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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.

2017 Latin America travel bucket list

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

Wander through Tikal, Guatemala

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

See penguins in the Antarctic

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

Hang glide over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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

Hike the Salkantay, Peru

Flickr: vil.sandi

Flickr: vil.sandi

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

See the wildlife in the Pantanal, Brazil

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

Scuba dive off Fernando do Noronha, Brazil

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

Swim with whale sharks off Holbox Island, Mexico

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

Watch hatching baby turtles in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

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

Hike to the Lost City, Colombia

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

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

Horse ride with Gauchos in Las Pampas, Argentina

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

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

Latin America’s most colourful festivals

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

Carnival

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

Tango championship

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

Day of the Dead

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

Inti Raymi

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

Qoyllur Rit’i

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

Flower festival

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

Tapati Rapa Nui festival

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

Santa Semana

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

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

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

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

Tacos – Mexico

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

Tamales – Ecuador

Flickr: verovera78

Flickr: verovera78

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

Carne y patata kebab – Peru

Flickr: Paul Lowry

Flickr: Paul Lowry

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

Empanadas – Argentina

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

Tlayudas con carne – Mexico

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

Buñuelos – Guatemala

Flickr: Matthew

Flickr: Matthew

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

Pastel – Brazil

Flickr: Wally Gobetz

Flickr: Wally Gobetz

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

Carimañolas – Panama

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Flickr: luiseblanco

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

Arepas – Venezuela

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

Chorizo – Argentina

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

Chicharrón – Colombia

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

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

9 insanely luxurious hotels around Latin America

Alvear Palace, Argentina

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The elegant Alvear Palace, located in the upmarket Recoleta district in Buenos Aires, was built in the early 20th century and combines European style along with modern technology. No other hotel in Buenos Aires exudes luxury like the Alvear Palace. Each suite is tastefully decorated with art by well-known Argentine artists adorning the walls. Just outside the doors lies an amazing city to explore, but the luxury spa, indoor pool and French restaurant La Borgogne may keep you from exploring it, as will afternoon patisseries and tea at Jardin d’Hiver.

See our suggested tours of Argentina.

Blancaneaux Lodge, Belize

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Owned by film director Francis Ford Coppola, this beautiful lodge located on the banks of the Priassion River consists of nineteen luxury villas are built from hardwoods and woven thatches. Private villas overlook the surrounding jungle from their stilted location. Soak in the large Jacuzzi at the riverside spa or indulge in a traditional massage.

See our suggested tours of Belize.

Hotel Das Cataratas, Brazil

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One of Latin America’s most iconic hotels, the Das Cataratas is the only hotel located inside Iguazu Falls National Park. When all the tourists have left, guests have exclusive access to the falls all to themselves. Part of the Belmond hotel group (formerly Orient Express), this Portuguese-colonial manor house harks back to a bygone era of travel. After exploration of the falls, return for a lazy afternoon under the palsm on the veranda or refreshing swim in the outdoor pool.

See our suggested tours of Brazil.

Lastarria, Chile

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Built in the early 20th century, this stunning residence located in Santiago’s most bohemian district, is one the city’s most elegant hotels. The Lastarria is situated near the museums, galleries, shops and restaurants in the heart of the city. Each suite is beautifully decorated and spacious, while the restaurant offers cuisine cooked from locally sourced ingredients in an elegant lounge.

See our suggested tours of Chile.

La Passion, Colombia

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While Cartagena is packed with boutique hotels, the 19th century restored house La Passion stands out. The charming hotel has plenty of original features including high ceilings, chequered marble floors, mural paintings and wooden doors as well as an impressive array of colonial, republican and modern furniture. Located in the heart of historic Cartagena other features as this luxury boutique include a lovely terrace and bar, Jacuzzi and a rooftop outdoor pool.

See our suggested tours of Colombia.

Finca Rosa Blanca, Costa Rica

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While San Jose may not be known for its abundance of luxury hotels, the Central Valley located a half hour away has plenty of boutiques. One of the best is the Finca Rosa Blanca, a small luxury hotel nestled amidst lush gardens and the rolling countryside of orchids and coffee plantations. All of the rooms are beautifully constructed offering a choice of veranda or private terrace overlooking the serene landscapes of valleys and mountains. After a day of hiking or horse riding, guests return for delicious homemade cuisine in the restaurant made from organic produce from the hotel’s gardens.

See our suggested tours of Costa Rica.

Plaza Grande, Ecuador

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The Plaza Grande was one of the first hotels built in Quito, and what a hotel. Extensively renovated and remodeled, this fine hotel located on the central square, the Plaza del la Independencia, it’s within walking distance to Quito’s highlights. Fine suites, excellent service and a serious level of comfort define this luxurious boutique property.

See our suggested tours of Ecuador.

El Convento, Guatemala

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The colonial town Antigua has arguably one of the highest concentration of luxury hotels in Latin America. Our favourite, El Convento, is housed within an 18th century Capuchin convent. Stepping into the property from the famed cobblestone streets of Antigua, a beautifully constructed hotel awaits – artisanal brick vaulted ceilings, exposed stone walls and hand-crafted doors with the simple elegance of contemporary design. Chef Arelene served up excellent cuisine at the hotel’s Siltz restaurant, one of the best eateries in the city.

See our suggested tours of Guatemala.

Las Ventanas Al Paraiso, Mexico

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This ocean front property located on the Baja California peninsula in northwest Mexico, the name literally translates to “the windows to paradise”. Part of the Rosewood Resorts, this is one of the best hotels in the world. The property boosts a selection of luxurious suites and villas, all of which overlook the ocean. Personal telescopes are provided from whale and dolphin spotting during the day and star gazing at night. There is an excellent indoor and outdoor spa offering plenty of treatments and a world-class restaurant to while away the evenings.

See our suggested tours of Mexico.

To start planning your luxury holiday to Latin America, get in touch today.

Watch the migratory routes of birds through the Americas sped up

This fascinating gif shows the migration of birds throughout the year between the Americas from 118 species. As you can see, their are plenty of excellent bird watching spots for migratory birds, but the cross over between the Americas – Panama, Costa Rica, Guatemala – are particularly good. We run bird watching trips throughout the year. If you would like us to create a bespoke bird watching tour please do get in touch.

via GIPHY

The 20 Best Hikes In Latin America

There are so many amazing hikes you can do through the Americas ranging from light days hikes to serious mountaineering climbs to summits. We’ll start with the Inca Trail, the most famous of the lot, but by no means the best. Please note that although some of the treks below are possible by yourself, most require a guide.

Flickr: Lisa Weichel

Flickr: Lisa Weichel

Inca Trail – Peru

The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is perhaps the most iconic on this list of treks in Latin America. Most Inca Trail trips last four days. After heading out of the Inca capital of Cuzco you will hike through the lush Sacred Valley, walking in the footsteps of the ancient Incas. Along the way pass remnants of Incas including Ollantaytambo before finally arriving at Machu Picchu, one of the Seven Wonders of the World. It is such a popular trek the government limit the number of trekkers to 500 per day which requires a permit that sell out months in advance. Guides will accompany you to help you make the most of the hike and porters will carry your things as well as setting up camp and cooking your meals to make the trek as comfortable as possible.

When to go: All year round expect February when the trail is closed.
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 4 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Lake Atitlan

Lake Atitlan – Guatemala

The three day trek from Xela to Lake Atitlan is also extremely popular. Along the way pass the verdant interior of Guatemala passing through cloud forests, small indigenous communities, volcanoes and of course, Lake Atitlan, once described by Aldous Huxley as the most beautiful lake in the world. Day one begins with a three hour hike to a view point overlooking the many surrounding volcanoes including Atitlan, Acatenango, Santa Maria and more. Day two descend down into the verdant valleys of pine trees and farms. Day three arrival at Lake Atitlan and hike around the edge.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 3 days
Tour: Try our Dynamic Guatemala tour

Flickr: Frank Vassen

Flickr: Frank Vassen

The Quetzal Trail – Panama

Although this is a relatively easy hike, it is considered by many one of the most scenic. Located in the Western highlands of Panama within the Volcan Baru National Park, most people hike the trail for the chance to spot the resplendent quetzal, the bird that gives the trail its name, and one of the most colourful in Latin America. The treks departs from Boquete, the town where most tourists stay when visiting the region and takes around five hours to complete.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 1/5
Length: 1 day
Tour: Try our Canals, Clouds & Coconuts tour

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Lost City Trek – Colombia

Surprisingly relatively few people hike the trail that ends at the Lost City in Colombia, an ancient citadel likened to Machu Picchu , so if you are looking for undiscovered gems, this is the best you are going to get. The Lost City was only discovered in 1976 by archaeologists from the Colombian Institute of Anthropology. Research since suggests it was founded around 600 A.D. and abandoned around one thousand years later. The four day trek departs from Santa Marta and passes lush jungle to arrive at the citadel.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 4 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Torres del Paine

The W Trek – Chile

The W Trek traverses the Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonian region of Southern Chile. This five day trek will take you past some of the most stark and dramatic scenery on the continent. Towering snow-capped peaks, mighty glaciers, clear tortoise lakes are a daily occurrence on this relatively challenging hike. You may think this barren landscape lacks wildlife, but flamingos, hares and guanacos and more inhabit the area as well as the Andean condors that gracefully glide above. The trek can either be done camping or staying in the basic but comfortable refugees along the way. If five days is too much shorter day hikes can be arranged.

When to go: October to April
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 5 days
Tour: Try our W Trek Tour

Arenal

Arenal National Park – Costa Rica

The dominant Arenal Volcano that towers above the National Park is simply spectacular. There are a number of different guided trails to hike, each of them relatively gentle making it a good option for kids. Each passes the lower foothills of the volcano passing rainforest and lava fields and enjoying views of the volcano above. Los Helicanias trails leads to a particularly good lookout point over Lake Arenal. Afterwards head to one of the local hot springs for a well-earned soak. Tabacon Grand Spa a highly recommended.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 1/5
Length: 1 day
Tour: Try our Jungles, Volcanoes & Beaches tour

Flickr: McKay Savage

Flickr: McKay Savage

Paso del las Nubes – Argentina
An excellent two day hike in Argentina’s Lake District. After getting picked up from Bariloche, begin from the foot of Mount Tronador, also known as Pampa Linda. Hike through verdant forests and streams to a pass that offers excellent views over glaciers, waterfalls and Pampa Linda. Ascend to “Paso de las Nubes” (literally pass of the clouds) and camp for the night. The following day trek along the edge of Frias River to Puerto Frias and catch the last ferry returning back to the city. The trek can be extended into Chile if you wish for something longer or more challenging. There is much wildlife to see along the way including

When to go:
September to April
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 2 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour


Copper Canyon – Mexico

Copper Canyon in Mexico’s north is most famous for its railway, but the scenery and trails also make for some fantastic trekking. Surprisingly to most it is deeper, wider and longer than the Grand Canyon. Although the length of tours range, most guided tours are around ten days. Along the way you will pass small Tarahumara villages and enjoy plenty of wildlife.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 8+ days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour


Corcovado National Park – Costa Rica

The Corcovado National Park in Costa’s Rica’s Southern Osa Peninsula is, as National Geographic called it, one of the most biologically intense places on earth. There are plenty of trails here passing rainforests and beaches, many of which can be done by yourself. The really attraction of hikes here is the abundance of wildlife. Howler monkeys, squirrel monkeys, spider monkeys, capuchins, crocodiles, jaguars, pumas, ocelots, tapirs, anteaters, sloths, tamanduas, toucans, macaws, eagles and many species of reptile to name just a few. If snorkeling is your thing, stop along the way and find a huge array of marine life such as tropical fish, turtles and dolphins. There are plenty of luxury lodges so a trip here can be done in serious comfort should you wish.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 3+ days
Tour: Try our Romance in Costa Rica tour 

Huchuy Qosqo Trek – Peru

This is an excellent option for those that don’t want to hike the ever popular Inca Trail. It isn’t challenging, but takes you through some sublime Andean countryside to the little known (or visited) Huchuy Qosqo Inca site. This archaeological site north of Cuzco lies at 3,600 metres above sea level and is called ‘Little Cuzco’. Although it can be seen in one day, it is best combined with a visit to Machu Picchu in a three day adventure. Begin in Tambomachay and ahike through valleys, lakes and passes to the village of Qenko where you will spend the first night. Along the way birds including lapwings and Andean geese can be seen. The following day you will follow the route to Huchuy Qosqo and have plenty of time to explore. Trek down into the Sacred Valley and take the bus to Ollantaytambo and the train to Aguas Calientes. One the last day you will visit Machu Picchu before returning back to Cuenca.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length:1-3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Ausangate Circuit – Peru

Another excellent alternative to the Inca Trail offering some of the best views of any Cuzco treks. South of the city in the Vilcanota mountain range, this is a challenging hike for those who have some experience with fairly high altitude walking. Along the way you will cross three passes over 5,500 metres. This wild trek is named after the Apu Ausandate that towers at almost 6,500 metres. Culturally it is also interesting: you will visit traditional villages and local Quechua farmers. It can easily be combined with a visit to Machu Picchu.

When to go: May to October
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 5 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Colca

Colca Canyon – Peru

Although most visit Colca Canyon viewpoint in Peru’s Arequipa district to see the majestic Andean Condor’s flying overhead, there are some excellent and little hiked trails to explore. You will require a guide here as none of the trails are marked (although they have been used for hundreds of years). An execellent three day option begins in Cabanaconde and passes San Juan de Chuccho, Coshnirhua, Malata and ends at the Cruz del Condor viewpoint.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 1-3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Huayna Potosi – Bolivia

This is the toughest trek on our list and the only one to reach a summit. Having said that, this is possible for inexperience climbers who have had plenty of time to acclimatize and a little determination. The three day climb that includes a day of acclimatization takes you over 6,000 metres with up to eight hours hiking a day. This is one of the easiest 6,000 mountain climbs, but that is not to say it is easy. Although it can be done in two days, it is not recommended. Departed in the early hours on the day of the ascent you will climb ice walls, cross crevasses and enjoy views down over La Paz and the surrounding mountains.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 5/5
Length: 3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Fitzroy

Fitzroy Trek – Argentina

The Fitzroy Trek in Argentin’a Los Glaciers National Park is the countries equivalent to Torres del Paine in Chile. There are a huge number of hiking options here varying from day walks to longer give day trails. The advantage of Fitzroy over Torres del Paine is being able to visit some of the best viewpoints on the shorter treks. Arguably the best views in the park are at where the three peaks – Cerro Fitzroy, Cerro Poincenot and Cerro Torre meet over Laguna de los Tres.

When to go: October to April
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 1-5 days
Tour: Try our Patagonia Ice Trail tour 

Chapada Diamantina – Brazil

Most visit the northern Bahia region of Brazil for the beaches and city of Salvador. Whilst those are certainly worth a visit, the interior has some of the finest trekking in Brazil. To reach Chapada Diamnatina National Park you must first take a short flight or bus ride to the old mining town of Lençóis. The trails pass some remote and dramatic scenery of mountains, forests, valleys, canyons, waterfalls, caves and rivers with very few other visitors to distract you. Although much wildlife including giant anteaters and armadillos were wiped out by hunting, there is plenty to see including lizards, capybaras, monkeys and if you are really lucky, pumas and jaguars. Depending on your budget you can either camp or stay in some of the local guesthouses.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 3+ days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Terespolis Crossing – Brazil

This fantastic thirty five kilometre hiking route in Rio de Janeiro state from Petropolis to Teresopolis is a must for another hiking enthusiast. Walking at altitudes of around 2,000 metres through the Serra dos Orgaos National Park passing by Antas Valley and the sumnit of Orgaos. There is no lodging along the way so you will be camping. If the sky is clear you can see all the way down to Rio de Janeiro city and Guanabara Bay from some viewpoints.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 3 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Monteverde – Costa Rica

The Monteverde cloud forest reserve is truly beautiful and can best experienced on guided day walks. The trails are clearly marked and easy to walk so they are ideal for kids or those with limited mobility. The reserve covers over 4,500 hectares of cloud forest where you will find tumbling waterfalls, lakes and plenty of wildlife. There are over a hundred species of mammal, four hundred species of birds and thousands of amphibians. Some of the highlights including ocelots, jaguars, umbrellabirds and the colourful resplendent quetzal. There is no need to camp as there is excellent and comfortable accommodation near by.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 1/5
Length: 1+ days
Tour: Try our Jungles, Volcanoes & Beaches tour

Flickr: vil.sandi

Flickr: vil.sandi

Salcantay Trek – Peru

The Salcantay Trek (Salkantay means Savage Mountain in Quechuan) is another alternative to the Inca Trail. Named as one of the best treks in the world by National Geographic, this is certainly not one to miss. As fewer people do the Inca Trail, there is no permit scheme for the Salkantay Trek making it perfect for a last minute booking. North of Cuzco lies the Cordillera Vilcabamba. Here you will trek the ancient trail past glaciers and snowcapped mountains. If you want to skip the crowds, this is the trek for you. It can also be combined with Machu Picchu so you don’t miss out on this Seventh Wonder of the World.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 3/5
Length: 3+ days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

El Misti Trek – Peru

Located near the Southern city of Arequipa, El Misti Volcano rises up to almost 6,000 metres above sea level and is the second largest in the country. The volcano has erupted several times, the most notable was in the 15th century which affected many local Inca people. The latest was in the late 19th century. The climb can be done in as little as two days as long as you have given yourself plenty of time to acclimatize beforehand. For such a high trek it is relatively easy and no prior experience is necessary. One night is spent at the Eagles Nest base camp located at 4,200 metres.

When to go: April to October
Difficulty: 4/5
Length: 2 days
Tour: Get in touch for a bespoke tour

Quilotoa

Quilotoa Traverse – Ecuador

The volcanic crater lake Quilotoa located north of Quito near to the famous Andean market town of Otavalo is usually visiting on a day trip with some time for a short walk. Spend a little more time in this magical place as you can hike the whole rim in around five hours. A deeply satisfying and relatively easy walk. You will also have the opportunity to descend down from the viewing point to the lake which takes another hour or so. From the rim, not only can you see the lake below but you can also see Cotopaxi and mountain ranges in the distance.

When to go: All year round
Difficulty: 2/5
Length: 1 day
Tour: Try our Cotopaxi & Devil’s Nose tour 

The 20 Best UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Latin America

Best for Birding

Atlantic Rainforest

Name – Atlantic Forest Reserves
Country – Brazil
Date of inscription – 1999
Why it’s the best – Covering over 112,000 hectares of coastal forest, this area is a bird-watchers paradise. There are over 930 species of birds, of which 200 can be found nowhere else on earth. If that’s not enough over 8% of the world’s plant species and thousands of mammals and reptiles can also be found here.
Suggested tourBespoke tour

Best for Marine Life

Belize Reef

Name – Belize Barrier Reef
Country – Belize
Date of inscription – 1996
Why it’s the best – The Belize Barrier Reef is the largest in the northern hemisphere. Several offshore atolls, mangrove forests, coastal lagoons and several hundred sand cayes make up the protected reserve. There are over 106 hard and soft coral species and over 500 species of fish. With 90% of the reef that still hasn’t been researched yet it’s safe to assume that these figures only make up about 10% of species that call the reef their home.
Suggested tourSun-kissed Belize

Best from the Air

Nazca

Name – Nazca Lines
Country – Peru
Date of inscription – 1994
Why it’s the best – Located four hundred kilometres south of Lima in the dry deserts lie some of the most mysterious archaeological wonders ever uncovered. Between 500 B.C. and A.D. 500 vast geoglyphs of animals, people and flora were scratched into the surface of the ground, some of which are several kilometres in length. Best appreciated from up above.
Suggested tourBespoke tour

Best Phenomenon

Name – Monarch Butterfly Biosphere Reserve
Country – Mexico
Date of inscription – 2008
Why it’s the best – This 56,259 biosphere northwest of Mexico City is home to one of Earth’s most beautiful natural phenomenon’s. Ever autumn millions of butterflies from a huge area of North America return to this relatively small area of forest changing the landscape to hues of orange as they gather on the branches of trees, changing the landscape completely. In spring they return back to Canada, a journey which takes 8 months in which time four successive generations are born and die.
Suggested tourBespoke tour

Best for Whale-Watching

Valdes Peninsula

Name – Península Valdés
Country – Argentina
Date of inscription – 1999
Why it’s the best – Not only is this a hugely important breeding spot for the endangered southern right whale, but it’s one of the only places to see the unique hunting technique of orcas who almost beach themselves in an attempt to catch prey.
Suggested tour – Whales & Welsh in Patagonia

Best Town

Antigua

Name – Antigua
Country – Guatemala
Date of inscription – 1979
Why it’s the best – This truly beautiful town was founded in the early 16th century, only to be almost entirely destroyed by an earthquake in 1773. It was however rebuilt, inspired by the Italian Renaissance. It famous cobbled streets and archway are some of the most photographed in Central America and the town has a wealth of excellent hotels.
Suggested tourMaya, Magic & Mystery

Best for Modern Architecture

Brasilia

Name – Brasilia
Country – Brazil
Date of inscription – 1987
Why it’s the best – Built by the urban planner Lucio Costa and the word renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer, Brasilia was completed in 1956 to critical acclaim. Every part of the city from the official buildings to the homes was built in harmony with the overall design of the city. From above the city is often compared to the shape of a bird in flight.
Suggested tourBespoke tour

Best Historic Centre

MTE2098

Name – Quito
Country – Ecuador
Date of inscription – 1978
Why it’s the best – Quito is the second highest capital in South America standing at an altitude of 2,850 metres (9252 feet). Its rich centre includes many historic buildings including monasteries, churches and colleges. The interiors are some of the most impressive on the continent – part of the ‘Baroque school of Quito’ which fuses Italian, Spanish, Moorish, Flemish and indigenous art.  Although there was a devastating earthquake in 1917, the city has managed to preserve the majority of its historic centre.
Suggested tourCotopaxi & the Devil’s Nose

Best Spectacle

Iguazu

Name – Iguazú/Iguaçu Falls
Country – Argentina & Brazil
Date of inscription – 1984
Why it’s the best – Quite simply one of the most astounding natural wonders in Latin America. This semi-circular waterfall raising over 80 metres and almost 3 kilometre, bordering both Brazil and Argentina is rightly famous. The tropical rainforest that makes up the Iguazu National Park is over to over 2,000 species of plant and many species of wildlife including butterflies, monkeys, jaguars, cayman, anteaters and exotic birdlife.
Suggested tourBrazil Kaleidoscope

Best for Horse Riding

horse_back_riding_pantanal

Name – Pantanal Conservation Area
Country – Brazil
Date of inscription – 2000
Why it’s the best – This area of 187,818 hectares of freshwater wetland is a wildlife enthusiast dream. Often likened to safari in Africa, this region is one of the best places in the country to see large mammals including jaguars, giant anteaters and exotic bird life. The best way to see this wildlife is by horse, led by local guides.
Suggested tourBrazilian Safari

Best for Hiking

Inca Trail & Machu Picchu

Name – Qhapaq Ñan (Andean Road System) & Machu Picchu
Country – Peru
Date of inscription – 2014/1983
Why it’s the best – We’ve cheated a little here and included both the Qhapaq Ñan and Machu Picchu. Qhapaq Ñan is the Andean Road System which includes the well-known part of the Inca Trail. More than this, the Incas created a network of paths for trade, communication and defence which span over 30,000 kilometre that run through rainforests, valleys and desert. Machu Picchu will need no introduction and is perhaps one of the most famous landmarks in the world. Some truly stunning hiking opportunities.
Suggested tourJungle & Mountain Trek

Best for Colour

Quebrada

Name – Quebrada de Humahuaca
Country – Argentina
Date of inscription – 2003
Why it’s the best – This spectacular canyon in the northwest of Argentina follows a deep ravine cut by the Grande river through a range of geological strata. It is also culturally interesting having been used a trade route for 10,000 years by pre-Inca and the Inca Empire. The variety of rocks make this one of the most colourful places to visit. Best seen by hiking.
Suggested tour – Enchanting Northwest

Best pre-Inca Ruin

Chan Chan

Name – Chan Chan Archaeological Zone
Country – Peru
Date of inscription – 1986
Why it’s the best – Once the largest city in the Americas, and the biggest ever constructed out of adobe. Chan Chan was built by a Pre-Inca culture of the Chimú as their capital. As you wander through the site it’s possible to see the nine palaces which make up the citadel and imagine what it was like in its heyday.
Suggested tourWarriors of the Clouds

Best for Unspoiled Beauty

Amazon Basin

Name – Amazon Basin
Country – Brazil
Date of inscription – 2003
Why it’s the best – Specifically the Central Amazon Conservation Complex makes up a six million hectare area of the most unspoiled part of the Amazon basin made up from forests, lakes and channels. This is one of the most bio diverse spots on earth.  It protects some of the world’s most threatened species including the giant arapaima fish, the Amazonian manatee, the black caiman and two different species of river dolphin.
Suggested tourDeep into the Amazon

Best for Art

Cueva de los manos Santa Cruz

Name – Cueva de las Manos
Country – Argentina
Date of inscription – 1999
Why it’s the best – The Cave of the Hands contains an excellent assemblage of art that was created between thirteen and nine thousand years ago. It’s most famous is the stencilled hands but there are many others of animals and hunting scenes.
Suggested tourBespoke tour

Best for Wildlife

Galapagos

Name – Galápagos Islands
Country – Ecuador
Date of inscription – 1978
Why it’s the best – Made famous by Charles Darwin whose visit to the islands in 1835 helped form his theory of evolution by natural selection. The Galápagos Islands are located a thousand kilometres from the continent, and it’s here at the confluence of three ocean currents that some of the world’s most unusual wildlife has flourished in isolation from human contact. Endemic species are rife; Notable species including the land iguana, giant tortoise and many types of finch.
Suggested tourThe Full Galapágos

Best for Culture

Salvador

Name – Historic centre of Salvador de Bahia
Country – Brazil
Date of inscription – 1985
Why it’s the best – Salvador was the first capital of Brazil and the blend of European, African and Amerindian people such a fusion of cultures that can be seen today through their music, dance, art, buildings, and food.
Suggested tourCultural Buzz of Brazil

Best for Agriculture

Agave

Name – Agave landscapes of Tequila
Country – Mexico
Date of inscription – 2006
Why it’s the best – The agave plant has been farmed in this area for at least two thousand years used for drinks and cloth. The Teuchitlan cultures changed the landscape through the creation of agricultural terraces for the growth of the planet. More recently it has been farmed since the 16th century for the production of tequila. Many distilleries can be found in the area reflecting the growth of tequila’s popularity throughout the world.
Suggested tourBespoke tour

Best Jungle Ruins

Tikal

Name – Tikal
Country – Guatemala
Date of inscription – 1979
Why it’s the best – This is one of the best jungle ruins. This 6th century B.C. Mayan site is surrounded by lush forest that once engulfed the several pyramids. Today you can still see much wildlife in the forest including cats like the jaguarundi and ocelots. For its age it’s in surprisingly good condition, with temples, palaces, ceremonial centre, public squares and ramps. A must for any trip to Guatemala.
Suggested tourDynamic Guatemala

Best for Taste

MTCO0142

Name – Coffee Cultural Landscapes
Country – Colombia
Date of inscription – 2011
Why it’s the best – Located on the foothills of the western and central ranges of the Cordillera de los Andes, the tradition of growing coffee here is a long one. It’s an exceptional example of a sustainable and productive cultural landscape and one that must be preserved. Colombia coffee is world renowned and of course, it’s best trying it at source.
Suggested tourCoffee Beans & Scenes

Our 20 favourite places in Latin America

Latin America is a culturally and geographically diverse place. Here’s 20 places (in no particular order) you absolutely have to visit at least once in your lifetime.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Holiday_bolivia_adventure_Uyuni

Driving across this alien landscape of white salt crust dotted with cactus-studded black islands is a magical experience not to be missed.

Machu Picchu, Peru

private_tour_peru

One of the seven ancient wonders of the world, enough said!

Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

tour_perito_moreno

The sight of vast pieces of ice carving of this glacier and smashing into the lake below is truly awesome.

Easter Island, Chile

Easter_island_break

Lying around 2,000 miles off the coast of Chile, this island has more in common with Polynesia than the Chileans who colonised it.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

FOCA

Quite simply one of the best wildlife spotting regions on planet earth.

Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

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This small archipelago off Brazil is often overlooked and fantastic for snorkelling and scuba.

Torres del Paine, Chile

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The snow capped mountains and lakes of the Torres del Paine National Park is best explored by foot.

Cartagena, Colombia

MTCO0123

It’s colourful, fun and exciting with wonderfully friendly people all overlooking the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea.

Lençóis Maranhenses, Brazil

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Vast rolling sand dunes punctuated by hundreds of turquoise lagoons.

Chichen Itza, Mexico

chichen_itza

Probably the most famous pre-Columbian ruins in Latin America, built by the Maya people.

San Blas, Panama

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The pristine Archipelago includes picture-perfect coral islands with white sand and coconut trees surrounded by a sapphire sea..

Lake Titicaca, Peru & Bolivia

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The highest navigable lake in the world, with its deep blue waters and interesting locals and history sandwiched between Bolivia and Peru.

Valdes Peninsula, Argentina

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Unmissable wildlife encounters, from colonies of sea lions, penguins and seals to orcas that come to feed near the shore.

Atacama Desert, Chile

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The north of Chile is an arid but beautiful landscape, with fascinating wildlife that is protected in a series of national parks.

Arenal Volcano, Costa Rica

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Watch the smoky, active volcano and natural fireworks of lava tumbling down its slopes from the hot springs of Tabacon.

Iguazu, Argentina and Brazil

Tailor_made_Iguacu_tour

One of the seven natural wonders of the world and not something to be missed lightly. Hear the thunder and feel the spray of water from the Devil’s throat walkway.

Amazon, Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia

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Meet indigenous tribes in their home which boast more plant and animal species than any other ecosystem, and is the heart of our planet.

Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

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British novelist Aldous Huxley once called this lake ‘’the most beautiful in the world’’. Few can disagree.

Chan Chan, Peru

Chan_chan_peru_holiday

Often overlooked, Chan Chan is the  largest Pre-Columbian city in South America.

Pantanal, Brazil

Wildlife_holiday_brazil_pantanal

A vast wetland and wildlife haven where caiman nonchalantly cross the road and myriad birds, monkeys, armadillos and jaguars can be seen.

Want to visit any of these? Contact us here.

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