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Top 11 things to do in Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo gets overshadowed by its neighbour Rio de Janeiro. Plenty of things reward those who make the effort to come to Brazil’s largest city. It might not have sandy beaches or Rio’s charm, but when you have a read of the things to do, you’ll wonder why not include it in your Brazilian itinerary.

Wander through Avenida Paulista

Let’s start with a biggie. It would be remiss not to spend at least an afternoon wandering along Avenida Paulista. Strolling along this wide boulevard you’ll pass luxury shops, top eateries and some of the city’s finest museums and concert venues.

Soak up the food scene in the Mercadão

Flickr: Wally Gobetz

The Mercadão, like most cities, is key to discovering the food scene in Sao Paulo. Every inch of its 12,500-square metres is brimming with produce. Navigate towering piles of colourful fruit and vegetables to meat and seafood. Be sure to drop into one of the little eateries and grab one of the famous mortadella sandwiches.

Pack up a picnic and head to Parque Villa Lobos

Parque villa lopez

Flickr: fefeio

If the big city’s getting a little much, pack up a picnic and head to Villa Lobos, a lush green park that serves as oasis from Sao Paulo’s bustle. Admire the views, people watch, gorge on Brazilian treats or hire a bike to explore the park on two wheels. If you’re lucky, they might even have some live music at the weekends.

Marvel at the graffiti in Beco do Batman

Beco do Batman is at the epicentre of Sao Paulo’s graffiti scene. The little street draws tourists who come to marvel at some of the city’s finest street art. Wander through on foot and be sure to remember your camera. Many artists have made homes here and have mini-exhibitions in their front rooms.

Dance Saturday nights away in the city’s bars

On Saturday nights you’ll hear live samba music emanating onto the streets from the local bars. If you’re in the mood, dive in to join the Paulistanos for an impromptu jam, which may continue into the wee hours. You won’t regret it.

Catch a performance at the Theatro Municipal

Theatro Municipal sao paulo

Flickr: Adam Jones

The opulent early 20th-century Theatro Municipal is truly beautiful. By day, you can amble through its luxurious interior and take a peek inside the theatre itself. At night, you can swing by to catch some of the best musicals and dance performances in the city. It’s popular, so grab your tickets early to avoid disappointment.

Check out Sao Paulo’s most iconic building

You shouldn’t miss taking a look at Copan, one of Sao Paulo’s most iconic buildings. The 1960’s wave design by Niemeyer, was built to house residents from all walks of life. Inside are apartments which range from tiny studios to palatial penthouses. It has seen better days, but impressive nonetheless.

Gawp at the art in the Pinacoteca do Estado

Art lovers should make a beeline for the Pinacoteca do Estado, a gallery housed in a fine late 19th-century building. Even if you’re not into art, the exposed brick building is worth a visit alone. Be sure to get in early to avoid the queue if you’re visiting in high season.

Admire more art in the MASP

MASP

Flickr: mari_aquino

For more art, you’ve got thousands of works from some of the biggest names in the Museu de Arte de São Paulo. Expect to admire art painted by the likes of Van Gogh, Degas and Picasso to name just a few. The brutalist suspended modern glass structure is a piece of art all itself.

Visit the Catedral da Sé

Catedral da Sé

Flickr: Caio Schiavo

The soaring Catedral da Sé is the largest catholic church in the city. It’s foundation dates back to the 16th century, but the current building took half a century to construct, starting in 1913. Taking a tour of the neo-gothic structure will take a couple of hours. It has enough room for 8,000 worshippers.

Calling all football fans

Museu do Futebol

Flickr: Alex Vieira

If you’re a fan of the beautiful game, you can’t miss dropping into the Museu do Futebol. This houses photography and memorabilia stretching back throughout Brazil’s history with the sport. You can even have a go at striking a ball in the games room.

Itching to visit Sao Paulo? Give one of our experts a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here to beginning planning your adventure.

Peruvian Causa Rellena Recipe

This Peruvian classic looks like a throw-back to the 80s. For comfort food you can’t beat this creamy yellow potato stuffed with everything from seafood to corn. Make these tasty little morsels in advance and keep in the fridge, a time-saver when you’re hosting a dinner party.

Serves: 4
Time: 45 minutes

Ingredients

6 floury potatoes
4 large peppers, blended
3 limes, juiced
100ml vegetable oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Filling

2 chicken breasts
500ml chicken stocked, warmed
½ celery stick, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped
200ml mayonnaise
Salt and pepper to taste

Salsa

1 red onion, finely chopped
1 spicy pepper, finely chopped
2 limes, squeezed
1tbs olive oil
1 small handful of parsley, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Garnish

8 chicken / quail eggs, boiled
1 avocado, sliced
8 green olives

Method

Peel the potatoes and place in a pan of cold water. Bring the water to the boil on a high heat and let the potatoes cook until soft. Be sure not to overcook them. Drain the water and put them through a potato ricer into a large mixing bowl while they are still hot. Add the blended peppers, lime juice, a little vegetable oil and seasoning to taste, before mixing them well. Leave to cool, then cover with cling film and place in the fridge.

Put the chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil before turning down the heat to medium. Poach the chicken breasts in the stock along with a little salt and pepper to taste. Leave to cool in stock before shredding with a fork. Place into a bowl with the mayonnaise, spring onions, chopped celery and a little seasoning. Cover and leave in the fridge until ready to use.

Make the salsa by mixing the red onions, peppers, lime juice, olive oil and parsley with a little seasoning. Put in the fridge until ready to use.

Take a pastry ring and fill the bottom with a layer of the potato mix. Add the chicken mayonnaise filling and the top with another layer of potato. Carefully remove the pastry ring and top the causa rellena with the eggs, a few slices of avocado and some green olives. Keep covered in the fridge until you are ready to serve with the salsa on the side. Enjoy!

Want to try causa rellenas in Peru? Give one of our travel experts a call on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here to start planning your adventure today.

Latin America’s top football teams

boca juniors

Flickr: Sam Kelly

The beautiful game is by far the biggest sport in Latin America, nearing an obsession for many. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, you’d be hard pressed not to enjoy the lively atmosphere. Try a match between some of the biggest rivals like Buenos Aires’ River Plate and Boca Juniors. Though the teams haven’t got the spending power of European clubs, managers keep an eye out for new talent. So, if you’re looking for a new club to support in the new world, here’s our list of the best there is.

River Plate, Buenos Aires

Let’s start with two of the biggest and well known. The Buenos Aires team River Plate has gained a serious following despite, a recent run of bad luck. They’ve notched-up 36 titles and two Libertadores Cups under their belt. Many of River Plate’s top players get nabbed by European teams.

Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires

The fierce Buenos Aires rivals of River Plate are the Boca Juniors who, over the years, have nurtured a wealth of talent and be named one of the top Latin America clubs of the 21st century. They’ve had similar success with River Plate with 30 titles and four Libertadores. Heard of Maradona? This was his team.

Corinthians, Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo’s Corinthians have gained a serious reputation. With a star-studded list of players over the years, they are Brazil’s largest club. Over the years have bagged a ton of titles including 5 Brasileiraos, a Libertador and even a FIFA World Cup when they beat the UK’s Chelsea. This is a club to look out for.

Penarol, Montevideo

Without a doubt, Penarol is Uruguay’s most followed and successful club. Located on the outskirts of Montevideo, this team have scored enough to gain almost 50 league titles and several Libertadores. The club has produced top players over the years and contributed to all Uruguay’s World Cup teams. Though they haven’t won a cup since the ’80’s, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

Santos FC, Santos

Santos FC needs little introduction. This historic Brazilian club has set the football world on fire with the likes of Pele and Robinho. Pele is often considered the greatest player of all time. More recently, it was Neymar’s club before he moved on to play for Barcelona. If you’re looking to support a Brazilian club with pedigree, look no further than Santos.

Atletico Nacional, Medellín

Atletico Nacional, based in Colombia’s city of Medellin, are having a good run, bagging plenty of league titles over the last 10 years. They’re becoming the powerhouse not just in Colombia, but the whole of Latin America. The most famous player to come out of the club is Rene Higuita, a goalkeeper known for his unique style.

Colo-Colo, Santiago

Let’s face it, Colo-Colo is Chile’s most successful team. They’ve many cups and a Libertadores under their belt. Famed for producing players with a fast and offensive style; the big European clubs keep an eye of for talent.

Olimpia, Asunción

Olimpia continues to do well with almost 40 league titles among other cups. It’s best known for bagging the Intercontinental Cup, the Copa Interamerica, the Libertadore and the League Title all in 1979, the peak year for the club. A good solid team with a strong history and one to keep an eye on.

Want to go and watch the beautiful game in Latin America? Call one of our experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here to start planning your adventure.

Where to watch Latin America’s famously melting sunset

Who doesn’t like a good sunset? One of life’s great joys is watching the melting ball of orange light dropping behind the horizon, while colouring the sky. Whether you are on a honeymoon or on a romantic getaway, be sure to not miss one of these sunset places. In Latin America they don’t all revolve around the beach and sea, it could be desert or mountain.

Valley of the Moon, San Pedro de Atacama

This spectacular lunar-like landscape lies in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Towering red rock formations would look more at home on the surface of Mars than they do in Latin America. Scamper up to the viewpoint at the end of the afternoon to enjoy a special sunset. As the sun drops down behind the arid scenery, the rock colours transform.

Tamarindo, Guanacaste

Tamarindo

Flickr: Duane Storey

We mentioned that few of these spots are beaches, but we’re making an exception with Tamarindo. This surf town and strip of sand overlooks the Pacific on Costa Rica’s western coast. Ideal honeymoon territory. Spend you days swimming, snorkelling or wildlife watching before taking your seat on the powdery sand. Watch the sun setting over the ocean’s horizon, a picture-perfect sight. Spend the evening with travellers splashing around in the sea.

Machu Picchu, Cuzco

Machu Picchu

Flickr: Todd Gehman

If you’ve got deep pockets, spend a night at the Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel next to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. When the throngs of crowds have all, you’ll have the perfect uninterrupted view of the sun setting over the citadel from your private terrace. A completely different way to experience one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

The Galapagos, Ecuador

galapagos sunset

Flickr: Steve

The Galapagos Islands are famous for wildlife, but few mention the spectacular sunsets. If you take a cruise around the islands it can be tiring spotting the archipelago’s animals. At the end of the day, enjoy a glass of something fizzy and some mouth-watering food, with the sun setting behind the ocean horizon. Then argue with fellow traveller’s if you’ve seen the ‘green flash’.

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf Mountain

Flickr: duncan c

Climb Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain to take in the spectacular views across the bays but be sure to stay up there until the late afternoon. There are few places on earth that measure up to watching the sun setting over the Marvellous City. Lights twinkle among forested mountain scenery, spot the towering Christ de Redeemer. Just perfect.

The Salt Flats, Uyuni

The Uyuni Salt Flats lie on the high plateau of Bolivia are one of the world’s great natural wonders. A vast expanse of snow-white salt broken only be the odd cacti-laden island. Stay in one of the unique salt hotels out in the wilderness. Here you’ll witness the sight of the sunset’s light bouncing off the salty crust. Ready your camera, you’re not going to want to miss snapping this.

To start planning your honeymoon or romantic break in Latin America, call on of our experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here.

Slang phrases you should know before you visit Argentina

Think you’ve got fluent Spanish down? When you land in Buenos Aires, you’ll find how much different the street language is. Rioplatense is an intriguing mix of Spanish and Italian (due to the big influx of Italians immigrants). Puzzle over the hand gestures thrown in for good measure. If you’re going to impress the locals, have a go at picking up some of these useful phrases. You’re not going to learn these in any Spanish class back home.

Lunfardo, the name for Argentine street slang, was born in the early 20th century. At that time the lower classes adapted words to keep their shady dealings secret. Over the years, the language started to permeate all walks of life, in part due to its use in tango and art. Today the slang is thriving and has spread across to Uruguay and even as far afield as Chile and Paraguay.

In Lunfardo, many of the words’ syllables have their order reversed thereby changing their meaning. The perfect example of this is “hotel” which changed to “telo” refers to one of the seedy pay-by-the-hours motels. When you swing into a coffee house, instead of asking for a “café”, try saying “feca” instead and check out the server’s reaction.

Try these words when you’re on the streets of Buenos Aires

“Che” – an informal way of saying hello and used daily. A good one to start with.

“Boludo” – a little like “man” or “dude”, use sparingly with friends and people you know. Try “Che boludo”.

“Como andas?” – Translates to “how’s it going?”

“Birra” – a mighty useful one to pick up instead of these classic “ceveza”.

“Boliche” – you’ll likely hear the sounds of chuckling if you use “discoteca”, around these parts, it’s considered a little geeky.

“Porteño/a” – a name used to describe the people of Buenos Aires.

“Plata” –  you might know money as “dinero”, but in Argentina, it’s “plata”, best used as “no tengo plata”.

“Chino” – though it might not sound PC, it’s acceptable to call a shop a “Chino” in Buenos Aires, a reference to the number of Chinese immigrants who own stores.

“La posta” – if something’s “la posta”, it’s the best of the best.

“Copado” – the coolest way to say cool in Argentina.

“Gordo/a” – you won’t get looked at funny if you called your partner “gordo/a” meaning fatty, it’s a charming way to greet them.

“Barbaro” – if you use this handy word, you’re referring to something awesome.

“Quilombo” – use when you’re in a real sticky situation, a complete mess. Hopefully, you’ll never have to utter this one!

“Mala muerte” –  translating to “bad death”, you’d use this phrase if you want to describe somewhere awful.

“Un montón” –  commonly used to describe a lot of something.

Want to practice your lunfardo on the streets of Buenos Aires? Get in touch with one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here to start planning your adventure.

The highest climbable mountains in South America

The Andes runs all along the spine of South America. Stretching from Colombia in the tropical north to Patagonia in the windswept south. The towering snow-capped peaks offer some of the most thrilling climbs on earth. Here’s a rundown of the highest climbable mountains on the continent. Be warned, these are not for the faint-hearted. You’ll need stamina, endurance, experience, the right gear and an awful lot of training before you take on one of these behemoths. If you’re looking for something a little lighter, but as scenic, look at our favourite Latin America hikes right here.

Huantsan, Peru

Huatsan

Flickr: ydylg

Huantsan, is a 6,400-metre-high rarely climbed, beast in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. Those who make the effort will enjoy one of the world’s most incredible views over the rest of the snow-capped Andes. Make sure you’ve kitted up, got plenty of local advice and prepare yourself physically and mentally for this one, you’re going to need it.

Central Tower, Chile

Patagonia’s Torres del Paine are world-famous granite monoliths. Carved out by the ice the Towers has attracted famous climbers like Chris Bonnington and Don Whillans. Though the altitude is not so high as at 2,460 meters, the almost vertical granite rock face is more challenging. It’s not just mountaineering, you’ll need a range of climbing skills to scale this beautiful beast. The surrounding scenery is stunning and popular for trekking.

Chacraraju, Peru

Chacraraju sits in Peru’s Cordillera Blanca. This undisputed champion of climbs is one of the most tough of the six-thousanders. Expect rocky climbs, icy crevasses and weather than can change at the drop of a hat. All the routes take several days and involve hanging bivouacs. When you reach the summit at 6,100m, you’ll realize it was worth every minute.

Aconcagua, Argentina

The highest peak in South America, Aconcagua towers a fraction short of 7,000 metres. Aconcagua is the highest non-technical mountain in the world. It is also the highest spot in the Americas. The main problems are lack of oxygen and bad weather. If you’re lucky enough to reach the top it won’t just be the thin air that will take your breath away, the views are astounding.

Yerupajá, Peru

The second highest mountain in Peru is not for the faint hearted. Some attempt the long climb and, few make successful ascents. The only way to access the summit is via a razor-thin ridge, a tricky manoeuvre before you reach your goal. Expect near-vertical climbs and plenty of ice on this dangerous 6,600-metre climb. The summit is the highest point in the Amazon River watershed.

Fitz Roy, Argentina

Fitz Roy is a mountain peak in the Southern Patagonia icefield. The foothills provide some beautiful trekking around meandering trails. Climbers looking to satisfy their thrill-seeking itch will need to look up to its granite summit. It might not be so high, stretching up 3,375m, but it’s a toughie. Those who have completed it often say it’s also one of the most rewarding climbs.

Ready to go trekking in South America? Get in touch with one of our Latin America experts today on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here to start planning your adventure in the mountains.

Latin America’s culinary capitals

Calling all foodies. More travellers are picking their holiday spots based on gastronomy than ever before. Latin America boasts some of the world’s culinary capitals, such as Lima. The Peruvian capital is at the epicentre of Peru’s thriving food scene. Whether it’s the diverse landscapes or the varied people and cultures, Latin America is doing something right when it comes to cuisine. If you don’t know your completo from your choripan, you’ve come to the right place. From years of Latin American food exploration, we’ve compiled a handy list of the gastronomic hotspots.

Mexico City, Mexico

mexico city food

Flickr: The DLC

While Oaxaca is often tipped as the centre of Mexico’s most complex food, they’re pipped to the post by the metropolis of Mexico City. Its streets are brimming with foods from all corners of this magnificent country. The sights and smells are almost intoxicating and can’t fail to get you salivating. While not all street food is equal, it’s hard to find one that’s bad. Grab a pew at any humble taco stand and tuck into tortillas topped with juicy grilled meat, queso blanco and spicy salsas. If you’ve got an accompanying cold beer, all the better.

Cartagena, Colombia

When you look around online, you’ll find eager bloggers waxing lyrical about Cartagena’s colourful streets and people, and it’s true that this coastal city is a little gem. However, few mention how good the food is here. It’s teeming with good restaurants serving up fresh seafood and cafes knocking out humble (but delicious fare), but it’s the street food where the city really shines. Wander into almost any plaza or cobbled street and you’ll find vendors plying everything from cornbread arepas and grilled meats over coal to Colombia-style ceviche.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Brazilian food is fusion food, a lip-smacking blend of Italian, African and indigenous. Expert hearty stews, pasta dishes, seafood soups and crispy salgados. Rio’s Carioca’s know how to live the good life, with weekends spent on the sun-drenched sand, cooling off in the ocean and pauses to munch on tasty treats. Try one of the waterfront restaurants, bag a cheap street food snack or indulge in some fine dining. The Marvellous City has got you covered. For a healthy start sample exotic tropical fruits, fresh or blended into a ‘vitamina’ (smoothie).

Lima, Peru

Lima has carved out a spot as one of the gastronomy centres of Latin America. No small part down to 9 entries in the 50 Best Restaurants. It’s not all fine dining and innovative gastronomy. At its heart is the humble fare which helped inspire its more lavish counterparts. The food has influences coming from Asia, Europe and the Moors, and its ancient civilizations. Together a bounty of fine produce coming from the mountains, desert coast and rainforest. No wonder that it’s achieved global recognition today.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Another culinary heavyweight, the capital of Argentina has got an impressive list of entries in the 50 Best. As you enjoy the food, you’ll taste its Italian roots – rich pasta dishes, breaded milanesa and long list of creamy cheeses. Yet the undisputed champion of Argentine cuisine is beef and they know how to cook it. Forget vegetables or dainty salads, slabs of the best beef on the continent char-grilled are the order of the day. Breakfasts are also a treat, with buttery pastries washed down with plenty of milky coffee.

São Paulo, Brazil

Sao Paulo is still crowned as Brazil’s top foodie hotspot. In part due to the successful restaurants like Alex Atala’s D.O.M. He uses Amazonian ingredients to produce new dishes. Italian immigrants also brought European techniques which rubbed off with today’s Brazilian cuisine. With the highest population of Japanese of any city outside Tokyo, good sushi is not hard to find.

Are you ready to explore Latin America’s culinary heavyweights? Want to head off with our guides to discover the best hidden street eats or let us book you an exclusive table in one of the capital’s top restaurants? Get in touch with one of our Latin America experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

How to spend two days in El Calafate

Two days is never enough to truly discover a place, but sometimes that’s all you’ve got. Use this handy little guide to make the most of your time in El Calafate. This town that lies in the foothills of the Andes in SW Argentina. It is the gateway to wonderful scenery of the Patagonian icefield and the plains.

8 a.m.

Wake up to the sight of the snow-capped Andes out of hotel window. There are few views that measure up to the backdrop of mountain scenery. El Calafate is all about adventure, but you can’t start a strenuous day without a hearty breakfast. Head down to Pietro’s Café for a big plate of eggs or pancakes washed down with plenty of strong coffee.

9 a.m.

Today explore one of South America’s great natural wonders – Perito Moreno Glacier. After the winding mountain roads, you’ll reach the enormous icy behemoth. The glacier is best admired from the wooden boardwalks or take a boat across the lake. If you’re lucky, you could see a huge chunk of ice calve off and crash into the water below. For active adventurers, don crampons with a guide to walk over the glacier. Return to El Calafate in the late afternoon.

7 p.m.

Feeling famished? There’s few better places to hole up for an evening of good food with good company than La Lechuza. This cosy little place is famous for its barbecued meat and proper Italian baked pizzas. All accompanied with a glass of Argentine red or a cold cerveza. Be warned, the restaurant can get busy, but it’s worth the wait.

9 p.m.

Yeti ice bar

If the glacier hasn’t been chilly enough for you, swing by the Yeti Ice Bar, the only one of its kind in town. Here, you pay for the time you’re in the bar with unlimited drinks during your stay. A unique experience to complete the night, be sure to wear warm cloths.

8 a.m.

Order a spot of breakfast at the hotel. If you’re feeling lazy, you could even call room service. Then enjoy it on the balcony in full view of the surrounding mountain scenery.

9 a.m.

To complement yesterday’s adventure into the wilderness, drop into the natural history museum. This chronicles the history of Patagonia from the Ice Age onwards. You’ll find many of exhibits, photography, and artefacts to keep you busy most of the morning. Also, don’t miss The Glaciarium, you’ll leave with a deep understanding of this mountainous region.

12 p.m.

Take your rental car and head out to Estancia Cristina in Los Glaciares Park, where you can soak up the gaucho way of life. Watch sheep shearing, learn to herd cattle, or horse-ride through the grassy plains. Of course, you can gorge on asado barbecued meat. If time permits, be sure to take a visit to Los Perros Waterfall.

8 p.m.

End your 48 hours in El Calafate, with a mouth-watering dinner at La Tablita, a restaurant that’s been serving up Argentine classics for over 40 years. Start with a little cured meat, some cheeses and a lip-smacking empanada before digging into some of the tastiest and most tender lamb in Patagonia.

Sold on a visit to El Calafate? Call on of our Argentina travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here to start planning your trip today.

Select Latin America joins up with Galapagos Conservation Trust

Copyright David Horwell

We are happy to have renewed a partnership with the Galapagos Conservation Trust. This non-profit organization raises money to help preserve these wonderful islands. Based in the UK it is part of the Charles Darwin Foundation who maintain a scientific research station in the archipelago. They advise the National park and help with specific projects. Among these are monitoring whale sharks, surveying resident seabirds like the endangered penguins and cormorants, repatriating giant tortoises that are captive-bred and restoring islands to their pristine state by eradicating introduced organisms. A recent project is to restore Floreana island, to re-introduce the endemic Galapagos mockingbird, a species that were as inspirational to Charles Darwin as the finches that bear his name. The GCT also fund environmental education of local students in the inhabited islands, for they are the future guardians. We will donate a year’s membership of the trust to each of our passengers visiting the Galapagos.

Must-do things in Guatemala on your first trip

Guatemala is often skipped in favour of more famous countries to the south. Do not overlook Guatemala’s indigenous culture, rich history, colonial architecture and spectacular countryside. If that hasn’t convinced you, here’s some of the best things to do on your first trip in Guatemala.

Wander through the cobbled streets of Antigua

Antigua is one of the most spectacular colonial cities in Central America. The city’s cobblestones streets are small enough to get around on foot. Lose yourself among the gorgeous Spanish colonial architecture. You’ll come across pretty little squares, street markets, soaring churches and friendly locals. Gaze upon the backdrop of smoking volcanoes. Antigua is the perfect introduction to this fascinating country.

Cross Lake Atitlán by boat

Lake Atitlán was once called “the most beautiful in the world” by British novelist Aldous Huxley. He wasn’t wrong. Formed over 100,000 years ago. Surrounded by volcanoes and a patchwork of Maya farms. Hugging the lake are several charming indigenous villages. The locals still wear the traditional Mayan dress. A good base is Panajachel from which you can take a boat trip across the lake. If feeling active, hike trails that wind through the volcanoes and pine forests.

Step back in time at Tikal

Step back in time as you walk through the vast ruins of Tikal. A huge complex of Mayan pyramids that soar up through the jungle canopy. As you enter the site, monkeys swing through the trees and toucans show-off their colourful beaks from the branches. Be sure to climb one of the pyramids to get spectacular views across the site. For such an epic man-made wonder, it gets far fewer crowds than other sites like Machu Picchu in Peru.

Shop till you drop

There are dozens of colourful indigenous markets throughout Guatemala. Few markets in Latin America measure up to the ones here. Piled high with handicrafts and textiles, nab a bargain. Wander through the fresh markets to taste some delicious local produce. The fruit in Guatemala is particularly good. The king of markets is Chichicastenango, affectionately referred to as Chichi. On market days (Sunday and Thursday), the place comes alive with more than 20,000 locals who descend to buy and sell their wares.

Dip in the natural pools of Semuc Champey

There are few places on earth as beautiful as the natural pools of Semac Champey. These magical looking turquoise pools surrounded by towering granite cliffs and forest. It might be a pain to reach via a long bus journey, but when you arrive, you’ll realise why travellers come. We recommend hiring a 4 x 4 or taking an organised excursion. In the hot midday heat, you can splash around in the refreshing cool waters.

Look out over an erupting volcano

You’ll need to be fit to climb Acatenango. If you take on the challenge, you’ll see one of the world’s most amazing sights – an erupting volcano. Make sure your prepared before you arrive in Guatemala. You’ll leave very early for the 7-hour climb to the top of the 13,000-foot monster. When you arrive at the top, you can look down on Fuego Volcano which shows off every hour or so by erupting.

Discover Guatemala City

Most skip Guatemala City and head straight for Antigua, but the city has much to offer those who decide to stay. The winding streets are home to some of the finest Spanish colonial architecture in the country. Enjoy mouth-watering restaurants and street food. Explore historic ruins, fine parks, some excellent museums, local markets and excellent nightlife. You won’t regret a few days in this fascinating city rarely visited by gringos.

Visit a coffee plantation and sip a brew

Guatemala produces some of the finest coffee beans in the world. The industry is vital to the country’s economy. There are plenty of places to tour the farms and learn about the production from bean to cup. Much of the best coffee is exported, so it can be hard to get a good cup of coffee in much of Guatemala. Of course, at a plantation, you can sip on some fine Guatemalan brews. Whether you’re a coffee lover or not, this is an experience not to be missed.

Ready to start exploring Guatemala? Call one of our Latin American travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to start planning your trip or email us here.

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