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Category Archives: Chile

Things to do on Easter Island

While most know and visit Easter Island for the ancient Moai statues left by the Rapa Nui civilization, there are plenty of other activity options on offer for adventurous travelers, though many are connected to seeing the Moai as well. The island lies some 3,000 miles off the coast of Chile, and although part of the country, its culture is Polynesian. Here’s the top 10 things to do in on Easter Island.

See the Moai quarry

Rano Raraku is located on the slopes of Teravaku in the Rapa Nui National Park. It was formed from a volcanic crater and was used by the Rapa Nui culture for around 500 years as the main quarry for creating the Moai statues seen across the island. They Moai were built somewhere between 3,000 and 3,500 years ago and although they were built for the gods, ironically the felling of all the trees to transport the heavy statues led to a huge change in the environment and the downfall of the civilization. An enormous 21.6 metre incomplete statue weighing over 270 tonnes still sits at the quarry.

Swim at Anakena Beach

The white sand on Anakena beach is made from ground coral and is one of the best on the island. Though most visit to see the nearby statues, the beach is a highlight. While away an afternoon sunbathing or swim in the warm Pacific Ocean.

Join Tapati festival

The festival is over 40 years old and started to help maintain Rapa Nui culture and drawing in tourism. The two-week long festival starts at the beginning of February and is full of Rapa Nui dancing, singing and competitions. Every year, two females compete to become the Queen of Tapati and there are horse racing competitions on different parts of the island. It’s one of the best, albeit the most expensive time to visit.

Biking around Easter Island

Flickr: Helen K

Taking a self-guided or guided mountain biking tour around Easter Island can be a great way to introduce yourself to the Moai and the island scenery. There are plenty of routes including Hanga Roa to Orongo and Puna Pau to Tahai. There are some paved roads across the island, but many are trails and paths which can be quite challenging. Rentals cost around US $15 a day. Just check the quality of the bike before you hire it.

See the sunrise at Tongariki

A popular tour for visitors to the island. Head down to the site of Tangariki where 15 Moai statues stand on a ceremonial platform overlooking the ocean. During sunrise and sunset, the most amazing colours can be seen hitting the ocean, coastline and Moai. A magical experience, just remember to bring your camera!

Hit the surf

Flickr: anoldent

You might not know this, but Easter Island has some excellent surf. There are several hire shops and schools if you want to learn which are inexpensive and offer good quality equipment. After a morning of exploration, the Pacific swells are a great way to expend some energy.

Hike up Terevaka Volcano

The summit of Terevaka Volcano is the highest point on the island, towering over 500 metres above sea level and offering spectacular views across the island. Hiking to the top can be a rewarding experience that takes around four hours round trip. Few people decide to climb Terevaka, so those who do might very well have the summit all to themselves. For those who don’t want to trek, a horse riding tour to the top can be arranged.

Watch the Birdman ceremony

The Tangata Manu, also called the Birdman ceremony started sometime in the 18th century. Held in September every year, one man from each tribe contends in a dangerous competition to collect the first egg of the Easter Island (Manutara) seagull. To do so, the competitors must paddle across the rough ocean on floating reeds to the caves where the eggs are laid and then bring it back in tact to present it to the chief. The winner keeps the emptied egg Birdman’s house.

Gorge on seafood

Being an island, it’s not surprising that the main diet of the Easter Island community is seafood. There are plenty of great restaurants to gorge on fresh seafood including mahi mahi, tuna, swordfish, lobster and prawns. Look out for sea urchins which litter the beaches throughout the year. Eaten raw, these can be opened on a rock and the roe eaten right out the shell.

Want to visit Easter Island? Start planning your journey today. Take a look at our suggested Chile tours, call our Chilean travel expert on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here.

King Penguins in Tierra del Fuego

King Penguin

If you want to see King penguins but don’t want to go to Antarctica, go to Tierra del Fuego. A few years ago, a small colony of King Penguins started nesting at a local Estancia. This is the only place to find the second largest penguin within the American continent. We will be offering a day trip to see these graceful creatures. The itinerary starts in Punta Arenas and consists on a short flight to Porvenir and then a drive to the the reserve and then fly back. This is a perfect addition to any Torres del Paine itinerary with some idle time in Punta Arenas.

Tierra del Fuego means ‘Land of Fire’ after the fires the indigenous people kept going. The archipelago is shared between Chile and Argentina. Much of it is flat steppe grasslands, but a chain of rugged mountains runs down, covered in a permanent ice field. We also offer cruises that ply the islands’ fjords and include a stop at mythical Cape Horn.
Here are some Chilean holiday ideas.

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.

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

carnival

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.

7 amazing religious statues in Latin America

Many countries around the world love to erect religious monuments, but in Latin America they are particularly impressive. While most will have heard of Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer that towers over the city from Corcovado, there are plenty more throughout the continent.

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro
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This is arguably one of the world’s most iconic statues. Christ the Redeemer was created by French sculptor Paul Landowski in collaboration with Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa. It may not be the largest statue at 30 metres high, but it’s fantastic location on top of the 700-metre-high Corcovado Mountain mean that can be seen from almost anywhere in the city. Weighing 635 metric tons, it was built from reinforced concrete and soapstone between 1922 and 1931.

Virgin Mary, Santiago

Smaller than Chris the Redeemer, but no less important. Perched on San Cristóbal Hill in Chile’s capital Santiago, this 22-metre-high statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary sits alongside a chapel and an amphitheatre, all dedicated to the Immaculate Conception. It weighs 36 tons and stretches up 14 metres (or over 22 metres if you include the pedestal).

Cristo Rey, Guanajuato

Flickr: Russ Bowling

Flickr: Russ Bowling

This Mexican statue of Jesus on Cerro del Cubilete in Guanajuato is one of the country’s most important. Created by artists Nicholas Mariscal in 1944 and stands at 23-metres-high from its base.

Virgin of Quito, Quito

Flickr: cmjfjd

Flickr: cmjfjd

Another statue built to celebrate the mother of Jesus, the Virgin Mary statue in Ecuador’s capital Quito is perched on El Panecillo, a 200-metre-high mountain in the centre of the city. In 1976 the 45-metre tall statue was commissioned and built. Seven thousand pieces of aluminium were used in its construction and it’s possible to go inside the hollow structure.

El Gigante, Easter Island

Most will have heard of the mysterious Moai stone statues that inhabit all corners of Chile’s Easter Island. The largest is called ‘El Gigante’ which is almost 22-metres-tall and weighs over 200 tons. The statue was never quite finished and it is unclear whether it was ever intended to be or they realised that they would never be able to move it if completed.

Christ of the Pacific, Lima

Christ of the Pacific was built in 2011 making it the newest on the list. At 37-metres high it is also one of the largest. It was given to Lima (Peru’s capital) as a gift from a group of Brazilian companies under President Alan Garcia. Its installation has caused some controversy due to its similar to the Brazil’s own Christ the Redeemer as well as being seen as a government endorsement of Christianity.

Cristo de la Concorde, Cochacamba

Flickr: I Marañón

Flickr: I Marañón

When this was completed in 1994, the was the largest statues of Jesus Christ in the world. It has since been surpassed, but at over 40 metres it’s taller than Rio de Janeiro’s Christ the Redeemer. The statue sits on a 265-metre-high mountain overlooking the Bolivian city of Cochabamba.

To go and see these statues for yourself, call one of our specialists on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or contact us via email here.

Best places to go surfing in Latin America

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The thousands of kilometres of coastline that make up South, Central and North America have some of the world’s best surf spots. They are particularly good along the Pacific coast with great waves being found everywhere from Peru to Costa Rica. Here are some of the best places to catch a break.

Mancora, Peru

Located right up in the north of Peru along the Pan-American Highway, Mancora is known for two things – excellent surf and lively nightlife. The excellent year-round sunny weather brings in floods of tourists who descend upon the small town for good surf and a good time. Mancora is home to the world’s largest left point break.

Montañita, Ecuador

Further up the coast in Ecuador is the town of Montañita. Like Mancora, Montañita is somewhat of a party town, but is also known for the excellent waves. The surf season tends to run between November to April with the largest waves hitting the coast between January and March. During carnival season in February, the town hosts an international surf competition.

Santa Catarina, Brazil

Over on the Atlantic coast, the Brazilian state of Santa Catarina is also well-known for the excellent Atlantic swells. Due to the varied wave sizes that can be found along the coast, this is an excellent for everyone from those looking to learn the sport to more experienced surfers. Although good waves can be found throughout the year, it’s best between April and October. An international completion is held near the city of Florianopolis each April.

Nuqui, Colombia

Colombia isn’t as well-known for its surf as some of the other countries on this list, but the Pacific coastal region of the country near Nuqui has some world-class surfing spots. As well as riding the excellent waves, if you visit between June and October you will have the chance to whale watch at the same time! What could be better?

Arica, Chile

Located as far up Chile as you can get, near to the Peruvian border is Arica. While Chile isn’t known for its surf, this particularly spot is excellent. Sitting on the edge of a desert, this isn’t the prettiest spot in Chile, but the high winds bring in some excellent swells between March and May. It’s also easy to combine this surfing adventure with a trip to San Pedro de Atacama or even up to Machu Picchu in Peru.

Bocas Del Toro, Panama.

Bocas del Toro is known for its luxury over-the-water bungalows. However, there are several beaches on the Caribbean archipelago in Panama that offer excellent surf. Water taxis are the easiest way to access the different reef breaks and secret surf spots. There are several places where beginners can take lessons and hire equipment.

Tamarindo, Costa Rica

Costa Rica’s wonderful climate, white sandy palm fringed beaches and lush countryside make it a particularly pleasant country to visit. It’s Nicoya and Guanacaste coast are also blessed with some of the best surf in Latin America. Most surfers descend upon Tamarindo where beginners can learn in in the smaller waves, while experience surfers can take the boats further out to larger breaks. Surfing trips can easily be combined with a visit to some of the country’s other natural wonders including Arenal Volcano and Monteverde cloud forest.

Popoyo, Nicaragua

Located a few hours south of Managua, the white sandy beach of Popoyo is hit by some excellent surf. Along the coastline, surfers find everything from smaller surf where beginners will be comfortable up to thrilling larger breaks for the experienced. There are a number of surf camps through Nicaragua which offer everything from meals, accommodation, surf hire and training. The ideal place to spend a couple of weeks learning this oceanic sport.

Puerto Escondido, Mexico

This area is known for its super powerful hollow barrels. It is therefore advised that only experienced surfers ride these waves. But those who know what they are doing will be treated to some of the world’s best and most powerful surf. Further along the coast, some small waves can be found which are more suitable for beginners. There are several international surf competitions here throughout the year.

To begin your surf adventure, give one of our Latin America specialists a call today on +44 (0) 207 407 1478. Whether you wish to explore just one surf spot or plan a longer multi-country surfing adventure our specialists will be able to help. Alternatively, you can send us a message here.

25 random but interesting facts about Latin America you probably didn’t know

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  1. Angel Falls in Venezuela is one of the largest waterfalls in the world with a height of almost 1 kilometre.
  2. Colombia produces more than 90% of the world’s emeralds.
  3. Mexico is sinking by around 10 inches every year.
  4. Bolivia was the first country to get rid of McDonalds.
  5. Latin America is the most urbanized continent in the world with almost 80% of its citizens living in cities.
  6. Mambo, salsa, cha-cha-cha, rumba and tango dances all come from Latin America.
  7. It has the shortest coastline, compared to its size, of any continent.
  8. The official name of for Mexico is the United Mexican States.
  9. The oldest university in North America is the National University of Mexico.
  10. Costa Rica translated to ‘rich coast’.
  11. The Amazon spans eight countries – Ecuador, Peru, Colombia, Peru, Bolivia, Brazil, Venezuela and Guyana.
  12. Rio de Janeiro carnival is the world’s largest street festival.
  13. 20% of the world’s oxygen is created from the Amazon jungle.
  14. There are 77 uncontacted tribes living in the Amazon Jungle.
  15. There are over 20 million inhabitants in Sao Paulo making it one of the world’s largest cities.
  16. The highest mountain in South America is Argentina’s Aconcagua and stands at over 6,961metres high.
  17. The world’s most southerly city is located at the tip of Argentina and is called Ushuaia. It has around 55,000 inhabitants.
  18. Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America and straddles both Peru and Bolivia.
  19. Costa Rica has been ranked as the happiest country in the world.
  20. Asia is Latin America’s second largest trading partner after the United States.
  21. Ecuador was the first country in the world to give nature constitutional rights and can be defended in court.
  22. After the Antarctic, the Atacama Desert in the north of Chile is considered the world’s driest.
  23. Bolivia was the first country to have a ski resort with a rope tow.
  24. Darwin came up with his theory of evolution while visiting the Galapagos Islands.
  25. The Uyuni in Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flats.

To start exploring Latin America yourself, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or send us a message here.

6 scenic flights to take in Latin America

Such variety of landscapes makes Latin America an amazing place to see from above. Take a bird’s eye view down over the cities, high Andes and natural wonders. Here are 6 of the best way to see the continent from above.

Nazca Lines scenic flight

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Perhaps the most well-known scenic flight is the Nazca lines. These huge geoglyphs etched into the Peruvian desert thousands of years ago have baffled scientists for many years. Although some of the geoglyphs can be seen from a raised platform, there really isn’t a better way to see them than from a small plane. Flights last around 45 minutes. Take a look at this video of a flight over the Nazca lines.

Quito to Coca commercial flight

Many take this popular commercial scheduled flight from Ecuador’s capital (the second highest capital on the continent) down from the Andes and across the vast stretch of Amazon jungle to the steamy port town of Coca. If you are planning to stay at an Amazon lodge, you’ll most likely be taking this same route. Just ensure you book a window seat!

Iguazu Falls helicopter flight

Flickr: Marco Verch

Flickr: Marco Verch

This amazing natural wonder draws thousands of tourists each day. Many views of these huge falls can be seen from the raised walkways that span both the Argentine and Brazilian side. However, the sheer size of Iguazu can never be fully appreciated without seeing it from above. Escape the crowds and take a scenic helicopter fight to see the falls from a whole different angle.

Santiago to Puerto Arenas commercial flight

Another incredible scheduled flight. Travelling south in Chile from the capital Santiago to Punta Arenas in the heart of Patagonia, reveals some incredible aerial views of the snowy peaks of the Andes mountains. What better way to see the might of these towering mountains than from above?

Blue hole helicopter flight

Flickr: 2il org

Flickr: 2il org

Most people visit Belize’s Blue Hole to snorkel or scuba dive with the staggering variety of exotic fish. This is something not to be missed. However, if you have the time and the resources, a flight over the largest living barrier reef in the world won’t disappoint. This impressive natural wonder is usually combined with aerial views of the Turneffe Atolls.

Hot Air Balloon Flight over the Colombian coffee region

Flickr: CIAT

Flickr: CIAT

The lush green valleys and rolling countryside of the coffee region in Colombia has now be included on the UNESCO World Heritage list. Of course, it’s a wonderful place to explore by 4×4 or by hiking the trails, but this landscape is best seen from a hot air balloon.

Hang glide over Rio de Janeiro

Flickr: alobos Life

Flickr: alobos Life

Need a little adventure? How about seeing Rio de Janeiro from above during a hang glide? Soar like a bird above the city and take in the amazing views of Christ the Redeemer, Corcovado, Sugar Loaf Mountain and Rocinha Favela. Most flights launch from a platform high up in Tijuca Forest National Park (the largest urban forest in the world) and touch down gently on the beach.

To take your scenic flight over Latin America, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or send us a message here.

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