(0)20 7407 1478

855 625 2753 US

Category Archives: Culture

PISCO MASTERCLASS

Bar Pachamama

In the interests of research, I attended a masterclass on the fiery Peruvian spirit Pisco. The Peruvian tourist board are keen to promote the ‘Pisco route’. The first thing I learnt is the Peruvian Pisco differs from its Chilean rival in being distilled by traditional artisan methods. The fermented grape juice or must has no additives by law, not even water. It is a great source of national pride. The methods date back to the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. The name comes from a small town on the Pacific coastal desert, near to one of the oases where the grapes are grown. Legend has it that pre-columbian cultures over a thousand years ago honoured local birds, the pisku (probably small waders that are found in large numbers like sanderlings). Pure Pisco is made from a single grape variety such as Quebranta, with raisin and apple taste or Mollar with a herbal, honey flavour or Uvina with a touch of olive or Moscatel with sweeter peachy overtones. A mixed ‘acholado’ Pisco can be made to make a more complex beverage. The drink is not aged in wood nor in any material that can impart a flavour so traditionally in ceramic jars (also these came to be named piscos) and now stainless steel.

The history too is fascinating. Originally produced by the Jesuits it was sent to all corners of the Spanish empire. Pisco was exported to California during the Gold rush days as all cargo from eastern North America had to go around Cape Horn, making it a cheaper option. In the 1950’s Lima was popular with Hollywood stars. Orson Wells and Ava Gardner stayed at the Grand Hotel Bolivar, John Wayne at the Hotel Maury. Wayne married a Peruvian who became his lifelong companion, but that is another story. The most famous cocktail at the time was the Pisco sour, a mixture of Pisco, lime, sugar, ice, egg white and bitters. I tried an alternative cocktail called ‘The Pisco Punch’, which dates to 19th century San Francisco. This has pineapple, lime juice, sugar, and secret ingredient gum arabic, that allegedly delays the effect of the alcohol, cheers.
For trips to Peru please contact us.

San Miguel de Allende best small city in the world 2018

Mexico

San Miguel de Allende in Mexico is acclaimed as the ‘Best Small City in the World for 2018’ at the Condé Nast Traveler Readers’ Choice Awards. San Miguel is the only Latin American city in the top-ten cities alongside places like Salzburg, Florence and Edinburgh. The city boasts colourful streets, quality handicraft markets, colonial churches and vibrant nightlife. It’s a great place to explore street food. There is also a lush tropical park, Parque Juarez, right in the centre of the city. Further out is El Charco cactus park on the edge of town. My favourite activity was people watching in El Jardin, the main square.

San Miguel de Allende was also named the ‘American Culture Capital for 2019’. From January 2019, San Miguel will promote its cultural, artistic and foody offerings along with its rich history. Named a UNESCO World Heritage site in 2008 for its architecture, but also for its role in Mexican Independence. The city has a cosmopolitan vibe due to the large number of foreign residents. It is a popular place for folks to retire due to the pleasant climate and low cost of living.

Select Latin America can design a self-drive or chauffeur-driven Colonial Cities itinerary. Start in Mexico City – including San Miguel de Allende and other colonial jewels.

Related: Interesting Facts about Mexico

9 REASONS TO VISIT QUITO

Quito is not just a stop en-route to the Galapagos Islands but one of the leading cities of South America,. Voted one of the Best Destinations to Discover, according to National Geographic Traveler magazine. Here are 9 reasons:

Quito is at the middle of the world

Quito is the capital city closest to the sun in both altitude and latitude. At a lofty 2,850 meters above sea level and is also near a place where you can straddle both Northern and Southern Hemispheres. A visitor site has sprung up at the “Centre of the World” where the equatorial line is drawn at Latitude 0 ° 0’0 ”. Despite the altitude Quito enjoys a spring-like climate, all year round.

An Unsurpassed Historical Centre

Quito was declared the first World Cultural Heritage site, with one of the best-preserved colonial centres in the Americas. Wander around restored gems such as La Compañía de Jesús, a baroque masterpiece; or the Plaza Grande, the main square surrounded by historical monuments; tour the religious complex of San Francisco. Ramble through La Ronda, a charming street that keeps traditional trades still alive. The historical centre is not just a museum, it is dynamic living place where inhabitants, religious devotees, public officials and merchants get on with their lives.

Quito’s Cuisine

Quito’s cuisine is one of the best kept secrets. Try traditional mestizo dishes that mix the pre-Columbian and colonial. A fusion of Andean and Iberian culture. Try locro: potato & avocado soup, fritada: fried pork, empanadas: tasty pasties, home-made chilli sauces, paila fruit ice cream, the list goes on. Other dishes are influenced from the Pacific with fish and prawns and coconut. Taste the gourmet chocolates made with finest cacao and the high-altitude coffee. Enjoy fresh fruits throughout the year: such as the tree tomato, naranjilla, cherimoya, granadilla and taxo, babaco and much more.

Handicrafts and art

Quito was an important cultural and artistic centre during colonial times. These skills have been passed down through the ages. You can still see artisans plying their trades in their workshops: drapers, hatters, tailors, goldsmiths and jewellers. Colonial Quito fostered religious art, its well-known Quiteña School, produced some of the most important colonial artists including the sculptors Bernardo de Legarda and Manuel Chili and the painter Miguel de Santiago; discover their works in the many museums and churches.

A Bit of Culture

Quito has many places with permanent and temporary exhibitions, theatre, music or film. Highlights are The Museum of the City, the Museum of El Alabado (with pre-Columbian treasures), a Wax Museum, the Sucre Theatre, the Centre of Contemporary Art and Music to name a few. For archaeology buffs, take a trip to the site museums in Tulipe, Rumipamba or La Florida. Children also have their spaces in the Yaku Park Museum, the Interactive Science Museum and the Train Museum.

Nightlife

Ask our local guide to recommend one of the many restaurants, cafes, bars and clubs in the sectors of La Mariscal, La Floresta, Guápulo and La Carolina. There you will find music, local and international cuisine and, above all meet the locals having fun.

Take a Train

From the district of Chimbacalle, in Quito, you can embark on a journey in “the most difficult railroad in the world”. An ambitious work of engineering linking the coast with the Andes, built the beginning of twentieth century. Now it has become a heritage tourist train, including the famous Devil’s Nose zig-zag through the Andes. Today you can take upscale pullman on a four-day journey or take the local one-day train. The slow pace better to appreciate the Andean scenery.

Shopping

Quito is ideal for retail therapy, you will find a variety of choice for all tastes and budgets. From modern shopping centres such as Quicentro Shopping or Mall El Jardín, or stores of Ecuadorian contemporary design in La Floresta district or La Mariscal; likewise in the Historical Centre you can look at handicraft shops such as El Quinde, with Andean alpaca clothing, gold, silver, filigree jewellery, leather goods and weavings. Unique products are vegetable ivory (tagua) from the Amazon and the famous straw hats (misnamed Panama Hats). In Quito you will find paintings, sculptures in street markets and in La Mariscal there are galleries and antique shops.

The Paramo and the Cloud Forest

Just an hour or two away from Quito, you can enjoy two different environments. Firstly, the haciendas located in the Andean moorland. Enjoy thermal waters, horseback riding, hiking, mountaineering, flower plantations and more. Alternatively head to the Northwest, you can discover the subtropical cloud forest, a paradise for bird watching, with more than 500 species. One of the best places to see dozens of species of hummingbirds and butterflies. Two completely opposite worlds, one warm and one cold.
To visit Quito as part of a tailor-made tour please see our journey ideas at Select Latin America.

RELATED: Top 10 places to visit in Ecuador

 

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up

Frida-Kahlo-with-Olmec-figurine-1939-photograph-by-Nickolas-Muray©-Nickolas-Muray-Photo-Archives

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up is at the V&A museum in London. This is the first exhibition outside of México to display clothes and intimate possessions belonging to the iconic Mexican artist. This offers a fresh perspective on her compelling life story. The exhibition displays personal possessions from La Casa Azul (the Blue House), such as self-portraits, photographs, distinctive colourful Tehuana garments, pre-Columbian necklaces, hand painted corsets, letters, prosthetics, among other objects that will offer a visual narrative of her life. Tristram Hunt, director of the V&A, said: “Frida Kahlo is one of the most iconic and recognisable artists of the last century. We are very excited to bring together Frida’s fashion, medical corsets, make-up and other personal items with her self-portraits to better understand and celebrate this remarkable artist.”

Frida Kahlo: Making Her Self Up runs from 16 June – 4 November 2018 at the V&A. Sponsored by Grosvenor Britain & Ireland. Aeromexico, Mexico’s global airline, is supporting this exhibition.
Tickets are now available. Admission £15 (concessions available). V&A members go free. Advance booking is advised – this can be done in person at the V&A; online at vam.ac.uk/FridaKahlo; or by calling +44 (0)20 7942 2000 (booking fee applies).
To arrange a bespoke trip to Mexico please contact Select Latin America.

RELATED: Searching for Sugarman: the ‘70’s Rock Icon Who Never Was

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.

RELATED: Our picks for the 2018 hotspots in Latin America

UNUSUAL URUGUAY FOR CHRISTMAS?

Punta del Este

Even during summer, it is never too early to plan for the winter hols. With Christmas and New Year 6 months away, it is a good time to secure flights and hotels. Consider Uruguay. It´s about time this little gem nestled between Argentina and Brazil came into the spotlight. A small country but has around 660 km. coastline along the River Plate, the world´s biggest estuary. In the bustling capital Montevideo, enjoy strolling through the lovely old town and dining in fine restaurants. A few hours away, lies Uruguay´s oldest city, Colonia del Sacramento. Founded in 1680, it feels like stepping back in time. The city has a charming colonial ambiance, and old classic cars abound like in Havana. Jose Ignacio, a small coastal town, is an international jet-setter destination and Punta del Este is the must-see for beach lovers. Further north the coast becomes wilder and ideal for nature lovers.

The classy Hyatt hotel Carmelo Resort & Spa, on the banks of Rio de la Plata. It has holiday packages with activities: yoga lessons, Spa, bikes, tennis courts and daily activities at the kid´s club. The packages are subject to a minimum of 3 (Christmas) or 4 (New Year) consecutive nights. More information and rates on request. Contact us for travel ideas and itineraries.

RELATED: 6 Things to do in Uruguay

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

RELATED: Our picks for the 2018 hotspots in Latin America

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

Browsing flea markets of Montevideo

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

RELATED: 6 Things to do in Uruguay

WIN a fabulous 8-day holiday for two to Nicaragua

The Colonial city of Granada

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

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

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

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

RELATED: Top 8 things to do in Nicaragua

Martín Chambi exhibition in Lima

Chambi

Hailed as Peru’s finest photographer, Martín Chambi was one of the first pioneers of indigenous photography. Now the Art Museum of Lima (MALI) is launching a retrospective exhibition of his work that documented the lives of Andean culture, people and landscapes.

Chambi was born into an indigenous family near the shores of Lake Titicaca. After the passing of his father he travelled to Arequipa where we began an apprenticeship in photography with his teacher Don Max T. Vargas, a rarity for someone with such humble beginnings. After training Chambi moved to Cuzco where we founded a portrait studio near the Plaza de Armas.

Although economically he did well from his commissioned portrait work, his passion was where his roots lay – the Andean indigenous culture, people and landscapes. He did many trips out of Cuzco to the Sacred Valley, capturing the lives of people many regarded as inferior. He left an archive of over 30,000 images.

Many newspapers including Peruvian La Cronica, the National in Buenos Aires and National Geographic published his photographic work.

“I have read that in Chile it is thought that Indians have no culture, that they are uncivilized, that they are intellectually and artistically inferior when compared to whites and Europeans. More eloquent than my opinion, however, are graphic testimonies. It is my hope that impartial and objective witnesses will examine this evidence. I feel that I am a representative of my race; my people speak through my photographs.”- Martín Chambi

The exhibition at MALI runs until the 14th February 2016. It is comprised of over 400 of Chambi’s photos including studio work, self-portraits, archaeological sites including Machu Picchu and indigenous photography.

To include a tour of his work start planning your tour of Peru today or call us on +44 (0) 207 407 1478.

RELATED: French artist projects faces of Amazon tribe onto rainforest canopy

make-an-enquiry

create-your-journey