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Category Archives: Chile

A guide to Santiago street food

Whichever part of the world you’re in, humble street food has always been the place to look for the best eats. Forget fancy restaurants and gourmet cuisine, it’s on the streets where you’ll find the people’s food. Santiago is no exception where the high footfall metro stops around Santa Ana, Baquedano and Cal y Canto have some mouth-wateringly good food. Alternatively, as night begins to close in, make a beeline for Bellavista where the delicious things are cooked along the streets until the early hours.

Completo

Completo’s are Chile’s answer to the American hot dog, just better and twice the size. A large boiled frankfurter sausage placed between bun is where the comparison ends. The basic completos are then loaded with freshy chopped tomatoes, mashed lemony avocado and lashings of mayonnaise. You can then create your own bespoke hot dog. Some add sauerkraut, others fried onions, French fries and fried eggs. If you’re looking to soak up the night’s boozy intake, try the completo with potatoes and cut meats and avoid the hangover the next day.

Mote con huesillo

Typically served during the summer months, the mote con huesillo is a traditional non-alcoholic drink made from unhusked wheat grain, dried peaches and peach juice simmered with sugar and cinnamon. It’s seriously sweet with an interesting texture provided by the soaked wheat and makes for a meal all by itself and the use of a spoon is necessary. Look out for varieties sold from rolling vendors who sometimes replace the sugar with honey and use dried prunes instead of peaches.

Empanada de pino

Empanada’s a stable all over South America. Much like a British pasty, warm, flaky pastry encapsulates a savoury filling of minced beef (pino), onions, olives and some hard-boiled eggs. Occasionally, you’ll find varieties that include raisins and it’s not hard to find vegetarian empanadas filled with a spiced potato and vegetable mix or even seafood empanadas. The ones found on street stalls have already been oven baked nearby, so look out for empanadas hot and fresh out the oven.

Anticucho

Flickr: Ricardo Diaz

If you’re looking for anticuchos, just follow your nose. The smell of roasting meats emanates along the most streets in the Chilean capital so they aren’t difficult to find, particularly at night. Typically, chunks of beef, though chicken and pork are not uncommon, are marinated in a heady mix of chillies, cumin and garlic vinegar before being barbecued over smoky coals. For some of the best brochettes, seek out the vendors around Cal y Canto and La Vega.

Fresh fruit juices

There’s seemingly a juice seller on every corner of the city. These rolling street vendors can blend up your very own bespoke juice with combinations that include passion fruits, oranges, apples and bananas as well as seasonal and exotic fruits. If you’re looking for a healthy kick, try adding in a little carrot. They’re an inexpensive way to rehydrate on the move during the summer months.

Ceviche

Most Latin American countries make ceviche in some form of another. Chile’s long coastline provides a never-ending abundance of top quality fish making theirs some of the finest. Firm white fish sometimes with the edition of prawns or even squid are marinated in a zingy mix of citrus juices until translucent and ‘cooked’. It’s often complimented by soft cooked sweet potato, slices of red onion, chopped coriander and crunchy Chilean corn. Best eaten accompanied by one of Santiago’s pisco sours.

Sopaipilla

Flickr: Marita Olave

If you’ve got a sweet tooth, make a beeline for one of the sopaipilla stands where discs of fried dough made from sweet potato and flour are topped with lashings of indulgent dulce de leche. They also sell savoury versions where a zingy blend of coriander, chopped tomatoes, onions and a dash of chilli sauce works perfectly with the crunch of the sopaipilla. At around 20p each, they won’t break the bank either. Go on, have another.

Churros

If you spot one of the churros stands in Santiago, make a quick dash because they sell out quick. The chewy, crunchy fried doughnut-like treats originating from Spain are popular here. While in Europe they are often served with thick hot chocolate, in Chile, when they come out the fryer they are lightly dusted in sugar and dipped in rich dulce to leche caramel. Bliss.

Ready to start diving into Santiago’s street food scene? Call one of our Chile experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here to start planning your foodie tour of the capital.

The most luxurious things to do in Latin America

Those lucky few with deep pockets can experience Latin America in extraordinary ways. And why not? There’s been plenty of studies that show that experiences making you happier than things. So, if you are a big spender, why not book up one of these unique things to do.

Grab a drink at the Copacabana Palace

Copacabana Palace in Rio has seen many of the world’s rich and famous walk through its Art Deco doors. The hotel opened in the early ‘20s. Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers danced here and the Rolling Stones band had a drink at the Grand Salon before their concert on the beach. Magnificent guestrooms overlook the famous strip of golden sand. They drip with antique furnishings and original artwork. Be sure to swing by the uber-cool Bar do Copa where the city’s trend-setters come for sun-downers.

Take a tour of the Uyuni Salt Flats in a private air stream

While the crowds head out onto the Uyuni Salt Flats on 4x4s, why not book a tour of the iconic natural wonder on the only vintage Airstream in Bolivia. This shiny, metal campervan includes a bedroom area, living space and bathroom with hot shower. You’ll attended by a personal chef, a support vehicle and guide who’ll help you make the most of your time there. The best part is enjoying dinner below the starry night sky.

Cruise the Galapagos on board the Grace

If you want to see the Galapagos in style, there’s no better way than on board the Grace. Named after its former owner Grace Kelly,  the motor yacht has everything you’d expect that’s fit for a princess. Available for private bookings for up to 18 passengers and attended by 2 naturalist guides and 10 crew. On board, you’ll find a spacious sundeck, a Jacuzzi and buffet-style dining. The vessel has seen a long list of famous passengers including Winston Churchill, Aristotle Onassis and Sir George Tilley.

Swim with whale sharks off Holbox Island

To enjoy the ultimate underwater experience, head to the tiny island of Holbox just off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula. Here, you can book a private tour between May and September to snorkel with whale sharks. These gentle behemoths of the sea can reach up to 15 metres in length and more than 15 tons making them the biggest fish in the seas. There are few things that match up to the once-and-a-lifetime experience of swimming with these harmless beasts of the sea.

Ride the Andean Explorer sleeper train

The Belmond Andean Explorer is the first luxury sleeper train in South America. It provides a unique way to get up close to the mountainous scenery in absolute comfort. The train plies the tracks between Cuzco and Lake Titicaca on a 2 or 3-day overnight adventure. You’ll find deluxe double cabins with panoramic windows, an en suite bathroom and living area. You can mingle with your fellow guests in the Piano Bar lounge car. Sip cocktails and enjoy live music to go with the Andean views. Taste seasonal Peruvian flavours in the luxury dining car or enjoy a treatment and massage in the on-board spa.

Fly over Rio de Janeiro

Avoid the throngs of tourists on the beach or around Christ the Redeemer, see it all from above from one of the private helicopter flights over the city. After boarding, you’ll be flown over the beaches, circle the iconic statue and enjoy views of Sugarloaf Mountain and Tijuca Forest from high up. A guide accompanies you to help spot the city’s landmarks and the flight lasts anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour. An incredible way to see the city from a unique perspective.

Catch a glimpse of Machu Picchu after the crowds have disappeared

In Peru it’s unthinkable not to visit the ancient Inka ruins of Machu Picchu that lies perched on the top of a mountain near Cuzco. That said, there are more than 5,000 people that mill around the site every day. If you want to splurge, book a night at the luxurious Sanctuary Lodge next to the citadel. From your private guestroom terrace, you’ll be able to look over the ruins, when the crowds have all disappeared.

Cruise along the Amazon on the luxury Aria

Want to experience the Amazon without sticky, humid nights in basic lodging? Try one of the 3, 4 or 7-night cruises on board the state-of-the-art Aria. The 45-metre long boat, designed by celebrated Peruvian architect Jordi Puig, includes 16 glass-fronted suites. Enjoy gourmet Peruvian cuisine in the dining room.  Spot Amazonian wildlife from the observation deck. At night the myriad stars. Dedicated naturalist guides, private chefs and crew will ensure a comfortable adventure.

Ready to start your luxury getaway to South America? Call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email here to start planning.

Latin America’s top football teams

boca juniors

Flickr: Sam Kelly

The beautiful game is by far the biggest sport in Latin America, nearing an obsession for many. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, you’d be hard pressed not to enjoy the lively atmosphere. Try a match between some of the biggest rivals like Buenos Aires’ River Plate and Boca Juniors. Though the teams haven’t got the spending power of European clubs, managers keep an eye out for new talent. So, if you’re looking for a new club to support in the new world, here’s our list of the best there is.

River Plate, Buenos Aires

Let’s start with two of the biggest and well known. The Buenos Aires team River Plate has gained a serious following despite, a recent run of bad luck. They’ve notched-up 36 titles and two Libertadores Cups under their belt. Many of River Plate’s top players get nabbed by European teams.

Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires

The fierce Buenos Aires rivals of River Plate are the Boca Juniors who, over the years, have nurtured a wealth of talent and be named one of the top Latin America clubs of the 21st century. They’ve had similar success with River Plate with 30 titles and four Libertadores. Heard of Maradona? This was his team.

Corinthians, Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo’s Corinthians have gained a serious reputation. With a star-studded list of players over the years, they are Brazil’s largest club. Over the years have bagged a ton of titles including 5 Brasileiraos, a Libertador and even a FIFA World Cup when they beat the UK’s Chelsea. This is a club to look out for.

Penarol, Montevideo

Without a doubt, Penarol is Uruguay’s most followed and successful club. Located on the outskirts of Montevideo, this team have scored enough to gain almost 50 league titles and several Libertadores. The club has produced top players over the years and contributed to all Uruguay’s World Cup teams. Though they haven’t won a cup since the ’80’s, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

Santos FC, Santos

Santos FC needs little introduction. This historic Brazilian club has set the football world on fire with the likes of Pele and Robinho. Pele is often considered the greatest player of all time. More recently, it was Neymar’s club before he moved on to play for Barcelona. If you’re looking to support a Brazilian club with pedigree, look no further than Santos.

Atletico Nacional, Medellín

Atletico Nacional, based in Colombia’s city of Medellin, are having a good run, bagging plenty of league titles over the last 10 years. They’re becoming the powerhouse not just in Colombia, but the whole of Latin America. The most famous player to come out of the club is Rene Higuita, a goalkeeper known for his unique style.

Colo-Colo, Santiago

Let’s face it, Colo-Colo is Chile’s most successful team. They’ve many cups and a Libertadores under their belt. Famed for producing players with a fast and offensive style; the big European clubs keep an eye of for talent.

Olimpia, Asunción

Olimpia continues to do well with almost 40 league titles among other cups. It’s best known for bagging the Intercontinental Cup, the Copa Interamerica, the Libertadore and the League Title all in 1979, the peak year for the club. A good solid team with a strong history and one to keep an eye on.

Want to go and watch the beautiful game in Latin America? Call one of our experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here to start planning your adventure.

Where to watch Latin America’s famously melting sunset

Who doesn’t like a good sunset? One of life’s great joys is watching the melting ball of orange light dropping behind the horizon, while colouring the sky. Whether you are on a honeymoon or on a romantic getaway, be sure to not miss one of these sunset places. In Latin America they don’t all revolve around the beach and sea, it could be desert or mountain.

Valley of the Moon, San Pedro de Atacama

This spectacular lunar-like landscape lies in the Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Towering red rock formations would look more at home on the surface of Mars than they do in Latin America. Scamper up to the viewpoint at the end of the afternoon to enjoy a special sunset. As the sun drops down behind the arid scenery, the rock colours transform.

Tamarindo, Guanacaste

Tamarindo

Flickr: Duane Storey

We mentioned that few of these spots are beaches, but we’re making an exception with Tamarindo. This surf town and strip of sand overlooks the Pacific on Costa Rica’s western coast. Ideal honeymoon territory. Spend you days swimming, snorkelling or wildlife watching before taking your seat on the powdery sand. Watch the sun setting over the ocean’s horizon, a picture-perfect sight. Spend the evening with travellers splashing around in the sea.

Machu Picchu, Cuzco

Machu Picchu

Flickr: Todd Gehman

If you’ve got deep pockets, spend a night at the Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel next to the Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. When the throngs of crowds have all, you’ll have the perfect uninterrupted view of the sun setting over the citadel from your private terrace. A completely different way to experience one of the New 7 Wonders of the World.

The Galapagos, Ecuador

galapagos sunset

Flickr: Steve

The Galapagos Islands are famous for wildlife, but few mention the spectacular sunsets. If you take a cruise around the islands it can be tiring spotting the archipelago’s animals. At the end of the day, enjoy a glass of something fizzy and some mouth-watering food, with the sun setting behind the ocean horizon. Then argue with fellow traveller’s if you’ve seen the ‘green flash’.

Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro

Sugarloaf Mountain

Flickr: duncan c

Climb Rio’s Sugarloaf Mountain to take in the spectacular views across the bays but be sure to stay up there until the late afternoon. There are few places on earth that measure up to watching the sun setting over the Marvellous City. Lights twinkle among forested mountain scenery, spot the towering Christ de Redeemer. Just perfect.

The Salt Flats, Uyuni

The Uyuni Salt Flats lie on the high plateau of Bolivia are one of the world’s great natural wonders. A vast expanse of snow-white salt broken only be the odd cacti-laden island. Stay in one of the unique salt hotels out in the wilderness. Here you’ll witness the sight of the sunset’s light bouncing off the salty crust. Ready your camera, you’re not going to want to miss snapping this.

To start planning your honeymoon or romantic break in Latin America, call on of our experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here.

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.

24 hours in Santiago

Santiago is fast becoming Latin America’s coolest capital. With world-class shopping, some of the best eateries on the continent, beautiful colonial architecture, we can see why. It’s well worth a few days of exploration, but if you find yourself with only 24 hours in the Chile’s largest city, here’s a handy guide.

9 p.m.

You’ve arrived off a long flight. You’re going to need somewhere comfortable for your first night in the city. The cosy and intimate Hotel Orly has got you covered. Located in the trendy district of Providencia, the spacious rooms and welcoming staff are what you need. Close to the best sights in the city make it a great base for exploring.

8 a.m.

After a good night’s sleep, it’s time to start discovering what Santiago has to offer. First thing’s first, breakfast. Head down to Daniel’s Bakery and grab one of the seats upstairs which offers spectacular views over the Andes Mountains. They have an extensive menu, but you can’t go wrong with any of their delicious in-house baked pastries or breads. For something more substantial, try their creamy eggs benedict.

10 a.m.

Like much of Latin America, the Spanish left their mark on the city with their architecture. Now that you’re full, it’s time to work off a few of those calories with a walk along Calle 21 de Mayo to the historic centre. This district is one of the most scenic in the city. Don’t miss the Plaza de Armas, the Palacio de la Moneda and the Metropolitana Cathedral, all show off the centuries old history of Santiago. It’s also a wonderful place to sit and have a coffee while people watching.

1 p.m.

There is no better way to experience the life of the local people than a visit to the food market. Santiago’s huge Mercado Central is particularly beautiful. Built from wrought iron by a Scottish firm in the late 19th century with vaulted ceilings. A walk around the market reveals everything from fresh fish to local produce. You can’t visit the market without eating something. It’s famous for its seafood. Pick one of the less touristy eateries around the edge. They serve fine Chilean stews and grilled fishy treats.

3 p.m.

Flickr: alobos Life

The best place to while away the afternoon is at the Parque Metropolitano de Santiago. This is one of the largest parks on the continent, with over 700 hectares to explore. You’ll need at least a few hours here. In the summer months, visit one of the two open-air pools for a refreshing dip. Or take the 20-minute Santiago Cable Car up to the summit of San Cristobal Hill. You can also ride the 1920’s funicular, now a National Monument, up to the National Zoo. Here, you can see over 150 species of wildlife. If time permits, a walk through the beautiful Botanical Gardens never disappoints.

8 p.m.

Freshen-up back at the hotel. Kick-off the evening with a glass of excellent Chilean Malbec or two at the rooftop Tramonto Bar & Terrace, at the Noi Hotel. Here, you enjoy the twinkling lights of the city and the Andes Mountains as the backdrop accompanied by an excellent playlist or a live band.

10 p.m.

Treat yourself to a seafood feast at the Aqui Esta Coco in Providencia. Interestingly, it’s one of the city’s only sustainable restaurants and was built almost entirely from recycled materials. Expect things like octopus carpaccio, steamed king crab legs from Patagonia, fried fish, oysters, and clams with cheese on the menu. It’s not particularly cheap, but it’s well worth splurging.

12 a.m.

Chileans enjoy their late-night partying which can often run well into the following day. Finish the night at Ky, an Asian-themed bar which features opulent décor and excellent music selection. Ther is an impressive wine and cocktail menu. Try the Mirotini, a mix of Grand Marnier and Pisco with passion fruit. Arrive back for a comfortable night at the Hotel Orly.

Ready to start planning your adventure to Santiago or the rest of Chile? Call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478, email us here, or look through at our suggested Chile tours.

Wildlife spotlight on the Andean condor

The mighty Andean condor is iconic in Latin America and tops most bird and wildlife lovers’ list of species to see. Here’s some interesting facts about these magnificent birds.

They are the largest flying bird in the world

Andean condors are the largest flying bird in the world with a wingspan of up to 10-feet. When they are fully mature, they can reach over a metre tall and weigh up to 15 kilos. With that size and weight, it’s not surprising that they need such large wings. That said, if they fly in ideal wind conditions, they can often reach more than 5,000 metres, circling on the morning thermals.

Andean condors are bald

Unlike there Californian cousins, the Andean condors have bald heads which are surrounded by white feathers along the neckline. The males are almost always bigger than the females, which is unusual for this family of avifauna.

They don’t just live in the Andes

Despite the name, Andean condors don’t just live in the Andes Mountains. They are commonly spotting flying around the coastal regions of Latin America, as well as the deserts of Northern Chile and Argentina and along the edge of Peru. Sightings are rare in Colombia and Ecuador, but they have been known to fly over the Amazon occasionally.

They live almost as long as humans

Andean condors have a life expectancy of over 60 years in the wild. In captivity, this can increase to a staggering 75 years, almost the same as a human. One of the only birds in the world to live longer is the Californian Condor in North America.

They don’t build nests for their eggs

Interestingly, unlike most birds which build a nest to protect their eggs, Andean condors lay on cliff ledges. Both parents are required to look after the egg during the incubation period to ensure it stays safe. They lay one egg every couple of years, and after hatching 2 months later, the chick stays with the parents for 1 year before flying the nest. It then takes over 5 years for them to reach maturity.

They are vultures

Though they may look graceful, the Andean condor is a scavenger and part of the new-world vulture family of birds. This means that most of their diet is made up of the leftovers of dead animals. They typically target large mammals in the mountains and fish along the coast, swooping in to pick at the carcasses.

They are classified as threatened

Sadly, the Andean condor is classified as threatened by the IUCN and could face extinction in the future. There are many reasons for the decline of these large birds, but like most threatened wildlife, human hunting and loss of habitat are the main culprits. Fortunately, there are efforts by zoos and conservation experts to ensure these amazing creatures are around for future generations.

If you’d like to see Andean condors in the wild, the best place is the enormous Colca Canyon in Peru. To start planning your tour, speak with one of our Latin American experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

Interesting spots for art lovers in Latin America

The Museo de Arte Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (MALBA)

Flickr: Helen K

The Museo de Art Latinoamericano de Buenos Aires (shortened to MALBA) is a World-class gallery. Located along Figueroa Alcorta Avenue in Palermo, the museum houses a wealth of Latin American art within a contemporary structure. Works from artists including Antonio Berni, Joaquin Torres Garcia, and Diego Rivera and amongst many others. The MALBA was inaugurated in 2001 with the mission to collect, preserve, and promote Latin American art. It receives well over a million visitors every year making it one of the highest visited museums on the continent.

The Blue House, Frida Kahlo Museum

Flickr: ::: Mer :::

More commonly known as the Blue House (La Casa Azul), the Frida Kahlo Museum is in Colonia del Carmen in Mexico City. The cobalt blue museum was the home of the artist. It was here she was born, created much of her art, lived with her husband Diego Rivera, and ultimately died. It chronicles her life, and has much of her artwork. Most of the building has be left exactly as it was when Frida lived there in the 1950’s.

The Last Supper in Cuzco

Wikipedia: Toño Zapata

Adorning the walls of the cathedral in Cuzco, there is a replica of The Last Supper. It was painting in the 18th century by a Peruvian artist called Marcos Zapata. The interesting thing about the painting is the Andean influence. You will notice that the table is filled with Peruvian foods including corn, peppers, different coloured potatoes, chicha (a fermented corn drink), and roasted cuy (guinea pig). At the forefront, Judas can be seen holding a bag of money, but this is commonly considered to be modelled on Francisco Pizarro, the Spanish conquistador who executed the Inca Emperor hundreds of years before.

The Selaron Steps in Rio de Janerio

The Escadaria Selarón, more commonly called the Selaron Steps, are one of the most visited spots in Rio de Janeiro. Built by Chilean artist Jorge Selaron as a tribute to the Brazilian people, what started as a side project to his other work turned into an obsession that took years to create. There are 215 steps descending 125 metres and are covered with more than 2,000 tiles collected from around the world. Each step is unique creating an ever-evolving piece of art. 300 or so of the tiles are hand painted by Selaron.

The street art in Bogota

Flickr: McKay Savage

Street art has become popular across Latin America in recent years. One of the best places to see this modern art form is on the streets of Colombia’s capital, Bogota. Though you can see work adorning many of the streets, the best sports are along Calle 26 in the La Canderlaria neighbourhood, and Chapinero. The city has a dark history, and much of the work is about politics and social commentary. Local and international street artists like Banksy, Stinkfish, Vhils, and Toxicomano have all painted the walls here.

Want to see the art for yourself? Start planning your trip today by calling one of our Latin American experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here.

Videos of the most magnificent birds in Latin America

Latin America has the most diverse range of avifauna on earth. More than 3,000 different species of birdlife can be found from the mountains down to the coast. Notably places birders should visit are the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador, the cloud forests of Peru, the Atlantic coastal forest in Brazil, the Iberá Wetlands in Argentina, and the Boquete Highlands in Panama. Here’s a rundown of the most magnificent birds in Latin America that all birders should tick off their lists.

Hyacinth macaws

The hyacinth macaw is part of the parrot family and is native to the rainforests of South America. It is characterized by its cobalt blue feathers. It is the largest of the parrot family at maturity can reach up to a metre long from its head to the bottom of its tail. Unfortunately, due to habitat loss and the illegal pet trade, hyacinth macaws are listed as vulnerable. We can recommend spots in the Pantanal where you will definitely see them.

Andean condors

Andean condors inhabit much of the high Andes Mountains. It’s large, with a wingspan off well over 3 metres and is part of the vulture family. They circle on the thermals looking out for dead animals to scavenge. It has one of the longest lives of any bird, with some living to over 70 years. Perhaps one of the best places to see this impressive bird is in Peru’s Colca Canyon.

Cock of the Rock

Though small, the cock of the rock is one of the most colourful birds in Latin America. Inhabiting the misty cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes, these birds are characterized by bright orange feathers including a prominent fan-shaped crest. They congregate in leks where the males display in the hope of attracting a mate. If you want to see a cock of the rock, be sure to visit the cloud forests of Ecuador or Manu in Peru.

Waved albatross

These huge 2.5 metre birds descend upon Espanola island in the Galapagos during the mating season in May. Most visit the island to view the majestic birds’ mating ritual of bill circling, sky pointing, and bill clapping. The rest of the year they spend along the coast of Peru and Ecuador. Interestingly, the waved albatross can live up to 45 years.

Resplendent quetzal

The resplendent quetzal is found in the cloud forests of Panama, Guatemala, Mexico, and Costa Rica. There are several different sub-species, and they are often considered by many as the most beautiful birds in the world. These solitary creatures are part of the trogon family and are usually found on their own or very small groups.

Magnificent frigatebirds

Magnificent frigatebirds have a large wingspan and are known for stealing the food from other birds. This has led to the Spanish calling the pirate birds. The males have a layer of shiny black feathers along their body and a large red throat pouch which they inflate during mating season to attract a mate. Females are large then the males, and have white breast and shoulder feathers.

Blue footed boobies

Though blue footed boobies can be found along the coast of Ecuador and Peru, the biggest populations are on the Galapagos Islands, and are one of the archipelago’s biggest draws. They are easily recognised by their blue feet which they stamp up and down to impress a female. They reach almost a metre in height (the females are generally taller) and they have a wingspan of up to 1.5 metres.

King penguins

Most of the population of king penguins are found in the Antarctic, but there is a small population of king penguins on the Falkland Islands and another in Tierra del Fuego. King penguins are around a metre tall and are expert swimmers. While looking for prey like small fish and quid, they often dive down to over 100 metres, though some reach depths three times this.

Harpy eagles

The beautiful harpy eagle is found throughout the Americas and is one of the most powerful raptor species. They can be seen in parts of the lowland rainforests in Brazil and Central America gliding around on the morning thermal. They have huge talons which they use to grab prey and can lift animals that are as heavy as they are.

Capuchinbird

This funny looking bird is found in Northern Brazil and Guyana. It’s part of the cotingidae family and is famous among birders as having one of the most unique vocalisations, a low rumble like a cow. It’s got a strange head formation which makes it easy to spot.

Want to see the bird life of Latin America? To start planning, call one of our birding experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here.

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