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Trips, Tips & Deals: Sports tours, Cuba travel and Christmas in South America

Chicago Tribune

Sports Tours International is a U.K.-based company that specializes in package tours for international sports events for both competitors and fans. For instance, competitive runners looking for new challenges might want to consider expanding their horizons by tackling the Sept. 9 Marathon du Medoc, which features costumed runners on a route through some of France's most famous vineyards. Or those looking to post a new personal best could take on the Sept. 24 BMW Berlin Marathon, known for its world records.

Depending on the event, Sports Tours arranges lodging, staff support and assistance with entry registration. The Medoc Marathon, for example, is limited to 8,500 runners and sells out quickly, but Sports Tours has two-, three- and four-night packages that include lodging in a 19th century mansion in downtown Bordeaux and guaranteed entry to the race. Find info on running and other sporting events at

Cuba isn't off the table

If you've been hankering to visit Cuba, the Trump administration's recent move to limit travel there may have you thinking you can't go. Not true, but there are limits. Traveling as an individual won't be allowed, which is bad news for independent travelers. But travel with licensed tour groups on so-called people-to-people tours will still be allowed.

We've received press releases recently from a number of tour companies eager to let people know that they are still offering group tours to Cuba. Among those that still have tours going to the island nation are:

Friendly Planet Travel (;

Intrepid Travel (;

Natural Habitat Adventures (;

SmarTours (;

SunnyLand Tours (;

and Gondwana Ecotours (

Christmas adventure in South America

If you're not the "I'll be home for Christmas" type, a package from International Nature and Cultural Adventures (INCA) may be what you want to fill your stocking over the holidays.

The Christmas in Patagonia package spends five nights at the Tierra Patagonia Lodge, which is just outside of Chile's spectacular Torres del Paine National Park. This is an active program that explores the park by foot, bike, horseback and boat, returning to the luxurious lodging that boasts spectacular views of Torres del Paine, the three granite peaks of the Paine Massif.

The package offers half-day and full-day guided excursions with three levels of activity. A two- to three-hour walk on the Hunters Trail gives the chance to view cave paintings that are 6,000 years old. For serious hikers, there is a challenging full-day trek to the base of Los Torres that demands stamina, but rewards with impressive views. That hike includes a long, strenuous scramble up a moraine littered with granite boulders. The package also includes a one-night stay at the Singular Hotel Santiago in Santiago's vibrant Lastarria barrio.

This can be a family adventure, though it's not cheap, priced at $5,795 per person, double occupancy. Airfare is not included. An add-on can be a four-night New Year's in Buenos Aires package that's $1,920 per person, double occupancy. Info:

Phil Marty is a freelance reporter.


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