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Karin Eckhard

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 Madrid has been my home for the last 7 years. I started Espíritu Travel with my partner who is Spanish because we wanted to create customized trips that had a more local feel. I love creating trips that include both the highlights of Spain and Portugal as well as the off-the-beaten-path places. Those hidden gems you would not otherwise know were there. Espíritu Travel has offices in both the US and Spain.

What places and activities do you specialize in?

"We specialize in trips to Spain and Portugal as well as Cuba. In both countries, we have our own offices so we can create all types of tailor-made trips; culture, art, history, culture, architecture, gastronomy, outdoor activities, nature-based, small groups, off the beaten track"

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 calls (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. I still love the work.....20 years later. During those twenty years, I have worked in various roles in the tourism industry, hotels and travel companies, in addition, I hold both a masters degree in international tourism development and conservation. I also spent a couple of 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.

"One of the most unique experiences I had was while on a hike in the Sierra de Gredos, a very rural area about 2,5 hours from Madrid. I was hiking with a conservation group and we had reached the top when the sky just opened up and it started to pour. And I mean downpour. We tried to make our way down as quickly as possible but it was a slog trying to not fall on the slippery grass and rocks. The 15 of us came upon a goat herders house (more like makeshift huts put together) and they welcomed us in to their home! All of us of drenched hikers, it was more than that, they quickly started preparing food for us, bringing out a giant wheel of goat cheese, of course from their own goats and other snacks they had on hand. They had homemade drinks, they even started a fire so we could dry our clothes. We all just sat around talking to them or a couple of hours and enjoying their unbelievable hospitality. Finally the rain let up and we made the difficult trek back down. A once in a lifetime moment of authentic experience."

Featured trips & expertise

spain
Spain North to South: Basque Country to Andalusia - 16 Days

A little over two weeks is all you need to visit the highlights of Spain. This 16-day itinerary is a whirlwind of royal palaces and Moorish temples, world-class gastronomy and some of the most beautiful natural landscapes anywhere in the world. The destinations you'll visit cover the map, from Barcelona and Basque Country to Madrid and the stunning cities of Andalusia, like Seville and Granada.

spain
Spain North to South: Basque Country to Andalusia - 17 Days

Get ready for the trip of a lifetime. In 17 days you'll experience the highlights of Spain, from Barcelona to Basque Country, Madrid to Andalusia. It's a grand tour that covers all the hallmarks of this incomparable nation, from the legendary food to the beautiful landscapes to the legendary architecture and historic palaces. 

spain
Spain North to South: Basque Country to Andalusia - 18 Days

To do Spain right what you need is time, and 18 days is the perfect amount to get to the heart of this historic nation. This timeframe allows you to visit the Mediterranean coast and Barcelona, the Atlantic and Basque Country, the capital of Madrid, and finally southern Andalusia. Throughout, you'll stroll some of the most historic streets and marvel at some of the most ancient architecture anywhere in Europe.

spain
Spain North to South: Basque Country to Andalusia - 19 Days

19 days is more than enough time to travel the length and breadth of Spain on a tour of the most remarkable locales in the country. This includes not only the capital of Madrid but the sunkissed metropolis of Barcelona, the Basque Country, and the southern Andalusia region. It's on this last leg of the journey that you'll discover some of the country's most historic landmarks that date back to the time of Moorish rule. 

spain
Spain North to South: Basque Country to Andalusia - 20 Days

Over 20 days you'll visit Spain's most beautiful and iconic regions as you spend time on both the Mediterranean and Pacific coasts. The journey begins in the north with stays in the incomparable city of Barcelona as well as the foodie haven of San Sebastian. Heading south, you'll enjoy the highlights of Madrid followed by a stop in Andalusia, a region rich in Moorish culture and romantic flamenco melodies. 

spain
Spain North to South: Basque Country to Andalusia - 21 Days

Get to know the major regions of Spain with this three-week getaway from north to south. Begin in Barcelona and enjoy an immersion in Catalan culture followed by a jaunt to Basque Country to sample world-renowned cuisine. Finally, you'll head to the mountains of Málaga and further south through Andalusia, a region rich in Moorish culture and historic cities like Granada, Córdoba, and Seville.

Recent trip reviews for Karin

Aneri

Havana + vinales, Cuba - Oct 9 - Oct 13, 2019

Traveler: Aneri P. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

Carlos is a great and experienced guide. He was very candid and happy to answer any questions about Cuba, the political situation, and more. It was a refreshing and fascinating introduction to the country - our only regret was that our trip was too short.

Karin Eckhard profile photo
Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Aneri, thank you very much for the review. I am pleased to hear you had an excellent introduction to Cuba.

Driving spain, Spain - Sep 6 - Sep 21, 2019

Traveler: joe h. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

My wife and I recently took a trip to Spain and it was a trip of a lifetime in large part due to the creativity and attention to detail of Karin and the entire KimKim team.

Following a week on the Camino de Santiago from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela we did a driving tour of southern Spain including Salamanca, Caceres, Toledo, Seville, Córdoba and Granada. Kimkim’s support was top notch from start to finish.

Creative pre-trip planning based based on our likes/ dislikes and strong... read more

My wife and I recently took a trip to Spain and it was a trip of a lifetime in large part due to the creativity and attention to detail of Karin and the entire KimKim team.

Following a week on the Camino de Santiago from Sarria to Santiago de Compostela we did a driving tour of southern Spain including Salamanca, Caceres, Toledo, Seville, Córdoba and Granada. Kimkim’s support was top notch from start to finish.

Creative pre-trip planning based based on our likes/ dislikes and strong attention to detail led to an excellent experience. Karin arranged all the hotels, rental car and local guides in each city. It all cane together flawlessly. Each local guide was born, raised and still resides in their home city. Each brought an individuality to their tour and were passionate about their hometown and patient with our questions. We couldn’t help but be excited by their passion and knowledge.

We plan to work with KimKim again on our future trips.

Karin Eckhard profile photo
Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Thank you Joe and Diane, it has been a pleasure to help you create the trip of a lifetime!

Walking & site seeing in spain, Spain - May 12 - May 28, 2019

Traveler: Jamie R. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

We had a great trip and are sending a big shout out and thanks to our local specialist - Karin Eckhard w/Espiritu Travels - and her team. We were in expert, caring hands w/Karin: she was very responsive and capable in orchestrating our 16-day trip to Spain and Portugal with "lots of moving parts". We were pretty specific in where we wanted to go and what we were interested in (architecture, history, nature, hiking/biking, food/wine, culture) and she accommodated it all! Everything went like... read more

We had a great trip and are sending a big shout out and thanks to our local specialist - Karin Eckhard w/Espiritu Travels - and her team. We were in expert, caring hands w/Karin: she was very responsive and capable in orchestrating our 16-day trip to Spain and Portugal with "lots of moving parts". We were pretty specific in where we wanted to go and what we were interested in (architecture, history, nature, hiking/biking, food/wine, culture) and she accommodated it all! Everything went like clockwork - all the drivers and guides were on-time and prepared, all the hotels and activities were ready and waiting for us. The drivers and guides were wonderful company and very well informed - we loved spending time with them and learned a lot.

Karin Eckhard profile photo
Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Thank you for the lovely review! It was a pleasure helping to create your trip to Spain and Portugal. :-)

Portugal in 5 days, Portugal - May 23 - May 27, 2019

Traveler: Lina D. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

Karin was just great. She planned the best trip ever and help us get the most of Portugal in just 1 week. All the hotels, tours and transfers were perfect. She was always available and proactive while we were there.
The Kim Kim Team is also great. They have this great company that is always willing to satisfy and help their clients!

Karin Eckhard profile photo
Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Thank you Lina for the lovely message. I am pleased to hear you enjoyed your trip!

Portugal, Portugal - May 9 - May 24, 2019

Traveler: Marlynn R. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

Almost all of the trip when exactly by the itinerary, except when one time a driver waited to pick us up at the train station where instead we were to be picked up at our hotel. Another time, one tour was rescheduled with no notification to Karin or us, but we were able to get in touch with the tour guide who cancelled and said our tour was rescheduled for the next day which still fit into our schedule. Most memorable places were the Douro Valley and wine and port tasting, and Tomar, the... read more

Almost all of the trip when exactly by the itinerary, except when one time a driver waited to pick us up at the train station where instead we were to be picked up at our hotel. Another time, one tour was rescheduled with no notification to Karin or us, but we were able to get in touch with the tour guide who cancelled and said our tour was rescheduled for the next day which still fit into our schedule. Most memorable places were the Douro Valley and wine and port tasting, and Tomar, the beautiful monastery. Also Sintra and walking up the old castle walls was memorable (it was very hot the day we went up, but we made it and the views were very rewarding.

Karin Eckhard profile photo
Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Thank you Marlynn, for five-star review. So pleased to hear you had a memorable trip!!

5 days in cuba - 6 unique itinerary ideas, Cuba - May 15 - May 20, 2019

Traveler: Jessica D. - Local specialist: Karin Eckhard

Karin was so easy to work with. Booking the trip could not have been easier.

The trip to Cuba was really seamless and eye opening. Everything went off without a hitch and was well paced. We loved all of our guides. Fernando was waiting for us at the airport in Havana and was with us both days in Havana. He was knowledge, fun and accommodating. His love for Cuba was evident.

He drove us to Trinidad where we stayed at the Casa de Mi y Osi. It was in a perfect location and we could not have... read more

Karin was so easy to work with. Booking the trip could not have been easier.

The trip to Cuba was really seamless and eye opening. Everything went off without a hitch and was well paced. We loved all of our guides. Fernando was waiting for us at the airport in Havana and was with us both days in Havana. He was knowledge, fun and accommodating. His love for Cuba was evident.

He drove us to Trinidad where we stayed at the Casa de Mi y Osi. It was in a perfect location and we could not have asked for two better hosts.

Kirenia promptly met us for an interesting and educational walking tour. We not only saw the tourist spots but also the neighborhoods where many locals lived. We also went to a fantastic pottery making studio.

Luis picked us up the following day for a tour to the mountains. We went to a small coffee farm and hiked to some beautiful waterfalls. Luis was an exceptional guide - so knowledgeable, informative, and a great conversationalist.

The trip ended with Fernando picking us up to travel to Santa Clara. We flew back to the US from Santa Clara. Thank you to all the hosts and guides - we are so happy to have met you all!

Karin Eckhard profile photo
Karin Eckhard, local specialist, responded to this review:

Jessica, thank you very much for the lovely review. I am so pleased you had a great trip to Cuba!

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 profile photo
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 profile photo
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 profile photo
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 profile photo
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 profile photo
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 profile photo
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 profile photo
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 profile photo
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