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Luxury boltholes you won’t want to miss in Belize

Belize might not be the busiest Central American country on the travellers’ circuit, but the tiny Caribbean hotspot packs a serious luxurious punch. Here’s our top picks on the best places to stay during your adventure.

Victoria House

Victoria House lies just a few miles south of San Pedro among 10 acres of grounds teeming with exotic flowers. There are 42 rooms and suites, many of which overlook the glittering ocean and long stretch of beach. This is a place for some serious R&R where you can lounge around the private swimming pool and soak up the sunshine. There’s also an onsite restaurant and a beautiful beach bar.

Cayo Espanto

If you’ve got deep pockets, there isn’t anywhere quite as magical as the Cayo Espanto, a 5-star resort housed on a private island just a few miles off the coast. There are just six luxury villas limited to 16 guests who can bask on the private beaches, learn a new adrenaline-inducing water sport or simply swing in one of the hammocks.

Blancaneaux Lodge

The fact that the Blancaneaux Lodge is owned by the famous film director Francis Ford Coppola is just one of the reasons that you should visit this luxurious resort. It’s perched along the banks of the Priassion River and has 19 villas traditional built on stilts from local hardwoods and thatched roofs. You can feel all the worries of home melt away as you kick back in the hot tub or pamper yourself with an onsite spa treatment and massage.

Turtle Inn

The Indonesian-inspired Turtle Inn is another of Coppola’s resorts in Belize. There are several luxurious thatched cabanas with exotic private gardens, Japanese baths and hand-crafted artisanal furnishings. This understated beauty is just tiptoeing distance from a long stretch of white beach and the glistening Caribbean Sea.

Hamanasi

The secluded little boutique hideaway along the Caribbean Sea is just a stone’s throw from Hopkins. It has 22 spacious guestrooms decked out in hand-crafted Belizean hardwood furnishings and private porches overlooking the gorgeous views. You can spend your days stretched out on the sandy beach working on your tan or learning a new water sport.

Ready to begin your luxury break in Belize? Get in touch with one of our Belize travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here to start planning.

A guide to Santiago street food

Whichever part of the world you’re in, humble street food has always been the place to look for the best eats. Forget fancy restaurants and gourmet cuisine, it’s on the streets where you’ll find the people’s food. Santiago is no exception where the high footfall metro stops around Santa Ana, Baquedano and Cal y Canto have some mouth-wateringly good food. Alternatively, as night begins to close in, make a beeline for Bellavista where the delicious things are cooked along the streets until the early hours.

Completo

Completo’s are Chile’s answer to the American hot dog, just better and twice the size. A large boiled frankfurter sausage placed between bun is where the comparison ends. The basic completos are then loaded with freshy chopped tomatoes, mashed lemony avocado and lashings of mayonnaise. You can then create your own bespoke hot dog. Some add sauerkraut, others fried onions, French fries and fried eggs. If you’re looking to soak up the night’s boozy intake, try the completo with potatoes and cut meats and avoid the hangover the next day.

Mote con huesillo

Typically served during the summer months, the mote con huesillo is a traditional non-alcoholic drink made from unhusked wheat grain, dried peaches and peach juice simmered with sugar and cinnamon. It’s seriously sweet with an interesting texture provided by the soaked wheat and makes for a meal all by itself and the use of a spoon is necessary. Look out for varieties sold from rolling vendors who sometimes replace the sugar with honey and use dried prunes instead of peaches.

Empanada de pino

Empanada’s a stable all over South America. Much like a British pasty, warm, flaky pastry encapsulates a savoury filling of minced beef (pino), onions, olives and some hard-boiled eggs. Occasionally, you’ll find varieties that include raisins and it’s not hard to find vegetarian empanadas filled with a spiced potato and vegetable mix or even seafood empanadas. The ones found on street stalls have already been oven baked nearby, so look out for empanadas hot and fresh out the oven.

Anticucho

Flickr: Ricardo Diaz

If you’re looking for anticuchos, just follow your nose. The smell of roasting meats emanates along the most streets in the Chilean capital so they aren’t difficult to find, particularly at night. Typically, chunks of beef, though chicken and pork are not uncommon, are marinated in a heady mix of chillies, cumin and garlic vinegar before being barbecued over smoky coals. For some of the best brochettes, seek out the vendors around Cal y Canto and La Vega.

Fresh fruit juices

There’s seemingly a juice seller on every corner of the city. These rolling street vendors can blend up your very own bespoke juice with combinations that include passion fruits, oranges, apples and bananas as well as seasonal and exotic fruits. If you’re looking for a healthy kick, try adding in a little carrot. They’re an inexpensive way to rehydrate on the move during the summer months.

Ceviche

Most Latin American countries make ceviche in some form of another. Chile’s long coastline provides a never-ending abundance of top quality fish making theirs some of the finest. Firm white fish sometimes with the edition of prawns or even squid are marinated in a zingy mix of citrus juices until translucent and ‘cooked’. It’s often complimented by soft cooked sweet potato, slices of red onion, chopped coriander and crunchy Chilean corn. Best eaten accompanied by one of Santiago’s pisco sours.

Sopaipilla

Flickr: Marita Olave

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, make a beeline for one of the sopaipilla stands where discs of fried dough made from sweet potato and flour are topped with lashings of indulgent dulce de leche. They also sell savoury versions where a zingy blend of coriander, chopped tomatoes, onions and a dash of chilli sauce works perfectly with the crunch of the sopaipilla. At around 20p each, they won’t break the bank either. Go on, have another.

Churros

If you spot one of the churros stands in Santiago, make a quick dash because they sell out quick. The chewy, crunchy fried doughnut-like treats originating from Spain are popular here. While in Europe they are often served with thick hot chocolate, in Chile, when they come out the fryer they are lightly dusted in sugar and dipped in rich dulce to leche caramel. Bliss.

Ready to start diving into Santiago’s street food scene? Call one of our Chile experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here to start planning your foodie tour of the capital.

Argentina’s guitar-shaped forest

It’s little known about and rarely visited, but in the heart of Argentina’s Pampas is a guitar-shaped forest created from thousands of eucalyptus and cypress trees complete with a long neck, strings and the curve of the instrument’s body. It stretches for almost a mile and is easily spotted along the fertile farming land by passing planes and can be seen from Google’s satellite maps.

This isn’t a coincidence and the story behind it is rather touching. It was created by local farmer Pedro Martin Ureta and his children who planted the trees more than 4 decades ago to commemorate his beloved wife. During the ‘70s, the couple were taking a flight over the Pampa when his wife Graciela Yraizoz pointed to a piece of farmland that looked like a milking pail and suggested they create a better one, perhaps a guitar.

Unfortunately, in 1977, she sadly passed away at the age of 25 along with their fifth unborn child after suffering from a ruptured aneurysm. Several years later, Pedro decided to create the guitar as a way of honouring her life. Along with his 4 children, he set off to plant more than 7,000 trees, first starting with the guitar’s body, then moving in to plant a star-shaped hole and long rows of blue eucalyptus trees as the strings that run along its neck. Over the years, he’s worked tirelessly to cultivate the plants and it’s only recently that they have matured enough to finally see his lost wife’s dream become a reality.

Pedro has admitted that he’s only every seen photos of the site from above as a fear of flying has stopped him taking a flight over it.

Ready to start planning your trip to Argentina? Get in contact with one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here.

Everything you need to know about Inti Raymi

Well, it’s almost time for Inti Raymi, the largest festival in South America. This ancient Peruvian celebration of sun worship that goes back to before the days of the Incas. Inti Raymi has been the most important date in the Cuzco calendar for more than 500 years.  The Incas try to please Inti and Pachmama in the hope of a good annual harvest. It also coincides with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year.

Lasting several days, the most important is the 24th June when old rituals are re-enacted as they did centuries ago. Carefully chosen actors (a great honour) play the Sun King and wife Mama Ocllo. A procession of Inca priests and nobleman carry the king up to the religious site of Sacsayhuaman. Here there is a fake ritual sacrifice of a llama to ensure a good crop during the coming season. Later, a large bonfire is lit, and the procession returns to the centre of Cuzco.

Sacsayhuaman are the ruins of a once large Inca temple and fortress outside of Cuzco built as high as possible to be closer to the sun. The first recorded Inti Raymi was in 1412, though evidence suggests it would be older than this. There was a pause for more than 300 years after the Spanish banned it, but it was reinstated in the mid 1940’s. The chariot used to carry the Sun King was originally made from solid gold.

Proceedings begin with a speech from the Sun King in Quechua, an ancient language still used by millions of people across the Andes. There’s still time to book up accommodation for the popular festival, but you’ll need to be quick to avoid disappointment. If you’re lucky enough to get tickets for the event, there are several places to watch it from. The first is at the gardens of the temple of Qurikancha. Arrive early if you want to get a good spot. You can also catch a glimpse of the festival from the Plaza de Armas, Cuzco’s main square. You can still stand in the colonial arcades that encircle it. Again, you’ll need to get here early if you don’t want to be behind crowd of 5 deep. Those in-the-know book tables on the second floor of the plaza’s restaurants where they can get a prime view while dining. For the main event at Sacsayhuaman you can buy tickets for the grandstand or arrive early to watch from one of the adjoining parks.

Wherever you decide to position yourself, be sure to bring everything you need for the day. The crowds make it difficult to move around the city and there is no public transport. Pack a picnic and plenty of water, nab one of the spots in the park early in the morning to soak up the atmosphere with the locals. If you want to make the most of the experience, we can arrange for a guide to join you who will explain the history of the event and the speeches.

The festival is best combined with a visit to Machu Picchu a few days earlier. Take the train service through the spectacular Andean scenery, or hike the 4-night Inca Trail led by experienced guides. Note that you will need to book up your Inca Trail several months in advance.

Would you like to take a once in a lifetime adventure to Machu Picchu and enjoy the festivities and ancient ceremonies at the Inti Raymi festival? Start planning your adventure by contacting one of our Peru experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here. Just be quick, you haven’t got long before the Inca festival kicks off.

Go underground to this fascinating subterranean Buenos Aires museum

Planning a break in Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires? You’ll find plenty of information about the city’s iconic landmarks but there’s very little on the El Zanjón de Granados museum.  A place with mysterious subterranean passageways. Over 30 years ago local resident Jorge Eckstein purchased a crumbling mansion in the historic San Telmo district. He planned to turn it into a glittering new restaurant but had no idea he was about to stumble on one of the city’s most mysterious archaeological sites. During the renovations, he noticed something strange about the foundations and one of the patio began to sink. As they dismantled the flooring, they discovered a portal leading to a subterranean labyrinth. Legends existed about underground tunnels below Buenos Aires, but they remained a myth. Archaeologists came to investigate, and the dig led to the discovery of more than 2 kilometres of vaulted brick passageways.

They concluded they were a drainage tunnel from the 18th century, or they were part of a much larger network created a century earlier by Jesuits. These priests whose unpopularity in the city led them to create escape routes out of the city. This is hard to prove as many of the tunnels disappeared during the construction boom in the second half of the 20th century. It took 17 years to excavate the site with more than 150 truckloads debris removed from the tunnels. During the dig, a hoard of artefacts appeared from around the world: historic coins, English china, old French tiles and several African pipes.

Today, the site is an underground museum and many of the items found are on display. You can wander below Buenos Aires’ street level to find a series of tunnels that led into courtyards and rooms including a slave cell. The fascinating museum tells the story of the history and its later discovery through a century of photos. The best way to experience the museum is on one of the daily 1-hour tours where guides take you on a journey though the passageways.

If you’re looking for something a little different that Buenos Aires’ more famous landmarks, El Zanjón de Granados provides a unique glimpse into the city’s extraordinary past..

Ready to start planning your adventure to Buenos Aires and Argentina? Get in touch with one of our South American experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here and we’ll help you create a bespoke one-off trip built around your tastes and budget.

How to make Argentine Chocotorta

Flickr: Joan Nova

It might be terrible for your waistline, but the Argentine chocotorta might just be the most delicious dessert you’ll ever eat. Its history goes back to the early ‘80s when a local cook tried to create a simple-to-make cake that didn’t require baking and promote a brand of cookies, cream cheese and the indulgent dulce de leche. Taking inspiration from her Italian roots, she produced this sinful gut-buster of a cake that graces so many birthdays today. As a traveller, you might have some difficulty finding it as it’s rarely mass produced. It looks impressive, but it’s in fact very simple to make. Here’s how:

Serves: 4-6
Time: 30 minutes preparation, 1-3 hours setting time

Ingredients

500g cream cheese
500g dulce de leche
1pt whole milk
Cocoa powder
300g dark chocolate
500g chocolate cookies
300ml double cream

Method

Start by taking a large mixing bowl and add the cream cheese and rich dulce de leche. Beat together with a wooden spoon for 2 minutes until they are both fully combined. Leave to one side.

Take a smaller bowl and pour in the pint of milk and stir in cocoa until blended. Take a glass or ceramic rectangular tray which you’ll use to construct the dessert. Take one of the cookies and soak in the milk for 30 seconds until soft but not falling apart. Place this at the bottom of the tray and repeat until you have a layer covering it.

Smear over about a third of the cream cheese dulce de leche mix and then create another layer of soaked cookies. Repeat the whole process until you have 3 full layers of cookies.

Place the tray in a freezer and leave between 1 and 3 hours to fully set.

When you’re ready to serve, take out of the freezer and leave to one side. Break up the dark chocolate into small chucks and place into a heatproof bowl. Heat the cream up gently in a saucepan over a low heat, but don’t let it boil. When it’s sufficiently hot, pour it over the chocolate pieces and beat until the chocolate has melted and its fully blended. Pour the ganache mix over the dessert and serve immediately, perhaps with some grated chocolate over the top for good measure.  Enjoy.

Want to try the real deal in Argentina? Get in touch with one of our Argentina experts today on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

Spotlight on Tamarin Monkeys

The are several species of tamarin monkeys that live in the Amazon Basin, but one of the most common is the emperor tamarin or saguinus imperator. Allegedly named for its resemblance to the German emperor Wilhelm II. They reside in the tropical forests around Peru, the west of Brazil and parts of Bolivia. Most of the tamarin’s fur is grey and black with little yellowish patches and a brown tail, but its most distinctive feature is its magnificent white moustache which extends out and curls downwards from its nose.

Typically, an emperor tamarin will reach a body length of around 25 centimetres with a strong tail that extends out a further 35 centimetres and weighs in just under half a kilo. They live together in groups of between 2 and 8 individuals led by the oldest female in the dense tree-covered tropical forests. Most of their days are spent swinging around in the trees, grooming each other to build bonds and rarely dropping to the forest floor where they are vulnerable to attack from predators.

Like the other species of tamarins, emperors are omnivores living off at diet of tropical fruits that can be found in abundance, some flowers depending on the season and their location, sap they’ve managed to prize out of trees and the odd insect. When they’re feeling hungry, they might go after tree frogs or cheekily steel the bird eggs when the parents are away from the nests. There small size, agile bodies and useful tails are an advantage making it easy for them to clamber along to the end of thin branches inaccessible for larger mammals. When the dominant female creates a troop to scavenge for food, they are known to work alongside other species of tamarin.

The gestation period for tamarins is roughly the same across the board and females give birth after around 140 to 150 days. Interestingly, they almost always birth twins, though triplets are not that uncommon. Afterwards, both the female and male are involved in the care of their young. The males will scavenge for food and carry the little ones, while the females help with feeding. After 3 months, the young are weaned off milk and start to eat solids. These are the most dangerous months for the young when the there is a high risk of falling from the canopy. If they do survive, they quickly mature and after 2 years they usually set off to build their own group living for more than 15 years.

In the wild, there are some concerns to the declining population which is affected by human encroachment and deforestation, though they are no yet listed as endangered. There are several locations like the Manu National Park where tamarins thrive. Interestingly, these social creatures are known to seek out human interaction when in captivity and there are reports from zoos that the critters like to be stroked and petted.

Want to catch a glimpse of emperor tamarins in the wild? Get in touch with one of our Amazon experts today on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

The most luxurious things to do in Latin America

Those lucky few with deep pockets can experience Latin America in extraordinary ways. And why not? There’s been plenty of studies that show that experiences making you happier than things. So, if you are a big spender, why not book up one of these unique things to do.

Grab a drink at the Copacabana Palace

Copacabana Palace in Rio has seen many of the world’s rich and famous walk through its Art Deco doors. The hotel opened in the early ‘20s. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced here and the Rolling Stones band had a drink at the Grand Salon before their concert on the beach. Magnificent guestrooms overlook the famous strip of golden sand. They drip with antique furnishings and original artwork. Be sure to swing by the uber-cool Bar do Copa where the city’s trend-setters come for sun-downers.

Take a tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats in a private air stream

While the crowds head out onto the Uyuni Salt Flats on 4x4s, why not book a tour of the iconic natural wonder on the only vintage Airstream in Bolivia. This shiny, metal campervan includes a bedroom area, living space and bathroom with hot shower. You’ll attended by a personal chef, a support vehicle and guide who’ll help you make the most of your time there. The best part is enjoying dinner below the starry night sky.

Cruise the Galapagos on board the Grace

If you want to see the Galapagos in style, there’s no better way than on board the Grace. Named after its former owner Grace Kelly,  the motor yacht has everything you’d expect that’s fit for a princess. Available for private bookings for up to 18 passengers and attended by 2 naturalist guides and 10 crew. On board, you’ll find a spacious sundeck, a Jacuzzi and buffet-style dining. The vessel has seen a long list of famous passengers including Winston Churchill, Aristotle Onassis and Sir George Tilley.

Swim with whale sharks off Holbox Island

To enjoy the ultimate underwater experience, head to the tiny island of Holbox just off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Here, you can book a private tour between May and September to snorkel with whale sharks. These gentle behemoths of the sea can reach up to 15 metres in length and more than 15 tons making them the biggest fish in the seas. There are few things that match up to the once-and-a-lifetime experience of swimming with these harmless beasts of the sea.

Ride the Andean Explorer sleeper train

The Belmond Andean Explorer is the first luxury sleeper train in South America. It provides a unique way to get up close to the mountainous scenery in absolute comfort. The train plies the tracks between Cuzco and Lake Titicaca on a 2 or 3-day overnight adventure. You’ll find deluxe double cabins with panoramic windows, an en suite bathroom and living area. You can mingle with your fellow guests in the Piano Bar lounge car. Sip cocktails and enjoy live music to go with the Andean views. Taste seasonal Peruvian flavours in the luxury dining car or enjoy a treatment and massage in the on-board spa.

Fly over Rio de Janeiro

Avoid the throngs of tourists on the beach or around Christ the Redeemer, see it all from above from one of the private helicopter flights over the city. After boarding, you’ll be flown over the beaches, circle the iconic statue and enjoy views of Sugarloaf Mountain and Tijuca Forest from high up. A guide accompanies you to help spot the city’s landmarks and the flight lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. An incredible way to see the city from a unique perspective.

Catch a glimpse of Machu Picchu after the crowds have disappeared

In Peru it’s unthinkable not to visit the ancient Inka ruins of Machu Picchu that lies perched on the top of a mountain near Cuzco. That said, there are more than 5,000 people that mill around the site every day. If you want to splurge, book a night at the luxurious Sanctuary Lodge next to the citadel. From your private guestroom terrace, you’ll be able to look over the ruins, when the crowds have all disappeared.

Cruise along the Amazon on the luxury Aria

Want to experience the Amazon without sticky, humid nights in basic lodging? Try one of the 3, 4 or 7-night cruises on board the state-of-the-art Aria. The 45-metre long boat, designed by celebrated Peruvian architect Jordi Puig, includes 16 glass-fronted suites. Enjoy gourmet Peruvian cuisine in the dining room.  Spot Amazonian wildlife from the observation deck. At night the myriad stars. Dedicated naturalist guides, private chefs and crew will ensure a comfortable adventure.

Ready to start your luxury getaway to South America? Call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email here to start planning.

What to pack for a visit to the jungle

The Amazon is a wonderous place teeming with exotic flora and fauna. It’s one of South America’s most iconic destinations. The tropical rainforest spans from the cloud forests of the foothills of the Andes to the Atlantic forests of Brazil’s East coast. The steamy port city of Manaus, once of the centre of the rubber tapping boom and is home to the famous Teatro Amazonas opera house.  Belem, the coastal Amazon city lies on the banks of the Amazon River as it flows out to sea. In the rainforest, you can stay with indigenous locals in they thatched villages or in one of the few boutique luxury wildlife lodges.

It all makes for an extraordinary adventure, but it’s also hot and humid.  A question we always get asked is:  What to pack for the jungle? It’s an important one that can make the difference between a fun, wildlife-packed holiday or a miserable insect-bitten one. In the Amazon, pack thoughtfully to have a comfortable adventure. Many of the lodges have provisions for you to use, but it’s worth bringing at least the following.

Clothing

One of the most important aspects of your packing lit is what you’re going to wear. When hiking through the jungle, it’s a good idea to wear long trousers and tops to protect your arms.  We recommend clothes made from a breathable material e.g. 100% cotton, so you don’t feel too hot or get rashes.

Raincoat – It’s likely to rain at least once during your rainforest adventure and the heavy tropical rain can soak within seconds. A lightweight waterproof raincoat or poncho is a must. Many lodges provide ponchos, which have the advantage of covering your camera bag and let air circulate.

Footwear – It’s well worth investing in a good pair of walking boots. Try to buy them in advance and wear them in a little to avoid getting blisters. Many lodges will provide rubber boots, which give you more protection.

Socks – Comfortable breathable socks that are thick enough to allow your feet to sit snuggly in your boots. By the end of your trip, they’ll likely be wet and muddy, so bring multiple pairs or expect to wash them daily.

Sandals – After you’ve best the day hiking in walking boots, it’s a good idea to allow your feet a bit of breathing room back at the lodge. Do not use flip-flops which can be slippery and dangerous, but sandals with straps or Velcro.

Hat – A wide brim hat is a must by protecting your face from stray plants and insects on the hiking trails and from the sun which beats down, particularly on open areas like rivers.

Trousers – Though there are there all sorts of fancy high-tech materials, several pairs of 100% cotton trousers do the job nicely. They are inexpensive, protect your legs and dry quickly. When wet, jeans are the worst type of trousers. You might also want to consider bringing a pair of shorts to wear back at base. Trousers that convert to shorts are a good idea too.

Shirts – Light-coloured, long sleeve shirts made from 100% breathable cotton area ideal for adventures in the Amazon. They protect your arms from insects and the strong sun, while keeping you cool.

Swimming shorts or costume – There are several places where swimming is safe in the Amazon. You’re guides will let you know when. Bring a good pair of swimming shorts or costume to cool off in the rivers or lakes.

Underwear – Comfortable, 100% cotton underwear that doesn’t rub. Plenty of changes.

Headscarf or bandanas – These can be useful for many scenarios, not just protecting your head and mobbing up your forehead sweat.

Health

Bring any personal medicine or items of a personal nature you might need as you won’t find any shops around these parts. Though the lodge where you’re staying might have supplies of these on hand, it’s worth bringing the following just in case.

Sun cream – A high factor sun cream is a must to protect your skin from the strong sun. Though much of the walking is through dense jungle, you’ll often find yourself exposed on canoes going down the rivers and lakes.

Insect repellent – Some prefer the heavy DEET repellent, others like the more natural citronella-based repellents. Either way, find what works for you and bring plenty. You could also consider burning coils for your room.

Insect bite relief – With all the will in the world, you’re still going to receive the odd bite. To stop it itching and becoming infected, a good quality insect relief product is vital.

Lip balm – The hot weather can dry you out quickly, so a soothing lip balm can help to prevent painful cracked lips.

Talcum powder – Throwing a little talc on your body before you put on your clothes can help to prevent rashes during days out hiking along the trails. It helps to get boots on and off too.

Moisturiser – A great way to relieve any rashes you might get and to stop your skin drying out.

Hand sanitizer – It’s a good idea to sanitize your hands whenever you’re in a new place. Use before you eat anything, particularly if you’re hands have been exposed to any of the river or lake water.

Basic first aid kit – The lodge will have one, but it’s never a bad idea to carry your own, just in case.

Other stuff

There are plenty of miscellaneous things that are useful to bring to make your trip as comfortable as possible.

Ear plugs – The sounds of the jungle at night are one of the most amazing things to hear, but if you’re a light sleeper, a good pair of ear plugs may help.

Day pack – A good quality day pack that’s comfortable on the shoulders and preferably has a water pack attached is useful. Ideally a waterproof one, or line it with a plastic bag.

Binoculars – Many of the lodges have binoculars for guests to use, but they are of varying quality, so bringing a small pair for yourself might be the difference between spotting one of the rare birds and not.

Sunglasses – They don’t need to be expensive so long as they have UV protection.

Torch / flashlight – Hand held torches are good, but one you can attach to your head is more comfortable. Perfect for night time hikes through the jungle.

Chargers – Any chargers and leads that you might use. Most lodges have a generator providing electricity some of the day and night.

Cameras – All the camera equipment you might need. Overdo it when it comes to memory cards as you won’t have anywhere to buy more should you run out.

Mosquito net – Most lodges include nets over the bed, but they vary in quality. To be on the safe side consider bringing your own to double up.

Ready to start exploring the Amazon? Contact one of our South American experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here to start planning your adventure.

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.

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