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5 PLACES TO GET WINTER SUN IN LATIN AMERICA

The nights are long, cold grey skies loom and the scarves and hats are been pulled out. Winter is here. But the cold weather in the northern hemisphere, means warmth in the south. It’s summer in Latin America and one of the best times to discover the continent’s mountains, beaches, culture and food. Here’s our 7 picks for the best spots to get some winter sun in Latin America

BAHIA, BRAZIL

The northern state of Bahia in Brazil is blessed with some of the best weather in Latin America. Year-round temperatures between 25°C and 30°C and over 250 hours of sunshine every month create the perfect winter getaway. But it’s not just the weather that makes this region such a great place to travel. Wild national parks, hundreds of miles of white sandy beaches fringed with palms trees, sleepy fishing villages, beautiful pastel-coloured colony architecture and UNESCO World Heritage sites and tasty cuisine that perfectly blends the Afro-Brazilian culture. Try visiting Salvador, the capital of Bahia, in February for a unique alternative to Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival. Flying time 12 hrs via Lisbon.

CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

The colourful city of Cartagena lies on the northern coast of Colombia overlooking the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Between December and March, the city sees almost no rain and bright sunny days. There’s a wealth of boutique hotels. Many are within old colonial palaces. The city has its fair share of museums, galleries, music venues and restaurants to keep your entertained. For those who prefer to spend their holidays away from cities, there are miles and miles of coastline. Off the beaten track is the Tayrona National Park. Hikers can head inland to walk the challenging trails to the Lost City. The sun-drenched islands of Baru and Rosario are only a short boat trip from the city.

JOSÉ IGNACIO, URUGUAY

Bahia Vik, Jose Ignacio (copyright David Horwell)

Uruguay doesn’t spring to mind for your typical summer holiday. Yet the country is less crowded and has better beaches than neighbouring Argentina. On the coast lies the small fishing village of Jose Ignacio. The town grew around a 19th century lighthouse. Now favoured by jet-setters, the area has become an escape for the super-rich and celebrities. Ultra-modern hotels abound. During the summer months the area booms with pop up bars, concerts and parties. Spend lazy days sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the refreshing Atlantic. At night dine in one of the restaurants or beach-shack bars. Further down the coast there are some even less developed spots. At Cabo Polonio isolated wooden cabins fringe the edge of deserted beaches, the only sound being the crashing of waves.

TULUM, MEXICO

Cliffside Mayan Ruins at Tulum ca. 2002 Tulum, Mexico

Tulum lies along the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula south of Cancun. Comfortable temperatures hover around 28°C and enjoy a light sea breeze during December to February. An excellent choice for a winter getaway. The area is best known for its Mayan temple overlooking the ocean. This idyllic region has vast stretches of white sandy ocean and boutique accommodation. Snorkellers and scuba divers can enjoy exotic marine life. Nearby waters offer swimming with whale sharks, the big gentle giants.

BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA

Copyright David Horwell

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of lush islands. They lie off the northern coast of Panama, near Costa Rica. Winter is the sunniest time. The islands have a distinct laid-back Caribbean vibe. Secluded wooden over-the-water bungalows sit off the coast from the tiny islands. The islands are excellent for hiking and bird-watching. The turquoise waters are great for diving, snorkelling, kayaking, surfing and swimming. Dolphins often jump above the sea and huge shoals of exotic fish inhabit the underwater world. Chill-out on a hammock, relax on one of the deserted beaches and gorge on fresh lobsters.

BEN BOX – BIRDWATCHING IN COLOMBIA

Glittering Starfrontlet – copyright Jim Lawrence

As anyone who watches birds will tell you, the best times of day to go out with your binoculars are dawn and dusk. This trip was no different and, on most days, it was a question of breakfast competing with an important bird or two. Take, for instance, the day we headed from Manizales to the Montezuma Rainforest Lodge in the buffer zone of the Parque Nacional Natural Tatamá in Colombia’s western Andean cordillera.

Tatamá – copyright Ben Box

We left Manizales very early and stopped at a small commercial centre on the outskirts of Pereira to pick up a group member. The little car park was, like every other stop, a chance to get out the binoculars and, lo and behold: a couple of macaws that should not have been there (out of their range; probably escaped from a private aviary). Next stop, also near Pereira, was Maracay. From the bus we walked into open grassland overlooking dry forest and the distant Río Cauca valley. In a new open-sided pavilion a fabulous picnic was laid out. So we ate and birded, adding to the tour’s bird list the endemic apical flycatcher, scarlet-fronted parakeet, spectacled parrotlet, bay-headed tanager, and migrant fork-tailed flycatcher and yellow-billed cuckoo.

Colombia Tatamá – Ben Box

Before too long we were on the road again, reaching the Montezuma Rainforest Lodge for lunch. The lodge’s feeders were alive with hummingbirds (I counted ten different species), saltators and tanagers, so we birded again while we ate. After lunch we moved uphill, but as the day wore on the clouds rolled in and by late afternoon the rain was so heavy, we called it a day. We did stop at a small bridge where our guide, Yesenia, put crumbs on the parapet and called “Olive Finch, Olive Finch”, but the bird was clearly sheltering from the rain too and never showed.

Next morning, the rain had moved away, and we loaded into the vehicles for the rough ride to the end of the road into the national park. Tatamá means grandfather of all the rivers and on the mountain sides across the gorge waterfalls tumbled and echoed from the ridges. Breakfast was snatched off the back of the pick-up because the hummingbirds up here were too good to miss: tourmaline sunangel, collared inca, dusky starfrontlet, velvet-purple coronet. accompanied by coffee and arepas we saw other colourful names, green-and-black fruiteater; purplish-mantled and golden-ringed tanagers; chestnut-bellied flowerpiercer, before descending slowly to the lodge as the rain rolled in again.

Footnotes:
Colombia is aiming to be the number one birding destination in the world, to match its status as the country with the most bird species in its territory (1,921 species). Many areas of the country that were out of bounds during the years of conflict are now open to tourists and birdwatching is increasing rapidly in popularity. The Colombian government is training guides and fostering bird-based tourism as a conservation and economic development tool. Five birdwatching routes are in development; two are open: The Northern Colombia Birding Trail and the Central Andes Birding Trail. This group travelled on much of the latter. Contact us for further details.

Ben was invited to join the birdwatching trip in Colombia by BirdLife International and guest of ProColombia.

Latin America’s top football teams

boca juniors

Flickr: Sam Kelly

The beautiful game is by far the biggest sport in Latin America, nearing an obsession for many. Even if you’re not a fan of the sport, you’d be hard pressed not to enjoy the lively atmosphere. Try a match between some of the biggest rivals like Buenos Aires’ River Plate and Boca Juniors. Though the teams haven’t got the spending power of European clubs, managers keep an eye out for new talent. So, if you’re looking for a new club to support in the new world, here’s our list of the best there is.

River Plate, Buenos Aires

Let’s start with two of the biggest and well known. The Buenos Aires team River Plate has gained a serious following despite, a recent run of bad luck. They’ve notched-up 36 titles and two Libertadores Cups under their belt. Many of River Plate’s top players get nabbed by European teams.

Boca Juniors, Buenos Aires

The fierce Buenos Aires rivals of River Plate are the Boca Juniors who, over the years, have nurtured a wealth of talent and be named one of the top Latin America clubs of the 21st century. They’ve had similar success with River Plate with 30 titles and four Libertadores. Heard of Maradona? This was his team.

Corinthians, Sao Paulo

Sao Paulo’s Corinthians have gained a serious reputation. With a star-studded list of players over the years, they are Brazil’s largest club. Over the years have bagged a ton of titles including 5 Brasileiraos, a Libertador and even a FIFA World Cup when they beat the UK’s Chelsea. This is a club to look out for.

Penarol, Montevideo

Without a doubt, Penarol is Uruguay’s most followed and successful club. Located on the outskirts of Montevideo, this team have scored enough to gain almost 50 league titles and several Libertadores. The club has produced top players over the years and contributed to all Uruguay’s World Cup teams. Though they haven’t won a cup since the ’80’s, they are still a force to be reckoned with.

Santos FC, Santos

Santos FC needs little introduction. This historic Brazilian club has set the football world on fire with the likes of Pele and Robinho. Pele is often considered the greatest player of all time. More recently, it was Neymar’s club before he moved on to play for Barcelona. If you’re looking to support a Brazilian club with pedigree, look no further than Santos.

Atletico Nacional, Medellín

Atletico Nacional, based in Colombia’s city of Medellin, are having a good run, bagging plenty of league titles over the last 10 years. They’re becoming the powerhouse not just in Colombia, but the whole of Latin America. The most famous player to come out of the club is Rene Higuita, a goalkeeper known for his unique style.

Colo-Colo, Santiago

Let’s face it, Colo-Colo is Chile’s most successful team. They’ve many cups and a Libertadores under their belt. Famed for producing players with a fast and offensive style; the big European clubs keep an eye of for talent.

Olimpia, Asunción

Olimpia continues to do well with almost 40 league titles among other cups. It’s best known for bagging the Intercontinental Cup, the Copa Interamerica, the Libertadore and the League Title all in 1979, the peak year for the club. A good solid team with a strong history and one to keep an eye on.

Want to go and watch the beautiful game in Latin America? Call one of our experts on +44 (0) 207 1478 or email us here to start planning your adventure.

RELATED: This guy is the world’s biggest football fan!

A guide to the best street food in Colombia

The best food of a country often comes from the streets. We’ve never quite worked out why, but perhaps it’s the vendors dedication to cooking just one or several things really, really well. While restaurants require a full menu, street vendors can put all their efforts in doing the best arepas or the best empanadas. It’s also cheap. With few overheads, and relatively humble dishes, the food is always inexpensive to produce. Are you planning a visit to Colombia? Hit the streets and find some of the Colombia’s best food.

Arepas

Flickr: lesleyk

Arepas are found on street corners across the land. To say they are popular is an understatement. Considered part of the cultural heritage of Colombia, these little street snacks are made up maize discs filled with indregdients like melting cheese, avocado and meat. There are even sweet arepas which work well for breakfast in hot chocolate.

Corn

Corn is a stable in South America and has been eaten there for thousands of years. It can be bought simply barbecued over hot coals. Alternatively, corn is cut off the cob and mixed with cheese, meat and salad, a less filling meal that most Colombian dishes. Be sure to look out for mazorca desgranada.

Almojabana

Almojábanas are round rolls made from cheese and corn.  They’re simple but filling and best eaten straight out of the oven in the early morning washed down with Colombian coffee.

Plantain chips

Flickr: Ben Ward

Plantain is seriously popular across the Americans. In Colombia, they’re cut thinly and deep fried until sweet and golden. Look out for little mobile vendors selling this across the Bogota and Cartegana. Though fried in oil, they are actually really nutrious. The perfect little snack to eat on the go.

Salchipapa

Flickr: Gary Stevens

The original ‘drunkies’, salchipapa is the simply amalgamation of sausages (usually of the frankfurter variety) and potatoes doses in sauce. What could be better to soak up the booze after a cold cerveza or two.

Churros

Flickr: Karl Baron

It may be the Spanish who are famous for the churros, but Colombia do it just as well. Dough is piped into hot oil and fried until golden. Unlike the Spanish who eat them with hot chocolate in the morning, Colombians prefer them dosed in arequipe and condensed milk. The perfect way to finish a street food meal.

Fruit

Colombia has a wealth of exotic fruits. Some make it into smoothies, but most just eat it as it is. Vendors piled high with sweet pineapples, papayas, starfruits, custard apples, guavas, passion fruit, melons and much more. Look out for vendors selling refreshing fresh coconut water.

Obleas

Those with a sweet tooth should look out for oblea. Jam, whipped cream, arequipa and fruit are sandwiched between two thin circular wafers and devoured right away. Best eaten on a sunny day.

Empanadas

Empanadas need no introduction. Eaten throughout Latin America, this iconic street food snack is particularly good in Colombia. The name comes from empanar, the Spanish verb for wrapping something in bread. Dough, sometimes made from corn, is filled with meat, cheese and sometimes vegetables before being fried or baked into a mouthwatering morsel.

Perros calientes

Hot dog lovers should rejoice. Perros calientes are popular throughout Colombia. Like a Chilean completo topped with cheese, fries, avocado and plenty of sauce. Not something to eat on a date, there’s no way of gorging on one of these politely.

Bollos

Like much of Latin America, Colombia has its own version of tamales known as bollos. Best eaten in Cartegena for breakfast, bollos are boiled hominy or yucca, sometimes including other treats like small pieces of chicken or boiled eggs. Be sure to get them hot when they taste best.

Chicharrón

Flickr: James

If you’re on a diet, this may not be for you. For everyone else, chicharron is one of the tastiest things you can eat on the streets of Colombia. Pork belly is deep fried until crisp and sometimes served with a spicy salsa dip. It makes up the national dish, bandeja paisa, an enormous plate of chicharron, chorizo, steak, eggs and beans – aka the gut buster.

Bocadillo

Bocadillo is a sweet paste made from guava. It’s best eaten with crumbly white Colombian cheese, one of the most perfect combinations.

Ceviche

Don’t be put off street seafood. Along the coast, the seafood is incredibly fresh. It’s quite different from its Peruvian counterpart. Colombian ceviche is similar to a shrimp cocktail – raw seafood marinated in lime juice, tomato sauce, onion and garlic.

Want to try the street food of Colombia? Take a look at our suggested Colombia tours, call one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 or send us a message here.

Colombian changua soup recipe

Flickr: manuela y daniel

Typically served for breakfast in the highlands of Colombia, this rich warming milk soup is perfect for a cold morning. Be sure to try this dish in Bogota where some of the best changuas are served.

Ingredients:

1 litre water
1 litre full fat milk
5 spring onions
6 potatoes, peeled and cubed
Handful of chopped coriander
1 garlic clove, minced
4 eggs
1 tbs butter
Pinch of cumin
Mild cheese, cubed
Salt and pepper

Method:

Take a large heavy bottomed saucepan and add the water, milk, butter, potatoes, garlic, most of the coriander and a little salt. Put on a medium heat and cook for 10-15 minutes until the potatoes are soft but not falling apart.

Turn the heat down to the lowest setting. Crack and drop each egg into the soup being careful not to break the yoke. Cover and leave for three minutes (or longer if you want a harder yoke).

Fill a soup bowl with chopped spring onions, a little of the cubed cheese, some pepper and cumin. Carefully remove one of the eggs and lay in the bowl. Pour over the creamy soup and garnish with a little chopped coriander. Serve with toast.

Want to try changua in Colombia? Get in touch with our Colombia travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478 to discuss your travel plans or see our example tours here.

RELATED: A guide to the best street food in Colombia

5 cable cars to take in South America

Cable cars are, in our opinion, one of the best modes of transport. Quick, no traffic and it’s possible to take in the landscape or city from above. Many of the cities located along the Andes are, unsurprisingly, hilly, making transport difficult. Though some cable cars are being used for tourism, others are transforming parts of Latin American cities by making the areas more accessible.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

South America’s most well-known and oldest is Rio de Janeiro’s Sugarloaf Mountain cable car. Built in the early 20th century, it was designed for tourists to take in the city views from the mountain’s summit. The journey takes just a few minutes to reach the top.

La Paz, Bolivia

Flickr: Inhabitat

Flickr: Inhabitat

The highly successful state-run cable car that connects La Paz with El Alto is the highest in the world. Since its inauguration in 2014, millions of tourists and locals have used the cable car which costs just £0.25. The line can reportedly carry a staggering 18,000 people per hour. During the World Cup, some of the cars were painted to look like footballs.

Santiago, Chile

Flickr: Robert Cutts

Flickr: Robert Cutts

The Teleférico Metropolitano was built in 1980, but has since been refurbished and reopened late last year. It takes tourists and locals up to the huge Metropolitan Park, one of the largest in Chile. Some of the cabins have been adapted to fit bikes, a popular sport in the park.

Medellín, Colombia

Another highly successful transport system, the Medellín Metrocable opened almost fifteen years ago, and has helped to connect the cities hilly districts. More lines have since been added, the latest being in 2016.  The city one an award for innovation in 2012.

Quito, Ecuador

Flickr: Stuart King

Flickr: Stuart King

The Quito Teleférico hasn’t been created as a mode of transport to get around the city. The cable car starts are 2,950 metres above sea level and arrives in the heady heights of Cruz Loma at 4,050 metres. Fantastic views over the city and the adjacent Pichincha Volcano can be seen from the top. It’s also possible to spot Antisana, Cotopaxi and Rumiñahui on clear days.

If you’d like to take any of the cable cars in South America, or visit anywhere else on the continent, speak to one of our travel experts on +44 (0) 207 407 1478.

RELATED: Our picks for the 2018 hotspots in Latin America

2017 Latin America travel bucket list

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

Wander through Tikal, Guatemala

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

See penguins in the Antarctic

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

Hang glide over Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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

Hike the Salkantay, Peru

Flickr: vil.sandi

Flickr: vil.sandi

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

See the wildlife in the Pantanal, Brazil

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

Scuba dive off Fernando do Noronha, Brazil

holiday_brazil_scuba_diving_rays

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

Swim with whale sharks off Holbox Island, Mexico

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

Watch hatching baby turtles in Tortuguero, Costa Rica

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

Hike to the Lost City, Colombia

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

Flickr: Andrew Hyde

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

Horse ride with Gauchos in Las Pampas, Argentina

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

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

RELATED: Our picks for the 2018 hotspots in Latin America

Bolitas de yuca y queso recipe

Flickr: sstrieu

Flickr: sstrieu

These delicious crispy balls are made up from yuca (also known as cassava or manioc) and melted cheese. To get these perfect, a deep fat fryer works best, but they can be made using a heavy bottomed frying pan.

Serves: 12
Time: 1 hour

Ingredients

1 kg fresh yuca
4 eggs, beaten
250g breadcrumbs
½ kg mozzarella cheese, cubed
Vegetable oil
Salt

Method

To start, take a large saucepan and fill with water and the salt. When it boils at the yuca and leave for 15-20 minutes until tender.

Drain the water and mash the yuca.  Take the mash and roll into 12 balls. Take each one and flatten with the palm of your hand. Add a few cubes of the cheese in the centre and reroll the balls

Put the egg in one bowl and the breadcrumbs in another. Put the fryer on and heat to 180 °C. Once heated, dip each ball into the egg, then the breadcrumbs and then place into the oil. Cook for five minutes or until they are golden brown. Turn halfway through. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Eat immediately.

To try bolitas de yuca y queso in Latin America, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478, send us a message here.

RELATED: Argentine empanada recipe

9 beautiful exotic birds from Latin America

The thousands of species and sub-species of birds and the high concentration of endemics in Latin America makes it one of the best continents in the world for bird watching. Here are nine of the most spectacular:

Quetzal

Flickr: lgb06

Flickr: lgb06

These shy colourful birds are often considered one of the world’s most beautiful. Part of the trogon family of birds, they are several sub-species found throughout South and Central America. Those who are interested in birding will certainly have heard of the resplendent quetzal, found in Mexico, Costa Rica, Panama and Guatemala (who even have the image of a quetzal on their flag). Other than the vibrant colours, the resplendent quetzal’s most prominent feature is their long tail plumes.

Lear’s macaw

Flickr: Joao Quental

Flickr: Joao Quental

Also known as the indigo macaw, this parrot is best known for its brightly colour plumage. Found through the Amazonian region of Brazil, the Lear’s macaw can reach up to 75 cms, almost a kilo in weight and can live up to 50 years.

Keel-billed toucan

This iconic bird will be the most familiar, even to those who take little interest in birding. While there are several species of toucan, the keel-billed toucan’s brightly coloured bill make it the most spectacular. Though the large bill may look cumbersome, it’s actually hollow and extremely light making it easy to collect their diet of fruit and eggs.  They are commonly found in Panama and Costa Rica.

Andean cock-of-the-rock

Found in the misty cloud forests on the slopes of the Andes, the bright orange coloured cock-of-the-rock display a very prominent fan-shaped crest. The males gather in groups to create noisy displays in the hope of attracting a female. One of the best spots to see the cock-of-the-rock is in Peru’s Manu region.

Andean condor

Watching the condors glide above and below you in the Colca Canyon is one of South America’s most amazing experiences. It’s an impressive size, with a wingspan of over 3.3 metres. This black new world vulture is a scavenger feeding on the carcasses of dead cattle or deer. Interestingly, the Andean condor is one of the world’s longest living birds reaching over 70 years.

Inca tern

The Inca tern is a seabird that lives along the Pacific coast of Latin America, primarily Peru and Chile, although it can occasionally be found in Ecuador. It’s most distinctive feature is the white moustache and red-orange coloured feet and beak. It’s one of the larger species of terns reaching around 40 cms.

Capped heron

The capped heron is found throughout the rivers, lakes and mangroves of Latin America from Bolivia to Suriname. This almost all-white heron features a black cap and blue facial features and bill. It mainly feeds on frogs, fish and insects which it captures using a slow walking technique.

Waved albatross

Also known as the Galapagos albatross, these large birds have a wingspan ranging from 2.2-2.5 metres. During mating season, usually May, the entire population of waved albatross descend upon Espanola Island in the Galapagos archipelago. Their unique courtship ritual evolves plenty of in bill-circling, sky-pointing, drunken swagger and bill-clapping. The rest of the time they spend along the coast of Peru and Ecuador and live to 45 years.

Curl-crested aracari

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Flickr: Heather Paul

One of the lesser-known toucan species, the curl-crested aracari can be found along the south-western section of the Amazon basin, the Tambopata National Reserve, the Noel Kempff Mercado National Park and the Cristalino State Park. It’s one of the most colourful of the smaller toucan species and one of only three to have red feathers on the nape and shoulders.

To begin organising your birding tour of Latin America, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478, send us a message here.

RELATED: 9 beautiful exotic birds from Latin America

Santuario de las Lajas is one of the world’s most beautiful churches

Not only is this Basilica church one of the world’s most beautiful, it’s also located in the one of the most scenic spots. Santuario de las Lajas church is located in the southern department of Narino in Colombia and was erected within a canyon above the Guáitara River.

Though the church may look old, it’s actually less than a century since it was built. The name Laja comes from the type of rock that was used to create it.

RELATED: 740 steps lead to the top of this monolithic rock formation in Colombia

The church has an interesting history. In the mid-18th century a mother and her deaf daughter were caught in a fierce storm. To survive, the pair took refuge in the canyon, after which the daughter said “the Mestiza is calling me” and an illuminated silhouette appeared. After this event, the spot quickly became a popular pilgrimage with many people reporting to be miraculously healed.

Several myths have since been linked to the church. There is mysterious image of the Virgin Mary which is now behind the alter at the back of the church, its origins unknown

The first shrine was erected in the early 19th century and was made from straw and wood. It was later enlarged and replaced with stone and a bridge that connected both sides of the canyon.  It was then replaced again with the current stone church between 1916 and 1949. It was canonised by the Vatican in 1952 and made a minor basilica in 1994.

RELATED: Discover tours of Colombia

The impressive basilica rises 100m from the canyon floor, connected by a 50m tall stone bridge. On the other side of the canyon is a tall waterfall which only adds to the magic of this spot.

To visit the Santuario de las Lajas or any part of Colombia, give one of our specialists a call on +44 (0) 207 407 1478, send us a message here or take a look at our Colombian tour suggestions.

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