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Mexico City’s Island of Dolls

dolls mexico
Flickr/Esparta Palma

If you are looking for something a little different on your travel’s how about a visit to the spine-chillingly creepy Island of Dolls (Isla de las Munecas) in Mexico City. This is probably the most morbid tourist attraction in Latin America. Thousands of decaying dolls of all shapes and sizes hanging from trees surround you from every angle.

So where did it all start? Legend has it back in the ‘50s the islands caretaker, Don Julian Santana, was unable to save a girl who drowned in the canal. He found a doll on the bank he assumed was hers and hung it from a tree. Later he believed that her spirit was haunting the island and began to collect more dolls to keep her at bay.  Although Santana died in 2001 his cousin now looks after the island and believes that the dolls come alive at night. To get to the Island of Dolls you need to take the metro line 2 south to Xochimilco changing at Tren Ligero.

Destination of the month – Huanchaco & Chan Chan

Flickr/Geraint Rowland

Just down the coast from the northern Peruvian city of Trujillo is the town of Huanchaco. Once a small fishing village, it’s now grown to accommodate the travellers that come attracted by the beaches, surf and climate. In 2012 the town was designated a World Surfing Reserve, the first in South America. Not only are the waves consistently ideal for surfing but the caballito de totora (little reed horses), a type of reed surfing boat has been used here for over 3,000 years.

City of mud

If you can drag yourself away from the beach there are plenty of archaeological ruins to see nearby. Most impressive of these is Chan Chan, the ancient capital of the Chimus and the largest pre-Columbian city in the whole of South America. If you a visiting this region of Peru, you simply can’t not stop by. Its vast walls and statues are incredibly well preserved and offer a unique look at life over 1000 years ago. Why not try our Warrier of the Clouds tour to visit the site.

29th is Gnocchi Day in Argentina!

Flickr/Enrico Matteucci

For many Argentines, the 29th of each month is Ñoquis (gnocchi) day. Gnocchi, for those who haven’t heard of it, are floury potato dumplings typically served in tomato sauce. On this day each month friends and family come together either at home or at a restaurant to enjoy this hearty dish.

The origins of the day are unclear. Some say it was brought by the Italian immigrants who came to the country in the 19th century. Others think it became popular as a way to eke out the last of the months budget before being paid.

Traditionally money is placed under the plate before eating and either kept for good luck or offered to charity.

4 surreal landscapes in Latin America you have to visit


Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia
This has got to be at the top of the list. This vast expanse of salt stretching as far as the eye can see is truly one of Latin America’s most spectacular sights to visit. It changes at different times of the day and seasons of the year. During the wet season the ground mirrors the sky above making for spectacular photo opportunities. Why not take your own adventure to Uyuni.

Flickr/Fred Schinke

Mount Roraima, Venezuela
Mount Roraima lies on the border of Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana and although it is not the highest mountain in Latin America it is certainly one of the most impressive. The 400 metre vertical cliffs that give the mountain its tabletop shape are often shrouded in mist giving the illusion that it’s floating. It’s one of earth’s oldest geological formations dating back 2 billion years.


Lençóis Maranhenses, Brazil
This vast area in north east Brazil is home to rolling sand dunes punctuated with pretty blue and green lagoons. You may be forgiven for thinking it’s just another desert, but it isn’t. Its location next to the Amazon basin means that the area gets huge amounts of rain in the wet season, which collects in pools between the dunes.  Eggs from by birds from the sea mean these pools are home to a variety of marine life.


Atacama desert, Chile
This is an old favourite of ours. Located in the north of Chile next to the Pacific coast, it is the driest desert in the world. The 41,000 sq miles is home to a number of surreal landscapes including coloured lagoons, ragged red rock formations, lava flows and valleys and white salt flats. During the visit an early trip to the spectacular Tatio Geysers is a must. Start creating your own adventure to the Atacama.

An exhibition and workshop on Andean Quinoa


The Andean cereal Quinoa is finally becoming recognised as one of earth’s most important foods. An exhibition and workshops this March in London aims to highlights its benefits and importance to the international food crisis.

Its roots stem back many thousands of years, originating in the mountainous Andes region of Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia.  There is evidence to suggest that pastoral herding of quinoa was occurring up to 7000 years ago and we now know that the cereal was being successfully cultivated around 4000 years ago. The word quinoa comes from the Spanish interpretation of the Quechua word kinwa.

Quinoa has many medicinal uses, is high in protein and is the only plant food that exists that contain all the essential amino-acids.  It’s also the most versatile grain in the Andes. It can be cooked as a whole grain to use in a variety of dishes or milled into flour to make bread.

Despite all its benefits Quinoa has had a turbulent past. In the 16th century the Spanish, whose hatred for the grain came from its use in indigenous non-Christian ceremonies, almost managed to eliminate it. However, secret cultivation by the Andean community kept it alive.

The International Exhibition of Andean Quinoa will run from the 20-22 March 2014 at 54-56 Grafton Way. Entrance is free and is open from 10am each day. An Andean quinoa superfood workshop conducted by the Bolivian chef Franz Quispe will be held on the 22 March at the Westminister Kingsway College. This event is also free and will have two sessions throughout the day.  To reserve your space write to embol@boliviaembassey.co.uk

A guide to Mexico City street food

Street food in any country tend to be the best places to find authentic cuisine, and in Mexico it’s no exception. The food served each day on these small stalls and carts caters for a large majority of the population who come to get home-cooked style food at exceptionally good value. Here’s a rundown of dishes you simply can’t leave without trying.

Flickr/Nimmi S

A popular street food throughout Mexico, chicharrones (or chicharrón) is essentially pig skin fried in lard. Although that sounds heart-stopping in terms of calories, as soon as you’ve tried them they are hard to resist. Found on most street corners, they are typically sold in large sheets, and broken into crisp like shards when eaten. Most are accompanied by a hot sauce for dipping but they are just as delicious on their own. It’s a must-try for anyone visiting Mexico, unless of course you are a vegetarian, in which case fried pig rind in lard probably isn’t your thing.


Pambazos sandwiches are extremely popular in Mexico City. White rolls soaked in gualillo chilli sauce before being stuffed with fillings and toasted. The most common filling combination is chorizo sausage, potatoes, cheese, lettuce and coriander but there are any number of delicious alternatives. You’ll find these sumptuous snacks at markets and are perfect for a quick lunch.

blue-corn tlacoyos

Blue-Corn Tlacoyos
Tlacoyos are small, oval pockets of masa filled with refried beans, cheese and chicharrón. The vibrant blue colour comes from the blue corn kernels used to make them. They are often cooked on comals (coal stove) with no oil so are healthier that most Mexican street snacks. They will commonly be served as an accompaniment to other dishes and have been a popular street food for many generations.

Flickr/Ron Dellete

Tacos al Pastor
Tacos al pastor style are made flour tortillas filled with a delicious mix of chilli marinated grilled pork, onions, coriander and a sqeeze of lime. The recipe is similar to the shawarma found all around the Middle East and was most probably brought by the Lebanese immigrants who moved to central Mexico. They work very well with an ice cold beer at the end of the day.

Peruvian Lomo Saltado Recipe


One of Peru’s most popular dishes. A delicious fusion mix of marinated beef, vegetable and fried potatoes created by the Chinese immigrants who came to Peru for work.

500g of beef steak, cut into small strips
Oil for frying

1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, roughly chopped
2 large tomatoes, diced
A handful of coriander

125ml soy sauce
25ml red wine vinegar
3 cloves of garlic
Half teaspoon of dried oregano
Half teaspoon of ground cumin
Half a teaspoon of paprika
Salt and pepper

Mix the meat with the marinade ingredients and leave for a least a couple of hours, preferably overnight. Remove the liquid and fry the meat in a little hot oil moving it quickly to stop it burning. Add the onions and cook a few minutes longer before adding the chilli and tomato. Take off the heat and add the marinade. Add the coriander and serve with homemade potato chip, wedges and or rice.



The Carnival of Oruro is a religious festival dating back more than 2000 years that takes place in the highlands of Bolivia. Originally an indigenous festival, the celebration merged with a Christian ritual around the Virgin of Candelaria, which takes place in February. The traditional ‘Llama llama’ or ‘Diablada’ became the leading traditional dances of the festival. It is one of UNESCO’s Intangible Heritage of Humanity. The modern festival demonstrates the ongoing pagan-Catholic blend common in the Altiplano region. The carnival starts with a ceremony dedicated to the Virgen del Socavon. Marching bands compete simultaneously in the greeting to the Virgin the grotto of Pie de Gallo. The highlight of the festival is the three day and three night parade of 48 groups of folk dancers over a four kilometre route to the sanctuary of the tunnel. In different regions of Bolivia and Peru, the locals wear colourful masks and dance to the rhythm of lively music, liberally inebriated by aguadiente, the local firewater.