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Best places to go surfing in Latin America

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The thousands of kilometres of coastline that make up South, Central and North America have some of the world’s best surf spots. They are particularly good along the Pacific coast with great waves being found everywhere from Peru to Costa Rica. Here are some of the best places to catch a break.

Mancora, Peru

Located right up in the north of Peru along the Pan-American Highway, Mancora is known for two things – excellent surf and lively nightlife. The excellent year-round sunny weather brings in floods of tourists who descend upon the small town for good surf and a good time. Mancora is home to the world’s largest left point break.

Montañita, Ecuador

Further up the coast in Ecuador is the town of Montañita. Like Mancora, Montañita is somewhat of a party town, but is also known for the excellent waves. The surf season tends to run between November to April with the largest waves hitting the coast between January and March. During carnival season in February, the town hosts an international surf competition.

Santa Catarina, Brazil

Over on the Atlantic coast, the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina is also well-known for the excellent Atlantic swells. Due to the varied wave sizes that can be found along the coast, this is an excellent for everyone from those looking to learn the sport to more experienced surfers. Although good waves can be found throughout the year, it’s best between April and October. An international completion is held near the city of Florianopolis each April.

Nuqui, Colombia

Colombia isn’t as well-known for its surf as some of the other countries on this list, but the Pacific coastal region of the country near Nuqui has some world-class surfing spots. As well as riding the excellent waves, if you visit between June and October you will have the chance to whale watch at the same time! What could be better?

Arica, Chile

Located as far up Chile as you can get, near to the Peruvian border is Arica. While Chile isn’t known for its surf, this particularly spot is excellent. Sitting on the edge of a desert, this isn’t the prettiest spot in Chile, but the high winds bring in some excellent swells between March and May. It’s also easy to combine this surfing adventure with a trip to San Pedro de Atacama or even up to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

Bocas del Toro is known for its luxury over-the-water bungalows. However, there are several beaches on the Caribbean archipelago in Panama that offer excellent surf. Water taxis are the easiest way to access the different reef breaks and secret surf spots. There are several places where beginners can take lessons and hire equipment.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s wonderful climate, white sandy palm fringed beaches and lush countryside make it a particularly pleasant country to visit. It’s Nicoya and Guanacaste coast are also blessed with some of the best surf in Latin America. Most surfers descend upon Tamarindo where beginners can learn in in the smaller waves, while experience surfers can take the boats further out to larger breaks. Surfing trips can easily be combined with a visit to some of the country’s other natural wonders including Arenal Volcano and Monteverde cloud forest.

Popoyo, Nicaragua

Located a few hours south of Managua, the white sandy beach of Popoyo is hit by some excellent surf. Along the coastline, surfers find everything from smaller surf where beginners will be comfortable up to thrilling larger breaks for the experienced. There are a number of surf camps through Nicaragua which offer everything from meals, accommodation, surf hire and training. The ideal place to spend a couple of weeks learning this oceanic sport.

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

This area is known for its super powerful hollow barrels. It is therefore advised that only experienced surfers ride these waves. But those who know what they are doing will be treated to some of the world’s best and most powerful surf. Further along the coast, some small waves can be found which are more suitable for beginners. There are several international surf competitions here throughout the year.

To begin your surf adventure, give one of our Latin America specialists a call today on +44 (0) 207 407 1478. Whether you wish to explore just one surf spot or plan a longer multi-country surfing adventure our specialists will be able to help. Alternatively, you can send us a message here.

Top 5 holidays in Brazil

Brazil is the largest country in Latin America and the 5th largest country in the world. Thousands of miles of unspoilt tropical beach, the bulk of the Amazon rainforest, the Pantanal the world’s largest wetland, table-topped mountains with unique plants and waterfalls, colonial mining towns resplendent with baroque churches, the huge metropolis of Sâo Paulo and the seductive charm of Rio.

Its sheer size makes it difficult to decide where to start. Of course, there are the iconic spots of Rio de Janeiro and the Amazon, but there is so much more to explore. Here are 5 very different tours which give you an idea of what can be done in two to three weeks.

Deep into the Amazon – Belem, Marajo, Amazon, Manaus and Tefe

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The Amazon takes up 30% of the continent and holds a staggering array of wildlife. It’s therefore unsurprising that some want to spend the majority of their travels here. If so, this is the trip for you. This 14-day Amazon tour takes visitors from Belem located at the great mouth of the Amazon river all the way to Manaus and Tefe in the heart of the rainforest. Along the way, ride water buffalo in Marajo, see parrots and macaws at the clay licks, visit the Amazon Theatre, get up close to monkeys and sloths and take in unique jungle lodges including the Uakari.

To find out more about Deep into the Amazon or book, click here.

Rhythms of Latin America – Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu, Buenos Aires, Pampas

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This short 11-day tour is an absolute classic and combines the best of Brazil and Argentina. Begin in the hedonistic city of Rio de Janeiro. As well as having time to discover the iconic sites of Corcovado, Sugar Loaf and Christ the Redeemer, you’ll have plenty of time to explore at your own pace. Hike up through Santa Teresa, spend lazy days on Ipanema Beach and learn about the cities interesting history. Next you’ll fly on to Iguazu Falls where you’ll hike along the walkways and see this mighty natural wonder from all angles. Fly on to Buenos Aires to spend a number of days exploring the capital and visit the Pampas to horse ride and stay on a estancia.

To find out more about Rhythms of Latin America or book, click here.

Cultural Buzz of Brazil –  Rio de Janeiro, Paraty, Ouro Preto, Tiradentes, Olinda, Salvador

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This tour of Brazil is for the culture vultures. After a day or two discovering the sites of Rio de Janeiro you’ll be transferred along the Green Coast to the pretty colonial town of Paraty. Here you’ll take schooner sailing trips for snorkelling and cultural tours of the area. Next, fly up to Belo Horizonte and pick up your hire car. Over the next few days you’ll hit the road in Minas Gerais jumping from town to town. Along the way visit Ouro Preto, Mariana, Congonhas, Sao Joao del Rei and Tiradentes. Each of these beautiful places have interesting baroque churches and architecture. Fly up to Recife in the north and spend a day or two in neighbouring Olinda. Spend your final days in Bahia’s capital Salvador. Here you’ll learn about Afro-Brazilian heritage and take a tour of the city.

To find out more about Cultural Buzz of Brazil or book, click here.

Brazil Blissout – Rio de Janeiro, Paraty, Salvador, Praia do Forte, Recife, Fernando do Noronha

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Brazil’s boasts some of the most stunning tropical beaches in the Americas. Discover hidden coves with crystal-clear tropical waters and idyllic beaches, each with its unique charm. Visit Brazil’s magical coastline, from verdant archipelagos to coral reefs. Take the obligatory few days to discover Rio de Janeiro including a visit to Christ the Redeemer and Sugar Loaf. Transfer along the coast to stay in Paraty, a spectacular colonial town of white washed houses and cobbled streets. Return to Rio de Janeiro and fly north to Recife. Here you’ll stay in historic Olinda overlooking the coast. Fly on to Fernando do Noronha Island. This island offers some of South America’s finest snorkelling and scuba opportunities. Take to the water to swim amongst the coral and exotic marine life.

To find out more about Brazil Blissout or to book, click here.

Brazilian Safari – Amazon, Pantanal

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Experience Brazil’s best wildlife spot’s in the Amazon and Pantanal. Stay in lodges in the three finest places for tropical nature in Brazil and probably in Latin America: the archipelagos of the Amazon, the northern Pantanal wetlands and Alta Floresta of Mato Grosso. In all three regions you will come up close to some of the continent’s most interesting wildlife – monkeys, sloths, anacondas, hummingbirds, jaguars, ocelots, toucans, tapirs and caiman to name but a few.

To find out more about Brazilian safari or to book, click here.

If you would like to speak with one of our Brazilian specialists, call us on +44 (0) 207 408 1478 and start planning your trip of a lifetime today.

49 random but interesting facts about Latin America you probably didn’t know

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  1. Angel Falls in Venezuela is one of the largest waterfalls in the world with a height of almost 1 kilometre.
  2. Colombia produces more than 90% of the world’s emeralds.
  3. Mexico is sinking by around 10 inches every year.
  4. Bolivia was the first country to get rid of McDonalds.
  5. Latin America is the most urbanized continent in the world with almost 80% of its citizens living in cities.
  6. Mambo, salsa, cha-cha-cha, rumba and tango dances all come from Latin America.
  7. It has the shortest coastline, compared to its size, of any continent.
  8. The official name of for Mexico is the United Mexican States.
  9. The oldest university in North America is the National University of Mexico.
  10. Costa Rica translated to ‘rich coast’.
  11. The Amazon spans eight countries – Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana.
  12. Rio de Janeiro carnival is the world’s largest street festival.
  13. 20% of the world’s oxygen is created from the Amazon jungle.
  14. There are 77 uncontacted tribes living in the Amazon Jungle.
  15. There are over 20 million inhabitants in Sao Paulo making it one of the world’s largest cities.
  16. The highest mountain in South America is Argentina’s Aconcagua and stands at over 6,961metres high.
  17. The world’s most southerly city is located at the tip of Argentina and is called Ushuaia. It has around 55,000 inhabitants.
  18. Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and straddles both Peru and Bolivia.
  19. Costa Rica has been ranked as the happiest country in the world.
  20. Asia is Latin America’s second largest trading partner after the United States.
  21. Ecuador was the first country in the world to give nature constitutional rights and can be defended in court.
  22. After the Antarctic, the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile is considered the world’s driest.
  23. Bolivia was the first country to have a ski resort with a rope tow.
  24. Darwin came up with his theory of evolution while visiting the Galapagos Islands.
  25. The Uyuni in Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flats.
  26. South America contains more than 40% of the world’s plant and animal species?
  27. In El Parque Cretácico near Sucre in Bolivia it is possible to see dinosaur prints over a million years old.
  28. Evidence of human life in Latin America dates back to at least 9,000 B.C.
  29. With under half a million inhabitants, Suriname is the least populated country in Latin America.
  30. El Salvador has the largest quantity of mobile phones per capita in the world.
  31. Peru has over 3.5 million alpacas.
  32. The Dia de Muertos (Day of the Dead) is celebrated in Mexico and remembers family and friends who have died.
  33. The Andes stretches all the way from Colombia in the north to Patagonia in the south of Chile and Argentina.
  34. Cuba has a lower infant mortality rate than the US and the lowest in Latin America.
  35. Easter Island is part of Chile but a flight takes around 6 hours from the capital Santiago.
  36. The Amazon river is the second longest in the world after the Nile, but carries more water than the top 10 rivers combined.
  37. The Panama Canal charges a toll per weight. The lowest fare ever paid was American swimmer Richard Halliburton who paid 36 cents.
  38. The OK sign is the equivalent of the middle finger in Brazil.
  39. Chile is 4,270 km in length but only averages 177 km in width.
  40. Guatemala was the first Latin American country to make femicide a crime.
  41. February is carnival season throughout Latin America.
  42. Some of the world’s hottest peppers come from Latin America included habanero and red savinas.
  43. Former President Jose Mujica gave away 90% of his salary to charity and wears sandals to meetings.
  44. There are only 2 landlocked countries in South America – Paraguay and Bolivia.
  45. The Andean condor is the world’s largest flying bird.
  46. The Americas were named after Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci.
  47. Over 90% of the population of Latin America are Catholic.
  48. During rainy season in Honduras it literally rains fish, a phenomena known as Yoro Fish Rain
  49. Costa Rica hasn’t had an army since 1949.

To start exploring Latin America yourself, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or send us a message here.

6 scenic flights to take in Latin America

Such variety of landscapes makes Latin America an amazing place to see from above. Take a bird’s eye view down over the cities, high Andes and natural wonders. Here are 6 of the best way to see the continent from above.

Nazca Lines scenic flight

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Perhaps the most well-known scenic flight is the Nazca lines. These huge geoglyphs etched into the Peruvian desert thousands of years ago have baffled scientists for many years. Although some of the geoglyphs can be seen from a raised platform, there really isn’t a better way to see them than from a small plane. Flights last around 45 minutes. Take a look at this video of a flight over the Nazca lines.

Quito to Coca commercial flight

Many take this popular commercial scheduled flight from Ecuador’s capital (the second highest capital on the continent) down from the Andes and across the vast stretch of Amazon jungle to the steamy port town of Coca. If you are planning to stay at an Amazon lodge, you’ll most likely be taking this same route. Just ensure you book a window seat!

Iguazu Falls helicopter flight

Flickr: Marco Verch

Flickr: Marco Verch

This amazing natural wonder draws thousands of tourists each day. Many views of these huge falls can be seen from the raised walkways that span both the Argentine and Brazilian side. However, the sheer size of Iguazu can never be fully appreciated without seeing it from above. Escape the crowds and take a scenic helicopter fight to see the falls from a whole different angle.

Santiago to Puerto Arenas commercial flight

Another incredible scheduled flight. Travelling south in Chile from the capital Santiago to Punta Arenas in the heart of Patagonia, reveals some incredible aerial views of the snowy peaks of the Andes mountains. What better way to see the might of these towering mountains than from above?

Blue hole helicopter flight

Flickr: 2il org

Flickr: 2il org

Most people visit Belize’s Blue Hole to snorkel or scuba dive with the staggering variety of exotic fish. This is something not to be missed. However, if you have the time and the resources, a flight over the largest living barrier reef in the world won’t disappoint. This impressive natural wonder is usually combined with aerial views of the Turneffe Atolls.

Hot Air Balloon Flight over the Colombian coffee region

Flickr: CIAT

Flickr: CIAT

The lush green valleys and rolling countryside of the coffee region in Colombia has now be included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Of course, it’s a wonderful place to explore by 4×4 or by hiking the trails, but this landscape is best seen from a hot air balloon.

Hang glide over Rio de Janeiro

Flickr: alobos Life

Flickr: alobos Life

Need a little adventure? How about seeing Rio de Janeiro from above during a hang glide? Soar like a bird above the city and take in the amazing views of Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado, Sugar Loaf Mountain and Rocinha Favela. Most flights launch from a platform high up in Tijuca Forest National Park (the largest urban forest in the world) and touch down gently on the beach.

To take your scenic flight over Latin America, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or send us a message here.

Bolitas de yuca y queso recipe

Flickr: sstrieu

Flickr: sstrieu

These delicious crispy balls are made up from yucca (a common ingredient in South American cuisine) and melted cheese. To get these perfect, a deep fat fryer works best, but they can be made using a heavy bottomed frying pan.

Serves: 12
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

1 kg fresh yuca
4 eggs, beaten
250g breadcrumbs
½ kg mozzarella cheese, cubed
Vegetable oil
Salt

Method

To start, take a large saucepan and fill with water and the salt. When it boils at the yuca and leave for 15-20 minutes until tender.

Drain the water and mash the yuca.  Take the mash and roll into 12 balls. Take each one and flatten with the palm of your hand. Add a few cubes of the cheese in the centre and reroll the balls

Put the egg in one bowl and the breadcrumbs in another. Put the fryer on and heat to 180 °C. Once heated, dip each ball into the egg, then the breadcrumbs and then place into the oil. Cook for five minutes or until they are golden brown. Turn halfway through. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Eat immediately.

To try bolitas de yuca y queso in Latin America, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478, send us a message here.

9 beautiful exotic birds from Latin America

The thousands of species and sub-species of birds and the high concentration of endemics in Latin America makes it one of the best continents in the world for bird watching. Here are nine of the most spectacular:

Quetzal

Flickr: lgb06

Flickr: lgb06

These shy colourful birds are often considered one of the world’s most beautiful. Part of the trogon family of birds, they are several sub-species found throughout South and Central America. Those who are interested in birding will certainly have heard of the resplendent quetzal, found in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala (who even have the image of a quetzal on their flag). Other than the vibrant colours, the resplendent quetzal’s most prominent feature is their long tail plumes.

Lear’s macaw

Flickr: Joao Quental

Flickr: Joao Quental

Also known as the indigo macaw, this parrot is best known for its brightly colour plumage. Found through the Amazonian region of Brazil, the Lear’s macaw can reach up to 75 cms, almost a kilo in weight and can live up to 50 years.

Keel-billed toucan

This iconic bird will be the most familiar, even to those who take little interest in birding. While there are several species of toucan, the keel-billed toucan’s brightly coloured bill make it the most spectacular. Though the large bill may look cumbersome, it’s actually hollow and extremely light making it easy to collect their diet of fruit and eggs.  They are commonly found in Panama and Costa Rica.

Andean cock-of-the-rock

Found in the misty cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes, the bright orange coloured cock-of-the-rock display a very prominent fan-shaped crest. The males gather in groups to create noisy displays in the hope of attracting a female. One of the best spots to see the cock-of-the-rock is in Peru’s Manu region.

Andean condor

Watching the condors glide above and below you in the Colca Canyon is one of South America’s most amazing experiences. It’s an impressive size, with a wingspan of over 3.3 metres. This black new world vulture is a scavenger feeding on the carcasses of dead cattle or deer. Interestingly, the Andean condor is one of the world’s longest living birds reaching over 70 years.

Inca tern

The Inca tern is a seabird that lives along the Pacific coast of Latin America, primarily Peru and Chile, although it can occasionally be found in Ecuador. It’s most distinctive feature is the white moustache and red-orange coloured feet and beak. It’s one of the larger species of terns reaching around 40 cms.

Capped heron

The capped heron is found throughout the rivers, lakes and mangroves of Latin America from Bolivia to Suriname. This almost all-white heron features a black cap and blue facial features and bill. It mainly feeds on frogs, fish and insects which it captures using a slow walking technique.

Waved albatross

Also known as the Galapagos albatross, these large birds have a wingspan ranging from 2.2-2.5 metres. During mating season, usually May, the entire population of waved albatross descend upon Espanola Island in the Galapagos archipelago. Their unique courtship ritual evolves plenty of in bill-circling, sky-pointing, drunken swagger and bill-clapping. The rest of the time they spend along the coast of Peru and Ecuador and live to 45 years.

Curl-crested aracari

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Flickr: Heather Paul

One of the lesser-known toucan species, the curl-crested aracari can be found along the south-western section of the Amazon basin, the Tambopata National Reserve, the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park and the Cristalino State Park. It’s one of the most colourful of the smaller toucan species and one of only three to have red feathers on the nape and shoulders.

To begin organising your birding tour of Latin America, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478, send us a message here.

Santuario de las Lajas is one of the world’s most beautiful churches

Not only is this Basilica church one of the world’s most beautiful, it’s also located in the one of the most scenic spots. Santuario de las Lajas church is located in the southern department of Narino in Colombia and was erected within a canyon above the Guáitara River.

Though the church may look old, it’s actually less than a century since it was built. The name Laja comes from the type of rock that was used to create it.

RELATED: 740 steps lead to the top of this monolithic rock formation in Colombia

The church has an interesting history. In the mid-18th century a mother and her deaf daughter were caught in a fierce storm. To survive, the pair took refuge in the canyon, after which the daughter said “the Mestiza is calling me” and an illuminated silhouette appeared. After this event, the spot quickly became a popular pilgrimage with many people reporting to be miraculously healed.

Several myths have since been linked to the church. There is mysterious image of the Virgin Mary which is now behind the alter at the back of the church, its origins unknown

The first shrine was erected in the early 19th century and was made from straw and wood. It was later enlarged and replaced with stone and a bridge that connected both sides of the canyon.  It was then replaced again with the current stone church between 1916 and 1949. It was canonised by the Vatican in 1952 and made a minor basilica in 1994.

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The impressive basilica rises 100m from the canyon floor, connected by a 50m tall stone bridge. On the other side of the canyon is a tall waterfall which only adds to the magic of this spot.

To visit the Santuario de las Lajas or any part of Colombia, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478, send us a message here or take a look at our Colombian tour suggestions.

The oasis in the middle of the Peruvian desert

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Five minutes from the southern town of Ica and an hour form Pisco lies the Huacachina, a town tucked away in the rolling folds of the Peruvian desert and wrapped around a real life oasis. This lake between the dunes in the Peruvian desert is no mirage.

RELATED: 10 of the best national parks in Latin America

The oasis has an interesting folklore tale begin it. Legend says the lake was created by a young Peruvian maiden named Huacay China whose betrothed was killed in battle. The maiden ran to the spot where she last saw him and cried until a lake formed around her. When another solider tried to take her for his own, she fled in fear and her folds of her skirt created the waves of dunes. In fear she threw herself into water where she continues to live as a mermaid.

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Today, Huacachina has become a thriving tourism destination with an infrastructure of hotels, restaurants and bars more opening all the time. The large dunes and lake create an outdoor playground for activities including sand boarding, canoeing, kayaking and swimming.

Tourism has put pressure on the lake, with an increasing demand for the water. Conscientious efforts to artificially keep the lake’s levels higher has had a positive effect. The rich sulphuric content which comes from the underground minerals keep the lake at a gorgeous emerald hue and the surrounding palms and eucalyptuses only add to the oasis’ charm.

RELATED: We’ve used thirty years’ experience to create the perfect 2-week holiday in Peru

Huacachina oasis Peru

The main draw for tourists is the excellent dune buggy rides and sand-boarding opportunities. The buggies hold between six and sixteen people and are fortunately protected by a roll cage and experience driver who take great delight in terrifying tourists as they plunge down the high dunes.

Sand-boarding works in much the same way as snow-boarding. Don’t expect a plethora of ski lifts or chairs – you’ll have to take exhausting climbs in the hot Peruvian desert heat to enjoy this adventure sport. However, the thrill is well worth it. If you can’t snow-board, don’t worry at all, you can simply sit on the board and hurtle down instead.

RELATED: Discover tours of Peru

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If all this sounds just too much energy, drop a towel down at the edge of the hotel pool or oasis and take periodical dips in the cool waters. The area makes for a perfect base from which to explore the Ballestas Islands, Nazca Lines and nearby Ica.

One of the most interesting parts of the day is when the sun sets over the rolling peaks, the desert comes alive with a sky of psychedelic colours that bounce off the lake.

Want to visit Huacachina and the oasis in the desert? Or thinking about a tour throughout Peru or Latin America? Call us on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to speak with a specialist, send us a message here or take a look at our Peru tours.

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