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Monthly Archives: October 2015

Wildlife Hotspots In The Antarctic

Flickr: Aah-Yeah

Flickr: Aah-Yeah

Drake Passage

The rough seas of the Drake Passage that connect the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans is most people’s first experience with the harsh climates of the Antarctic region. Although some decide to fly down to the Antarctic, skipping the Drake Passage, those who take the two day voyage are treated to an array of sea birds including giant storm petrels, black browed albatross and sometimes even roaming albatross. Sightings of whales and dolphins are common.

Suggested cruise: Classic Antarctica on board the Ocean Nova

Weddell Sea

For true exploration of the Antarctic an ice-breaking voyage through the Weddell Sea is a must. This pristine wilderness is often clogged with pack-ice so a stronger ice-class vessel is required. This is one of the best places to view whales including killer whales, humpback whales and minke whales. Leopard seals, weddell seals and crabeater seals can often be seen basking on the pack-ice or fishing. Adelie penguins have adapted for the harsh conditions and a colony of a hundred thousand can be seen on Paulet Island. Not long ago an emperor penguin colony was found on Snowhill Island.

Suggested cruise: Weddell Sea Quest on board the M/V Ushuaia

 

Falkland Islands

Disputed archipelago located 400 kms from the Tierra del Fuego in southern Argentina and a wildlife enthusiasts perfect location. There are plenty of bird species including King penguins, Gentoo penguin, rockhopper penguin, macaroni penguin, Magellanic penguin, grebes, herons, ducks, hawks and more. In the waters around the archipelago elephant seals, fur seals, sealions and plenty of species of whale and dolphin can be spotted.

Suggested cruise: Crossing the Circle via Falklands on board the Sea Adventurer

South Georgia

This remote mountainous island located between the southern tip of Argentina and the Antarctic Penisula is packed full of glaciers and fjords. Wildlife highlights include albatrosses, skuas, gulls, ducks, teals, petrels, shearwaters, chinstrap penguins and Gentoo penguins. The stars of the show are the 400,000 pairs of king penguins and the two million pairs of macaroni penguins. The island has a fascinating history of whalers and Shackleton’s Endurance expedition.

Suggested cruise: South Georgia In Depth on board the Akademik Sergey

 

Flickr: Liam Quinn

Flickr: Liam Quinn

South Orkney Islands

This archipelago of four rugged islands located around 800 miles north of the Antarctic Peninsula is mainly used as a research base for the British and Argentines. The climate here is particularly harsh with strong winds, rain and snow falls almost every day of the year. Coronation Island is an excellent place to observe the elusive pure white snow petrel which uses the island for breeding. Bird species include skues, cormorants, sheathbills and terns as well as Adelie, chinstrap and Gentoo penguins. Colonies of fur seals are found on some of the islands’ beaches.

Suggested cruise: Falklands, South Georgia and Antarctic Peninsula on board the M/V Ortelius

 

Flickr: Anne Dirkse

Flickr: Anne Dirkse

South Sandwich Islands

The South Sandwich Islands located 500 miles from South Georgia is a series of 11 volcanic islands, some of which are still active. The archipelago of islands extends for almost 250 miles and are connected to Tierra del Fuego by the Scotia Ridge, a sub-oceanic ridge. Although there used to be an Argentine research base here, it is now uninhabited. Few cruises visit the islands, but those who do find an impressive collection of wildlife including southern giant petrels, elephant seals, fur seals and Gentoo penguins. The highlight is the million or so pairs of chinstrap penguins.

Suggested cruise: Falklands, South Georgia & South Sandwich on board the M/V Plancius

 

Flickr: Liam Quinn

Flickr: Liam Quinn

South Shetland Islands

The South Shetlands Islands are relatively close to the Antarctic Peninsula, around 80 miles north. This is a common stopping point for reaching the white continent. This series of islands are almost completely covered with ice throughout the year. Its rich in wildlife including plenty of bird life, seals, whales and penguins. Elephant Island is the infamous place where Shackleton’s Endurance expedition got stranded in 1915 in heavy pack-ice. Many visit Deception Island where is it possible to swim in Pendulum Cove which is heated by volcanic activity.

Suggested cruise: Antarctic Circle Voyage on board the Akamedik Ioffe

Antarctic Peninsula

For most, the goal is to step onto the 7th continent which is easiest done on the Antarctic Peninsula. However, due to the harsher climate the wildlife spotting opportunities are not as varied as the sub-polar islands north of the peninsula. You will find seals, sea birds and some whales. For those who have more time (and a higher budget), the highlight will surely be walking near to a vast emperor penguin colony which can only be reached by helicopter.

Suggested cruise: Antarctic Peninsula – Basecamp Ortelius on board the M/V Ortelius

We have a huge selection of Antarctic cruises on offer. For more details or to book your place for the upcoming 2015-2016 season get in touch.

Best Birding Locations in Central & South America

Latin America is simply one of the best continents for birding on earth. In total there are over 3,000 species roughly equating to thirty two percent of the world’s bird species. There are so many good birding spots in every country in Central and South America that it would be impossible for us to list them all here, but below you will find 10 of the highlights.

Flickr: putneymark

Flickr: putneymark

Galapagos Islands – Ecuador

Although there are only 56 native bird species in the Galapagos, its draw is that 45 of these are endemic to the archipelago – they are found nowhere else on earth. There are 29 more migratory species that come and go depending on the season and another 64 that have been spotted very occasionally. Most will be familiar with the iconic blue-footed booby, with their brightly coloured feet and funny mating dance, but did you there are two other types of booby – the red-footed and Nazca? One of the best times to visit the Galapagos is during May when nearly the entire world’s population of waved albatrosses (around 30,000) return to Española Island to breed. There elaborate dance can last for days and includes much beak-fencing.

Flickr: dany13

Flickr: dany13

Pantanal – Brazil

The Panatanal is a wildlife enthusiast’s dream location. The ecosystem is home to over a thousand different species of bird life. Although some of the birds here are endangered, its isolated location has allowed most species to flourish. Highlights include seeing jabiru, greater rheas and viewing over 24 different species of hawks, eagles and kites. In recent years it has been possible to see nesting harpy eagles, an absolute must for keen birders.

Colca Canyon – Peru

Colca Canyon may not have the largest list of bird species, but it is the best place to see the Andean Condor. From the Cruz del Condor viewpoint located on the canyon rim over 1,200 metres up it is possible to see these majestic birds close up. Get there early in the morning and for the opportunity to see them gliding above and around the canyon walls below. If you explore the canyon a little more you will find hummingbirds, Chilean flamingos, mountain caracaras and Andean goose as well.

South Georgia

If numbers was the best measure, South Georgia would surely win. The tiny inhospitable island between Argentina and the Antarctic Peninsula is home to over thirty million nesting birds. Over 80 species have been recorded but 31 of these breed and bring up their young here. Species include grey headed albatross, white chinned petrels, prions, blue-eyed shag, pintails and much more. However, most visit to view the large colonies of penguins. There are 6,000 pairs of chinstraps, 100,000 pairs of gentoo, almost half a million pairs of king penguin and over 2 million pairs of macaroni penguins. Unfortunately although the numbers of king penguins increase year or year, the macaroni penguin population has decreased over 50% in the last twenty five years.

Flickr: vil.sandi

Flickr: vil.sandi

Manu National Park – Peru

Manu National Park is easily accessible from Cuzco in Peru. This 15,000 km² biosphere reserve that tumble down the eastern slopes of the Andes to the Amazon is home to over a thousand different species of bird, about ten percent of the entire world’s species. It even holds the record of the most number of species seen in one day – 331. Of course it would be impossible for us to list ever species here, but highlights include the many clay licks used by parrots and macaws and is one of the best places to spot the mating dance of the cock-of-the-rock. There are plenty of excellent birding lodges with knowledgeable birding guides in the region.

Atlantic Coast – Brazil

The hundred kilometre wide strip of the Serra do Mar forests that run along the Atlantic coast in Southern Brazil are a mecca for birdwatchers. The varied altitudes ranging from the shrubby lower levels at sea level to the 1,500 metre mountain forests allow for a vast array of bird life. There are over 500 species to be found, of which almost 200 are endemic and can be found nowhere else on earth. This incidentally is the highest number of endemics in one region.

Ibera Wetlands – Argentina

The Ibera wetlands covers a region roughly the size of Belgium in the northern region of Argentina. This series of swamps, lakes and lagoons is 13,000 km2, the largest protected area in Argentina, and the second largest wetland area in the world (after the Pantanal in Brazil). There are over 325 species of birds that nest or migrate through the area. Trips are mostly taken by small boat or horseback and bird highlights include kingfishers, kestrels, nightjars, hawks, storks, tanagers, jaribus, hummingbirds and herons. The best place to stay is Rincon del Socorro which over very comfortable accommodation and excellent birding guides.

Cloud Forest – Ecuador

There are a number of different reserves including Bellavista and Mindo that make up the cloud forests on the western slopes of the Andes, a couple of hours north-west of Quito in Ecuador. Each one is busting with bird life. At 1,300 metres it lies at a midway point between the coast and the high Andes offering a greater diversity of species – over 550 in total. It’s a great place for toucans, cock-of-the-rock, antpittas, manakins, ducks, however, most come for the variety of beautiful hummingbirds. Most lodges are comfortable but basic and offer very knowledgeable birding guides. Pick one like Bellavista Cloud Forest Lodge which hang feeders near to the lodge attracting hummingbirds right to you.

Flickr: vil.sandi

Flickr: vil.sandi

Boquete – Panama

Panama is often overlooked for birdwatching, however the country boasts over a thousand species. One of the best areas to visit is the cloud forests around the Boquete highlands. There are plenty well marked trails making it easy to explore by yourself should you wish. During the dry season there are over 400 species of bird to spot. Highlights include the emerald toucan, sulfur-winged parakeet and plenty of hummingbird species. Many come to the region to hike the famous Quetzal Trail which offers one of the best opportunities to spot the resplendent quetzal, one of the world’s most beautiful birds.

Flickr: Don Henise

Flickr: Don Henise

La Selva Biological Station – Costa Rica

Costa Rica has so many good birding locations, its tough singling out just one. However, the 1,500 hectares of lowland rainforest is one of the best. Owned by a consortium of research institutions and universities there are over 300 scientists which venture to the area each year to explore the rich biodiversity. On the latest count there are 467 species of birds making it one of the largest in Central America including native and migratory species.

To begin your birding tour anywhere in Latin America get in touch today.

This Video Perfectly Sums Up Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro really does have it all. A year round sunny climate, an energetic and dynamic city, white sandy beaches, iconic monuments, an excellent nightlife and food scene, friendly locals and luxury hotels.

This video perfectly sums up Rio de Janeiro. The juxtaposition between those busy timelapse shots of streets and packed beaches set alongside the relaxed musicians overlooking the city from Christ the Redeemer works perfectly. The pace and energy of the city, the rhythm of the music and those shots of the famous Rio de Janeiro sunset melting over the Atlantic.

There really is no city like it. To start arranging your tour of Rio and Brazil get in touch.

Carbonada Criolla Recipe

As we edge ever closer to the winter months, the hearty rich Argentine stew of beef, potatoes, corn, and fruit is the perfect accompaniment to the colder nights. This one pot dish is easy to prepare and can be made from cheaper cuts of meat. Feel free to add in whatever vegetables that need using up.

Serves: 6
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
Olive oil
1 kg stewing beef, cut into 2 cm cubes
1 can of tomatoes
1 litre of stock, preferably beef
3 large potatoes, cubed
3 large sweet potatoes, cubed
1 winter squash
2 courgettes, coarsely chopped
3 bay leaves
1 pepper, coarsely chopped
1 handful of dried apricots
3 corn cobs, cut in half
Salt and pepper

Method

Heat a good glug of olive oil in a heavy bottom saucepan. Brown the beef in batches and remove. Add a little more olive oil and turn the heat to low. Sweat the onions for 5 minutes, then add the peppers and garlic, cooking for a further 5 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes, bay leaves, stock, salt and pepper and bring to the boil. Add the beef and both types of potatoes and squash and cook until the vegetables are half cooked, around 10 minutes. Add the courgette and corn and cook for a further 10 minutes. Serve with plenty of crusty bread and a light salad if you wish.

To try the real deal in Argentina get in touch.

The 20 Best Hikes In Latin America

There are so many amazing hikes you can do through the Americas ranging from light days hikes to serious mountaineering climbs to summits. We’ll start with the Inca Trail, the most famous of the lot, but by no means the best. Please note that although some of the treks below are possible by yourself, most require a guide.

Flickr: Lisa Weichel

Flickr: Lisa Weichel

Inca Trail – Peru

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is perhaps the most iconic on this list of treks in Latin America. Most Inca Trail trips last four days. After heading out of the Inca capital of Cuzco you will hike through the lush Sacred Valley, walking in the footsteps of the ancient Incas. Along the way pass remnants of Incas including Ollantaytambo before finally arriving at Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is such a popular trek the government limit the number of trekkers to 500 per day which requires a permit that sell out months in advance. Guides will accompany you to help you make the most of the hike and porters will carry your things as well as setting up camp and cooking your meals to make the trek as comfortable as possible.

When to go: All year round expect February when the trail is closed.
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 4 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan – Guatemala

The three day trek from Xela to Lake Atitlan is also extremely popular. Along the way pass the verdant interior of Guatemala passing through cloud forests, small indigenous communities, volcanoes and of course, Lake Atitlan, once described by Aldous Huxley as the most beautiful lake in the world. Day one begins with a three hour hike to a view point overlooking the many surrounding volcanoes including Atitlan, Acatenango, Santa Maria and more. Day two descend down into the verdant valleys of pine trees and farms. Day three arrival at Lake Atitlan and hike around the edge.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 3 days
Tour: Try our Dynamic Guatemala tour

Flickr: Frank Vassen

Flickr: Frank Vassen

The Quetzal Trail – Panama

Although this is a relatively easy hike, it is considered by many one of the most scenic. Located in the Western highlands of Panama within the Volcan Baru National Park, most people hike the trail for the chance to spot the resplendent quetzal, the bird that gives the trail its name, and one of the most colourful in Latin America. The treks departs from Boquete, the town where most tourists stay when visiting the region and takes around five hours to complete.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 1/5
Length: 1 day
Tour: Try our Canals, Clouds & Coconuts tour

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Lost City Trek – Colombia

Surprisingly relatively few people hike the trail that ends at the Lost City in Colombia, an ancient citadel likened to Machu Picchu , so if you are looking for undiscovered gems, this is the best you are going to get. The Lost City was only discovered in 1976 by archaeologists from the Colombian Institute of Anthropology. Research since suggests it was founded around 600 A.D. and abandoned around one thousand years later. The four day trek departs from Santa Marta and passes lush jungle to arrive at the citadel.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 4 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Torres del Paine

The W Trek – Chile

The W Trek traverses the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonian region of Southern Chile. This five day trek will take you past some of the most stark and dramatic scenery on the continent. Towering snow-capped peaks, mighty glaciers, clear tortoise lakes are a daily occurrence on this relatively challenging hike. You may think this barren landscape lacks wildlife, but flamingos, hares and guanacos and more inhabit the area as well as the Andean condors that gracefully glide above. The trek can either be done camping or staying in the basic but comfortable refugees along the way. If five days is too much shorter day hikes can be arranged.

When to go: October to April
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 5 days
Tour: Try our W Trek Tour

Arenal

Arenal National Park – Costa Rica

The dominant Arenal Volcano that towers above the National Park is simply spectacular. There are a number of different guided trails to hike, each of them relatively gentle making it a good option for kids. Each passes the lower foothills of the volcano passing rainforest and lava fields and enjoying views of the volcano above. Los Helicanias trails leads to a particularly good lookout point over Lake Arenal. Afterwards head to one of the local hot springs for a well-earned soak. Tabacon Grand Spa a highly recommended.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 1/5
Length: 1 day
Tour: Try our Jungles, Volcanoes & Beaches tour

Flickr: McKay Savage

Flickr: McKay Savage

Paso del las Nubes – Argentina
An excellent two day hike in Argentina’s Lake District. After getting picked up from Bariloche, begin from the foot of Mount Tronador, also known as Pampa Linda. Hike through verdant forests and streams to a pass that offers excellent views over glaciers, waterfalls and Pampa Linda. Ascend to “Paso de las Nubes” (literally pass of the clouds) and camp for the night. The following day trek along the edge of Frias River to Puerto Frias and catch the last ferry returning back to the city. The trek can be extended into Chile if you wish for something longer or more challenging. There is much wildlife to see along the way including

When to go:
September to April
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 2 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour


Copper Canyon – Mexico

Copper Canyon in Mexico’s north is most famous for its railway, but the scenery and trails also make for some fantastic trekking. Surprisingly to most it is deeper, wider and longer than the Grand Canyon. Although the length of tours range, most guided tours are around ten days. Along the way you will pass small Tarahumara villages and enjoy plenty of wildlife.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 8+ days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour


Corcovado National Park – Costa Rica

The Corcovado National Park in Costa’s Rica’s Southern Osa Peninsula is, as National Geographic called it, one of the most biologically intense places on earth. There are plenty of trails here passing rainforests and beaches, many of which can be done by yourself. The really attraction of hikes here is the abundance of wildlife. Howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins, crocodiles, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, tapirs, anteaters, sloths, tamanduas, toucans, macaws, eagles and many species of reptile to name just a few. If snorkeling is your thing, stop along the way and find a huge array of marine life such as tropical fish, turtles and dolphins. There are plenty of luxury lodges so a trip here can be done in serious comfort should you wish.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 3+ days
Tour: Try our Romance in Costa Rica tour 

Huchuy Qosqo Trek – Peru

This is an excellent option for those that don’t want to hike the ever popular Inca Trail. It isn’t challenging, but takes you through some sublime Andean countryside to the little known (or visited) Huchuy Qosqo Inca site. This archaeological site north of Cuzco lies at 3,600 metres above sea level and is called ‘Little Cuzco’. Although it can be seen in one day, it is best combined with a visit to Machu Picchu in a three day adventure. Begin in Tambomachay and ahike through valleys, lakes and passes to the village of Qenko where you will spend the first night. Along the way birds including lapwings and Andean geese can be seen. The following day you will follow the route to Huchuy Qosqo and have plenty of time to explore. Trek down into the Sacred Valley and take the bus to Ollantaytambo and the train to Aguas Calientes. One the last day you will visit Machu Picchu before returning back to Cuenca.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length:1-3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Ausangate Circuit – Peru

Another excellent alternative to the Inca Trail offering some of the best views of any Cuzco treks. South of the city in the Vilcanota mountain range, this is a challenging hike for those who have some experience with fairly high altitude walking. Along the way you will cross three passes over 5,500 metres. This wild trek is named after the Apu Ausandate that towers at almost 6,500 metres. Culturally it is also interesting: you will visit traditional villages and local Quechua farmers. It can easily be combined with a visit to Machu Picchu.

When to go: May to October
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 5 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Colca

Colca Canyon – Peru

Although most visit Colca Canyon viewpoint in Peru’s Arequipa district to see the majestic Andean Condor’s flying overhead, there are some excellent and little hiked trails to explore. You will require a guide here as none of the trails are marked (although they have been used for hundreds of years). An execellent three day option begins in Cabanaconde and passes San Juan de Chuccho, Coshnirhua, Malata and ends at the Cruz del Condor viewpoint.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 1-3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Huayna Potosi – Bolivia

This is the toughest trek on our list and the only one to reach a summit. Having said that, this is possible for inexperience climbers who have had plenty of time to acclimatize and a little determination. The three day climb that includes a day of acclimatization takes you over 6,000 metres with up to eight hours hiking a day. This is one of the easiest 6,000 mountain climbs, but that is not to say it is easy. Although it can be done in two days, it is not recommended. Departed in the early hours on the day of the ascent you will climb ice walls, cross crevasses and enjoy views down over La Paz and the surrounding mountains.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 5/5
Length: 3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Fitzroy

Fitzroy Trek – Argentina

The Fitzroy Trek in Argentin’a Los Glaciers National Park is the countries equivalent to Torres del Paine in Chile. There are a huge number of hiking options here varying from day walks to longer give day trails. The advantage of Fitzroy over Torres del Paine is being able to visit some of the best viewpoints on the shorter treks. Arguably the best views in the park are at where the three peaks – Cerro Fitzroy, Cerro Poincenot and Cerro Torre meet over Laguna de los Tres.

When to go: October to April
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 1-5 days
Tour: Try our Patagonia Ice Trail tour 

Chapada Diamantina – Brazil

Most visit the northern Bahia region of Brazil for the beaches and city of Salvador. Whilst those are certainly worth a visit, the interior has some of the finest trekking in Brazil. To reach Chapada Diamnatina National Park you must first take a short flight or bus ride to the old mining town of Lençóis. The trails pass some remote and dramatic scenery of mountains, forests, valleys, canyons, waterfalls, caves and rivers with very few other visitors to distract you. Although much wildlife including giant anteaters and armadillos were wiped out by hunting, there is plenty to see including lizards, capybaras, monkeys and if you are really lucky, pumas and jaguars. Depending on your budget you can either camp or stay in some of the local guesthouses.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 3+ days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Terespolis Crossing – Brazil

This fantastic thirty five kilometre hiking route in Rio de Janeiro state from Petropolis to Teresopolis is a must for another hiking enthusiast. Walking at altitudes of around 2,000 metres through the Serra dos Orgaos National Park passing by Antas Valley and the sumnit of Orgaos. There is no lodging along the way so you will be camping. If the sky is clear you can see all the way down to Rio de Janeiro city and Guanabara Bay from some viewpoints.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Monteverde – Costa Rica

The Monteverde cloud forest reserve is truly beautiful and can best experienced on guided day walks. The trails are clearly marked and easy to walk so they are ideal for kids or those with limited mobility. The reserve covers over 4,500 hectares of cloud forest where you will find tumbling waterfalls, lakes and plenty of wildlife. There are over a hundred species of mammal, four hundred species of birds and thousands of amphibians. Some of the highlights including ocelots, jaguars, umbrellabirds and the colourful resplendent quetzal. There is no need to camp as there is excellent and comfortable accommodation near by.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 1/5
Length: 1+ days
Tour: Try our Jungles, Volcanoes & Beaches tour

Flickr: vil.sandi

Flickr: vil.sandi

Salcantay Trek – Peru

The Salcantay Trek (Salkantay means Savage Mountain in Quechuan) is another alternative to the Inca Trail. Named as one of the best treks in the world by National Geographic, this is certainly not one to miss. As fewer people do the Inca Trail, there is no permit scheme for the Salkantay Trek making it perfect for a last minute booking. North of Cuzco lies the Cordillera Vilcabamba. Here you will trek the ancient trail past glaciers and snowcapped mountains. If you want to skip the crowds, this is the trek for you. It can also be combined with Machu Picchu so you don’t miss out on this Seventh Wonder of the World.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 3+ days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

El Misti Trek – Peru

Located near the Southern city of Arequipa, El Misti Volcano rises up to almost 6,000 metres above sea level and is the second largest in the country. The volcano has erupted several times, the most notable was in the 15th century which affected many local Inca people. The latest was in the late 19th century. The climb can be done in as little as two days as long as you have given yourself plenty of time to acclimatize beforehand. For such a high trek it is relatively easy and no prior experience is necessary. One night is spent at the Eagles Nest base camp located at 4,200 metres.

When to go: April to October
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 2 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Quilotoa

Quilotoa Traverse – Ecuador

The volcanic crater lake Quilotoa located north of Quito near to the famous Andean market town of Otavalo is usually visiting on a day trip with some time for a short walk. Spend a little more time in this magical place as you can hike the whole rim in around five hours. A deeply satisfying and relatively easy walk. You will also have the opportunity to descend down from the viewing point to the lake which takes another hour or so. From the rim, not only can you see the lake below but you can also see Cotopaxi and mountain ranges in the distance.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 1 day
Tour: Try our Cotopaxi & Devil’s Nose tour 

8 Amazing Journeys You Should Take In Chile

Chile is spectacular although often overlooked as a Latin American destination. It is however rising in popularity so we thought it was time to but a handy guide together for 8 incredible mini-journeys you can take in the country from the dry northern desert of Atacama to the snow-capped mountains and peaks of Torres del Paine and the mysterious Polynesian island Easter Island. Many of these can be combined to make much larger itineraries.

1. Arica to Lauca

Out of all of Chile’s destinations, this is perhaps the most overlooked. However, this isolated region of Northern Chile located near the borders of Peru and Bolivia have much to offer. Begin in the coastal town of Arica, easily reachable from a direct flight from Santiago. This small city has a wonderfully warm climate all year round. As well as good quality beaches, it also has some of the best surf available in the country. From here you can visit the Azapa Valley from which you can see some ancient mummies. Just a couple of hours by road inland lies the Lauca National Park located in the Central Andean dry puna ecoregion. Between 3,300 and 6,300 metres above sea level it won’t just be the scenery that leaves you feeling breathless. Hiking is the best way to see this national park. Along the way there are plenty of opportunities to see llamas, guanacos, vicuñas and maybe even cougars. There are plenty of bird species including Andean goose, Chilean flamingos and Andean condors to name just a few.

2. Atacama to Altiplano

What the Northern desert of Atacama lacks in flora (although there are some regions towards the coast that have colourful wild desert flowers) it certainly makes up for in landscapes. Most base themselves at in the small town of San Pedro de Atacama. There are plenty of places to stay from budget to seriously luxurious. From here take day trips out into the wilderness. Must see places include Moon and Death Valley whose landscapes have been compared to Mars (in fact is has been used for as a location for many films) and is best seen during the evening when you watch the famous sunset. The geyser field of El Tatio does require an early start but doesn’t disappoint. Over 80 geysers shooting steam up to 6 metres high make this the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere. Although the Atacama salt flats are not as large as the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, they are no less impressive. Lastly a visit to Miscanti and Miñique lagoons in the high Altiplano in Los Flamencos National Reserve reveal some fantastic wildlife including Chilean flamingos (hence the name).

3. Santiago to Valparaiso

The capital of Santiago is the entrance point to Chile for most and is well worth a few days. The district of Recoleta has a large variety of luxury and boutique hotels from which to base yourself. A guided tour from a local is one of the best ways to see the city and usually include visits to the Recoleta cemetery where Eva Peron is buried, Santa Lucia Hill, the Cathedral and Plaza de Armas. There are plenty of excellent restaurants and the nightlife is as good as Buenos Aires’. After you’ve had your fill of Santiago head East to the port city of Valpairaiso a journey of around two hours. This colourful, gritty port city has had a resurgence in recent years, many spending more time here than the capital. The UNESCO World Heritage historic quarter is a fine example of 9th century of urban development in Latin America.

4. Wine tasting in Rosario

From Santiago head to the Rosario Valley region located between Casablanca and San Antonio, one of the world’s best wine growing regions. This 9,000 hectare enclosed valley has the ideal climate and topographic conditions for red and white wines. This spring-like climate makes it an ideal place to stay, even in the height of summer. Spend four nights at the seriously comfortable Matetic vineyards. Spend each day hiking, horse riding or biking through the beautiful countryside whilst enjoying superb cuisine, of coursed paired with excellent wines. As well as activities and wine there is also much flora and wildlife to be seen in the area. The dry coastal zone makes it perfect for wild flowers like the red Chilean bellflowers and there are plenty of mammals such as foxes and birdlife including thrushes, birds of prey and parrots.

Flickr: sharloch

Flickr: sharloch

5. Lake District, Pucon to Puerto Varas

The Lake District is located about half way from Santiago to the very south, between Temuco and Puerto Montt. This area is rich in forests, volcanos and of course, lakes. Popular with German, Swiss and Austrian immigrants in the 19th century was probably due to its similarity to the Alpine region of Europe. After flying to Temuco from Santiago transfer to Pucon. The town sits right on the edge of Villarrica Lake and Villarrica Volcano. It’s one of the hot spots of adventure sports in the country, so as well as hiking, there is plenty of kayaking, rafting, horse riding, canyoning and climbing. In the winter it’s also an excellent place for skiing and snowboarding. Head further south to Puerto Varas, another adventure sport playground, but somewhat quieter than Pucon. Towering over the town are Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes. Here you can fish, hiking, ski and climb. We recommend taking a guided tour of Osorno and visiting some of the local hot springs.

Flickr: Bitterroot

Flickr: Bitterroot

6. Lake Crossing to Argentina

The lake crossing between Chile and Argentina is certainly a more scenic way to cross the border. Beginning in Puerto Varas you will be transferred to Petrohue bordering Lake Llanquihue. Along the way take in the impressive sights of Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes. Visit the impressive Petrohue Falls in Vicentre Perez National Park. Set sail to Peulla crossing over Todos los Santos Lake. Once you arrive take some time to relax and enjoy lunch before boarding a bus to Puerto Frias passing through the border. Arrive and take your second board across Lake Frias before boarding bus to Puerto Blest. Here you will take your last boat navigation across Puerto Nahuel Huapi Lake arrive in Puerto Pañuelo where you will continue by bus to Bariloche.

Torres del Paine

7. Torres del Paine

After flying into Punta Arenas and travelling through the town of Puerto Natales, you’ll reach the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park. Located in the far south in the heart of Patagonia between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonia Steppes, this is truly one of our favourite places in Latin America (if not the world). There are just a handful of places to stay within the national park. For luxurious glamping try the EcoCamp that is not only located in a fantastic location but provides easy access to some of the best trails and makes for a very comfortable base. Although horse riding and biking can be arranged, the best way to see the park is by foot, either with days trips, or on the five day W Trek staying in refuges or camping. Taking a boat trip to Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers will not leave you disappointed and is included on most trips to the region.

Easter Island

8. Easter Island

One of the most remote islands in the world. The six hour flight from Santiago puts many of visiting this Polynesian Island, but those who make the long journey are treated to interesting scenery, a culture very different from that of mainland Chile and some of the most mysterious histories on earth. It’s most famous for the 887 Moai statues created by the early Rapa Nui people who to begin with thrived on the island, but overpopulation, the introduction of rats and extensive deforestation severely reduced the Rapa Nui’s community. Excellent local guides will help you discover about the fascinating history of the Rapa Nui as well as offering excellent hiking and horse riding. There are also plenty of tropical white sandy beaches to relax on.

To start arranging your bespoke tour of Chile do get in touch with us or take a look at some of our example tours.

Patagonia Argentina’s Wild Atlantic Coast

The village of Bahia Bustamente in the Patagonian Chubut province on the Atlantic coast of Argentina has just 40 people. It is a hidden gem of a nature reserve that’s home to 4,000 sea lions, 50,000 penguins and at least 22 species of bird life. It makes a good alternative to the Valdes Peninsula, for those that venture are treated to unspoiled white sandy beaches, forests and hiking trails. This really is stepping back in time – no mobile signal, just one public telephone and electricity produced by a generator from dusk until eleven – adds to its charm. A real digital detox.

Whilst exploring the Patagonian coastline Don Lorenzo Soriano discovered Rotten Bay in 1953, named because of the abundance of rotting seaweed. It was here he based himself along with his family and established Bahia Bustamente. The successful company began a thriving seaweed industry which is used in biomedicine and hair gel. The village expanded quickly and at its peak there were over 400 people. A school, church, police post, warehouses and a shop were also established to service the community. As it grew the village began sheep farming.

Bahia Bustamente has now opened its doors to adventurous tourists who visit for the rugged scenery and spectacular wildlife. Since 2009 the coast is part of the new Austral Marine National Park Patagonia which protects all species within a one mile nautical radius from the shore.

There are a number of different places to stay. Six comfortable sea front houses each with two double bedrooms, outside terrace, living room and bathroom overlook the beach and bay. These seafront houses include full board and all activities. Your guide will look after you during your stay, take your on a tour of the peninsula, boat trips to view the bird and marine life and a hiking trip through the petrified forest.

An alternative is the Steppe Houses of which there are five located around 200 metres from the shore. Each includes a double bedroom, kitchen and terrace area available for up to three people. With this option you are very much left to explore at your own pace (although guided tours can be arranged). No meals are included but there is a nearby restaurant.

This paradise of sandy beaches, crystal clear waters and rugged coastline is best explored by some of the many activities. Organised activities are decided on a day-to-day basis, primarily because of the changeable weather. There are however many options which include horse riding, kayaking, sailing, hiking, ranch visits and mountain biking all with an emphasis on wildlife and nature. The coastal area is one of the most important areas in Patagonia for seabirds. A huge population of sea lions can be seen, particularly from September onwards when the community grows to around 4,000. Orcas, dolphins, the Southern right whale and Southern elephant seals can often be seen. If you are lucky you may glimpse at the odd armadillo, skunk or grey fox.

The best time to visit are the southern summer months where the days are warm and the nights are chilly. Spring and Autumn are also good but there are strong winds to contend with. To begin your wildlife adventure to Bahia Bustamente get in touch with us.

Join the Fiesta de la Tradicion in Argentina

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A couple of hours east of Buenos Aires in the heart of the Pampas is the town of San Antonio de Areco. Since 1939 the town has played host to the Fiesta de la Tradicion, the oldest Gaucho festival in Argentina. Celebrated in November, this is one of the liveliest festivals in the country. Traditional dancing and music play a big part throughout the week, but most visit to see the impressive gaucho demonstrations and bronco riding. The parade attended by gauchos dressed in bombachas is a must. If this doesn’t sound quite like your thing, it’s worth visiting for the food alone. Huge asado barbeques cooking beef in the traditional way over fire takes place at the Parque Criollo each day.

Set in the peaceful countryside outside of San Antonio de Areco, the charming six room La Sofia Estancia is the perfect place to stay during your visit. It’s the personal touches like one to one polo lessons, beautiful food and wine that make this Estancia so special. Spanish colonial elegance and traditional style accommodation are the hall marks of the Estancia.

Select Latin America are running a package between the 6th and 8th November 2015 combining at stay at La Sofia Estancia with visits to the Fiesta de la Tradicion. During this two night package you can get involved in the activities of the festival, watching the gaucho demonstrations and parade, whilst also spending some private time away from the crowds, walking in the countryside, learning gaucho riding techniques and polo.

For more information about the festival, Estancia or package get in touch with us.

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