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Evoke a bygone era of travel on board the luxury Anakonda Amazon cruise

Anakonda Amazon Cruises Short video from Anakonda Amazon Cruises on Vimeo.

Most people don’t know this, but Ecuadorian Amazon region is the one of the easiest and accessible to reach. A forty-five-minute flight from the capital Quito brings you to the steamy port town of Coca. From where several excellent lodges are just a canoe ride away.  However, one of the most immerseive ways to see the Amazon is by boat. Nothing quite evokes that feeling of a bygone era of travel that cruising through the Amazon and on board the Anakonda you can do it in serious luxury.

The Anakonda is the only luxury ship cruising the waterways of the Ecuadorian Amazon. Built for comfortable adventure cruising, the suites are equipped with modern facilities and panoramic windows from which guests can enjoy extraordinary views of the sunrise and sunset.  Other features on board include an observation deck, outdoor Jacuzzi, al fresco lounge and an excellent dining room offering fine cuisine and a variety of wine.

You won’t be spending all your time on board – much of the time will be spent on land exploring the rainforest. Venture out on dug-out canoes through the flooded forest and smaller tributaries, hike the trails, and meet and interact with the region’s 15 local communities. For keen birdwatchers there are over 500 species to discover. Guests can also enjoy close encounters with tapirs, macaws, giant ottters, sloths, monkeys, piranhas and of course, anacondas which inspired the name of the boat.

To book the Anakonda, or any tour of the Amazon, get in touch with us today.

Flying hacks to make long-haul flights just that little bit better

Let’s face it. Flying sucks. It’s a means to an end, the only viable way to travel long distances quickly. Even flying first class isn’t really enjoyable, it’s simply better than cattle class. There are however ways you can make flying just that little bit better, take the edge off how uncomfortable it can be.

Get yourself a lounge pass

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This is real no brainer, yet few people actually sign up for them. VIP lounges used to be for the super rich travelling first class, but now comfortable lounges are popping up in most major airports available to anyone. With costs starting at around £25 and with many including a free bar, snacks, decent WiFi, comfortable seating, showers and complimentary magazines, they’re a steel.

Ask for things

Flickr: yum9me

Flickr: yum9me

It’s becoming much harder to secure free upgrades than the good old days, but it’s still not impossible. Those who ask are much more likely to get. If it’s a birthday, special occasion or honeymoon, let the airline staff know and if there is room, you may just get lucky. There are a number of ways to increase your chances. Always join up to the loyalty scheme of the airline before you travel. Loyal customers are more likely to be upgraded. If you are travelling as a couple or single the chances are more in your favour than a family. Children and those travelling with them have zero chance of getting bumped up to first. Lastly, try to look as smart as possible. Turning up with a joggers and a hoodie is not going to see you get that golden ticket.

Go to the gym

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Many people have trouble sleeping on planes, and that’s not surprising given the uncomfortable seating and inability to lie flat. If possible, go to the gym a few hours before travelling. Your body will be much more tired and in need or rest and you’ll feel less stressed.

Be prepared for security

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Flickr: Bailey Cheng

The scrum as you go through security can be stressful, but the experience can be made a lot more pleasant with a little preparation. Pack your liquids in clear bags before you leave (it’s worth grabbing a bunch whenever you see free ones at an airport), don’t wear jewelry or watches (you can keep them in your carry on and put them on as soon as you are through security) and make sure your tablet computer and laptop are easily accessible. When you arrive at security, turn left. Research shows that the majority of people turn right, meaning the left lines should be more less busy on average. These few things will ensure that everything runs as smoothly and efficiently as possible.

Bring your own food

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We all know airplane food tends to be fairly inedible. Cooking 250 people’s meals in a small space at the back of place isn’t conducive to tasty cuisine. But there is nothing to stop you bringing your own food (as long as it’s not liquid). Pop to the shops before you travel and pick up some tasty treats to enjoy on board. Cured meats, dried fruits and nuts are particularly easy to travel with and filling.

Wear more on board

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Airlines never quite manage to get the temperature right on flights. Wear extra layers, which not only allows you to bring more clothes with you if your luggage is nearing the weight limit, but it also allows you to regulate your temperature perfectly on board. If it’s too hot, you can always use the extra clothes as a pillow. If your luggage weight is an issue, wear your heaviest clothes.

Where to sit

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If you are a nervous flier, pick a seat near to the middle. The seats above the wings are better balanced and therefore the turbulence is not felt as much in this position. The worst place for turbulence is at the back of the plane.

Useful things on board

There are plenty of useful extras you should remember to bring on your next flight. Those little mini shampoos you took from your hotel stay are perfect for cosmetics. Baby wipes are an excellent way to clean and fresh up before you disembark the flight. If you wear contact lens, bring your glasses instead as the lens tend to dry out your eyes. If you invest a little in noise cancelling headphones, it drowns out the monotonous hum of the engines and can improve the journey immensely. And lastly, bring a pen. Everyone always needs a pen.

Mexican menudo roja recipe

Menudo recipe

Menudo is a hearty Mexican soup made from tripe (beef stomach) and plenty of chili. While tripe is not the most popular or appealing of ingredients, it is cheap, nutritious and if prepared property, delicious. You can find both tripe and pigs trotters in all good butchers. Serve this with plenty of corn tortillas, and if possible leave the dish to cool overnight and reheat for better flavor.

Serves: 6
Time: 4 hours

Ingredients

1kg tripe
2 pig trotters
2 lts water
1 onion
1 garlic bulb
1 handful of coriander with roots
1 tbs peppercorns
2 bay leaves
2 tps cumin seeds
3 tps dried oregano
5 small red chilies
salt
4 tbs vinegar
2 cans of hominy
1 handful dried guajillo chilies
1 tbs sugar

Method

Clean you tripe thoroughly in cold water and trim any excess fat away. In a large pot add cold water and bring to the boil before adding the pig trotters and tripe. After 10 minutes, pour away the water and add more water, chopped onion, garlic bulb, coriander, peppercorns, bay leaves, half the cumin, half the oregano, half the vinegar and the red chillies. Cover the pot and simmer for 2 hours before allowing it to cool.

Next remove the tripe and cut into strips. Take the meat off the trotters and discard the bones and fat. Strain the liquid through a sieve, keeping for future use, and discarding the solids. Add the meat, tripe and strained liquid back to the pot. Take the dried chillies and with a little salt grind them in a pestle and mortar until a paste has formed. Add to the pot along with the canned hominy. Add the remaining spices, vinegar, a little crushed garlic and season to taste. Simmer for another couple of hours until the soup is thickened.

Serve with plenty of hot corn tortillas and some wedges of lime.

9 insanely luxurious hotels around Latin America

Alvear Palace, Argentina

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The elegant Alvear Palace, located in the upmarket Recoleta district in Buenos Aires, was built in the early 20th century and combines European style along with modern technology. No other hotel in Buenos Aires exudes luxury like the Alvear Palace. Each suite is tastefully decorated with art by well-known Argentine artists adorning the walls. Just outside the doors lies an amazing city to explore, but the luxury spa, indoor pool and French restaurant La Borgogne may keep you from exploring it, as will afternoon patisseries and tea at Jardin d’Hiver.

Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize

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Owned by film director Francis Ford Coppola, this beautiful lodge located on the banks of the Priassion River consists of nineteen luxury villas are built from hardwoods and woven thatches. Private villas overlook the surrounding jungle from their stilted location. Soak in the large Jacuzzi at the riverside spa or indulge in a traditional massage.

Hotel Das Cataratas, Brazil

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One of Latin America’s most iconic hotels, the Das Cataratas is the only hotel located inside Iguazu Falls National Park. When all the tourists have left, guests have exclusive access to the falls all to themselves. Part of the Belmond hotel group (formerly Orient Express), this Portuguese-colonial manor house harks back to a bygone era of travel. After exploration of the falls, return for a lazy afternoon under the palsm on the veranda or refreshing swim in the outdoor pool.

Lastarria, Chile

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Built in the early 20th century, this stunning residence located in Santiago’s most bohemian district, is one the city’s most elegant hotels. The Lastarria is situated near the museums, galleries, shops and restaurants in the heart of the city. Each suite is beautifully decorated and spacious, while the restaurant offers cuisine cooked from locally sourced ingredients in an elegant lounge.

La Passion, Colombia

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While Cartagena is packed with boutique hotels, the 19th century restored house La Passion stands out. The charming hotel has plenty of original features including high ceilings, chequered marble floors, mural paintings and wooden doors as well as an impressive array of colonial, republican and modern furniture. Located in the heart of historic Cartagena other features as this luxury boutique include a lovely terrace and bar, Jacuzzi and a rooftop outdoor pool.

Finca Rosa Blanca, Costa Rica

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While San Jose may not be known for its abundance of luxury hotels, the Central Valley located a half hour away has plenty of boutiques. One of the best is the Finca Rosa Blanca, a small luxury hotel nestled amidst lush gardens and the rolling countryside of orchids and coffee plantations. All of the rooms are beautifully constructed offering a choice of veranda or private terrace overlooking the serene landscapes of valleys and mountains. After a day of hiking or horse riding, guests return for delicious homemade cuisine in the restaurant made from organic produce from the hotel’s gardens.

Plaza Grande, Ecuador

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The Plaza Grande was one of the first hotels built in Quito, and what a hotel. Extensively renovated and remodeled, this fine hotel located on the central square, the Plaza del la Independencia, it’s within walking distance to Quito’s highlights. Fine suites, excellent service and a serious level of comfort define this luxurious boutique property.

El Convento, Guatemala

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The colonial town Antigua has arguably one of the highest concentration of luxury hotels in Latin America. Our favourite, El Convento, is housed within an 18th century Capuchin convent. Stepping into the property from the famed cobblestone streets of Antigua, a beautifully constructed hotel awaits – artisanal brick vaulted ceilings, exposed stone walls and hand-crafted doors with the simple elegance of contemporary design. Chef Arelene served up excellent cuisine at the hotel’s Siltz restaurant, one of the best eateries in the city.

Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, Mexico

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This ocean front property located on the Baja California peninsula in northwest Mexico, the name literally translates to “the windows to paradise”. Part of the Rosewood Resorts, this is one of the best hotels in the world. The property boosts a selection of luxurious suites and villas, all of which overlook the ocean. Personal telescopes are provided from whale and dolphin spotting during the day and star gazing at night. There is an excellent indoor and outdoor spa offering plenty of treatments and a world-class restaurant to while away the evenings.

To start planning your luxury holiday to Latin America, get in touch today.

The best markets in South America

Otavalo Market, Otavalo

Located in the northern Ecuadorian town of the same name, Otavalo is perhaps one of the most famous markets in South America. Although the market operates every day, the largest is on Saturdays when thousands of indigenous locals descend upon the town to sell their colourful wares. Poncho clad locals barter over panama hats, the backdrop of snow-clad mountains in the background.

Witches’ Market, La Paz

Flickr: Yan Boechat

Flickr: Yan Boechat

Don’t miss the Witches’ Market in La Paz, a strange place for amulets, potions and herbs. Indigenous Aymara women in traditional bowler hats and colourful skirts barter and sell their wares, the summit of Huayna looming in the background. Dried llama fetuses are one of the most unusual products sold and found on every stall. Traditional they are buried under new houses to help bring wealth and luck.

Mercado del Puerto, Montevideo

Flickr: Jorge Gobbi

Flickr: Jorge Gobbi

A visit to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay, wouldn’t be complete without a visit to Mercado del Puerto. Filled with restaurants and shops, this is an excellent place for people watching and trying the huge portions of asados (barbeques). Street performers and musicians set the mood as you tuck into delicious Uruguayan meats and seafood.

San Telmo Market, Buenos Aires

One of the best bric-a-brac and antique markets in the continent and one that offers a glimpse of old Argentina. Best visited on Sunday when market stalls line the Calle Defensa with piles of vintage cameras and old paintings. As you wander slowly along the street, stop to watch the tango dancers perform.

Mercado Central, Santiago

One of the best fish markets in the country. Not only is it a great place to discover Chile’s abundant fish produce, but also a great place to sample some in the one of the many restaurants and cafes. Try one of the local cafes that surround the market, instead of the touristy central restaurants. Even if you don’t plan to eat, it worth visiting for the architecture alone. The market building was constructed in the late 19th century, primarily from cast-iron produced in Glasgow.

Tarabuco Market, Nr. Sucre

This indigenous Sunday market located an hour or so from Sucre is an excellent place to pick up textiles, colourful bags, sweaters and hats. Take the early morning bus from Sucre and discover the unique indigenous Yampara culture, delicious cuisine, and pick up some souvenirs to take home.

Mercado Adolpho Lisboa, Manaus

Located in the steamy port city of Manaus in the middle of the Amazon, the Mercado Adolpho Lisboa (or Mercado Municipal). The large open market sells everything from fresh produce, spices and indigenous medicines and was constructed in the late 19th century modelled on Les Halles in Paris, France. Most of the buildings structure was even built in Paris and transported to Manaus by ship.

Pisac Market, Pisac

Pisac is another of South America’s most famous markets. The Sunday market is visited by thousands of tourists who come to barter for colourful handcrafts and textiles. Like Otavalo, many come vendors come from far and wide to see their products. The market is an excellent place to try classic Peruvian dishes and is best combined with a visit to Ollantaytambo, the last remaining town inhabited by Incas.

To start planning your tour of Latin America, get in touch.

12 amazing things to do in Costa Rica

Costa Rica is full of exciting experiences, an adventure playground of hiking trails, mountains, waterfalls, surf and white water rivers. Here are 13 amazing things to do in Costa Rica. This is the pure vida after all.

Horse ride to La Fortuna falls

Flickr: Nikki T

Flickr: Nikki T

This short horse ride takes you from the town to the 80m high La Fortuna waterfalls, a journey that takes around an hour to complete. The easy ride is perfect for beginners and along the way much wildlife can be spotting including monkeys, coatis, peccaries and toucans. Enjoy a refreshing dip before returning back to town.

Soak in the hot springs in Arenal

Natural hot springs are abundant in Arenal where the volcano keeps the bubbling geological wonders hot. Although there are plenty to choose from, try the Tabacon Springs, a luxurious spa surrounded by natural jungle and fed by a series of small cascades. Visiting a hot spring is best combined with a lengthy hike around the base of Arenal Volcano.

Zip line in Monteverde National Park

There is no better place to experience the exhilaration of zip lining than in the Monteverde National Park. Hike along the canopy walkways spotting toucans, monkeys and exotic birdlife before gliding through treetops in a series of zip lines which bring you back down to earth.

Catamaran cruise in Manuel Antonio National Park

What better way to connect with the ocean than via a catamaran cruise, best taken from Manuel Antonio National Park. As you cruise spot dolphins jumping in the yacht’s wake. The boat stops multiple times for snorkelling with the rich marine life – think turtles, parrotfish and damselfish. Alternatively, take an afternoon cruise to watch the sun melt into the ocean’s horizon.

Scuba Diving in Cocos Island

Flickr: Barry Peters

Flickr: Barry Peters

Located almost 350 miles off the coast of Costa Rica, the uninhabited UNESCO Cocos Island is the best place for scuba diving in the country. Not only will you see schools of colourful exotic fish, you’ll also see some of the larger marine creatures including white-tip sharks, manta rays, hammerhead sharks and sometimes even whale sharks. Best experienced on a live aboard cruise.

Surf in Playa Jaco

Costa Rica has some of the best waves in Latin America. The beaches that fringe the country on the Pacific side are a surfer’s paradise. Beginner? No problem, there are plenty of surf schools to help you get started. Try the Nicoya Peninsula or Playa Jaco for the best surf. If that isn’t your thing, then try paddle boarding instead.

Visit Poas Volcano

volcano-poas-1246159_1280A day trip to see Poás Volcano is well worth the journey. Located at almost 9,000ft above sea level, it’s possible to hike around the rim of the volcano’s crater, and look down 500ft into its active core which bubbles and spits, emitting sulfur fumes. Surrounded by lush tropical cloud forest, it’s also a wildlife haven. Best combined with a coffee farm tour and a visit to La Paz waterfalls.

Eat gallo pinto

Flickr: Olaf

Flickr: Olaf

The national dish of Costa Rica, gallo pinto is simple hearty fare. Rice and beans, typically served with some meat or even fish, or eggs at breakfast. Most probably originating from African slaves, the dish literally translates to ‘spotted roster’ due to its speckled appearance created when white rice is cooked with dark-coloured beans.

Go whale watching in the Nicoya Penisula

humpback-whale-431904_1280December to March is the best time to whale watch in Costa Rica, when humpback whales migrate through the region. Best places are Guanacaste & North Pacific, the Nicoya Peninsula, the Central Pacific and the Osa Peninsula. As well as fluking whales, orcas and bottlenose dolphins are also commonly sighted.

White water raft on the Pacuare River

Flickr: Nick G 77

Flickr: Nick G 77

Adrenaline junkie? Try white water rafting down the Pacuare, almost 20 miles of excellent Class III-IV rapids and cascading waterfalls. Fringing the river is a lush rainforest inhabited by a variety of wildlife including monkeys, butterflies, ocelots, jaguars, parrots, toucans and much more.

Observe Olive Ridley turtles in Guanacaste

One of the smallest species of turtle, the Olive Ridley nests in the beaches around Guanacaste. Although they can be found nesting throughout the year, the best time to see them is between July and November. You can also see leatherbacks and greens in different parts of the country.

See monkeys in the Manuel Antonio National Park

capuchin-monkey-1187570_1280Manuel Antonio on Costa Rica’s southern Pacific coastline has plenty of wildlife (over 100 species of mammals and almost 200 species of birds), but perhaps the most exciting are the monkeys of which there are three species – the mantled howler monkey, the white-headed capuchin monkey and the Central American squirrel monkey. It’s also possible to see three-toed and two-toed sloths.

To begin planning your tour of Costa Rica, get in touch with us today.

British Airways launches new London to Lima direct flight today

British Airways
British Airways
launches it’s direct service between London Gatwick and Lima today.

There hasn’t been a direct flight since 1982 when Peru closed its airspace to British airlines in solidarity with Argentina during the Falklands War. But with growing numbers of tourists from the UK visiting the country each year, a direct fight between the two capitals has been a long time coming.

The airline will run three direct fights each week throughout the summer departing on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. In winter (October onwards), the service will run twice weekly.

British Airways already has successful direct services to Buenos Aires in Argentina and Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paulo in Brazil. But the flight to Lima will open up a whole new host of destinations accessible in the north of the continent.

BA’s managing director at Gatwick airport, Lynne Embleton says, “It is great to be the only airline to offer direct services between London and Peru. Lima is a fantastic gateway to some of the most dramatic places to visit in South America and will also provide a new link for British business seeking to invest in Peru’s growing market.”

Peru has much more to offer than Machu Picchu. Sweeping mountains and towering peaks, spectacular hiking, steep canyons, ancient ruins left by past civilisations, steamy rainforests and a beautiful coastline.The legend of ‘El Dorado’ the lost city of gold has been attracting explorers for hundreds of years.

Ready to start planning your tour of Peru? Take a look at our tour suggestions or get in touch with us today.

 

This may be the world’s most dangerous selfie spot

On the outskirts of Rio de Janeiro lies the Pedra da Gavea mountain, a beautiful spot that overlooks the city and the Atlantic Ocean. No wonder it’s a magnet for adventurers and hikers who come to the scenic viewpoint at 2,769ft high. A dangerous trend of selfies near the edge is emerging, with visitors getting  terrifyingly close to the drop off.

If you suffer from vertigo, you may want to look away now. The selfie spot located in Tijuca Forest, the world’s largest urban forest, is nail baiting stuff. Visitors have been know to lie, balance, do yoga and even hang off the cliff edge.

To visit Rio de Janeiro and Tijuca Forest (but not selfie from it’s edge), get in touch with us today.

L O O K #pedradagavea #errejota #helldejaneiro #alojapa #riodejaneiro #crossfit #naturaleza

A photo posted by Cadu Gadelha (@cadu_gadelha) on

How to spend the perfect day in Cartagena

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The colourful city of Cartagena sits on Colombia’s Caribbean coast. Its charming colonial old town, friendly locals, laid-back Caribbean vibe and views over the ocean make it any easy place to while away a week, but if you only have one day in the city, this is what you should do. The metropolitan area of Cartagena is large, but in a day it’s best to focus on the old town surrounded by the old wall.

8 a.m.

Flickr: lesleyk

Flickr: lesleyk

Unless you’ve had a late night, wake early to make the most of the day. The pleasant temperature of the mornings cooled by breeze from the ocean makes it an excellent time to explore. Stop by Elaine Gomez Lozano’s arepa stand on the corner of Carrera 11 and Calle 38 in Cartagena’s Old City. Her generous corn arepas filled with cheese, meat and tomatoes are delicious and cost just a couple of dollars. Many street vendors specialise in freshly squeezed exotic juices, perfect for a little vitamin C boost.

10 a.m.

The city wall is more than 400-years old, but despite its age it’s in remarkably good condition. Start in the west and walk along the 2-mile stretch on top of the wall, taking in the views over the Caribbean ocean on one side and the old colonial streets on the other. There are plenty of scenic places to stop for a rest.

2 p.m.

Flickr: Aris Gionis

Flickr: Aris Gionis

You’re by the coast, so eating seafood is a must. Ceviche, a zingy mix of fresh raw seafood, typically white fish, marinated in lime juice, is fresh and perfect for the warm weather. While it’s easy to pick up a little plate from the street stalls or local cafes, the best in town is at La Cevicheria, a small restaurant on Calle Stuart 714. Sit outside in the sunshine, or perch on the seats inside and as well as ceviche, be sure to try the shrimps and octopus salad.

4 p.m.

Head over to the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas located just outside the old town. This enormous fort was built by the Spanish in the 16th century in order to defend the city from land and sea attacks. It was expanded in the 17th and 18th centuries. A scramble to the top of the fort 130ft high takes twenty minutes or so, from which you can explore the bunkers and tunnels and look down over the city.

6 p.m.

Flickr: sergejf

Flickr: sergejf

As the sun begins to set, and the twinkle of the city lights appear, jump on board one of the horse and carriages for a picturesque tour. Trotting around the old town is a delightful way to while away the early evening, enjoying close up views of the colonial architecture and people watching. The lighting at this time is excellent for photography, so get snapping.

8 p.m.

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For dinner head to Don Juan’s on Calle del Colegio No. 34-60, a casual restaurant with a sophisticated menu that puts Colombian’s excellent produce at the forefront. For a starter, the grilled octopus, bacon and candied potatoes is an excellent choice. For dinner, try the roasted lamb with yucca fries and an artichoke aioli.

10 p.m.

Music plays an important role in Cartagena. Grab a stool at the bar in La Vitrola on Calle Baloco no. 33-20, a charming venue with a similar atmosphere to the joints in Old Havana. Sip on a cold beer or aguadiente (the local fire water) and listen to the nightly live samba and Cuban music.

To start planning your trip to Cartagena and Colombia, get in touch with us today.

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