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PISCO MASTERCLASS

Bar Pachamama

In the interests of research, I attended a masterclass on the fiery Peruvian spirit Pisco. The Peruvian tourist board are keen to promote the ‘Pisco route’. The first thing I learnt is the Peruvian Pisco differs from its Chilean rival in being distilled by traditional artisan methods. The fermented grape juice or must has no additives by law, not even water. It is a great source of national pride. The methods date back to the Spanish colonization in the 16th century. The name comes from a small town on the Pacific coastal desert, near to one of the oases where the grapes are grown. Legend has it that pre-columbian cultures over a thousand years ago honoured local birds, the pisku (probably small waders that are found in large numbers like sanderlings). Pure Pisco is made from a single grape variety such as Quebranta, with raisin and apple taste or Mollar with a herbal, honey flavour or Uvina with a touch of olive or Moscatel with sweeter peachy overtones. A mixed ‘acholado’ Pisco can be made to make a more complex beverage. The drink is not aged in wood nor in any material that can impart a flavour so traditionally in ceramic jars (also these came to be named piscos) and now stainless steel.

The history too is fascinating. Originally produced by the Jesuits it was sent to all corners of the Spanish empire. Pisco was exported to California during the Gold rush days as all cargo from eastern North America had to go around Cape Horn, making it a cheaper option. In the 1950’s Lima was popular with Hollywood stars. Orson Wells and Ava Gardner stayed at the Grand Hotel Bolivar, John Wayne at the Hotel Maury. Wayne married a Peruvian who became his lifelong companion, but that is another story. The most famous cocktail at the time was the Pisco sour, a mixture of Pisco, lime, sugar, ice, egg white and bitters. I tried an alternative cocktail called ‘The Pisco Punch’, which dates to 19th century San Francisco. This has pineapple, lime juice, sugar, and secret ingredient gum arabic, that allegedly delays the effect of the alcohol, cheers.
For trips to Peru please contact us.

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.

RELATED: 6 Things to do in Uruguay

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.

RELATED: Top 10 places to visit in Ecuador

 

8 Amazing Journeys You Should Take In Chile

Chile is spectacular although often overlooked as a Latin American destination. It is however rising in popularity so we thought it was time to but a handy guide together for 8 incredible mini-journeys you can take in the country from the dry northern desert of Atacama to the snow-capped mountains and peaks of Torres del Paine and the mysterious Polynesian island Easter Island. Many of these can be combined to make much larger itineraries.

1. Arica to Lauca

Out of all of Chile’s destinations, this is perhaps the most overlooked. However, this isolated region of Northern Chile located near the borders of Peru and Bolivia have much to offer. Begin in the coastal town of Arica, easily reachable from a direct flight from Santiago. This small city has a wonderfully warm climate all year round. As well as good quality beaches, it also has some of the best surf available in the country. From here you can visit the Azapa Valley from which you can see some ancient mummies. Just a couple of hours by road inland lies the Lauca National Park located in the Central Andean dry puna ecoregion. Between 3,300 and 6,300 metres above sea level it won’t just be the scenery that leaves you feeling breathless. Hiking is the best way to see this national park. Along the way there are plenty of opportunities to see llamas, guanacos, vicuñas and maybe even cougars. There are plenty of bird species including Andean goose, Chilean flamingos and Andean condors to name just a few.

2. Atacama to Altiplano

What the Northern desert of Atacama lacks in flora (although there are some regions towards the coast that have colourful wild desert flowers) it certainly makes up for in landscapes. Most base themselves at in the small town of San Pedro de Atacama. There are plenty of places to stay from budget to seriously luxurious. From here take day trips out into the wilderness. Must see places include Moon and Death Valley whose landscapes have been compared to Mars (in fact is has been used for as a location for many films) and is best seen during the evening when you watch the famous sunset. The geyser field of El Tatio does require an early start but doesn’t disappoint. Over 80 geysers shooting steam up to 6 metres high make this the largest geyser field in the southern hemisphere. Although the Atacama salt flats are not as large as the Uyuni salt flats in Bolivia, they are no less impressive. Lastly a visit to Miscanti and Miñique lagoons in the high Altiplano in Los Flamencos National Reserve reveal some fantastic wildlife including Chilean flamingos (hence the name).

3. Santiago to Valparaiso

The capital of Santiago is the entrance point to Chile for most and is well worth a few days. The district of Recoleta has a large variety of luxury and boutique hotels from which to base yourself. A guided tour from a local is one of the best ways to see the city and usually include visits to the Recoleta cemetery where Eva Peron is buried, Santa Lucia Hill, the Cathedral and Plaza de Armas. There are plenty of excellent restaurants and the nightlife is as good as Buenos Aires’. After you’ve had your fill of Santiago head East to the port city of Valpairaiso a journey of around two hours. This colourful, gritty port city has had a resurgence in recent years, many spending more time here than the capital. The UNESCO World Heritage historic quarter is a fine example of 9th century of urban development in Latin America.

4. Wine tasting in Rosario

From Santiago head to the Rosario Valley region located between Casablanca and San Antonio, one of the world’s best wine growing regions. This 9,000 hectare enclosed valley has the ideal climate and topographic conditions for red and white wines. This spring-like climate makes it an ideal place to stay, even in the height of summer. Spend four nights at the seriously comfortable Matetic vineyards. Spend each day hiking, horse riding or biking through the beautiful countryside whilst enjoying superb cuisine, of coursed paired with excellent wines. As well as activities and wine there is also much flora and wildlife to be seen in the area. The dry coastal zone makes it perfect for wild flowers like the red Chilean bellflowers and there are plenty of mammals such as foxes and birdlife including thrushes, birds of prey and parrots.

Flickr: sharloch

Flickr: sharloch

5. Lake District, Pucon to Puerto Varas

The Lake District is located about half way from Santiago to the very south, between Temuco and Puerto Montt. This area is rich in forests, volcanos and of course, lakes. Popular with German, Swiss and Austrian immigrants in the 19th century was probably due to its similarity to the Alpine region of Europe. After flying to Temuco from Santiago transfer to Pucon. The town sits right on the edge of Villarrica Lake and Villarrica Volcano. It’s one of the hot spots of adventure sports in the country, so as well as hiking, there is plenty of kayaking, rafting, horse riding, canyoning and climbing. In the winter it’s also an excellent place for skiing and snowboarding. Head further south to Puerto Varas, another adventure sport playground, but somewhat quieter than Pucon. Towering over the town are Osorno and Calbuco volcanoes. Here you can fish, hiking, ski and climb. We recommend taking a guided tour of Osorno and visiting some of the local hot springs.

Flickr: Bitterroot

Flickr: Bitterroot

6. Lake Crossing to Argentina

The lake crossing between Chile and Argentina is certainly a more scenic way to cross the border. Beginning in Puerto Varas you will be transferred to Petrohue bordering Lake Llanquihue. Along the way take in the impressive sights of Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes. Visit the impressive Petrohue Falls in Vicentre Perez National Park. Set sail to Peulla crossing over Todos los Santos Lake. Once you arrive take some time to relax and enjoy lunch before boarding a bus to Puerto Frias passing through the border. Arrive and take your second board across Lake Frias before boarding bus to Puerto Blest. Here you will take your last boat navigation across Puerto Nahuel Huapi Lake arrive in Puerto Pañuelo where you will continue by bus to Bariloche.

Torres del Paine

7. Torres del Paine

After flying into Punta Arenas and travelling through the town of Puerto Natales, you’ll reach the spectacular Torres del Paine National Park. Located in the far south in the heart of Patagonia between the Magellanic subpolar forests and the Patagonia Steppes, this is truly one of our favourite places in Latin America (if not the world). There are just a handful of places to stay within the national park. For luxurious glamping try the EcoCamp that is not only located in a fantastic location but provides easy access to some of the best trails and makes for a very comfortable base. Although horse riding and biking can be arranged, the best way to see the park is by foot, either with days trips, or on the five day W Trek staying in refuges or camping. Taking a boat trip to Balmaceda and Serrano Glaciers will not leave you disappointed and is included on most trips to the region.

Easter Island

8. Easter Island

One of the most remote islands in the world. The six hour flight from Santiago puts many of visiting this Polynesian Island, but those who make the long journey are treated to interesting scenery, a culture very different from that of mainland Chile and some of the most mysterious histories on earth. It’s most famous for the 887 Moai statues created by the early Rapa Nui people who to begin with thrived on the island, but overpopulation, the introduction of rats and extensive deforestation severely reduced the Rapa Nui’s community. Excellent local guides will help you discover about the fascinating history of the Rapa Nui as well as offering excellent hiking and horse riding. There are also plenty of tropical white sandy beaches to relax on.

To start arranging your bespoke tour of Chile do get in touch with us or take a look at some of our example tours.

RELATED: 5 Natural Wonders You Can See In Chile’s Atacama Desert

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

RELATED: Our picks for the 2018 hotspots in Latin America

The Fray Bentos factory in Uruguay gets UNESCO status

Remember Fray Bentos? The food manufacturer whose signature product is pie-in-a-can? If you don’t we hope this doesn’t jog any unfortunate memories of corned beef fritters at school.

The name Fray Bentos comes from the name of the town in which the meat supplied for its pies was sourced, processed and packed in Uruguay. This ruin of a factory has now been given World Heritage status by UNESCO.

The empty meatpacking factory on the banks of the River Uruguay certainly looks impressive, and to some I’m sure it’s history is fascinating, however it’s debatable whether it is worthy of such an accolade. It will certainly bring in a welcome increase in tourism to the region.

RELATED: A guide to Uruguayan Food

Preserving Lonesome George [VID]

This fascinating documentary takes you through the taxidermy process of Lomesome George, the last known Pinta Island Tortoise, at the American Museum of Natural History. Lomesome George has always been an icon of conservation around the world since finding him alone on Pinta Island in the Galapagos Islands in the early 70s. He was thought to be over 100 years old at the time of his death in 2012.

RELATED: A typical day in the Galapagos Islands

Who Was W.H. Hudson?

Hudson_William_Henry
William Henry Hudson was a gifted writer born on the Argentine Pampas in 1841 and grew up surrounded by nature. He was a self-taught naturalist and great observer of wildlife and particularly birds; (he was one of the first to campaign for their protection). I first came across him as the author of ‘Far Away and Long Ago’ a wonderful book about his mid 19th century youth on the plains, written from memory in later life. It told of a precarious life on a ranch in a frontier land guarded by armed garrisons in mud forts, with hostile indigenous people still roaming and a blood-thirsty civil war. He helped his father run the estancia and a trading store where he got to hear the stories of the Gauchos.  He had his own pony at six years old. This idyllic life was brought to an end by a tyrannical tutor followed by a placid but rather ineffective priest, and then his final tutor was a drunkard. He more or less taught himself after that. The young Hudson nearly died or typhus and later a fever weakened his heart and doctors said he would not live long. His mother died whilst he was still a teenager and he was employed to run a friend’s sheep farm. He made additional income collecting specimens of wildlife for American museums although he later hated collectors, unless it was for scientific reasons, and the destruction wrought by hunters.

He moved to England in his thirties. He lived an impoverished life in London but began to write scientific essays and reminiscences of Argentina and magazine articles and novels, Green Mansions being the best known. His first novel, The Purple Land, is said to have influenced Hemingway. He married his landlady. He was reticent about his private life and destroyed many of his personal papers. Much of what we know came from his letters and his writings, some of which are considered classic works of literature his work can be appreciated by anyone and was never sentimental. He achieved some fame from his later works about the English countryside such as A Shepherds’ Life. Although he suffered from ill health he lived to be 81.

RELATED: These 21 quotes prove that Chilean poet Pablo Neruda was a hopeless romantic

12 Classic Films Set In Latin America You Have To Watch At Least Once

1. Diarios De Motocicleta  / The Motorcycle Diaries (2004)

The Motorcycle Diaries follows the account of the young Che Guevara before he became a Marxist revolutionary. With his friend Alberto Granado, they travelled over 8,000km through Argentina, Chile and Peru, some of which was on a 1939 Norton 500cc called The Mighty One.

2. Cidade de Deus / City of God (2002)

City of God tells the story of the favelas of Rio de Janeiro between the 60s and 80s. A number of storylines intertwine including that of a young man called Rocket whose dream to become a photographer comes true when he begins supplying a newspaper with photos of criminal activity in the favelas.

3. Mi Mejor  Enemigo / My Best Enemy (2005)

My Best Enemy is set in the 1979 Beagle conflict between Chile and Argentina. Two small patrol units from both sides who have become lost in the Patagonian steppes begin interacting with each other whilst searching for the border.

4. Fitzcarraldo (1982)

Fitzcarraldo is based on the true story of an Irish adventurer in the early 20th century who tries to access rubber in a hidden valley in the Amazon. His outlandish plan involved hauling a boat from one river to another with grave consequences.

5. Aguirre, Wrath of God (1972)

Aguirre, Wrath of God is West German film loosely based on a conquistador’s search of el dorado in between the Andes and Amazon in what is now known as Peru.  The film’s opening sequence shot of armour-clad Spaniards on the side of Huayna Picchu is breathtaking.

6. Amores Perros (2000)

Amores Perros is often referred to as the ‘Mexican Pulp Fiction’. Three different stories become intertwined and connected by a car crash in Mexico City. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film in the year of its release.

7. María Llena Eres De Gracia / Maria Full of Grace (2004)

Maria Full of Grace is the story of a Colombian teenager who, after becoming pregnant, takes the risky decision of becoming a heroin drug mule and flying to New York.

8. The Mission (1986)

The Mission is a British drama about a Jesuit missionary in South America during the 18th century whose aim was to convert the local Guaraní community to Christianity. Set with the mighty Iguazú falls as the backdrop and starring Robert de Niro, this is a must for any film fan.

9. Tropa de Elite / Elite Squad (2007)

Elite Squad semi-fictional account of the highly trained BOPE police squad whose dangerous job is  to clean up the crime ridden streets of Rio de Janeiro’s favelas and a captains search for a replacement for his job. The film also has an excellent sequel – Elite Squad: The Enemy Within which was released in 2010.

10. Frida (2002)

Frida is the biography of the Mexican artist Frida Kahlo, her tangled relationships including her affair with the Marxist revolutionary and theorist Leon Trotsky, political stance, illness and of course, her art. The film stars Salma Hayek.

11. No (2012)

After coming under international pressure, Augusto Pinochet is forced to call a referendum on his Chilean presidency. The ‘No’ campaigners enlist the help of Rene Saavedra, an advertising executive, to help create a plan to win the election.

12. The Galapagos Affair (2014)

This recent full length documentary tells of the mysterious goings on amongst the first inhabitants of Floreana Island in the Galapagos. Using rare archive footage and interviews with the islanders today it tells of the murder and disappearances that remain a riddle to this day. Cate Blanchett narrates.

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

RELATED: The best Latin American films of 2017

A Guide To The National Drinks Of Latin America

National drinks throughout Latin America vary immensely. Some opt for teas, others beer or liquor. Of course, there is also the age old debate on the origins of the Pisco Sour – the Peruvians or the Chileans. Whichever country you’re visiting, we highly recommend trying the national beverage. Most are delicious (although be careful with that Colombia fire water) and it’s a great way to immerse yourself in the local culture.

Argentina & Uruguay – Mate

Mate - ArgentinaFlickr/Marcos Cousseau

Most would imagine that the Argentinians and Uruguayans would choose alcoholic beverages as their national drinks. However, they have opted for the mate tea, particularly popular in rural areas (gauchos consume considerable amounts each day). This bitter tea made from the yerba plant is more than just a drink, it’s a daily ritual shared amongst friends and family. Find out how to prepare mate in the traditional way.

Brazil – Caipirinha

caipirinha - brazilFlickr/CristinaPessini

Although this zingy cocktail of cachaçu (a type of Brazilian sugar cane rum), sugar and lime juice served over plenty of ice is a delight wherever you are, it particularly good in its home country. Better still, grab one at the beach bars in Rio de Janeiro as you watch the sunset over the bay.

Bolivia – Singani

Singani_samples
Wikipedia/DGFritz

The Singani is a distilled liquor made from white Muscadet grapes and although it’s not brandy, most exports are marketed as brandy. Production of Singani is limited only to the Bolivian Andes and began way back in the 16th century.

Chile & Peru – Pisco Sour

Pisco sour - PeruFlickr/ Cathrine Lindblom Gunasekara

The age old debate on the origins of the pisco sour continues to this day. Both make claims to the invention of this tasty beverage and both consider it their national drink. However, there are subtle differences between the two. Both use pisco liquor as the base ingredient, as well as lime, sugar and ice, but the Peruvians add egg white and Angostura bitter to the mix. Both are excellent and slip down all too well.

Colombia – Aguardiente

Aguardiente - ColombiaFlickr/matias Jaramillo

Aguardiente or fire water, a type of sugarcane liquor, can be found in many countries across Latin America, although it is perhaps most popular in Colombia who have declared it their national drink. This clear anise-flavoured liquor is usually drunk neat or with a dash of water.

Costa Rica – Guaro

Guaro Sour - Costa RicaFlickr/David Berkowitz

This clear liquor made from sugarcane is similar to Colombia’s fire water and is found in many countries across Central and South America. It is sometimes referred to as ‘soft vodka’ and is typically served in a refreshing Guaro Sour.

Ecuador – Canelazo

Baños, Ecuador
Flickr/FabulousFabs

This warming tea of cinnamon sticks, whole cloves, sugar, orange zest and a dash of Ecuadorian fire water is typical of the Andean region. Perfect for a cold night in the mountains.

Guatemala – Gallo Beer

Gallo Beer - GuatemalaFlickr/David Dennis

Guatemalans are proud of their Gallo (rooster) beer, their national drink. This excellent, refreshing lager is hugely popular throughout the country.

Mexico – Tequila

Tequila - Mexico
Flickr/Douglas Muth

Perhaps the most iconic of national drinks in the world. Who would imagine that liquor made from the nectar of the humble blue agave plant could be so popular around the world. Mexican laws when it comes to Tequila are tight and it can only be made in the state of Jalisco (and limited regions of a number of others). The best way to drink tequila is neat, although margaritas are also pretty good.

Panama – Seco Herrerano

Seco Herrerano - Panama
Flickr/Anamaris Cousins Price

Another excellent sugarcane liquor. Seco Herrerano differs due to its longer process of distillation. It is traditionally drunk neat, although it can also be used as a replacement for vodka or rum in cocktails.

RELATED: Delicious Baja-style Mexican fish taco recipes

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