Three fun things to do in El Chaltén, Patagonia Argentina
Feb28

Three fun things to do in El Chaltén, Patagonia Argentina

El Chaltén is a small town – probably more accurately described as a village – at the foot of a looming icy peak in Patagonia Argentina. This isn’t to say it’s a dozy, quiet place for reflection in the mountains. It is a hub for hikers and backpackers and it’s bustling with tourist activity. El Chaltén, in Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park. is the centre of adventurous excursions, hiking trails, glacial melt lakes, water rafting, and ice trekking. It’s surrounded by rises and valleys, peaks and turquoise rivers, waterfalls, and smooth, rocky, rapids. In the village itself, tarred roads are lined with cosy cafes and restaurants, craft breweries, and traditional barbecues. Adventure centres and outdoor stores are well sign posted so that wandering travellers know where to go to book their activities in the mountains. If there is anything you do in El Chaltén, make sure it’s at least one of these things… Hike Mount Fitz Roy El Chalten has the unmistakable air of back-backer heaven and just about everything is within walking distance. It’s the trekking capital of southern Patagonia, and there’s no doubt you’ll fall in love with its energy. There is so much on offer, starting with hiking the icon of El Chaltén: Cerro Fitz Roy. This jagged peak stands tall above the little town at its feet and it is the first thing you’ll see as you approach El Chaltén. Most often, the peak is shrouded in cloud, so you won’t even see it in all its glory, but in good weather when the granite tower is full revealed, there is no question why it is one of the best known mountains in the Deep South of the continent. Climbing Mount Fitz Roy is a challenge plenty of hikers take on, but the last stretch of vertical rock climbing is reserved for the most experienced of cliff-scalers, and not ordinary trekkers without proper experience and gear. The ascent to the foot of the tower is, however, a challenging full day excursion most keen hikers conquer happily. Fitz Roy was named after the captain of the HMS Beagle, who navigated South America in the early 1800s with Charles Darwin in tow! After that, the avid climber who started the clothing brand, Patagonia, used the image of this peak to illustrate his logo after he successfully scaled Fitz Roy in the 1960s. So, this imposing mountain at El Chaltén really is worth the effort! It’s a full day excursion to get to the base, where a magnificent, blue lake shimmers between the granitic rocks, and return to El Chalten. The hike takes you through green forests full of...

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Hotels in South America’s best locations you won’t want to miss
Jan30

Hotels in South America’s best locations you won’t want to miss

Latin America is a place of cultural wealth, untamed wilderness, and ancient history that is preserved in the geological magnificence of the Andes Mountains, the Atacama Desert, the Patagonian steppe, and the Amazon Forest. At the top of travellers’ bucket lists and sought after by Instagrammers and spiritual souls alike, the most naturally beautiful, culturally popular, and all-round unforgettable landscapes of Chile, Peru, and Brazil are not to be missed. World-class hotel groups and leaders in terms of adventurous experiences, fine dining, accommodation comfort, these select luxury hotels in the South American outback come with our stamp of approval. Peru Sanctuary Lodge, Machu Picchu This mindful retreat is all about consciousness in the shade of the Machu Picchu citadel. A zen garden in the tranquil greenery of the Inca Empire, a testament to the peaceful nature of the ancient people. There are blessing ceremonies, coca leaf readings, orchid gardens, and rejuvenating spa treatments to soothe the soul and provide some much needed relaxation from the general pace of life. Access to Machu Picchu is second to none, as Sanctuary Lodge is the only establishment adjacent to the ancient citadel, so guests have the freedom to arrive earlier and stay later than the day visitors who arrive to pay tribute to Pachamama. The gardens are brimming with the phenomenal birdlife and the botanical beauty of this cherished place, and every inch of the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge celebrates the old Peruvian life that has been encased in history at the one and only Machu Picchu. Las Casitas, Colca Canyon Celebrating one of the deepest – if not the deepest – canyons in the Americas, Colca Canyon, this remote hideaway makes the most of the astounding views, mountainsides, rock-work, and chasms of the great Andes Mountains. Las Casitas is a representation of the local Peruvian art and culture, and has produced some of the most blissfully luxurious casitas that cherish the surroundings you find yourself in. The captivating flight of the condor can be seen out in the deep, open crevasses of the Andes, while traditional activities like horse riding through the Colca valley, and learning how to make the perfect Pisco cocktail add incredible Peruvian value to this hotel stay. Painting in the great outdoors, trekking and bird watching, cycling, and taking tea in the orchards are among the many activities to keep you busy in between spectacular meals, luxurious nights of comfort, and rejuvenating spa treatments. Chile Awasi Patagonia Patagonia’s wild and hostile landscapes are irresistible to adventurers who flock to the Andean peaks to hike with backpacks and leg warmers in the terrain ruled by mountain lions. The Deep South...

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All you need to know about visiting Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina
Jan28

All you need to know about visiting Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia, Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier is located in the Los Glaciares National Park near the popular town of El Calafate in Patagonia, Argentina. It is the region’s most famous glacier, standing out as one of the most impressive and easily accessible sights of its kind. An enormous expanse of jagged, blue-white ice rising 80 metres up from the turquoise waters of Lago Argentino and damming it up with a statement of rock solid freeze between the mountain rises on either side. Part of the Andean ice fields, which spread throughout areas of Patagonia and create the dozens of glaciers in the region. It’s staggering to see up close and it is easy to get to, plus visitors can choose to take a walking tour themselves, or book a spot on a boat cruise, or with an adventure guide to go ice trekking. In this piece, we’re talking facts, activities, how to get there, and when to go. This one is not to be missed! Facts about Perito Moreno Glacier Named after explorer Franciso Moreno, this glacier shares it’s name with the town of Perito Moreno, which is (confusingly) a full day’s drive north of Los Glaciares National Park, in which this world famous glacier is located. It is part of the world’s third largest reserve of fresh water – the southern ice fields of Patagonia – and it is exceptional in that it is one of the world’s only glaciers that is not retreating, and is in fact, advancing. It is said to have started forming during the last ice age 2.6 million years ago, making it alluringly ancient and full of history. The size of Perito Moreno Glacier is estimated to be about 250 square kilometres in size, 170 metres deep, and 30 kilometres in length. At its terminus, where visitors can view part of the wall of the glacier, the ice rises about 80km above the lake’s surface and is 5km wide. Every couple of years the glacier ruptures and enormous chunks break and fall off into the lake due to the immense pressure, but the calving of the ice on a much smaller scale can be seen often if visitors wait long enough during their visit. Sometimes, pieces of ice break off every 20 minutes. How to get there Certainly, the most popular way to get to the glacier is by road from El Calafate, which is a bustling yet quaint and very pleasant town about 80 kilometres away. There are bus rides that depart from El Calafate and take visitors right to the park’s entrance where visitors pay a fee of about US$30. It is not for...

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5 Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro
Jan10

5 Things to Do in Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is a vibrant coastal city on Brazil, famed for its long stretches of sugar-white beaches, turquoise seas and colourful lifestyle. Rio is associated with carnivals, fun and coastal living. The city is Brazil’s bold child; and one of the main reasons why visitors flock to Brazil. The city is brimming with activity, and there’s plenty do in fabulous Rio. This is the city that never sleeps and pulsates with culture and heritage; a truly beautiful city framed by endless beaches. Here are our top 5 things to do in Rio de Janeiro. 5 things to do in Rio de Janeiro Christ the Redeemer This is the cultural icon of Rio and possibly one of the most visited landmarks in the city. The masterpiece sits at a whopping 30 metres tall and was constructed by world-reknown artists in 1922. The looming statue was eventually completed in 1931 and watches over the city of Rio. It’s perched on top of the tall Corcovado mountain inside the Tijuca Forest National Park. The symbol of Christianity is made-up of soapstone on the outer layer and concrete on the inside, and was the brainchild of a local engineer and French artist. Prior to 1920 the city wanted a religious icon to be erected, but due to separation of Church and state it took many years for permission to be granted to go ahead with the build. A depiction of Christ with open arms (peace) was the chosen feature, and remains a go-to tourist landmark. Although it gets crowded at the top, the views are certainly worth the effort. Sugarloaf Mountain At the mouth of at the mouth of Guanabara Bay sits the recognisable Sugarloaf Mountain. A rounded peak that guards the exquisite bay sits comfortably on the edge of a peninsula that barges into the ocean. And its namesake? It’s said to resemble the traditional shape of concentrated refined loaf sugar. Watching sunrise over sugarloaf mountain is not to be missed. This enchanting and historical landmark is best explored by taking a cable car from the bottom – or hiking from the cable car point to the middle – and then proceeding to the top. At the top of the Sugarloaf there are exceptional views of Copacabana beach, Christ the Redeemer and aerial views of the beach. The cable car leaves from Praia Vermelha (Red Beach). We suggest you bring money with you – there are a few makeshift food vendors on the mountain and ice-cream/cool drink vendors. Copacabana Beach A must-see ! Ooh la la ! This is probably Rio’s most famous beach – and with good reason. When you think of Copacabana, you conjure up images of tanned bodies...

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The Iguassú Falls in South America
Jan08

The Iguassú Falls in South America

The cascading Iguassú Falls in South America are – without a doubt – one of the great natural wonders of the world. Iguassú fits the bill in terms of being top of the list with the other great falls of the world, which include Victoria Falls, Niagara Falls and Angel Falls. Not only are the Iguassú Falls great in volume and width, but they also boast an impressive height, making them a spectacular sight to behold. Iguassú is actually three times wider than Niagara Falls, and comprises 275 separate cataracts spanning over 2.7 km wide. A mind blowing and impressive set of statistics, and a total bragfest from Mother Nature! The waterfalls border three countries, which are: Brazil, Argentina, and Paraguay. Accessing the falls from the Brazil and Argentina side is the most accessible way of visiting – and the safest. Brazil and Argentina have airport and transport routes; and the scenic cities on either side of the falls are well-functioning. Although the falls actually lie within Argentine territory, the surrounding countries offer interesting vistas and commanding views of the falls. Iguassú Falls sit in the heart of a rainforest which has been preserved by both Brazil and Argentina. This inland rainforest is actually one of the last remaining rainforests in South America and has a unique biome with over 450 species of bird, of which includes 4 types of toucan and eagles, herons, and the rare black-fronted piping guan. The park has abundant Cockspur coral trees, the national flower of Argentina. Jaguars, tapirs, Giant otters and other mammals dwell deep within this sub-tropical national park. The Argentine Park side of the falls were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. Shortly after Argentina received this status, the Brazil side of the park gained their World Heritage status. Nearly 30 years later the falls were selected as one of the “New Seven Wonders of Nature”. So who discovered the remarkable Iguassú Falls in South America? In 1541 the first European discovered the falls, and named them the Santa Maria falls. Prior to the colonial era, the local inhabitants (Guarani people) had already given their falls a name; a variant of which is used today. A second European expedition led to a rediscovery of the falls, a period of time that was the birth of tourism to the area. Don’t skip out on a trip to Iguassu when you head to South America.    ...

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Contrasts of Chile: desert, pumas, art and architecture
Dec11

Contrasts of Chile: desert, pumas, art and architecture

Chile is a country of contrasting extremes, wedged along the Pacific Coast along a world-famous mountain range with a lunar-landscape desert in the north, and icy peaks and pumas in the south.  In between, a cultural hubbub of colourful street art, powerful poetry, ancient architecture, and award-winning wineries. From rural cowboys riding untamed horses, to glaciers iced into jagged mountains, Chile’s wild side is exciting and full of adventure, while its cities are a combination of modern-day chaos and moments frozen in time. On this 12-night trip, we discover the contrasts of Chile and make sure we cover the bases to ensure one unforgettable experience of this rich and rugged South American territory. We’re going from the northern Atacama Desert and to southern alpine Patagonia to experience the adventure, all tied together with the bohemian street art experience of Valparaiso and the combined historic and modern-day bustle of capital city, Santiago. The trip offers the perfect blend of outdoor excursions, adrenalin and adventure activities in the arid desert and the alpine lake region of icy Patagonia, broken up by enriching city tours that portray the colourful cultural history of the Chilean people. Luxurious accommodation and gastronomy at Relais & Chateaux hotels in Atacama and Patagonia bring indulgence and comfort to the experience. Valparaiso An old, eclectic port town surrounded by 17 tall hills is a colourful, bohemian part of Chile that celebrates the arts. Valparaiso was once the home of famous Chilean poet and writer, Pablo Neruda. It is bustling, cluttered, vibrant, and somewhat neglected, so it has immense character and is best explored on foot along the many old pathways, or on the ancient bus routes through town.  The towering hills surrounding the port are full of colourful houses and facades built into the cliffs overlooking the bay. The town is lathered in interesting street art that covers everything from walls to staircases, buses, rooftops, and the many old funiculars that journey up and down the hillside, transporting people to the top and down again. These “elevator trams” date back to the 1800s when they used to be run on coal and are a fascinating and integral part of the Valparaiso experience.  Visit Caleta Portales – the traditional fishing village of Valparaiso – to eat and enjoy local fare or watch the fishing boats come in first thing in the morning and purchase daily catch off the boat. Also visit Cerro Alegre – a mythical mountain and cultural capital of Valparaiso – reach it via a funicular and arrive to see locals and tourists alike contributing to artwork, making music and poetry in the streets. Atacama Desert The driest...

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Puma Tracking at Torres del Paine in Patagonia
Nov30

Puma Tracking at Torres del Paine in Patagonia

Patagonia is the southernmost point of the world, after Antarctica, and it is one of the adventure capitals of the planet, housing some of the most magnificent, scenic hiking trails, alpine forests, glacier lakes, icy peaks, and possessing a fascinating human history. This southern tip of South America sprawls over Chile and Argentina with the Andes mountains along its western boundary and rugged, arid steppe of Argentina in the east. Patagonia, with its hostile climate, icy rain and winds, is the home of the puma, or mountain lion, and this is where tourists flock to see them on foot. Puma tracking is a speciality activity in Chilean Patagonia where the mighty Torres del Paine National Park covers an area of mighty granite peaks capped in snow, turquoise lakes, and rocky hillsides with rugged underbrush – pumas’ perfect territory! These are the largest cats of Patagonia and the regions greatest predators, and they thrive in this chilly climate because there is an abundance of guanaco, the cats’ favoured prey species. The shrill sound of a guanaco whistling its alarm call carries through the wind and has become an iconic sound associated with the presence of the silent, stalking puma. To see a puma in Patagonia is one, big bucket-list check, and specialised guided trek is the only way to go to guarantee your puma tracking experience. Torres del Paine has a network of hiking trails that wander along the lower slopes of the Andes, where rugged rocks and narrow caves create the perfect habitat for pumas. While these cats can be spotted on independent hiking trails if you’re lucky, this is not a guaranteed and professional puma tracking activity. Tracking these cats on foot, armed with binoculars and led by an experienced guide who knows how to follow and find these mountain lions is the only way to go if you’re looking for the authentic experience and quality sightings. Off-road puma tracking gives hikers the best chances of seeing the cats, as you are led off the beaten track into can follow tracks that lead further off the road. This advantage is only permitted on private land that borders Torres del Paine, so your best chances of getting great results from your tracking experience is on these private reserves where special tracking activities are conducted, and the most luxurious accommodation is there to welcome you upon your return from the chilly mountain air. Awasi Patagonia is located in one such private reserve, overlooking the monumental Torres del Paine, and housing guests in 14 unique villas, each equipped with its own private guide with the experience to conduct hiking, cycling, and 4×4...

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