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.
Monthly Archives: August 2018
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.
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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 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.