(0)20 7407 1478

855 625 2753 US

Come and see us at the Destinations Travel Show 2017

destinations1-488x358

We’re exhibiting at the Destinations Travel Show in London this February and it would be great to see you. The event runs from between 2nd – 5th February 2017.

Destinations Holiday & Travel Show is the UK’s largest and longest-running travel show. Hundreds of the leading tour operators (including us) and over seventy tourist boards will attend as well as travel celebrities, presentations and cultural shows to help your 2017 trip planning go off with a bang. Fuel your sense of wanderlust and discover myriad holiday opportunities, whilst discussing plans with the experts. The Meet the Experts Theatres will provide over fifty hours of free travel advice covering everything from the hottest destinations to travel advice.

Our stand is found within the ‘LATA (Latin American Travel Association) Pavilion’.
If you wish to visit us, you can obtain free entrance via the following link http://www.destinationsshow.com/london/form/registration, using the code MSC107 (upper case).

Can’t wait until the Destinations Travel Show? Get in touch here to start planning your 2017 tour of Latin America.

Our pick of 2016 Latin America films

Neruda

The story of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda who becomes a fugitive in his own country after joining the Communist Party in the late 1940s. Stars Gael García Bernal, Luis Gnecco and Alfredo Castro.

IMDB rating: 7.4

Sr. Pig

An elderly American pig farmer hits the road to Mexico to meet up with his estranged daughter after his health begins to fail. Featured at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Stars Diego Luna and Augusto Mendoza.

IMDB rating: 5.9

Much Ado About Nothing

Featured at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, Much Ado About Nothing (Aquí no ha pasado nada) is a Chilean drama inspired by a real life political scandal about the son of a Senator who was acquitted after killing a man in a hit and run. Stars Agustín Silva, Paulina García and Daniel Alcaíno.

IMDB rating: 6.8

Between Sea and Land

The story of 28-year-old bedbound Alberto who’s dream is to visit the Caribbean sea and the people around him that make it a reality. Awarded the Audience Award and two Best Acting Awards at the 2016 Sundance Film Festival. Stars Jorge Cao, Manolo Cruz and Vicky Hernández.

IMDB rating: 7.3

When Two Worlds Collide

A documentary that follows an indigenous environmental activist takes on the large businesses that are destroying the Amazon.

IMDB rating: 7.9

Don’t Call Me Son

A Brazilian drama about a young man who discovers he was kidnapped as a child and the mother who brought him up isn’t his parent. Stars Naomi Nero, Daniel Botelho and Dani Nefussi.

IMDB rating: 7.1

The Long Night of Francisco Sanctis

Office clerk Francisco Sanctis and his family live in Buenos Aires during the military dictatorship in the 70s. After being called by an old friend, Francisco has to decide to risk everything he has for two strangers. Stars Diego Velázquez, Laura Paredes and Valeria Lois.

IMDB rating: 6.6

The Tenth Man

After years away, Ariel returns to Buenos Aires to reconnect with his father and meets a women who forces him to come to grips with the reasons that divided him and his father. Stars Alan Sabbagh, Julieta Zylberberg and Usher Barilka

IMDB rating: 6

To start planning your tour of Latin America, speak to one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

2017 Latin America travel bucket list

Thinking of travelling to Latin America in 2017? With such a huge area spanning two continents, we thought we’d put together a handy list of the most bucket list worthy things to do in Latin America. From hiking through the Andes to watching turtles on the beaches of Costa Rica, the area really does have something for everyone.

Wander through Tikal, Guatemala

tikal-889761_960_720

The ancient ruins of Tikal were built and occupied by the Maya civilization for over a thousand years and is one of the most impressive ruins in all of Latin America. The sprawling complex has over 3,000 structures, some of which are in remarkable good condition. You’ll feel like Indiana Jones as you wander through the ancient site surrounded by thick jungle and the sounds of howling monkeys and birds.

See penguins in the Antarctic

emperor-penguins-429127_960_720

One of the most bucket list worthy travel adventures on the planet. Take to one of the limited expedition vessels and head out to explore the white continent. There are plenty of penguin species to see including the cheeky chinstraps and gentoos, and the more impressive kings and emperors, the latter usually requires an adventurous helicopter flight to reach them. There is no where on earth as pristine as the Antarctic. While breathtaking is an overused word, there really is no other way to describe the landscapes of towering icebergs, glistening glaciers and majestic fjords.

Hang glide over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

flight-652265_960_720

Most visit sun kissed Rio de Janeiro for the relaxed pace where the caipirinhas flow and the beach is always appealing. Inject a little adventure and see the city from a new perspective by taking a hang glide. Don’t worry, you won’t be doing it alone. Your guide will fly while you can take the time to take in the surroundings. Take off from the top of Tijuca National Park forest and glide around getting excellent views of the city, beaches and Christ the Redeemer before effortlessly landing on the beach below.

Hike the Salkantay, Peru

Flickr: vil.sandi

Flickr: vil.sandi

While the Inca Trail has become the most popular hiking route to reach Machu Picchu, visitors often forget that there are many other trails. The Salkantay Trek is much less hiked and arguably more scenic (it’s been voted one of the 25 best hikes in the world). It’s also challenging. Those who take on the trek will have to reach some of the highest parts of the Humantay Mountain crossing passes higher than 6,000 metres. But those who do are rewarded with some extraordinary views of snow-capped peaks.

See the wildlife in the Pantanal, Brazil

crocodile-1721922_960_720

The wildlife in the Pantanal rivals that of the Amazon. The difference is the wildlife in these vast wetlands are much easier to spot than the thick jungle. Visitors first drive down the famous Transpantaneira Road stopping to watch crossing caiman and nearby bird life. Once in the wetlands, visitors can stay at any one of the comfortable lodges and take daily excursions by foot, horseback, boat or 4×4 to see wildlife including giant otters, anacondas, caimans, monkeys, marsh deer, tapirs and many species of bird, herons and egrets to hawks and macaws. It’s even possible to see a jaguar from some of the deeper Pantanal lodges.

Scuba dive off Fernando do Noronha, Brazil

holiday_brazil_scuba_diving_rays

While South American isn’t known for its marine life as say Asia or Australasia, there are still some excellent spots. Fernando do Noronha Islands lies off the coast of northern Brazil. Here the marine life is abundant and its possible to scuba dive or snorkel with colourful schools of fish, lobsters, manta rays, baby sharks and octopus.

Swim with whale sharks off Holbox Island, Mexico

rock-sail-1313999_960_720

Our top pick for things to do in Latin America. Whale sharks visit the Holbox Island off Mexico for just a couple of months each year. These huge behemoths are the largest fish in the world and while it may seem scary to snorkel with huge sharks, they are harmless to humans. These gentle giants open their large mouths to filter krill and plankton from the oceans.

Watch hatching baby turtles in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

turtle-701663_960_720

Tortuguero National Park on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast are a nature-lovers’ paradise. Cut off from the rest of the country, a plane or boat is the only way to access the region. It’s one of the world’s best places to see green turtles as they come ashore at night to lay their eggs in the sand. Later in the year those young break out of their shells and make the brave journey along the beach to the sea.

Hike to the Lost City, Colombia

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Machu Picchu is undoubtable the most recognizable of ruins in Latin America, but Colombia’s Lost City is just as impressive and with far fewer tourists. To reach the uncrowded ruins, one must take a 4 day hike through thick forest and climb 1,200 steps. Along the way sleep in hammocks in local villages. It’s not unusual to arrive at the Lost City and be the only ones there. Go before this Lost City doesn’t feel quite as lost.

Horse ride with Gauchos in Las Pampas, Argentina

horses-52701_960_720

Whether you are a beginner or advanced rider, all are welcome to visit the Argentine grasslands of Las Pampas. Spend your days with the cowboys of South America, riding through the steppe, rounding cattle, listening to their folklore stories around campfires and sampling some hearty Argentine barbeques. There are plenty of luxurious homestays for those who want a little more comfort on their stay.

To start planning your ultimate bucket list tour of Latin America, speak to one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

Top 10 places to visit in Ecuador

One of the beauties of Ecuador is its size. Within hours of the capital, it’s possible to visit a host of landscapes including the misty cloud forests and the high Andes. The Amazon rainforest is just a short flight away. Naturalists will revel in the incredible range of flora and fauna, particularly the birdlife.

Quito

ecuador-1458346_960_720

Quito is one of South America’s most wondrous cities – a colonial gem that sits high up in the Andes mountains. In its heart lies an historic colonial city and UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s cobbled streets, whitewashing Spanish churches and plazas have all be painstakingly restored. It’s worth spending at least a day in the capital to see the world class museums, sample the mouthwatering cuisine and drink coffee in the sunny plazas. We also suggest a visit up to the Virgin Mary statue that towers above the city from Panecillo Hill.

Middle of the World

middle_of_the_world_tours

The Middle of the World is located just 26 miles north of Quito and is typically visited on the way to Otavalo or the cloud forests. It contains the Monument to the Equator which highlights the exact location of the Equator.

Cloud Forest

private_birdwatching_trip

Just a few hours’ drive from Quito is the misty cloud forests that inhabit the Eastern slopes of the Andes mountains and descend into forges and rushing waterfalls. The forests and elevation make it a bird watchers dream. The protected reserves are teeming with birds from toucans to hummingbirds. While you spend your days hiking the trails in search of colourful birdlife, in the evening return back to stay at a range of lodges from luxury to rustic.

Otavalo

ecuador-1257119_960_720

A highlight and an absolute must on a trip to Ecuador. Just a couple of hours north of the capital lies the famous colourful market town of Otavalo. Every Saturday, the local communities descend upon the town to sell their wares. Piles of leather goods, native paintings and hand-woven textiles adorn the tables throughout the town. It’s not just for show – this authentic market is a great introduction to the Ecuadorian Andean way of life.

Amazon

tree-959853_960_720

Ecuador is arguable the easiest place to visit the Amazon. A scenic 45-minute flight from Quito brings you into the steamy port town of Coca. From here board dugouts canoes to reach the excellent wildlife lodges. Our favourite is the Napo Lodge, a series of cabanas located on the riverfront deep within the jungle. Take daily hikes along the trails to spot monkeys, sloths, tapirs, macaws, giant otters, anacondas and pirañas.

Devil’s Nose Train

ecuador-917093_960_720

One of the continent’s most interesting train rides. A feat of engineering, the train journey zigzags up the side of a mountain. Afterwards, be sure to visit Ingapirca, one of the only Inca ruins that still remains in Ecuador.

Cuenca

ecuador-1235564_960_720

This southern city of Cuenca is well worth the visit. This is Ecuador’s most unspoiled city. It’s colonial centre, Spanish churches and sunny plazas ooze charm. The pace in Cuenca is unhurried, and that’s exactly the approach that visitors should take. Take a couple of days to drink coffee and people watch in the lovingly preserved squares, sample Andean food at in the excellent eateries and enjoy the city’s nightlife.

Galapagos

land-iguana-894478_960_720

What can we say about the Galapagos? This archipelago was left without human contact for so many years, the wildlife has evolved to be fearless. This allows visitors to get up close to some of the most interesting wildlife on the planet. Swim with sea lions, snorkel with turtles, scuba with sharks, watching the mating dances of the blue-footed boobies and waved albatross and walk with giant Galapagos tortoises in the wild. The Galapagos Islands are not just for wildlife enthusiasts – it should be on everyone’s bucket lists.

Cotopaxi

ice-765604_960_720

Head south from Quito along the Avenue of Volcanoes. Be sure to stop for a day’s hiking through the Cotopaxi National park, home to the world famous snow-capped mountain: Cotopaxi. Keep an eye out for wildlife including Andean gulls, lapwings, foxes, coots, pintails, deer and wild horses. Condors circle above using thermals. There are plenty of excellent historic haciendas surroundings the park.

Baños

After all that hiking and wildlife watching, it’s time for a little rest and relaxation. This famous mountain town is home to plenty of natural hot springs ranging in temperature. This hot water is filtered into communal baths and while they are the prettiest, you’ll feel a million dollars after taking a taking a soak. The cliffs that surround the town have a series of beautiful cascading waterfalls which make for a scenic backdrop. If you have the energy, there are plenty of trails to hike around the town.

To start planning your tour of Ecuador, speak to one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

The difference between Paraty and Búzios

colonial-108009_960_720

If you’re looking for a day-trip or weekend getaway from Rio de Janeiro, there are several excellent options right on the city’s doorstep. Either side of the bustling hive of activity that is Rio are two very popular tourist destinations, almost equidistant from the city. To the east is Armação dos Búzios – shortened to Búzios for simplicity’s sake – a vibrant beachside town packed with nightlife and activity. To the west, an hour further from Rio than Búzios, is Paraty, an old colonial port town brimming with history and natural attractions. In terms of price, the two are fairly comparable (both at the upper end of the scale), so when making a choice about which is right for you, you will need to consider what it is you want from your visit.

Búzios

beach-667978_960_720

This resort was popularised by Brigitte Bardot in the 1960s, and today a statue of the actress can be found in the town. Bardot is also credited with making famous the bikini – and you can expect to see plenty of these on show in town as well. With around twenty beaches scattered along the popular peninsula, lazing in the sun and partaking in the occasional dip in the sea (as well as scuba diving and surfing for the more active traveller) are the order of the day.

When the sun goes down, the town really comes to life. Famed for its raucous nightlife, there are a multitude of bars and clubs, generally open from around 10pm until the early hours. In high season (November – March and June – July) the town is packed to the rafters, especially during the peak month of December. Come prepared to party!

Paraty

paraty-856183_960_720

A little under 250km in the opposite direction from Rio, Paraty is a seaside port town first colonised by the Portuguese in the mid-17th century. Used as the principle harbour for exporting gold from Brazil, the town is crammed with quaint cobbled streets, picturesque churches and heritage etched into the very stones of its historic centre.

In the surrounding area you will also find many gorgeous beaches, lush waterfalls, dense rainforests and over 300 islands. The latter can be visited by boat on one of the many trips offered at the seafront; the clarity of the water also makes it a popular spot for snorkelling and diving. Though there are a number of bars in Paraty, the nightlife is considerably lower-key than in Búzios and there aren’t really any out-and-out nightclubs to speak of. Rather it is a beautiful spot to enjoy a cocktail or three while gazing out over the sparkling crystalline waters of the bay.

Less than 100km from Paraty is the gateway to one of Brazil’s truly beautiful hidden gems, Ilha Grande. Just an hour and a half drive to Angra dos Reis and a short ferry ride will take you to the big island; if you have enough time in your itinerary, I definitely recommend squeezing it in.

Which should you choose?

Whether you pick Búzios or Paraty will depend entirely on your personal circumstances and expectations from the visit. Do you want to party the night away and spend the following day recovering on the beach? Búzios is your place. Or would you rather soak up a little Brazilian culture, visit antiquated landmarks and relax instead of romp? If so, Paraty should be preferred. Whichever you choose, you’re guaranteed to pass some of the most unforgettable days of your life on Brazil’s southern coast.

To start planning your trip to Búzios or Paraty (or both!) contact one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

Brazilian condensed milk cake (bolo de leite condensado) recipe

Cake is big in Brazil. It’s can be eaten throughout the day, even at breakfast. This Brazilian condensed milk cake is light, moist, fluffy and the perfect accompaniment to a coffee. With few ingredients, it’s simple to make and can easily be adapted with nuts, lemon, chocolate, coconut and fruit to make a more complex cake. Typically, the cake is baked in a circular or ringed baking tray, but if you don’t have one, any loaf tin will do.

Ingredients:

1 can of sweetened condensed milk
2 eggs
400ml full fat milk
50ml butter
250g plain flour
125g white sugar
1tbs baking powder
Icing sugar for dusting
Lemon zest
Salt

Method:

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Beat the eggs and sugar until they form a paste. Melt the butter for a few seconds in the microwave until soft. Beat the butter into the eggs and sugar. Add the condensed milk and full fat milk and beat. Sift the flour, baking powder and salt into the bowl and then mix into a smooth batter. Zest a whole lemon and add to the mixture.

Take a round cake tin and rub all over with butter. Pour the batter into the tin and place into the oven for around 45 minutes. To ensure the cake is cooked, put a small knife or skewer into the cake which should come out clean. The top should golden brown and to have risen. Leave the cake to cool in the tin and then remove and leave on a metal rack. Once cooled, dust with icing sugar all over. The cake should keep for 5 days in a sealed tin.

To eat the cake in Brazil, contact one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

Interesting facts about Mexico you probably didn’t know

Mexico City

  1. 31 states and Mexico City make up the country officially known as the United Mexican States (Estados Únidos Mexicanos)
  2. Mexico has over 117 million people making it the 11th most populated country
  3. In terms of land, Mexico is the 14th largest in the world
  4. There are over 30 UNESCO World Heritage sites in Mexico
  5. The national symbol of Mexico is the golden eagle
  6. Mexico has hosted the World Cup twice, once in 1970 and then again in 1986
  7. Tools found in Mexico suggest humans have inhabited the area for around 23,000 years
  8. The biggest cat in Mexico is the jaguar
  9. The world’s smallest dog is the Chihuahua and is named after the Mexican state
  10. Mexico City is built on a lake and is sinking at around 6 inches a year
  11. Modern Mexicans are made up of Olmec, Toltec, Maya, Aztec, Inca, Zapotec, French and Spanish among others
  12. The USA/Mexico border is the second longest in the world
  13. Mexico City is one of the largest cities in the world
  14. Mexico has the second most Catholics behind Brazil
  15. The Mayans used hornets’ nest to throw as their enemies during battles
  16. Mexico is home to the world’s smallest volcano, standing at just 13 metres tall
  17. The bloodythirsty Aztecs played a ballgame called tlachtli. The loser was sacrificed
  18. Chitchen Itza is named as one of the Seven Wonders of the World
  19. Over 50 different languages are spoken in Mexico
  20. The Great Pyramid of Cholula is the largest monument ever constructed
  21. The rare volcano rabbit lives near the volcanoes of Mexico
  22. Chocolate, chilies and corn all come from Mexico
  23. Texas was a part of Mexico until 1836 before declaring independence
  24. The Spanish Conquistador Hernan Cortés was believed to be a returning god when he arrived in 1519 and was offered hot chocolate
  25. The first printing press came from Mexico City in the early 16th century
  26. Mexican children receive gifts on the 6th January, not on Christmas Day
  27. The oldest university in North America is in Mexico City and was founded in 1551
  28. The country is located on one of the earth’s most volatile volcano and earthquake zones
  29. There are some similarities between the ancient Aztec language and English – avocados are ahuacatl, tomatoes are tomatl and chocolate is chocolatl
  30. Mexico was under the control of the Spanish for over 300 years

To discover Mexico for yourself, contact one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

7 Latin American cocktails you have to try

Latin American food, particularly Peruvian is having its time in the limelight. The rich ingredients from the Andes and Amazon are the dream of chefs worldwide. Those ingredients also make excellent cocktails. Here’s a list of some old classics, along with some you may not have heard of before.

Pisco Sour, Peru

Let’s start with the classic. The Pisco sour is the national drink of both Chile and Peru, and the its origins are hotly contested. The recipe differs slightly between the two countries, but as most believe it was invented in the 1920s by an American bartender in Lima, we’ll stick with the Peruvian recipe. This recipe was well known and liked by Ernest Hemingway and Orson Welles.

Ingredients:

1 egg white
70ml Pisco
20ml sugar syrup
25ml lemon juice

Method:

Place all the liquids into a cocktail shaker and mix vigorously into a foam begins to appear on top.  Pour into a low-ball glass and garnish with a slice on lime.

Canelazo, Ecuador

Flickr: fabulousfabs

Flickr: fabulousfabs

This traditional Ecuadorian cocktail is also popular in Colombia and uses a local firewater called aguardiente. It’s an unusual cocktail as it’s served hot to stay warm in the cold Andes. Typically, its served around Christmas, but there’s no reason not to try making this drink anytime during the winter season. For a little fruitiness, add some orange or lemon slices.

Ingredients:

200ml water
1 cinnamon stick
50ml sugar
30ml aguardiente

Method:

Add all the ingredients to a saucepan and heat on a low heat for around 10 minutes. Ensure that the liquid doesn’t boil and that the sugar is totally dissolved. Serve in a glass mug and garnish with a little orange slice.

Michelada, Mexico

Flickr: calitexican

Flickr: calitexican

This seriously refreshing cocktail mixes one of Mexico’s most popular ingredients, the chilli, with beer and tomato juice to form something like a Bloody Mary. The name originates from the phrase mi chela helada, literally translating to my cold beer. Mexicans drink michelada in the morning to cure hangovers.

Ingredients:

100ml light beer, cold
100ml tomato juice
20ml lime juice
Hot sauce
Soy sauce
Worcestershire sauce
Salt

Method:

Pour a little water into a small dish and salt into a second dish. Turn over a high ball glass, and dip the rim first into the water and then the salt. Carefully pour the tomato juice into the glass. Add the lime juice, and a dash of soy sauce, hot sauce and Worcestershire sauce. Top up with cold beer and ice. Stir gently and serve garnished with a slice of lime.

Jote, Chile

Flickr: Kok Chih

Flickr: Kok Chih

While this might sound revolting, give it a try – it’s surprisingly delicious. A combination of red wine and coca cola, the name jote comes from a breed of vulture that lives in the Chilean Andes and has black and red feathers. There is no need to use expensive red wine for this cocktail.

Ingredients:

150ml red wine
150ml coca cola

Method:

Simply mix the two drinks in a high ball glass along with plenty of ice and a slice of orange.

Piña Colada, Puerto Rico

Flickr: Elsie Hui

Flickr: Elsie Hui

An iconic cocktail and one whose origins are also contested. Many different versions exist and plenty of bars and restaurants claim to have invented the cocktail. Most believe its origins lie at the luxury Caribe Hilton where it was invented by bartender Ramon Marrero Perez. In Puerto Rico, 10th July is National Piña Colada day. The coconut cream adds a beautiful luxurious finish to this delicious drink.

Ingredients:

70ml light rum
50ml coconut cream
50ml pineapple juice
1tsp sugar
Handful of ice
Pineapple chunks

Method:

Place all the ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a slinger glass and garnish with some pineapple chunks.

Cuba Libre, Cuba

Flickr: Jon B

Flickr: Jon B

The Cuba Libre (Free Cuba) was invented during the Spanish-American War in the early part of the 20th century. Legend says that Captain Russell walked into a bar and ordered a glass of rum with lime. Being thirsty, he separately ordered a coke with ice and mixed the two together. The drink was so good he ordered a round for his troops and toasted to free Cuba.

Ingredients:

70ml light rum
140ml coca cola
½ lime juice

Method:

Simply mix the rum, coke and lime juice together in a tumbler along with plenty of ice. Garnish with a couple of lime wedges and serve.

Caipirinha, Brazil

We simply can’t do a list of Latin American cocktails without mentioning Brazil’s Caipirinha. Its main ingredient is cachaça, a liquor made from sugar cane. The drink was invented in the early 20th century and included garlic and honey to cure Spanish Flu. Those ingredients were later removed and the drink became a popular cocktail.

Ingredients:

70ml cachaça
1 lime, cut into wedges
1tsb sugar
Ice

Method:

Add the limes to a high-ball glass and used a muddle to pound. Add the sugar, rum and plenty of ice. Garnish with a slice of lime.

To try any of these cocktails in Latin America, contact one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

make-an-enquiry

create-your-journey