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Category Archives: Architecture

CITY OF THE MONTH MONTEVIDEO: AN ANTIQUE SHOPPER’s DREAM

Browsing flea markets of Montevideo

Montevideo is a great city to wander. Much of the centre takes you back to a bygone era when people took the time to slow down. The neoclassical and Art Nouveau architecture recalls those times. The leafy plazas, and riverside walkways, invite you to ramble. The streets are dotted with cafes, bookstores, and a large collection of antique stores. Auction houses like Bavastro or Castells are packed with fine vintage treasures. Montevideo also features a popular flea market on Tristán Narvaja Street, where every Sunday morning visitors may find first-edition books, 1900s Leicas and other hidden gems. The markets are also great places to eat scrumptious grilled meats and other local delicacies. If you would like to discover Montevideo and its secrets, please contact us for Uruguay travel ideas.

WIN a fabulous 8-day holiday for two to Nicaragua

The Colonial city of Granada

We have teamed up with The Travel Magazine to have the chance to enjoy a holiday of a lifetime touring Nicaragua. Known for its colonial cities, volcanoes and unspoilt beaches, Nicaragua is one of the region’s best kept secrets. Enjoy beautiful lakes, active volcanoes, nature reserves, inviting beaches and friendly locals.

Your tour (see full itinerary here) starts in the capital city of Managua where you can rub shoulders with locals in the street markets, then on to the beautiful colonial city of Leon Nicaragua’s historical, cultural and religious capital. You could even go boarding at the Cerro Negro volcano if you have the stomach for this exciting ride down the volcano. Then take the ferry to the Isla de Ometepe, situated on Lake Nicaragua, with two volcanoes, Concepcion and Maderas. Spend the night on a nature reserve by one of the most beautiful beaches in the country.

Then on to the vibrant colonial city of Granada believed to be the second oldest in Latin America and attacked many times by pirates. You will visit the city by horse-drawn carriage. Climb the bell tower of Merced church and enjoy spectacular views over Lake Nicaragua and Mombacho Volcano. The trip is for two and includes flights, hotels some meals and activities. Select Latin America has been offering quality trips to the Central America for over three decades.

To enter the competition, click here. Winner will be chosen at random on May 16th 2017.

The underground Salt Cathedral of Zipaquira in Colombia is simply awesome

There is something awe inspiring about this underground church – the simply carved naves lit with a neon blue light and decorated with marble sculptures, makes it look like a scene from a futuristic movie.

Although this is a popular tourist attraction and somewhat of a pilgrimage for Catholics in Colombia, it is a functioning church, receiving hundreds, if not thousands of visitors on Sundays. Interestingly though, Zipaquira has not bishop, and is therefore not recognised as a cathedral in Catholicism.

Flickr: Mario Chavez

Flickr: Mario Chavez

Nevertheless, this place of worship has been heralded as one of the finest achievements in modern Colombian architecture, with some describing it a ‘jewel of modern architecture’. Most of the architectural details and the icons located in the naves are hand carved in the halite rock, although there are a few marble sculptures which compliment them.

The region has been mined since the pre-Columbian Muisca culture in the 5th century BC. Fast forward a couple of thousand years, and miners built a simple sanctuary and cross where they could pray and ask for protection each day before work. In 1950, the construction of a large cathedral began and inaugurated in 1954. It was dedicated to Our Lady of Rosary, the patron saint of miners. Comprising of three naves, some of which were originally carved out by the Muisca people, the large complex cost over $285 million to build and could house over 8,000 worshippers.

Flickr: Ben Bowes

Flickr: Ben Bowes

Unfortunately, due to safety concerns, the cathedral was shut in 1990, and the construction of a new cathedral began in 1991, 200 feet below the original. Opened in 1995, the new cathedral is part of a larger complex which houses the Parque de la Sal (Salt Park) and a museum of mining and geology. Although the project was far from simple, it was achieved by making changes and additions to the corridors and cavernous areas created by the mining operations.

There are three main features to the new cathedral. The first is the Station of the Crosses, a series of 14 small chapels which illustrate Jesus’ last journey. The next is the dome located at the end of the entrance ramp and from which visitors descend into the chambers. Lastly, there are three naves which are interconnected via a crack which symbolizes the birth and death of Christ. The main alter has a large lit cross above it, and behind an angel sculpture can be seen blowing a trumpet.

Also on offer is the Salt Park, a 79-acre area which include the Brine Museum, the Salt Auditorium, the Sacred Axis (a square 4-metre-high cross) and depictions of the mining process.

The cathedral is located in the town of Zipaquira, around 30 miles from Bogota. It can be reached either on the Tren Turistico de la Sabana or via car. We recommend visiting the cathedral en route to Villa de Leyva. To start planning your trip to Zipaquira, get in touch today, or see our suggested tours to Colombia.

The 7 best train rides in Latin America

Compared to most continents, railways in Latin America are few and far between. Most have been left to fall into disrepair or abandoned completely. There is however a resurgence in train travel, particularly in Ecuador where old lines are being repaired and services resumed. Here’s a list of the best train trips you can take in Latin America.

Andean Explorer – Peru

Operated by Belmond (originally the Orient Express), the beautiful Andean Explorer runs between Cuzco and Puno (Lake Titicaca) in Peru three times a week – Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is arguably the most luxurious train ride in South America – think three course meals and classic 1920s style Pullman carriages. The journey through spectacular scenery best seen from the picture windows in the viewing carriage, takes around ten hours.

Jose Cuevo Express – Mexico

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One of the newest editions to the train travel in Latin America. Owned by the tequila giant Jose Cuevo, this short journey through the UNESCO World Heritage agave fields from Guadalajara to the Tequila Pueblo Magico in Mexico. Each carriage has a bar where you can taste a variety of premium tequilas. The train departs each Saturday throughout the year.

Old Patagonian Express – Argentina

Flickr: Jorge Gobbi

Flickr: Jorge Gobbi

Known as La Trochita in Spanish, this impressive journey through the rugged scenery of Patagonia is a must. Although this is now used just by tourists, the steam train which still have locomotives from the 1920s gives you an idea of what the longer journeys would have been like all those years ago. The train departs at ten and takes around three hours to complete the round trip from Esquel to Nahuel Pan.

Train Crucero – Ecuador

The Tren Crucero is a magnificent trip beginning in the capital Quito and passing through the Andean highlands to the coastal plains of Guayaquil. In 2013 it one a number of awards including being recognized as the best train trip in the world by Lonely Planet. The full trip takes four days including daily excursions to view Ecuador’s snow-capped mountains, villages and interesting sights such as the Devil’s Nose switchback through the Andes.

Copper Canyon Railway – Mexico

Flickr: Adam Singer

Flickr: Adam Singer

This 400 mile train trip from Chihuahua to Los Mochis runs daily and takes around fifteen hours. Pass through rugged scenery as well as 20 twenty canyons in the Mexican wild west. It is recommended that you split the journey with stops and meet the Tarahumara community that inhabit this northern region of Mexico.

Hiram Bingham – Peru

Perhaps the most famous of train journeys in Latin America, this luxury service runs from just outside Cuzco to Aguas Calientes, the town a few minutes away from the famous ruins of Machu Picchu. It runs every day other than Sundays and takes around three hours leaving you plenty of time in the afternoon to explore Machu Picchu. Named after the American explorer who supposedly discovered the ruins, this vintage style train feels like a mode of transport used from that era. Take some time to enjoy a pisco sour from the bar as you slowly pass the lush Andean scenery.

Panama Canal Railway – Panama

Flickr: Roger W

Flickr: Roger W

Take this historical route from Panama City to Colón, a journey which takes around an hour. Pass through the jungle and along the edge of the famous Panama Canal. The course was finished in 1855 and acquired by the French Panama Canala Company in 1880. In the early 20th century is was purchased along with the canal and continued operating until 1979. It wasn’t until 1998 when Panama privatized the railway that it opened as a tourist attraction in 2001.

To begin planning your train trip through Latin America get in touch today.

A Quick 5 Minute Guide to Brasilia

A little history…

Brasilia is the capital of Brazil. It is located inland and is somewhat unique in the country and is was fully planned and created from scratch in the 1960s. Behind the city’s design is urban planner Lucio Costa and the architect Oscar Niemeyer and the artist Athos Bulcão. It’s often overshadowed by the more touristy coastal cities of Rio de Janeiro and Recife, but those who decide to visit find a wealth of attractions, restaurants, nightlife and culture.

Fast facts

– The city was founded on the 21st April 1960
– The population is 2.5 million
– It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage city in 1987
– It played host to the world cup in 2014
– It is the fourth most populous city in Brazil
– If looked at from above, the city is shaped like a bird

Getting there

Due to the city’s relative isolation from other parts of the country, the only practical way to get there is by flight. Flights from Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo and Salvador take roughly two hours.

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Where to stay

Try the Melia Brasil 21, probably the finest hotel in the city. Located between the Television Tower and City Park, it’s also in the best location for exploring Brasilia. All the rooms at this 5* property are spacious and include all the features of a luxury modern hotel. The Norton Grill serves up delicious grilled meats and international cuisine and the Churchill lobby bar serves a wide range of wines and cigars. Other on-site amenities include a fitness centre, sauna and a stunning rooftop swimming pool with incredible views over the city.

Feitico Mineiro

Where to eat

The restaurant Feitiço Mineiro celebrates the cuisine of Minas Gerais. The food here is delicious. Think suckling pig with creamy spiced beans and farofa or grilled chicken accompanied by okra and corn mash. The restaurant was created by Jorge Ferreira in the late 80s. His passion for culture, music and literature shows in the restaurants décor. Although Ferreira sadly passed away in 2013, the restaurant continues the traditional of live shows and music concerts at the venue.

What to do

There are plenty of things to do in Brasilia. Tours can be organized by bike, car or by foot. One of the best ways to see the city is on an architectural masterpieces circuit tour with a local English speaking guide, photographer or artist. During the tour you can explore the avenues, gardens and buildings that make this city so fascinating. Brasilia is located next to the Chapada dos Veadeiros, an amazing landscape to explore. Try taking a scenic flight over the national park in a hot air balloon.

Bar Brasilia

Nightlife

The Bar Brasilia is a favourite amongst locals. Known for having the best draft beer in town, it’s the perfect meeting point after a day of exploration. Although (like everything in the city), the bar is relatively new, it’s traditional wooden bar and tiled floor will transport you back to a bygone era. If you’re feeling hungry try the delicious cod cakes.

To begin your adventure to Brasilia get in touch.

Our Top 25 Most Unique Hotels In Latin America

From floating hotels on a Uruguayan lake to an aircraft nestled amongst trees in Costa Rica’s rainforest, we’ve searched high and low for Latin America’s most unusual and unique places to stay. Surprisingly Chile comes out on top with an impressive total of eleven.

Laguna Garzón Lodge – José Ignacio, Uruguay

Laguna Garzon

Explora Patagonia – Torres del Paine, Chile

Explora Patagonia

Ecohabs – Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Ecohabs

Montaña Magica – Huilo Huilo, Chile

Magic Mountain

Eco Camp – Torres del Paine, Chile

Ecocamp

Cristal Samaña – Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia

Cristal Samana

Home Hotel – Buenos Aires, Argentina

Home Hotel

Arrebol Patagonia – Puerto Varas, Chile

Arrebol

Inkaterra Canopy Treehouse – Amazon, Peru

Canopy Treehouse

Morerava Cottages – Easter Island, Chile

Morerava Cottages

Quinta Real Zacatecas – Zacatecas, Mexico

Quinta Real Zacatacas

Hotel Unique – São Paulo, Brazil

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Awasi Patagonia – Torres del Paine, Chile

awasi_patagonia

Espejo de Luna – Chiloé, Chile

Espejo de Luna

Canopy Tower – Soberanía National Park, Panama

Canopy Tower

Pueblo Barrancas Ecolodge – Pedrera, Uruguay

Pueblo Barrancas

Hotel Costa Verde 727 Fuselage – Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica

727 Fuselage

Canopy Village – Huilo Huilo, Chile

Canopy Village

Cristalino Jungle Lodge – Alta Floresta, Brazil

Cristalino Jungle Lodge

Nothofagus Hotel & Spa – Huilo Huilo, Chile

Nothofungus

Aqua Amazon – Amazon, Peru

Aqua Amazon

Entre Cielos – Mendoza, Argentina

Entre Cielos

Reino Fungi Lodge – Huilo Huilo, Chile

Reina Fungi

Hotel Endemico – Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico

Hotel Endemico

Nidos de Pucón Tree Lodge – Pucón, Chile

Nidos de Pucon Tree Lodge

To start booking your unique stay in Latin America contact the experts.

10 ancient South American wonders you absolutely need to visit

1. Machu Picchu
Machu PicchuPedro Szekely/Flickr

Where: Cuzco, Peru
What: Extremely well preserved (and restored) 15th century Inca settlement located in stunning mountainous surroundings.
How: In the Footsteps of Incas

2. Tiwanaku
TiwanakuFrançois Bianco/Flickr

Where: Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
What: Capital of a pre-Inca civilization which dominated a swathe of the southern Andes between 500 AD and 900 AD
How: Tiwanaku & Beyond

3. Kuelap Fortress
KuelapMihai/Flickr

Where: Chachapoyas, Peru
What: The remains of a vast walled complex that contained over 400 buildings dating back to the 6th century and occupied until the Spanish Invasion.
How: Warriors of the Clouds

4. Chan Chan
Chan ChanCarlos Adampol Galindo/Flickr

Where: Trujillo, Peru
What: Covering an area of over twenty 20 km², Chan Chan is biggest Pre-Columbian archaeological site in Latin America.
How: Warriors of the Clouds

5. Tierradentro
Tierradentroinyucho/Flickr

Where: Cauca, Colombia
What: Underground tombs and burial chambers decorated with motifs dating back to the 6th century.
How: In Search of El Dorado

6. Chavín de Huántar
Chavininyucho/Flickr

Where: Ancash Region, Peru
What: A place of worship and one of the oldest pre-Columbian sites dating back to 1500 BC located in the high Andes.
How: Contact us

7. Ingapirca
SANYO DIGITAL CAMERAJulia Rubini/Flickr

Where: Cañar Province, Ecuador
What: One of the only and largest Inca complexes built in southern Ecuador and used as a military outpost.
How: Cotopaxi & the Devil’s Nose

8. Ciudad Perdida
Ciudad PerdidaSarah Tz/Flickr

Where: Sierra Nevada, Colombia
What: The ‘Lost City’ founded around 800 AD and rediscovered in the early 70s by a group of local treasure looters.
How: Contact us

9. Nazca Lines
Nazca LinesVéronique Debord-Lazaro/Flickr

Where: Nasca, Peru
What: Gigantic geoglyphs etched into the desert between 500 BC and 500 AD and still a mystery to archaeologists.
How: Contact us

10. Moai Statues
MaoiArian Zwegers/Flickr

Where: Easter Island, Chile
What: Human statues created by the Rapa Nui people between the 13th and 16th century some of which weigh up to 82 tons.
How: Origins of Chile

Inca Trails gain UNESCO World Heritage status

Peru_adventure

In June the Inca trail system was officially declared a World Heritage Patrimony by the UNESCO. Its Quichuan name Qhapaq Ñan means ‘Great Road’ which seems apt as there are over 6,000km of Inca Trail extending into Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador and Peru.

These extensive trails were built during the era of the Tawuantinsuyu to connect this mighty empire from the Amazon through the Andes to the coast.

100 year anniversary of the Panama Canal

Panama_canal_holiday

The Panama Canal celebrates its 100 year anniversary on the 15 August 2014. This 48 mile shipping canal connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans and was built to reduce the lengthy and hazardous journey around Cape Horn, the southernmost point in South America. Its story began in 1881 was France started construction of the canal only to stop work due to engineering problems. The US continued the project in 1904 and it was to take another decade before completion. When it opened the canal saw just 1000 ships traverse the locks annually. This has now increased to almost 15 thousand. Work continues on the canal with a wider lane due to open next year.  To celebrate the 100 year anniversary we’re offering a special seven day package designed specifically for those wishing to learn more about the canal and its history. For more details get in touch here.

10 irresistible photos of Brazil

1. Sunset over the Bahian coast

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2. Hiking in Chapada Diamantes

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3. Scuba diving off Fernando de Noronha

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4. Dolphin watching off the south coast

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5. Bird-watching in the Pantanal

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6. Cruising down the Amazon River

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7. Staying at a beautiful pousada

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8. Helicopter over the Iguaçu Falls

Helicopter_ride_over_iguazu

9. Walking down through the Pelourinho in Salvador

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10. Taking a schooner cruise along the Costa Verde

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