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Category Archives: Ecuador

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.

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.

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.

New Suites at Napo Wildlife Centre

AMAZON IN STYLE

You can’t beat spotting Amazon wildlife at Napo Wildlife Centre in Ecuador. This lodge is set within the Yasuni National Park. This comfortable eco-lodge has now added four panoramic suites. If you fancy the jungle with a private whirlpool on a panoramic balcony, this is your place. Not to mention a cosy living room with a glass floor above the water to spot caiman alligators passing below. From your hammock, you might spot pre-historic hoatzins, huge arapaima fish, and even giant otters on the hunt for piranhas.

After taking a half-hour flight from Quito. Napo Wildlife Centre sits by Anangu Lagoon, a couple of hours by canoe from Coca/San Francisco de Orellana. You can explore the virgin forest on guided hikes, take canoe-rides and visits to a nearby parrot clay lick. For bird-watchers, there is a watchtower. For a bit of culture visits to an indigenous kichwa community. Ecuador is one of the most accessible places to visit the Amazon and one of the most diverse. You could easily combine this with a Galapagos cruise.

Albatross Breeding Season Comes to Galapagos

The albatross breeding season has started. The waved albatross is the largest species of bird in the Galapagos Islands. They only nest on Española Island, where they can be spotted from the April until the December. This coincides with the cooler season when waters are richer in food. They are called the waved albatross after the wavy lines on their breast. Their courtship ritual is one of the most entertaining spectacles in the archipelago. During the courtship, the male approaches the female, then moves around her. They clack their beaks noisily together and point towards the sky. An eerie rattling sound follow, and much honking prevails. They sway around elaborately leading each other on. The movements are repeated many times. They manage to find their partners from previous years. It is said that they mate for life, which can be up to 40 years. They only lay one large egg on bare ground, which weighs nearly 300g. Once-hatched they rapidly grow, until 6 months later are ready to fledge. One reason they like Española island is it is flat and they can easily take off the cliffs. Film copyright David Horwell.

If you wish to book a Galapagos cruise contact the experts.

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.

Lonesome George returns home

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Almost five years after the death of Lonesome George, the last Pinta tortoise has returned back home to the Galapagos Islands. He remains were sent to New York in 2012 to be preserved by taxidermists and was exhibited at the American Museum of Natural History in 2014.

For those who don’t know Lonesome George, he was the last survivor of the Pinta Islands sub-species. He was found on Pinta Island alone in 1972 when most believed that his species was extinct. After being brought to the Charles Darwin Research Station in Puerto Ayora, there were efforts by the park to mate him with female tortoises, but unfortunately this was unsuccessful. At the point of death, his age was unknown, but is thought to be well over 100 years old. He was the star of the show at the research station and during the 40 years he lived there, tens of thousands of tourists visited him.

The Ecuadorian Pacific archipelago is famous as the place that Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution. There are 15 species of giant tortoise that inhabit the islands, three of which are now extinct, including George’s sub-species.

The expertly preserved body arrived back on Puerto Ayora on an Ecuadorian military plane and is now on display at the park. Would you like to see Lonesome George or the other wildlife on the Galapagos? Call to speak with one of our travel experts today on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or see our sample Galapagos tours here.

Top 10 places to visit in Ecuador

One of the beauties of Ecuador is its size. Within hours of the capital, it’s possible to visit a host of landscapes including the misty cloud forests and the high Andes. The Amazon rainforest is just a short flight away. Naturalists will revel in the incredible range of flora and fauna, particularly the birdlife.

Quito

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Quito is one of South America’s most wondrous cities – a colonial gem that sits high up in the Andes mountains. In its heart lies an historic colonial city and UNESCO World Heritage site. It’s cobbled streets, whitewashing Spanish churches and plazas have all be painstakingly restored. It’s worth spending at least a day in the capital to see the world class museums, sample the mouthwatering cuisine and drink coffee in the sunny plazas. We also suggest a visit up to the Virgin Mary statue that towers above the city from Panecillo Hill.

Middle of the World

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The Middle of the World is located just 26 miles north of Quito and is typically visited on the way to Otavalo or the cloud forests. It contains the Monument to the Equator which highlights the exact location of the Equator.

Cloud Forest

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Just a few hours’ drive from Quito is the misty cloud forests that inhabit the Eastern slopes of the Andes mountains and descend into forges and rushing waterfalls. The forests and elevation make it a bird watchers dream. The protected reserves are teeming with birds from toucans to hummingbirds. While you spend your days hiking the trails in search of colourful birdlife, in the evening return back to stay at a range of lodges from luxury to rustic.

Otavalo

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A highlight and an absolute must on a trip to Ecuador. Just a couple of hours north of the capital lies the famous colourful market town of Otavalo. Every Saturday, the local communities descend upon the town to sell their wares. Piles of leather goods, native paintings and hand-woven textiles adorn the tables throughout the town. It’s not just for show – this authentic market is a great introduction to the Ecuadorian Andean way of life.

Amazon

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Ecuador is arguable the easiest place to visit the Amazon. A scenic 45-minute flight from Quito brings you into the steamy port town of Coca. From here board dugouts canoes to reach the excellent wildlife lodges. Our favourite is the Napo Lodge, a series of cabanas located on the riverfront deep within the jungle. Take daily hikes along the trails to spot monkeys, sloths, tapirs, macaws, giant otters, anacondas and pirañas.

Devil’s Nose Train

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One of the continent’s most interesting train rides. A feat of engineering, the train journey zigzags up the side of a mountain. Afterwards, be sure to visit Ingapirca, one of the only Inca ruins that still remains in Ecuador.

Cuenca

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This southern city of Cuenca is well worth the visit. This is Ecuador’s most unspoiled city. It’s colonial centre, Spanish churches and sunny plazas ooze charm. The pace in Cuenca is unhurried, and that’s exactly the approach that visitors should take. Take a couple of days to drink coffee and people watch in the lovingly preserved squares, sample Andean food at in the excellent eateries and enjoy the city’s nightlife.

Galapagos

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What can we say about the Galapagos? This archipelago was left without human contact for so many years, the wildlife has evolved to be fearless. This allows visitors to get up close to some of the most interesting wildlife on the planet. Swim with sea lions, snorkel with turtles, scuba with sharks, watching the mating dances of the blue-footed boobies and waved albatross and walk with giant Galapagos tortoises in the wild. The Galapagos Islands are not just for wildlife enthusiasts – it should be on everyone’s bucket lists.

Cotopaxi

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Head south from Quito along the Avenue of Volcanoes. Be sure to stop for a day’s hiking through the Cotopaxi National park, home to the world famous snow-capped mountain: Cotopaxi. Keep an eye out for wildlife including Andean gulls, lapwings, foxes, coots, pintails, deer and wild horses. Condors circle above using thermals. There are plenty of excellent historic haciendas surroundings the park.

Baños

After all that hiking and wildlife watching, it’s time for a little rest and relaxation. This famous mountain town is home to plenty of natural hot springs ranging in temperature. This hot water is filtered into communal baths and while they are the prettiest, you’ll feel a million dollars after taking a taking a soak. The cliffs that surround the town have a series of beautiful cascading waterfalls which make for a scenic backdrop. If you have the energy, there are plenty of trails to hike around the town.

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

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