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Monthly Archives: February 2017

French artist projects faces of Amazon tribe onto rainforest canopy

Deforestation continues to sweep through the Amazon rainforest. A 2016 project by French street artist Philippe Echaroux aimed to draw attention to the issue through art. While staying with the indigenous Suruí tribe in Brazil, Echaroux photographed the local people and projected their images up onto the rainforest canopy at night creating staggeringly beautiful images in the trees.

The idea behind the project was highlighting the deep connection between the rainforest and the people that live there. Their existence relies on the forest, so it stresses the importance of preserving the region. The work was creating in collaboration with the tribe’s chief Almir Suri Narayamoga who is also working with the Brazilian government to replant this area of the Amazon.

Late last year, Echaroux displayed his photography at the Taglialatella Gallery in Paris. Unfortunately, the exhibition is now over, but the work can still be seen on his website or Facebook page.

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Première Mondiale: du Street Art au coeur de la Forêt Amazonienne – World First Street Art in the Rainforest. from pays-imaginaire.fr on Vimeo.

Photos by Philippe Echaroux

Want to visit the Amazon rainforest? Get in touch with our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans.

Top 8 things to do in Nicaragua

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Nicaragua may not be the most visited country in Latin America, but it certainly packs a punch and is tipped to be one of the hottest travel destinations of 2017. The large Central American country has everything from steamy volcanos, rich wildlife, pretty colonial towns, excellent food, white sandy beaches and adventure sports. So, what are you waiting for? Here’s our pick of the top 8 things to do in Nicaragua.

Wander through Granada

Flickr: elaine faith

Flickr: elaine faith

Granada might just be one of the prettiest towns in Central America. Wander through the old cobbled colonial streets and gawk at the beautiful architecture. There are plenty of excellent cafes selling Nicaraguan coffee, the perfect place to people watch.

Go volcano boarding

Flickr: Pete

Flickr: Pete

A must for adventure junkies. Hit the lava slopes of Cerro Negro outside León and throw yourself down on wooden boards. It’s well worth it, but don’t expect the same infrastructure as ski resorts. There’s a steep walk to the top before the fun begins!

Scuba dive on the Corn Islands

Flickr: @N3T1O

Flickr: @N3T1O

These paradisaical Caribbean islands are the perfect place to while away a few days at the end of the holiday. Though it’s well worth the visit just to lounge on the beaches, most come for the snorkelling and scuba diving which is world class. Both Little and Big Corn are both excellent places to stay, but try Little Corn for something a little quieter.

Hike up Concepción Volcano

Flickr: ashokboghani

Flickr: ashokboghani

Concepción Volcano is the second tallest volcano in Nicaragua and is still live. It’s a challenging but rewarding hike across lava flows and through rainforest. Be sure to only take this on with the help of a guide.

Surf at San Juan del Sur

One of Nicaragua’s best surf spots, San Juan del Sur is a must for anyone looking to hit the waves. With year-round swells, it’s also an excellent place to learn with plenty of surf schools. Grab a cold beer and watch the melting sunset from the beach each night. Be warned, it has somewhat of a reputation as a party town, so won’t be for those looking for a quiet holiday retreat.

Eat the street food

Flickr: hollykathryn

Flickr: hollykathryn

Nicaraguan street food is simply delicious (and cheap!). Be sure to try the nacatamal, a type of tamale filled with meat and vegetables and cooked in a banana leaf. The typical morning breakfast of gallo pinto (spotted rooster) is rice and beans served up with eggs, refried beans and plantains. Stuffed pupusas (a type of corn tortilla) are served with everything.

See wildlife on Ometepe Island

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Ometepe Islands was created from two volcanoes and lies in the middle of Nicaragua Lake. It’s laid back vibe, rustic charm and opportunities for hiking and kayaking make it somewhat of a mecca for those visiting the country. However, one of the biggest draws is the wildlife. There is plenty of exotic birdlife on the island as well as tropes of howler monkeys that can be heard making their calls in the morning and at night.

Climb up León Cathedral

After exploring old León, it’s well worth climbing up the bell tower and taking in the views from the domed roof of the cathedral.

Want to visit Nicaragua? Get in touch with our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans.

10 things you should eat in Belize

Flickr: regan76

Flickr: regan76

Belizean cuisine has not quite made it (yet!) onto the international food scene. This is surprising. Belizean food is a fusion of Caribbean, Spanish, Mexican, African, and native Mayan. Along the coast and on the islands, be sure to steer towards the catch of the day. In land, mouth-watering chicken and beef stews thick with dark spices are common in most restaurants. Here’s 10 dishes you simply can’t leave Belize without trying.

Salbutes

Flickr: Krista

Flickr: Krista

A seriously popular street food, these tasty little morsels are made with fried tortillas packed with cabbage, tomatoes, avocados and chicken. Depending on how spicy you like your food, try topping with plenty of Marie Sharp’s pepper sauce (you’ll see it on every table in the country).

Grilled lobster

Flickr: A Cromwell

Flickr: A Cromwell

The importance of lobster to Belize’s economy cannot be overstated. In season, spiny lobsters (a smaller cousin to the Atlantic lobster found off Canada and the US), are in abundance. Along the shores of Caye Caulker and Ambergris Caye, lobsters can be seen grilling on drum barbecues and are seriously good value. Grab a cold beer, stick your feet in the sand and tuck into a lobster covered in lemon garlic butter. Bliss. For the last ten years, the San Pedro Lobster Festival on Ambergris Caye kicks off lobster season and has been voted Belize’s best festival.

Boil ups

Flickr: Bernt Rostad

Flickr: Bernt Rostad

Boil ups are exactly what they say they are. Everything the cook has in from vegetables, fish, eggs and more are thrown into boiling chicken stock and served with bread dumplings. Simple, but really, really good.

Cochinita pibil

Flickr: Noonch

Flickr: Noonch

This ancient dish hasn’t changed much since the Mayans created it over a thousand years ago. Found on restaurant menus throughout the country, it’s made from marinated, slow-cooked pork and served with corn tortillas.

Fry jacks

Thiese puffed-up dough balls resemble something like a doughnut, albeit they are usually served as a savoury accompaniment to eggs and refried beans in the morning. Be sure to look out for stands selling stuffed fried jacks. These pockets of crispy good stuff are filled with everything from chicken, cheese, ham, eggs and beans, and at around US$2 make for a good value and filling breakfast.

Conch fritters

Flickr: Steve Grant

Flickr: Steve Grant

Another coastal favourite. Conch is roughly chopped and mixed with flour, pepper, onion, garlic, Habanero peppers. It’s then formed into little patties and fried until golden brown. Best eaten with Belize’s famous hot sauce.

Ceviche

Flickr: regan76

Flickr: regan76

Ceviche may be from Peru, but the Belizeans have taken it as their own. It also differs from its Peruvian counterpart. Almost like a chunky salsa – tomatoes, onions, sliced cucumber, coriander, lime juice and habanero peppers are mixed with par-boiled conch, shrimp, octopus or white fish, cooled and served with nachos. Though it can be found inland, it’s obviously best eaten near the sea on a sunny afternoon.

Johnny cakes

Flickr: stevemonty

Flickr: stevemonty

Johnny cakes are a stable of Belizean cuisine. These small savoury baked bread cakes made from flour and coconut milk are cut in half and filled with beans, eggs and cheese for breakfast. For a more filling lunch, try adding some chicken or beef. Though they are best eaten right out of the oven, they do last for several days giving them their other name, ‘Journey Cakes’.

Grilled fish

Flickr: Narisa

Flickr: Narisa

Belizeans know how to cook fish. It would be impossible to name every grilled fish eaten in Belize. Some to look out for include barracuda, snapper, grouper and lion fish. Depending on size, it’s usually served whole and accompanied by coleslaw, veg and rice and beans. On Caye Caulker, try Maggies, a tiny home restaurant near the northern Split.

Chimole

Chimole is also known as ‘Black Dinner’ due to its dark appearance. It’s a common homemade chicken stew made using spices and some black achiote paste.  It’s usually served with tortillas and boiled eggs.

Meat pies

Wiki: Alpha

Wiki: Alpha

Meat pies are a throwback to when Belize was a British colony. Light flaky pastry is filled with minced beef and gravy. Most top it with some of Belize’s famous hot sauce. They’re perfectly sized for mid-meal snack and can often be found on the carts of mobile street vendors.

Tamales

Flickr: ohocheese

Flickr: ohocheese

Tamales differ somewhat from their Mexican counterparts. Here, plantain leaves are used instead of traditional corn husks. Recipes vary depending on what part of the country you’re in, but are often served with cull, a thick gravy made from chicken stock. Mostly found inland, though they are occasionally found on the islands.

Want to try Belize food for real? Get in touch with our Belize travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans or see our example tours here.

LATAM begins new route between Lima and Mendoza

fondo-blanco-latam

As part of LATAM’s expansion plans and taking advantage of the newly-refurbished international airport in Mendoza, the airline has started a new direct route between Lima and Argentina’s wine country capital.

Since 2nd February, the airline has been running four direct flights per week between Lima and Mendoza running daily from Friday until Monday. The return journey from Mendoza to Lima runs daily from Thursday to Sunday.

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For those that wish to visit both Peru and Argentina, this cuts out a significant dog leg to Buenos Aires and onward to Mendoza creating a much more efficient route into the country. For those that want a quick stop in Argentina’s wine country before visiting Chile, there are also direct flights onward to Santiago.

Peru and Argentina are two of the most visited countries in Latin America. Between the countries, they have some of the continents highlights including the Inca Trail, Machu Picchu, Nazca, Lake Titicaca, Arequipa, Lima, Buenos Aires, the Valdes Peninsula, the Beagle Channel, Iguazu Falls and wine country. The service between Lima and Mendoza opens up a new route to explore both countries while reducing the number of flights and cost.

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Mendoza has a laid-back atmosphere unlike anywhere in Argentina. It’s also got some of the country’s best fine dining restaurants making a stay in the city well worth it. However, be sure to spend a couple of nights in the surrounding countryside, one of the world’s great wine making regions. The hot days and cool nights are the secret to the region’s wine making success. Many of the bodega’s have opened their doors as hotels and small luxury guesthouses. Spend afternoon’s cycling around the vineyards, stopping for tastings. If you visit at the right time, it’s possible to spend a day or two helping collect grapes during the harvest, giving you a deeper understanding on the wine making process.

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For the more adventurous, there are plenty of other activities near Mendoza. Trek up Aconcagua that towers up 6,959 metres above sea level, one of the highest peaks in the Americas. Or try white water rafting in the rivers that cut through the central valley.

In addition to Mendoza, there are other flight hubs now available. From Cordoba there are direct flights to Lima, Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Panama and Madrid. From Ushuaia in the south, there are direct flights to Punta Arenas, a popular route for those looking to explore Patagonia in both Chile and Argentina. Since 12th September, LAN Ecuador has been operating a daily service Quito – Lima – Buenos Aires – Lima – Quito. There are also direct flights between Lima and Salta and the resumption of the Lima to Rosario service by LAN Peru.

Want to visit Peru and Argentina? Get in touch with our Latin American travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans or see our example tours here.

Visit 5 UNESCO World Heritage sites on this Yucatan self-drive

Self drive map

The Yucatán peninsula in eastern Mexico borders both Belize and Guatemala and offers a diverse range of flora, fauna and vast host of UNESCO World Heritage sites including the Mayan ruin of Chichén Itzá, now one of the ‘New Seven Wonders of the World’. The best way to visit the UNESCO ruins and colonial cities is by self-drive which offers the chance to spend as long or as little in each place you visit.

Arrive in Cancun, pick up your car hire and begin the journey. The first drive to Chichén Itzá takes around three hours.

Chichén Itzá

Chichen Itza MexicoThe remarkably well-preserved Mayan ruins of Chichén Itzá are one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. It’s best known for the huge step pyramid known as El Castillo. This ancient city thrived between 600 A.D. and 1,200. The complex includes a ball court, the Temple of the Warriors and the Wall of the Skulls all of which have graphic stone carvings. Each night, a sound and light show illuminates the complex.

Drive west for two hours to Merida.

Mérida

Merida Mexico

Flickr: Luiz Eduardo

Mérida is the capital of the Yucatan and one of the largest cities in Mexico and has the highest percentage of indigenous people of any Mexican city with over half the population being of Maya ethnicity. Though the city is not a UNESCO World Heritage site, this colonial city is well worth taking some time to explore.

Drive south for two hours to the ruins of Uxmal.

Uxmal

Uxmal Mexico

This ancient Mayan town founded in 700 A.D. once had over 25,000 inhabitants. The complex which was built between 700 and 1000 A.D. reveals that the people had knowledge of astronomy and includes the Pyramid of the Soothsayer, the Quadrangle of the Nuns, the Governor’s Palace, the House of the Tortoises, the Ball Court and ceremonial sites.

Drive for three hours to the coastal down of Campeche.

Campeche

The fortified harbor town of Campeche is a fine example of Spanish colonial architecture. The old city is surrounded by walls and a system of fortifications which are deigned to defend against piracy and attacks from the sea. It was once the most important seaport in Mexico and played a major role in the conquest of the Yucanatan Peninsula and Guatemala from the Spanish conquistadors.

Drive for four hours to Calakmal Municipality.

Calakmul Biosphere Reserve

The Calakmul Biosphere Reserve was only granted UNESCO World Heritage status in 2006. It remains the largest forest reserve in Mexico comprising of over 700,000 hectares of protected land. This is not untouched forest. The Mayans were some of the first group to live in the forests with the ruins of city complexes abandoned in 900 A.D. The group consists of the largest populations of flora and fauna in the country and includes the jaguar, puma, white-lipped peccary, howler monkey, king vulture, gray brocket deer and ornate hawk to name but a few.

Drive for four hours to Reserva de la Biósfera Sian-Ka’an.

Reserva de la Biósfera Sian-Ka’an

Flickr: DaseinDesign

Flickr: DaseinDesign

Sian-Ka-an means ‘Origin of the Sky’ in the language of the Mayan people who once inhabited the region. Located on the eastern coast of the Yucantan peninsula, the reserve is made up of a series of tropical forests, mangroves, marshes and a barrier reef. Inhabiting the reserve is a remarkable number of flora and fauna including 300 species of birds.

Drive an hour up the coast to Tulum.

Tulum

Tulum

The Mayan ruins of Tulum is not a UNESCO World Heritage site, but it’s well worth taking some time to explore them on the drive up the coast to Cancun. The ruins are situated on 12-metre high cliffs overlooking the ocean and were one of the last cities to be built by the Maya. It managed to hold off conquest by the Spanish for around 70 years but Old World diseases brought by the settlers resulted in the city being abandoned.

Continue up the coast for two hours to Cancun. Drop off the car hire and fly back home.

Want to take this self-drive? Get in touch with our Mexico travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans or see our example tours here.

10 prawn dishes you have to try on the Riviera Nayarit

The Riviera Nayarit lies along the western coast of Mexico. The beautiful region is known for its white sandy palm fringed beaches, laid back locals, luxurious hotels and most importantly, fresh seafood. It’s no surprise then that there are plenty of seafood dishes to try. If you love prawns, there’s simply no better place to eat. Here’s 10 prawn based dishes to try when you visit.

Tortitas de Camarón

Popular during Holy Week and Easter, this traditional dish of prawn patties cooked in a fresh spicy sauce made from chipotle chilies, tomatoes, garlic, onions and nopal cactus is delicious.

Empanadas de Camarón

Empanadas are popular throughout Latin America, the recipe and filling changing depending on the region visited. Similar to a Cornish pasty, these pockets of pastry are filled with prawns and cheese or a spicy casserole of prawns, tomatoes, onions and chili.

Camarones Zarandeados

This is a true Nayarit seafood classic. Prawns are cut in half and smoked using a secret recipe. It’s also common to find smoked octopus and other smoked fish.

Tamales de Camarón

Though tamales are sold on almost every street corner in Nayarit, head to the central coast of northern region of the state for the best.

Camarones a la Diabla

These deviled prawns are one of the simplest dishes, but pack a punch. Prawns are fried in butter and seasoning and then doused in ketchup and a spicy sauce. Perfect with a cold beer.

Coctel de Camarón

Most will have tried a prawn cocktail before, but in Nayarit its served spicy and hot. The prawn heads are ground down and added for extra flavor along with onions, tomatoes, cucumber and chilies.

Camarones a la Cucaracha

Though the name is unappealing (it translates to cockroach prawn), it’s got nothing to do with roaches! Prawns are coasted in seasoned flavor and fried until golden brown.

Ceviche de Camarón

A classic Latin American dish. Although this is not native to Nayarit, it’s one of the best places to try the dish. Raw prawns are marinated in lime juice, cucumber, onion, tomatoes and chili. Best served on a sunny afternoon near the beach.

Taxtihuil

This corn, prawn and chili stew is ancient. Originating from the Isla de Mexcanltitan, it’s been eaten in the region since pre-Hispanic times. It’s as popular now as it was then.

Aguachile

The origins of Aguachile is disputed between Nayarit and neighboring Sinaloa. A regional favourite, this recipe is created with lime, chili, garlic and seasoning which is poured over prawns, onions and cucumber.

If that’s not enough, we’ve got one more for you. We couldn’t create this list without mentioning tacos de camarón. There are plenty of varieties, but they all include tortillas heaped with prawns, mulata sauce, coriander, lime and habanero chilies.

Want to try any of these prawn dishes in the Riviera Nayarit? Get in touch with our Mexico travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans or see our example tours here.

With thanks to Riviera Nayarit.

Authentic Mexican carne asado taco recipe

Tacos are synonymous with Mexico. This classic recipe for carne asado (barbequed meat) tacos is one of the best we’ve tried. Cold Corona beer works perfectly as an accompaniment to this spicy street food.

Ingredients:

10 tortillas
500g skirt steak, cut into thin slices
4 chilies, chopped finely
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp vinegar
2 tsp cumin
½ tsp ground cloves
Oil
3 tomatoes
2 large onion, chopped finely
2 handful of coriander, chopped finely
4 limes, 3 cut into wedges and 1 juiced
Oil
Seasoning to taste

Method:

Take a blender and add 2 of the chopped chilies, 2 chopped garlic, vinegar, ½ of the chopped onions, 1 teaspoon of cumin, the ground cloves, seasoning and a little olive oil to bind everything together. Blend into a paste.

Put the steak slices into a mixing bowl and add the blended paste. Mix well together, cover with cling film and leave to marinade in the fridge for at least 2 hours.

Put the tomatoes, ½ chopped onion, 2 of the chopped chilies, the rest of the garlic, 1 teaspoon of cumin, a handful of coriander, juiced lime, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and seasoning. Mix well together, cover in cling film and leave in the fridge until ready to serve.

If possible, spark up the barbeque. Once the coals have greyed, place the slices of steak on and cook for a couple of minutes on both sides. If you don’t have a barbeque, heat a griddle pan to a high heat and cook the steak for a few minutes on both sides.

Heat a frying pan and heat each tortilla until warm. To serve, put a tortilla on a plate, top with some of the steak, coriander, some chopped white onion and a little of the sauce. Squeeze some lime juice and serve with extra lima wedges.

Want to try carne asado tacos in Mexico? Get in touch with our Mexico travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans or see our example tours here.

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