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Karin Eckhard

I'm one of the co-owners of Espíritu Travel. Although born and raised in New Hampshire, USA, I have had the fortune to live in places as diverse as Vail, Colorado; Salzburg, Austria; London, a small village in England and many years in Madrid, Spain. I started Espíritu Travel with my partner because we wanted to create trips to Cuba that was more than just old cars and cigars, to really get to know Cuba culture and history as well as enjoy its natural beauty. We added Spain (as well as Portugal and Morocco) to our destination offerings, it seemed the logical next step since my partner is Spanish and we lived for many years there. Espíritu Travel has offices in both the US and Spain.

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"We specialize in trips to Cuba and Spain and in both counties we have our offices and can create all manner of trips, active as well as cultural trips. Within that context, we are able to create unique experiences. "

How did you get involved in travel?

"I got involved in travel by chance when I saw a job advertisement for a reservation agent at an international tour operator. I applied, got the job and three days later I was answering phones (80 per day) to sell trips around the world. One minute I was discussing a trip to Japan, the next hiking the Inca trail. It was a steep learning curve but I loved it. Within 3 months, I took a trip to Peru and nine months later I was promoted to operations specialist for Latin America. I loved the work and loved working in this aspect of the travel industry and I still love the work.....20 years later. During those twenty years, I have worked in various roles in the tourism industry, hotels, travel companies, in addition, I hold both a masters degree in international tourism development and conservation. I also spent a couple years working as a consultant in sustainable tourism before launching my own travel company. I have traveled extensively, 45 countries to date including visiting Cuba over the last decade 11 times. I have also lived for many years in Europe in both the UK and Spain. "

Please share a unique travel experience you will never forget.

"Traveling to Cuba for the first time more than a decade ago and thinking that I just arrived to one of the most unique countries! "

Featured trips & expertise

Paella
Culinary Journey Through Spain - 12 Days

Northeastern Spain is one of the most storied culinary destinations in Europe—there are 48 Michelin Stars in Basque Country alone. This food-forward tour starts with visits to an underwater winery and the Basque Culinary Center before moving on to La Rioja for wine tastings and vineyard tours. End with architecture, cooking classes, and cava in vibrant Barcelona.

Lisbon
Highlights of Portugal and Marrakech - 11 Days

Indulge your senses as you take in the unforgettable sights, flavors, and sounds of Portugal and Marrakech, Morocco on this adventure. Explore the vibrant cities of Lisbon and Porto before making your way to the charming towns and villages of the countryside. Then pop over to Marrakech to roam the souks and the medina before heading back to artsy Lisbon.

Vila Joya 2* Michelin Star Restaurant
Michelin Star Dining in the Algarve - 7 Days

Spend a week exploring world-class cuisine at five of the top Michelin Star restaurants in the Algarve. Visit a world-famous wine cellar, explore medieval town squares, and try go-karting on Europe's largest race track. Spend the day with a traditional clam picker and discover Portugal's diverse culinary traditions.

Recent trip reviews for Karin

Spring portugal trip, Portugal - Apr 6 - Apr 21, 2019

Traveler: WARREN F. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

All hotels were quite fine. Staff in hotels were great . The rooms assigned to me were underwhelming. All private guides were outstanding. Overall the trip was wonderfull.
Warren Finlay

Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Thank you for the review and I am pleased to know that you had a wonderful trip. Historic buildings that have been renovated into hotels and which are located in the city centers, the rooms are often smaller than what one might expect coming from North America.

Cuba 2019, father and son trip, Cuba - Apr 14 - Apr 19, 2019

Traveler: Boris K. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

Very educational trip, tour company did it's best to insure our best possible experience.

Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Thank you, Boris, for this review and I am pleased that you an excellent experience.

Trip to portugal, Portugal - Mar 29 - Apr 5, 2019

Traveler: Iwona P. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

Without doubt one of our favorite trip so far! Portugal is an awesome country to visit.

Upon arrival we were warmly welcomed by our driver , our names were mentioned on the board and we felt welcomed and with such a friendly atmosphere we had a fantastic start! The guides and tour were extremely good, very flexible (appreciate this!) and for that the organizer, Karin, deserves a special thanks. We had three great days in Porto and Porto area, which obviously also added up to the experience,... read more

Without doubt one of our favorite trip so far! Portugal is an awesome country to visit.

Upon arrival we were warmly welcomed by our driver , our names were mentioned on the board and we felt welcomed and with such a friendly atmosphere we had a fantastic start! The guides and tour were extremely good, very flexible (appreciate this!) and for that the organizer, Karin, deserves a special thanks. We had three great days in Porto and Porto area, which obviously also added up to the experience, and four days in Lisbon. Both our drivers/guides, Nelson and Rui deserve our special shout out. We had a fantastic time in both of the places. Nelson is a very intuitive guide, knew exactly what we like and we appreciate it. He has chosen a boutique wineries with such a idyllic scenery! The scenery was beautiful and it was a relieve to walk in such a quiet and peaceful environment. He also is quite a singer. So, if you would like a singing tour through the beautiful lands of Douro Valley,he is your guide!

Rui is such a great personality and highly motivated guide (recommendable!), full of life and a great sense of humor. We truly enjoyed getting to know Lisbon and the surrounding areas in his company.

The atmosphere is so special that it really felt like home to us. All respect for Nelson and Rui who do a great job there; a true sample of excellent tour guides! And last but not least, thank you Karin for taking such a great care of us. The accommodations were great, and you made us feel like royals.
Iwona and Tad

Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Thank you Iwona & Tad for this lovely review and I am so pleased to know that it has been one of your favorite trips so far. Portugal is truly an awesome country to visit.

Father son havana, Cuba - Mar 13 - Mar 17, 2019

Traveler: Don J. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

Karin and Espiritu Travel teamed up for a great inaugural trip to Havana. Karin communicated well and responsively throughout the entire pre-trip experience.

Julio met me at the airport and was basically a full-time guide from 9-10am until we packed it in for the day. Julio is a proud Cuban and incredibly knowledgeable about history, culture and life in general -- and very customer service (American style) focused. Luis, another guide in training tagged along for a couple of days and was... read more

Karin and Espiritu Travel teamed up for a great inaugural trip to Havana. Karin communicated well and responsively throughout the entire pre-trip experience.

Julio met me at the airport and was basically a full-time guide from 9-10am until we packed it in for the day. Julio is a proud Cuban and incredibly knowledgeable about history, culture and life in general -- and very customer service (American style) focused. Luis, another guide in training tagged along for a couple of days and was a pleasant guy as well. Annie, yet another guide, took us out one night for a nightlife tour. Julio and Luis even met us on our last day for no reason other than to make certain that we got in taxis and off to the airport (note: that was a two hour bus ride each way for Luis).

This was Father/Son trip with my 18 year old son. And memorable it was -- I was expecting the old cars, cigars and rum and none disappointed. What i did not expect was the sheer volume of beautiful architecture, the rich and interesting history at nearly every turn, the many color characters that have left their mark - some small, some big -- on Cuba. The food was fresh and fantastic (that is coming from a foodie).

The accomodations were arranged - a casa particulares - by Espiritu. Maria's place in Vedado was very nice. Maria was a terrific host and a great breakfast cook. Rooms were clean, with a/c and hot water.

Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Don, thank you very much for the review and I am so pleased to hear that you had a great first trip to Cuba and a memorable one with your son. I hope you get a chance to return to Cuba!

Cuba for culture, Cuba - Feb 7 - Feb 12, 2019

Traveler: Meredith P. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

We could not have been more pleased with our experience with Karin, Ariel (our guide), and the people of Cuba. It was an enlightening trip where we learned far more than we ever thought we would about the little island to the south.

Karin’s itinerary was well thought out and tailored to meet our interests. She was a pleasure to work with.

Ariel was extremely informative and passionate about his home country. He was interested in learning of the differences in our cultures and governments... read more

We could not have been more pleased with our experience with Karin, Ariel (our guide), and the people of Cuba. It was an enlightening trip where we learned far more than we ever thought we would about the little island to the south.

Karin’s itinerary was well thought out and tailored to meet our interests. She was a pleasure to work with.

Ariel was extremely informative and passionate about his home country. He was interested in learning of the differences in our cultures and governments while teaching us about his. We felt a special bond with him, as he went above and beyond to make us feel comfortable and valued. We cannot day enough good things about him. He is a very special person and embodies the welcoming spirit of the Cuban people.

Odalys was a gracious and hospitable casa proprietor. Although there was quite a language barrier, she was eager to [enthusiastically] ensure our comfort. The breakfast at her casa was lovely and served in her beautiful dining room where we met some very friendly French tourists.

The Iberostar receives top marks for cleanliness and comfort. The staff was lovely, the beach was breathtaking, and the food was delightful.

I was sad to leave but I look forward to one day returning to Cuba.

Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Meredith,

It was so nice reading this review! Thank you so much for taking the time to do but more importantly that you had such an enlightening and that you were pleased with the trip. I have already passed on your lovely comments to Ariel. The photo of you and your Mom in the classic car is a great photo! It was a pleasure helping you plan your trip to Cuba, I hope you get the opportunity to travel again to the island. Karin :-)

Organized “freedom” in cuba, Cuba - Nov 21 - Nov 21, 2018

Traveler: Stefanie M. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

Karin was extremely responsive and patient as we planned the trip. Our in-country guide, Thais, was extremely professional and knowledgeable. Right away she made us feel welcomed and went out of her way to ensure we enjoyed our experience. Our drivers (Pedro and Ivan) arrived on time and their cars were well-maintained and comfortable. I highly recommend KimKim and Espíritu Travel!

Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Stefanie, so lovely to see your photos and I am pleased that you enjoyed the experience. It was a pleasure helping you to plan your trip!

Discovering lower part of spain, Spain - Oct 17 - Oct 26, 2018

Traveler: ayesha a. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

First of all, this was my dream trip which is well organized and to new places which I really wanted to visit. I usually plan all of my leaves and it takes a lot of time and effort to select the places, hotels, type of tours and other. For this trip and by sudden I saw kimkim team and decide to let them plan my trip with my husband. It was really easy to use this web to plan and complete all the payment through the website. Also, connecting me with Karin who is really really supportive and... read more

First of all, this was my dream trip which is well organized and to new places which I really wanted to visit. I usually plan all of my leaves and it takes a lot of time and effort to select the places, hotels, type of tours and other. For this trip and by sudden I saw kimkim team and decide to let them plan my trip with my husband. It was really easy to use this web to plan and complete all the payment through the website. Also, connecting me with Karin who is really really supportive and well known of the places we’ve visited. The plan was reviewed 2 times with few changes, and Karin did the thing I like (activities, changing the hotel, and agreed on the timing). Karin was available all the time I need her help and support. Few things happen at the beginning with the transportation but we handled it. All of the hotels were really nice and lovely. All of our tour guides were helpful, kind and know the places we visited and give a lot of information which helped us understand everything. We’ve loved: the private city tour of Granada by bike and the Las Alpujarras tour. Others are nice too.

I would like to thank Karin for her effort from day 1 till we are back in the air plane she was asking and communicating with me. I would like to thank all of the tour guides for their professionality and kind. I told everyone about kimkim team .

Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Dear Ayesha, thank you very much for the lovely review and it has been a pleasure working with you to create your dream trip. I am so pleased that it was memorable and thank you for sharing some of your photos with us. I will be sure to pass on your comments to the guides that worked with you and all the places that were able to visit in Spain.
I hope that I have the opportunity to plan another trip for you in the future.
Warm regards,
Karin
Espíritu Travel

Barbara

Planning your visit to cuba, Cuba - Aug 4 - Aug 10, 2018

Traveler: Barbara F. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

Eiser was our guide and he was excellent in his knowledge of Cuba and his awareness of our needs. His driving on the trip to Trinidad was excellent and navigated the many pot holes with extreme expertise and diligence. He made the trip fantastic with his calmness and willingness to go the extra mile for whoever needed it. There was one participant who was quite difficult at times, and always late for whatever we were doing and complained about everything, but he showed great equanimity,... read more

Eiser was our guide and he was excellent in his knowledge of Cuba and his awareness of our needs. His driving on the trip to Trinidad was excellent and navigated the many pot holes with extreme expertise and diligence. He made the trip fantastic with his calmness and willingness to go the extra mile for whoever needed it. There was one participant who was quite difficult at times, and always late for whatever we were doing and complained about everything, but he showed great equanimity, was able to calm her down and many times I marveled at how he did it as I would not have been able to manage my annoyance if I'd been having to deal with her. The highlight for me was Trinidad and our hosts couldn't have been more warm and inclusive as if we were members of their own family. Osi and Miguel. We met her mother, daughter and grandchild, so 4 generations and even an adorable puppy! Our tour guide for the day was also excellent and it was great to have a chance to meet a wide-range of Cuban people. I consulted the recommendations on the itinerary many times and although I didn't get to try most of them, it was comforting to have. I did manage to get to a great Jazz club the last night and that was a highlight.

Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Hi Barbara,
Thank you very much for taking the time to write us such a lovely review. I am so pleased that you had a fantastic trip to Cuba and that you were able to experience the real Cuba! Eiser is an amazing guide and valued part of our team in Cuba. Thank you for sharing your photos, you got some really excellent shots.
Thank you for traveling with us! I hope that I am able to plan another trip for you in the future. We are also specialist for Spain and Portugal through the KimKim site.

Warm regards,
Karin