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Monthly Archives: January 2018

Must-do things in Guatemala on your first trip

Guatemala is often skipped in favour of more famous countries to the south. Do not overlook Guatemala’s indigenous culture, rich history, colonial architecture and spectacular countryside. If that hasn’t convinced you, here’s some of the best things to do on your first trip in Guatemala.

Wander through the cobbled streets of Antigua

Antigua is one of the most spectacular colonial cities in Central America. The city’s cobblestones streets are small enough to get around on foot. Lose yourself among the gorgeous Spanish colonial architecture. You’ll come across pretty little squares, street markets, soaring churches and friendly locals. Gaze upon the backdrop of smoking volcanoes. Antigua is the perfect introduction to this fascinating country.

Cross Lake Atitlán by boat

Lake Atitlán was once called “the most beautiful in the world” by British novelist Aldous Huxley. He wasn’t wrong. Formed over 100,000 years ago. Surrounded by volcanoes and a patchwork of Maya farms. Hugging the lake are several charming indigenous villages. The locals still wear the traditional Mayan dress. A good base is Panajachel from which you can take a boat trip across the lake. If feeling active, hike trails that wind through the volcanoes and pine forests.

Step back in time at Tikal

Step back in time as you walk through the vast ruins of Tikal. A huge complex of Mayan pyramids that soar up through the jungle canopy. As you enter the site, monkeys swing through the trees and toucans show-off their colourful beaks from the branches. Be sure to climb one of the pyramids to get spectacular views across the site. For such an epic man-made wonder, it gets far fewer crowds than other sites like Machu Picchu in Peru.

Shop till you drop

There are dozens of colourful indigenous markets throughout Guatemala. Few markets in Latin America measure up to the ones here. Piled high with handicrafts and textiles, nab a bargain. Wander through the fresh markets to taste some delicious local produce. The fruit in Guatemala is particularly good. The king of markets is Chichicastenango, affectionately referred to as Chichi. On market days (Sunday and Thursday), the place comes alive with more than 20,000 locals who descend to buy and sell their wares.

Dip in the natural pools of Semuc Champey

There are few places on earth as beautiful as the natural pools of Semac Champey. These magical looking turquoise pools surrounded by towering granite cliffs and forest. It might be a pain to reach via a long bus journey, but when you arrive, you’ll realise why travellers come. We recommend hiring a 4 x 4 or taking an organised excursion. In the hot midday heat, you can splash around in the refreshing cool waters.

Look out over an erupting volcano

You’ll need to be fit to climb Acatenango. If you take on the challenge, you’ll see one of the world’s most amazing sights – an erupting volcano. Make sure your prepared before you arrive in Guatemala. You’ll leave very early for the 7-hour climb to the top of the 13,000-foot monster. When you arrive at the top, you can look down on Fuego Volcano which shows off every hour or so by erupting.

Discover Guatemala City

Most skip Guatemala City and head straight for Antigua, but the city has much to offer those who decide to stay. The winding streets are home to some of the finest Spanish colonial architecture in the country. Enjoy mouth-watering restaurants and street food. Explore historic ruins, fine parks, some excellent museums, local markets and excellent nightlife. You won’t regret a few days in this fascinating city rarely visited by gringos.

Visit a coffee plantation and sip a brew

Guatemala produces some of the finest coffee beans in the world. The industry is vital to the country’s economy. There are plenty of places to tour the farms and learn about the production from bean to cup. Much of the best coffee is exported, so it can be hard to get a good cup of coffee in much of Guatemala. Of course, at a plantation, you can sip on some fine Guatemalan brews. Whether you’re a coffee lover or not, this is an experience not to be missed.

Ready to start exploring Guatemala? Call one of our Latin American travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to start planning your trip or email us here.

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Everything you need to know about the Sanctuary Lodge

Machu Picchu has been inspiring adventurers ever since Hiram Bingham discovered them in the early 20th century. The citadel was a refuge of the Inca empire and is so remote the Spanish conquistadors never found it. Nestled on a hilltop it was covered with lush jungle. Thousands of visitors descend upon the site every day to experience the magic of this unique place, one of the ‘New Seven Wonders’.

If you’ve got a deep pocket, you can enjoy Machu Picchu all to yourself. Stay at the luxurious Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel located at the entrance of the ruins. Run by Belmond, you can expect a high level of service at this top hotel. Being an adventurer doesn’t mean you have to give up comfort. Sit out on the terrace and delve into delicious Peruvian cuisine and cocktails while you look down on the empty citadel.

Facilities at the Sanctuary Lodge

There’s more to a stay at the Sanctuary Lodge than just easy access to Machu Picchu. Once you’ve explored the ruins, you can retreat to the lodge to enjoy a range of treatments and massages. Some of the spa treatments are based on ancient Inca techniques. Feeling pampered and refreshed is the name of the game when you stay here. Pure indulgence.

If you can drag yourself away from the spa and the views over the ruins, you can relax in the magnificent gardens. This lush green oasis of native Peruvian cloud forest teems with bird and butterfly species. It’s as beautiful as it sounds.

Guestrooms at the Sanctuary Lodge

The Sanctuary Lodge has 4 different levels of guestroom to choose from, depending on your budget. All would be suites in other properties. The most indulgent is the One Bedroom Suite. This features a living area and access to a private furnished terrace which overlooks the ruins of Machu Picchu.

In this luxurious 35 square metre guestroom you can expect a king size bed, a living area with sofas and chairs, a marbled en-suite bathroom and all mod-cons like WiFi and minibar. The diligent staff will whisk through your room each day while you’re exploring the ruins, perfecting it ready for your return.

Tours at the Sanctuary Lodge

If you’re staying at the lodge for a few days, there’s plenty to keep you busy if you don’t want more visits to Machu Picchu. The in-house guides will take you on exiting treks along the nearby trails or on a climb up Huayna Picchu.

Back in at the lodge, you can take a yoga class out in the gardens or take a guided tour to learn about the flora and fauna of this part of the Andes Mountains.

Try taking part in the Pachamama Tribute Ceremony which sees an Andean shaman guide you through an ancient blessing to Mother Earth. A magical and unique experience. While you are there, you can visit the Andean priest who’ll use coca leaves to determine your future.

Ready to stay at the Sanctuary Lodge? Call one of our Latin American travel experts on +44 (0) 407 1478 to start planning your Peruvian adventure or email us here.

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Tips on becoming a responsible traveller

As more people explore the world, those privileged to do so should be become more responsible travellers. But what does this mean? Travelling responsibly means respecting local cultures, looking after the environment and giving back. 2017 was declared the year of Sustainable Tourism for Development by the UN. As we move forward into 2018, here’s our tips for travelling more responsibly.

Know before you go

Take a little time before you go to understand the local customs, religions and cultures. Just a couple of hours of research will help you avoid any faux-pas with local people. Things to look for are dress codes, eating habits and gestures. You’ll have a far more fulfilling adventure and stop yourself having any embarrassing moments.

Learn some of the language

There are few things as respectful as learning another culture’s language. Being able to say a few words makes the world of difference when helping to connect with local people. It takes just a few minutes to learn how to say “hello” and “thank you” – you’ll be surprised at how much it is appreciated.

Support local as far as possible

While large corporations dominate the travel industry, you can still make a huge difference by choosing who you book with. At least once in your trip, try to steer clear of the big chains and book a night’s stay at a local-run hotel. Look for tour companies which help support the local communities.

Shop till you drop, just do it locally

Go ahead and shop till you drop, but instead of sending your money to the large global companies, try and spend your money with local artisans and shops. The products may not come with a warranty, but they’ll likely be better quality. You’ll return with something unique and be injecting money into the local economy.

Ask before you snap

Think about it like this. If a foreigner was in your country and started taking snaps of you while you’re eating your lunch, how would you feel? Thought so. Next time you want to take a photo of someone, ask their permission first. They may likely say yes, but if they don’t there’s no harm done.

Dress to impress

Before you travel, it’s worth checking the dress codes. Whether it’s religion or culture, many customs around the world dictate a certain way of dressing. If you are at all in doubt, your best bet is covering up. You may find out later that you didn’t need to, but it’s better than turning up in shorts and flip flops when you shouldn’t.

Be careful about who you give your money too

It’s hard not to give a little to someone who looks in need, but by offering money to beggars or children, you may very well be doing more harm than good. Instead, look for appropriate charities or organisations and support them. Your donations will be directed in a much better way. If you do want to get involved instead of handing over money, consider volunteering with local initiatives.  Try the LATA foundation

Dispose of your rubbish appropriately

It goes without saying that you should dispose of your rubbish appropriately. Even if you see locals dropping their waste, there’s no excuse not to hold on to it until you find a place to get rid of it. If possible, ensure you drop anything recyclable into the right bins. Try to avoid taking plastic bags unless you really need them and bring a reusable water bottle instead of buying plastic bottles.

Think carefully before you book a wildlife activity

Wildlife is one of the biggest draws for travellers. Few things are as magical as seeing a jaguar stalking along the river bank or dolphins playfully jumping out of the water, but before you book, ensure that it’s with a responsible operator. Just a few hours of entertainment could be leading to the suffering of animals. Be wary of any attraction that uses captive animals.

Reduce your carbon footprint

If you want to travel, you’ll most likely have to fly which causes a huge carbon footprint. There are several projects out there which help you offset your carbon omissions. Your donation will typically go towards forestry projects to absorb the carbon or investments in renewable technologies. One of the best is Climate Friendly.

If all else fails, just smile

If everything else fails, a simple smile will go a long way in helping you connect with local people. It costs nothing but will mean an awful lot.

Ready to go explore responsibly? Call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 to start planning your trip or email us here.

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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.


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.

The best Latin American films of 2017

South and Central American filmmakers continue to direct and produce some of the finest movies. You can expect exciting, thought-provoking films topped with beautiful cinematography. It’s been difficult to pick from such a wealth of talent, but here’s our pick of the best films of 2017.

Loving Pablo

Director: Fernando León de Aranoa

With the massive success of the TV series Narcos, the fascination with the enigmatic Pablo Escobar continues to grow. Loving Pablo is based on the book by Escobar’s mistress Virginia Vallejo and explores the rise and fall of the drug lord from a different perspective. After the TV journalist meets Escobar, she quickly falls for his charm and charisma, but this is short lived as she begins to understand the destructive side of the cocaine kingpin.

Una mujer fantástica

Director: Sebastían Lelio

Una Mujer Fantástica (A Fantastic Woman) follows the story of Marina, a transgender woman whose boyfriend accidently dies when having an aneurism and falling down the stairs. After taking him to hospital, she tries to flee the glare of his family who disapprove of their relationship, but is forced to clear her name and regain respect when accusations are brought to her by a detective from the Sexual Offenses Investigation Unit.

Cocaine Prison

Director: Violeta Ayala

Two Bolivian teenagers are drawn into the drug trade with the promise of money which they want to use to start a band. After being caught smuggling 2 kilos of cocaine across the border, they’re sent to the infamous San Sebastian. With few guards in the open-air prison, it’s run by the inmates. The film follows the struggle of the two teenagers who desperately look for a way to shorten their sentence against all odds. Interestingly, the film was created by giving the cameras to real prisoners, offering a unique perspective into their world.


Director: Lucrecia Martel  

Zama transports viewers back to the lives of those in 18th century South America. It follows the story of Don Diego de Zama, a government clerk who lives in what is now Paraguay. The film follows the strained relationship with the other European colonists and the indigenous people. The lack of contact with his wife and children leads Zama to become increasingly paranoid and hostile.

Sergio & Serguéi

Director: Ernesto Daranas Serrano

While much is known about the dissolution of the Soviet Union, far few know about the impact this had on Cuba. Much of the Caribbean Island’s economic support came from the USSR, and its loss hit the country hard. Sergio & Serguéi follows the story of the cosmonaut Sergei Krikalev who spent 4 months longer than expected in orbit while his country went through its turbulent time. Sergio is an amateur radio operator in Cuba who develops an unlikely friendship which leads to profound consequences.

Ready to explore Latin America? Call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 to start planning your trip or email us here.

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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.

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How to make Latin American tamales

There are few dishes as iconic to Latin America as the tamale, though their origins are a little less clear. The simple snack of steamed or grilled corn wrapped in banana or leaves date back thousands of years. The first pictorial references are seen on ancient murals in Guatemala created just under 2,000 years ago. Though found in almost all Latin American countries, in some form or other, their original country is not known. They spread from country to country by trading nomads.

Don’t wait to travel to Latin America before trying these mouth-watering snacks, they’re aren’t difficult to make at home. Mexican tamales are often made from lashings of lard which keeps them moist when cooking. Substitute for butter if you’re a vegetarian. Once cooked, you can keep them refrigerated for up to a week.

Serves: 8 (4 each)
Time: 2.5 hours


Masa dough

400 g masa harina (maize flour)
700 ml hot water
225 g lard
100 g butter, softened
2 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, crushed
½ baking powder
250 ml chicken stock
24 corn husks or banana leaves


4-5 tomatoes
1 large onion
2 large serrano chilies
1 bunch coriander
a pinch of salt


Take a large bowl and pour in all the masa. Stir in the hot water and wait until the masa is moistened. Knead the dough until it’s smooth and doesn’t stick.

Add in the lard, butter, salt, crushed garlic, baking powder and knead again until the everything is well mixed. Add the chicken stock a little at a time, mixing as you pour. Stop when the dough is light and fluffy. Put the dough in the fridge for at least an hour. While the dough is cooling, soak the corn husks in hot water until soft, around 30 minutes.

Now for the slightly tricky part. Lay the first corn husk down and add a large spoonful of the dough in the middle and roll the two sides over the top. Bring the narrow side down and fold the wider part over the top. Tie everything together with string. Repeat until they are all complete.

Put to one side and start on the salsa. Put each of the tomatoes into boiling salted water for 10 – 20 seconds. Remove and leave under cold running water. When cool, remove the skin and de-seed. Dice all the tomatoes.

Peel the large onion and chop finely. Cut the chilies in half and remove the seeds. Finely chop them. Take a handful of coriander and wash under cold water. Chop into small parts. Mix everything together in a bowl along with salt, a squeeze of lime and a little olive oil. Leave in the fridge for an hour or so to let the flavours blend together.

Take a large steamer and put an inch of water at the bottom. Put on a high heat and leave until the water is bowling. Put all the tamales in standing up and steam for an hour. Remove and leave to cool.

When cool, open the tamales and serve with the salsa. Enjoy.

Want to try tamales for real? Start planning your trip today by calling one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or emailing us here.

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What is sandboarding?

Sand-boarding is becoming the next big thing. Like snow-boarding, but you’ll be carving down sand dunes instead of snowy mountains. You’ll be first hiking up the dunes, or climbing in a buggy instead of taking a ski lift. It’s no less exhilarating and you don’t have to wait until the right season to have a go.

Ancient Egyptians first sled down the desert sand dunes on wooden boards more than 2,000 years ago. More recently, around 800 A.D., the Chinese.  In modern times, sand-boarding picked-up in the late 1960s. Now gaining popularity in Australia, Japan, Peru and parts of Europe. For years, travellers have been descending on the sandy dunes of Ica and Nazca in Peru. The highest is Cerro Blanco (or White Hill) which stretches a staggering 2,000 metres.

There are some stark differences in the equipment used. Sandboards are much harder than snowboards, more durable and made from a Formica base, with a hard ply-wood top. Some come with bindings to strap your feet into, others come without. These are particularly useful if you’re in the learning stages and will likely fall. Aficionados apply a wax to the base to help gliding. On deep sand, you may be able to use a normal snowboard, through it’s usually easier to rent a board when you arrive.

To see sand-boarding at its best, visit the Copa Sandboarding Cup near Paracas every year. Alternatively, the Pan-American Sandboarding Challenge near Prainha Beach in Brazil every July.

Want to try sandboarding yourself? Call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 407 1478 to start planning your sandboarding adventure or email us here.

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