Odenza Reviews: Finding Aloha on Molokai

Biggest isn’t always best – particularly in the travel world. On tiny Molokai, you’ll soon discover everything you always dreamed Hawaii was, but could never find on the other islands.

The fifth largest of the islands, Molokai is less than 40 miles long and less than 10 miles wide, and it doesn’t have a single skyscraper or shopping mall. In fact, you can drive all over the island without ever finding so much as a traffic light. Seven small hotels offer 140 rooms – that’s it – and in most of them, your wake-up call will be the sound of a rooster crowing under your porch. Don’t look for glitzy beach bars, t-shirt shops or casinos. You won’t find a single one.

What you will find are roughly 7,400 proud, friendly people ready to tell you that they’re true Hawaiians. According to state statistics, more people on Molokai have Hawaiian blood than on any other island, but it’s more than genetics that gives this island its authentic feel. It’s all about an attitude of simplicity and a dedication to maintaining the Hawaiian way of life – of living aloha.

“Aloha” is the first word you’ll learn on any of the islands and you’ll instantly find yourself using it as your standard hello and goodbye. But the word – particularly on Molokai – means far more. “Aloha” translates to: ‘al’ – face-to-face, and ‘ha’ – the breath of life. In its fullest interpretation, aloha means love, friendship and responsibility, extended not just to your fellow human beings but also to the earth. The Hawaiian Islands are one of the most isolated places on the planet, which means in order to survive, their inhabitants must foster harmony and preserve their natural resources.

The Hawaiian “Aloha Spirit” law was officially enacted in 1986 and it’s taken very seriously. Aloha is both a state of mind and a way of life – it’s the essence of Molokai. You’ll feel it when you meet Anakala Pilipo Solatorio, the last survivor of a 1946 tsunami that virtually turned Molokai upside down, sweeping through beaches, rocks, trees, homes and anything else in its path. Perhaps because he survived when so many others did not, Anakala feels he was chosen to be the protector and the keeper of traditions in his lifelong home – the beautiful, isolated Halawa Valley.

As you walk down the narrow pathway through the lush green fronds and grasses to his home, Anakala blows his conch shell to welcome you. He stands solemnly encouraging you to come close and to lean towards him until your foreheads touch. “Now,” he says, “we will share the ‘ha’… the breath of life.”

You might feel unsure as you place your forehead against that of a relative stranger and even odder to breathe deliberately into his face and inhale his breath – but the practice is strangely calming and welcoming.

Together, you’ll sit on his palapa-covered porch, and Anakala will tell you his stories of the valley, the tsunami, his family, and his belief in the Hawaiian way of life as he knows it. As you listen to his soft voice and look at his treasured collection of handmade leis, newspaper clippings from 1946, family photos and more, you’ll begin to relax – perhaps like never before. In the background, the sound of a waterfall adds to the ambiance, and you’ll feel as if you’re now understanding aloha a little better.

the “harbor” at Kalaupapa on the island of Molokai where the sufferers of Hansen’s Disease (called leprosy at the time) were taken off the ships to live in the isolated area

One of the stories Anakala usually shares with visitor doesn’t take place in his valley, but rather miles away at the base of the cliffs at Kalaupapa. There, in 1866, the first Hawaiian victims of Hansen’s disease (then called leprosy) were shipped by government health officials to quarantine them from the rest of the islands. Cut off on three sides by ocean and on the fourth, by 1,600-foot sea cliffs, Kalaupapa became first, their prison and ultimately, their home.

Being exiled to Kalaupapa meant never again seeing your family, friends or home, but strangely, the story was less tragic than you might expect. A visit to the museum that commemorates the Kalaupapa colony showed that a town was built, marriages happened, children were born, and new families were created. There were dances, parties, celebrations and a sense of real community in a place where there might only have been death and despair. In 1969, the mandatory quarantine order was lifted, but many residents refused to leave, choosing instead to stay where they had built their lives. There are still a handful of people living there, in what is now Kalaupapa National Historical Park, and they plan to remain.

You must see it for yourself, so after leaving Anakala in his beautiful valley, drive to the cliffs overlooking Kalaupapa. The ocean surrounding the settlement is a brilliant cobalt blue, with a bright sun and a soft breeze that will play in your hair. The Kalaupapa residents may have chosen to stay since the ravages of their disease made integration into a larger society uncomfortable, or perhaps they were simply unwilling to leave the pristine retreat the colony had become – a place of quiet, of sunshine, of waves, and of acceptance. Perhaps, they’d created their own version of the aloha way.

Odenza Reviews: The Great Alaska Road Trip

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Set Your Sights on Adventure in the Last Frontier

There is no more intimate of a way to experience Alaska’s true grandeur than by taking a road trip – just you, your car, and a strip of pavement leading through mile upon mile of dramatic scenery, big wildlife and friendly, down-to-earth small towns.

There’s just one catch: Alaska is so big that driving the whole state would take a month or more – and you still need a boat or plane to reach some of the far-flung communities. But if you’re clever, driving still offers the closest, most personal introduction to Alaska’s majesty.

There is no more intimate of a way to experience Alaska’s true grandeur than by taking a road trip – just you, your car, and a strip of pavement leading through mile upon mile of dramatic scenery, big wildlife and friendly, down-to-earth small towns.

There’s just one catch: Alaska is so big that driving the whole state would take a month or more – and you still need a boat or plane to reach some of the far-flung communities. But if you’re clever, driving still offers the closest, most personal introduction to Alaska’s majesty.

Southeast Alaska

All great road trips start on islands, right? That means your journey begins in Southeast Alaska, where isolated island communities are connected not by bridges but by ferries of the Alaska Marine Highway System. Make sure you book your car berth far in advance; some of the ferry routes only run a couple times a week, so they fill up fast.

Most of these island towns are busy cruise ports, which means you don’t need a car to partake in most of the tours and amenities. But having your own wheels makes it much easier to explore the dozens of miles of coastal roadway each island community possesses. This is your gateway to beachside rock petroglyphs near Wrangell, pretty picnic and fishing areas near Petersburg, and totem pole parks near Ketchikan.

No car? No problem – you can rent one in most communities. But again, the key is to plan ahead before they sell out.

If you bring your passport, you can take the ferry all the way north to Haines or Skagway, then drive into Canada, turn west and cross the border back into Alaska, headed for the famous waypoint of Tok. But let’s assume you’ll take a ferry to the Southcentral Alaska town of Valdez.

Southcentral and Interior Alaska

Even in a land of superlatives Valdez is something special, backed by towering mountains and surrounded by the rich waters of Prince William Sound. Plan on at least one big tour here – perhaps a visit to one of the world’s most active tidewater glaciers – plus time to explore the small, but very interesting, local museums.

When you’re ready to move on, it’s a six-hour drive northwest to the Interior Alaska city of Fairbanks – which easily becomes eight once you add time for rest stops and taking a few photos. You’re trading the dramatic mountains of Valdez for rolling hills clad in every imaginable shade of green. Much of the land here was shaped by early gold mining, and panning for gold remains a massive tourist draw, along with unusual experiences like bathing in a hot spring or taking a nature walk with free-roaming reindeer.

If you’re feeling really adventurous, use Fairbanks as your jumping-off point for a day-long drive up the Dalton Highway to the work camps of Coldfoot or Wiseman, or even all the way to Prudhoe Bay. Let someone else do the driving on a van tour, then hop a small plane to get you back to Fairbanks in the same day.

From there, you’ll hopscotch south: another two hours to Denali National Park, where six million acres of wilderness speak for themselves; then two and a half hours more to Talkeetna, the famously quirky little town that serves as ground zero for flightseeing tours around North America’s tallest peak: 20,310′ Denali.

The next major stop is Anchorage, Alaska’s only “big city,” where you can have almost anything you want, from a true city spa day to walking hundreds of miles of city trails and parkland. You’re back in Southcentral Alaska now and just a short drive from many great tours, including glacier dog-sledding from nearby Girdwood or hopping a plane for bear-viewing in Lake Clark or Katmai national parks.

But this isn’t the end of the line. A narrow ribbon of highway continues south to Seward, a popular cruise port known for its day cruises; you can go sightseeing, whale-watching or fishing there. Or, take the other fork and end up in Homer, which is famous for its friendly people and many artsy, foodie and fishing pursuits. Along the way, you’ll pass through Kenai and Soldotna, home to some of the best freshwater salmon fishing in the world.

When to Hop on a Plane

There are a few places in Alaska where your car can’t go – at least not easily. So, although traveling by four wheels gives you the freedom to slow down and explore the state on your own terms and at your own speed, at some point, you should consider taking to the air to reach the Arctic communities of Nome or Utqiagvik (formerly known as Barrow). Unless you’re on a cruise, planes are also the easiest way to reach the famous fishing/crabbing city of Kodiak or the remote fishing port of Unalaska/Dutch Harbor in the Aleutian Islands.

But once you get there, rent a car and head out on the local roads. There are once-in-a-lifetime memories awaiting you.

 

Odenza Reviews: Los Cabos Awaits Your Return

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Located on the southernmost tip of Baja California, Mexico, and considered one of the world´s most inspiring destinations, Los Cabos is a hot spot year round. From the hot and wild summer to the fresh and vibrant winter, there isn’t a season when this unique destination isn’t amazing.

It almost seems unfair that one destination conformed by two towns (Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo) boasts so many incredible attractions: stunning blue flag beaches, perfect weather, remarkable biodiversity, delicious gastronomy, sophisticated accommodations, world-class night clubs, and spectacular tours along the marvelous peninsula.

Los Cabos just announced a Five-Phase approach to reopening beginning June 1st. The way we travel might have changed, but Los Cabos’ unique experiences remain the same. The goal of the phased reopening is to systematically allow companies to resume activities while protecting the health and safety of the community and travelers, and limiting the resurgence of new COVID-19 cases.

The tourism board also confirmed that 62 percent of the hotel inventory will resume operations while international airlines like Alaska Airlines, American Airlines, Southwest, and Delta have already announced their return to the destination. If you haven’t been here before, or even if you have and are dreaming about returning, here are some of the many reasons you’ll fall in love with this stretch of paradise. Los Cabos awaits your return.

Blue Flag Beaches

There are 19 beaches worthy of this distinction – no wonder Los Cabos ranks as the top destination in Mexico for visitors! When you see a Blue Flag flying, you know a beach or marina is clean and accessible, has great water quality, meets high safety standards, and is working hard to protect local shorelines and ecosystems. Along the rocky cliffs lie a great deal of bays, luxurious resorts, and soft sandy beaches. The water tonalities cover all shades of blue, from navy to turquoise, and green. When you drive along the corridor from San Jose del Cabo to Cabo San Lucas, the color palette is something else!

The Arch of Cabo San Lucas

The distinctive landmark of Cabo San Lucas is the rugged taffy-colored rock formation that erupts from the sea at the tip of the Baja Peninsula, where the Pacific Ocean meets the Sea of Cortez. Also known as Land’s End, The Arch is a popular tourist attraction and the central focus of countless vacation photos. A visit to Land’s End is undoubtedly one of the most popular things to do in Cabo San Lucas. Getting there is easy, and you can view the iconic golden arch from your boat. Some might call it the “land´s end,” but for us, it’s just the beginning of your next unforgettable adventure.

Whale Watching Tours

Whale season in Los Cabos occurs from December to April. Getting close to their habitat is an unparalleled experience you’ll talk about for years to come. Imagine being on the front row admiring their colossal size and extraordinary longevity. Environmental protection, non-invasive tour protocols, as well as support of both local and worldwide conservation are of great concern for every tour operator in the Cabo San Lucas bay. Please follow the instructions of your guide and enjoy this unrivaled spectacle.

Scuba Diving and Snorkeling

Speaking of amazing sea life, the Sea of Cortez in Los Cabos has a huge variety of sea flora including one of the most beautiful coral reefs in the world. Don´t forget to partake in scuba diving and snorkeling lessons, but make sure to keep conservational rules in mind so we can preserve the reservoir for generations to come. Operators are eager to help you find the best possible tour, so go ahead and plan your trip now.

San Jose del Cabo

San Jose del Cabo´s downtown main plaza and its distinctive architecture has become an Art District where you can find art crafts from all over the world, but mainly Mexican art and local creations. It´s also a hot spot for shopping and dining. This adorable town has an interesting variety of bohemian and artistic restaurants, cafes and galleries. From November to June, it hosts the Art Walk, an event that takes you on a stunning stroll around the picturesque streets and charming stores of San Jose del Cabo. Its world-class marina, stunning gold-sand beaches, famous surf spots, and wildlife make this town a must see on your next vacation.

Odenza Reviews: Beauty in Your Own Backyard

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Both meditative and mind-blowing, the magnificent national parks of Canada and the United States offer travelers breathtaking views while simultaneously protecting natural heritage for generations to come. From snow-capped mountains and turquoise lakes to lush forests and red rock canyons, there is wonder to be found from sea to shining sea. And, while you might not be able to visit these parks in person now, we encourage you to immerse yourself in these lush locales to inspire your future travels.

Canada

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland

Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Atlantic Canada’s second largest national park is a starkly beautiful expanse of craggy, mist-shrouded mountains, wind-swept highlands and landlocked fjords on the eastern coast of Newfoundland. From its rocky beaches and lush coastal forests to its barren lands, this geologically fascinating and breathtakingly scenic park is punctuated by the panoramic peak of Gros Morne Mountain and the ancient glacial and geological formations called the Tablelands. Here, you can ascend from flower-filled lowlands high into the alpine tundra in search of caribou, ptarmigan (also known as a snow quail) and snowshoe hare. Paddle past the sheer cliff sides of Western Brook Pond, a waterfall-fed freshwater fjord, and explore coastal pathways and trails leading to beaches hidden among sea stacks – all the while soaking up the colorful traditions of the charming seaside communities that make Newfoundland so unique.

Thousand Islands National Park, Ontario

Sitting on the St. Lawrence River, on the border between Canada and the United States, Thousand Islands National Park is one of the most popular destinations for visitors to Ontario. Its rugged shoreline and islands are dotted with opulent estates, including the famous Boldt Castle. The European style mansion, on Heart Island, is one of the main attractions, but its history is mired in sadness. The castle was the dream of millionaire George C. Boldt, an American hotelier who built this summer home as a display of his love for his wife, Louise. Unfortunately, she passed away suddenly before the castle was completed, and the broken-hearted Mr. Boldt stopped construction and never set foot on the island again. For over 70 years, the structure was vacant, left to mercy of the elements until the Thousand Islands Bridge Authority acquired the property. Today, visitors who embark on a Thousand Island cruise can visit the castle (a passport is required to disembark on the island) and enjoy the stunning views of the St. Lawrence River. Other islands offer visitors hiking trails, canoe or paddling excursions and overnight accommodations.

Jasper National Park, Alberta

The largest of Canada’s seven Rocky Mountain National Parks, which together comprise a UNESCO World Heritage site, Jasper is an alpine wilderness teeming with wildlife, including bighorn sheep, moose, eagles, elk, wolves, lynx, cougars and grizzly bears. Here, nature is writ large – from massive glaciers and snow-capped peaks to towering waterfalls, deep canyons and pine scented valleys. In summer, you can stroll through meadows carpeted with brilliant swathes of delicate wildflowers, soak in the restorative waters of natural hot springs and paddle across pristine emerald lakes, or camp, hike, bike and even backcountry horseback ride over rugged mountain trails. In winter, there are opportunities for canyon ice walks, cross-country and downhill skiing, pond skating, snowshoeing and wildlife watching.

Pacific Rim National Park, British Columbia

Saturated in millennia-old indigenous Nuu-chah-nulth culture and famed for its rugged coastline dotted with enormous beaches and old growth rainforest, Pacific Rim National Park is one of Canada’s most popular National Parks. Stretching south from the whale-watching center of Tofino, the park spans part of Vancouver Island’s wild west coast – famous for its spectacular Pacific storms that draw awed visitors from around the world. Take an easy interpretive stroll along the picturesque Wild Pacific Trail near Ucluelet or a challenging multi-day trek along the legendary West Coast Trail. Learn to cold water surf like the pros. Paddle among the Broken Islands, one of the world’s premier sea kayaking destinations. Whale-watch from shore or on a boat, keeping an eye out for some of the estimated 20,000 grey and Orca whales that transit past here each year. Explore one of the world’s oldest temperate rainforests at Clayoquot Sound. Or kick back and relax while watching a ferocious winter squall pummel the shoreline while you dine in style on classic west coast cuisine.

Kluane National Park, Yukon

Kluane National Park and Reserve is truly an extraordinary destination, set within the traditional territory of the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations. On top of being home to the largest non-polar icefields in the world, the park is a hiker’s paradise as it comprises 17 of Canada’s tallest mountains – including Mount Logan, the highest peak in the country. Two modern highways allow visitors access to the park, where they can enjoy scenic drives and watch Dall sheep grazing or resting on the mountainsides, black bears roaming in search of food, and herds of mountain goats climbing to the summits. For visitors seeking adventure, the park offers numerous hiking trails from short family friendly paths to multi-day expeditions. Rafting is also available on the Alsek River to see grizzlies, eagles and glaciers. For a behind-the-scenes look at the wildlife, flightseeing tours offer a great opportunity for some unique encounters with nature and spectacular photo ops. A visit to the Thachäl Dhäl Visitor Centre is a must to get historical details of the region and the Champagne and Aishihik First Nations.

The United States

The South Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

The Grand Canyon encompasses just over one million acres and three distinct forest environments, measuring 277 miles long. From Grand Canyon Village, the drop measures a vertical mile, or approximately 5,000 feet from Rim to River. (No, there is no elevator to the bottom!) The width ranges 10 to 18 feet across. Putting that in practical terms, if you hike the canyon or go down by mule, it takes two days. If you hike from the South to North Rim, the trek is three days one way. For a real adventure, raft through the Canyon; the trip can take up to two weeks. That said, the park offers a variety of sight-seeing opportunities for people of all ages and fitness levels. Scenic rim tours by motor coach are an excellent way to maximize your time and see the key viewpoints.

The North Rim of Grand Canyon National Park

For a quieter, less crowded visit, make the 4.5-hour drive to the North Rim. North Rim is open May 15 to October 15 and there is only one lodge in the park, so reserve well in advance. The North Rim offers numerous hiking trails and mule rides from 1 hour long to 2.5 days.

Petrified Forest National Park

The Petrified Forest was designated a national park to preserve and protect multi-colored stones, trees, plant and animal fossils, Native American sites and petroglyphs, and portions of the Painted Desert, along with a section of Historic Route 66. The landscape is diverse in color, wide open and somewhat flat with plateaus spanning miles. Visit the Hoodoos, natural stone towers at Devil’s Playground, or do some geocaching. The National Park Service set up a series of geocaching clues that can be accessed from your own GPS system through the park website. The visitor’s center displays some amazing samples of petrified trees and clearly explains the evolutionary process of fossils – great for the kids if you are traveling as a family.

Arches National Park

Here you will find the densest concentration of natural stone arches in the world, with over 2,000 documented arches! A special experience is the park’s night skies program. Here, the Milky Way is visible to the naked eye, except on nights of dense cloud cover. Arches offers visitors the opportunity to view dark skies from dusk till dawn, and there are ranger-planned night sky programs on set dates. A unique moment in time here is when the earth and sky blend into the darkness, allowing you to wonder at the beauty and vastness of the universe.

Bryce Canyon National Park

From Arches, it will take around five hours to drive to Bryce Canyon, where you will be awed and inspired by towering stone hoodoos and cliffs in dazzling shades of orange, pink and gold. The hoodoos, according to Paiute legend, were once human before a powerful god called Coyote became angry with them and turned them all to stone. Take in the formation called Thor’s Hammer on the Navajo Trail – a must-see for movie and comic book fans. The park is open year-round, but access may be restricted during winter months due to road conditions. There is nothing more beautiful than snow covering the glimmering red rocks at sunrise. The park even offers snowshoeing in winter months as part of their planned ranger program.

Zion National Park

Zion was Utah’s first National Park. The name means “Place of peace and refuge”. The Narrows, truly the narrowest section of Zion Canyon, has white and pink walls as high as a thousand feet tall, and the river is sometimes just 20 to 30 feet wide. It is one of the most popular areas in the park and can be seen by hiking along the paved, wheelchair-accessible Riverside Walk for one mile from the Temple of Sinawava. If you wish to see more, you will be walking through the Virgin River, which can involve wading upstream for a few minutes or become an all-day hike. There is only one historic lodge inside the park and two restaurants, so dining is limited. If the lodge is sold out, your agent can find a variety of lodging options nearby. From April to October transportation through the park is by shuttle only, but private cars can take the Zion-Mt. Carmel Highway year-round.

There is so much more to see throughout North America, and the national parks of Canada and the United States offer a variety of opportunities to get out and explore the great outdoors. So, start planning your future exploration now – we’ll be back out there before you know it.

Odenza Reviews Seoul, South Korea

Located in South Korea, Seoul is a beautiful and vibrant city that is bound to leave a long-lasting impression on travelers on the hunt for a unique and memorable adventure.  With a population of 9.76 million, it is one of the fastest-growing cities up to date and as such, there is always something interesting and exciting to do in the city. From Palaces to animal cafes, Seoul has plenty to offer to different types of tourists.  One of the great things about traveling around South Korea is that there is no such thing as an area that is impossible to get to as transit is easily accessible and there is also a bullet train available.

While in Seoul, roaming around Insadong on a nice afternoon is a must and has many unique craft cafes that are bound to be memorable. Visiting Gyeongbokgung palace and Hanok village are also must-see top attractions that will give travelers some insight into Korea’s rich history. Home to the third-largest city park, Seoul Forest is a quaint and beautiful escape for those wanting a short escape from the bustling city.  In terms of nightlife, tourists will not be disappointed as they can head down to Hongdae or Gangnam which are known to have various fun lounges that are open 24/7. 

 

 

Odenza Reviews Taipei, Taiwan

Taipei, Taiwan’s capital city, offers the perfect balance of the city bustle and scenic nature spots. With a beautiful and unique combination of both the Japanese and Chinese cultures, Taipei is a sprawling city guaranteed to leave travelers amazed.

Taipei is well known for its noteworthy skyscraper called ‘Taipei 101’ which stands 501 meters high and has 101 floors. Formally known as the Taipei World Financial Center, Taipei 101 used to be the world’s tallest building up until 2010 when The Burj Khalifa in Dubai was built.

 

Odenza Reviews Lisbon, Portugal

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When you’re dreaming up your next European vacation, consider discovering Lisbon! The coastal capital city of Portugal. This Mediterranean city has become a more and more popular destination for travelers recently for its warm climate, culture and many historical spots to visit.  Explore the city’s historic and unique attractions including São Jorge Castle, Mosteiro dos Jerónimos, The Lisbon Oceanarium, The 25 de Abril suspension bridge, National Museum of the Azulejo, Tagus Estuary Natural Reserve and much more.

Odenza Reviews The Galápagos Islands

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The Galápagos Islands is a volcanic group of islands in the Pacific Ocean. It’s considered one of the world’s foremost destinations for unique wildlife exploring. Located approx. 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador, the remote terrain is home to a variety of plant and animal species, many of which cannot be found elsewhere. Activities available within the iconic tourist destination include guided excursions, trekking, snorkeling, kayaking scuba diving, or enjoying the amazing beaches.

Odenza Reviews Bath, England

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Bath is a town in England, set within the rolling country side. Bath is famous for its natural hot springs as well as its 18th century Georgian architecture. Honey-colored Bath stone has been used expansively in the town’s architecture, notably at Bath Abbey, with its fan-vaulting, tower and great stained-glass windows. The museum located on the site of the original Roman era Baths includes The Great Bath, a temple, statues and more.

Odenza Reviews Belize, Central America

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Belize is a country found between the Central American jungles and the Caribbean Sea that is home to rich marine life, beautiful landscapes, Mayan Ruins, 185 miles of barrier reef and much more. Activities available to experience include: Scuba Diving, Kayaking, Fishing, Hiking, Caving, Birding, Sailing, Horseback Riding, Canoeing. Some must visit attractions include the House of Culture museum, Aguacaliente Wildlife Sanctuary and the Altun Ha archaeological site.