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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Brazil’s Pantanal : We Interview Liselle About Her Trip
Nov08

Brazil’s Pantanal : We Interview Liselle About Her Trip

One of our consultants, Liselle, explored new territory a couple of months ago. We’ve already introduced an additional destination to our books (South America), and it was imperative that one of our consultants ventures out into potential safari destinations. Liselle and her husband enjoyed a whirlwind exploratory tour of Brazil, the Pantanal, Amazon and beyond. Brazil’s Pantanal boasts the highest concentration of wildlife in the world, and we encourage guests to enjoy a worldwide safari, combining the highlights of Africa with the splendour of South America. We had a quick chat with Liselle about her intrepid journey to the Pantanal in Brazil. We’ve thrown in a few of her images from the Pantanal combined with others from the amazing Amazon.  What wildlife did you see in the Pantanal? Capybaras, Caimans, Otters, Piranhas, Herons & plenty of other birds. Where did you stay? Pousada Rio Mutum in North Pantanal (would not recommend the lodge itself) – But will recommend Caiman Ecological Lodge in South Pantanal (they were full, so had to stay at the other one) What was the highlight?  All the activities, spectacular scenery & photographic opportunities!  Canoeiing, Prinaha Fishing & Horse Riding. What activities can you do in the Pantanal region? Jaguar Boating Safaris, Photographic Safaris, Walking Tours, Piranha Fishing, Canoe Tours, Night Safaris, Jeep Safaris, Bird watching, Bike Tours, Village Tours… How did you get there? To Pousada Rio Mutum (North) where we stayed: Fly into Cuiaba (Pantanal North).  Road transfer from Cuiaba to Lodge.  (110km on paved highway & 20km on dirt road)  Travel time by road is on average 2,5 – 3 hours, depending on the time of year. To Caiman Ecological Lodge (South): Fly into Campo Grande.  Road transfer from Campo Grande to Lodge. (approx. 4 hours)  Or you can fly via private charter into their airstrip, which takes 50...

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South America : Brazil Honeymoon Vacation
Nov07

South America : Brazil Honeymoon Vacation

Vibrant Brazil, with its pulsating nightlife, colourful towns, sugar-white beaches and remote wildlife destinations; is sure to set fire your soul. It’s an ideal country for a honeymoon because it caters for just about honeymoon couple. Combined adventure with relaxation, merge spa treatments with boat cruises in the wild Pantanol region, and marry secluded beaches with bustling town centres. Brazil is a world-in-one, and we’ve sourced the finest selection of tours and accommodation options for your Brazil honeymoon vacation. Our consultant, Liselle, has just visited Brazil and is only too happy to compile and tailor-make the perfect Brazil package for your romantic honeymoon. In the meantime, we’ve created a luxury honeymoon package that we think offers perfect insight into the gems of Brazil, and focusses on the relaxing, romantic and tranquil aspects of Brazil. Honeymoons are all about relaxing! Let’s unpack our Brazil honeymoon package.  Vibrant Rio, the gleaming oceans and golden beaches of Buzios, the waterfalls of Iguazu, and the romance of Salvador da Bahia; are just a few of the honeymoon highlights of this package.  The first few nights the loved up couples will spend in the classic and famous Hotel Copacabana Palace in Rio, an art deco masterpiece resting on the shores of Rio’s most iconic sugar-white beach. Think celebs, James Bond, martinis, caipirinhas and a classic atmosphere that dates back to 1923.  Spend your evenings dining in style at the Michelin star restaurants, indulge in botanical spa treatments, skip across the road to the beach or simply relax around the swimming pool. For the more adventurous honeymoon couple, we highly recommend taking part in one of the many activities on offer at this grand hotel. Included in this package is a tour to the famous Sugar Loaf mountain where you will enjoy a welcome cocktail and incredible views of the city below. We’ve also included a half day city tour to visit the towering statue of Christ the Redeemer, and a barbecue dinner finished off with an entertaining Samba (Brazilian dance and music) show. From here you move onto the famous Buzios area, a thriving beach destination popular with those chasing a luxurious, yet relaxed destination. Art galleries, cafes and restaurants adorn the streets and beaches. The region was nominated as one of the most beautiful destinations in the world! Swim, go to the beach, relax in your private infinity pool or get active and go sailing. The next stop on your honeymoon is the famous Iguazu Falls area, a world heritage site located in the national park. There are 275 separate waterfalls, and the area is nothing short of magnificent! Couples then move onto Salvador da...

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Top 5 Animals to Spot in South America’s Pantanal Region
Nov07

Top 5 Animals to Spot in South America’s Pantanal Region

The Pantanal is a must-see destination in South America, and offers unsurpassed game viewing opportunities in a unique Amazonian tropical biome. The gently-sloped basin that defines the region is fed by the runoff from tributaries from the Paraguay River further upland from the Pantanol. This waterlogged region is actually the world’s largest tropical wetland, and offers a complex eco-system like no where else in the world. The Pantanal region is not confined to Brazil, and actually spills across Paraguay and Bolivia. It’s a haven and sanctuary for a plethora of wildlife, and includes over 1000 species of bird, 500 reptiles, hundreds of fish species, and  300 mammals. And these are only the recorded species – there are probably numerous rare creatures dwelling deep within this UNESCO World Heritage site! The Pantanal area is complex, and has a crosshatch of vegetation ranging from tropical Amazonian rainforest flora, to semi-arid woodlands synonymous with north-east Brazil, and corridors of Chaco savanna plants of neighbouring Bolivia and Paraguay. With such a diverse landscape and variety of habitats, we’re not surprised that the region boasts the highest concentration of wildlife in the world. It’s imperative that you add a trip to South America’s Pantanol region when you visit Brazil. The region is split up into many areas, so you’ll need to decide which area would best suit your needs. We’ve selected our top 5 animals to spot in South America’s Pantanal region. Hyacinth Macaw The hyacinth macaw is the largest flying parrot on the planet and is easily recognisable with its cobalt blue and yellow colours. It’s a rare species of parrot, and is native to central and eastern South America. There are 3 populations of of these macaw’s, one of which is in the Pantanal region. Their larger than life size (wingspan can exceed 4 feet) can be intimidating but these macaws are very gentle birds. Pantanal Jaguar These elite predators are one of the main reasons why travellers flock to the untouched Pantanal. Jaguars are exquisite swimmers and often prey on caimans. These jaguars are the largest and strongest in the world, and size wise are larger than lionesses. Much like leopards, they’re loners and defend territories with vigour. They define their territories much like other cats, with plenty of scent marking and claw marking trees. The jaguars are often spotted cruising the banks of the river in search of prey. Capybaras This large rodent is a native resident of South America and is found in abundance in the Pantanal. They’re closely related to guinea pigs and they’re often found in groups of 10–20 individuals, and they’re quite heavy looking short haired creatures with a short...

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