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SUMMER IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

Copyright David Horwell

Every month is a wildlife delight in the Galapagos Islands, and the northern summer months are no exception. The giant tortoises on Santa Cruz island have begun to migrate to the highlands in preparation for nesting season, blue-footed boobies are particularly active and, if you’re lucky, you may get to see the curious courtship ritual of the flightless cormorants. Whales and dolphins are more active, especially off the western islands. It is also a good time to spot migrant shorebirds. In central islands you can observe sea lions starting to give birth and rearing their young.

We offer 4-nights, 5-nights and longer combinations on board our stylish Galapagos yachts that are designed to showcase the very best of this wondrous archipelago. Contact us to book your trip.

6 THINGS TO DO IN URUGUAY

ENJOY MONTEVIDEO THE STRESS-FREE CITY

The nation’s capital is big enough to have plenty to see, but small enough to get around easily. Much of the city is along the seafront, where locals jog and families play ball games. The city is ranked as having the highest quality of life in Latin America and considering many offices don’t start until 10am it has a very relaxed ambience. I visited earlier this year and found the people friendly and happy. The Spanish historic centre is like walking back in time, and for those who like meat stop at the Mercado del Puerto for an asado, a mixed charcoal grill. For shopping an old prison at Punta Carretas is now a fashionable mall. Tango is also as popular here as in Buenos Aires. If you want some real peace and quiet go to La Baguela, a country hotel just 30 minutes away with its own deserted beach.

RIDE THE DUNES OF ROCHA

The department of Rocha in the East has some of the finest beaches and lagoons in the country. The sand dunes are sparsely inhabited, and you can even stay in a yurt or beach cabin at La Pedrera. This quiet area is great for bird-watching, horse-riding or as I chose, biking. There are amazing walks over the dunes to the old hippie colony of Cabo Polonia. Take plenty of water with you on any of these trips, as there are no refreshments on sale anywhere. You may stumble upon tiny fisherman’s villages, but the only living thing I came across was a donkey.

PLAY JAMES BOND AT JOSÉ IGNACIO

José Ignacio is a coastal point that attracts the wealthy jet-set. You can find ultra-modern architects dream hotels like the three glamourous Vik properties (Estancia, Bahia and Playa) each decorated with unique works of art or the Fasano hotel in nearby Punta del Este. The Awa boutique hotel also is in Punta del Este. The lagoon at Jose Ignacio is a fave spot for kite-boarders.

TASTE THE TANNAT

Uruguay has some great wines, with a heritage going back to Italian, Spanish and French immigrants. The grape that has been adopted here is Tannat, which produces a heady, strong and full-bodied wine suited to the harsh dry environment. It is only recently been discovered by importers and well worth trying with a good steak. Some of the bodegas or wineries are open to visitors and do tastings, (make sure that you are not the designated driver). A few of the estancias take in guests, I particularly liked Narbona, which was further to the west near Carmelo. We also stopped at the charming Aguaverde Wine Lodge near Punta del Este for lunch. The welcoming lodge has rooms and cottages for guests, a stunning infinity pool and a vineyard beyond the gardens.

WALK AROUND COLONIA DEL SACRAMENTO

Take a day trip to Colonia, a charming town steeped in Spanish and Portuguese historical monuments. Popular with trippers from Argentina too, as a 45-minute ferry connects with Buenos Aires. The town is dominated by the lighthouse and fortified walls, but there are many interesting museums, churches and art galleries. One of the main attractions for me are the old classic cars that can be seen dotted around the centre, some of which are no longer driven but make unique bar-rooms for a romantic drink. There are some nice boutique hotels such as El Charco, if you have time enough to linger a day or two.

WHALE WATCHING

Southern Right Whales head along the coastlines of South America. They mate and raise their calves before migrating towards Antarctica, where their main feeding grounds are. Uruguay has some prime spots for whale watching. The season stretches from June to December, depending on the weather. The best time to observe these graceful giants and their offspring is between August and October. The Atlantic coast has good vantage points at Rocha and Punta del Este. Boat tours should be approved by the Organization for the Conservation of Whales (OCC-Uruguay) to make sure that the whales are not disturbed. It is even possible to observe them from the beach, with a binoculars. Watch out for water sprays, churning water and flocks of sea gulls – these are sure indicators that whales are near. Chances are even better in the early morning or late afternoon. For more details about visiting Uruguay do contact us.
All pictures except whale are copyright David Horwell.

REACH FOR THE STARS IN CHILE

Chile is probably the best place in the World for star-gazing. Whether you are a casual star-gazer, or a professional astronomer, Chile is hard to beat. Astronomy is gaining popularity as more people are interested in the wonders of the sky and the mysteries of the universe. Much of this long country are sparsely populated which reduces light pollution. The dry desert climate in the north creates some of the clearest nights in the world and its location provides an ideal view of the southern sky. In the 1960’s, ESO (European Southern Observatory) built its Observatory La Silla in the outskirts of the famous Atacama Desert. In 2019, La Silla will celebrate 50 years of operation. 2019 will also be the year of a total eclipse in Northern Chile on July 02nd 2019. The Moon will cover the Sun completely in the late afternoon and turn the day into night. La Silla is organizing a ‘2019 Total Solar Eclipse Event’. Tickets sold out immediately. Accommodation almost anywhere in the zone of the eclipse also sold out a while ago. All is not lost however, we can offer a Glamping Experience for a 4-day/ 3-night trip from La Serena to the Elqui Valley (1-4 July). You will stay in the heart of the desert and be able to sip cocktails around a bonfire. A trip will be made to a unique observation point. Visit villages and sample the local cuisine and Pisco beverage. Other activities include sightseeing and bathing in thermal springs.

Even if you are not an astronomy enthusiast, the breath-taking view of the star-filled sky is always worth a visit. Tip: If you are heading to the Atacama, avoid the full-moon, so stars will be more visible. Contact us for more information and star-gazing programs in Chile.

SEE US AT THE BIRDFAIR IN RUTLAND

Once again Select Latin America will be having a stand at the Birdfair taking place at Rutland Water Nature Reserve 17 August to 19 August 2018.

Birdfair encompasses the whole spectrum of the bird-watching industry whilst at the same time supporting global bird conservation. There are lectures, events and celebrities and hundreds of stands selling the latest products for wildlife enthusiasts. You can try out camera lenses, binoculars or discuss holiday destinations with experts.

This will be our 18th year, find us at Marquee 7 Stand 36. Our experts will be on hand to help plan your next tailor-made wildlife adventure and our new brochure will be hot off the press.

We hope to see some old friends and make new ones there.

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.

 

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.

PADDLE YOUR OWN CANOE ON LEGENDARY LAKE TITICACA

Canoeing Lake Titicaca

Try something altogether new and exciting by rowing Polynesian canoes across Lake Titicaca. Known as the world’s highest navigable lake. At a height of 3,812 meters above sea level Titicaca covers a surface area of 8,500sq km. This is a one-off adventure. Don the gear provided, hop aboard our canoes and make for the floating islands of Uros. Photograph these extraordinary landscapes where a cobalt sky merges with sapphire waters. A backdrop of snow-capped peaks stand guard over these tranquil scenes. Stop to admire uninhabited beaches and resident wildlife. Enjoy peaceful views by taking routes that avoid local boats. Row along canals flanked by totora reeds to moor up at one of the Uros Islands. Contact us for more information on Peru Tours.

Luxury boltholes you won’t want to miss in Belize

Belize might not be the busiest Central American country on the travellers’ circuit, but the tiny Caribbean hotspot packs a serious luxurious punch. Here’s our top picks on the best places to stay during your adventure.

Victoria House

Victoria House lies just a few miles south of San Pedro among 10 acres of grounds teeming with exotic flowers. There are 42 rooms and suites, many of which overlook the glittering ocean and long stretch of beach. This is a place for some serious R&R where you can lounge around the private swimming pool and soak up the sunshine. There’s also an onsite restaurant and a beautiful beach bar.

Cayo Espanto

If you’ve got deep pockets, there isn’t anywhere quite as magical as the Cayo Espanto, a 5-star resort housed on a private island just a few miles off the coast. There are just six luxury villas limited to 16 guests who can bask on the private beaches, learn a new adrenaline-inducing water sport or simply swing in one of the hammocks.

Blancaneaux Lodge

The fact that the Blancaneaux Lodge is owned by the famous film director Francis Ford Coppola is just one of the reasons that you should visit this luxurious resort. It’s perched along the banks of the Priassion River and has 19 villas traditional built on stilts from local hardwoods and thatched roofs. You can feel all the worries of home melt away as you kick back in the hot tub or pamper yourself with an onsite spa treatment and massage.

Turtle Inn

The Indonesian-inspired Turtle Inn is another of Coppola’s resorts in Belize. There are several luxurious thatched cabanas with exotic private gardens, Japanese baths and hand-crafted artisanal furnishings. This understated beauty is just tiptoeing distance from a long stretch of white beach and the glistening Caribbean Sea.

Hamanasi

The secluded little boutique hideaway along the Caribbean Sea is just a stone’s throw from Hopkins. It has 22 spacious guestrooms decked out in hand-crafted Belizean hardwood furnishings and private porches overlooking the gorgeous views. You can spend your days stretched out on the sandy beach working on your tan or learning a new water sport.

Ready to begin your luxury break in Belize? Get in touch with one of our Belize travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or email us here to start planning.

A guide to Santiago street food

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

Completo

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

Mote con huesillo

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

Empanada de pino

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

Anticucho

Flickr: Ricardo Diaz

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

Fresh fruit juices

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

Ceviche

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

Sopaipilla

Flickr: Marita Olave

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

Churros

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

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

Argentina’s guitar-shaped forest

It’s little known about and rarely visited, but in the heart of Argentina’s Pampas is a guitar-shaped forest created from thousands of eucalyptus and cypress trees complete with a long neck, strings and the curve of the instrument’s body. It stretches for almost a mile and is easily spotted along the fertile farming land by passing planes and can be seen from Google’s satellite maps.

This isn’t a coincidence and the story behind it is rather touching. It was created by local farmer Pedro Martin Ureta and his children who planted the trees more than 4 decades ago to commemorate his beloved wife. During the ‘70s, the couple were taking a flight over the Pampa when his wife Graciela Yraizoz pointed to a piece of farmland that looked like a milking pail and suggested they create a better one, perhaps a guitar.

Unfortunately, in 1977, she sadly passed away at the age of 25 along with their fifth unborn child after suffering from a ruptured aneurysm. Several years later, Pedro decided to create the guitar as a way of honouring her life. Along with his 4 children, he set off to plant more than 7,000 trees, first starting with the guitar’s body, then moving in to plant a star-shaped hole and long rows of blue eucalyptus trees as the strings that run along its neck. Over the years, he’s worked tirelessly to cultivate the plants and it’s only recently that they have matured enough to finally see his lost wife’s dream become a reality.

Pedro has admitted that he’s only every seen photos of the site from above as a fear of flying has stopped him taking a flight over it.

Ready to start planning your trip to Argentina? Get in contact with one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here.

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