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Our picks for the 2018 hotspots in Latin America

2018 is upon us, but have you thought about where you’ll be travelling this year? With a wealth of places to visit in Latin America, it can often be daunting to know where to start. Fortunately, our travel experts have come up with the top places to visit in 2018.

Guadalajara, Mexico

While most travellers fly in to explore Mexico City, those in the know are heading to Guadalajara. If you’re a fan of Mexican culture and cuisine, you’ll want to head here quick before the hordes arrive. The city was the birthplace of tequila, houses the largest market in Latin America and is home to the World Heritage Site of Hospicio Cabañas. Guadalajara is shaking off its past and emerging as one of the top nightlife spots in Mexico. Wander down the pretty streets of Colonia Lafayette.

Look at our sample tours of Mexico here.

Quito, Ecuador

2018 marks 40 years since Quito became one of the first UNESCO World Heritage sites. Now there are some good deals on flight prices, so there’s no better time to visit the Ecuadorian capital. Much of the old town’s 16th century architecture is well preserved or re-furbished. Don’t miss the San Francisco monastery, the Jesuit church or the soaring Cathedral. When you’ve had your fill of culture, you can access the rest of the diverse country. Take a flight to the Amazon or the Galapagos Islands, one of the world’s best wildlife regions.

Look at our sample tours of Quito and beyond here.

Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica

Travellers are discovering that the north western Papagayo Peninsula in Costa Rica is the place to go now. Hotel are catching on and the Four Seasons have opened their newest resort there. More hotels will open next year, but more than 70% of the land is protected to keep the region unspoiled. Drag yourself away from the gorgeous beaches to hike up volcanoes, cruise along the coast in catamarans, spot myriad wildlife or whiz through the canopy on zip-lines.

Look at our sample tours of Costa Rica here.

Trujillo, Peru

Machu Picchu is still drawing big crowds every year, but if you want to get off the beaten track, explore Peru’s other cultural wonders. Head north to the coastal city of Trujillo. The city is rich with beautiful Spanish colonial architecture and close to the ancient site of Chan Chan. This pre-Columbian mud city had a big maritime community. The adobe walls and structures are intact thanks to the dry desert landscape. Head for the northern mountains to see the Gocta Falls, one of the highest cascades in the Americas.

Look at our sample tours to Peru here.

La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz’s tourism scene is booming. There are new boutique hotels and trendy eateries celebrating Bolivian national cuisine. The high altitude will take your breath away, so will the soaring backdrop of Andes Mountains. Be sure to jump on the Mi Teleférico to get aerial views of the city and the surrounding scenery. If that isn’t enough to tempt you, the fact that the country is still one of the cheapest in the Americas will. 

Look at our sample tours of La Paz and Bolivia here.

Antarctica

Ok, so it’s not really Latin America, but accessing the White Continent is almost always via Argentina or Chile. It currently takes a 2-day cruise across, the often rough, Drake Passage to visit the Antarctic. In 2018 LADE is launching a regular commercial flight route meaning you can reach the vast icy wilderness in under 2 hours.

Look at our cruises to the Antarctica here.

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Chile is becoming one of the most popular spots for tourists visiting Latin America. The narrow country has a dizzying array of landscapes from towering mountains to forests and dry deserts to vineyards. If it’s your first time be sure to visit San Pedro de Atacama. You can explore natural wonders like salt flats, colourful lagoons and steamy geysers.

Look at our sample tours to San Pedro de Atacama and Chile here.

Ready to visit Latin America in 2018? Call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 to start planning your trip or email us here.

10 off grid hotels in Latin America

Want to get away from the bustle of the city and truly understand a new culture or place? To do so, you’ll need to leave the distractions of home behind. Dump the laptop and mobile phone and immerse yourself. You likely return having had a more fulfilling trip. Here’s 10 hotels in Latin America where you can do that.

La Sofia, Argentina

It may only be a couple of hours from the metropolis of Buenos Aires, but it couldn’t be any different. Here, you’ll stay with a local family at a charming 6-bedroom estancia. Spend your days learning to horse ride with gauchos, play polo, sip Argentine wine and gorge on delicious home-cooked food. Relax in the Spanish colonial surroundings of the farm. It’s not hard to detach and get away from it all here.

Pook’s Hill, Belize

Nestled at the foothills of the Maya Mountains in Belize, Pook’s Hill is set in a gorgeous private reserve. It was once a sacred site to the ancient Maya people. Enjoy walking through the beautiful trails spotting wildlife. Relax at night in your simple thatched cabin made from locally sourced materials.

Palacio de Sal, Bolivia

A couple of nights at the remote Palacio de Sal will do wonders in helping you digital de-tox. While you won’t want to spend your whole holiday here it is ideal for a stop in this wilderness. Made entirely of salt and surrounded by the vast Uyuni salt flats, you won’t be able to pick up WiFi. Have fun playing a round of golf on the world’s only salt course.

Uxua Casa, Brazil

The idyllic fishing village of Trancoso is rarely visited by tourists. On cliff overlooking an endless beach. At its centre you’ll find ten beautifully restored 16th century fishermen’s homes. The rustic but chic individual cabins, created by designer Wilbert Das and local artists. They use reclaimed materials and traditional building methods. With a year-round tropical climate and the beach moments away, it’s an ideal place to get away from it all.

Eco Camp, Chile

If trekking is your thing, there are few places which match up to the Eco Camp located deep in the Patagonian wilderness. The remote hotel of individual domes resembling igloos. Don’t think for a minute they’re basic though. These comfortable glamping tents are anything but. During the day, you can head out to explore the awe-inspiring Torres del Paine National Park with the help of expert local guides.

Ecohabs, Colombia

For something a little more tropical, try the Ecohabs. These are a group of wooden cabins nestled on the side of a hill overlooking the azure Caribbean Sea. Tip-toe barefoot down to white sandy beaches nearby to spend your days reading books, working on your tan or cooling off in the sea. If you’re not a beach dweller, you can head off along the hiking trails in the Tayrona National Park to spot wildlife.

Lapa Rios Ecolodge, Costa Rica

If you want to get away from it all without leaving the comforts of home, try the Lapa Rios Ecolodge in Corcovado. The views from your room are astounding. The hotel sits atop a hill overlooking a pristine jungle reserve and the sea below. Drag yourself away from your private balcony, to spend days hiking along the trails, going dolphin spotting or swimming in the ocean.

Napo Wildlife Centre, Ecuador

When there’s no road to a hotel and the only way to reach it is by boat, you know that you’re truly getting away from it all. Deep in Ecuador’s Yasuni National Park, the Napo Wildlife Centre has a dozen comfortable cabins. During your stay, you’ll hike through the jungle to spot wildlife with naturalist guides. Climb tree towers, visit the local Anangu community and watch parrots at clay licks.

Chiminos Lodge Tikal, Guatemala

This tiny lodge is on an island in the Petexbatun Lagoon in Guatemala’s Peten jungle region. This is a real hide-away. With just 6 rustic bungalows, the accommodation never gets overcrowded. allowing you to appreciate the surrounding private forest and lake. Only monkeys and parrots to disturb you.

Manu Wildlife Centre, Peru

To reach the Manu Wildlife Centre, you take a 35-minute flight to Boca Manu and then a 90-minute journey by motorized canoe down the Madre de Dios River. The rustic lodge has 22 double bungalows crafted from bamboo and palm fronds harvested from the local area. At this lodge, you can hike out into the forests which has unparalleled wildlife watching.

Want to get away from it all on a Latin American adventure? Start planning your trip today by calling one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or emailing us here.

9 amazing places to visit in Bolivia

Bolivia remains one of the most isolated and misunderstood countries in Latin America. Completely landlocked and characterized by the towering Andes Mountains and the Amazon rainforest, Bolivia’s landscape is as diverse as its people. From islands that dot Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, to the vast expanse of white salt -flats, Bolivia offers a wealth of unique natural wonders and experiences that would surely satisfy most travellers.

Explore Madidi, one of the most biodiverse places on earth

Flickr: Joe Lazarus

Madidi National Park won’t disappoint nature lovers. Spanning thousands of square miles of mountain and rainforest, the park is home to more than 11% of the world’s entire bird species. As you wander through the park, you’ll be treated to the sight of monkeys, giant otters playfully swimming down the rivers and if you are lucky, you may even spot an elusive jaguar. You won’t regret adding this one to your Bolivian itinerary.

Wander past the Jesuit Missions of Chiquitos

There are six 18th century Jesuit Mission towns dotting the area, and while their counterparts in other countries have been left to fall into disrepair, in Bolivia they area rather well preserved. The biggest and most interesting is the town of San Jose de Chiquitos which boasts some spectacular colonial architecture. Before you visit, watch the Robert de Nero film, “The Mission” to learn about their historical importance.

Bicycle down the Yungas Road

Flickr: wanderlasss

Often cited as the world’s most dangerous road, the Yungas Road (more commonly referred to as Death Road) winds its way down 15,000 feet to the town of Coroico. Riding down this steep gravel road flanked by a cliff on one side and a sheer vertical drop off the other will certainly get your heart-pumping. Just be careful of the lorries which steam around the bends on their way up to the city.

Go down the Cerro Rico mines in Potosi

Literally translating to “Rich Mountain”, Cerro Rico once brought much wealth into the small city of Potosi. Controlled by the greedy Spanish Conquistadors, they plundered all the silver from the mountain leaving only tin which is still mined in much the same way today. Be sure to take a tour of the mine so you can see the conditions of the workers. The nearby Casa Nacional de Moneda is also fascinating and worth an afternoon of exploration.

Watch the colourful Oruro Carnival

Carnival is an important festival all over Latin America, but there are some particularly good places to see the event in action. Oruro comes alive each year in February which thousands of dancers dressed up in colourful garb as well as accompanying musicians. It’s an amazing sight to see.

Cross Lake Titicaca

One of the highest navigable bodies of water in the world, Lake Titicaca straddles both Bolivia and Peru. It is considered to be the birth-place of the Inca and pre-Columbian cultures. The pretty shorefront town of Copacabana is well worth a little time to explore, as is Sun and Moon Island which have some fascinating historical attractions.

Admire the magnificent Tiwanaku

Tiwanaku lies south east of Lake Titicaca and represents one of the most important pre-Inca civilizations on the continent. The site thrived during the 8th century and it is estimated to have had between 15,000 – 30,000 inhabitants. While only a small part has been excavated, you can still see one of Bolivia’s greatest architectural achievements. It’s easily combined with a day or overnight trip to Lake Titicaca.

Drive across the vast salt flats of Uyuni

The Salar de Uyuni is one of the most amazing natural wonders in Latin America. This 4,000-square-mile salt flat was formed from a prehistoric lake. At its centre is an island teeming with giant cacti. The best way to explore the salt flats is by a guided 4×4 tour which takes you from one end to the other. When it rains, the reflection of the sky in the water-logged salt is simply spectacular. You can even stay in a hotel built entirely out of salt.

Explore the City of Four Names

Flickr: Mundo Sussa

Sucre, is a 500-year-old Spanish former colonial town also known as La Plata, Chuquisaca and Charcas. Just a wander around the city will bring its history to life. Here, you can see Bolivia’s National Library, La Casa de la Libertad and many other relics from its rich historical past. It is also the constitutional capital of the country.

Want to explore Bolivia? Speak to one of our experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here to start planning your trip today.

10 things to do in the Amazon

Seeing a clay lick

Parrot clay licks can be found throughout the Amazon. Hundreds of parrots and macaws descend upon muddy banks each morning to peck away at the clay. This phenomenon is still unknown; however, it is thought that the mud is rich in minerals and salt as well as high PH levels which balance out the acidity of the Amazon. It’s a magical experience spending time in the hide watching this chaotic spectacle.

Gliding downstream in a dugout canoe

Flickr: Emil Kepko

An experience you’ll have at any Amazon lodge. Jump into traditional dugout canoes and glide silently along the waterways. Along the mangroves and lakes, monkeys can be spotted swinging through the trees, sloths peacefully hang from branches, iguanas bask in the sun and colourful parrots and macaws fly across the river.

Spotting pink river dolphins

A highlight for many. The mystery pink river dolphin can be found across the Amazon, particularly at the basin. They prefer the lowland fast flowing waters. They are the largest river dolphin specie in the world and are different from other dolphins in that it has a flexible neck allowing it to move in different directions. They can reach up to 3 metres in length. Like other dolphins, they are social and curious creatures and often approach the boat.

Hearing the roar of the howler monkey

There is a high concentration of howler monkeys in the Amazon. They are the loudest of all the monkey species, their cry being heard over 3 miles away. They often group at dawn or dusk and make whooping barks to let others know where their territory is. When you are staying in the Amazon, you will get used to their amazing sounds in the morning and evening.

Meet the indigenous tribes

For many, getting the opportunity to meet and learn from the indigenous tribes is the highlight of their Amazon adventure. Most Amazon lodges will take you to the local village to find out about their way of life. Learn about local medicinal plants and the wildlife. In some communities such as Kapawi or Huaorani in Ecuador, there are shamans, but stay away from the ayahuasca, it’s strong stuff!

Cruising the Amazon

For those who want to visit the Amazon in relative comfort, there are several cruises. The M/V Aqua takes guests on four-day cruises down through the Amazon stopping for wildlife spotting and hikes through the forest. Return back for some excellent cuisine and a comfortable night’s sleep in the luxurious air-conditioned rooms.

Scaling a canopy tower

If birdlife is a priority, be sure to pick a lodge that has a canopy tower. Sometimes, birdlife in the Amazon can be tricky to spot up through the thick tree line. However, up in the canopy, visitors can be up close to colourful exotic birds as well as monkeys and sloths. Some also include walkways to allow guests to move through the trees and maximise their chances of seeing wildlife. Try the Posada Amazonas whose tower stretches an impressive 25 metres high.

See the famous Amazon Theatre

The city of Manaus sits right in the heart of the Amazon. Rubber tabbing helped the city boom in the late 19th and early 20th century. So much so, a grand opera house was built here in 1896.  The theatre is quite a feat of engineering. Materials where brought in from around the world including tiles from Alsace, steel from Scotland and marble from Italy.

View the Meeting of Waters

Flickr: Rob

One of the highlights of a trip to the Brazilian Amazon is a visit to the Meeting of Waters. At the confluence between the Amazon River and the black Rio Negro, the waters meet and flow several miles downstream side by side without mixing. The phenomenon is down to the differences in speed, water density and temperature. Often the Meeting of Waters is seen en route to the lodge, but if not, it’s well worth taking a half day excursion to see this natural wonder.

Live with scientists

To get even more of an in depth look into the flora and fauna of the Amazon, consider staying at the Uakari Floating Lodge located just over 500 kilomtres from Manaus. The lodge hosts many scientists and researchers who accompany guests on tours into the jungle. Situated on the largest reserve of flooded rainforest in the world, there are over a million hectares of protected land to explore. During your stay, take jungle hikes and canoe rides to spot fresh water dolphins, alligators, monkeys, and birdlife.

To start planning your Amazon tour, call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or take a look at our suggested tours here.

10 places in Latin America that will take your breath away

Latin America is so full of wonders, it’s almost impossible to pick just 10. Our travels have taken us all around this varied continent and we’ve whittled it down to our absolute bucket list favourites.

Torres del Paine

Perhaps one of the most spectacular places on earth, the Torres del Paine National Park spans a large area of the Andes in southern Chile. Hiking through the park reveals some of the most exquisite scenery in South America as well as plenty of wildlife from roaming guanacos to circling condors. An absolute must.

Angel Falls

Flickr: ENT108

Angel falls are the tallest in the world. As water cascades over the edge it plunges 2,648 feet before heading the ground. Like something out of the movie Avatar, the falls remote location mean very few tourists visit so you’re likely to have the falls all to yourself. One of the best ways to see them is a scenic flight over the top.

Blue Hole

The Great Blue Hole is located off Belize’s Caye Caulker. Scuba divers from all over the world to visit this mecca to swim with manta rays, sharks and colourful exotic fish. To fully appreciate the shape of this sunken underwater cave, it’s best to take a light aircraft flight over the top. The nearby Hol Chan Marine Park and the three atolls of Glover, Lighthouse and Turneffe are all top notch scuba sites.

Cartagena

No other city exudes the charm of Cartagena. The colourful UNESCO city is flanked by the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. The best way to explore the city is by foot. This cultural hub is packed full of museums, galleries, and churches to explore. By night, head out to explore the excellent restaurants and nightlife.

Rio de Janeiro

While it may be unoriginal to put Rio de Janeiro on a bucket list of South America, we simply couldn’t leave it off. The gorgeous hedonistic city is surrounded by towering mountains, the biggest urban forest in the world, miles of golden sandy beach and the Atlantic. No trip to Brazil is complete without a visit to this fantastic city.

Tulum

The golden sandy beaches fringed by palm trees are spectacular, but what makes this beach so special is the Mayan temple which loams over the beach from its clifftop site.

Pantanal

For wildlife lovers, there is no better place on earth. This vast wetland that sits just below the Amazon in Brazil is home to hundreds of animal species, from colourful hyacinth macaws, jaguars, caiman, giant otters, monkeys, tapirs, herons, hawks, marsh deer and egrets.  Best explored from one of the many comfortable lodges in the park.

Uyuni

Truly one of the world’s natural wonders. This huge 12,000 sq km expanse of white salt seemingly stretches on forever, only punctuated by an island of giant cacti. Nearby, it’s possible to see a train cemetery of rusting steam trains, hot springs, geysers and workers piling up salt. Be sure to stay in one of the hotels made entirely from salt.

Bocas del Toro

For rustic luxury and Caribbean vibes, visit Bocas del Toro, an archipelago off the northern Panamanian coast. The capital Isla Colon is home to colourful wooden houses, preserving its original Caribbean flair. Stay in one of the many over-the-water bungalows and spend your days swimming, snorkeling, swinging in a hammock, eating lobster and beach dwelling.

For tailor made tours to Latin America, contact the experts here or call us on +44 (0) 207 407 1478

5 cable cars to take in South America

Cable cars are, in our opinion, one of the best modes of transport. Quick, no traffic and it’s possible to take in the landscape or city from above. Many of the cities located along the Andes are, unsurprisingly, hilly, making transport difficult. Though some cable cars are being used for tourism, others are transforming parts of Latin American cities by making the areas more accessible.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

South America’s most well-known and oldest is Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain cable car. Built in the early 20th century, it was designed for tourists to take in the city views from the mountain’s summit. The journey takes just a few minutes to reach the top.

La Paz, Bolivia

Flickr: Inhabitat

Flickr: Inhabitat

The highly successful state-run cable car that connects La Paz with El Alto is the highest in the world. Since its inauguration in 2014, millions of tourists and locals have used the cable car which costs just £0.25. The line can reportedly carry a staggering 18,000 people per hour. During the World Cup, some of the cars were painted to look like footballs.

Santiago, Chile

Flickr: Robert Cutts

Flickr: Robert Cutts

The Teleférico Metropolitano was built in 1980, but has since been refurbished and reopened late last year. It takes tourists and locals up to the huge Metropolitan Park, one of the largest in Chile. Some of the cabins have been adapted to fit bikes, a popular sport in the park.

Medellín, Colombia

Another highly successful transport system, the Medellín Metrocable opened almost fifteen years ago, and has helped to connect the cities hilly districts. More lines have since been added, the latest being in 2016.  The city one an award for innovation in 2012.

Quito, Ecuador

Flickr: Stuart King

Flickr: Stuart King

The Quito Teleférico hasn’t been created as a mode of transport to get around the city. The cable car starts are 2,950 metres above sea level and arrives in the heady heights of Cruz Loma at 4,050 metres. Fantastic views over the city and the adjacent Pichincha Volcano can be seen from the top. It’s also possible to spot Antisana, Cotopaxi and Rumiñahui on clear days.

If you’d like to take any of the cable cars in South America, or visit anywhere else on the continent, speak to one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478.

2017 Latin America travel bucket list

Thinking of travelling to Latin America in 2017? With such a huge area spanning two continents, we thought we’d put together a handy list of the most bucket list worthy things to do in Latin America. From hiking through the Andes to watching turtles on the beaches of Costa Rica, the area really does have something for everyone.

Wander through Tikal, Guatemala

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The ancient ruins of Tikal were built and occupied by the Maya civilization for over a thousand years and is one of the most impressive ruins in all of Latin America. The sprawling complex has over 3,000 structures, some of which are in remarkable good condition. You’ll feel like Indiana Jones as you wander through the ancient site surrounded by thick jungle and the sounds of howling monkeys and birds.

See penguins in the Antarctic

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One of the most bucket list worthy travel adventures on the planet. Take to one of the limited expedition vessels and head out to explore the white continent. There are plenty of penguin species to see including the cheeky chinstraps and gentoos, and the more impressive kings and emperors, the latter usually requires an adventurous helicopter flight to reach them. There is no where on earth as pristine as the Antarctic. While breathtaking is an overused word, there really is no other way to describe the landscapes of towering icebergs, glistening glaciers and majestic fjords.

Hang glide over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Most visit sun kissed Rio de Janeiro for the relaxed pace where the caipirinhas flow and the beach is always appealing. Inject a little adventure and see the city from a new perspective by taking a hang glide. Don’t worry, you won’t be doing it alone. Your guide will fly while you can take the time to take in the surroundings. Take off from the top of Tijuca National Park forest and glide around getting excellent views of the city, beaches and Christ the Redeemer before effortlessly landing on the beach below.

Hike the Salkantay, Peru

Flickr: vil.sandi

Flickr: vil.sandi

While the Inca Trail has become the most popular hiking route to reach Machu Picchu, visitors often forget that there are many other trails. The Salkantay Trek is much less hiked and arguably more scenic (it’s been voted one of the 25 best hikes in the world). It’s also challenging. Those who take on the trek will have to reach some of the highest parts of the Humantay Mountain crossing passes higher than 6,000 metres. But those who do are rewarded with some extraordinary views of snow-capped peaks.

See the wildlife in the Pantanal, Brazil

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The wildlife in the Pantanal rivals that of the Amazon. The difference is the wildlife in these vast wetlands are much easier to spot than the thick jungle. Visitors first drive down the famous Transpantaneira Road stopping to watch crossing caiman and nearby bird life. Once in the wetlands, visitors can stay at any one of the comfortable lodges and take daily excursions by foot, horseback, boat or 4×4 to see wildlife including giant otters, anacondas, caimans, monkeys, marsh deer, tapirs and many species of bird, herons and egrets to hawks and macaws. It’s even possible to see a jaguar from some of the deeper Pantanal lodges.

Scuba dive off Fernando do Noronha, Brazil

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While South American isn’t known for its marine life as say Asia or Australasia, there are still some excellent spots. Fernando do Noronha Islands lies off the coast of northern Brazil. Here the marine life is abundant and its possible to scuba dive or snorkel with colourful schools of fish, lobsters, manta rays, baby sharks and octopus.

Swim with whale sharks off Holbox Island, Mexico

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Our top pick for things to do in Latin America. Whale sharks visit the Holbox Island off Mexico for just a couple of months each year. These huge behemoths are the largest fish in the world and while it may seem scary to snorkel with huge sharks, they are harmless to humans. These gentle giants open their large mouths to filter krill and plankton from the oceans.

Watch hatching baby turtles in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

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Tortuguero National Park on Costa Rica’s northern Caribbean coast are a nature-lovers’ paradise. Cut off from the rest of the country, a plane or boat is the only way to access the region. It’s one of the world’s best places to see green turtles as they come ashore at night to lay their eggs in the sand. Later in the year those young break out of their shells and make the brave journey along the beach to the sea.

Hike to the Lost City, Colombia

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Machu Picchu is undoubtable the most recognizable of ruins in Latin America, but Colombia’s Lost City is just as impressive and with far fewer tourists. To reach the uncrowded ruins, one must take a 4 day hike through thick forest and climb 1,200 steps. Along the way sleep in hammocks in local villages. It’s not unusual to arrive at the Lost City and be the only ones there. Go before this Lost City doesn’t feel quite as lost.

Horse ride with Gauchos in Las Pampas, Argentina

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Whether you are a beginner or advanced rider, all are welcome to visit the Argentine grasslands of Las Pampas. Spend your days with the cowboys of South America, riding through the steppe, rounding cattle, listening to their folklore stories around campfires and sampling some hearty Argentine barbeques. There are plenty of luxurious homestays for those who want a little more comfort on their stay.

To start planning your ultimate bucket list tour of Latin America, speak to one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

Latin America’s most colourful festivals

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The world is full of colourful festivals and none come as colourful as those in Latin America. While Carnival in Rio de Janeiro, the world’s largest street party, is perhaps the best known (and for good reason), there are plenty of festivals throughout the continent and throughout the year. Here are 11 of our favourite festivals to look out for.

Carnival

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Carnival is celebrated throughout the towns and villages of Brazil and the rest of Latin America, but the largest and best known is the celebrations in Rio de Janeiro. With millions of people hitting the streets in February, it’s the largest street party in the world. The city hosts over 500,000 foreign tourists who come to enjoy famed parade of colourful dancers and musicians in the sambodrome.

Tango championship

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Buenos Aires plays host to the annual World Tango Championship. This famous dance originated in the 19th century in the nightclubs around the district of River Plate. It’s quickly becoming one of Argentina’s most valued culture exports with more enthusiasm into the tango around the world than ever before. During the festival, every bar, ballroom and milonga throughout the city comes alive with dancers and the sound of tango music. Held in August, it’s one of the best times to visit the city.

Day of the Dead

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Dia de los Muertos (Day of the Dead) is often confused with Halloween as the dates are very close. However, the event which is celebrated throughout Mexico stems from an Aztec festival that honours the goddess Michacacihuatl. Mexicans believe that the souls of lost loved ones return to earth on the 2nd November to be with their family once more. Families visit the graves of lost ones to pay their respects and leave food and drink.

Inti Raymi

Another famous festival in Peru which sees thousands of people descend upon Cuzco to take the pilgrimage to the ruins of Sacsayhuaman. The festival lasts for nine days between the winter solstice and the Inca New Year. Inti Raymi means ‘Sun Festival’ in Quechuan, and that is exactly what this festival is about. Honouring the sun god and hoping for the quick return in the darker days as well as a good crop and harvest in the coming months. It’s now the second largest festival in Latin America with well over 200,000 visitors last year.

Qoyllur Rit’i

Q’oyllur Riti is one of the least know and intriguing festivals in the Andes. A combination of Pre-Columbian fertility ceremonies and Catholic processions with colorful dancers and Andean panpipe music make this festival special. The main ceremony is held at the foot of Mount Ausangate. At almost 5,000 metres above sea level, the temperatures plunge to below freezing at night. That doesn’t stop worshippers from turning up to gather at the shrine which is said to be where the infant Christ appeared to a young Indian boy.

Flower festival

August sees the annual flower festival called La Feria de los Flores in Medellin. The colourful fair is attended by visitors from all over the world who eagerly descend upon the ‘City of Eternal Spring’ to see the huge flower festivals, parades, dance performances and theatre. Each year the displays and events get larger and more impressive. The event was original planned for one year in 1957, but was such a success it’s now an annual fixture.

Tapati Rapa Nui festival

Easter Island has few cultural connections with Chile and more with the Polynesian islands that surround it. During Tapati Rapa Nui festival, the ancient ancestral traditions are recreated. These include Takona (body painting), singing competitions, Haka Pei (where people slide down the cliff on a banana tree) and Tau’a Rapa Nui (sports on Rano Raraku volcano). It’s one of the most interesting festivals anywhere in the world as well as being one of the most remote.

Santa Semana

Like Carnival, Santa Semana (Holy Week) has celebrations throughout Latin America (as well as many other parts of the world). One of the most colourful is Antigua in Gautemala. This pretty colonial town comes alive with colour. Intricate designs using petals and coloured sawdust carpet the cobbled streets. These are destroyed by bare-footed, purple-robed men carrying statues of Jesus and the Virgin Mary. Other excellent places to celebrate Santa Semana include Quito in Ecuador and Copacabana in Bolivia.

To visit any of the above festivals or any place in Latin America contact one of our travel experts on +(0) 207 407 1478 or email us here. Alternatively, can view some example tours here.

The best street food you can get for under $5 in Latin America

Latin America isn’t short on street snacks. Like much of the world, some of the tastiest cuisine gets cooked on the fryers and planchas that line the streets on vendors’ carts. South America is not the cheapest continent, but plenty of cheap eats can be found if one knows what to look for.

Tacos – Mexico

Arguably the most iconic snack from Latin America. Though the recipe has been changed and adapted outside of Mexico, the true taco found on almost every street corner in Mexico is a small wheat tortilla topped with meat, fresh cheese, avocados, fish and/or salsa. Wrap them up yourself and get messy. Cost depends on filling and location, but typically they cost a dollar and most will need 2-3 as a meal.

Tamales – Ecuador

Flickr: verovera78

Flickr: verovera78

The Ecuadorian tamale is one of the tastiest street snacks. Wrapped inside a banana leaf, one finds a stable of cornmeal mixed with all manner of extras including vegetables, fried meats, spices, eggs and occasionally shrimp. It costs a couple of dollars, but one should be sufficient as a meal.

Carne y patata kebab – Peru

Flickr: Paul Lowry

Flickr: Paul Lowry

The cold nights in Peru’s high Andes means hearty fare is the order of the day. On most street corners, Andean women dressed in traditional garb patiently sear meat on a plancha. Look out for antichucho signs. $2 will get you enough mixed meats and fried potatoes to fill you up.

Empanadas – Argentina

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A stable street snack across South America. Like the UK’s Cornish pasty, the empanada is a baked (or fried) pastry filled with meat, cheese, vegetables or occasionally seafood. You’ll probably need two or three to fill up, but at around $1 each, it’s still going to be a cheap meal. Look out for special street carts selling empanadas or go into any bakery.

Tlayudas con carne – Mexico

While most visitors chow down on tacos (and why not, they are seriously good), those in the know also seek out tlayudas con carne. Crispy tortilla discs are topped with cheese, meats, avocado, salsa and a spicy dressing. They are a little more expensive then tacos, but larger and well worth the extra cost. Originating in Oaxaca, tlayudas con carne can now be found all over.

Buñuelos – Guatemala

Flickr: Matthew

Flickr: Matthew

Latin America’s love sweet food, especially the Guatemalans. Buñuelos are small fried doughnut-like balls covered in sugar and syrup. They are particularly popular around Christmas time and cost a dollar or two for a plate of several. They might not be enough to fill you up, but make for the perfect finish to your street food dinner.

Pastel – Brazil

Flickr: Wally Gobetz

Flickr: Wally Gobetz

Brazil tends to be more expensive than its neighbours, so finding those cheap eats is going to save you a heap of cash. Fortunatly, Brazilians have one of the world’s great street snacks – the pastel. A pocket of thin pastry is filled with all sorts of fillings, typically cheese, eggs, meat or seafood and fried to perfection. Yum. Each costs around a dollar, so they’re cheap enough to indulge on a few should you be hungry.

Carimañolas – Panama

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Flickr: luiseblanco

Carimañolas are seriously popular all over Panama. Yucca is boiled, mashed, shaped into oval balls and stuffed with meat and eggs before being fried until crisp. Their popularity mean these little fried balls are easy to find and cost under a dollar.

Arepas – Venezuela

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Arepas are a national institution in Venezuela. Street carts are packed with hungry workers throughout the day. Flat baked rolls made from ground maize are cut in half and filled with grilled meats, chicken, avocados, cheese, fish or vegetables. Sometimes they are toasted or fried to add texture. At around $3 for an arepa, they are one of the more expensive street snacks in Latin America, but they are also more substantial.

Chorizo – Argentina

Argentina is not known for its vegetarianism. You’ll be hard pushed to find vegetables or salad in such a meat-loving country. Perhaps the best-known street snack in Argentina is chorizo, a slightly spicy sausage, grilled over a parilla barbeque and often served in a bun along with chimichurri sauce. For under $3, they won’t break the budget either.

Chicharrón – Colombia

Though it may not sound that good, and it’s certainly not very good for your health, chicharróns are delicious. Much like pork scratchings in the UK, chicharróns are fried pork rinds. Salty, greasy and tasty, these scrumptious morsels cost just a dollar or two and make for a quick snack on the run.

To start planning your tour of Latin America, get in touch with one of our specialists on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or send us an email here.

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