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Monthly Archives: January 2016

The messy completo is Chile’s finest fast food

Flickr: James

Flickr: James

Everyone knows the American hotdog. New York’s full of vendors plying the streets with the cheap snack, but did you know that the Chileans do a hot dog, and it’s a whole lot better.

If you spend any length of time in Santiago it’s impossible not to try the completo. Like their American cousin it begins with the basic hotdog between bun, but that’s all they share in common. It’s then loaded up with chopped tomato, mayonnaise and salsa.

There are plenty of variants on the basic recipe. You’ll commonly find the Italiano that includes mash avocado which along with tomatoes and mayonnaise looks like the Italian flag. If the inclusion of all that avocado and tomato seems to healthy, you can have them loaded with French fries, strips of beef and fried eggs. There is a growing number of gourmet completo joints including organic ingredients and German bratwurst sausages which are more expensive, but worth the extra.

Although the completo can be enjoyed any time of day, it’s best enjoyed after a few cold beers or a night of pisco sours, limited any potential hangover the following day. It’s also incredibly good value, starting at around $2.

They are loaded so high that tackling your first completo can be a daunting prospect. Don’t let this put you off, just embrace the mess. Once started you’ll soon forget you’re ruined your t-shirt and jeans and most has been lost to the table and floor. Order a second.

It isn’t hard to find a complete kiosk, but some of the best include Hogs on Merced 299 which offer upmarket completes or the stalls around Pio Nono and Bellavista where the hot dogs are cheap and plentiful.

To try a completo for yourself start planning your trip to Chile today.

This unique pod hotel hangs from a cliff in the Sacred Valley

05-foto

The Skylodge is a unique set of pods that hang a 1,000 feet up a cliff in the Sacred Valley just outside Cuzco in Peru.

This set of three transparent pods are only reachable by climbing up the steep cliff on iron rung via ferrata, with the help of an expert guide. Once you arrive at the Skylodge, you can enjoy spectacular views over the valley.

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The pods are surprisingly comfortable and spacious at 24 feet long. This space includes a small living area, a bed complete with cotton sheets and down pillows and a small toilet, which quite possibly has the best view on earth. Settle in and enjoy a glass of wine while your guide prepares a delicious dinner which you can eat looking out over the stars from all angles.

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There are curtains provided should you need some privacy from the circling condors. In the morning you can watch the sunrise on the small platform above the pod while your guide brings you a hearty breakfast and coffee.

There are two ways to get back down to earth. Although it’s not recommended, if you wish you can climb back down the cliff on the irons rungs. Most however opt to take the exhilarating zip-line back down.

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The stay here can be combined with a visit to Pisac Market, the last inhabited Inca town Ollaytaytambo, Moras and Moray, as well as a more conventional (albeit beautiful) hotel.

If you would like to book a stay in the Skylodge or combine it with a larger tour of the Sacred Valley, Cuzco or the rest of the Peru, do get in touch with us today.

8 Best Natural Hot Springs For A Soak In Latin America

Termas Papallacta, Ecuador

Flickr: Jo Simon

Flickr: Jo Simon

The Termas Papallacta hot springs a located around forty miles east of Quito.  Squeezed in an Andean valley between Antisana and Cayamba Volcano at over 3,000 metres above sea level, these thermal springs have been certified to have medicinal properties. It can either be visited on a day trip from Quito, or conveniently a hotel has been built around the hot springs to allow an overnight stay. It’s best visited in the colder months between June and August.

Laguna Verde, Bolivia

 

Laguna Verde

Flickr: sergejf

In southern Bolivia near the border with Argentina is the spectacular Laguna Verde, a seriously high altitude lake at the foot of Ojos del Salado Volcano. The temperature at 4,500 metres above sea level often gets below freezing so there is no better place to soak than these hot springs on the western side of the lake. Extra points for having one of the best views.

Baños Hot Springs, Ecuador

 

Flickr: Nicky

Flickr: Nicky

These communal hot spring baths in the Andean town Baños are not the prettiest and quickly fill up, but after a day of hiking or mountain biking in the surrounding hills you’ll be pleased to have them. There are a range of baths in differing temperatures. The cliff behind the hot springs has a series of cascading waterfalls which make for a scenic backdrop.

Tabacon Hot Springs, Arenal, Costa Rica

Whilst Arenal has plenty of hot springs, Tabacon is the original and still one of the best. Although it’s very popular, its split up into different bathing areas, so it’s possible to find a little privacy if you wish. The two rivers that feed the bathing areas, one of which is hot, is divided to produce pools of differing temperature. There are plenty of extra spa treatments on offer from mud wraps to massages.

Banos Morales Hot Springs, Chile

Flickr: sulaire

Flickr: sulaire

Located near San Jose de Maipo near Santiago in Chile, the Banos Morales have two hot springs feed by the Morales River and heated by the nearby volcano. Rich in sodium and iodine, they are reportedly excellent for healing ailments and skin conditions.

Puritama Hot Springs, Atacama, Chile

About twenty miles from San Pedro de Atacama, located in the middle of the high altiplano desert are the scenic Puritama Hot Springs. These medicinal waters that range from 25ºC to 30ºC in eight different pools connected by wooden walkways are excellent for soothing soaks after a day of activities and offer excellent views of the surrounding desert.

Termas de Cacheuta, Mendoza, Argentina

Overlooking the Mendoza River, just outside the city is the Termas de Cacheuta hot springs. The spa provides a circuit of pools ranging in temperatures winding through indoors and outdoors, as well as other treats like a water volcano and bubble baths to enjoy along the way. There is also natural steam room and other spa treatments included.

Deception Island, Antarctic

Flickr: pratt

Flickr: pratt

Ok, it’s not Latin America, but its only reachable from a cruise departing from Latin America. Deception Island, part of the South Shetland Islands off the Antarctic Peninsula. The large flooded caldera has created a natural harbor and the geothermal activity from the active volcano provides steaming hot water best enjoyed after taking the famously cold polar plunge.

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

5 useful apps to make your travels more eco-friendly

App

If you are traveling to Latin America in the coming months, you will want to help preserve the pristine landscapes and beautiful regions as much as you possibly can. Protecting the environment is a noble cause, and travel can put a good deal of stress on the environment considering the waste products of most vacationers. You know you can do better.

One of the best tools for doing so is possibly in your hand right now. Apps give smartphones new versatility, and fortunately for all of us, app developers have been hard at work developing products that help us protect the environment through services or advice. All it will take is a few minutes of your time to improve your vacation and lessen your environmental impact.

Here are five apps that will make your vacation better for both the environment and yourself:

Google Maps

While it may seem obvious that Google Maps (or a similar application) should be on your phone to save you from lugging around tons of maps, you have probably used it mostly to get to a friend’s house in your car, yet there is a public transport setting and a walking setting that will allow you to get around unknown cities without using wasteful taxis and rented cars. Most tourist cities have developed great public transport systems, and it’s these features that will prevent you from getting lost as you save the environment one ride at a time.

Zinio

You should take Zinio with you instead of a bunch of paper magazines that you’ll likely have to throw out anyways. It is an app that allows you to access your magazines on your smartphone and read them while traveling or otherwise indisposed. They almost certainly have your favorite travel magazine available, and discovering new options will be easy. Think of the paper and ink wasted on useless ads alone and you’ll realize just how much of an impact Zinio will have in helping you reduce yours.

Trip Journal

Trip Journal is the perfect travel app for yourself and those back home who want to see your adventures. You can make real time updates about your vacation and share them with others, allowing you to keep some of the clunky or wasteful logging equipment back at home and focus more on you and your personal journey. You can take notes or photos and integrate them easily into your blog or journal. You can put your scrapbook away and just worry about keeping your smartphone safe from the elements instead (which you were going to do anyway).

Farmstand

Farmstand helps you eat healthy and organically while you travel. It will spot farmers markets and similar events in your immediate area that you can get to so you can eat healthy wherever you are. These markets are much better for the environment than dealing with the extra costs of transport. Its catalog may not be complete everywhere you travel due to farmers markets not being registered, but when you go to major cities, it will prove extremely useful.

A Virtual Private Network

Without the protection of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) you won’t be able to safely use public networks (a necessary and dangerous evil) while you travel. On them hackers and cybercriminals will be able to intercept your information, which can include your online accounts and financial information. This may tempt you to waste paper and print out bank statements and other vital documents you need, but VPNs eliminate the need for a financial paper trail. Not only that, but you can also use it to stay anonymous online and access otherwise blocked services and websites such as Netflix so you have something to do on a day when nature doesn’t feel like cooperating with your itinerary.

Our use of the planet’s resources is expanding, but our technological advancements are allowing us to bring ourselves back from the brink of ecological ruin. You can help, and it won’t even be an inconvenience.

Do you have any thoughts on any of the above apps, or do you use any others to help you stay while you travel or otherwise? If so, please leave a comment below and give us your thoughts on this important subject.

Brought to you by Jess Signet

Come and see us at the Destinations Travel Show

Destinations

We’re exhibiting at the Destinations Travel Show in London this February and it would be great to see you. 

Destinations Holiday & Travel Show is the UK’s largest and longest-running travel show. Hundreds of the leading tour operators (including us) and over seventy tourist boards will attend as well as travel celebrities, presentations and cultural shows to help your 2016 trip planning go off with a bang. Fuel your sense of wanderlust and discover myriad holiday opportunities, whilst discussing plans with the experts. The Meet the Experts Theatres will provide over fifty hours of free travel advice covering everything from the hottest destinations to travel advice. 

And the best part? We’re offering free tickets! Follow this link and use the code MSC58 to claim them. We look forward to seeing you.

7 of the best galleries and museums in Rio de Janeiro

MAM Rio

Flickr: marcusrg

Flickr: marcusrg

MAM Rio (Museum of Modern Art Rio) is housed in a spectacular modernist building created by Affonso Eduardo Reidy in the late 60s. It is one of the most important art institutions in Brazil supporting young artists and projects. Sadly, in 1978 a fire broke out in the building destroying almost all the artwork including pieces by Pablo Picasso.

Website: MAM Rio
Address: Av. Infante Dom Henrique 85, Parque do Flamengo

Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR)

The Museu de Arte do Rio is one of the newest museums in the city. It opened its doors in 2013 as part of a revitalization project in the run up to the World Cup. The museum, a series of three building, is thriving and has a large permanent collection of Brazilian art work as well as rotating exhibitions. Even if art is not your thing, the building alone is worth a visit.

Website: Museu de Arte do Rio (MAR)
Address: Praça Mauá 5, Centro

MAC

The Museu de Arte Contemporânea de Niterói is housed in what is perhaps the most iconic of buildings in Rio de Janeiro. Designed by the world-famous architect Oscar Niemeyer in the mid-90s, the sweeping 360-degree museum allows panoramic views over Niterói and Rio de Janeiro. Although the exhibitions are not as good as MAM or MAR, the building is worth the journey. Try to visit on a Saturday when the tickets are free. 

Website: MAC
Address: Mirante da Boa Viagem, Boa Viagem

Museu do Folclore

Although rarely visited, the Folclore Museum provides a fantastic introduction to Brazilian folk art. The museums sizeable collection of works including religious and Candomble costumes, ceramics and works, mainly originating from the northeast.

Website: Museu do Folclore
Address: R. do Catete 181, Catete

Museu do Índio

One of the most fascinating museums in the city, the Museu do Índio focuses on the history and culture of the indigenous tribes of Brazil, providing an insight into the lives, customs and how they fit into modern Brazil. The museums impressive collection includes thousands of publications, images, films, documents and recordings from the end of the 19th century to the present day.

Website: Museu do Índio
Address: R. das Palmeiras 55, Botafogo

Museu da República

The Museu da República is housed in Catete Palace, originally Brazil’s presidential palace until the early 60s. Inside you’ll find much to offer on Brazil’s political history, art and a theatre. The site is where President Getúlio Vargas committed suicide. Visit on Wednesdays when the entrance tickets are free. 

Website: Museu da República
Address: Palácio do Catete, R. do Catete 153, Catete

Museu Historico Nacional (MHN)

The National History Museum is one of the most important museums in Brazil housing a huge archive of literally hundreds of thousands of items including the largest numismatic collection of Latin America. If you are going to visit just one museum in Rio de Janeiro, this is the one to visit. Built in 1922, the museum spans a 20,000 square metre space.

Website: Museu Historico Nacional (MHN)
Address: Praça Marechal Âncora, Centro

To begin planning your tour of Rio de Janeiro or Brazil get in touch with us today.

How to spend the perfect day in Cuzco

Cuzco, centre of the Inca Empire and gateway to the Sacred Valley and the ruins of Machu Picchu. It’s a great place to take acclimatize before embarking on trekking and makes a good base from which to explore the surrounding area. Most will spend at least 24 hours in Cuzco. Here’s a step-by-step guide to making the most of it.

9am

Flickr: Aero Icarus

Flickr: Aero Icarus

There are multiple flights from Lima to Cuzco each day, departing every hour or so. Most prefer to arrive in Cuzco in the morning to allow time to explore on the first day. If you have booked your trip through Select Latin America will ensure that a driver guide greets you at the airport located some 3 miles outside the city and transfers you to the hotel. If you are travelling by yourself, taxis are inexpensive, as are the colectivo buses which depart from just outside the terminal. It takes roughly 25 minutes to reach most hotels. Arrive at your hotel and spend some time settling in.

11am

Take a stroll down to the Plaza de Armas in the centre of the city and visit Cuzco Cathedral. It was built on the site of an Inca palace in the 16th century. Inside the cathedral you’ll find a painting of The Last Supper, but it has a twist as Jesus and his apostles are dining on cuy (guinea pig), a specialty of the region.

12pm

There are no shortage of museums in Cuzco. If chocolate is your thing, your best bet is making a beeline straight for the ChocoMuseo, just a couple of blocks from the plaza. Here you can learn about the history of chocolate in Peru and try your hand and producing your own during a workshop demonstration. Otherwise visit the Pre-Columbian Art Museum, a restored colonial mansion once owned by the conqueror Alonso Diaz that holds an impressive collection of ancient Peruvian indigenous art dating between 1250 B.C. and 1532 A.D.

2pm

Flickr: Kirk K

Flickr: Kirk K

After all that sightseeing you’re probably going to be feeling hungry. Head away from the expensive tourist restaurants that line the Plaza de Armas and visit the Sumaq Restaurant where a three course lunch will cost you about 15 soles (£3-4). The menu is plentiful and includes grilled alpaca, sopa de cusqueno and cuy (guinea pig), all served up in cosy surroundings.

4pm

Flickr: sojason .com

Flickr: sojason .com

If you are feeling energetic take a stroll up to Saksaywaman, the ruins of an Inca citadel located in the northern outskirts of the city. This UNESCO World Heritage site is around 1km from the city centre. Once you have arrived admire the impressive Inca stonework and enjoy views down over the city. If you are lucky enough to visit on the 24th June, the site is home to Inti Raymi, one of the most important celebrations in Peru.

7pm

Limbus Resto Bar

Next stop is the Limbus Resto Bar on Calle Pasñapakana. This rooftop bar serves extraordinarily good cocktails which can be enjoyed accompanied by an excellent view across the city.

9pm

Chica

If you are going to splash out, now is the time to do it. Peru’s cuisine is firmly under the world’s culinary spotlight, and some of the finest restaurants in the country are housed in Cuzco. Chicha is owned by the celebrity chef Gastón Acurio, who owns the famed restaurant Astrid & Gaston. Whilst everything on the menu is excellent, the Andean classics such as lomo saltado and ceviche are particularly good.

Want to visit Cuzco? Take a look through our tour suggestions.

How to make the perfect caipirinha

caipirinha

Flickr: Luci Correia

If you haven’t tried the Brazilian national cocktail caipirinha, you are in for a real treat. Similar to mojito, but minus the mint and using cachaça instead of rum. There are just three ingredients you need to make the perfect caipirinha: lime, sugar and of course, cachaça. There a number of theories surrounding its origin, but most agree that it evolved from a medicinal recipe which included honey and garlic and given to patients suffering from Spanish flu in early 19th century São Paulo.

Ingredients

50ml cachaça
Half a lime
½ tsp sugar

Method

Cut the half lime into small chunks including the peel. Muddle the pieces with the sugar in an old fashioned glass (the handle of a wooden spoon can be used if have no muddler). Add a few cubes of ice, pour over the cachaça and stir. Leave for a minute or so to cool before consuming. Enjoy!

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