla on weekends during migration season mid-December through March.

The package includes a morning of kayaking to La Jolla Canyon and the San Diego-La Jolla Underwater Park ecological reserve and a guided hike through Torrey Pines State Reserve Park.

Cost: $219 per person, double occupancy ($129 single surcharge), including two nights’ lodging, breakfast, kayak and paddle, naturalist guides, full wet suit and booties, excursions and refreshments.

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Contact: Hike Bike Kayak, La Jolla; (866) HBKAYAK (425-2925), www.hikebikekayak.com.

VIETNAM

Culture tour,

led by locals

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LEARN about the culture of Vietnam from its people on 17-day escorted tours for mature travelers. Departures are January through April.

English-speaking Vietnamese guides will lead small groups to sights as diverse as the One Pillar Pagoda and the “Hanoi Hilton,” where American prisoners of war were held during the Vietnam War. They’ll sail the Perfume River in a traditional dragon boat and visit Thien Mu Pagoda on the way to Hue. They’ll also take a walking tour of the ancient port town of Hoi An, visit Ho Chi Minh City and cruise the Mekong Delta.

Cost: $1,995 per person, double occupancy ($345 single supplement), including lodging, meals, guides, tour leader, airfare from Los Angeles and ground transportation.

Contact: Overseas Adventure Travel, Cambridge, Mass.; (800) 493-6824, www.oattravel.com.

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HONG KONG

Get the year started with a bang

Celebrate Chinese New Year in Hong Kong on eight-day tours departing Feb. 5, 6 and 7.

Tour members will observe the fireworks display over Victoria Harbor and a procession of dancers, dragons and floats as festivities kick off the Year of the Rooster on Feb. 9.

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Cost: $1,078 per person, double occupancy ($150 single surcharge), including accommodations, five breakfasts, bilingual guides, airfare from L.A., airport transfers, baggage handling, hotel taxes and service charges.

Contact: Pacific Delight Tours, New York; (800) 221-7179, www.pacificdelighttours.com.

The Times is not responsible for changes in prices, dates or itineraries. Send information to Tours & Cruises, Los Angeles Times, 202 W. 1st St., Los Angeles, CA 90012 or e-mail to travel@latimes.com.


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