Top 5 Things to Do in Easter Island (and When to Go)

The ancient and mystical allure of Easter Island extends well beyond the Polynesian island’s iconic stone shrines (moai). Rapu Nui—the original name of the Chilean territory as well as its indigenous culture—is located in the South Pacific ocean, some 2,000 miles off of the Chilean coast and a five-hour flight from Santiago. Surrounded by an infinite blue, this tiny (163.6 km²) triangle-shaped island is one of the most isolated human settlements in the world—and yet is a cradle of history and adventure.

Walk whitesand beaches, climb volcanoes, meet its people, see historical relics and, of course, stand before the alluring human-faced carvings. Here are the top five things to do in Easter Island:

1. Cross Tongariki Off Your Bucket List

It wouldn’t be a proper list of top things to do in Easter Island without the inclusion of the Ahu Tongariki ancient ruins. While the name may not ring a bell, most global travelers are familiar with the image of 15 moai sculptures standing shoulder-to-shoulder with their backs to the Pacific Ocean. While there are said to be one thousand moai on the island, this group is particularly special.

Located near two extinct volcanoes (Poike and Rano Raraku), the moai were carved from volcanic ash using a toki ( a chisel made of rock). Researchers and anthropologists believe that Tongariki, the largest ahu (platform) on Easter Island, was the sociopolitical and religious center of one of the earliest and most powerful tribes, Hotu Iti.

As brawny as the moai of Tongariki may appear (in fact, the largest weighs 86 tonnes), they have been restored over time due to early civil wars and 20th century earthquakes. The mystery of how Rapu Nui managed to move these mammoth sculptures remains, though a common theory is that they were rolled on logs from the carving site to the ahu.

2. Bike the Entire Island—in Just One Day!

The sole urban center in Easter Island, Hanga Roa just so happens to be the main gateway to adventure experiences. A superb activity to get to know the miniscule island from a different perspective is on a scenic bike tour. Sounds intimidating? Keep in mind that the area of Easter island is just 163.6 km², which is slightly smaller than Washington, D.C.

Meaning “wide bay or long bay” in the Rapa Nui language, Hanga Roa is located between the Rano Kao and Terevaka volcanoes. Bike tours begin in the city and can follow various itineraries depending on travelers’ abilities and the weather. A rewarding 42 km-bike ride circles the entire island, taking cyclists to beautiful beaches (such as Anakena), important archaeological sites like Ahu Hanga Te’e, and eventually to Ahu Tongariki.

The freedom of setting the pace and taking stops when desired; the ocean breeze and generally flat roads—biking around the island is one of the top things to do in Easter Island as travelers can fully embrace the natural highlights and some of the lesser known areas too. Travelers can also opt for a horseback ride.

3. Hike Volcanoes for Impeccable Views

Compared to the towering Ojos del Salado (6,893 meters) on mainland Chile, Easter Island’s Maunga Terevaka and Rano Kau volcanoes are of miniscule height—and yet, the impressive views they offer make hiking these volcanic slopes one of the top things to do in Easter Island.

Despite measuring a mere 507 meters above sea level, Terevaka remains the highest point on the mountain-less island. Located on the northern point of triangle-shaped Easter Island, the inactive volcano is characterized by grassy undulating slopes that can be traversed by foot or upon horseback. At the trailhead of Terevaka is Ahu Akivi, an ancient ceremonial platform made up of seven moai. Having reached the top of Terevaka, travelers can take in a 360-degree view of the island.

Smaller yet arguably more beautiful, the 324-meter Rano Kau carries an awe-inspiring elliptical caldera filled with rainwater. One and a half kilometers wide and an estimated 10 meters deep, the lagoon of Rano Kau was once a main source of fresh water on the island; the body of water also led to the natural development of a microclimate upon the interior walls of the crater, allowing for the conservation of endemic plant species.

Located on the island’s southwest corner, Rano Kau is dotted with caves, petroglyphs, and remains of sacred platforms and houses. At the crest of Rano Kau is a viewpoint that provides views of Orongo, a striking ceremonial village of stone houses.

4. Unwind on Anakena Beach

The white sand beach known as Anakena makes for a paradisiacal destination post-hike or simply to relax. Fringed with palm trees, the postcard-worthy beach is met by stunning turquoise waters that gently wash up to the shoreline. Families can wade into the calm, clear waters that remain at a near-constant temperature of about 70ºF.

A beach fit for royalty, it is believed that Rapa Nui’s first king, Ariki Hotu Matu’a, landed here with his men when he first arrived on the island. For this reason you may hear locals refer to the beach as Kings Bay or Hang Rau Ariki.

As in other important villages on the island, the long-faced moai sculptures are present at Anakena Beach and can be seen while one sunbathes or comes up above the water’s surface after a scuba outing. Enjoy the clear, calm beach with a backdrop of centuries-old stone giants when you visit Anakena Beach.

5. Stay at Explora Rapa Nui Hotel

Taking full advantage of the silence, privacy, and spaciousness of the surrounding landscape, Explora Rapa Nui Hotel provides guests with the ability to disconnect from the outside world and delve into ancient mysteries.

Built on 9.6 hectares and just 8km from Hanga Roa, land and sea excursions abound at this eco-friendly hotel as do on-site activities. Indulge with a massage or spa treatment, soak in the pool or jacuzzi, and dine on locally sourced foods with a wide selection of Chilean wines. By day and night enjoy an excellent view in the company of your family or travel group, as all 30 private rooms are ocean-facing.

Surrounded by the intense blue of the Pacific Ocean, Explora Rapa Nui is ideal for travelers seeking an active and cultural experience. For that reason, rooms are not equipped with TVs or WiFi. Afterall, it’s not every day that one travels to Easter Island: the cradle of a unique and enigmatic culture.

When to Go:

Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean and kissed by a cool ocean breeze, visitors to Easter Island can enjoy a pleasant subtropical climate nearly all year round. That said, when deciding when to go to Easter Island travelers should bring a windbreaker or light raincoat as wind and rain can be unpredictable.

High tourism season on Easter Island is, unsurprisingly, during the dry summer months (December-March) when temperatures hover around 80ºF. Within this popular time frame is the Tapati Rapa Nui festival, an annual celebration of the island’s culture and heritage that is held during the first two weeks of February.

Come April, humidity levels rise and steady rainfall quenches the thirst of the island’s endemic flora. From July to September, winter temperatures rarely dip below 60ºF. Unlike the spring season in the northern hemisphere, primavera (October-December) marks the beginning of Rapa Nui’s dry season.

No matter what time of year you venture to Chile’s isolated Rapa Nui, enjoy the temperate climate and superb stargazing presented by this small and mysterious island.

 

For more information regarding a customized journey to Easter Island, contact our award-winning travel team.

Bespoke Patagonia Travel: What to See and Do

Divided by the Andes Mountains, South America’s Patagonia region stretches across southern Argentina and Chile, covering an impressive 402,704 square miles (just over 1 million square meters). It is considered to be one of the most breathtaking yet rugged places on Earth. Whatsmore, inhabiting this massive expanse of land, ice, and national parks is a sparse population, turning this awe-inspiring and isolated destination into an incredibly exclusive experience.

As remote as Patagonia may be, the logistics of getting there and planning an extraordinary journey should not keep you from going. Allow us to design your Patagonia travel experience and we will take care of every detail to ensure you and your family or friends have an unforgettable and safe journey.

To inspire your travel plans, check out the following unique things to see and do when you visit Patagonia.

Trek the Towers of Blue (Torres del Paine National Park)

Renowned amongst mountaineers, the Torres del Paine National Park (181,414 hectares) is home to one of the most challenging trekking sites in the world. In fact, the tallest of the three granite peaks of Torres del Paine––Cerro Paine Grande––reaches 2,884 meters high and its summit was first reached as recently as 1957. Since then, the area’s massive glaciers, arid plains and crystal clear glacial lakes have become a must-see for outdoor enthusiasts.

Located in southern Chilean Patagonia, there are various routes to explore the national park depending on each traveler’s physical ability and time allotment. The quickest trek and most popular is the W (so-called for its shape). Over the course of 3-5 days, travelers will cover some 50 miles (80 km) that include many of the iconic Torres del Paine sites: Grey glacier, the French Valley and the Towers’ Base Viewpoint.

Stay at a Local Estancia

Historically, estancias in the pampas (grasslands) of South America were large plots of land used to raise livestock. These days, a choice few in Argentina and Chile have been repurposed as luxurious guest ranches tucked in the ethereal Patagonian plains.

Nestled within the Nahuel Huapi National Park on the Argentinian side of Patagonia, the Peuma Hue Boutique Hotel offers guests a singular opportunity to connect with nature and find inner peace. Surrounded by mountains and resting at the south end of Lake Gutierrez, Peuma Hue (meaning ‘place of dreams’ in the native Mapuche language) balances body and soul with activities including yoga, massage, horseback riding, kayaking, hiking, skiing and snowboarding.

Meanwhile, in Puerto Natales, a port city that acts as Chile’s gateway to Torres del Paine, a cozy Patagonian ranch awaits. Estancia Bahia Esperanza is a tucked away private home surrounded by an organic orchard. Available on an all-inclusive basis, the estancia can provide those cherished moments of togetherness around the fireplace, and is within reach of full-day and half-day adventure activities.

Cruise the Fjords Glaciers

It’s a humbling experience to witness and comprehend how natural history has literally shaped our planet. Southern Patagonia, more specifically, that belonging to Chile, is characterized by glacial fjords—massive geological structures that give you a glimpse into the past.

Formed by slowly moving glaciers, these deep valleys known as fjords dot the southernmost coast of Chile. Thermal springs, lush vegetation, Andean waterfalls, volcanoes and of course icebergs will accompany your journey aboard a cruise to rarely explored corners of Patagonia.

Embrace Your Inner Gaucho

The nomadic horsemen and cowhands of Argentina (also present in Uruguay) known as gauchos are today considered folk heroes—much like North America’s cowboys of yore. And yet, this flourishing and colorful tribe of the 18th and 19th centuries lives on at the ranches of Patagonia.

Surrounded by stunning mountains in Argentina’s far northern Patagonia, gaucho culture reigns in the wide open grasslands, ripe for solitary and social horseback riding. The local estancias provide an authentic gaucho experience that goes beyond saddling up, including fishing, rafting and harvesting. Relishing the simple moments of nightcaps under the stars and conversations around a campfire make it simple to understand why this generation of gauchos have continued this traditional lifestyle.

Navigate the Seven Lakes Road

For the ultimate full-day Patagonia road trip, northern Argentina’s Route of the Seven Lakes (ruta de siete lagos) can’t be beat. A visual feast of pristine landscapes—multi-hued forests, tranquil lakes, looming peaks—follow tourists along Ruta 40 for an adventure that is more than satisfying.

Ruta 40 is a legendary road and the longest in Argentina. Though it runs the length of the South American nation, the winding mountain-and-lake 108-kilometer section of the Seven Lakes is ideal for a one-day excursion during a Patagonia trip. Cruising from the Swiss alpine-style architecture in Bariloche to serene Nahuel Huapi National Park and a refreshing pint at a San Martin pub, this unforgettable road trip is more than just sight-seeing seven (spectacular) lakes.

Listen to the Perito Moreno Glacier Calve

Rumbling, snapping and groaning, Perito Moreno is the noisiest and most famous glacier of Patagonia. Located in Los Glaciares National Park (Argentina), a visit to the strikingly blue Moreno is almost guaranteed to be a show of massive ice chunks falling some 70 meters and crashing through the surface of Lago Argentino. At times as loud as an explosion, it is a privilege to witness (and listen to) the force of nature that is glacial calving.

Boat tours, kayaking and glacier trekking can be performed in the national park, each offering a view of the mammoth glacier. Covering 97 square miles, the glacier can also be seen from the park’s extensive set of walkways and viewing points.

Visit the Serengeti of the Southern Cone

Patagonia is home to a staggering nine national parks, turning nearly any time-constricted outdoor enthusiast into an indecisive traveler. For first-time travelers to the region, we recommend a visit to the Parque Nacional Patagonia in Chile. The 690 square kilometer nature reserve stretches from the Río Baker to the Argentine border and includes mountains, lakes, lagoons and forests. An important wildlife corridor, the park is also home to a variety of fauna, including flamingo, puma, fox, viscacha and guanaco.

The vast and varied ecosystem of the Parque Nacional has earned it the nickname of the Serengeti of the Southern Cone. With an infrastructure of public trails and campgrounds, visitors can hike to their heart’s content in unspoiled nature.

 

Wondering how to travel to Patagonia? When to go? What the current travel restrictions and/or entry requirements may be? Don’t hesitate to contact us.

Top Reasons to Explore Antarctica

Known as Earth’s white continent, Antarctica provides travelers with a far more enriching experience than would be expected from a land covered by 90% ice. Not to mention that, as the source of 70% of our planet’s freshwater, Antarctica plays a significant role in terms of our planet’s survival and global well-being. Nonetheless, many globetrotters have blocked themselves from exploring the otherworldly beauty of Antarctica, be it for the frigid temperatures or the seemingly unfathomable distance.

An isolated playground for thrill-seekers and Zen-chasers alike, an unforgettable journey awaits in our planet’s southernmost continent. Read on to discover the top reasons to explore Antarctica with family and friends.

Remote and Only ‘Recently’ Discovered

Historically, only the truly intrepid explorers and travelers who appreciate the unique and yearn for the unknown have conquered the human psyche and ventured to Antarctica, a seemingly mythical land.

The Greeks in fact speculated that a massive landmass in the southern hemisphere existed in order to balance out the land in the north. Philosopher Aristotle (4th century BC) would term the fabled land ‘Antarktos,’ meaning ‘opposite bear’: a reference to the Great and Little Bear constellations that can only be seen in the northern hemisphere.

Speculation continued into the 15th century, with many referring to the southernmost continent as ‘Terra Australis Incognita’ (Unknown Southern Land). James Cook came within less than 130 kilometers of Antarctica’s coastline in 1773. Having not seen the land with his own eyes, he brazenly declared “that no man will ever venture farther than I have done and that the lands which may lie to the South will never be explored.”

Finally, after a millennium and then some of hypotheses, doubt and failed attempts, Antarctica was seen at the beginning of 1820 by members of a Russian expedition. One year later, American explorer and sealer John Davis became the first person to set foot on the icy terrain. The seventh continent was no longer a thing of myths.

As we traverse the globe in the early 21st century where seemingly every corner of the world has been discovered, Antarctica continues to be the last great untouched wilderness; a beacon for scientific research and adventure opportunities.

Where Wildlife Thrives and No Cities Exist

Unlike every other continent in the world, no great human population lives permanently on Antarctica. In fact, there are no cities or urban centers in Antarctica, only stations where researchers and scientists have set up camp. As a result, a range of wildlife have been able to adapt to the harsh climate, both on land and at sea.

Though penguins spend the majority of their lives in the ocean, seven of the 17 total penguin species can be spotted waddling across Antarctica’s ice and snow. These include the Chinstrap, Adélie, Emperor and King penguins––the latter two being synonymous with many traveler’s imaginings of Antarctica.

Emperor and King penguins are both marked by a magnificent ring of golden feathers on their heads, however the Emperor reaches an average weight twice that of the King (30kg and 15 kg, respectively). Recognized as the world’s largest penguin, Emperors can be found on a voyage to Weddell Sea while the King penguins can easily be spotted from the comfort of an Antarctic cruise when nearing South Georgia, Macquarie Island, Prince Edward Island and Heard Island.

Another common sight while aboard a boat or vessel are whales. Orcas can be found in every ocean on Earth, however the majority are based in the frigid waters surrounding Antarctica. Researchers have identified four subtypes of orcas, all of which can be found in Antarctica. Traverse the Antarctic Peninsula and Ross Sea during the summer season for a high probability of catching these majestic black and white creatures.

The quiet beauty of Antarctica is broken by the welcome appearance of a Blue Whale––the largest and loudest creature found on our planet. An average of 30 meters long and weighing up to 200 tonnes (200,000 kilograms), these large mammals are drawn to the nutrient-dense waters of the Antarctic from February-March, the peak of the southern hemisphere’s summer months. Unfortunately blue whales are considered critically endangered in the Antarctic, as less than 3,000 are believed to inhabit the area.

Adventure Opportunities for All Levels

The varying landscapes and climates of Antarctica have garnered the seventh continent a range of exhilarating titles including the coldest place on Earth (average of -76 degrees Fahrenheit at the most elevated parts, 14 degrees along the coast) and the highest wind speeds (reaching over 200 MPH) which possibly have resulted in McMurdo Dry Valleys becoming the driest place in the world.

Throw into the mix two active volcanoes, a blood-red waterfall, Midnight Suns and Polar Nights, lakes under thick sheets of ice, and buried mountains and it is easy to understand why so many visitors have described Antarctica as otherworldly.

Thanks to the myriad of landscapes, the excursions and experiences to be enjoyed in Antarctica are just as diverse and adaptable to each traveler’s threshold for adventure.

Cruise around massive icebergs on a zodiac or get that much closer to the water’s surface by kayaking across ice-studded waters. Discover the Antarctic as pioneering polar explorers did centuries ago by mountaineering towards lofty summits or snowshoeing across icy spans. Venture below the frozen Arctic surface with a scuba diving plunge.

And when the body is tired or a new perspective is craved, a helicopter ride over Antarctica is an unmissable opportunity to witness wildlife and landscapes that can not otherwise be accessed.

Beacon of Hope During Global Warming

As our planet continues to grow warmer, scientists have begun to look towards the coldest continent as an impetus in safeguarding our future. No doubt it is a curious turn of events as Antarctica has been portrayed as the victim of global warming. And yet, that is precisely why the continent will play a key role in our future.

The two ice sheets––containing 70% of Earth’s fresh water––of Antarctica are melting before our eyes. Should they melt completely, global sea levels would rise by 56 meters, slowing down the global ocean circulation and shifting the southern hemisphere’s climate.

The world over has experienced the consequences of rising sea levels, with recent major storms in Florida and New York, and the increasing threat faced by low-lying Pacific islands. And as temperatures begin to rise the fate of our planet nears an irreversible status.

By exploring and experiencing Antarctica firsthand on an unforgettable journey, travelers will have more than just a vacation to remember: it will become incredibly clear just how precious this destination is and why it is worth protecting for future generations.

Most Efficient Way to Travel to Antarctica

As our planet continues to grow warmer, scientists have begun to look towards the coldest continent as an impetus in safeguarding our future. No doubt it is a curious turn of events as Antarctica has been portrayed as the victim of global warming. And yet, that is precisely why the continent will play a key role in our future.

The two ice sheets––containing 70% of Earth’s fresh water––of Antarctica are melting before our eyes. Should they melt completely, global sea levels would rise by 56 meters, slowing down the global ocean circulation and shifting the southern hemisphere’s climate.

If considering exploring Antarctica, planning ahead is essential. Currently the Latin Excursions team is booking into the 2022/23 season.

One of our favorite ways to take travelers to Antarctica is the Fly-Cruise option.

Depart from Punta Arenas (Chile) and take a two-hour flight to King George station in the Shetland Islands. From here you will board your expedition ship, eliminating a possible rough passage and the accompanying seasickness that might occur while traveling the approximate 36 hours through the Drake passage.

This method is not only faster in getting you to where you really want to be (Antarctica) but also follows a more efficient process. Your expedition ship has no more than 75 travelers which makes embarking and disembarking fast and smooth. Your connection to the places we visit is qualitatively different: less noise, less distraction, and a more intimate experience.

With a minimum of 12 polar expert guides you are ensured an unforgettable adventure.
Itineraries last from 5 nights to 16 nights ensuring options for all traveler types and their respective time limitations.

All meals and excursions (with the exception of kayaking) are included. Beer, wine and juice are served with lunch and dinner. Complimentary hot beverages are available all day.

If Time is Not an Issue: Boat Options

An adventurous option that harks back to the days of early explorers, Antarctica cruises typically depart from Ushuaia (located on Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego archipelago). From South America’s southernmost tip, travelers can pass through Drake Passage on an unforgettable two-day journey before spending a day exploring the glorious South Shetland Islands. It all leads up to the eventual and much anticipated arrival to Antarctica.

If opting for the scenic cruise option, discerning travelers will need to choose the vessel that best suits the needs of their travel group. To help narrow it down, we’ve selected two of our favorite boats for the 2022/2023 season: Island Sky and the MS Seaventure.

Exuding Old World charm, Island Sky has garnered a reputation since its 2017 debut as a superb platform for exploring Antarctica in comfort and style. Including three decks of private suites with sliding glass doors that open into the crisp Antarctic air, this ship brings passengers exclusive access to the White Continent in more ways than one.

Just over 100 passengers will be on board to enjoy world-class cuisine in between spotting whales, penguins and jaw-dropping icebergs. From this small expedition ship all guests can hop on Zodiacs to explore Antarctica by sea or to head ashore for an intrepid camping experience.

Awarded the 1-A Super ice class rating—the highest ice class awarded to passenger vessels—the MS Seaventure is designed to navigate difficult ice conditions, meaning those on board will have the opportunity to venture to places that would simply be impossible on other vessels. Indulgent amenities such as a sauna and heated saltwater pool will enhance your Antarctica cruise experience. For the truly inquisitive, be sure to check out the custom-built citizen science lab, which provides passengers with the opportunity to participate in on-going research (more info below).

When not lounging in the lush and open common areas, seek refuge in your MS Seaventure private suite, each fitted with large bay windows to admire the passing scenery. Note that the storage space has been upgraded in order to accommodate more outdoor gear, meaning more guests will be able to add snowshoeing, kayaking, or camping to their itineraries.

To this day Antarctica remains very much a mystery, drawing experts and researchers from around the globe. Both the Island Sky and MS Seaventure boats encourage passengers to get on board with observing and studying the natural phenomena that is Antarctica by including a Citizen Science Program. Focusing on the ecology and climate change aspects apparent in our seventh continent, travelers have a unique opportunity to gather data (via birdwatching, marine mammal identification, and more) that will contribute to answering some of our biggest questions.

 

For more information regarding exploring Antarctic and travel safety, contact us: info@latinexcursions.com

Galapagos Cruises: The Ultimate Experience for Privacy and Discovery

For visitors to the Ecuadorian archipelago, Galapagos cruises are the ultimate travel experience. Offering top comfort, privacy and personalization of your itinerary, a chartered or shared yacht will enhance your journey in one of the most pristine and unique places on Earth. The spark for Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, visiting the Galapagos––a collection of 60 islands and islets––is a rare opportunity to traverse ancient lava fields and white sand bays, and come into contact with endemic species of the plant and animal world that have yet to develop a fear of humans.

Match this infinitely intriguing destination with an extraordinary Galapagos cruise and you can be sure this will be one of the most rewarding travel experiences for your family or group of friends. From privacy and health, to comfort and flexibility, consider the following benefits and perks of Galapagos cruises––be it on a shared boat or private charter––for your upcoming adventure.

Maximize Privacy and Security

One of the perks of Galapagos cruises has always been the added amount of privacy to what is an already remote destination. Now more than ever, the idea of steering away from crowds and congested areas is not only attractive but important for health and security reasons.

Aboard a private Galapagos cruise your travel group can relish in indoor and outdoor spaces that are exclusively for your use. Let your group spread out, find your preferred nook and gather once again to share meals, impeccable sunsets and excursions on land or sea. Having your own vessel makes each day’s adventure a richer, truer reflection of who your group is. And with minimal distractions, you gain a privileged experience of the amazing and remote Galapagos Islands.

Chartered or shared Galapagos cruises are one of the safest travel options in the area as the assigned team of staff will ensure hygiene measures are strictly adhered to. In fact, all of our Galapagos partners––from boat to villa owners––are trusted professionals that we speak to regularly. Each of the recommended vessels used for Galapagos cruises are rigorously inspected and disinfected before and throughout your journey.

Be the Captain of Your Journey

Passengers aboard chartered Galapagos cruises are seemingly promoted to captain in terms of flexibility and personalization.

Opting for an exclusive Galapagos vessel means we can tailor an itinerary to suit the activity levels and needs of your group. By land and sea, there are numerous ways to experience the Galapagos Islands and we are more than happy to make recommendations based on our expertise and local contacts.

Of course, your first and all-important decision will be choosing the vessel for your Galapagos cruise. And just as varied as the activities to be had on Galapagos cruises are the vessels themselves: from simpler, more economic options such as the first-class Nemo, to the apex of luxury like the spectacular Stella Maris and Grace yachts.

Trusted and award-winning, our first-hand knowledge of the best boats in the Galapagos means we can present the best fit for your budget and group. Afterall, embarking on a Galapagos cruise is a once-in-a-lifetime experience, and every detail counts.

Exclusive Experiences

The luxurious experience on board one of our Galapagos cruises is matched by the land- and sea-based excursions that bring you closer to this natural paradise. Each day on the Galapagos archipelago can be as varied as the islands are different: from diving with sea lions and sharks, to hiking the world’s second largest caldera, to leisurely hiking through mangroves. It is plain to see why Galapagos cruises attract travelers of all ages, activity levels and interests.

We’ve visited just about every corner of the Galapagos since our founder and CEO, Eric Sheets, began crafting tailor-made itineraries of Darwin’s living laboratory since 1998. Because of our trusted relationships with the islands’ vendors, storytellers and eco-visionaries, we offer an array of mind-blowing, insider-access experiences that can not be found anywhere else.

Imagine swimming in the warm crystalline waters with sea lions around the perimeter of Santa Fe Island or penguins at Pinzon Island, unique wildlife experiences that allow you to interact with some of the islands’ most playful creatures. Not ready to jump in the waters just yet? Consider eco-sport fishing for Mahi Mahi or Yellow Fin Tuna, always accompanied by local fisherman committed to marine and species conservation. We can also connect you with a range of wellness activities, from yoga to food therapy.

Allow the transformative powers of this natural treasure and our expertise of Galapagos cruises to form an unforgettable travel experience filled with eco-adventure.

Comfort in a Natural Paradise

So much can be said about the exquisite natural beauty of the Galapagos Islands––but what is it actually like to take a Galapagos cruise?

A typical morning on a Galapagos cruise will begin with the soft sounds of nature, luring you out of bed and onto the deck. Accompanied by views of a dramatic volcano, coastal beaches and frigate birds soaring above, your group can convene over a warm breakfast. Once satiated, hop on a dinghy to partake in an up-close exploration of coastal ecosystems that include mangroves, crystalline waters, sea tortoise and sea lions. No Galapagos cruise would be complete without a scuba diving tour guided by a scuba master. Navigate through schools of brightly colored fish and coral habitat while attempting to play catch-up with marine iguanas and even dolphins.

And the best part of embarking on a Galapagos cruise? When the day is done you and yours have the privilege of returning to a welcoming vessel to regroup, recap and reconnect.

Sol y Luna: From France to Peru’s Sacred Valley, with Love

Straddling the Andes with one foot dipped in the Pacific Ocean and the other tangled in the wild Amazon rainforest, Peru is a nation where over 100 indigenous languages survive, Hispanic and native traditions intermix, and travelers can encounter 80% of the world’s ecosystems and nearly 90% of all climates found on Earth. 

As one of the world’s most megadiverse countries, the South American destination attracts a wide variety and style of travelers, some of whom even opt to stay and call Peru their adoptive country.

So goes the story of ‘Petit’ Marie Helene Miribel, a native of France who, together with her Swiss husband, would go on to found one of Peru’s most sought after luxury hotels, Sol y Luna.

Sacred Valley: Settling in the Heartland of the Incas

Having lived in Peru since the 1990s, Petite and her partner Franz decided to put down roots in the very heartland of the Incas, just two years shy of the turn of the century. 

The Sacred Valley of Peru is located in the Cusco region, protected by the Andes mountains and guided by the Urubamba River (also known as Vilcamayo River). For travelers, local towns like Urubamba and Ollantaytambo had once been considered mere gateways to Machu Picchu (1.5 hours by train from Ollantaytambo, a 30 minute drive from Sol y Luna).

Thanks to projects like Sol y Luna however, visitors are taking the time to slow down and enjoy the breathtaking landscapes, gastronomy, art and culture that abound in this mystical valley.

Afterall, the Valley, which rests at roughly 8,000 feet (over 2,400 meters above sea level), has historically held locals and visitors captive, dating back to the Incas––who fell for its proximity to Cusco, warmer climate and fertile land––and thereafter the Spanish.

Ayni: An Andean Philosophy of Reciprocity 

Rich as it may be in nature, Peru continues to be considered a developing country––the national educational system being one major point of concern. 

Inclined to get involved in community service projects, Petit soon became aware of the particular roadblocks that kept children of the Valley from receiving an education. Whether it was extreme distance that forced elementary-age children to walk for hours, lack of finances to provide materials or low standards of teaching that failed to capture the attention of and nurture young learners, the French entrepreneur took action to make education accessible for all in her adoptive Urubamba and surrounding areas.

In 1999, alongside Franz, Petit created an education project, Sol y Luna Foundation, and soon after founded the Relais & Chateau hotel, Sol y Luna. And while the latter was created to financially support their educational initiatives, it was working closely with local communities that would feed and influence the now renowned hotel. It’s an interdependence that has marked the philosophy of all Sol y Luna projects; one based on reciprocity or, as termed in the native Quechua language, ayni.

Since their first education project, Petit and Franz have not lost sight of their goal to create opportunities for the Sacred Valley youth. The hotel has allowed them to finance projects such as the Sol y Luna Intercultural School; provide training and employment opportunities for community members; as well as open four foster homes.

Luxury: Timeless Beauty and Experiences

Native materials, artisanal touches and authentic generosity bloom both within and outside of the hotel as freely as the site’s sprawling gardens. Hummingbirds seemingly guide guests from their private adobe cabins to on-site cooking classes or an intimate spa session. Stunning Andean landscapes are traversed by quad; high-altitude lakes skimmed aboard stand-up paddle boards.

Sol y Luna Hotel is categorized as luxury, but the charming qualities it presents and the experiences it offers cannot be summed up by a simple label. To visit this peaceful noon in the cradle of the Andes mountains, and to have Petit and Franz as hosts, is to gain a mindfulness of what luxury for the 21st century traveler truly means.

Montemar: Working with Nature Instead of Against It

Though largely untouched by human activity in its (geologically) young lifetime, the Galapagos archipelago is no stranger to environmental threats. In fact, less than 15 years ago the United Nations declared that the Ecuadorian islands were in danger, pointing to ecosystem degradation caused by modern-day activities such as deforestation, pollution, overfishing, mass tourism and more. 

Luckily, an environmental steward was as inspired by the Galapagos Islands’ possible decline as was Charles Darwin, nearly two centurias prior, by the area’s unique and evolutionary wildlife.

Born and raised on mainland Ecuador, Reyna Oleas would not head west 625 miles to the Galapagos until she was an adult. Newly arrived and equipped with a degree in Ecology and an MBA, she instinctually began to observe the relationship locals had with their environment—more specifically, to issues concerning unreliable and unsustainable sources of water, electricity, waste and food.

Deciding to take action, Reyna and her husband Roberto Plaza joined a team of intellectuals offering expertise in various areas to create the Montemar project: a set of eco-luxury villas built with the vision of becoming a benchmark in construction by using materials mostly sourced from the islands and with minimal use of energy.

Located upon part of the Galapagos Giant Tortoises Territory in the highlands of Santa Cruz, the 43-acre property has two private villas, both of which are named after native wildlife—Tortuga (Tortoise) and Lechuza (Owl). Spacious and full of natural light, each space within Montemar was built upon the foundation of the following components: construction with local materials; efficient generation and use of energy and, finally, harvesting and consuming of local food.

Considering that some 70% of imports to the islands are used for construction, that much of the food and energy is brought from the mainland, Reyna and her partners were creating what would become a model for sustainable tourism and hospitality in the Galapagos Islands.

Made of bamboo, lava and cedar, the buildings are not overly sophisticated, as the Montemar aimed to inspire onlookers who could, if desired, replicate the designs and use of materials. By using elements of the natural surroundings, the villas maintain the ecosystem’s natural balance. So in tune with the natural world are the houses, that they were strategically placed in the path of the sun and in the direction where wind would allow free flowing ventilation (an incredibly important component considering that the humidity levels on the Galapagos can reach 97%).

Inside, the private rooms are heated by solar panels, as is the water—100% of which is harvested rainwater. Nothing about the latter technique is new, as the first settlers to the Galapagos did much the same. However, Montemar is recovering and proving the validity of such eco-friendly and cost-effective efforts.

Similarly, Montemar promotes eating local by producing a portion of the food. Chickens, pineapple and banana trees, coffee (of which Latin Excursions founder Eric Sheets believes is the best tasting coffee in all of Ecuador) and a variety of other foods thrive on-site as Reyna and her team turn the organic waste of neighbors into 100,000 pounds of black gold (fertilizer) a year.

Now, years since the doors first opened to conscious travelers, Montemar is at the forefront of sustainable tourism in the unique archipelago. With experiences that include wellness, gastronomy and even adrenaline activities both on and off shore, Montemar is the ideal host for a unique family getaway that can be life changing in so many ways. An exclusive and privileged place, guests soon discover that sustainability does not have to be met with sacrifice. Not only that, but they just may be inspired to make a few green changes to their lifestyle back home.   

To craft a bespoke and private Galapagos tour and/or cruise it is essential to know what experiences await. Dive deeper into Ecuador’s remote islands here.

Belize: Thrilling Mayan Culture with a Caribbean Twist

While many Belize natives can be heard speaking a creole patois or even an indigenous Mayan language such as Yucatec, Mopán or Kekchí, the official  language of the Central American nation is English. And yet, despite the ease of communication between most travelers and locals, the natural beauty and living culture found in Belize is difficult to express in words.

Bordering Mexico’s southernmost tip, Belize is home to the northern hemisphere’s largest barrier reef system and thus, unsurprisingly, has become a top draw for scuba diving and snorkeling enthusiasts. The country’s under-water world is so biodiverse that UNESCO inscribed the natural system as a World Heritage Site in 1996. To match the kaleidoscope of sea creatures are the wild and raw Mayan ruins, nestled in the rainforest and tucked underground in ancient ceremonial caves. 

Sail across the crystalline Caribbean waters one day, and gain a thrilling cultural experience the next: Belize has it all.

Sail Towards Solitude

Whether shared with an intimate group of family or friends, a tailored sailing trip across the crystalline waters of the Caribbean is a luxurious adventure that rewards travelers with privileged views and private comfort.

Make the most of time spent in great company and mark the pace and focus—be it a sailing excursion that is solely sea-based or one that also incorporates land-based activities (think grand Mayan temples and uninhabited islands that dot the barrier reef). Use your chartered yacht as a gateway to world-class scuba diving, underwater meetups with nurse sharks and manta ray, kayak explorations of manatee reservations and more.

Don’t forget to take advantage of the private vessel by indulging in unparalleled relaxation. As the boat skims the azure waters that surround Belize, find time to sun on the deck or dine under the stars. Be sure to request the full range of chartered yachts that we offer, varying in size and amenities.

Underground and Back in Time

More than just underwater explorations, visiting Belize is an opportunity to explore the largest cave network in Central America. Stemming from the Maya Mountains of Belize to Guatemala, over 55 km of cave passages belong to a network of four caves known as the Chiquibul Cave System. And while walking along these seemingly never-ending archaic walls (originally formed by the Chiquibul River) is a thrill, Belize hosts a myriad of caves for every type of traveler to choose from.

The twisting passageways of Actun Tunichil Muknal (also known as Cave of the Stone Sepulcher) force visitors to walk, swim and climb their way through the narrow passages of a Mayan ceremonial center.

Laid-back yet just as unique, the Barton Creek Cave is explored via  a leisurely paddle session beneath twinkling calcite crystal formations. Typically used for ceremonial purposes, keep your eyes out for skeletons, ceramics and other Mayan artifacts in any of the aforementioned caves.

Flavors of a Multi-Cultural Land

Perhaps one of the most efficient and enjoyable ways to familiarize yourself with a new culture or destination is through local gastronomic offerings. And there is quite a bit to swallow in regards to the convoluted history of Belize, a coastal land that has gone through the hands of the Mayans and Europeans and numerous name changes. What has resulted in national kitchens is an amalgamation of varied ethnic influences

In between Caribbean staples of red beans and rice with savory stewed chicken,  Mayan-influenced snacks like salbutes (fried corn tortilla) and irrisistable fish panades (empanadas), be sure to save room for the traditional Garifuna cuisine. Of mixed African and indigenous Caribbean descent, the Garifuna people were exiled from their island of Saint Vincent in the late 18th century by European force, and sought refuge along the Caribbean coast of Central America.

Today, travelers can head to southern Belize to indulge in a variety of Garifuna-style dishes: from seafood chowders to the traditional cassava bread ereba. (Fun fact: Garifuna literally means “cassava-eating people.”)

For detailed information on travel restrictions and health requirements visit the Belize Tourism Board site here or email us directly: info@latinexcursions.com

The Galapagos Islands Need Your Help

Despite having reopened months ago for tourism, the remote Galapagos Islands continue to struggle economically in the wake of the global pandemic. In March 2020, when the spread of Covid-19 caused travel to come to a halt, families and local businesses felt the negative effects immediately.

For the Ecuadorian islands, where 90% of the economy is dependent on tourism, the sudden plummet in visitors was as if the archipelago’s backbone had vanished.

Be Part of the Solution

Lindblad Expeditions and Island Conservation have partnered with a local non-profit, FUNCAVID, to create a campaign of hope and solidarity with the Galapagos community. All funds will go directly to those affected in the form of community-based loans. Priority will be given to basic needs such as food security and education. 

Donations will also go towards wildlife conservation of the area famously documented by Charles Darwin in the 19th century. And it’s not only the consequence of ‘undertourism’ that threatens the ecosystems and wildlife of this World Heritage Site. To make matters worse, for much of 2020 a fleet of Chinese fishing vessels have been stationed at the edge of the islands’ marine preserve to snatch up wildlife and, perhaps unknowingly, pollute the waters of one of the last pristine places on earth.

What it Means to Us

As a travel company, Latin Excursions believes firmly in supporting this cause. We have supported environmental and sustainability causes in this destination since we began taking travelers on bespoke Galapagos journeys.

Whether you have experienced the Galapagos Islands yourself and share our fascination for the remote destination, or you have it on your places to visit in the near future, you have the power to help with a donation, no matter how big or small. Because tourism is fragile. We can’t expect it to take care of us. We need to take care of it. Learn more and donate here.

A destination dear to our hearts, we know that the Galapagos will once again thrive with the insistence and support of travelers like you.

Looking to experience the Galapagos? Talk with us: info@latinexcursions.com

Fruit Farms, Art and Vintage Cars: Private Half-Day Adventures in Colombia

You have probably seen photos of the dreamy Caribbean waters that brush the shoreline of Cartagena de Indias, and heard of the outstanding biodiversity shielded by the verdant Antioquian mountainsides—but to experience Colombia firsthand is to engage each of your senses in a singular way. From coast to jungle, a steady stream of vibrancy reaches every region of Colombia, especially in the lesser known corners where tourism has yet to hit a boom.

Be inspired to experience Colombia in an authentic and unique way with the following sensorial experiences—and know that you can contact us anytime to begin designing your bespoke journey or to learn more: info@latinexcursions.com

Artisanal flavors: Edible flower farm and distillery

An easy, one-hour drive from bustling Bogota, the tranquil countryside of Colombia welcomes you to spend the day exploring expansive organic farms and tasting artisan products. 

In the morning, you will visit an edible flower farm where the owners will discuss their sustainable practices and a guided tour will introduce you to plant species native to the Andean region. Surrounded by tantalizing colors and smells, you will be relieved to finally taste some of the flowers and herbs yourself and learn of—and perhaps even feel—their benefits. After exploring the grounds, enjoy lunch on the farm while taking in the 360º view of the crop fields. 

With your hunger satisfied, it will be time to quench your thirst. In the afternoon you will visit a small farm where production of distilled liquors—often incorporating Colombian fruit—takes place. Accompanied by the owner, you will discover how typical fruits like uchuva, or feijoa, and natural water coming from the moorland, are involved in the artisanal distilling process. No visit would be complete without a tasting, and you will have plenty of time to sip on special concoctions, such as the aromatic Agrarian Rum, created from sugar cane grown 850 meters above sea level.

Why you’ll love it: For those who appreciate great taste and an even better story, this tour allows you to spend some 7 hours getting close to nature and  meeting small producers dedicated to developing high-quality products while preserving natural resources and artisanal techniques.

For your eyes only: Private collection and Botero’s museum

Begin your art tour in a private home in Medellin, where a by-appointment-only gallery space hosts around 500 works of classical, modern and contemporary art by established and emerging artists from all over the world. Founded in 1991, the private collection revives the history of Colombian and international art, thus offering collectors and art lovers an enriching and cultural sphere. 

You’ll spend just a couple of hours in the art house, but the projects you see will stay with you for the rest of your time in Colombia—and perhaps beyond.

Now it’s time to relish in the unique chance to have a private, after-hours visit to the most important museum of Medellin: Museo de Antioquia. The grand museum overlooks Plaza Botero, and inside you will understand a bit more about the artist himself, Fernando Botero, and what his exaggerated representations aim to communicate to the viewer.  

Why you’ll love it: An exclusive experience perfect for art lovers, the impressive collections will offer insight of Colombia’s past, present and future from the perspective of true storytellers. Worried you’ll miss the details or the big picture? No worries, an expert in Colombian art will accompany you.

Feeling nostalgic: A vintage ride to the best of Cartagena 

Hop into a vintage car from the 1950s and hold onto your sombrero vueltiao (traditional Colombian hat) as you cruise through an afternoon sightseeing the most emblematic places of Cartagena de las Indias.  

From the historic center, you will head to the impressively intact San Felipe de Barajas Castle: just short of celebrating its quincentenary, this hilltop fortress has a fascinating history that begins with protecting Cartagena from the likes of pirates. Meanwhile, the Convent of Santa Cruz de La Popa takes things even higher, offering up singular panoramic views of the colorful city below.

Continuing on to other gems, such as the cheerful Getsemaì area, characterized by beautiful murals, your tour will finish with a cocktail at the iconic Café del Mar, overlooking the bay of Cartagena.

Why you’ll love it: A truly unique way to experience one of Colombia’s Caribbean gems, your private ride through Cartagena in a vintage car will be an unforgettable highlight to your trip.

Colombia has eliminated Covid-19 test requirements for travelers, meaning your visit can be quick and easy. However, that’s not to say that countrywide health and hygiene precautions have been minimized. Prior to departure, tourists will need to fill out this online form and show no signs of fever or respiratory problems; as well, newly arrived travelers will be monitored upon arrival by their insurance company as part of the Ministry of Health’s Testing, Tracking and Sustainable Selective Isolation strategy (PRASS).

Ready to experience Colombia? Talk with us: info@latinexcursions.com

Galapagos Travel Experiences: As Unique as the Islands are Remote

If you and yours are looking for a relaxing and incredibly private getaway in a pristine destination, let us remind you that the Galapagos Archipelago—situated 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador—is an incredibly untouched, visually stunning part for the world. Unlike Bishop Tomas de Berlanga’s, accidentally arrived on the remote islands in 1535, your journey to the islands would be marked by exquisite  intention.

While the islands offer countless activities for every type of traveller,  we highlight two stand-out experiences here—to give you a taste of what awaits in the Galapagos—however, do keep in mind that these islands offer an array of activities.

Paddle Alongside Wildlife in the Itabaca Channel

Perhaps the best way to get to know the distinct islands is by finding your rhythm paddling down the calm turquoise waters or testing your balance for a laidback stand up paddle session. Separating the Baltra and Santa Cruz islands, the clarity of the Itabaca Channel reveals the marine biodiversity found beneath the liquid surface—including white tipped reef sharks—while the picturesque surrounding environment of red mangrove forests and lava cliffs stun you with their natural beauty.

Families traveling with younger children will revel in strengthening their bond through adventure as they share a two-seat ocean kayak and witness a display of wildlife unique to this remote pocket of the world. And while it may seem daunting to the unaccustomed, stand up paddleboard is a great way to build focus and strength—not to mention, gain a new perspective of the natural world.

Rich with wildlife on land and sea, venturing down these waters will give you the privileged opportunity to spot numerous curious creatures year round, such as the blue-footed boobies, who have yet to develop a fear of humans.

Private Yacht to the Iconic Bartolome Islands

As you head to Bartolome Islands aboard the comfortable and swift Windrose—the only luxury boat that provides such navigable tours—this part of the journey will become a memorable moment for both you and your family.

As you head to Bartolome Islands aboard the comfortable and swift Windrose—the only luxury boat that provides such navigable tours—this part of the journey will become a memorable moment for both you and your family.

Disembark upon the islet (an area of just .5 square miles) and hike up its volcanic cone to take in one of the most scenic views of the surrounding Galapagos Islands and the breathtaking landscapes of Bartolome. Accompanied by a local guide, it is also an opportune moment to learn about the volcanic origins of the Galapagos Islands. Afterwards, a dingy ride along the crystal clear coastline of Bartolome is a sure moment to witness the Galapagos penguin, an exciting way to wrap up the day before heading back to the yacht for a gourmet meal.

An Adventure that is Exclusively Yours

The best way to island-hop the Galapagos Islands is to do it aboard a chartered yacht. What a way to take in thee islands. Your itinerary is totally customizable and your crew will enjoy the privacy. Ask us about our preferred boats. They include affordable catamarans!

For the latest on our health and safety protocols and the adaptive measures taken by the Galapagos Islands, please contact us—info@latinexcursions.com —and one of our travel designers will contact you directly.

Not Yet Ready to Pack Your Bags?

Bring the taste of the Pacific to your home with Maito de Pescado, just one of the many dishes inspired by the sea that you will sample while staying at the ecoluxury villas of Montemar in the Galapagos. Meaning “wrapped fish,” maito is a traditional Ecuadorian dish that highlights the natural flavors of the fish. Typically accompanied by rice or root vegetables such as yuca, give the recipe a try:

Ingredients

– Tilapia Filets
– Salt
– Banana leaves (3 per fish filet)
– Natural fiber (for securing packaging)

Process

1. Light your grill.
2. Clean tilapia then season with salt on both sides.
3. Clean banana leaves. These will be used to wrap the fish, so if they need to be made more flexible simply heat over the fire until they bend more easily.
4. Using three banana leaves per filet, wrap each piece of fish then tie securely with natural fiber. Place on the grill for 20-25 minutes, allowing heat to steam fish.

Six Pristine & Private Getaways

Travel makes real what videos and blogs can only represent: travel allows us to be fully immersed in other cultures and parts of the world; to taste, feel and see something new, while strengthening our bond to nature and those who accompany us on the journey—including ourselves. In short, travel is what connects us.

With the power to be transformative and long lasting, these connections accumulate energy, recharging our souls with inspiration, wonder and compassion. And considering the last few months, we could all use a bit of each.

With a deep understanding of your concerns for health and safety, we’ve gathered a thoughtful list of pristine and private getaways in Latin America for you to enjoy with friends and family when the time is right.

Colombia

Corocora Camp, Llanos Orientales

An exclusive tented camp in the vast tropical grassland plain of Llanos Orientales, Corocora Camp allows visitors to connect to nature without forgoing quality service or comfort. There are just four deluxe sleeping tents available, which means the site can be bought out by a family or group of friends for a truly exclusive experience.

Situated to the east of the Andes in Colombia, next to the Orinoco River basin, a brilliant array of wildlife will accompany you as you delve into the authentic ranch culture and cattle herding, go horseback riding or birdwatching and learn about Corocora Camp’s very own conservation projects.

Arriving at this secluded spot is a short flight from the Bogota international airport. As well, we can arrange a private jet charter to take you swiftly to the remote private reserve.

La Rocca, Tierra Bomba Island

Though just 20 minutes by boat from the buoyant city of Cartagena, this private seaside villa from Nahbu is worlds away from the crowds and typical touristic sites that frequent the Walled City. Located on the island of Tierra Bomba, you will find absolute comfort in this 4-bedroom paradisiacal beachfront villa, complete with an infinity pool overlooking the azure Caribbean.

Rosario Islands Cartagena day trips

Make this intimate and serene setting feel like home as you spend your days relaxing poolside, walking along the soft sandy beach, kayaking and enjoying the local cuisine. From the Rafael Núñez International Airport in Cartagena, Colombia, this seaside villa can be reached by a private boat in under half an hour.

Chile

Estancia Bahía Esperanza, Puerto Natales

Not your standard hotel by any conventional means, Estancia Bahia Esperanza is a private home with three bedrooms, making it ideal for large families, small groups of friends or even couples who are interested in reserving the entire space for a private getaway. In fact, it can only be booked on a whole-house, all-inclusive service basis anyways.

Tuck into this secluded Patagonian ranch, complete with an organic orchard and cozy fireplace, for an authentic experience and enjoy the luxury of silence. Full-day and half-day trips to nearby scenic sites such as Torres del Paine National Park can be arranged, as well as hiking, biking or horseback riding along remote trails.

Awasi Patagonia

Situated in a private reserve overlooking Lake Sarmiento, nearby forest, pampas and Torres del Paine, the unique design of Awasi Patagonia perfectly blends with nature, as the villas were inspired by old Patagonian shelters and ranching outposts. Completely carbon neutral, each of the 14 private villas are assigned a private guide and 4WD so you can explore at your own pace. You will have access to off-the-beaten path hiking trails, superb wildlife viewing points, incredibly fresh and gourmet meals and more—all to draw you into the untamed beauty that is Patagonia.

Awasi Patagonia can be reached by private transportation from the international airport Presidente Carlos Ibáñez del Campo airport in Punta Arenas, Chile (a 5-hour drive).

Uruguay

Sacromonte, Pueblo Eden

A coalescence of great wine and enchanting nature, Sacramonte is a remote destination that will be relished by oenophiles and sybarites. Located in Maldonado, it is just 90 minutes west of Montevideo’s Carrasco International Airport.

After a delicious breakfast served in the privacy of your refuge, enjoy a hike to Lote8 Olive Oil Boutique Plant to visit the production facilities followed by a tasting of their olive oil. Afterwards, drive to Viña Eden Winery to enjoy lunch. During the afternoon, we suggest a yoga class overlooking the vineyards in the privacy of your refuge. Private Dinner at “La Casona” in Pueblo Eden hosted by Sacromonte can also be arranged.

La Bendición Lodge, Durazno

If you are into horseback riding, fly fishing or golf, then the remote La Bendición Lodge would be an ideal fit. Located in the beautiful countryside of Uruguay and hugged by the Rio Negro, this large ranch allows guests to partake in a variety of nautical and landbased activities.

The charming decor preserves the history of this family-owned farm and lodge, while elements such as the giant fireplace will make you feel perfectly at home. Near the main house are two renovated train wagons outfitted to become your favorite reading space, the Stone Bar for an afternoon of cocktails and pool, and of course the white sand beach that presents striking sunsets night after night.

Ready to experience one of these pristine & private getaways for yourself? Talk with us: info@latinexcursions.com

Exclusive Colombia Experiences

Long revered for producing some of the best coffee in the world, Colombia is a reenergizing destination for many reasons that go beyond the irresistible caffeine buzz: a bustling capital city; sightseeing excursions that take you up emerald mountains by bike or foot; the pulse of vallenato (traditional folk music); attractive beaches; strong aguardiente and, of course, a colorful and magical culture. Its diversity in scenery, pace and activities makes Colombia a year-round welcome destination for any kind of traveler.

After social distancing for what has seemed like an eternity, what better way to reconnect with that special someone than by accompanying each other on a safe and carefully curated journey? We suggest some inspirational stays in Colombia. Private villas and nature-immersed lodges offer safe and exclusive accommodations.

Chartered Flights to Remote Regions

A country of vast biodiversity, it would seem nearly impossible to see all regions of Colombia in less than two weeks—and yet, onboard a private charter flight with just your family or close circle of friends, this type of exploration can become a safe and exclusive reality.

Go horseback riding in Los Llanos, the tropical grasslands east of the Andes; trek along the Crystal Channel on the edge of the Amazon; venture to the Caribbean coast to get a taste of the vibrant port city, Cartagena, then (between September-October) head into the Pacific waters for an exciting afternoon of whale watching.

If this is your pace—spending a few days in each region before hopping on a private plane for a new adventure—contact us for details and to begin planning.

Two Private Villas – Ideal for Families

When traveling with little ones, it is best to keep the logistics to a bare minimum—perhaps now more than ever. Escape with ease to the fully-furnished villas Casa Yahri and Casa La Rocca. Located in the quaint town of Barichara in northern Colombia, Casa Yahri offers privileged views of lush gardens and plenty of private spaces, from refreshing pools to secluded balconies.

Just beyond your private villa’s premises, the town’s cobbled streets, nearby coffee farms and immersive workshops make for alluring excursions to get a taste of local life. Considered to be a hotspot for outdoor adventure activities, Barichara will get your heart pumping with options for hiking, rafting, paragliding and more.

Whereas Casa Yahri offers absolute comfort with a cozy sensibility, Casa la Rocca takes exclusivity to an entirely new level of luxury. Venture to the paradisiacal villa situated upon Tierra Bomba Island by way of a swift 20-minute boat ride from the shores of Colombia’s colonial gem, Cartagena de Indias. This private, 4-bedroom seaside villa is tastefully decorated in earthen tones which allow the azure Caribbean waters to take center stage. Step from the infinity pool to the private beach or request a private boat trip to the Rosario Islands and explore the archipelago’s crystal clear waters and white sand beaches.

Reconnecting with Nature – 3 Stunning Eco-lodges

Bogota, Colombia’s capital, is a sprawling city with wide open plazas, public parks and colonial charm. As the nation’s cultural hub, secluded stays and nearby nature-based excursions abound.

Begin your journey at the boutique hotel, Casa Legado. Sweet and family-inspired, you will quickly feel like you belong in this luxurious mid-century home surrounded by gardens that will seduce you into believing you are in a remote country cottage. Just as colorful and quirky as the neighborhood in which it resides, Quinta Camacho, you can request a massage or private yoga class in the atrium or outdoors spaces of Casa Legado.

A two-hour drive west, venture deep into nature for a side trip into coffee paradise at La Palma y El Tucán. Less than a dozen private cabins are sprinkled across the expansive coffee fields in Zipacón, meaning you have an absolutely unique opportunity to connect with nature and follow the process behind one of Colombia’s greatest claims to fame.

A short domestic flight north to Tayrona lands you at an exceptional stay at Villa Playa Tayrona, pictured above. Surrounded by river, sea and gardens, this boutique hotel is just 2 kilometers from the Tayrona National Park, a protected area at the convergence of the mountains and Carribean coast. Stunningly picturesque, you will be filled with gratitude for rewarded yourself with such an experience.

Ready to experience Colombia for yourself? Talk with us: info@latinexcursions.com

Newly Re-opened, Be Among the First to Visit Costa Rica

If we told you there is a nation with intensely rich volcanic soil from which some of the finest coffee beans in the world are grown, where a coastline of some 800 miles is hugged by both the Caribbean Sea and Pacific Ocean, and where 25% of its land is protected as a park or natural reserve, would you believe us?

Costa Rica has long been deemed a paradisiacal destination for ecotourism as its unparalleled biodiversity is a match for the incredibly hospitable and enthusiastic people who call this Central American gem home. No larger than Lake Michigan, Costa Rica has a population just under 5 million people, yet counts with over 600 species of fauna per 10,000 square miles (as opposed to 100 species in the U.S.). With such an incredible display of natural beauty, environmental stewardship tends to be as common as the phrase ‘pura vida’ in Costa Rica—and such importance on protection and preservation has allowed this destination to remain ripe for responsible travelers in need of a change of scenery.

Here are a few reasons why we consider Costa Rica a timeless, go-to natural sanctuary now more than ever:

Quick and Easy to Get to

Both of the main international airports in Costa Rica—Daniel Oduber, Liberia (LIR) and San Jose (SJO)—are open and operating.

From Miami, Florida, Costa Rica’s SJO International Airport can be reached by a three-hour flight; from New York City in less than five hours; Austin, Texas in less than four hours, and Los Angelers in six hours. In other words, it is perfectly feasible to plan an extended weekend that finds a balance of lazing on the soft sand beaches of Guanacaste with kayaking through a jungle of mangroves.

Though both international airports will be open, national authorities will reopen the borders mindfully. By October 1, nearly half of the US states will have permission for entry, and gradually more states will gain access over the following weeks.

Our Preferred Properties

Based on our insider knowledge and personal experience, we consider the following properties to be among the best in the country. They have been carefully selected for their outstanding service, amenities and naturally relaxing environments that promote a safe and rejuvenating travel experience.

Nayara Tented Camp

Don’t let the name fool you—this safari-inspired property boasts a “tented camp” that is unlike any sort of outdoor stay you’ve known before. The luxurious, clifftop accommodations of Nayara fully immerse guests in the vibrant and wild nature that makes up the nearly 30,000 acre Arenal Volcano National Park, without forgoing any sense of comfort or tranquility.

Perched on a hill and remotely setback from the other 21 tents, the private tents have a privileged view of the site’s namesake volcano and are complete with a signature plunge pool.

Nayara promotes wellness and self-care, offering calming activities such as yoga and relaxing soaks in the private onsite hot springs. Families will enjoy the connectable tents of two bedrooms, providing plenty of private time and safe space, as well as the impeccable staff. At the core of it all is being immersed in the soothing rainforest that surrounds.

Las Catalinas

In the unique northwestern town of Guanacaste, surrounded by tropical land and sea, are the private vacation rentals of Las Catalinas. With a focus on healthy and sustainable living, this fully walkable beach destination will reward you with a fulfilling weekend getaway or rejuvenating long-term stay.

Over 22km trails lush with foliage will enrapture you as you take a morning stroll or, perhaps, as you chase an adrenaline rush while mountain biking through the dry forest slopes and valleys. Water-based activities abound, as the year-round warm Pacific waters are prime for snorkeling, kayaking and stand up paddleboarding.

After a day spent reconnecting to nature, it’s time to unwind in a spacious and private villa with your family or an exclusive flat with that special someone. You feel at home in no time, as you dine on local seafood and farm-to-table creations while gazing upon an unmatched sunset.

Alejandro Monge, our Operations Manager and a Costa Rica native, gave us some local insight based on his experience of traveling around his marvelous country recently:

“I’ve visited several of our destinations during this pandemic and have enjoyed an overall positive experience that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend to travelers who are ready to get back to exploring,” comments Alejandro. “Most beaches are open until 2:30pm, meaning you have plenty of time during the day to take a refreshing dip and catch some sun on beaches that are far less crowded than usual. My personal favorite beach getaway in the last few weeks has been Nosara beach in the Nicoya Península as it offers a secluded environment, great yoga, meditation and wellness activities and uncrowded beaches.”

Alejandro assured us that all restaurants are open at 50% capacity and that extensive cleaning and disinfection protocols are carried out and staff are required to wear masks.

“You, as a patron, will need to wash your hands upon entry and wear a mask until you sit down at your table, but your memorable experience of chifrijo (typical bar food) will not be diminished!”

Hotel staff, tour guides and drivers always are required to wear masks as well as wash their hands and use hand sanitizer frequently, informs Alejandro. And while tourism remains low and has surely taken a toll on the local economy, there are definite perks to traveling before the industry gets back to normal:

“You’ll find discounted rates in hotels and tours to help reactivate the economy,” points out Alejandro. “Costa Rica hotels are typically small and spread out, so people will find themselves more secluded than in other destinations.”

Safety Protocols

Upon arrival to Costa Rica, foreign visitors will need to complete a Health Pass, have proof of testing negative for coronavirus in the 72 hours leading up to departure and have travel insurance that covers COVID-19 medical and accommodation expenses. Unlike many other countries, Costa Rica does not enforce mandatory quarantine upon entering, allowing you to savour every moment of your trip. Standard protocols such as social distancing and use of masks are mandatory.

A message from the tourism board of Costa Rica:

Ready to experience Costa Rica for yourself? Talk with us: info@latinexcursions.com

Congo Culture: On the “Other Side” of Panama

Most often associated with the eponymous canal that, when completed in 1914, would speed up and cut costs for transporting cargo between the Pacific and Atlantic oceans, Panama has given travelers who seek comfort and exclusivity plenty of reason to slow down in the last few years. Slightly smaller than Ireland, Panama’s 29,000 square miles are painted with a vibrant array of indigenous and international cultures—which may seem curious for such a small strip of land if it were not for the rich human history that marks this transcontinental link between Central and South America

Panama – The Transcontinental Link

In fact, it was in Panama city where Spain would erect the first settlement (on the Pacific side) in 1519. From here, the Spanish conquest of the Americas ensued—resulting in insurmountable riches for the conquerors and, consequently, the dark beginning of slavery and rivalries as the small isthmus grew increasingly significant and valuable for the New World.

A Variety of Culture and Worldly Influences

Today, indigenous communities belonging to Panama thrive alongside fellow countrymen and women whose roots derive from distant lands: from the Guna Yala people of the San Blas archipelago dotting the Atlantic Ocean, the Emberá along the Chagres River, to the Afro-Panamanian population of the tropical coastal town of Portobelo.

It is the later port town (also referred to as Puerto Bello, or “beautiful harbor”) in which we find a particular sense of mystique and singularity when visiting Panama. Once a principal Caribbean port—and temporary storage site for treasures looted from the Incas—, Portobello today is as much a historian’s playground as it is a traveler’s retreat.

Portobelo, Panama: Entry to the New World

Spanish fortification ruins dating back to the 17th and 18th century stare out over Portobelo Bay and towards the lush Portobelo National Park. Here, footed by pristine beaches and nestled in the rejuvenating tropical rainforests of north-central Panama, a unique Congo culture is preserved.

The ancestry of the Afro-Panamanian population that calls this dreamlike jungle home can be drawn back to the Cimarrones—enslaved Africans from the Spanish colonial period who proved to be not only rebellious but quite valiant. Alliances with the likes of English admiral Sir Francis Drake were used as leverage to eventually gain their freedom and establish their own communities.Travelers today can immerse themselves in the Congo culture—considered an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO—while relishing the pristine and natural setting of El Otro Lado.

Fundacion Bahia de Portobelo: Support for the Afro-Panamanian Heritage

To celebrate the area’s traditional and spirited Afro-Panamanian heritage, Aurora Eleta (owner of El Otro Lado) co-created the non-profit Fundacion Bahia de Portobelo. Through festivals, shows and on-going activities, local culture is preserved and social and economic development is encouraged. (Currently, you can support the local community during the COVID-19 pandemic through this fundraiser).

In June 2019, our marketing & sales pro Turney Maurer visited Portobelo and stayed at El Otro Lado to learn more about this fantastic destination. We asked him what his favorite part of the visit was and this was his reply:

Visiting Portobelo and staying at El Otro Lado was a completely unbelievable experience. While I anticipated turquoise Caribbean waters and exciting outdoor activities such as kayaking and hiking, I quickly realized that the most beautiful facet of this destination was the people. The locals are very proud of their heritage and you can discover it through their song, dance, and friendly personalities. My greatest memories were having the opportunity to teach a few of the staff members how to wakeboard, dancing through the night with a performance from local music students, and paddleboarding into the sunset. I now have friends in Portobelo that I will always hope to visit and enjoy time with. The beautiful thing about traveling internationally is realizing that regardless of where we are from or what we believe, we can always relate and enjoy each others company through exploring new areas of the world and trying new things.

Victor, staff member at El Otro Lado gearing up to wakeboard on the left, Turney on the right.

Come See Portobelo for Yourself

By effortlessly merging nature, comfort, and the surrounding community, the unique essence of this Caribbean culture is maintained within the grounds of the private retreat as well. Custodians of the local culture fill guests’ stay with authentic dance, gastronomy, and more, which can be shared through workshops; the retreat itself is enlivened with a vibrant showcase of artworks and a steady playlist of Afro-Caribbean beats (created by Gladys Palmera, sister to Aurora and co-creator of Fundacion Bahia de Portobelo).

This retreat is less than a two-hour drive from Panama City’s Tocumen International Airport. With plenty of non-stop flights from the U.S., this is an ideal weekend getaway for families looking to connect to nature.

You can read more about El Otro Lado here. To arrange an escape to Panama contact us at info@latinexcursions.com (or call 305 356 8488). We are designing quick escapes for later in the summer and beyond.

Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection of itineraries, hotels, villas, and ships to choose from here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.

Inspiring Stories Series: Eco Sustainable Travel in Galapagos Islands

Welcome to the Galapagos Islands! In 1835, Charles Darwin arrived in the Galapagos Islands aboard the H.M.S. Beagle. A trained naturalist, Darwin was blown away by the array of species on the archipelago’s 20+ islands. His observations lead him to his Theory of Evolution. Now, nearly 200 years later, travelers from around the world are visiting these unique islands.

Visionary Reyna Oleas Protects Habitat Where Giant Tortoises Roam

We caught up with eco-entrepreneur Reyna Oleas, who owns and operates Montemar, a collection of villas on land that is both a bio-dynamic farm and protected tortoise habitat. In the video below, Reyna reminds us that a connection with nature can be a life-changing experience – one that can open the door to a mindful life.

Sustainable Travel in Galapagos

Reyna’s initiatives are living proof that ecological farm practices and habitat protection can form an enlightened whole. They leverage profits from the cultivation of coffee, bananas, and guava (plus tourism) to finance the recovery and rehabilitation of giant tortoises.

Giant tortoises are the longest-lived of all vertebrates, the oldest on record having lived to 152. Once numbering a 1/4 million across the Galapagos, the giant tortoise was pushed close to extinction by overexploitation of the species, as well as habitat conversion to agriculture.

Today there are about 3,000 giant tortoises that visit Reyna’s farm on Santa Cruz Island alone.

Why Travel to Peru in 2020?

When people ask me what it’s like to travel to Peru and Machu Picchu for the first time, my response is simple, “Peru is a destination you could explore for the rest of your life and not see the same thing twice; in Peru you can expect a new adventure around every corner.”

With so many extraordinary regions and diverse landscapes to explore in this massively diverse country, choosing where to go for your first visit to Peru can be difficult. For that reason, we add value to our travelers by helping them customize an itinerary tailored to their desires. As an example, a lot of people know Peru mostly because of Machu Picchu, so that is number one on their list. Therefore, we typically recommend taking the classic route to Machu Picchu via Lima, Sacred Valley, Aguas Calientes, and finishing in Cusco on your first visit. At that point, you will be acclimatized to the Andean altitude and ready to adventure further.

Machu Picchu Adventure

“Exploring the Seventh Wonder of the World, Machu Picchu, radiates wisdom and wonder by inevitably making one visualize what life must have been like for the Royal Inca in the Pre-Columbian era while they were secluded from the entire world… in their own sanctuary where every stone and ruin is strategically placed to utilize the natural elements of this environment. If you are a lover of cultural adventures and amazing food, I recommend that you make a visit to Peru as soon as possible”

– Turney Maurer

Insider’s Guide – Travel to Peru in 2020:

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What to do in Peru if You Have Already Seen Machu Picchu?

Peru is a massive country where the Earth’s biggest jungle collides with the towering, ice-capped Andes mountains. Meanwhile, southern Peru has the Nazca Lines, the world’s second deepest canyon—Colca Canyon, and Lake Titicaca—the world’s highest navigable lake that can be seen from outer space. However, there is more! Northern Peru has some of the best waves to surf in the world where you can rest afterwards at a remote beachside wellness retreat. Meanwhile, one of the world’s biggest waterfalls in the world awaits your arrival. Dive further into the northern jungle to find Pre-Inca archaeological sites as big and well-preserved as Machu Picchu which have recently been introduced to tourism with the inclusion of a cable car at Kuelap.

With all of these magnificent sites to see, how are you supposed to choose which ones to see when you travel to Peru in 2020?

Colca Canyon PeruPeruvian Woman Overlooking Colca Canyon

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Where to Go in Peru for Your First Time?

As mentioned previously, let’s get you to Machu Picchu first when you travel to Peru in 2020. Depending on the time you and your group have to travel, your options of regions to visit after seeing Machu Picchu will be limited. It’s important to note, especially if you are arriving to Peru from the United States, your itinerary is going to be 6 Days / 5 Nights minimum in order to see Machu Picchu and spend an evening in Cusco. Altitude sickness is no joke, and if you try to see the Seventh Wonder of the World in a hurry, you are likely to become very ill and ruin many days of your journey. Here is why…

The only main international airport in Peru is in Lima, the seaside capital city. In order to get to Machu Picchu, one must fly domestically from Lima to Cusco, where the altitude is around 12,500 ft.. To prevent altitude sickness, we greet our travelers at the airport in Cusco for a driver and guide take them to the Sacred Valley of the Incas, where the altitude is around 9,800 ft.. Here, spend a few nights at a lovely hotel like Sol Y Luna Lodge & Spa or Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba to become acclimatized and partake in some amazing day tours before continuing to Machu Picchu at around 7,800 ft. elevation.

Salt Mines Peru TourSalt Mines at Maras: A Lovely Experience in the Sacred Valley of the Incas

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Hike or Take a Train to Machu Picchu

Depending on whether you’d like to hike to Machu Picchu or take the train,  you will need to either spend a night in Aguas Calientes or return to Cusco via train. We certainly recommend taking the Hiram Bingham Train (pictured below) for an open bar with appetizers, 3-course meal, and live music along the way in a 1920’s style elegant train. When planning your journey with one of our trip designers, we will help you decide what is best. Check out our Top 8 Treks in Peru blog to learn about more options of hiking to Machu Picchu and other areas of Peru.

Singing and dancing on the Hiram Bingham Train

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What to do After Machu Picchu?

Finally, after exploring Machu Picchu, you will return to Cusco by train and stay the night. At this point of the journey, your body will be fully acclimatized and ready for the next destination when you rise the next day. Some destinations such as Manu National Park, Apu Ausangate (Rainbow Mountains), or adventure activities like white water rafting or mountain biking are a driving distance from Cusco. Otherwise, there are domestic flights to nearly any other region of Peru (some with a layover in Lima — see recommendations at the bottom of this blog). For example, consider flying from Cusco to Iquitos after visiting Machu Picchu for a Peruvian Amazon Cruise aboard the Delfin 1, where you and your loved ones can enjoy exploring the jungle in style.

Best Amazon CruisesA couple enjoying the hot tub on Delfin 1 in Iquitos, Peru

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When Should You Visit Peru?

The peak of the Dry season in Peru is from June – August which attracts the most tourist since you will likely not encounter rain at Machu Picchu. Although, Peru is a very diverse destination and while some areas of the country might be rainy or cold, some coastal areas are perfect to visit. The main takeaway is that the shoulder seasons (March – May) and (Sept-August) are great times to visit Machu Picchu during the transitions of the rainy and dry season. Sure, you might encounter some rain, but you will also experience sunshine and less people at the ancient Citadel.

Plaza de Armas: Cusco, Peru

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What to do in Peru if You’ve Already Seen Machu Picchu?

If you’re like me, after you see Machu Picchu and maybe one or two other regions of Peru, you will be itching to go back for more. Luckily for you, a second or even third journey to Peru can be as exciting or even more wonderful as the first. Below we have compiled a gallery of some of our favorite destinations to see in Peru beyond Machu Picchu.

For more interesting articles, make sure to visit https://blog.feedspot.com/travel_magazines/ and see why were chosen as one of the top travel publications on the worldwide web!

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Travel to Peru in 2020: Best Destinations Beyond Machu Picchu:

Lima

The Peruvian Amazon Gallery 

Lake Titicaca 

Southern Peru: Islas Ballestas, Pisco Region, Huacachina Oasis, Nazca Lines, Arequipa & Colca Canyon

Northern Peru: Máncora, Tumbes, Chachapoyas, the Lost City of Kuelap, & Gocta Falls

Galapagos Islands & Quito Ecuador

Did you know that visiting Machu Picchu & Galapagos Islands in the same journey is a great way to see both destinations conveniently? Due to direct flights from Lima to Guayaquil or Quito, Ecuador — this multi-destination journey links well. If you ask me, the best way to combine the two countries is by flying from Lima to Quito in the early afternoon, so that you arrive in Quito around 4:00 p.m.. From there, we will organize a private transfer from the airport to your hotel, and book a dinner at ZaZu Restaurant (part of the Relais & Chateaux collection) or similar for a taste of Quito’s finest cuisine. The following day spend a full-day exploring the city or going on a lovely trek with another overnight stay in Quito. The next morning, return to the airport and continue to Darwin’s Archipelago, the magical Galapagos Islands.

In Galapagos you will have to choose whether you want to explore via land, sea, or both? Read more about the Galapagos Great Debate to see which one suits you and your group the best.

Atacama, Chile

Due to a new flight offered by LATAM that runs directly from Lima to Calama (Atacama Desert, Chile), these two destinations are now fantastic to combine. Imagine yourself going from seeing one of the Seven Wonders of the World where ruins are covered in lush green vegetation among a towering mountain surrounded by a flowing river, to feeling like you’re walking on the moon and looking at flamingos in the distance? Sounds nice doesn’t it? If so, let us treat you to this multi-destination combo by contacting us today!

To learn more about this region of Chile, check out our Atacama Desert Experience page and consider staying at Awasi Atacama.

Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection of itineraries, hotels, villas, and ships to choose from here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.

Insider’s Guide: Uruguay Wine

When you think about the best wines in South America, often Argentina’s world-famous Malbec vines in Mendoza, or Chile’s verdant Central Wine Valley come instantly to mind. However, there’s a new kid on the block, a country whose winery scene is every bit as enticing as Chile or Argentina and there are boutique vineyards, rolling countryside and top South American culinary tours to back it up; that country is Uruguay. This country, often compared similarly to Wyoming in the United States, actually has been producing quality wines since the 18th century, so here’s our insider access advice for the best wine regions, grapes and gastronomic experiences in the country—you may be surprised by what this pocket-sized place provides!

montevideo wine tours

Montevideo: Uruguay Wine by the Sea

Magnificent Montevideo manages to beautifully balance all of the attractions you’d expect from a cosmopolitan capital city, with countryside, boutique vineyards, and tasting tours also on its doorstep. Such a mix makes Montevideo quite a unique South American city, and with wine country within close driving distance of town, you’ll soon notice that some of Uruguay’s finest wine labels and exclusive harvests find their way onto plenty of restaurant menus too.

Yet the best way to experience everything that the Montevideo wine region has to offer is always by participating in a unique tour and tasting the wines straight from the barrels themselves. This is usually accompanied by a multi-course lunch featured with a simple spread of artisan cheese, crusty bread and cured meats; delicious. Our expert trip designers will help plan the perfect tour and tasting for you and your group.

In particular, the wider Montevideo region is known for growing Tannat, Tempranillo, Albariño, Chardonnay and Merlot grapes on its mostly flat terroirs, thanks to several boutique cellars such as Bodegas Bouza, Spinoglio, Stagnari, Carrau, Santa Rosa, and the Pizzorno Winery among them. Even if visiting for a long weekend while staying in Buenos Aires on a tour of Argentina, you can easily squeeze in a Montevideo vineyard day trip while here and still have time to see the rest of the city’s many highlights, plus the beach, of course. A great way to see this region is by booking a custom-tailored private wine journey to Uruguay like our VIK and VINES program.

Canelones: Wineries in the Countryside 

North of Montevideo you find Canelones, an inland stretch of mixed soil types, mild winter weather, lots of rain and long sunny summers which help stand this region out as Uruguay’s top wine producing spot, for Tannat, the ‘National Grape’.

Whether on a day trip from Montevideo or staying a little longer, we recommend checking out one of the smaller vineyard tours. Unlike the more popular vineyards, these are typically hosted by the owners themselves which makes for an authentic and rare experience. There are too many great winemakers to mention across the entire region, though Artesana Winery, Juanicó, and Bodegas Marichal, Filgueira and Pisano are a good place to start. For more details or a proposal itinerary, reach out to us by phone or email to discuss your Uruguay trip ideas with one of our expert trip designers.

Wineries in Canelones, Uruguay

Maldonado: Uruguay Wine Growing Region

You may not have heard of it, but boutique Bodega Garzón in Uruguay’s coastal wine growing region of Maldonado, recently fell second in a list of the World’s Best Vineyards—no small accolade! It’s also been honored as the New World Winery of the Year and if that weren’t enough, Bodega Garzón also occupies a scenic hilltop setting, making the most of the perfect ballast soil plains which surround it. This is a true fine wine experience for sure, with their Albarino, Petit Verdot, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Franc and Tannat grapes being especially good, ideal with one of Bodega Garzón popular BBQ/firepit gourmet lunches during a vineyard tour.

Though there is far more to Maldonado than the recently recognized Bodega Garzón, as this picturesque part of Uruguay is home to plenty of equally refined growers and small-scale labels. Among them, Viña Eden is a good choice for quality Chardonnay and Cerro Negro varieties—accompanied by a great view, you can head to Altos de la Ballena Winery for Syrah, Merlot, Viognier and a long lunch close to Punta del Este, or Bodega Oceánica José Ignacio where striking onsite artworks, sculptures and displays are as important as the wines; to name a few. All of this, plus the rugged beauty of Uruguay’s southern coast to enjoy between tastings, makes a wine tour in Maldonado hard to resist.

best wine tours uruguay

Carmelo: The Oldest Vineyards and Uruguay Wine

For a real travel experience and some of the most boutique Uruguayan vineyards around, head to Carmelo, a sleepy town near the Rio de la Plata that’s primed for laidback tasting tours and cycling between the wineries. This region of Uruguay may be off the main tourist trail (for now), but they’ve been making wine here since the mid-19th century, as you’ll see with a visit to Almacén de la Capilla, home to some of the oldest vines in the country. Indeed Almacén de la Capilla has not changed much in its over 150-year history, so coming here is a real trip back in time too, on top of those great tasting wines.

Bodega El Legado is another must-visit while in Carmelo, known as it is for serving a full gastronomic experience of locally sourced bites, walnuts, creamy cheeses, chutneys and freshly baked bread to pair with each glass. Tannat is the main grape here, with the vines well adapted to Carmelo’s unique terroir, and producing award-winning labels as a result.

The rural pace of life, untouched countryside, gravel tracks and quiet bays of Carmelo seem to fit the idea of a Uruguay wine tour perfectly, with intimate experiences, privately guided vineyard tours, lunch with the owners, homecooked BBQs and some first-class labels here. Then, the prestigious Narbona Wine Lodge and CampTinto certainly take things up a notch in terms of luxury levels, though other Carmelo cellars such as Bodega Familia Irurtia, Bodega Zubizarreta and Bernardi are much humbler affairs that reflect a typical Carmelo spirit.

best places to eat colonia del sacramento

Why Book a Uruguay Wine Tour with Latin Excursions?

In short, the secret of Uruguay being one of South America’s finest wine producing countries won’t be kept for long. Some of the grapes here create exquisite batches of world-beating boutique labels, and the scenery also speaks for itself. Given that Uruguay is still not on everybody’s radar (compared with similar experiences in Argentina or Chile, for example), you get an authentic experience with the locals and not as many tourist as other destinations in South America. This fact alone, is reason enough for any self-respecting wine-lover to book a trip to Uruguay, and let us organize lip-smacking tasting tours throughout your journey.

uruguay wine tours

Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection of itineraries, hotels, villas, and ships to choose from here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.

Best Places to Visit in South America for 2020

Latin Excursions: Central & South America Travel Planning Experts

As the end of 2019 approaches, we would like to take a moment to thank each of you for your ongoing support of Latin Excursions. We are continuously seeking out the most rare and unique experiences in South America to offer you, and this year we made great discoveries. That is why we have compiled some of our favorite finds for the new year. 

Ilha Grande Brazil

Central & South America Travel Ideas for 2020:

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Brazil’s Hidden Gems

Get ready for a journey through southern Brazil by entering the country through Rio de Janeiro and stopping in Paraty and São Paulo before reaching Pantanal. In November we visited this region to update our Hidden Gems of Brazil pre-designed journey and pave a new route. We discovered a unique blend of city visits, beach/island hopping, culinary outings, and wildlife viewing experiences starting in Rio de Janeiro and ending in Pantanal. Rio is a great introduction to Brazil, but the adventure really begins with a visit to Paraty — a true colonial gem. Idyllic and located on a fjord-like coastal area with tropical rain forests between São Paulo and Rio, this region is rich in history and one of the finest locations in Brazil. We combine this visit with a fascinating farming experience in the mountains, a visit to a private island in a spectacular setting and island tours that will dazzle you and leave you wanting to explore Brazil further.

After exploring Paraty we take you further south to São Paulo and continue via small plane to Caiman Ecological Refuge in Pantanal — the best destination for a South America safari where you can see jaguars and other unique animals in their wild habitat. Our Founder Eric Sheets described the remote region of Pantanal as:

“a unique wildlife gem that compares to Galapagos Islands in the sense of the proximity of getting close to wildlife. There are many opportunities for animal sightings here from the majestic jaguar to the blue hyacinth macaw. This is a region with potentially the best sightings on our planet to see a jaguar and is a rich prime safari experience on the continent of South America, so get ready to disconnect from the city and reconnect with nature in southern Brazil’s ecological treasure.”

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Galapagos Islands for Families and Groups of Friends

Are you ready for the ultimate family or reunion villa experience in Galapagos Islands? One of our most exciting new travel program in 2020 comes in the form of a seaside villa on San Cristobal Island in the Galapagos Islands. In October our sales team made a visit to this property, only to realize that it is now the top land-based accommodation in Darwin’s Archipelago. When you book a 5day/4night stay with us here, we include two full-day boat tours to neighboring islands on a private-charter yacht (12 passengers max) and a day of land excursions to the sites of your choice on Isla San Cristobal. making this a completely exclusive experience for your group. Visit our website to learn more about Villa Galapagos 4.

Villa Galapagos 4 is perfect for those coming off of a yacht charter, like the Grace or Passion — a few of our favorite boats in the archipelago. If you and your group would like an island-stay combined with a few nights at sea, consider the Elite boat 4day/3night itinerary to board after your stay at the villa. Traveling with a group in Galapagos is the way to go in 2020, so allow us to help create your dream journey to Galapagos and be prepared to see what the entire world was like two million years ago on this remote, exclusive adventure experience.

Galapagos Catamaran

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Panama’s Caribbean: Sail to San Blas Islands

If Panama isn’t on your list of destinations to visit in 2020, then it is time to reconsider your travel plans because we have some great new offerings. Last June we joined our friends at El Otro Lado to find more insider access experiences near Portobelo and quickly realized that this region is highly overlooked in many aspects. Our new itinerary “Panama’s Caribbean by Catamaran” takes you through the through the same waters that English pirate Sir Francis Drake once navigated, from Portobelo Bay to San Blas Islands and back through Gatun Lake.

For centuries, the Guna Yala people have lived on the San Blas Islands, and their culture is still vibrant today. When planning your dream journey to Panama with one of our travel designers, make sure to ask us about this experience for a day of cultural immersion.

best way to get to san blas islands panama

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Panama to Cartagena by Catamaran

Imagine yourself navigating through the remote Caribbean alongside white-sand islands with healthy reefs to snorkel with your best friends or family. Sounds nice, right? We have created a new journey where you sail from Portobelo, Panama to Cartagena, Colombia on a private-charter catamaran with a captain, chef, and guide with you the entire time. From Our Panama’s Caribbean by Catamaran program combines perfectly with the following pre-designed journey in Colombia. Although, instead of arriving by plane in Cartagena, now you have the option to arrive via catamaran from San Blas Islands. Talk about showing up in style! For a glimpse of what this experience is like, view the attached video “Crossing the Caribbean by Catamaran

*The route we design for your itinerary will depend on the time of year you anticipate going. From December to April, we recommended that you go from Cartagena to Panama, and from May to November vise-versa.*

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Colombia’s Colonial Gem

Are you ready to explore Cartagena and one of Colombia’s colonial gems? Cartagena is an exciting entry to Colombia, similar to the vibe of New Orleans with live music, dancing, and art on every corner, you won’t have a hard time meeting the friendly locals. Barichara is a historic small town in the Colombian Andes with boutique hotels and villa opening the doors to sustainable tourism, helping benefit the locals and providing them with jobs.

These two destinations that combine well logistically and offer a variety of experiences from salsa dancing, rum tasting, culinary adventures, colonial city tours, hikes, and much more. Captivating colonial towns, exotic Caribbean islands and tantalizing cuisine; this luxury cultural tour of Colombia promises to be a feast for all the senses. There’s no end of cultural hotspots to discover across the country, but this sample itinerary focuses on two hubs in northern Colombia so you can really get under the skin of each region. This program is ideal for anyone looking to visit Colombia in style, while taking the road less traveled with excellent service, logistics and accommodations along the way.

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New Destinations Coming Soon:

Antarctica, Bolivia, & Costa Rica

We are excited to announce in 2020 we will be offering journeys to Antarctica, Costa Rica, and Bolivia all which will be on our website soon. Make sure to follow us on Instagram, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Pinterest and stay tuned!

visit antarctica 2022

Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection of itineraries, hotels, villas, and ships to choose from here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.

What Goes into Making the World’s Most Expensive Chocolate?

A few years ago while seeking out the most rare and unique experiences we can offer in Ecuador, I was invited to a chocolate tasting class in Cumbayá. This small mountain town is booming with inspired startups and modern expressions of the culture, like an Ecuadorian Williamsburg right outside of Quito.

cumbayá ecuador

Galapagos Safari Camp x To’ak Chocolate

Our excursion hosts at Galapagos Safari Camp took our group to their headquarters in Cumbayá and introduced us to the makers of To’ak Chocolate. GSC partnered with them to make the first ever Galapagos-sourced chocolate, so they provided us with a presentation of their product to explain what magic goes into the making of a $260 bar – perhaps the world’s priciest chocolate. This was not my first rodeo enjoying fine chocolate and my interest was piqued.

“Why would anyone pay that much money for a candy bar?”

chocolate tasting in ecuador

Elevating the Chocolate Tasting Experience

To’ak Chocolate’s mission statement is:

“Transforming the way the world experiences dark chocolate, elevating its making and tasting onto the level of vintage wine and aged whiskey.”

The presentation pace was designed at such a delectable rhythm as to pull you out of time and space as they wrap you fully in their journey and carefully, richly draw your taste buds into a full palette flavor. I quickly began to realize that I was in for a real treat.

Co-Founder Carl Schweizer told us that they began To’ak “to preserve a seriously endangered cacao species.” All of the cacao we consume has been rapidly produced at a rate that has caused different breeds of species to combine and form hybrids. It is incredibly rare to find a pure cacao tree, but Carl and the To’ak team managed to find this rare, purebred cacao species before it became extinct.

Finding the Ecuadorian Nacional Cacao

They searched far and wide throughout the cloud forests of Ecuador, going village to village in search of this tree. After a long exploration, they finally found Piedra de Plata, a remote land region in the cloud forest, seemingly disconnected from the rest of the country until the 1990’s. The Nacional cacao tree had been preserved by the locals; some of the trees were 100 years old when they discovered them. DNA analysis confirmed the tree’s pure genetics, allowing this small region to become To’ak’s source of divine history and opportunity. Of course, making sure that the locals benefit from this historic finding as well.

A Rare Experience for Your Taste Buds

Tasting the chocolate is an enlightening experience in itself. We first tried the raw cacao bean and tasted the shell. As expected, not much flavor, but certainly had a strange smokey-dry taste. Next, we tried their dark chocolate bar with absolutely no additives. Making sure to appreciate the unique aroma first, I took a bite and chased it with some of the most amazing Caribbean dark rum I had ever tried. This combination was quite an adventure for my taste buds, and I am confident that I will never taste anything like it.

The First Ever Single Origin Chocolate Bar from Galapagos

At that time, Galapagos Safari Camp was helping To’ak source the first ever Galapagos-based chocolate bar, but it had not been released yet. Fast-forward to now, this signature bar has officially been released and will be available to purchase online in the new year. This is the first single-origin chocolate ever produced from the unique region of Galapagos Islands. Thanks for the wonderful efforts Galapagos Safari Camp & To’ak, we are proud to work with those who preserve Ecuador’s environment and pave the way for sustainable tourism. 

If you are interested in trying To’ak chocolate before visiting us in Ecuador & Galapagos, check out https://toakchocolate.com  and order yours today!

The First Ever Single Origin Chocolate Bar from Galapagos

When planning your dream journey to Ecuador with Latin Excursions, ask us about staying at the Galapagos Safari Camp and incorporating this chocolate tasting experience into your itinerary. Although, instead of having the tasting at the Safari Camp’s office in Cumbayá, we will arrange it at the Guayasamín Foundation Museum – the former residence of Oswaldo Guayasamín, one of the most famous Ecuadorian artists, who died in 1999. As one can imagine, this house has a stunning gallery and a terrace overlooking Quito’s valley.

Fundacion Guayasamin

Insider Access Experiences from San Cristobal in Galapagos Islands

Latin Excursions: A Team of Galapagos Passionates

Planning a journey to Galapagos Islands is not a simple task. With the amount of information on the internet and nearly a dozen islands to choose from, it can quickly become overwhelming. At Latin Excursions, our trip designers will help you through every step of planning your dream journey to Darwin’s Archipelago. Our team is constantly doing site visits and meeting directly with the boat owners, property owners, guides and drivers to guarantee quality service from start to finish. We’re also on the hunt to find the most rare and unique experiences in Galapagos Islands.

What better place to do so than Galapagos Islands, where our Founder Eric Sheets first visited at the young age of 14 and later inspired him to create Latin Excursions. Twenty years later, Eric is still utilizing his passion of seeking out these unmapped experiences to share with the world. That’s exactly why we are excited to share with you a true gem of an experience that we’ve discovered on San Cristobal Island in Galapagos.

Experiences Only Available When Staying at Villa Galapagos 4

Before we begin listing these new adventure activities that we’ve discovered, it’s important to note that they are specifically designed for those staying at Villa Galapagos 4. If you haven’t already, check out Villa Galapagos 4 of our private Galapagos Villa Collection. Here, three neighboring oceanside Villas all with their own heated pool and jacuzzi await your arrival. This property is much more than a villa, they offer incredible adventure opportunities for snorkeling, scuba diving, free diving, catch & release fishing, surfing, and hiking all beginning and ending at your private villa! Allow us to visually break them down for you in this blog.

Surfing Galapagos Islands — San Cristobal

Surfing at Galapagos Islands is a unique adventure opportunity, to say the least. We invite you and your group to come stay at Villa Galapagos 4 of our private collection, where we provide travelers the opportunity to ride some of the best waves in the world. The only thing you will have to worry about is sharing your waves with friendly dolphins and sea lions!

Scuba Dive Kicker Rock

Scuba diving at Kicker Rock is a popular excursion especially for divers who want to scuba dive with schools of hammerhead sharks, without having to participate in a scuba diving liveaboard to visit Darwin & Wolf Islands. The main advantages of scuba diving Kicker Rock while staying at Villa Galapagos 4 is the strategic location, exclusivity (you and your group will be with a private guide and captain on your own boat), and the quality of service. Our diving guides are all highly trained and will make sure to follow the safest protocols and take you to the absolute best areas to view wildlife. This is a diving experience that will leave you wanting to come back for more!

Snorkel & Explore Isla Lobos

Isla Lobos is a tiny islet off the west coast of San Cristobal Island. If you are seeking to swim with as many playful sea lions as possible, make sure to ask us about this tour when we are helping you plan your dream journey to Galapagos Islands at Villa Galapagos 4.

Hike & Snorkel Tijeretas Hill in Galapagos Islands

Tijeretas Hill is located on San Cristobal Island and is only a 45 minute from the center of Puerto Boquerizo Moreno. Great for a fun hike with beautiful views, or a snorkeling adventure in the cove below with playful sea lions and sea turtles.

Scuba Dive a World War I Ship Wreck

Galapagos Islands is known for its magnificent marine and terrestrial biodiversity. Travelers from around the world visit Galapagos to scuba dive, snorkel, and enjoy nature. This unique diving experience features the Caragua Ship from World War I that was sunken over 100 years ago. It is one of the only shipwreck dives in the archipelago!

Eco Fishing Experience

Our Catch and Release fishing program from Villa Galapagos 4 helps support the local residents of the island by providing them with work outside of commercial fishing and allowing them to teach the best practices to travelers who are seeking this extraordinary experience.

Snorkel & Free Dive Punta Pitt

Punta Pitt is located on the northeast side of San Cristobal Island and is known for its fantastic volcano peaks. On this experience, we will take you there by boat for excellent scuba diving, snorkeling, or free diving in the waters beneath the island peaks.

Why Travel to Panama in 2020?

Panama, a land where the past and present intertwine magnificently. From remote beaches where howler monkeys wake you up with the rising sun, to historic neighborhoods that have unique cuisine on every corner, this destination has something to offer for everyone. High Season (with hot & sunny days) is from December- April, and availability at the best lodges become slim months in advance. Green Season refers to May-November when you’ll have higher humidity and rain. Pack your bags and get ready to visit Panama in 2020!

Travel to Panama

Insider’s Guide to Panama:

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New Extraordinary Journeys & Quick Escapes

We are continually seeking out the best unique and rare experiences to offer our travelers. Last June, I visited Panama to see what is new and happening for the 2020 Green Season. Since returning, our expert team of Trip Designers has created and updated our favorite Extraordinary Journeys & Quick Escapes. If you find yourself wanting to visit Panama and don’t have a week of time to spare, look no further than our option of a long weekend to Panama City.

Our Insider’s Journey Panama: City, Canal, and Wildlife is a great start for anyone who is interested in discovering more about the Panama Canal, but also wants a taste of adventure and history in a span of 5 days total. Learn about the fascinating Fort San Lorenzo in Colon, a major Spanish fort and now UNESCO World Heritage Site. Visit Soberania National Park a 55,000 acre area of protected rain forest where over 525 different species of birds have been identified. End the tour with a VIP tour of the Panama Canal. Discover the Frank Gehry Biodiversity Museum located at the entrance of the Panama canal. Prepare for the journey of a lifetime in a city that keeps the world functioning properly.

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Explore San Blas by Catamaran

The San Blas Islands are one of the Caribbean’s best kept secrets. With little infrastructure on the islands and respect for the local indigenous Caribbean communities who inhabit the islands, travel to this destination can be quite difficult. That is why we have designed a Pirates of the Caribbean-type journey for you (also great for families) on our Panama’s Caribbean by Catamaran Extroardinary Journey. What better way to explore remote white-sand islands and turquoise Caribbean water than sailing the Dutch or Lemon keys? Our 40 ft. Catamaran can comfortably sleep 8 people and we include a chef, captain, and guide. Kayaks, snorkeling, fishing gear, non-alcholic refreshments and other activity gear are included.

Catamaran tours Panama

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Sail from Panama City to Cartagena

If you’re a fan of sailing and would like to explore further than the San Blas Islands, our sailing crew can guide you all the way to Cartagena, Colombia. This crossing takes approximately 36 hours depending on wind conditions. It’s important to note that from the months for December – May you will have to sail from Cartagena to Panama, and vise-versa for the months of June – November. An amazing experience for a honeymoon, group of adventurous friends, families, or multiple couples traveling together.

Rosario Islands Cartagena day trips

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Multi-Destination Travel Planning

Similar to sailing from Panama to Cartagena, we are able to include multiple destinations into one itinerary and organize all of the logistics to make it operate with ease from the moment you land to the moment you return home. For those traveling from the United States or Canada, Panama is a convenient stopping point. If visiting Patagonia is on your bucket list along with Panama, simply tell one of our trip designers and they will connect the two countries for you in the most logistically-sound way.

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El Otro Lado in Portobelo

Before or after sailing San Blas, we encourage travelers to spend at least 3 nights at El Otro Lado in Portobelo, Panama for a few reasons. First is easy accessibility, our Catamaran can pick you up or drop you off from their entry. The property is located across from Portobelo town, now a UNESCO World Heritage Site for it’s unique Congo culture, so it’s most easily accessible by boat and no roads actually lead to the property from the town.

Sailing in Panama

El Otro Lado is a true passion project and a cultural-gem thanks to excellent management from a group of owners who care to preserve it. Hundreds of years ago, Portobelo was a major port town for the Spanish where they would fill their ships with gold from the Aztec and Inca to bring back to Europe. This high demand brought slavery to Panama, and since being abolished, Portobelo is now a vibrant small town full of Caribbean music and dance. Our walking tour in Portobelo features a visit to a local music school where the children practice the drumming music of their ancient ancestors, and if you are lucky, you might be able to jump in a jam fest!

Portobelo, Panama

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Panama in Style – From Caribbean to the Pacific and Beyond

If you are looking to spend 9 days discovering the best of Panama, look no further. Our classic Panama In Style Extraordinary Journey offers the best of both worlds – unique cultural & historical experiences, along with adventure and barefoot luxury. Start by landing in Panama City and begin a day of discovery from the American Trade Hotel in the Casco Viejo neighborhood, another UNESCO World Heritage Site. Later on, visit the Miraflores Locks Museum and watch massive ships cross the canal, then continue to visit the native Embera tribe before relaxing in the cool highlands of Boquete. Here expect fun experiences like partaking in a cheese making class at an organic farm and taste some of the world’s best coffee at a plantation owned by locals. Last but certainly not least, you will end this journey at wonderful Isla Palenque.

Panama City Adventures

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Isla Palenque

Recently, Isla Palenque was announced “A Unique Lodge of the World” by National Geographic, Isla Palenque, is a private island resort on 400 acres adjacent to the Gulf of Chiriquí Marine Reserve. This luxury eco-resort offers a sophisticated hideaway for guests to relish endless opportunities for both adventure and relaxation. Dine on contemporary cuisine reminiscent of Panama’s cocina tipica. Rest in lavish rooms inspired by island life. Indulge in the soothing sounds of nature at this revered resort that quite literally means “sanctuary.” Take advantage of the 6-bedroom beachside villa estate, great for families or groups of friends traveling together. Who wouldn’t want to relax by this pool with Pacific views and fruquent wildlife visitors such as howler monkeys and sloths?

Your Travel Experience is Our Passion

At Latin Excursions, we have a team of travel designers, visionaries, and operations specialist who truly care about creating memorable experiences for you and getting you ready to travel to Panama. Our goal is to make travel meaningful and fun, so that you come home feeling inspired by the people and places you visited. Whether you want a quick escape to simply relax on a remote island in a beach side casita, or want to dance the night away in the Caribbean with a local Afro-drum circle and end the night in an astonishing ocean/pool-side villa, we have you covered for Panama. Contact us to begin planning your dream journey.

Portobelo Street Art Tour

Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection of itineraries, hotels, villas, and ships to choose from here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.

Why Travel to Brazil in 2020?

Picture pristine rainforests teeming with life, long crescents of powdery sand lapped by cerulean seas, hypnotic dances in the streets of preserved colonial towns and the energetic buzz of lively barrios at night; this is just a snapshot of what a Brazilian vacation looks like. This vast South American nation has long attracted visitors from far and wide, thanks to its enticing mix of culture and scenery, but why travel to Brazil in 2020? From visa-free entry to exciting new hotel openings, here is the lowdown on why you should start planning a Brazil trip for 2020.

US Citizens Can Now Visit Brazil Visa-free

Rio de Janiero trips

Did you miss our recent blog announcing the New Visa Requirements for United States Citizens Visiting Brazil? Well, if not, on June 17, 2019, the Brazilian government lifted visa restrictions for American and Canadian tourists, meaning that visitors from the USA and Canada can now stay for up to 90 days a year in Brazil. Not only does this make Brazil trips in 2020 more convenient, but also pocket friendly, as you no longer need to pay to enter this amazing South American country. Previously, it would have costed you $160 to do so.

Strong Currency Exchange Rate

Brazil’s currency (the Real) goes real far now against the dollar making the exchange rate is better than it has been in the last decade. So, now that it’s become even easier to visit Brazil, you can discover a true South American gem and its myriad delights in 2020—visa-free while getting the most “bang for your buck!”

Explore Paraty and Ilha Grande: Brazil’s newly established UNESCO World Heritage Site

Ilha Grande Brazil

UNESCO have just announced (in July 2019) that the Brazilian town of Paraty and nearby Ilha Grande have been selected as new World Heritage Sites, an amazing accomplishment for this beautiful corner of southern Brazil. Recognizing the rich heritage and natural wealth of Paraty and Ilha Grande, UNESCO has established the region as a mixed culture and biodiversity site, which is the first ever in Brazil—other UNESCO World Heritage Sites in the country are either designated as cultural or biodiverse separately, as opposed to being part of both categories at once. With this new UNESCO status, the region can look forward to greater economic support to help preserve its exceptional colonial architecture and beautiful natural sites, meaning that Paraty and Ilha Grande will hold on to its inimitable charm and picturesque scenery.

Discover Paraty

Paraty is a gorgeous little colonial town clutching the shores of Brazil’s southern coast, with cobbled lanes flanked by pretty pastel facades dating back to the 17th and 18th centuries. Spend the day exploring the main square and ornate churches around town while popping into artisan boutiques, galleries, and outdoor cafes along the way. We are not surprised that this top Brazilian destination has been given such highly prestigious status, considering it was here that gold was shipped over to Europe, having been mined in nearby Minas Gerais. You’ll definitely be able to see the distinctive Portuguese influence through the architecture and art of that era that still is vibrant to this day!

UNESCO World Heritage Site Paraty

Aside from the cultural and historical aspect of this region in Brazil, it has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site thanks to its natural beauty. Wedged between the verdant Serra da Bocaina Mountains and sparkling Atlantic Ocean, Paraty flaunts a breathtaking backdrop that is simply stunning to witness, as tree-carpeted peaks rise above pristine crescents of sand and islands flung offshore. It makes up part of the Brazilian Atlantic Forest, which is one of the top five biodiversity locations in the world, sheltering a vast array of species including Jaguars, Woolly Spider Monkeys and White-lipped Peccaries, all of which are sadly under threat.

While here on holiday, you can go island-hopping to any of the 65 islets rising above azure waters, take your pick from 200 beaches and go hiking through the Atlantic Forest. Best of all, Paraty and Ilha Grande are just a four-hour drive from bustling Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo, making them even more irresistible to explore.

Rio de Janeiro: World Capital of Architecture 2020

Rio de Janeiro Architecture

Another recent announcement from UNESCO is that Rio de Janeiro—South America’s most iconic city—will be the World Capital of Architecture in 2020. The theme for the year will be ‘All the worlds. Just one world’, with the city being expected to tie in a variety of events and celebrations to this particular theme, so anyone with a passion for architecture and art should seriously consider visiting Rio in 2020.

The aim of this designation is to provide ‘an international forum for debates about pressing global challenges from the perspectives of culture, cultural heritage, urban planning and architecture.’ Throughout the year, Rio will undoubtedly showcase its distinctive architecture and unmistakable culture, while promoting exciting creative projects as well as one of the key goals of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development: ‘Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable.’

Festive Season Highlights and Options

If you’re looking for another excuse to hotfoot it to Brazil in 2020, and you’ve always wanted to catch the famous Carnival festival, be sure to visit between February 21 and 26 when the main celebrations take place. New year’s Eve is also a highlight of the summer with with lavish parties thrown all over the country. Copacabana in Rio de Janeiro is definitely the most popular destination to visit, but if you are looking for a more secluded celebration, try Trancoso: Brazil’s rustic chic paradise with a great New Year celebration in store. All this and more, can be relished on a 2020 Brazil tour with Latin Excursions.

Enjoy an insider’s view of Trancoso in the video below with drone footage captured recently when I brought my family to see my birthplace of Brazil!

New Direct Flights to Brazil

Although the USA is already well-linked to Brazilian airports, American Airlines and LATAM are looking to team up to provide new direct routes between South America and the USA. Americans are now able to travel from Miami to Belo Horizonte or Recife, and rumor has it that flights will soon be available from Austin and San Jose to São Paulo; so stay tuned…

New Hotels in Brazil for 2020

In 2020 you could also be among the first visitors at highly anticipated boutique hotels opening up around the country, from the city of Salvador to the Amazon Rainforest. Here’s our pick of the top new hotels in Brazil to check into in 2020:

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1) Fasano Salvador

Salvador Fasano

One of Salvador’s few truly luxurious offerings in the heart of Pelourinho, the city’s old town, is the new Fasano hotel which treads the perfect balance between grandeur and understated five-star standards. Discreet but impeccable service is at the heart of this esteemed hotel group, and their Salvador outpost is no different. But what is novel about this particular property is its exquisite heritage, owed to the 1930s building in which it is encased—the former headquarters of A Tarde, the newspaper, rising into the skyline above Castro Alves Square to afford views of All Saints Bay. In fact, the building is Cultural Heritage-listed, so a real privilege to stay in.

Many of the 70 rooms and suites provide views of the bay, while elsewhere in the Fasano Salvador you could take advantage of a rooftop pool and terrace, spa, gym and Italian restaurant; that is, when you’re not stepping out to explore the Pelourinho and all its delights

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2) Fasano Belo Horizonte and Trancoso

Fasano Belo Horizante

Though that’s not all from Fasano, as yet more hotel openings can be expected from this first-class group. One has just opened in Belo Horizonte, which is actually the city’s first ever five-star hotel, spotlighting the amazing cultural offerings of this lesser-known Brazilian town through its events venue, live jazz music in the bar and Italian cuisine courtesy of the Gero Belo Horizonte restaurant. 

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3) Anantara Maraú Bahia

Also studded on Brazil’s north-eastern coast in the state of Bahia is the new Anantara hotel, a gorgeous beach retreat set between Atlantic Forest and swathes of sun-kissed sand. Anantara is a highly reputable hotel brand with properties all over Asia and the Indian Ocean, but it is just about to establish its first resort in the Americas—the Anantara Maraú Bahia, Brazil—which will throw open its doors at the end of 2019.

A stay here promises access to the stunning beach; fabulous facilities including a pool, tennis courts, Anantara Spa and gym; activities like horse riding, surfing, deep sea fishing and diving; plus the chance to tuck in to exquisite Bahian cuisine or sip cocktails at the bar. In addition, while based at the Anantara Maraú Bahia, you can experience the local Afro-Brazilian culture too, discover hidden waterfalls or sail to secret islands; it’s going to be a game-changer.

Insider Access: Combine Remote Sand Dunes and Untouched Amazon

Take a brief visual journey of one of natures most exotic sand dune parks called Lencois National Park in the video below. This destination is a great place for family, couples or friends to explore in 2020. It’s truly one of the next great frontiers in travel in South America, and we can combine with a private yacht experience through an untouched region of the remote Amazon jungle!

Brazil Amazon yacht

Travel to Central America and Mexico with Latin Excursions

For the past 15 years, we at Latin Excursions have been providing exceptional travel services in South America. First, beginning in the Galapagos, then expanding throughout all of South America and into Panama. Although these destinations have been our primary offerings, we in fact have stellar programs throughout Central America and Mexico too!

Costa Rica Travel Experts

One of our Travel Designers, Susan, is based in Costa Rica and has lived there over ten years and traveled extensively though Central America. Our Travel Visionary, Gordon, lives there and gains inspiration from the beautiful country to help fuel our company with creativity. Finally, because of our new product launch, we even moved part of our internal ops team to Costa Rica. This allows us to provide in-country service and 24×7 assistance for your journey. Check out the video below to get a glimpse of what you can expect to see in Costa Rica with Latin Excursions.

Brand New Quick Escapes to Central America and Mexico

Our Quick Escapes in Latin America are specifically designed for those seeking an authentic adventure experience with family and friends, but simply don’t have to the time to spend a week or more traveling. These programs are typically no more than 6 Days / 5 Nights long and include one destination easily accessible from most major airports in the United States and South America. Even though these are “quick escapes” we recommend contacting us at least 3 months in advance to book as the best villas and entry permits to remote ruins can sell out fast.

We selectively pre-design each of these itineraries to highlight the most unique accommodations, tours and experiences that these destinations have to offer within the timeframe. Keep in mind that each of these journeys are customizable if you reach out to us by email or phone. At that point one of our expert trip designers will help create a special itinerary catered to the experiences of your preference.

Explore Guatemala

A great destination full of rich Mayan culture, freshwater lakes, mountains, historic ruins, and of course, jungle experiences. Recently, we sent an experienced world traveler and his wife on an extraordinary journey to Guatemala. Here is what he had to say about their experience.

“We had a great trip! Thanks for everything… The Tikal tour was excellent. Our guide, Eduardo, was very knowledgeable and personable. We liked La Lancha very much. Not easy to reach by land (easier by boat from Flores), but well worth it. Great rooms with a beautiful view across the lake. Excellent meals and beverages. We had a great hike at Ixpanpahu… Blancaneaux was beautiful, very nice room with a deck beside the river. Here, we also took advantage of tubing down the river, which was a fun mini adventure.”

Guatemala with Latin Excursions

Better Belize It!

Are you a lover of the ocean, but also want to visit remote Mayan ruins in the jungle? If so, there is no better destination better to immerse in than Belize in Central America. Scuba diving and snorkeling here are absolutely world class and the country has done great efforts to protect the marine wildlife. The Great Blue Hole is located off of the coast here, which in fact is a difficult dive, but there are so many other great areas to explore if you are a beginner/intermediate diver such as Ambergis Caye,Hol Chan Marine Reserve, Half Moon Caye, The Elbow, Glover’s Reef Atoll, and Gladden Split! At Gladden Split, Whale Sharks are present during the full moon week of April, May and June to feed. Give us a call to book your Belize experience today.

Belize Tours Central America

Luxury Travel in Mexico

Mexico is a huge country and planning where to visit can be difficult. Give us a call and allow our trip designers to provide you with our exclusive experiences offered in the Yucatan Peninsula, Cabo San Lucas, Mexico City, and beyond. In the Yucatan, spend your morning swimming in a private cenote, or exploring Maya ruins without the crowds. In the afternoon, enjoy a candlelit dinner beneath the Mexico sky with the sound of waves crashing the sand in the background. Your experience in Mexico is our passion, contact us today to start planning your dream journey!

explore a cenote in mexico

Why Chartering in the Galapagos is Not Only for the Rich and Famous

At Latin Excursions, we take pride in making your journey a meaningful time with family and friends never to be forgotten. Visiting Galapagos Islands is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to experience Earth as it once was entirely before human civilization. Allow us to create an itinerary that is exactly catered to your interest. What better way than chartering a private yacht?

Charter a Yacht in the Galapagos Islands

Most people don’t know that there are small ship cruising options via small yachts and sailboats in the Galapagos that essentially cost the same amount for a family of 10 paying for small cabins on the boat.

The advantage of chartering a yacht is having absolute access to the right guide for your family, and not being shared with others or strangers, allowing us to customize an itinerary around your interest level in the Galapagos. The private time with family and friends is truly what makes this option unbeatable. Not to mention you are located on some of the most pristine and protected waters on the entire planet, completely away from any major noisy city.

Combine with a Land Tour or Machu Picchu Extension

Are you planning a journey to Machu Picchu, but also want to get a glimpse of the Galapagos? Considering the proximity and convenient flights from Lima to Guayaquil or Quito, chartering a private yacht is the perfect way to capture an all-encompassing glimpse of Darwin’s archipelago. Our expert Trip Designers are masters of crafting unique experiences catered to your interests, so allow them to help you select the perfect yacht and itinerary for your journey.

One way to keep costs down is to shorten the itinerary to 4 or 5 days, if you want to extend some land time in order to do more active adventures you can combine your yacht stay with a private villa, unique hotel, or even glamping stay! We recommend adding a few days before or after at the Galapagos Safari Camp or private Villa Amarilla.

Machu Picchu Latin Excursion

Scuba Dive the Galapagos in Private

Another big advantage of chartering a yacht in the Galapagos is the option to have a professional diving team meet you and your group for the day (or multiple days at various locations)! The way it works is that we coordinate with our diving team and have them greet your yacht in the morning with a small dive boat, then they will take you to certain dive locations privately. Talk about exclusivity!

You can expect to see plenty of playful sea lions, if you’re lucky they might come do a dance for you and your crew!

Scuba dive galapagos with sea lions

Maximize Your Galapagos Experience with Latin Excursions

Imagine seeing a school of 1000 dolphins jump out of the water, since the boat is yours, call the captain to stop and take some photos! The world is yours when you privately charter a yacht in the Galapagos with us. For more information about this option or traveling to the Galapagos in general, Contact Us and sign up for our newsletter to stay up-to-date with our latest promotions!

Galapagos: By Land, Boat, or Both? – The “Great Debate”

17 Years of Custom Trip Planning to the Galapagos

There are many truths and myths about this controversy that can be found on the internet. The information cited below is compiled from more than 17 years designing custom trips to the Galapagos. I use the term, “custom” because travelers can actually create their own fully-personalized trip to the Galapagos when planning with Latin Excursions. Although some companies offer trips that sound “cookie cutter” in design, there are various ways to personalize your trip in order to maximize your excursion around your interests.

Here are a few questions one should ask when considering between different types of trips to the Galapagos:

  • Do you want to incorporate some relaxation on your adventure?

    – For example, would you enjoy having a long walk on the beach and being surprised by how close animals approach you? Every animal in the Galapagos thinks you are their best friend! This is one reason that makes staying on land quite the unique experience.

  • How much time do you see yourself in the water?

    – Galapagos is world-famous for swimming up close with sea lions, penguins, turtles and more! Watch our Marketing and Sales Specialist, Turney Maurer, snorkel with a sea lion gracefully along Isla Daphne Minor.

Galapagos Tour: Snorkel with Sea Lions and Dolphins from Latin Excursions on Vimeo.

  • How active would you like this trip to be?

    – This is a big question one must take in consideration, if you would like to remain more land-based. Most Small Ships definitely have more relaxed day-by-day itineraries.

  • Are you or anyone in your party prone to motion sickness?

    – This is important to consider when entertaining large amounts of time on the water.

What month can you travel?

– This determines which islands you should consider or if you’re better off choosing a land-based stay or extension.


Boat Options: Pros & Cons

Pros:

More exposure and viewing of islands, better snorkeling opportunities, and the fact that you travel to new islands while you are asleep.

Cons:

Costlier in general and less exclusive unless opting for private yacht charter. It can feel regimented with strict National Park rules on the timings of the itineraries. Also, dependent on the time of year, if prone to motion sickness, boats can be more challenging than other months of the year.

Celebrity FLORA from Latin Excursions on Vimeo.

Island Options: Pros & Cons

Pros:

More flexibility with active adventure, more space and privacy, and depending on selected island, you can stay an unlimited amount of time exploring without being limited, compared to a boat itinerary.

Cons:

Less areas covered and less diversity of nature if you have little time

SUP & Snorkel Galapagos

Pro-Tips from Latin Excursions to Maximize Your Galapagos Experience

Boat/Island Combination:

If you want a good mix of the two, the combination is arguably the most thorough way to visit to get the full bodied experience of the island to fully sense all it has to offer.

Private Villas:

Ideal for multi-gen families wanting privacy and time together. Villas we partner with come equipped with speedboats, fishing experiences, a chef and the ability to select from a variety of tours depending on the activity and age level. This option can also be added as an amazing downtime ending if coming off a boat option.

Make sure to check our Private Villas and contact us for inside access to specific ones in the Galapagos that we exclusively work with.


Private Yachts:

Lastly, this option offers full privacy and exclusivity to the consumer and their guests. Although not inexpensive, if the group size is right (12 passengers or more) the cost can ultimately be less than being on a larger vessel . We provide our years of guide expertise in matching the right guide with the right traveling group to make for one of the most unforgettable experiences.

No Visa Required, Come to Brazil!

No Visa? No Problem!

Brazil is a unique and extraordinary place offering a staggering array of exotic, colorful and sensual experiences that range from the fascinating natural sanctuaries to the contagious rhythms of Bahia and sprawling sophistication of Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo. Unfortunately, for the last decade travelers from the United States and other certain countries have had to obtain a Visa in order to visit Brazil.

Today, for the first time since 2008, Brazil has officially announced the waiver of Visa requirements for citizens of the United States, Australia, Canada, and Japan which will go into effect on June 17, 2019.

Brazil Tourism on the Rise

The decision to waive visas is due to the success of an electronic visa pilot program launched on January 25, 2018. The results of this move by the Brazilian government were astonishing. There has been a 35.23% increase of overall visa’s emitted, while the World Travel Organization projected 25% of potential visits to arise from this decision. The impact on Brazil’s economy was huge too, bringing in over 1 billion USD from completed travelers who were visa recipients. Now, the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism hopes to reach a goal of 12 million foreign visitors by 2022, in contrary to the 6 million they had originally planned with the electronic Visas.

Visitors from the group of countries listed above are now eligible to stay in Brazil up to 90 days, extendable for an equal period provided such visit doesn’t exceed 180 days in a year, with days counted from the first entry in Brazil. If limits are exceeded penalties will apply. The benefit extends to current visitors in transit with valid passports for trips for leisure and business tourism, artistic or sporting activities or in exceptional situations for national interest.

Visit Brazil with Latin Excursions

For 15 years Latin Excursions has been creating unique travel experiences for adventurers looking to discover beautiful Brazil. We are excited to represent quality tourism to Brazil for citizens of the United States and Canada. There are plenty of great tour operators in Australia and Japan who can help get their citizens to Brazil as well. Overall this is a grand move in terms of global tourism. Advances in technology have made it possible for companies like us to find some of the most unique areas with reputable companies who provide quality assurance with their services for hotels, guides, drivers, adventure equipment, culinary, culture, and of course, safety.

Our Founder Was Born in Brazil

Did I mention Latin Excursions CEO/Founder, Eric Sheets, was born in the Brazil? In the first capital of Brazil to be exact – the city of Salvador in the state of Bahia. He recently took his wife and children to the region to explore the remote beaches of Trancoso, but also further north to the State of Maranhao to explore the white-sand beaches and dunes of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park to teach his family a little bit more about the unique area he grew up in and to also see how it has changed. He was pleased with what he saw to say the least and understands there is a need for tourism in these ecologically-rich coastal areas. Get a glimpse of these wild dunes in the video below (Eric took the drone footage himself)!

Lencois National Park, Brazil from Latin Excursions on Vimeo.

Below is another video of Eric and his family exploring the unique region of Trancoso, in the State of Bahia that I mentioned previously. Miles of remote beach and crystal-clear water for as far as the eye can see! This region can be discovered on our Journey to Brazil tour with international flights arriving in Rio de Janeiro, then domestic round-trip flights to Salvador. Our itineraries online are all examples of what we recommend, but please keep in mind that we are able to customize any tour to your preferences!

Custom Brazil Journeys with Latin Excursions: Learn More

To learn more about our offerings in Brazil, check out our destination page by clicking the link: https://latinexcursions.com/wpress2020/destinations/brazil/

Now that the United States doesn’t need a visa to enter the country, it’s easy to combine destinations such as our Extraordinary Journey to Brazil & Argentina! On this journey you will discover Iguazu Falls which lies on the border of the two magnificent countries.

Of course, if you are looking to explore the rainforest of Brazil, make sure to check out our Journey to the Brazilian Amazon or reach out to us for a multi-day small ship excursion of the Amazon. Whether you are considering a visit to Brazil and don’t know where to start, or have a bucket list destination in the country you have long wanted to visit, don’t hesitate to Contact Us to learn more and begin your dream journey today! The gates have opened, so allow us to get you there. The time is now!

Top 8 Treks to Machu Picchu

Hike or Take the Train

If you are not taking the train to Machu Picchu, understand that your only other option is hiking. There are no roads that lead to Machu Picchu; the entry hub to the Seventh Wonder of the world is Ollantaytambo. Whether you are taking the train, the single day hike to Machu Picchu, or a multi-day trek, every person must have a permit to enter Machu Picchu and you will not be granted entry without one; that goes for each trail system too. One cannot simply arrive in Peru and start walking a trail to the ancient citadel; it must be planned prior, and for most, it must be planned up to a year in advance.

Deciding which route to take can be a difficult process to begin- as there are many options to choose from, so planning can become confusing fast. That’s why we at Latin Excursions offer prospective travelers a free consultation with one of our Travel Designers to help alleviate the stress and create the perfect trip for you. Aside from taking the train to Aguas Calientes and doing the many different options of day hikes from there, hiking is the only other option to arrive at Machu Picchu. Therefore, we have broken down the eight best options of hiking to the Seventh Wonder of the World for you.

Top 8 Hikes to Machu Picchu

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1) Km 82 Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

Inca Trail Hike

Coming in at number one, this classic four day, three night trekking journey from Km 82 is truly astonishing. Considering this trail was actually the original route for the Inca Royalty to arrive at Machu Picchu, you can expect to discover a variety of ancient ruins from outposts to storage houses, and unfortunately, many tourists and campers. Due to the rising popularity of travelers wanting to mark this off of their bucket list, the trail has become increasingly more difficult to experience in peace year after year. Because of that, the Peruvian government has limited the selling of permits for this particular hike, and they sell out almost more than a year in advance from the departure date and have a strict deadline for when travel companies are able to purchase them.

That being said, this can cause overbookings and chaos with shared excursions. At Latin Excursions, we specialize in private travel for this very reason. We will take you and your group along the Inca Trail unbothered so that you can fully soak in the spirit of the Inca and not be distracted by the outer chaos. Specifically for this Peruvian journey, we highly recommend reaching out to us more than a year in advance with a full head count for your party. By doing so, we are able to book private campsites away from the mass crowds, offer private chefs, portable bathrooms, a masseuse, extra guides, elevated beds and upgraded tents, along with peace-of-mind knowing that we have secured your permits and can remain unbothered by outside travelers joining your journey.

*Plenty of Other Trekking Options Available*

Don’t get me wrong, the Inca Trail is a once in a lifetime opportunity, but if you aren’t able to plan a year in advance, don’t like camping, or would like a more adventurous route, there are plenty of alternatives to choose from!

Inca Trail Campsites

 

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2) Km 104 Inca Trail to Machu Picchu

A personal favorite, this route is certainly the way-to-go if you are seeking a thrill of an entry to the Seventh Wonder of the World, but still prefer the comfort of sleeping in a bed with a roof over your head, opposed to a tent for the evening. From the beginning of the trail, you will begin an immediate ascent as the view of the Urubamba River flowing to Machu Picchu below becomes smaller and smaller. After about 2 hours of steep hiking, the trail planes out for about 1 hour until reaching the ruins of Wiñay Wayna – a station for Inca soldiers to manage who enters the royal Machu Picchu ruins. From there, you will make one final climb before entering the cloud forest region.

Once in the cloud forest, you will experience a cool breeze and a final descent to Inti Punku (the Sun Gate) for your first glimpse of the magical Machu Picchu. Separate from the main crowds that enter by bus, the Sun Gate allows travelers to truly soak in the remoteness of this ancient kingdom.

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3) Choquequirao

Choquequirao is a sublime archaeological site in its own right, tucked away in the Apurimac River Valley of the Willkapamba Mountains some 60 miles from Cusco. Translating to ‘Cradle of God’, this lesser-known Inca ruin dates back to the 15th century though it was only re-discovered around 50 years ago; to this day, much of the site still remains unexcavated. Hiking to Choquequirao rewards trekkers with access to a beautifully secluded, ancient Inca city that few others get to experience (the only way to reach it is by hiking from Cachora). You can either embark on a four-day trek to Choquequirao, or opt for a longer hike that incorporates Machu Picchu as well. This nine-day adventure begins with a drive from Cusco to Cachora, then walking to Chiquisca and onward to Choquequirao the following day. After soaking up this mystical ruin, the remaining five days are spent trekking to Aguas Calientes, finishing up at the one and only Machu Picchu.

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4) Salkantay Lodge-to-Lodge Trek

The seven-day Salkantay Trek is a little different to other Machu Picchu hikes as, instead of camping each night, adventurers stopover in boutique mountain lodges along the way, with opportunities for extra activities too. This means that your hard work can be rewarded each evening with a peaceful night’s sleep in comfortable beds, delicious cuisine and even dips in bubbling hot tubs. The trek itself varies each day, starting with an easy/moderate hike to the Salkantay Lodge, a circular route to Lake Humantay on the second day, with the option to enjoy a horseback ride in the afternoon as well. Day three sees you hiking the Salkantay Pass–a challenging trek taking around seven hours, with views of the majestic Salkantay Mountain. Stay at Wayra Lodge before continuing on day four through the cloud forest to Colpa Lodge, then on day five pick from a mix of activity options: visit a coffee plantation, go zip-lining or try a biking adventure, finishing up at Lucma Lodge. You reach Machu Picchu on day seven, where you can soak up the magical citadel on a guided tour before taking the train back to Cusco.

Salkantay Trek

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5) Inca Jungle Trek: For Adrenaline Junkies

Love the sound of the Inca Trail but want to inject a big dose of adrenaline into your experience? Then the Inca Jungle Trek is just the ticket! This four-day hike to Machu Picchu incorporates thrilling activities like mountain biking, white-water rafting and zip-lining, all enjoyed en route to the Lost City of the Incas. From Cusco, adrenaline junkies are driven to the Abra Malaga Pass (at an altitude of 4,316m) where an all down-hill, hair-raising bike ride of 60km awaits, with the option to go white-water rafting in the afternoon. Having stayed overnight in Santa Maria, the second day involves a 15km trek through low-lying jungle towards the hot springs of Cocalmayo, and onwards to Santa Teresa. Day three offers the chance to try some zip-lining, soaring up to 150m above the ground, before carrying on to Aguas Calientes on foot or by train, depending on your energy levels! Afterwards, your fourth and final day is dedicated to exploring Machu Picchu itself, with plenty more exhilarating activities here to also take advantage of.

Abra Malagra

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6) Vilcabamba Trek

For a more rigorous Peruvian hike, strap on your walking boots and make way for the Vilcabamba Trek. This five-day route to Machu Picchu is certainly not for the fainthearted and does require a good level of fitness. Efforts are compensated by remote trails, isolated viewpoints, and little-known archaeological sites that are rarely visited by those in Peru to walk the Inca Trail. Even day one has its physical challenges- trekkers begin from Ollantaytambo in a varied–albeit relatively short–afternoon of hiking. Early ancient sites come at Rosaspata o Vitcos and Ñusta Hispana, before a lengthy uphill climb of five straight hours on day two, reaching 3,915m above sea level at the Asuntina Pass, and fantastic valley views as a result. Adventurers hike through quaint villages and rural pastures on the Vilcabamba Trek, as well as witnessing Yanococha Lake and the Tullu Tacanca Pass, a full 4,500m above sea level. Finally, having conquered four full days of extreme undulations and varied terrain, passing dilapidated ruins and small settlements, ‘journey’s end’ comes on arrival at Aguas Calientes, and a visit to Machu Picchu the following day.

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7) Lares Trek

The Lares Trek is one of the more versatile hiking routes to Machu Picchu, still relatively popular though drawing in far fewer visitors than the Classic Inca Trail. There are in fact several different hiking options that each takes alternative directions. All routes are accompanied by their own memorable highlights, striking views, ruins and remote regions. Importantly though, your end point is always the same: finishing up at the Sacred Valley’s Lost City itself. Depending on exactly which Lares route you choose, this wondrous trail will see you trek for up to six hours per day over a three or four-day itinerary. You get the chance to take a dip in thermal springs, stop at the traditional weaving community of Huacahuasi, reach passes such as Ipsaycocha that sit upwards of 4,400m above sea level, perhaps the scenic sights of Ipsaycocha Lake or elevated views from the Huilquijasa Pass. Along the way, there is a real sense of isolation while savoring the Lares trek, though you do come across more than one traditional settlement which certainly helps keep things interesting, before concluding the adventure at Machu Picchu, of course.

Lares Trek

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8) Ausangate Trek: The Rainbow Mountains

The Lares Trek is one of the more versatile hiking routes to Machu Picchu, still relatively popular though drawing in far fewer visitors than the Classic Inca Trail. There are in fact several different hiking options that each takes alternative directions. All routes are accompanied by their own memorable highlights, striking views, ruins and remote regions. Importantly though, your end point is always the same: finishing up at the Sacred Valley’s Lost City itself. Depending on exactly which Lares route you choose, this wondrous trail will see you trek for up to six hours per day over a three or four-day itinerary. You get the chance to take a dip in thermal springs, stop at the traditional weaving community of Huacahuasi, reach passes such as Ipsaycocha that sit upwards of 4,400m above sea level, perhaps the scenic sights of Ipsaycocha Lake or elevated views from the Huilquijasa Pass. Along the way, there is a real sense of isolation while savoring the Lares trek, though you do come across more than one traditional settlement which certainly helps keep things interesting, before concluding the adventure at Machu Picchu, of course.

Rainbow Mountain Peru

Hopefully now you have a better idea of what to expect when planning a hike to Machu Picchu! The options are far and wide, but there is definitely something for everyone. To begin planning your dream journey, fill out the this form and schedule a free consultation with one of our trip designers. We look forward to meeting you there!

Where to plan travel in South America?

Start Planning Now

Waiting until the last minute to plan a South America journey will certainly put you in a bind due to slim availability for the best lodgings, guides, trekking permits, National Parks, and UNESCO Heritage sites being booked months/years in advance. Allow us to breakdown which destinations, experiences and hotels you should consider booking now in order to get the best specials, excursions, guides, and accommodations!

Top 7 South America Holiday Experiences:

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Best Time to Explore Patagonia

Explore remote Patgonia

Patagonia is located at the southern tip of the continent and is split between Chile and Argentina. Needless to say, it is a huge area of land to cover, making the logistics of traveling rather difficult. We at Latin Excursions are South America travel experts and truly care about your experience with us. When visiting Patagonia, you are traveling to the ends of the earth where weather can at times be extremely cold with high-speed winds.

Therefore, the best views of Torres del Paine, Perito Moreno Glacier, and El Fitz Roy are offered in the Summer months from November – April. Although, if you wait until May or even sooner to begin planning with us, then we may find ourselves out of luck regarding availability at the best lodges. Take note that the high season is during Christmas and New Years Eve, all the way into February.

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Patagonia Planning Process: The One Year Rule

Here is the equation: if you want to visit Patagonia, its best to plan 10 months out or more. You can also plan now for a trip in 2020 Below are a few of our recommended custom-journeys for Argentina, Chile, and Patagonia:

Land of Fire & Ice: Journey to Chilean Patagonia

Combine two of Chile’s most spectacular regions – the stark beauty of the Atacama Desert mixed with the glaciers and imposing peaks of Torres del Paine in Patagonia – into one spectacular trip filled with adventurous excursions and luxurious accommodations to relax in after days of exploring, then you get the Fire & Ice journey to Chilean Patagonia by Latin Excursions.

Atacama and Patagonia Tours

Argentina & Chile’s Patagonia

In a unique fusion of culture and wilderness, this 12-day journey through Argentina and Chile sweeps you off your feet into a world of enchantment and luxury. Travel through Patagonia, an area known to be one of the most rugged and beautiful landscapes on Earth, while also visiting distinctly charming cities full of culture, performing arts, cobblestone streets and artist ateliers.

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New Years Eve & Other Festivals in Rio! No Visa Necessary!

Rio de Janeiro offers a New Year’s party that rivals Carnival in scale and splendor. The fireworks display at Copacabana is the main event, and millions of locals and tourists combined gather on the beach to watch the midnight show and revel until the early hours of the morning. Many Brazilians light candles for the Afro-American goddess of the sea, Yemanja, and place them in the sand, as they make wishes for the coming year. Also, learn more about how the Brazilian Government is now allowing U.S., Canada, Australia, and Japan citizens to now visit without a Visa!

A rooftop New Year’s Eve celebration at Fasano Rio is one of the most elegant atmosphere’s you can find in all of Rio for the evening. After appetizers and drinks in the lobby, you will have dinner at Fasano Al Mare then proceed to the rooftop for a champagne toast and midnight kiss to bring in the new year! I mean, just imagine watching fireworks overlooking Copacabana from this poolside balcony…

Rio, Brazil HotelsRio de Janeiro New Year's Eve

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Plan a Family Reunion in a Galapagos Private Villa

When considering an excursion to South America, don’t forget about the Galápagos Islands! For a truly private experience unlike anywhere else in the world, bring your family to Villa Amarilla, a charming seaside villa with the character, comfort and class reminiscent of a European home in Tuscany. An in-home chef, maid and caretaker are included with your stay at Villa Amarilla. Alejandro and Mariana will make you feel at home and share an authentic experience of local specialties. 

Villa Amarilla – Galapagos Private Home from Latin Excursions on Vimeo.

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Charter a Yacht in the Galapagos

Do you want to get away with your family for the holidays, but don’t want to stay in a hotel or resort? Then perhaps consider bringing the family aboard the exclusive 9-room motor yacht Grace, which happened to be the private yacht of Princess Grace–but now she can be for the entire family or crew for an 8-day cruise. Due to her smaller size, MV Grace can access certain Galapagos island sites that larger ships cannot! Enjoy fine dining al fresco, a sun deck, jacuzzi, sea kayaks and daily adventures. Go snorkeling with sea lions, linger with Blue-footed Boobies on a sand beach and watch Frigate birds soar overhead. There will be time spent with the Giant Tortoises and iguanas as well as penguins too.

If you decide that chartering the Grace, or any small ship in Galapagos, make sure to contact us at least one year in advance. The boat owners must create a gap in their monthly departures to guarantee the availability for your group. Even if you aren’t chartering a boat in Galapagos, it is wise to book your room far in advance. Unlike many cruises around the world, in the Galapagos there are only small ship vessels, so the best ones fill up quickly especially during the holiday time of year. There are also a plethora to choose from, so it may take time to decide which one is right for you (our trip designers will help find the perfect fit)!

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Belmond Cataratas Hotel, Iguazu Falls Hotel

Iguazu (or Iguassu) Falls is a hot destination for Brazil and Argentina, families from all over the Americas come to see this beaut. Being located in such a confined area for tourism, there are only a few hotels to choose from. Belmond Cataratas Hotel is an excellent choice for anyone seeking a private experience in this region. If you book your Iguazu adventure plenty time in advance, our travel designers will have a much greater chance of reserving the perfect waterfall view room and finding private experiences such as a helicopter flyover featuring panoramic views of Iguazu Falls, led by expert naturalist guides.

Luxury Hotel Iguazu Falls

We also work with the new Awasi Lodge, Awasi Iguazu on the Argentine side of these magnificent waterfalls. They provide opportunities for the locals to share experiences beyond Iguazu, since the region has such an amazing portfolio of tours to offer with its unique environment. Enjoy the video from our Vimeo page!

Awasi Iguazu Experience with Latin Excursions from Latin Excursions on Vimeo.

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Visit Punta del Este / Jose Ignacio 

Looking for an exclusive, relaxing beachside vacation in Uruguay? Doesn’t sound bad if you ask me! Unlike Cartagena and Rio, where there are ample festivities for the masses, Punta del Este is highly exclusive, and many of the soirees are invitation-only. It’s a place to see and be seen, popular with the rich and famous from Buenos Aires and Brazil, and frequently compared to the Hamptons of New York.

Stay away from the tireless 24-hour casinos and party scene of La Barra, instead, allow us to set you up at Playa VIK Jose Ignacio, a strikingly contemporary property nearby Playa Mansa. For Christmas or New Years Eve, we can arrange a private transfer to Punta del Este (40 mins drive), for an elegant celebration, champagne toast, and fireworks. Return to Playa VIK that evening and wake up the next morning only to begin the new year by wind-surfing, horseback riding, sailing, surfing, or playing golf.

Celebrities migrate to Punta del Este for Christmas and New Year’s, and lavish private homes and trendy clubs are the places to be on December 31st. Playa VIK is one of Uruguay’s finest properties, so it typically is at capacity sometimes up to a year in advance for holiday dates.

Luxury Hotel Punta del Este

Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection of itineraries, hotels, villas, and ships to choose from here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.

We Made the Wendy Perrin 2019 WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts!

What is Wendy’s WOW List?

We have great news to share with you: We’ve been named to Wendy Perrin’s 2019 WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts in Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama for the 5th year in a row!

Many of our travelers found us because of Wendy Perrin, whose annual WOW List remains a uniquely useful resource for sophisticated travelers seeking the world’s best trip-planning specialists. Wendy calls us “the most well-connected travel fixers and custom itinerary designers in the world.” When you’re looking for somebody like us, only for a destination we don’t operate in, you’ll find that somebody on The WOW List.

Insider Access Traveling

You know how passionate we are about maximizing each traveler’s experience, and Wendy shares that vision. If you’re not sure who is the right fixer for a trip you have in mind, or you’re not even sure what is the right destination for you, we suggest you write to  Ask Wendy. We also recommend signing up for her weekly newsletter to stay up-to-date on travel news and solutions.

Thanks Wendy Perrin

We look forward to working with Wendy and helping you plan your next trip to Panama, Colombia, or Ecuador. Our team has years of experience designing the best travel programs in Latin America and we are happy to answer any of your questions. To see what travelers who found us through Wendy Perrin have to say, check out her Trusted Reviews of Latin Excursions Founder, Eric Sheets.

Eric Sheets Latin Excursions

Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection of itineraries, hotels, villas, and ships to choose from here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.

Travel to Colombia with Latin Excursions

Wendy Perrin WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts for Colombia

Our founder, Eric Sheets, is on Wendy’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts for his expertise and connections in Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama. At Latin Excursions, we arrange everything from custom itineraries that highlight Colombia’s different local cultures to family reunions, exotic honeymoons, and even villa vacations.

When you travel to Colombia with us, we treat you to insider-access experiences you won’t find anywhere else. Eric’s Insider Guide to Colombia by Wendy Perrin will provide perspective on hidden gems and touristy areas where you will want to avoid. We hope this Colombia travel guide will help you plan your next trip this wonderful country! See reviews from travelers who booked us through Wendy Perrin previously: Latin Excursions Colombia Reviews

Top 7 Colombia Travel Tips:

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What You Need To Know About Colombia

At Latin Excursions we always like to showcase the very best travel destinations in South America, its famous sites, iconic cities and many natural wonders, as well as some of the countless lesser-known spots and handful of hidden gems too.

On the face of it, Colombia hasn’t exactly been hidden from view for the past few centuries, with prominent pre-Columbian ancient cultures, 16th century Spanish Conquistadores and infamous 1970-90s cartels among its noteworthy residents. Yet the country has not necessarily been a go-to tourist spot over the years, Colombia’s current emergence as the up-and-coming place to visit in Latin America is something we certainly embrace.

Today, your private tour of Colombia with Latin Excursions will be one of picturesque plantations in the country’s western coffee region, the lively cosmopolitan spirit and party atmosphere of Medellin and one of the best-preserved colonial towns in the Americas, Cartagena, found further up the coast.

There are heavenly beaches here, idyllic islands hosting five-star resorts, fantastic scuba-diving, boat tours and the ever-enchanting Tayrona National Park with its wildlife, watersports, eco-lodges and hidden ancient ruins. When it comes to people, you’ll soon discover that Colombia’s turbulent past is truly confined to the history books, as locals will welcome you with open arms, proud to show off their beloved, long-overlooked country.

Explore Our Insider’s Tour of Colombia: Cartagena + Colonial Gem

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Best Times To Visit Colombia

colombia sunset

There are two seasons in Colombia that divide the year, the hot and dry season generally runs from December to January and again between July and August. The wetter seasons are in April and May, October and November.

Colombia sees its biggest tourist numbers between December and March because–across the country as a whole–it tends to rain less during these months

In between these peaks the climate is spring-like, milder and less humid. The climate does then change as you move around the country, with the coffee region tending to be warmer thanks to its surrounding hills, and high-altitude Bogotá being cold at night. In truth, many see this as a year-round destination, simply one that has slightly changeable climate conditions between its varying landscapes and altitudes.

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Visiting With Your Family

The country’s problems may have been immortalized in countless films and television series, though they really are a thing of the past, as 21st-century Colombia is today one of the ultimate South American travel destinations. It’s perfect for anyone seeking an authentic cultural experience–whether in the rural areas or vibrant cities–plus main attractions that are still relatively unaffected by huge groups of tourists.

There are far-flung paradise islands in Colombia such as San Andres, Isla de Providencia and Baru, boutique hotels and slick resorts that honeymooners will simply love and no shortage of outdoor adventure sports too.

That said, although Colombia is perfectly family-friendly, the country’s infrastructure is generally not as polished as their neighbors in Peru. Just ask our friend Clark Kotula and his son about their adventure to Hacienda Bambusa, Colombia’s finest adventure coffee-lodge!

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How To Get There

From the USA, popular direct flight routes include departures from Atlanta, Los Angeles, Dallas, Houston, New York, Miami, and Orlando almost always into the capital Bogotá and often Medellín or Cartagena as well. When it comes to your personal private tour of Colombia with Latin Excursions, the country is easily explored by road though one or two domestic flights linking the coastal regions with Bogotá is always advisable; the southern Amazonian areas still not being entirely set up and ready for large tourist numbers.

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The Best Way To Explore Colombia

Once here, further flights will be needed if traveling to many of Colombia’s remote island getaways, though no matter where your Colombian itinerary takes you there is a fantastic range of design hotels in the cities, authentic rural retreats in the countryside, boutique properties and eco-lodges to stay in along the way. To see all sides of Colombia a 10-day or two-week trip is advisable, as this will allow the opportunity to explore the country, its cities and more remote areas while also finding time for the beach.

Of course, any journey with Latin Excursions is tailor-made to suit your personal preferences, though unmissable highlights of Colombia include colonial Cartagena, the coffee region, Tayrona National Park and the islands, if possible. Comfortable clothing and sports shoes are suitable for walking tours and swimwear for time on the beach, though it can get cold in Bogotá so we always advise packing at least a couple of warm layers, plus hiking boots if looking to delve into Tayrona or any of the country’s more remote areas.

Colombia city tours

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The Geography of Colombia

The main tourist regions in Colombia begin in the capital Bogotá, a sprawling metropolis of busy streets, bohemian neighborhoods and no shortage of entertaining nightspots. The country’s history can be glimpsed in some of Bogotá’s best museums such as Museo del Oro, as well as the grand Plaza Bolívar with its colonial buildings and monuments. The Cathedral and Botanical Gardens of Bogotá are also well worth a visit if needing to escape the city’s hustle and bustle, though sanctuary can also be found by heading west to Colombia’s famed coffee region.

Here the pace of life could not be more different, as the rolling hills of Caldas, Risaralda and Quindio Provinces are home to authentic villages, small farms and coffee plantations; some of the best in the world. The countryside here is beautiful and makes for some of Colombia’s most picturesque walking trails, while further north lies an altogether more upbeat experience in Medellin, once a haven for Pablo Escobar though today an intoxicating city of street art, commerce and restaurant culture.

Then there’s Cartagena, an absolute must for anyone visiting South America for its preserved colonial architecture. These colorful cobbled streets have not changed in hundreds of years, with their atmospheric alleyways, flower laden balconies and horse-drawn carts showing lucky tourists the town’s main sites.

Off the coast of Cartagena, you also have the Rosario Islands, where boat tours and beach BBQs are the best addition to an afternoon of scuba diving and snorkeling here, while further around Colombia’s northern coast lies Tayrona National Park. Eco-lodges overlooking the bay, day-long treks to long-lost ancient ruins through the forest and deserted stretches of sand, rolling on for mile after glorious mile, characterize this iconic Colombian highlight.

cartagena boat tours

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Scuba Diving In Colombia

Unbeknownst to most people, scuba diving in Cartagena and along Colombia’s Caribbean Coast is some of the best in all of South America. Believe it or not, the coral reefs along this coastline and its nearby islands are still healthy, yet, in danger of becoming dredged for new shipping channels.

When scuba diving with Latin Excursions, you are going with companies who are involved in helping the island communities become involved in coral reef restoration and studies. Depending on where you dive, some of our diving operators provide the option for travelers to donate gear, or pitch in a few extra dollars to allow a local volunteer or two to tag along for the day and practice his/hers diving skills. It’s truly a special experience to dive in Colombia and see the efforts they are putting forward to preserve its marine environment. The people care and make the experience one you will never forget.

Beyond coral reefs, be prepared to see hundreds of tropical fish, moray eels, starfish, underwater architecture (artificial reefs), and ancient shipwrecks. The video below provides an insider’s view on exploring a shipwreck about .5 miles off the shore of Baru Island:

Scuba Diving Cartagena, Colombia – Baru Islands from Latin Excursions on Vimeo.

Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection of itineraries, hotels, villas, and ships to choose from here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.

Plan a Colombia Honeymoon

Beaches, History and Coffee

A Colombia honeymoon has become one of the most popular destinations for such travel over the past decade for many reasons. The diversity of options for adventure activities abounds from the Caribbean coast to the coffee regions, as well as the cultural and historical cities found throughout this country. It also shares the same time zone as the East coast of the USA, so no need to worry about jet lag!

The value of a Colombia honeymoon begins to add up quickly for a couple. From the moment you are greeted at your arrival airport you will be bathed in the friendliness of the locals that is genuine and perhaps, a bit surprising to some. Combine this with the actual costs of accommodations, dining and activities and you will quickly see why honeymooners are flocking to Colombia from everywhere! While Colombia is a Spanish speaking country, it is not imperative for you to speak the language fluently to travel there. Although, if you know a little Spanish it will go a long way. Having an English speaking guide at times will also ease your tensions.

The final piece of the puzzle when planning your honeymoon in Colombia will come down to time and what you both want to do within that time frame. Some honeymooners simply want to be left alone in a romantic place to unwind after all the stress leading up to wedding day. If you two want to be active that is easily accommodated as well. You could simply visit two destinations in a one week honeymoon. If you plan two weeks you can see the beaches, the cities, the jungle and the mountains without rushing.

We have two Colombia proposals that can fit well for a private honeymoon, all interchangeable to fit your desires! Please find them below to learn more:

Cartagena

Many couples choose Cartagena as a honeymoon getaway destination because the city is very romantic and full of history on the Caribbean coast. We highly recommend escaping the city for a few days to enjoy one of many turquoise-water islands. The old walled city is especially romantic and is known for music, dancing, exotic cocktails and intriguing dining. Set aside at least one day just for a walking tour for a fascinating way to experience the history and culture. There are many wonderful properties, large or small, offering romantic accommodations that will meet or exceed your expectations. One we definitely recommend visiting is Casa de Indias! You can also choose to take day trips to the Rosario Islands if you would like to venture outside the city into the Caribbean without the overnight hotel.

Coffee Country

If you are both coffee lovers, combining a city stay with a couple days in the Coffee Country of Colombia will make for an unforgettable honeymoon experience. Waterfalls, the jungle, snow-capped mountains with hiking trails and of course, visits to coffee farms are on tap if you choose this part of Colombia for all or part of your honeymoon. There are several haciendas like Hacienda Bambusa for accommodations. You can also find some spectacular villas, like Villa Coffee Country, which is part of a coffee farm itself!

Bogota

You will find Bogota in the Eastern Cordillera of the Andes mountains at an elevation of 8600′. Even though you are near the equator, because of the altitude, the climate is eternally Spring! This is Colombia’s capital and its’ largest city. As such, it is very cosmopolitan and you will hear English spoken almost as much as Spanish. If you two are cyclists you will revel in the way everyone celebrates biking every Sunday! A visit to the underground Salt Cathedral is also something you won’t see anywhere else. It’s quite possible to include Bogota with Coffee Country and/or Cartagena in the same honeymoon trip too!

Exotic, attractive and easy to get to! What more could you ask for in a honeymoon destination? Spend some time talking with one of our honeymoon travel specialists about the possibilities and what travel interests you both have and you will see why there is all this buzz going on about Colombia these days.

Remote Colombia Experience

When most people hear Colombia, the last thing they think about is cowboys. Well, if you venture far outside of the major cities you will find just that. Consider visiting the Corocora Camp at Los Llanos (the plains) located in the northeast sector of this beautiful country. Here, you will have access to authentic ranch culture and cattle herding, horseback riding, birdwatching and photo safaris, as well as Corocora Camp’s very own conservation projects. So, for something truly different while staying in Colombia, a wildlife experience full of blissful isolation at Corocora Tented Camp is definitely the answer. If you’re a Texas cowboy, then you better come here and see what the remote Colombia cowboys are all about.

Exotic, attractive and easy to get to! What more could you ask for in a honeymoon destination? Spend some time talking with one of our honeymoon travel specialists about the possibilities and what travel interests you both have and you will see why there is all this buzz going on about Colombia these days. Our team can accommodate any and all of your honeymoon needs while removing the time consuming, trip planning stress. All you do is book your flights and pack your bags, we will take care of the rest!

To learn more about our expertise in Colombia, visit Wendy Perrin’s WOW List of Trusted Travel Experts and see why Latin Excursions’ owner Eric Sheets is highly-acclaimed for his knowledge and trust in the area.

Spring Break/Summer Trip Ideas for 2019

Exciting Travel Opportunities with Latin Excursions

With the holidays coming to an end, it’s time to begin making those New Year’s resolutions. Take a second to reflect on this year and what it meant to you. Maybe you wanted to be more active, perhaps you wanted to spend more time with family, or who knows maybe you accomplished all of your hopes and dreams. Either way, we at Latin Excursions believe 2019 is going to be an exciting time to explore the best luxury adventure travel experiences on the market. From beachfront bungalows in Panama to treehouses among giant turtles in Galapagos, we have you covered. Our goal is to allow each one of our travelers to have a unique travel experience that makes you feel connected to a new country and culture for life.

Our Latin Excursions’ trip specialists have come up with a handful of different destinations and accommodations that we recommend visiting for Spring Break or Summer in 2019. Enjoy!

Isla Palenque, Panama

A few months ago, Latin Excursions owner Eric Sheets visited Costa Rica to attend Remote Latin America travel show. One of the guest speakers was Hans Pfister, owner of the Cayuga Collection which Isla Palenque Hotel happens to be a part of. Hans advocated for everyone to make at least one change in our daily lives to make our world more sustainable. It’s easier said than done, but I’m confident that a visit to this amazing island-jungle lodge can change your perspective…

Only 5% of the island has been carefully & sustainably developed so guests at Isla Palenque will find plenty of serenity and seclusion. Accommodations include just eight gorgeous beachfront casitas and a six-bedroom villa perfect for families or groups of friends.

Galapagos Magic Camp

What if I told you that Latin Excursions could provide you with the opportunity to stay in a treehouse, in the Galapagos Islands, with giant Galapagos turtles awaiting your arrival? You probably would think I was crazy, but I would tell you to pack your bags because it’s time to go. This property on Santa Cruz Island is a true gem for travelers looking to discover Galapagos off the beaten path.

If you plan to visit Machu Picchu in a hurry, or find yourself on Ecuador’s mainland, a stay at the Galapagos Magic Camp can enable a quick, but truly meaningful journey to Santa Cruz Island without breaking the bank. The owners manage a private yacht only available to guests of the camp, so opportunities to snorkel and visit nearby islands are possible.

This lodge fits best with our Galapagos Magic Camp Explorer itinerary and combines well with a Coral I or II Cruise.

Galapagos Cruise – Evolution

One of our favorite spring break or summer options is to board the 32-passenger Galapagos Evolution luxury yacht. Starting from either San Cristobal Island or Baltra Island, this 8 day/7-night cruise is the perfect way for families or couples to get a firsthand, private glimpse of Darwin’s brilliant theory or natural selection by snorkeling, hiking, kayaking or simply wildlife watching from the deck, daily.

From the outside, Galapagos Evolution is instantly recognizable with its tall sail masts, vintage-style wooden balconies and dramatic narrowing hull, while within, the cabin décor is decidedly contemporary, lounge areas are comfortable and an outdoor sundeck with Jacuzzi will surely keep you coming back for more. All of this, plus plenty of onboard excursion equipment, kayaks, dinghies and guides, help the Evolution stand out among the more unique luxury Galapagos cruise vessels.

Route and Itinerary from Isla San Cristobal
Route and Itinerary from Isla Baltra

Alto Atacama – Desert Lodge & Spa in the Chilean Altiplano 

For a more bizarre land-based luxury adventure tour in South America, consider heading south to San Pedro de Atacama in Chile and leave the world for a while. The Alto Atacama Desert Lodge & Spa combines luxury with traditional design in charming terracotta that blends seamlessly with the deep red rock of the surrounding landscape. At this desert lodge, it’s inevitable but to notice the drifting silent sands of the Atacama Desert while they reveal ancient remains of lost indigenous civilizations.

It may be a challenge to tear yourself away from the Alto Atacama with its natural thermal pools and several swimming pools nestled in beautifully landscapes gardens, but it is worth it! Enjoy the company of other travelers for daily excursions in the breathtaking Atacama Desert, where high altitude mountain lakes and otherworldly landscapes leave you in awe. Highlights include the Tatio geysers, the highest and third largest geothermal field in the world, as well as the eerie Moon Valley, the Atacama Salt Lake, fascinating archaeological sites and quaint adobe villages. We recommend visiting our Pre-designed Journey to Chile itinerary to learn more about visiting the Atacama Desert with Latin Excursions!

If you haven’t already, take a look at our Atacama Desert Experience

Peru Adventure Tour: Journey to Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Amazon

The mystical country of Peru stretches from the northwestern coast of South America over the spine of the Andes and into the dense tropical jungle of the Amazon basin. From its eternal coastal deserts to the highest navigable lake in the world, Peru’s landscapes are as diverse as they are spectacular. We recommend this itinerary particularly for the months of March and April for a few particular reasons.

March and early April are in the shoulder season for Peru’s climate and it seemingly intertwines with the number of travelers that visit as well. During this time, it’s expected that you will experience occasional rainstorms at Machu Picchu and in the Amazon, but it is soon followed by sunshine and cool winds depending on your location and altitude.

This journey is custom-tailored for travelers looking to experience Machu Picchu and the Amazon all in one trip. The terrain of Peru is wild, and this itinerary is designed to give you a taste of its many different microclimates. Don’t worry, the food follows along with the microclimates and you can find fusion cuisine in nearly every city you visit. Over the span of nine days, you will be overlooking the Pacific Ocean from the shore in Lima, descending into the Sacred Valley of the Incas from 12,000 ft. in Cusco’s Andes, discovering the Seventh Wonder of the World, and entering the world’s largest rainforest!

For a day-by-day itinerary and more information, visit The Peru Adventure Tour.

Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection of itineraries, hotels, villas, and ships to choose from here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.

New Luxury Eco Lodge in Bolivia

“Glamping” Now Available in Bolivia

Glamping seems to be an up and coming trend in the travel industry recently, extraordinary lodges such as Galapagos Safari Camp in the highlands of Santa Cruz Island and Corocora Tented Camp in Colombia are popping up left and right. This is because well-traveled adventurers are beginning to realize the unique experience that each of these properties offer. Most of these ‘glamping’ destinations don’t have wi-fi and encourage their guests to detach from technology and reconnect with nature. They are all strategically placed to benefit the surrounding environment and provide the best views possible. Overall, the goal of these new-age lodging options are to preserve some of Earth’s most precious ecosystems, and Kachi Lodge is fully prepared to do just that.

Kachi Lodge Opening February 2019

We at Latin Excursions are excited to announce that Kachi Lodge, a new addition to the Amazing Escapes Luxury Camping Experience collection, will be opening for business in February 2019 at the mysterious Uyuni Salt Flats. Whether you plan on spending time in La Paz, Bolivia and are craving a quick visit to the world’s largest salt flat, or want to spend a month on a luxury South America adventure tour, we can accommodate your travel needs and get you to this new space age, out of this world lodge in Bolivia.

Tour the Uyuni Salt Flats

Set on the very Salar, Dome camp is somewhat of a Mad Max Adventure. From a distance, the white pods look like a space station designed by extraterrestials. The dome camp also has something of an observatory, or a folly built for a passionate astrophysicist. We will be cruising down south on easy wide dirt roads across never ending plains surrounded by volcanoes. Along the way, you’ll discover the first lagunas and their famous residents, the pink flamingos. On the last part, you’ll spot the giant cactus which can grow up to 10 meters high!

Its extreme geographical variations and culture can all be appreciated as part of a tailor-made luxury-travel journey in Bolivia. Take part in an adventurous journey through one of the wildest and most incredible lands on the planet, the surreal Uyuni Salt Flats. Experience our first-class services at exclusive spots in La Paz & Uyuni. Stay in luxury glamping domes with full camping equipment and private operation in Uyuni Salt Flat region, ending in La Paz, the highest capital on the planet. 

Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection of itineraries, hotels, villas, and ships to choose from here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.

Private Alternatives to the Inca Trail With Latin Excursions

We at Latin Excursions love Peru, adore the Inca Trail and know all too well that visiting Machu Picchu is one of the most rewarding travel experiences in the world. So, imagine avoiding the crowds and enjoying this once-in-a-lifetime tour on a remote trail in the company of a private guide–keep reading to find out how!

The classic Inca Trail is a truly iconic, unforgettable adventure that leaves its mark on everybody lucky enough to do it; four days of scenic hiking through the mountains, which culminates at the Lost City. However, alternative routes to Machu Picchu do exist, are just as spectacular and, importantly, get you nicely off the beaten track, meaning an even more intimate and exclusive experience away from the sometimes busy campsites of the main trail. Because we live and breathe this part of the world, we know all of the different Inca Trail options. The Ancascocha Trek is our favorite because it can be done privately, making it even more of a meaningful bucket list experience than any other in the region.

Being so remote, Latin Excursions is one of the few companies who offer private Ancascocha Treks for just your party; great news for anyone seeking a private Inca Trail of their own. In fact, National Geographic have placed the Ancascocha Trek in their top 25 list of Best Hikes in the World. Thanks to the ever-changing landscapes, rural Andean settlements and ancient ruins you encounter along the way, it is a well deserved accolade.

Setting off from Cusco, the trailhead proper begins at Soqma, a traditional Peruvian village, aiming for the blissfully isolated Chancachuco Valley. Day one of the Ancascocha Trail leads you past the Perolniyoq waterfall and little-visited Inca ruins of Corimarca, through thick forest and out onto open, scenic plains during several hours of picturesque hiking. At the end of the day  you have a well-earned camp and warming meal at Qeuñacancha to look forward to, a great spot to admire the views and reflect on your first day of exploration.

Day two of this spectacular hike has you walking for a good 6 or 7 hours.  Your effort will be richly rewarded with more Inca ruins along the way. Plus, find stunning views of Mounts Huayanay and Salkantay, as well as several mountain passes to enjoy. Undoubtedly though, a real highlight of the trail comes when you reach that evening’s camp at Ancascocha Lagoon, a high-altitude lake of deep blue waters and still more of those unforgettable Andean vistas.

Day three of your Ancascocha trek, we swap aerial views and steep climbs for remote settlements and river gorges, during a day of descents along gentler, tree-lined trails. As native foliage leads the way, this penultimate day of the hike takes you past Veronica Peak, across the Sillque River and further into the Urubamba Valley, getting ever-closer to Machu Picchu itself, though you will still not see a fellow tourist in sight!

Day four starts early with a short hike to Chillca to catch the jaw-dropping train ride to km104 where you will disembark to hike a section of the classic Inca Trail seeing more preserved ruins and finishing at the Sun Gate for your first view of Machu Picchu from afar. You then hike down to the Lost City of the Inca itself. Followed by a bus ride to Aqua Calientes and well deserved night in a hotel.

Day five you return to Machu Picchu for a full immersive experience spent exploring the warren-like passages, rooms, lookouts and temples. A private tour of this wonder of the world is the only way to do it. There will be plenty of time for discoveries before returning to Aguas Calientes by bus and onward to Cusco.

Adventure Travel FAQ – While this trekking experience is not for everyone, fit hikers will find it a challenging and rewarding experience. A majority of the hiking is done above 10,000 feet, reaching as high as 15,419 feet. The total length of walking is 36 miles, or roughly 8 miles a day.

How much do you carry while trekking? The trek includes pack animals to carry tents, food and cooking equipment and personal gear up to a maximum of 9kg per person (including sleeping pad and sleeping bag). On day 4, we  include a porter to carry guest’s personal belongings directly to your hotel in Aguas Calientes. So for the most part you carry just your box lunch and personal items in a day pack.

What is the food like? Your trek chefs have been trained by several institutes in Lima, Cusco and also by chefs coming from the NY Culinary Institute. They have learned the HACCP method and their operation ensures maximum hygiene. Above all, be prepared to have a superb culinary experience during the trek, including generous and delicious breakfasts, snacks, lunches, tea services and dinners that can be adapted to your very specific requests. Menus include a variety of Peruvian and international food and also cater for vegetarian, vegan and special dietary requests.

What are the accommodations like? During the camping nights, we include personal tents: 2 people in each 4-people-capacity tent, to allow for higher comfort and a safe keeping of backpacks. Our tents are 3-season, highly maintained to ensure an excellent performance in field. Hotel nights will be from a choice of our recommended lodgings in Aquas Calientes and Cusco.

From its secluded camp sites to the timeless views, beautiful mountain scenery and no shortage of ancient ruins throughout, Ancascocha, the alternative Inca Trail, really is one of adventure travel’s best kept secrets, to be enjoyed by the hearty few like yourself.

Traditional Vacation Tour vs. Private Tour

Do You Like to Go Your Own Way?

For as long as vacations have been taken the vacation tour, better known as a “group tour” has existed. There is a good reason for this; it’s far easier to let someone else plan all the logistics. The is especially true when traveling to foreign destinations. Until recently, private tours were only for the very well heeled. But all that has changed!

Group Tours versus Private Tours

Back in the 1980’s, after airline deregulation, the travel industry began to explode around the world. Baby boomers; those born after World War II, were coming of age, having children and hungry for new experiences. Vacation tour operators sprang up everywhere, usually emanating from the local travel agent down the street. Someone with a sharp pencil figured out that a bus could hold 35 people. Airlines and hotels offer a special rate for groups willing to travel together. Bingo! The local travel expert could lead their neighbors all around the world and make a business out of it. This grew and grew and grew! Many of those operators are some of the largest vacation companies in the world today. But somewhere along the line, people who had the where-with-all became tired of the cookie-cutter tour experience and began to seek out travel professionals who had the expertise to provide a more personal experience.

Precious Vacation Time

Now, more than ever, people are looking to get the most out of their vacation time. It is precious and fleeting. We all have certain things we like to do when we are on vacation. It doesn’t coincide with the group vacation tour plan. What if you could enjoy the benefits and value of the traditional vacation tour without all the parts you don’t want? After all, traveling in a group always has the early bird and the tardy one and that’s just for starters!

A private tour begins with a destination, or a group of destinations. The logistics of getting to and from there is the next step. But after that, how you fill the days and nights is entirely up to you! Lovers of wine want to sample special bottles and talk with vintners about their craft. Foodies who also like to cook themselves are looking for an immersion experience that puts them in a hands-on situation. Hikers hike. Bikers bike. Shoppers shop. Any destination in South America can be personalized lightly or with gusto! It’s up to you. Split time between relaxation and activities you truly enjoy.

When you enlist the help of a private travel specialist, they have visited the hotels and villas, selecting only those they are proud to suggest in the itinerary. The already work with the local guides that have been fully vetted, sights not to be missed, artisans to visit along the way… even where to have lunch. These are the types of plans that come into play when planning a private tour. You can be involved as much as you like or leave it to the professionals to map out your time spent on vacation. Some people have the time to spend hours researching where to go and what to do. Those of us who do not have the time or like to do that sort of thing will find an extra bonus in having someone else do it all. You say, “Just tell me what to pack and when to be at the airport!”

How to Plan the Perfect Galapagos Island Honeymoon

Your Galapagos Honeymoon

Start your life together as a couple on a very special honeymoon experience in the Galapagos Islands, off the coast of South America’s Ecuador. Do only the things the two of you enjoy when you break free from the cookie-cutter honeymoon plan and create a custom, romantic vacation. It’s no secret that the top destination for honeymoons in South America is the Galapagos Islands. Your first step is to decide whether you want to explore from land-based accommodations or from aboard an intimate small ship. We’ve been helping travelers plan Galapagos honeymoons honeymooners for over a decade. Here are our top 5 Galapagos honeymoon experiences.

Two Land Based Galapagos Honeymoons

Chances are you are both a bit adventurous if you are considering the Galapagos for your honeymoon destination!

Why not consider glamping and fall asleep to the sounds of nature? The Galapagos Safari Camp Hotel is a one-of-a-kind accommodation to be sure. Here, you will find an African-style tent camp on the island of Santa Cruz, comprised of just nine eco-luxury tents, infinity pool and a panoramic lodge. This is a 5-star, luxury honeymoon experience like no other. Spend your days mountain biking, kayaking, trekking and boat excursions to other islands full of discovery! The farm-to-table cuisine from their own farm will top off an each memorable day.

The oceanfront Finch Bay Eco Hotel offers a somewhat more traditional style of accommodation with guest rooms and ocean view suites. Recognized as one of National Geographic’s Unique Lodges of the World, the hotel offers a myriad of activities including SCUBA certified diving excursions. There are no cars on this side of the island, so bicycling is carefree. Not only is this honeymoon hotel seriously committed to sustainability, you’ll find Galapagos inspired menus prepared by a Cordon Bleu Chef. Have dinner by candlelight on the beach or maybe in a cavernous lava tunnel! Each day, choose from naturalist guided tours, snorkeling, surfing, day-trips to nearby islands and much more.

Two Perfect Honeymoon Small Ship Cruises

Want to feel like royalty on your honeymoon? The 9-room motor yacht Grace, was once the private yacht of Princess Grace–but now she can be yours! Take an 8-day honeymoon cruise aboard this magnificent classic yacht. Due to her smaller size, MV Grace can access certain Galapagos island sites that larger ships cannot! Enjoy fine dining al fresco, a sun deck, jacuzzi, sea kayaks and daily adventures. Go snorkeling with sea lions, linger with Blue-footed Boobies on a sand beach and watch Frigate birds soar overhead. There will be time spent with the Giant Tortoises and iguanas as well as penguins too!

If your interests in cruising lean more towards modern than traditional, we invite you to consider the Origin, one of the newest small ships to enter the Galapagos cruising fleet. With only ten spacious staterooms, you’ll feel like the ship is all yours! With two naturalist guides on board, prepare to see all the flora, fauna and wildlife you’ve heard so much about. Amenities aboard include: fitness center, massage, jacuzzi, library, wet bar and more! Onboard equipment includes kayaks, snorkel gear, wetsuits and stand-up paddle boards. The cuisine is world-class. An eight-day honeymoon cruise aboard this special ship will provide memories that last a lifetime.

Ecuador – Galapagos Combination Honeymoon

Combine pioneer adventuring with romantic luxury and artisanal character on a 12-day overland honeymoon tour of Ecuador and the Galapagos. Hacienda Zuleta, named one of “Top Ten Finds” in the world by Outside Magazine, treats guests to a mountainous sanctuary high in the Ecuadorian Andes. Ride horses through Zuleta’s scenic 4,000 acres, hike or mountain bike to the Caranqui archaeological sites on the property, and dine on traditional Ecuadorian cuisine prepared fresh from the garden and creamery. Following this Andean cultural retreat, jet set over to the Galapagos Islands for an eco-luxury cruise or land adventure!

Did you find the sort of Galapagos honeymoon plan here that you are seeking? We recommend you give us a call, 866-626-3750, where we can talk about all the possibilities for yours. Perhaps you want to combine a cruise with some time on land? Or, spend more time in Ecuador? The choice is yours and our travel consultants are here to help you decide about the details!

The Atacama Desert Experience

The Atacama is not for everybody. But for adventurous travelers it is a must-do, bucket list destination. How can that be? Read on to learn more about Chile’s Atacama Desert which stretches from a high plateau of the Andes all the way down to the Pacific Ocean!

Calama

Most visits to The Atacama Desert begin at Calama by flying into the airport here, most likely, from Santiago. Set just above 7,400 feet, this city of 150,000+ residents is known as the gateway to the Atacama region. It is one of the driest cities in the world. Calama sprang to life as an oasis along the Loa River during the time of the Incas. Since then, it has thrived as the largest open-pit copper mine in the world.

San Pedro de Atacama

This small, desert town of 5,000 people is a good place to base your explorations of the region. It is unique, in that the local people are carrying on just like they have for thousands of years and you get a chance to witness it first-hand. Believe it or not, you will find one of the top 10 spas of Latin America near here, at Alto Atacama Hotel! The accommodations we work with in the Atacama region provide unexpected, unique luxury and offer tours, excursions and daily treks to the featured attractions found in the region.

Hard or Soft Adventure?

The best part about the Atacama Desert experience is the fact that it’s a great destination for all adventure travelers; not just for the hardcore climbers and adrenaline junkies. For those of you who thrive on the extreme, you’ll find activities like sand boarding, mountain biking and out-of-this-world hiking!  For the rest of us, who just like to get “out there” visiting the far-flung reaches of our planet, you will find tamer, yet no less adventurous experiences, such as hot air balloon rides, spotting flamingos, gazing at high altitude geysers or just enjoying the stars in some of the darkest skies found in the world.

Stay and Play

How much time you spend here is up to you. There are enough attractions and activities to make a complete vacation of 5-10 days. At a rough glance, we count a dozen things we would like to see and do that all take the better part of a day to experience, allowing for leisurely lunches, meandering through the villages and haggling for indigenous arts and crafts. On our Chile travel page we have created a 10-day pre-designed private tour and a sample 10-day custom-designed private tour to help you learn about the possibilities. When you choose a custom-designed private tour of the Atacama Desert, we start with a blank piece of paper. It gets filled in with only the kinds of experiences you want and none that you don’t!

Combine Atacama with Other Destinations

To get to the Atacama Desert is a long journey for anyone; so it makes sense to combine a visit there with another destination(s) as well. By far, the most popular combination we design for many travelers is Atacama and the Torres del Paine region of Patagonia. Allow at least ten days for this sort of itinerary. In Patagonia, you can experience a boat excursion, endless hiking opportunities, horseback riding and much more. You might also consider a side trip of a few days to Valparaiso on the Pacific coast. Or, hop on a plane to Buenos Aires in Argentina to include some Southern Hemisphere cosmopolitan time. We also combine journeys to either the beach or wine country of Uruguay with Atacama visits. If time permits, you could even do it all!

South America Travel Planner

The Difference Between a Custom and a Pre-Designed Tour

As a traveler, you have a myriad of options to help you plan your next vacation or getaway. If you are like most people, you use a variety of tools to put together your plan. If you are a solo traveler you may do it one way. If you plan for a family or group you may do it another. In all cases you essentially have three options: 1) Do all the research, planning and booking yourself either through one or more online portals 2) Find and book a pre-designed tour from a travel company 3) Work with a professional travel specialist to create a one-of-a kind, customized and personalized journey.

Latin Excursions is a boutique travel specialist concentrating on Latin and South America travel experiences. We say “boutique” because we don’t send tens of thousands of people through ordinary cookie-cutter style tours each year. Instead, we serve a smaller slice of travelers who are seeking special, private travel experiences. Our clients don’t want to be on a bus tour with dozens of other travelers. They want to experience intimate moments that can only occur on a private tour.If this is you, we invite you to consider having Latin Excursions plan your own private travel adventure!

Our pre-designed and custom tours share a few similarities you will appreciate.

  • Meet, greet and transportation from the airport to your hotel
  • Personally selected hotels, inns, villas for lodging that we intimately know
  • Experienced and reputable activity, culture and entertainment providers
  • Local guides personally selected by us

Pre-Designed Tours

As you browse through our website, you will find dozens of tours categorized as Pre-Designed Tours. These itineraries evolved from many years of designing and planning custom tours. We noticed a growing request for certain tour lengths, accommodations and activities to the point where we integrated these preferences into our signature tours, or “Pre-Designed Journeys.” We have found a balance of local culture, guided activities and free time which works well for our travelers. Accommodations can be selected according to comfort level preference (which affects the tour rate); so keep this in mind with any pricing you see. We will provide you with a final quote once your lodging has been selected.

Custom Tours

As you peruse the destinations and tours on our website, you will find our Custom Journeys. With each custom tour, we’ve outlined a variety of recommended options to choose from each day. Essentially, our Custom Journeys pages are to be used as a starting point and to outline the possibilities in different regions.

For instance, maybe you have a particular interest in wine tasting, kitesurfing or bird watching. Or, perhaps you want to learn about the history and art of a specific destination, or you wish to learn to how to cook special dishes.

These are the ingredients of our custom tours. You tell us what you want to do and we design an itinerary to reflect your interests. From photography to fishing, and from trekking to local markets and more. And, keep in mind, our Custom Journeys are to be used as guides only. If you’re not quite finding what you have in mind, we will start from scratch–with a blank canvas and your imagination!

Someone once said, “your journey of a thousand miles begins with the first step.” We encourage you to take the first step by reviewing our collection here at Latin Excursions. Then, give us a call for your free, no obligation, trip assessment and to learn why travel experts like Wendy Perrin, Travel+Leisure and others recommend our services for private Latin America travel.

Top South America Honeymoon Destinations

The reward for a well planned wedding ceremony and reception is the honeymoon! It’s when you get to wave goodbye to everyone who celebrated the event with you. South America is a preferred choice for honeymooners. This is happening for a variety of reasons; not the least of which is the couples desire to get started with a new combined travel bucket list! What we like about planning South America honeymoon travel for clients are the wide variety of choices we can present. Some newlyweds want physical activities while others are looking for more passive pursuits. Some honeymooners want to stay in one place while others want to combine a few destinations. Here are the top 5 South America honeymoon destinations our clients have had us plan for them the past few years to help you get your own planning underway.

Galapagos Islands

Visiting the Galapagos is a once-in-a-lifetime experience! So, why not make it how you start your life together? It’s a little tough to get to but that is one of the reasons it is so rewarding a destination. With good planning it can be a magical journey and it is the #1 honeymoon destination we book!

A land-based Galapagos honeymoon can be ideal. The centrally located island of Santa Cruz is the best choice. It is the hub for many activities including sandy beaches and the approachable wildlife. There are few places in the world where beaches come alive with nature as happens here. With our decades of experience in the archipelago, we have developed a great relationship with three wonderful places to stay on the island. One of the most unique lodging experiences we have found in the world is the Safari Camp Hotel. If you are looking for more of a traditional luxury property, the Pikaia Lodge will provide a very enjoyable honeymoon base. If waterfront accommodations are what you are looking for, the Finch Bay Eco Hotel will fill that need and much more! Each one of these properties has a plethora of activities, tours and boats to help you explore.

If a cruise around the Galapagos islands is more to your liking, we personally know the small ships that cater well to honeymooners. MV Origin is a newly launched ship that accommodates just 10 passengers on two different 8-day itineraries. The classic MV Grace was once the personal yacht of  Princess Grace of Monaco. It underwent extensive refurbishment recently and accommodates 18 guests in 9 cabins for 8-day cruises. Both of these small ships offer a luxurious and intimate experience.

Brazil

If you dream of tropical beaches off the beaten path, the Bahia region of Brazil can’t be beat. Our top pick is the authentic UXUA experience in the UNESCO preserved beach town of Trancoso. It features one-of-a-kind accommodations, spa and fine dining. If we could only pick one beach destination for our honeymoon it would be this! We also have some very unique villas here if you are looking for the ultimate private beach honeymoon!

But you could also split your time between the peaceful quiet of UXUA and the vibrant city of Rio de Janeiro as well. Create a custom journey that includes both of these destinations for a full dose of relaxation and culture. Go one step further and combine Trancoso ,with Iguazu falls – Florianopolis, and Rio for an ideal Brazil itinerary between nature, relaxation, and intensely colorful culture.

Want to see and do even more? Its important to tell your travel planner what you both like to do on vacation. That way, the itinerary can be created exactly with those experiences!

Colombia 

Do you both like history and coffee? A honeymoon that includes Cartagena and Colombia’s coffee country will fill that bill and so much more! Start or end in Cartagena. It was an important port for Spain in the 1500’s. In 1984, Cartagena’s colonial walled city was designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The mix of Spanish and Caribbean influences is romantically intoxicating! What’s more, you won’t have a long flight from the USA and the time zone will be familiar which means no jet lag!  There are many choices for accommodations in the city but we choose Casa San Agustin Hotel for its location in the old city and the services provided there. It was recently named the #1 hotel in Columbia by TripAdvisor too. It’s a small boutique hotel but has the services of a much larger luxury property with inhouse spa and dining. You can choose as much or as little structure to your Cartagena visit, including english speaking, private walking tours and activities like sailing, cooking lessons or art workshops.

After the city, its time to visit coffee country which we fly you to. We have chosen the Hacienda Bambusa for your  accommodations and unique farm to table experience. After a tour of the coffee plantation you will find many diverse types of experiences to enjoy like ziplining, hot air balloon rides, horseback riding, birding and more.

If you want more Colombia on this trip, we can whisk you off to Bogota, high up in the Andes mountains too. Or, maybe you want to save that for a return trip in the future? Either way, your honeymoon trip to Colombia or any of our destinations will include airport meet and greets, transfers from the airports to the hotels and really, anything you can think of that will make your travel that much more special to you.

Uruguay

If you are seeking pampas, wine and style, few places can offer such an amazing mix as Uruguay. This is a destination best visited in our winter season. Don’t stay in Punta del Este, unless nightlife is the principle reason for your visit. The good restaurants, shops, marina and golf course are easily reached from the other nearby beach spots should the need arise. The airport that is the gateway to the Uruguay coast is here.

Instead, we suggest the smaller and more romantic, Jose Ignacio, up the road a bit. There you can stay at Playa or Estancia Vik Jose Ignacio. The Viks are ideal for travelers and our favorites would be Playa or Bahia for honeymooners. Hotel features a spa and wide variety of activities like riding horses and wine tasting. That’s just the start. you will never want to leave!

The village of Garzon is a short drive from the fashionable beach village of Jose Ignacio, yet the village itself is set in rolling hills and Tuscan like countryside and it is away from the the party scene. Its here that South America’s best-known chef, Francis Mallmann, has chosen to locate his latest restaurant venture as part of a charming 5 bedroom country hotel which has been wildly praised from all corners. It is also home to one of Uruguays top wineries which is a must visit.

Chile

If your heart pounds for the outdoors, designing a trip with the Atacama desert will be a true bucket-list highlight for a honeymoon.

This region is known for some of the most dramatic scenery in the entire world. The Atacama air is the driest on the planet, which gives it a perfect transparency. Experiences such as floating effortlessly on the lagoons will be a life-long memory. A famous one is called “ojos de salar” which appears almost out of nowhere in the flat of a barren desert plain.

Experience a geothermal field located in the Andes Mountain range. The fumaroles of  these geysers, the highest on the planet, are produced by the high temperatures of their water. We will begin our excursion very early to arrive by dawn at the heights of the Andes that allows to observe great steam fumaroles and burning mud craters, originating from the deep depths of the Earth.

Other expeditions can be Desert dunes horseback riding through the big valley of Quebrada de Kari and arrive by surprise to the Moon Valley. We then return to San Pedro by a big open plain in front of the Andes Mountains and by the main oasis of San Pedro to conclude this adventure of a lifetime.

Endowed with one of the clearest skies in the world, Atacama offers a spectacular view of the stars. The high altitude and dryness create a privileged setting to see the constellations, stars, planets and galaxies in this dark sky location.

Spend 3 or 4 days at Awasi Atacama located just outside of San Pedro near a pre-Inca fortress. Enjoy daily shared excursions as well as use of the spa, jacuzzi, sauna, pool, and sun deck, bicycles and transportation between the lodge and nearby village.

We suggest combining a visit to the Atacama of Chile with either Patagonias’ Torres del Paine or the Iguazu waterfall region that separates Brazil and Argentina. These three destinations in combination will satiate even the most adventurous couple!

Your Travel Guide To The Galapagos Islands

A trip to the Galapagos Islands is undoubtedly one of those experiences that will leave a lasting impression on your psyche. Famed for its variety of endemic wildlife as well as its impressive landscapes that range from volcanoes to stunning beaches, the Galapagos Islands are a must visit destination for lovers of the natural world. Here are the top 10 Galapagos Islands Travel Tips you need to know before you go.

Top 10 Galapagos Islands Travel Tips:

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What You Need To Know About The Galapagos Islands

The enchanting beauty of the Galapagos Islands makes it a destination many are eager to cross off their bucket lists, and it’s interesting geological past combined with lush, verdant scenery make it both an educational and recreational experience for travelers.

Part of the Republic of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands form the Galapagos Province of Ecuador as well as the Galapagos National Park and the Galapagos Marine Reserve. The archipelago is comprised of 19 islands that are located approximately 1,000 km away from the Ecuadorian coast in the Pacific Ocean, and are volcanic in origin.

Explore Our Galapagos Islands Trip Options

To this day the islands feature a grand total of 13 volcanoes with eruptions occurring every couple of years. The landscape of the Galapagos has been formed in part by these eruptions, creating beautiful black sand beaches and other fascinating geological landmarks.

Perhaps one of the most notable aspects of the Galapagos Islands is its variety of native wildlife species. Because the Galapagos were formed by volcanic activity, the islands were never connected to a landmass, which means that all wildlife arrived to the islands either by air or sea.

For this reason, there are very few natural predators on the island and most animals are more than comfortable with up close and personal human interaction. Some of the native species you’ll enjoy seeing on the islands include the Galapagos Tortoise (which has an average lifespan of more than 150 years), the marine iguana, penguins, sea lions, and a number of bird species including the highly unique flightless cormorant.

Observing the native wildlife is perhaps one of the most exciting things about a trip to the Galapagos, and should no doubt be incorporated into your experience.

One important thing to note is that in order to preserve the natural ecology of the island, many of its areas are protected and require the accompaniment of a licensed guide. Another thing to note is that there are few ATMs on the island, and although many stores and boutique’s do accept credit cards, it’s advised to take out as much cash as you can in advance.

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Best Times To Visit The Galapagos

Conditions in the Galapagos are ideal year-round for visitation, and temperatures generally range from 69°- 84°F. Despite the fact the islands are located close to the equator, the climate in the Galapagos is not tropical. The year is typically split into two seasons: the warm season, which ranges from January to June, and the dry season, which stretches from July to December.

During the warm season expect a unique mixture of warmth, sunshine, and some afternoon rain showers. Because the ocean temperatures are also warmer during this time, it is great for swimming and snorkeling. Average temperatures during the warm season range from 80°F to 90°F, and this is an excellent time of year to observe birds mating and to see sea turtles nest on the beaches.

The dry season is marked by cooler temperatures on both land and in water, as well as cloudier skies. The cooler weather provides the perfect breeding ground for plankton and other nutrients, making it the ideal time to observe sea birds and penguins feeding. The dry season is also the mating time for the Blue-Footed Boobies and short-eared owls.

The humpback whale is one of the Galapagos Island’s few migratory species, and they typically arrive in the surrounding ocean between the months of June to September. If tiny baby seals are what you’re after, arrive in August when they are born, or wait until November to watch them learn how to swim. For sea turtle lovers, arrive earlier on in the year to watch the mothers lay their eggs on the beach, or arrive two months later when they hatch to watch them crawl out to sea.

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Visiting With Your Family

What better way to awaken your children to the magic of the animal kingdom and the beauty of the natural world than a trip to the Galapagos Islands? The Galapagos Islands make for an excellent family vacation because of the never-ending list of things to see and do and the variety of guided and educational tours.

The Galapagos Islands are a fantasy for many children, and being able to safely approach and interact with the wildlife makes it an experience they are not soon to forget. When booking your trip, bear in mind that there are excursions that cater specifically to families with children to make your experience more enjoyable.

For example, the “Best of Galapagos & Ecuador for Families” trip offered by Latin Excursions offers 15 days of uninterrupted fun, starting off with the “Galapagos Safari Day Adventure” complete with arts and crafts activities for the kids. The “Embark Galapagos Cruise” portion of the trip starts the next day and retraces Charles Darwin’s 8-day cruise to the western islands. If your kids are beach lovers, not to worry – there are plenty of opportunities to enjoy the pristine waters of the Galapagos while getting up close and personal with sea turtles, small rays, and sea lions.

Other fun activities for kids include kayaking, which gives children a way to safely explore the water while catching glimpses of wildlife beneath the ocean surface. The Charles Darwin Research Center is another great option for kids as it features an exhibition hall, native gardens, a public library, as well as staff members that are well versed on the variety of wildlife on the islands. The center has worked on conservation, restoration, and sustainable development on the archipelago for decades.

Galapagos Islands Travel Tips

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How To Get There

Commercial flights are the only way to get to the Galapagos Islands, and all visitors must fly to Ecuador first before arriving. Contrary to popular belief, there is no boat or cruise that takes visitors from the mainland to the islands.

The only flights available are from Quito or Guayaquil, both of which offer morning flights to the islands. Flights from Guayaquil are approximately two hours long, and are only half an hour from Quito.

An overnight stay in either city is recommended since flights leave in the morning. However, both Quito and Guayaquil are destinations in their own right, and offer plenty of sightseeing options and should you wish to stay longer.

Learn more about Flights to the Galapagos Islands.

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The Best Way To Explore The Galapagos

Cruises are an excellent way to experience the Galapagos Islands as they provide you with a greater amount of time to explore without the hassle of having to travel to and from your hotel by boat each day.

On cruises, you can sit back, relax, and wake up each morning in a new exciting destination without needing to map out a plan.

The Galapagos National Park has restricted the number of passengers on each boat to 100 as to not overload the beaches. Luckily, Latin Excursions’ selection of small ships offer a more intimate and personalized experience for those traveling to the Galapagos.

When selecting your package, you can choose from variety of luxury yachts including the brand new Ocean Spray megayacht catamaran, which offers space for 16 guests in cabins that are spacious, and equipped with their own private balconies.

Larger expedition cruises, such as the National Geographic Islander, are only allowed to reach the maximum of 100 guests per ship, so while not as intimate as the smaller ships, they are still less crowded than more traditional cruises. The benefits of larger capacity boats are the number of onboard amenities, which can include medical facilities and guest lectures.

Discover the Top 10 Beaches in the Galapagos.

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Lodging Options on Land

If you want to book lodging on land and explore the islands from your hotel, there are plenty of options for you to do just that.

Located on the remote island of Santa Cruz and across the bay from Puerto Ayora, the Finch Bay Eco hotel offers guests a luxurious stay that is close to nature. This award winning eco-friendly hotel provides beachfront access as well as plenty of day trips to nearby islands by yacht with experienced guides.

The hotel is located on the carless side of the island, so guests can get around comfortably on bicycle. Activities such as scuba diving, snorkeling, surfing, bird watching, sea kayaking, bay tours, and much more are available at this hotel.

Another excellent on-land option is the Galapagos Safari Camp Hotel, which is a great choice for families with children. This hotel is also located on Santa Cruz island and offers incredible sweeping views of the Pacific Ocean from its many balconies. Inspired by African safaris, the Galapagos Safari Camp Hotel is surrounded by nature and gives guests the feel of being completely in tune with nature.

Guests can choose to stay in either the unique “luxury safari tents,” which are raised on wooden platforms and offer ocean views, or if traveling with a large party they can book the family safari suite which offers three bedrooms and is located next to the main lodge.

The hotel offers excursions to wildlife reserves and volcanoes as well as opportunities to dive and hike.

Another lodging option is the Pikaia Lodge Hotel, also located on the island of Santa Cruz. The unique highlight of this hotel is that it features its very own 105-foot exploration yacht, offering guests the chance to explore surrounding islands that are less frequented by tourists. Guests can take a dive off of the yacht deck, relax in the hot tub, on the sundeck, or even take a fishing class from one of the trained local fishermen.

Additional features and amenities at the hotel include a private giant tortoise reserve on the premises, an infinity edge pool, spa, and art and photography exhibit.

Lastly, The Villa Amarilla on Santa Cruz is a great option for those who want an intimate seaside experience. Offering “old world” charm, the Villa Amarilla was built to resemble a Tuscan style villa, and offers five large bedrooms, each with an ocean front terrace. Amenities at the hotel include a swimming pool, Jacuzzi, and an outdoor BBQ among others.

Families can take daily excursions from the hotel including snorkeling, diving, kayaking, hiking, and more.

Scuba Diving in the Galapagos Islands

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Scuba Diving In The Galapagos

Because the Galapagos Islands are located at the intersection of three different ocean currents, the varying temperatures mix to create a nutrient rich water that attracts a variety of species unlike anywhere else on earth.

Scuba diving provides an excellent opportunity for visitors to experience the wealth of wildlife beneath the ocean surface and come into contact with some truly fascinating species.

A few animals divers can expect to see include marine iguanas, fur seals, penguins, and sea lions, depending on where they dive.

Another wonderful benefit of the diving in the Galapagos is the high visibility, making it one of the most sought after diving locations in the world.

Some islands are more well-known than others for their dives, and “El Arco” at Darwin Island definitely tops the list. This spot is home to massive schools of hammerhead sharks, tiger sharks, turtles, whale sharks, and manta rays.

Other great dives on Darwin Island include “El Arenal,” at Darwin’s Arch, which features an abundance of marine life including big-eye jacks, more hammerhead sharks, and blacktip sharks.

Roca Redonda, located off the north coast of Isabela Island is another favorite for divers in the Galapagos. Divers can look forward to seeing Galapagos sharks, barracudas, sea lions, and even sea horses at this site.

Be aware that all divers must be certified in open water scuba diving before they attempt to dive, and some recommend an Advanced Open Water Diver certificate in order to dive in the Galapagos.

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Experiencing Wildlife

The wildlife on the Galapagos Islands is perhaps one of its best known attributes, and it continues to draw large numbers of tourists year after year. Because the islands are so remote, the number of endemic species on each individual island is unlike anywhere else on earth.

Many of the native species on the islands are either reptiles or birds due to the ease with which they were able to arrive to the islands, but be on the lookout for a few mammal species as well, including sea lions and the Galapagos fur seal.

The Galapagos Tortoise is one of the most iconic animals on the islands, and the islands themselves were actually named after the reptile, as the word “Galapagos” is taken from the old Spanish word for tortoise.

The Galapagos Tortoise is the world’s largest tortoise species and can reach an impressive 500 pounds. The largest diversity of Galapagos Tortoise subspecies can be found on Isabella Island, which is also home to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center where visitors can get a close view of tortoises at various stages of life.

The marine iguana is another iconic species living on the Galapagos that visitors have come to know and love. It is the only species of iguana that is not based on land, and it adapted after many years on the island to be able to swim in the ocean in search of food. Visitors won’t have to go far to find a marine iguana as they inhabit every one of the Galapagos Islands.

More wildlife of interest includes Darwin’s Finches, also known as the Galapagos Finches, which are comprised of 13 species of finches native to the islands. The finches are widely known to have contributed to Darwin’s Theory of Evolution because of the unique features they developed due to their environmental conditions.

Be on the lookout for The Galapagos Penguin, the Blue Footed Booby, the Galapagos Green Turtle, as well as many other species on your Galapagos adventure. Keep in mind that the Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and as such are highly protected. There are certain limitations required of visitors, including not being allowed to pick flowers or remove rocks, not feeding the animals, not handling or touching the animals, not taking any food to the islands, and other regulations. You can find a full list of park rules here.

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Galapagos Points of Interest

There are so many things to do on the Galapagos Islands that its best to have a rough outline of where you want to go and what you want to do before you head there. While the number of things to do is truly endless, there are a few places and experiences you’re definitely going to want to check off your list before you leave.

Tortuga Bay, located on Santa Cruz Island is a popular point of interest due to its beautiful white sand beaches as well as being a great spot for snorkeling. Here you’ll find calm, warm waters for swimming, as well as a variety of small sharks, iguanas, and other animals swimming in the clear waters. Visitors can either take the roughly one-hour walk to this beach from the main water taxi dock in town, or take a water taxi from Puerto Ayora, which costs $10.50 each way.

If you want to take a walk among the Galapagos Tortoises, the El Chato reserve is the perfect place to do it. Also located on Santa Cruz island, this reserves provides plenty of acreage for the iconic tortoise to roam freely. Admission to the reserve costs $3.000 and includes a guided tour, as well as access to the property’s lava tunnels. Feel free to approach the tortoises and be sure to take plenty of photographs.

Los Tuneles are another great point of interest for visitors, and most especially for those who want to scuba dive. This location is known as one of the best for diving, and provides crystal clear water to explore amidst a series of arcs and tunnels that were created from cooled lava. Snorkelers and divers alike can weave in and out of the tunnels and spot turtles, sea horses, and a number of sharks.

The best time to visit the tunnels are between the months of January and May when the waves are not as strong.

Read More: Top 5 Reasons to go to the Galapagos Islands

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Side Trips To Ecuador and Peru

This final Galapagos Islands travel tip helps you get the most out of your journey. If you have time either before or after your Galapagos experience to explore further, Peru and Ecuador are easy side trips to make. Because all flights must pass through either Quito or Guayaquil before entering the Galapagos Islands, a trip to Ecuador is a highly convenient one to tack on.

If you want to explore Ecuador’s capital, Quito before you take off for the Galapagos, popular sites in this colonial city include the “Ciudad Mitad del Mundo,” which is located 26 km north of Quito, officially marking the exact location of the equator, the Pichincha Volcano, and the Basilica del Voto Nacional, which is the largest neo-Gothic basilica in the Americas. The historical center of Quito is a destination in its own right, and has been named one of the largest, least-altered, and and best preserved in the Americas.

Guayaquil meanwhile, is Ecuador’s largest and most populous city and offers an equally interesting mix of activities. While there, be sure to visit the famous “Malecon 2000,” a boardwalk that parallels the Rio Guayas, with food stands and a variety of historical and modern buildings along the way. Take a stroll through the historic Las Penas neighborhood while admiring the brightly colored houses, or stop by the Parque Historico to round out your stay.

A side trip to Peru, while a little further off track, is another way to make the most of your time in South America. The ruins of Machu Picchu are one of its most iconic landmarks, and are worthy of an extended visitation if time permits. If you’re looking to take a shorter trip, the capital and coastal city of Lima is filled with an eclectic mix of museums, historical landmarks, and of course, delicious Peruvian food.

Start Your Galapagos Islands Journey Here

Ecuador Tours that Discover the Lesser Known Side of Ecuador

Destination or Passing Through? Ecuador Tours are for Both Travelers

Ecuador is the gateway to Galapagos Islands which are a part of Ecuador even though they lie over 500 miles off the coast of Ecuador. Because of this, people from all around the world pass through Quito and Guayaquil en route. But did you know Ecuador, itself, is a fascinating destination? I’m from Ecuador so have both a soft spot for the country in general as well as for several special areas which are relatively unknown still.

Lay of the Land

Ecuador gained independence from Spain in 1822 and functions as a Democratic Republic. The US State Department warns against travel in the far Northwest corner of the country that borders with Colombia due to increased crime. But for the most part, travelers planning Ecuador tours should exercise caution as one would anywhere in the world. Vaccines that are recommended or required before entering the country include: typhoid, hepatitis A, hepatitis B, yellow fever, rabies, and influenza. The country offers striking scenery rising from sea level to the tops of the Andes mountains. At lower elevations, you are in the equatorial tropics while the mountains offer eternal springtime.

From Quito, Overnight in Banos or Riobamba

If you are staying in Quito, enjoy a fun tour to Banos and/or Riobamba. Banos is 2.5 hours and Riobamba is 3 hours travel time from the capital city. This region is the active adventure hub of Ecuador. Traverse some of the most stunning Andean drops, even seeing waterfalls heading into the Amazon. Plan to stay two or three nights in Banos and add another night in Colta. This region around La Cordillera de los Llanganates is remarkable for outdoor enthusiasts including the Chimborazo, a mountain peak that dominates the view from the valley.

The Cacao Trail

If you have an interest in chocolate and how it’s produced from cacao beans, you can tour the plantations outside of Guayaquil en route to Cuenca. Visit the cacao plantations as a day trip from Guayaquil–with two to three hours of travel time–or make it an overnight. This tour is one of the few places on the planet where, in less than three hours, you cover terrain from sea level to 12,000 feet. There is so much to see, like Cajas National park known as the “lakes district” of Ecuador, featuring spectacular alpine lakes. Cuenca is a city in Ecuador’s southern Andes mountains. The central square is a great place to buy handicrafts and for sightseers, the blue-domed Catedral Nueva and the 16th-century Catedral Vieja, now a religious museum, are not to be missed!

Coastal Explorations from Guayaquil

A great route from Guayaquil is to drive north along the Pacific coast to Salinas and Ayampe. Along the way, spot hummingbirds and revel in the unique dry, tropical coastal forests. A great experience for families, this region offers whale watching, snorkeling and scuba diving that’s reminiscent of the Galapagos Islands. Salinas is quite modern with popular beaches and outstanding seafood. Ayampe is a sleepy, rustic surf town along a beautiful, quiet beach–perfect for beachcombing walks.

South from Cuenca to Loja and Vilcabamba

For art and culture lovers, a visit to Loja is essential. The region is also known for orchids, superb coffee and an eternal Spring climate. The drive from Cuenca is about three hours. Accommodations are in posadas which are generally 3-star facilities (in other words, nothing fancy). But what it lacks in luxury it makes up for being off the well worn tourist path of other regions in Ecuador. The village of Vilcabamba is rumored to produce some of the oldest living people on the planet! Loja is very picturesque and known for its vibrant music scene. You can enjoy four distinct climates within a 45-minute drive from the town. This part of the country is very peaceful and distinctly pretty.

Private Ecuador Tours

We have several detailed itineraries for all four of these great Ecuador tours which you can request. They make great opportunities for those not in a hurry to and from the Galapagos. Plus, all of our tours are private. This means that we either plan your details and send you on your way, or we provide a guide who drives and walks you through these destinations. Our local guides are full of knowledge, folklore and tales. With a guide all you have to do is show up and enjoy! We customize your time to do just the things that interest you–unlike all the cookie-cutter options available out there!

How to fly to Galapagos Islands

All flights lead to Ecuador for travelers headed to the Galapagos 

Some of the most worthwhile destinations in the world are also a little harder to get to. No matter where in the world you are coming from, traveling to the Galapagos requires you to connect in Ecuador, either through Quito or Guayaquil. From there you fly to the Galapagos Islands which are roughly 550 miles off the coast of Ecuador. LATAM airlines (formerly LAN) has connecting flights from New York City and Miami. TAME airlines also offers connecting flights from Ft Lauderdale and NYC. For, perhaps, the smoothest flight itineraries these two carriers should be research starting points. Unless you love this kind of research, it could be best to employ a travel specialist to sort out all of the flight variables from your home city.

Linger in Ecuador

In today’s hurry-up world it can be hard to slow down. For the least stressful travel experience, flying to the Galapagos nearly demands that you do. Sure, you can try to book close connections and short overnights en-route. But unless you revel in travel stress, you would be best to plan a few days coming and going from the Galapagos in Ecuador itself. Many people tag on Machu Picchu or The Amazon with their Galapagos visit. Simply, though, spending time in Quito or Guayaquil can be very enjoyable as well. We recommend you allow a 2-day layover if you want a relaxing trip. With that sort of schedule you can handle any sort of travel hassle!

Spend a few days in Quito

While you may want to go straight to Guayaquil where nearly all the flights to the Galapagos depart from, a visit to Quito can be very worthwhile. After all, Quito (UIO) is the Capital of enigmatic Ecuador. It is placed in the high foothills of the Andes at about 8500 feet of elevation! The city is quite charming and has a very well preserved center composed of 16th and 17th century architecture. The combination of elevation and latitude conspire to offer an eternal springtime range of temperature. Major USA carriers like United, American and Delta all fly to Quito. The airport is about an hour away from the city. Just a couple of ideas for enjoying Quito include:

  • Horseback riding up in the Andes
  • Downhill mountain biking in the Andes
  • Otavalo Market
  • Cloudforest Hummingbird viewing
  • Culinary exploration

Spend a few days in Guayaquil

Guayaquil (GYE) is a port city and as such is found at sea level. It is at the equator just barely into the Southern Hemisphere and as such has tropical weather year around. It is a larger city than Quito with approximately 2.5 million people. Major USA carriers fly to here as well and the airport is quite close to the city. Most flights from Quito to the Galapagos connect through Guayaquil. So, we feel the perfect itinerary is 2 days in Quito on the way to the Galapagos and 2 days in Guayaquil on the way home. Just a few of our favorite things to do around Guayaquil include:

  • Whale watching tours
  • Surfing and surf lessons
  • Bird watching
  • Fruit markets

Fly to the Galapagos Islands

After a short break in either Quito or Guayaquil, it’s time for your final flight to the Galapagos Islands. As mentioned, if you stayed over in Quito, your flight from there will most likely stop in Guayaquil before heading to the islands. There are several flights a day offered. Most go to Baltra Island. But there are also Flights to Puerto Baquerizo Moreno on San Cristobal Island too. Where you fly to will be based on where you start your cruise or land-based island adventure. TAME, Avianca and LATAM (formerly LAN) are the air carriers who fly to the islands.  Read all our Galapagos Travel Tips Blog

Galapagos Interisland Flights

Depending on your interests you may want to fly within the Galapagos. There is one main air carrier called Emetebe which offers inter-island flights. There are four airports with commercial service; San Cristobal, Baltra, Santa Cruz and Isabela.

Ecuador: Gateway to the Amazon and Galapagos

The Amazon Rainforest and Galapagos Islands are two of the world’s most exciting destinations for wildlife safaris and nature experiences, topping the bucket lists of many travelers around the globe. With their rich biodiversity, extraordinary landscapes and endemic species, this comes as no surprise – but did you know that it’s Ecuador that offers the fastest, most direct access to both destinations? Read on to find out how you can visit the Amazon and Galapagos Islands from their gateway; Ecuador

Accessing the Ecuadorian Amazon

The Amazon is a vast jungle, a pristine wilderness of trees, rivers and lakes that spills over 40% of the South American continent. While much of this mighty rainforest is untouched and inaccessible, there are particular access points in countries like Brazil, Peru and Ecuador that afford wide-eyed visitors the chance to experience the spectacular wilderness first-hand. However, while it is possible to reach Iquitos from Lima in Peru, and Manaus from Sao Paolo in Brazil, these flights take two and four hours respectively; yet it’s just a 30-minute journey from Quito to Amazonian Coca, in Ecuador. There’s even the possibility to drive to the Ecuadorian Amazon, if you so wish! This means that, with less time and energy spent on getting there, you have more moments to enjoy the delights of the Ecuadorian Amazon, whether that’s the Cuyabeno National Reserve, Yasuni National Park or the Achuar Territory.

Ecuador: Gateway to the Galapagos Islands

With its wildlife encounters and head-scratching geological formations, the Galapagos are extraordinary to say the least, leaving each and every visitor here utterly captivated. There are multiple ecosystems, varied landscapes and intriguing endemic species here, the same mix that led Charles Darwin to his Theory of Evolution. So, any cultured traveler will be in awe during their own Galapagos cruise or land-based vacation, it’s hard not to be. These islands make up part of Ecuador, so flights to this secluded Pacific Ocean archipelago are easily done from either Quito, the capital (taking around 2.5 hours), or Guayaquil, the country’s largest city and port town (a flight time of 1.5 hours). Ecuador really is the gateway to the Galapagos Islands!

Multi-center Trips to Ecuador, the Amazon and Galapagos

With such easy, direct access to the Amazon and Galapagos Islands, you can experience both on one amazing trip to Ecuador. After touching down in Quito, either take the time to explore the UNESCO-stamped Old Town of Ecuador’s capital city, its high Andean surrounds and cloud forests, or head straight for the Amazon on a short flight to immerse yourself in the jungle for a few days. Exploring the Ecuadorian Amazon is a great introduction to the immense biodiversity of this compact South American nation, before you then continue on to the Galapagos Islands, where an even greater variety of flora and fauna – not to mention beautiful beaches – lie in wait. Take a look at our sample Ecuador itineraries to get a flavor for Amazon and Galapagos trips, before getting in touch with us to start planning your own perfect vacation. You can also incorporate the fascinating mainland towns and villages, national parks and protected reserves into your trip too – talk to one of our expert travel designers to find out more.

Latin Excursions Selected for Wendy Perrin’s WOW List 2018

“Wendy Perrin shares her travel secrets, and it’s as close as you can get to vacation perfection.”  —Town&Country

Latin Excursions is delighted to be selected on Wendy Perrin’s WOW List 2018, as one of her trusted travel experts for Latin America. Read on to find out more about the WOW List, Wendy Perrin and exactly why we have been handpicked as her go-to travel planner for the best travel experiences in Latin America.

Who is Wendy Perrin?

Wendy Perrin is an oracle in the world of luxury travel, having spent more than 25 years immersed in travel journalism. Wendy is highly respected in her field, working for Conde Nast Traveler, TripAdvisor (she is their first ever Travel Advocate for some 315 million monthly visitors) and more, winning awards along the way and making many TV appearances. Without a doubt, Wendy Perrin possesses unrivalled knowledge and secrets when it comes to getting the most out of your vacation, and her website is dedicated to sharing all of it with travelers who want to experience something out of the ordinary.

What is the WOW List?

The WOW List is Wendy Perrin’s black book of the very best travel contacts around the globe. Whether you’re looking for a safari in Africa or unforgettable South American adventure, Wendy has tried and tested it all for her readers and is unbeatably placed to recommend the best travel planners and experience makers in the industry. As she puts it herself, she has ‘thoroughly vetted’ them all and only endorses a travel expert if she would use them for her own vacation. There is no one more qualified than Wendy to curate the WOW List!

Latin Excursions on the 2018 WOW List

We are thrilled to feature on Wendy Perrin’s WOW List 2018, as her trusted travel planner for Colombia, Ecuador and Panama. While of course we at Latin Excursions specialize in destinations across South America–from the Galapagos to Patagonia, Cuba to Peru–Wendy’s experience of us is in these three particular countries; for now anyway! Wendy understands that Eric’s multicultural background (his father is American, his mother is Ecuadorian), his extensive travel experience from a young age, and his split bases in Miami and Ecuador, all play a huge part in his flair for customizing tours in Latin America. This is coupled with Eric’s passion for authentic travel experiences, looking beyond the cookie cutter destinations and digging deeper into local culture. It is a great privilege that our philosophy at Latin Excursions is recognized by such a prestigious and credible travel journalist like Wendy, as it really is our passion to create totally unique trips across Latin America.

Read Wendy Perrin’s verdict on Latin Excursions as her trusted travel expert:

Colombia, Ecuador, and Panama
Eric Sheets, Latin Excursions
“Eric has lived in six Latin American countries—he was exposed to the region from an early age by his globetrotting American father and Ecuadorian mother—and today he’s based in Miami and Ecuador, arranging everything from custom itineraries that highlight Colombia’s different local cultures to family reunions, exotic honeymoons, and even villa vacations, not only in Colombia but also in neighboring countries Panama and Ecuador. Travelers have their own private guide and vehicle—to allow maximum spontaneity and flexibility, not to mention rare access to places most travelers don’t see—and stay in top-drawer hotels that share Eric’s commitment to sustainability.”
Trips start at $800 per day for two travelers.

Click here to read Wendy Perrin’s WOW List 2018.

WENDY PERRIN – SAVING THE WORLD FROM MEDIOCRE TRIPS
Town&Country magazine calls Wendy “The Travel Whisperer” who will take you “as close as you can get to vacation perfection.” Condé Nast Traveler praises “The Wizardry of Wendy” and her “encyclopedic knowledge of all things travel.” After 25 years at the pinnacle of travel journalism, Wendy has amassed comprehensive knowledge of the world’s best travel solutions and fixers. She wants to share this knowledge and help people have the best trips possible.

Prior to founding WendyPerrin.com, she was the Director of Consumer News and Digital Community at Condé Nast Traveler, where she wrote her practical advice column, The Perrin Report, for 17 years and her award-winning blog, The Perrin Post, for eight years. She started out long ago as the magazine’s Ombudsman (consumer advocate), investigating reader complaints about travel companies and helping wronged travelers get compensation, and that led to her book Wendy Perrin’s Secrets Every Smart Traveler Should Know (Fodor’s).

Wendy is also TripAdvisor’s first-ever Travel Advocate, advising its more than 315 million monthly visitors—the world’s largest travel community. She has been a keynote speaker at conferences worldwide, on cruise ships, at Harvard University, and at the United Nations. Television appearances include The Today Show, Good Morning America, and many programs on CNN. She has won the Travel Journalist of the Year award, earned a Lowell Thomas award for investigative journalism, and been a finalist for a National Magazine Award—the magazine industry’s most prestigious editorial honor. She graduated cum laude from Harvard, where she majored in History and Literature.

Galapagos Cruises Versus Land-Based Tours

You have made the decision that you want to visit the Galapagos Islands. We understand! It is one of our favorite places in the world! Now, its time to decide between Galapagos cruises or land based tours. Or maybe a little of both! Read on to find out which of these three options would suit you best.

As long-time Galapagos vacation planners, we have created some very engaging Galapagos cruises and tours, personalized itineraries and custom routes. Lets take a look at the different ways you can explore this amazing, one-of-a-kind, bucket list destination

Galapagos Cruises

Cruising on small ships and luxury yachts has long been the popular way to experience the Galapagos. For a long time there just wasn’t much built on the islands themselves to accommodate tourists. Just as Charles Darwin did in 1835, traversing the waters around these magical islands is one of the great travel experiences on the planet. Highlights include:

  • Naturalists on board offering daily programs
  • Opportunity to visit several places during the trip
  • All inclusive meals

There is a myriad of ships and yachts to choose from. You could spend your time reading reviews and studying itineraries. Or, you can enlist the help of an expert who has seen the yachts and taken the trips. All you do is explain what you like to do, be it snorkeling, kayaking, photography, scuba, etc. Like all cruises there is variety in pricing and you can choose to cruise on yachts with as small as 12 total passengers up to small ships that carry 100.

Galapagos Cruise Boat Options

For many years, a Galapagos cruise was the only way to see the natural wonders and countless species that populate the region. It still is the most popular way to visit. Travel planning experts have chosen the cruise partners to work with to ensure you have the best experience possible. The Coral I and Coral II yachts, for example, are delightfully intimate and ideal for exploring the eastern and southern islands of San Cristobal, Espanola and Floreana, among their many available routes that also visit Isabela Island; the largest of all the Galapagos. If looking to uncover the remote wilderness of the western isles in islets such as Fernandina and Santiago, fine vessels including the Reina Silvia and Galapagos Legend operate both long and short journeys. These incorporate rugged coastline, volcanic craters and endless wildlife opportunities as well as a few historic highlights along the way. You can see all of the Galapagos ships right here on this website

The Galapagos Cruise Experience

Galapagos cruises can be arranged for as few as 4 days and as many as 14. You may be kayaking crystalline seas in the morning or enjoying a birdwatching walk, perhaps followed by a chance meeting in the afternoon with Giant Galapagos Tortoises in the Santa Cruz Highlands. Then, whereas one evening can be spent on a sunset Zodiac tour, you might find yourself hiking to a viewpoint the next, or simply enjoying the serenity of your luxury yacht’s observation deck, drink in hand. However you choose to spend each day during your cruise is up to you. But it will be stress free, filled with fun evenings and gourmet cuisine, friendly staff and abundant activities.

Land-based Galapagos Tours

Some people do not enjoy the cruising experience. That doesn’t mean they don’t get to enjoy this destination just as much now. Some of the benefits of choosing a land-based Galapagos experience are:

  • Can be more affordable than cruising
  • Only see the things you want to see and do specific activities
  • Enjoy day trips on the water and to other islands

 

Galapagos Lodges, Hotels and Villas

Like cruising, you have several choices of land based experiences in the Galapagos. One of our personal favorites is the luxurious Galapagos Safari Camp on Santa Cruz Island to be hidden amidst the forest, benefiting from authentic accommodation and stunning views. While here, you will not only feel at one with nature and have numerous expert guides onsite, but can also decide exactly how to spend your time. This is the real advantage of planning a land based visit. You will have the flexibility to enjoy the Galapagos at your pace. Pikaia Lodge and the Semilla Verde Hotel, also on Santa Cruz Island, are other examples of land-based experiences. Alternatively, staying at a villa is ideal for families or groups of friends. Your group can enjoy a custom designed Galapagos experience built around your group activity preference. The overall land based experience can be just as encompassing as a cruise, without the set schedule of one. You gain the best of both worlds; infinite wildlife encounters with ultimate flexibility.

Combine a Land-Based Galapagos Experience with a Cruise

If you want both, plan a cruise coupled with a land based stay on the islands too. That way you don’t have to decide between the two options. This option has become quite popular in recent years as the hospitality infrastructure has matured.

Ecuador Travel Extensions

You’ve come so far, why not spend some time discovering the gateway to the Galapagos: Ecuador! There are cities like Quito to see or combine the Galapagos with an Amazon jungle experience offering lodges or river cruises of varying lengths. Your travel expert can include several options in Ecuador before or after your Galapagos cruises or land-based tours.

Latin Excursions Launches New Website

Here at Latin Excursions, we know only too well that part of the experience in finding your perfect trip to South America is the way a website looks, and the level of expertise that your personal destination specialist demonstrates on the other end of the phone. So whilst our skilled team of enthusiastic, knowledgeable and professional travel experts may not have changed in recent weeks; our website certainly has and we could not be more proud of the results. This has all been done with you, the traveler, in mind.

When Latin Excursions began operating in 2004 our main focus was on providing you with travel to the Galapagos Islands. Since then, we have shown many travelers the special side of this wide and varied bucket list destination with handpicked small ships and yachts as well as unique land based accommodations and tours. in the following years we slowly added each country of South America to our offerings. It takes time to craft the perfect holiday for you. First we meet with local guides to find the ones we know will be a joy for you and your traveling companions. Then, we go and stay at the hotels, inns and retreats, ourselves, so we can recommend them to you with great knowledge. When I and my staff are not in the office talking with you about destinations, we are on the road looking for new experiences to share with you!

As a company, Latin Excursions has always placed the quality of our journeys and client experiences at the heart of everything we do, picking up industry awards and recognition for those efforts along the way. With this in mind, our new website has been designed to reflect that integrity, showcasing the unique routes, off-the-beaten-path South American adventures and unforgettable moments just waiting to be experienced by you across the continent.We think this is why organizations like Wendy Perrin and Travel & Leisure have recognized us through the years with quality awards.

Latin Excursions isn’t like any other tour operator in South America, because we put unrivaled, personal care and attention into each trip. So, whether you find yourself trekking through Patagonia; stargazing in the Atacama Desert; hiking Amazon Jungle trails en route to a world-class eco-lodge; enjoying the beaches of Rio de Janeiro; tango in Buenos Aires or colonial towns in Colombia; maybe discovering Peru’s ‘Lost City’ of Machu Picchu, a wonder of the ancient world; whatever it is, your once in a lifetime trip to South America is in safe, trusted hands.

As you click through our itineraries and trips, just remember: Latin Excursions only works with the most exclusive, boutique and experiential accommodation options in South America, encompassing everything from luxury Galapagos yachts to responsible Amazon eco-lodges – all experience providers we have vetted first-hand. You can choose one of our “pre-designed” tours we have built from our experiences or you can choose to have us “custom-design” a tour specifically for you based on your interests, available time as well as personal travel wants and needs. Unlike virtually every other tour operation in existence, all of our tours are “private.” This means you will not be sharing your experience with other people; only the ones who accompany you on your journey!

We hope you enjoy perusing the new Latin Excursions website and look forward to helping you plan your trip to South America and/or The Galapagos with you soon. Feel free to call us today, 866.626.3750, without any obligation to book at all. We love to talk travel and to delve into specific destinations to help you understand what awaits your discovery!

5 Reasons to Go to the Galapagos Islands

Not sure when you want to schedule your vacation to the Galapagos? The number of visitors to these far off islands in the middle of the Pacific increase every year. So, experience your own slice of paradise before the crowds get here and see Latin Excursions’ top 5 reasons to visit the Galapagos now rather than later!

1. The remoteness

Do you ever have one of those days when you wish you could disappear to a deserted island for just a while? Found more than 550 miles from mainland Ecuador in South America, the Galapagos presents reality to your daydreams. This archipelago is comprised of 13 major islands and 6 smaller ones you’re sure to find one you like! More than that, the population stands at only 25,000 across 3 of the major islands, so more often than not, you and your loved ones will be able to have a most exclusive and private holiday you always wanted.

2. The craters

There are few places on earth when you can get so up close and personal to both extinct and live volcanoes. From the vehicle-accessible Twin Craters on Santa Cruz islands to the Sierra Negra crater on Isabela island requiring a full day journey on horseback and foot, all members of your group will be able to witness these colossal creations by Mother Nature with their own eyes. Standing on the edge, we bet you’ll be tempted to shout out a victory call!

3. The open zoo

Envision going to a zoo where there are no cages and the animals are free to roam about around you that’s what awaits you in the Galapagos. Because the creatures on the islands proliferated over so many centuries free from human interaction until their discovery by the Spanish in 1535, they are not accustomed to fear people. That means you can lay out right next to sealions, approach birds head on, and swim as part of massive schools of fish. Keep in mind, however, while you are able to touch many of the animals without having them run away, it is against Galapagos National Park rules to do so.

4. The endemic species

Not only did the Galapagos’ many birds and other animals develop far from human civilization, they also did so without the natural interference of other species. Today, there are dozens of species unique to only the Galapagos such as the marine iguana, giant tortoise, lava lizards, blue footed booby, and more. So in more than one way, the Galapagos is truly unlike anywhere else on earth!

5. The diving

Ranked on countless world class diving destinations lists, the underwater world around the islands is undoubtedly one of the best places to go scuba diving. There are millions of kinds of marine creatures that call the Galapagos home, a place where marine turtles and hammerhead sharks and immense schools of small fish all live as neighbors. Because of strong currents and large rocks in some areas, it is recommended that travelers interested on diving on a trip to Galapagos have some prior experience.

Read More: Explore our Galapagos Travel Planer Tips

Safety & What it Means in Today’s Colombia

Having had such a tumultuous history in the 80’s and the 90’s due to violence arising from drug and revolutionary political groups, it is no secret that Colombia earned itself a reputation as being one of the more dangerous places in the world. However, the country has since renovated itself on all fronts, almost miraculously fast, to where it is today considered one of the safest, most modern, and breathtaking destinations in South America.

My name is Connie, and I’m a junior travel consultant at Latin Excursions. Recently I had the opportunity to travel throughout Colombia for 2.5 months (not to say that I wasn’t tempted to stay until the very last day permitted on my 3-month tourist visa!). Here, I’ll address some concerns that might be running through your mind while considering your Colombia vacation.

What is the FARC and terrorism situation like today,
and should I be worried?

The Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia People’s Army, known as FARC, is a guerrilla group that has been promoting agrarianism and socialist rule in Colombia. They have been active since the early 80’s stretching into the 21st century. However, with the death of the FARC commander Mono Jojoy in 2010, who was regarded as the organization’s leading instigator and symbol of terror, the safety situation in Colombia has turned around entirely. In fact, in mid-2012, FARC leaders, and Colombian government officials met and engaged in peace talks that have slowly but surely making headway into hopefully nothing but brightness in the country’s future.

Today, even those Colombians who lived through the decades of FARC proudly consider their country to be as safe as any other in South America. Where one girl’s father once dared not walk the short distance between the nearby town and his coffee finca plantation, today she strolls with her two young sons admiring the countryside mountainscapes. As well, the more rural parts of southern Colombia were once the stronghold zones for the guerrilla group. These days, destinations such as the colonial “white city” of Popayan and the archeological parks of San Agustin are among the most popular in the country by both nationals and international visitors alike. If you’re visiting principle destinations such as Bogota, Medellin, and the Caribbean coast including Cartagena, you do not need to worry more than any other large city anywhere. The national government has invested millions of dollars in tourism and security, providing travelers with nothing to fear on its police- and military-patrolled streets besides maybe a sunburn and indecisiveness over the countless things to see and do.

However, there are still some areas considered unready for tourism. The Amazon region, Choco state on the Pacific coast, the large eastern Llanos state with its plains ultimately stretching until the Amazon, and rural areas just above the Ecuadorian border should be approached with caution.

What about the cocaine drug cartels?

By Lee Wagner

When Colombia is mentioned, perhaps no two themes pop up faster than cocaine and Pablo Escobar. Indeed, both came to power in Colombia in the 80’s and ultimately left their unforgettable legacy for the country to clean up after. Pablo Escobar, to this day, one of the world’s most notorious drug chiefs in history, led the Medellin cartel to international success at the expense of countless deaths of those involved in the cocaine trade. Unfortunately, there were also countless innocent victims. Battling his rival, the Cali cartel based in Colombia’s southern, third largest city, Escobar, unfortunately, made the country synonymous with drugs and criminal gang lawlessness.

Escobar was ultimately shot and killed on December 2, 1993 at the age of 43, a death that almost instantly crippled the Colombian cocaine trade. In the two decades since, the government has made it a priority never to allow drugs or gangs to rule the country again. Medellin, Cali, and Bogota are now regarded as showcase cities for internationals, attracting unprecedented numbers of foreign investors, innovators, and of course travelers. In fact, Medellin has recently been known as the rising technology capital in South America, exemplified not least by its modern public metro system and numerous startup companies.

While gang violence can still be found, as in any large city around the world, it is mostly confined to the impoverished neighborhoods. As basic travel sense dictates, it is not recommended to visit these areas in any case.

Understanding the state of modern Colombia, I had not a single hitch in my almost three months in the breathtaking country. Instead of a tense atmosphere, I was met with some of the most genuinely welcoming and hospitable individuals I have ever met, both while in the city and in the countryside. I wish I could have put the Colombians’ honesty, sincerity, and amicability on a postcard to be shared. Not to mention, an exponentially growing number of Colombians speak English, and they are more than patient enough to listen and help if you speak even a word or two in Spanish. This country is not forgetting but instead, quickly moving on past its painful recent history; it would be a shame not to see it now during its rise back into the positive international spotlight!

Can’t wait to discover one of South America’s most enchanting countries for yourself? Review our Colombia travel page and then contact us to start planning!

Galapagos Travel Tips

The Galapagos Islands is one of the most spectacular destinations in the world. Composed of 18 major islands and other islets, this Pacific archipelago dazzles visitors with its volcanic landscapes, fearless wildlife, pristine beaches and fascinating underwater world. Therefore, it is no wonder the Galapagos is on many travelers’ bucket list. However, with so many ways to see this extraordinary place, it can be dizzying trying to decide what is best for each group of travelers. Here are some Galapagos travel tips to consider when planning your visit to Ecuador and the Galapagos, from our travel experts:

Best time of the year to visit: the Galapagos is great to visit any time of the year, as the wildlife is the main attraction and there is always something interesting to see. Perhaps weather should be taken into consideration since during the cooler season water temperature may be cold for swimming, but wetsuits are always available for rental on many boats (and Latin Excursions provides them for our custom made land based programs as well). Sea conditions are more choppy in September, when water is murky and not good for snorkeling, so most boats go to dry dock during that month.

Waved albatrosses return to Espanola at the end of March and will remain until December, with April being the best time to see their massive arrival and mating dance. Humpback whales stay in Galapagos from June to September. So as you can see a visit to Galapagos can be done any month of the year. Also, good points:

• The hottest months are from December to May with temperatures ranging from the low 80s°F to the low 90s°C. The average water temperature is 75°F.

• The misty and cooler season is from June to September and the temperature ranges between the low 60s°F to high 70s°F, with the possibility of rain late in the afternoon or at night. The average water temperature is 69°F.

• From October to December, the temperature ranges from 70°F to 80°F. The average water temperature is 70°F / 20°C

• Land vs. Boat-Based and How to Choose

• The main advantage of a boat based cruise excursion is the variety of islands visited because boats do the long cruising at night and a short cruise to another site usually after lunch, giving passengers time to relax on board. Usually a cruise will visit at least two destinations each day, with snorkeling included most days. All boats have plenty of space to relax on a sun deck.

Land-based trips offer more opportunity to relax, after coming off a boat excursion at a mountain or beach front hotel. Other advantages are having close contact with the local population and to experience the ambiance of Galapagos villages without sacrificing visits to great sites. It allows for the possibility of doing more flexible land tours on the same island, or full-day excursions to neighboring islands, about 2 hours away and reached by small vessels with a maximum capacity of 16 passengers. It is also the perfect alternative for families with small children or for visitors who tend to get seasick. It also gives the possibility of diving for some family members without affecting the others.

• Snorkeling vs. Diving

Snorkeling: Since almost all islands have specific places with very calm waters, snorkeling is possible for anyone who can swim; it is practiced from the beach or from a dinghy, available during cruises or with land-based programs. Adult-sized snorkel equipment is available on cruises; for children it must be requested in advance to make sure they have the right size on board. During cold season, wetsuits are recommended (usually shorties). Snorkeling equipment is available for rental during land-based programs.

• Diving in the Galapagos is for experienced divers only. It is best from June to November, with more marine life to be seen, though divers have to suffer rougher and cooler sea conditions at this time of year. The huge whale sharks are found near Wolf and Darwin islands only from around June to November. However, there are more hammerhead sharks about in the warm season than the cool. A minimum number of certified dives (by PADI or similar) is requested depending on the destination. Regardless of the number of dives registered by a diver, the dive master on board has the final decision about the ability of the diver to participate. The best diving, around Wolf and Darwin islands, requires a long trip and no chance to land on the islands, only advanced diving cruises go to that destination and they don’t include land visits.

• Land Extension to Isabela Island and Best Time of Year to Visit Isabela: There are two ways to reach Isabela Island, by small plane, 30 min from Baltra airport (unreliable frequencies), or by shared public boat that takes about 2 hours from Puerto Ayora, on Santa Cruz Island. The best time to do the crossing by boat is from January to May, as the seas tend to be calmer. Other than this consideration, the same criteria as for Galapagos weather in general should apply. Plenty of wildlife can be seen all year round. Strong currents in November and December make for difficult boat rides from/to Puerto Ayora. It is also usually not possible to explore the Tunnels due to currents during these months.Volcan Sierra Negra is also difficult to reach from December to March due to rain and therefore muddy trail.

Easy daily diving tours from Isabela go to Isla Tortuga and Cuatro Hermanos (Four Brothers), with maximum depth of 20 meters, but it is not advisable in November and December due to strong currents.

Top Events to Attend in Cartagena, Colombia

On the northern coast of Colombia, it seems as if the sights and sounds of the Caribbean-Latino lifestyle never cease. Cartagena de Indias is the gem of the coast in this country known for its coffee and its passion, a port city which has long been the ideal hidden vacation spot for nationals but has only recently come into the spotlight for travelers from all over the world!

Due to its pleasant climate all year round, there is never a bad time to plan a trip to Cartagena. However, there are certainly some dates in which local events may add even more spice to your Colombia vacation. Here are Latin Excursions’ top recommendations for when to best visit Cartagena for an unforgettable time!

Christmas & the New Year

This is the high winter and holiday season when the beaches and hotels fill up and everyone is ready to ring in the New Year in paradise! Whether you are traveling with your family, friends, or significant other, the colonial port city has much to offer such as visits to historic fortresses and the city wall; nearby mud volcanoes; sparkling azure beaches; top restaurants, bars, and cafes; curious museums; and much more.

Hay Arts & Literature Festival, 4-day event in late January

This is an event that is held in major cities throughout the world whose main focus is to bring together intellectuals and storytellers with appreciative audiences in order to indulge in the world of literature and the arts. Top historians, film-makers, novelists, philosophers, environmentalists, poets, scientists, and more are only some of the demographics who will be attending. Take part in workshops, events, lectures, fairs, and much more during this 4-day cultural event.

Cartagena International Film Festival, 6-day event in February and March

This annual festival, known locally as FICCI, the Festival Internacional de Cine de Cartagena de los Indios, has been held for over 50 years with the first installation held in 1960. Is it the oldest film festival on the continent and is the prime showcase for filmmakers, actors, producers, and other industry professionals in South America. Different Hollywood guests of honor such as Harvey Keitel and Clive Owen attend the event each year. See more here.

Annual Barranquilla Carnival, 4-day event at the beginning of March

Carnival is one of the world’s most colorful and raucous spectacles! The event precludes the period of Lent according to the Catholic calendar. In the Caribbean, Trinidad & Tobago is the star destination; in Mexico one would opt to go to Veracruz; in South America, the ideal place to be for Carnival is in Barranquilla. Barranquilla is about 3 hours east of Cartagena along the Caribbean cost, a place known for the heat in the air, its music, its people, and its dance. There is no going wrong celebrating Carnival in Barranquilla!

Easter Week

Easter is a dear period in Colombia, a predominantly Catholic country. In Cartagena, Easter is honored with traditional processions held throughout the old city. This is also a time when many people opt to go to church all week.

Vallenato Music Festival, 5-day event in April

Vallenato is one of the most traditional styles Colombian music This type of music is folk Colombian and originated along the coast. The usual instruments include a small drum called a caja vallentata, ribbed stick called a guacharaca, and boisterous accordion. During the Vallenato Music Festival, top groups come together in contest and audiences can dance along. This 5-day event seems never to end!

Do you know of an event that should be on this list of best events in Cartagena? Let us know. Want to visit Cartagena for one of these events, or any other? Contact us, and one of our Travel Designers can create a custom itinerary designed for your exact needs and interests.

Colonia

Founded by the Portuguese in 1680 on the tip of a peninsula on the Río de la Plata estuary, it is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Colonia’s cobblestone streets are reminiscent of old Lisbon, lined with small museums, tiny bars, fine restaurants and arts and crafts shops.

Colonia Uruguay (population 30,000) is a lovely historic city.

It is one of the destinations we highly recommend you plan on visiting when you travel to South America. Uruguay is a magical travel destination in and of itself! Join our founder, Eric Sheets, on this self-guided walking tour of Colonia to step back into time.

A recommended Colonia walking tour

Start by the eastern end of the Historic District (Barrio Historico) at Puerta de Campo, the restored city gate in greystone (1754) and drawbridge. If you arrive by ferry, simply take the waterfront street to the left of the harbor (Florida) and walk to the end of the street. There, on the right-hand side is a narrow alley that leads across the lawn to the drawbridge of the Puerta de Campo. Cross the bridge and gate (note the Portuguese Coat of Arms), and take the first street to the left (San Miguel), the one that borders the Wall, and then right and right again by the lovely Calle de los Suspiros with bougainvillaea. You will reach the Main Square (Plaza Mayor), where you shouldn’t miss the Portuguese Museum (to the left, on Manuel Lobo), the lighthouse dating from 1857 (left) and Casa Nacarello (corner of Manuel Lobo and del Comercio), at least, so that you can have an idea of the Spanish and Portuguese influence. Walk the surrounding streets and just savor stepping back into the 16th Century.

New Year’s Eve in South America

The New Year is celebrated with “gusto” across South America, but it’s hard to think of more lively and sensational celebrations than those in Cartagena, Colombia, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, and Punta del Este, Uruguay. If you plan to visit these cities at the end of December, be prepared for crowds, road closures, and holiday premiums; but you can also expect world-class festivities with local panache.

Cartagena is as much of a New Year’s Eve destination for Colombian families as it is for energetic international travelers. People come from all over the country to occupy Cartagena’s streets, and many set up for the night with plastic tables and chairs, and perhaps a bottle of local rum or Aguardiente, as well as savory food from curbside vendors. The weather is ripe for parties in the streets, and fireworks help to ring in the New Year. Decadent parties are thrown at many of the hotels, such as the Charleston Santa Teresa and the Sofitel Santa Clara, and nightclubs like Bendito host musical gatherings for young and glamorous crowds from mid-December until mid-January. The ultimate place to be on New Year’s Eve could very well be Cafe del Mar on the ramparts of the city, sponsored by Moet & Chandon, beckons guests with not only champagne but also an extensive DJ line-up and Parisian decor.

Rio de Janeiro offers a New Year’s party that rivals Carnival in scale and splendor. The fireworks display at Copacabana is the main event, and millions of locals and tourists combined gather on the beach to watch the midnight show and revel until the early hours of the morning. Many Brazilians light candles for the Afro-American goddess of the sea, Yemanja, and place them in the sand, as they make wishes for the coming year. High-class parties happen throughout the city, and the most notable are those at the Copacabana Palace Hotel, the Fasano Hotel, the Museum of Modern Art on Flamengo Beach, and the Jockey Club. And for those not willing to shell out up to $1,500 on a ticket that includes dinner, drinks, and entertainment, one of the most popular free parties is Lual Arpoador, where many young cariocas watch the fireworks and dance till the sun rises.

Punta del Este is a place to see and be seen, popular with the rich and famous from Buenos Aires and Brazil, and frequently compared to the Hamptons. Celebrities migrate to Punta del Este for Christmas and New Year’s, and lavish private homes and trendy clubs are the places to be on December 31st. Unlike Cartagena and Rio, where there are ample festivities for the masses, Punta del Este is highly exclusive, and many of the soirees are invitation-only. Some merry-makers head to the Our Lady of Candelaria harbor for the fireworks display at midnight, but the crowd clears quickly, bound, perhaps, for tireless clubs in La Barra, 24-hour casinos, or luxurious hotels that sell out months in advance.

10 Awesome Awasi Outings in the Atacama Desert

Awasi is a classy, cozy and colorful lodge from which to explore the highlights of the enchanting Atacama Desert of northern Chile. Beyond its luxurious features and exquisite cuisine, Awasi’s private and personalized excursions make it stand out among the rest; each group of guests gets its own 4×4 jeep and private expert guide at its disposal throughout its stay in order to visit the particular places it wants to see and participate in the activities it would like to experience, all free from schedules, time limitations or other restrictions. Awasi has a long list of half-day and full-day excursions to choose from, reachable by 4×4, bike, horse or foot; they bring guests to the desert’s salt flats, unique rock formations, sand dunes, mountain ranges, geysers, lagoons, cultural towns, historical fortresses, and more.

Here are 10 possible outings that can be arranged from Awasi to get a taste of its extensive menu of experiences:

1. Half-Day Atacama History Tour by 4×4 Jeep:

This three-hour tour begins with a drive to the Quitor Pukara, an Atacama fortress dating back to 1,000 AD. After ascending the ruins, you will be treated to a privileged view of the Andes Mountains and surroundings. The drive continues to the town of Tulor, one of the first and most important settlements in the Atacama Desert, where you will visit the ruins, excavation site and the reconstruction of original homes. The tour ends with an optional visit to an archaeological museum.

2. Half-Day Excursion to Toconao and Atacama Salt Flats by 4×4 Jeep:

First, you will stop at Toconao town, which is famed for its buildings made of volcanic stone. Here, you can visit the town’s church and crafts market in the main square, before heading to the nearby Jere creek. Afterwards, visit Chaxa Pond, which is a National Reserve at the Atacama Salt Flat, where you can observe flamingos and other native bird species while enjoying views of the surrounding mountain ranging.

3. Full-Day Excursion to Tatio Geyser by 4×4 Jeep:

Departing at dawn, you will arrive at the Geothermic Camp of Tatio, underground springs that spray out steam and hot water in intermittent spurts. You will enjoy breakfast while watching the sun rise, observing the landscape and its fumaroles. Afterwards, visit the town of Machuca or stop at the Puritama hot springs for a relaxing dip in naturally heated volcanic pools.

4. Full-Day Excursion to Tara Salt Flat by 4×4 Jeep:

Heading towards Bolivia and Argentina, you will first reach two impressive volcanoes: Licancabur Volcano and Juriques Volcano. Continuing on, you will drive through the altiplano where you will sight vicuas and flamencos before reaching the extraordinary rock formations of Pakana Monk. Following a trail off the paved road, you will arrive at enormous rock cliffs that surround the Tara Salt Flat, where you will have lunch while enjoying a striking view of Lake Tara and its surroundings.

5. Half-Day Hike to Kari Canyon:

You will be driven to a lookout point near the lodge, from where you will view the Salt Range before starting on your hike on a narrow trail with a ravine on one side. You will descend down the dunes and walk through Kari Canyon to explore caves, caverns and more. The hike can continue on to Moon Valley if desired.

6. Half-Day Hike to Guatin and Gatchi:

You will be taken in 4×4 to Guatin Valley, or “Valley of the Cacti”,starting the hike inside a creek along the Vilcama River. This attraction has an abundance of cacti, various geological formations, small waterfalls, and brooks, keeping the entire hike interesting. After the first hour along the river bed, you will begin walking toward the archaeological site of Gatchi, an old pastoral range.

7. Full-Day Hike to Patos Creek:

This five-hour hike begins from the town of Talabre, from where you will follow an old road used by shepherds in the past. On the way, you will cross several ravines and will see ancient cave paintings that depict the lives of shepherds from thousands of years ago. After lunch along a creek, you will reach Patos, which has its own unique history and is home to well-preserved stone constructions.

8. Half-Day Hike to Moon Valley:

Especially recommended in the afternoon, so that you can watch the sun set at this place of incredible beauty and solitude, this excursion includes a 3.1-mile hike through abandoned salt mines. You will hike over salt layers, sand dunes and clay before arriving to an impressive dune in the middle of the Salt Range.

9. Half-Day Bike Ride to Cejar: 

This 11.25-bike ride is entirely flat, though most of the route is on dirt road. The final destination is Cejar, which is comprised of three turquoise lakes, one of which you can swim in; the salt concentration is so high in the lakes that you can easily float. Along the way, you will be treated to beautiful views of three surrounding mountain ranged: the Andes, the Domeyko and the Salt Range.

10. Half-Day Horseback Ride to Death Valley: 

On this excursion, you will horseback ride for approximately three hours, starting towards the Quitor Oasis on narrow dirt roads and continuing on to Death Valley. Huge clay formations, large dunes and the Salt Range will serve as the backdrop.

Top 10 Galapagos Beaches

The beaches of the Galapagos are not the stereotypical beaches you will find in other parts of the world; here, you can find white sand beaches surrounded by mangroves, black lava beaches and hidden coves, all abundant with wildlife like sea lions, pelicans, iguanas and so many more. Check out our top 10 beaches in the Galapagos.

Though the Galapagos aren’t particularly known for their beaches, there are hundreds and hundreds of world class beaches that dot the lava rock strewn coastlines. Here’s some of the best that can be visited either as part of a Galapagos land tour or in many cases only as part of a Galapagos cruise. Contact us to visit one, or several, of these amazing works of nature on your own Galapagos vacation!

1. Tortuga Bay Beach, Santa Cruz Island

Tortuga Bay is one of the largest and most famous beaches of the Galapagos Islands. This beautiful white coral sand beach lies about a 2.5 km walk from Puerto Ayora and behind the main beach is a natural bay that is an excellent spot for sea kayaking and snorkeling. Discover the amazing underwater world of the Galapagos, including sea turtles, sea lions, and white-tipped sharks. Watch birds like pelicans, flamingos, and lava gulls, which come to this beach in search of food.

2. Gardner Bay Beach, Espanola Island

This beautiful beach is famous for the multitudes sea lions you’ll find lying around in the sand. You can meet these friendly animals up-close while witnessing amazing sunsets. Another great beach for snorkeling, with a diversity of tropical fish, and white-tipped reef sharks.

3. El Garrapatero, Santa Cruz Island

Lined by mangroves and Manzanillo trees, this white sand beach is visited by pelicans, marine iguanas, ghost crab, shrimp, and penguins. This 3 km long beach lies about 20 km northeast of Puerto Ayora and is a great place to enjoy snorkeling, sunbathing and picnics.

4. Puerto Villamil, Isabela Island

This white sandy beach, in front of the town Puerto Villamil, is shaded by coconut palms and dry tropical forest and offers shelter to wildlife like marine iguanas, sea lions, boobies and many different kinds of birds. There are several other beaches nearby Puerto Villamil, but those are only accessible by cruise ship.

5. Conway Bay Beach

This beautiful secluded beach is somewhat off the beaten track, as most cruises do not stop here. You can reach the beach with local boats for hire, and it is definitely worth it; once you are there you will feel like you have reached Paradise. Here you can find sea lions and land iguanas and because this beach is so secluded, you will have it all to yourself. Contact us if you’re interested in visiting this beach, we’ll be happy to arrange a boat.

6. Bachas Beach

If you’re lucky, or actually make a point of choosing a cruise that lands at this official visitor’s spot, you’ll be treated to white sand beaches where large numbers of sea turtles nest, and a brackish lagoon behind the beach that is home to colorful flamingos. The snorkeling here is good as well. The name of the beach is actually a misnomer or rather a Spanish mispronunciation of “barge” for the wrecked US military barge nearby.

7. Rabida Island Red Beach

Strewn with sea lions and marine iguanas, the only authorized visitor’s spot on Rabida Island, is a brightly colored red beach with a brackish lagoon that at times hosts flamingos. An excellent hike featuring palo santo forests and Galapagos finches is to the left of the beach, while to the right is excellent snorkeling.

8. Bartolome Island Beach

The view from the volcanic peak above the beach looking down is likely the most famously photographed scene in the Galapagos Islands. At beach level, the view is also spectacular where a massive vertical rock formation surges from the water. It’s also one of the few places in the world where it is common to be able to snorkel with penguins. Yes, you read that correctly. Snorkel with penguins!

9. Post Office Bay, Floreana Island

It’s not the most picturesque beach in Galapagos, but it’s the most historically relevant beach. It gets its name from a barrel that whalers and pirates placed on the beach back in the 19th century that acts as a “post office”, where visitors leave mail without a stamp, and other visitors take it upon themselves to deliver the mail to recipients near their hometown. Darwin also visited this beach and it’s the site of the mysterious “Galapagos Affair” where several early settlers were famously murdered by other settlers in the 1930’s. A feature-length documentary was made about the mystery in 2014.

10. Puerto Egas, Santiago Island

This beautiful white sand beach is home to numerous sea lions and is an excellent spot for snorkeling with sea turtles and tropical fish. To the right of the beach are lava rock outcroppings dotted with marine iguanas, birds, and other wildlife. The infamous “Darwin’s Toilet”, a bizarre tidal phenomenon that resembles a gigantic toilet is a big attraction. Just don’t fall in!

Not-to-Miss Attractions on Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos

Whenever timing and schedules permit, it is a good idea to arrive at the Galapagos Islands at least 1 day before your cruise begins, allowing some flexibility in case are any travel complications along the way. This is particularly recommended if you are flying in from faraway international cities, where delays and weather conditions may affect your timely arrival into the islands.

So now that you’ve arrive safely and soundly (and hopefully full of excitement) into Santa Cruz Island, with the town of Puerto Ayora being the closest center of interest and resources from Baltra airport, the largest in Galapagos, what is there to do?

Here are some suggestions for a fun filled time on Santa Cruz Island, whether you choose to appreciate it all in one exciting day or over a period of a few relaxed days during your Galapagos vacation.

Los Gemelos (The Twins)

The intense sceneries of the Galapagos are a result of millions of years of volcanic action. On Santa Cruz, the best place to see evidence of this dramatic geological history is the Los Gemelos crater site. Its name, which translates into The Twins, refers to the two brother craters found on each side of the roadway that links Baltra airport with Puerto Ayora town. They are the result of the collapse of a large magma chamber. While it is not possible to circumnavigate the giant, deep holes, there are some short and simple trails in the area.

gallery and shops walk on avenue charles darwin

Puerto Ayora is the most populated urban center in the Galapagos, although it is still very much the sleepy town it has always been. Avenue Charles Darwin runs west to east and is the main visitor thruway, dotted with typical restaurants and fine boutiques on both sides. Dip into the artisanal shops offering locally made goods, of course with Galapagos themes, and various galleries showcasing the works of some of the most remotely located artists in the world. Says Alvares Martinez, a local of Puerto Ayora:

puerto ayora fish market

Located right on Avenue Charles Darwin, the fish market is a delightful stop for admiring just where that pescado encocado (fish cooked in a coconut sauce) you ate last night came from. To this day, fishermen bring in their catches of the day to this small dock market, and vendors masterfully slice the produce up as buyers request. Large pelicans swoop in and out or wait patiently on the simple roof, waiting for any spoils, while locals cheerfully pass the afternoon with each other on the sidelines. The Puerto Ayora fish market is a great place to experience a bit of typical Galapagos island life.

charles darwin research center

The most famous resident that ever lived at the Charles Darwin Research Center, a place dedicated to preserving and supporting turtle and various flora life found on the Galapagos Islands, was Lonesome George. The giant tortoise who called Pinta Island its home was the last of his subspecies, making him perhaps the rarest animal on earth before his death on June 24, 2012. He was more than 100 years old. His image continues to serves as the symbol of the importance of conservation and respect for nature in Galapagos, and the research center maintains its goals of helping repopulate the various islands with their turtle populations. Animal lovers will really enjoy the many baby turtles on the site, as well as the famous giant Galapagos tortoises wandering their natural habitat.

Tortuga (Turtle) Bay

The 1.5 hour flat walk to Tortuga (Turtle) Bay can be a steamy challenge during the hottest hours of the day (10 a.m. to 3 p.m.), so it is best to get there earlier or later. Along the paved walk, try spotting the many small lizards that dash back and forth before your feet. Also, take time to appreciate the candelabra cactuses, the only tree-like cactus species in the world. The first beach that you reach looks as if the heavens swiped a thick brush across the land, creating a vast white sand paradise. The waters here are a bit rougher, although great for surfing. As such, swimmers and loungers are encouraged to walk another 15 minutes to the right to a much calmer bay where mangroves lurk mysteriously on the sides and marine iguanas dive with humans. If snorkeling in these turquoise blue waters, the lucky can spot white tip reef sharks and rainbow colored Galapagos crabs. Close out your day with a sunset seen from Tortuga Bay, where the sky turns into a beautiful painting.

Chile Travel Tips

Will your trip to Chile be your first, or a return to an old favorite? Whichever the case, be sure to keep these top 3 Chile travel tips in mind for an unforgettable and well-prepared vacation!

Will your trip to Chile be your first, or a return to an old favorite? Whichever the case, be sure to keep these top 3 Chile travel tips in mind for an unforgettable and well-prepared vacation!

1. Learn Chileno: Standard Spanish might be the official language, but colloquially, Chilenan Spanish is what you’ll find on the streets. This unique dialect has its own special blend of vocabulary, pronunciation, grammar, slang, and loanwords inspired by indigenous language such as Quechua in the Andes and Mapudungun in the south. Chileans are very proud of their speak, so don’t hesitate to ask them what they mean!

2. Toast to Great Wine Itself: Chile is one of South America’s most prominent wine producers, famous in particular for its red flows. The local cabernet sauvignon is a frequent hit, and those wanting to see the fruitful wineries for themselves should plan to visit Chile’s fertile central region.

3. Pack Well: This geographically lanky country includes environments such as the high Andes, the dry Atacama desert, verdant wine country, sunny beaches, and the colder portions of Patagonia in the far south. It is important to consider the various climate zones you might be visiting on your trip to Chile as you carefully pack so you aren’t left at a loss in its magical, remote destinations!

Finding Paradise in Corumbau, Brazil

Sometimes, it is necessary to take a vacation from vacation.

Whether you are looking for some time off from bouncing between numerous destinations in South America or need a break from the roar and rumble of Rio in June and July 2013 due to the World Cup, Brazil’s Corumbau is perhaps the ultimate escape. It is geographically exclusive, historically rich, and seems to be the result of Mother Nature’s creative streak.

The nearest airport to Corumbau is found in Prado about 45 minutes to the south. From there, only private transfers can get you to this little corner of heaven on earth.

Flush with sparkling clear waters and picture perfect tropical flora, exclusivity and privacy are the keywords here. Each luxury pousada offers visitors ample space from the rest of the world, a hidden nook where it is just the sun, the sand, and your loved ones.

One of the most popular reasons to make the trip out to Corumbau is to seek out humpback whales in the open ocean – the southern Bahia state is infamous for these majestic creatures not to mentionboat trips to observe vibrant coral reefs and expertly led excursions into the nearby Monte Pascoal National Park. Hiking, bike rides by the water, and kayaking complete your vacation whether it’s a romantic getaway or family trip. Looking back into history, it was here that the Portuguese first landed in Brazil in 1500; we are not surprised they were charmed into staying!

Deciphering a Peruvian “Chifa” Menu

When the first wave of Chinese immigrants first came to Peru in the late 1800s, they were considered part of the lowest working class, seeking work in mines and sugar plantations after the country outlawed slavery.

When the first wave of Chinese immigrants first came to Peru in the late 1800s, they were considered part of the lowest working class, seeking work in mines and sugar plantations after the country outlawed slavery. The nature of the work meant that more than 95% of these incoming groups were male, and they were mostly from the Canton region of southeastern China. Later in the mid 1900s as political situations shifted in Asia, more people arrived in Peru seeking safety and work in a new world. Today, Peruvian Chinese citizens make up more than 4% of the country’s population.

A result of this cultural blend can be seen in Peru’s “chifa” restaurants, merging traditional coastal and Andean flavors with those that the Chinese brought with them. Each local chifa has essentially the same basic collection of dishes served in a fast and casual style, although higher end chifas incorporate harder-to-find ingredients imported from China. Don’t miss trying some of these classics when you’re looking for a quick meal during your travels in Peru:

Chaufa: Just as it is in many areas of the world, fried rice is the most popular staple of adopted Chinese food. Chaufa found in Peru usually comes with 2 variations: with chicken, or with thin beef strips. Intermixed within are a medley of vegetables.

Tallarin saltado: If you are not in the mood for rice, then try the stir fried noodles. Similar to chaufa, tallarin saltado includes a fresh mix of your choice of meat with vegetables, all tossed around in each chifa’s special sauce blend.

Aeropuerto: It is still a mystery why this dish is named “airport”. However, it is an ideal choice for the indecisive, as it is a combination of both chaufa fried rice and saucy noodles-literally! The two components are made together rather than set on separate halves of the plate.

Tipakay: For a more substantial meal after a long walk or day on the town, tipakay will be sure to fill you up. Pan fried pieces of chicken or beef (sometimes both) are lathered in a rich and sweet tamarind sauce, all of which is laid over a bed of white rice.

Sopa wantan: Quench your thirst after eating so many savory delicacies with a hot, comforting bowl of wonton soup. The soup is a mixture of simple flavored spices and stock. Swimming inside is usually 1 or 2 pieces of boiled wontons filled with small pieces of meat. Diced green onions used as a garnish complete this simple but delicious side.

We would love to hear back about your favorite chifa dish!

Brazil Travel Tips

Although South America consists of 13 unique countries, the behemoth Brazil geographically comprises about half of the land area. That´s a large destination! For your next trip to see some of the most famous landscapes, festivals and beaches in the world, take note of these helpful tips to get you make the most of the opportunity!

Go in the Summer: One of the best times to visit Brazil is during the Northern Hemisphere’s summer from May to August. This is the low travel season, meaning there are fewer tourists, lower prices, and more availability. Also, June hosts one of the country’s most celebrated festivals named Festas Juninas throughout Brazil, a rural and religious gala full of costumes, music, and dancing.

• Seek Peace in the Amazon: While the New Years and Carnival seasons are in the very high season and full of crowds, you can still find peace and quiet in Brazil in the Amazon during that time. The jungle is still a burgeoning and exciting destination, and you can obtain a wide variety of options without paying the premium of high season rates.

Have Fun in the Sun: Want to go somewhere with guaranteed sun? Fernando Noronha, a set of 21 islands about 220 miles from the mainland known as Brazil’s Galapagos, can be visited all year round with certain sun. The archipelago is a declared UNESCO World Heritage Site and is ideal for spotting exceptional birds, sea tortoises, dolphins, and more. Diving is also world class here, with wetsuit not needed and visibility often reaching as far as 160 feet.

• Find Something New at Lençóis Maranhenses: If you are looking for a destination out of the ordinary in Brazil, look no further than Lençóis Maranhenses. This national park is not technically a desert, but the immense sand dune landscape sure alludes to Saharan dreams. In fact, it is due to the many showers in the rainy season that allow for the juxtaposition of sand dunes alongside crisp freshwater lakes! Try going on a 4×4 or quad bikes tour, or perhaps even a jaunt by boat.

Discovering the Ancient Figures of San Agustin by Foot or Horseback

Deep in southern Colombia is a mysterious destination that few visitors have ventured to discover in the last 30 years. This is because this region was once the stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as FARC. Today, this small town with a population of about 30,000 is free from the risks of yesteryears and the San Agustin Archaeological Park is one of the most alluring reasons to visit Colombia.

Deep in southern Colombia is a mysterious destination that few visitors have ventured to discover in the last 30 years. This is because this region was once the stronghold of the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia, also known as FARC. Today, this small town with a population of about 30,000 is free from the risks of yesteryears and the San Agustin Archaeological Park is one of the most alluring reasons to visit Colombia.

Getting to San Agustin is not the easiest. About 140 miles from Neiva, the capital of the Huila department, and 85 miles from Popayan, the country’s white city known for its gastronomical flair, it is a long though breathtaking journey to the deep countryside. Coming from Neiva, the Tatacoa Desert makes for a grand stopover, while coming from Popayan, the Andean highlands and their endless fields of high altitude flora such as frailejón set the mood for what feels like traveling to the ends of the world.

The town itself is modest and unassuming, with few nods to targeted tourism besides the handful of crafts shops and signs pointing towards the archaeological park. A short 15 minute ride outside of the city, you will have your first decisions to make. Should you visit the official San Agustin Archaeological Park with carpark and well groomed trails, or take a more adventurous route and see some of the pre-Colombian statues still unearthed in the area?

If you choose to go horseback riding, then be sure to wear your active gear! This is a great option for those interested in archaeology as well as being amid nature. The horses will take you gracefully up and over mountain rides and through rarely used paths almost as if on autopilot. Your expert local guide will point out where to direct your eye, explaining the history and significance of the stone figures.

The government funded and volunteer supported San Agustin Archaeological Park, a recognized UNESCO World Heritage Site, is one of the most impressive historical sites in Colombia. Studies are still being conducted to fully understand the ancient burial sites which are prefaced with delicately carved stone figures in human and animal forms. A highlight is La Fuente de Lavapatas, an intricate network of carvings and canals in a stream’s bedrock that brings together earth and water. At the end of the marked walking path is an outlook that peers over the entire San Agustin valley. It is well worth bringing a picnic or snack to rest and soak up the prehistoric energies in this area of remote Colombia.

3 Things That Might Surprise You on a Galapagos Trip

Looking back on the first time that I went to the Galapagos, I realized that I had no idea what I was getting myself into (as is often the case when we look behind us!).

Looking back on the first time that I went to the Galapagos, I realized that I had no idea what I was getting myself into (as is often the case when we look behind us!). I had expected to see a few animals here and there, maybe a good sunset every night, and having to battle large groups of people in order to get a dinner table in the evenings. Here are some lessons I learned on my Galapagos trip:

1. It is very, very hot.

Set in the middle of the Pacific Ocean about 500 nautical miles west of mainland Ecuador, the climate of the Galapagos Islands is comparable to that of other oceanic lands. From June to November, temperatures are relatively low during what is known as the rainy season. Rains tend to be scattered throughout the afternoons or sometimes last all day. Cooler winds also pass by. From December to May, it is the dry season, at the height of which it is also incredibly hot and humid. Especially from January to April, it is vital to bring lots of sunscreen, a hat, long sleeves and pants, sunglasses, and any other personal items that may help against the sun’s heavy rays. And not only is there a lot of sun, powerful UV rays reflect off the ocean waters as well as the black volcanic rock seen on hikes and beaches. During this season, it may be unbearably hot in the early afternoon, so often cruise itineraries schedule these hours for transit rather than activities.

2. The animals do not fear you.

When I heard that the Galapagos resembles an open zoo, I wasn’t sure what to think. On my 4 day cruise, however, I quickly found out what that meant. Because the Galapagos is so remote and have historically been free of human contact, the creatures that call the archipelago home have not come to fear people. From the playful sea lions to the rainbow colored Sally Lightfoot crabs, and from the giant marine tortoises to the blue footed boobies, none of them shy from your approach. With that said, it is important to remember not to get too close in order to respect each animal’s personal space and safely.

3. It is not overly touristy.

The Galapagos is on the Must See list of many travelers, so I figured that many of them would be there the same time I was. And while the islands are growing exponentially more popular by the year, only about 170,000 visitors reached this top destination in 2012 (to give you an idea, more than 1 million visited Machu Picchu the same year, and more than 1.2 million visited Rio de Janeiro for its Carnaval celebrations also in 2012). Puerto Ayora remains the largest urban center among the islands with a population of less than 10,000. This means that the Galapagos still retains its ancient natural charm and tranquility, and that personal connections with the myriad of animals, the local people, and mystical energy of the vast landscapes can still be felt out in what truly often feels like the middle of nowhere.

Argentina Travel Tips

A trip to Argentina can start in the most unassuming of places-a stroll through wine country known as Mendoza, a bike ride through the tango capital Buenos Aires, or perhaps a boat ride at the imposing Iguazu Falls-but take you to the far ends of the world known as Patagonia.

A trip to Argentina can start in the most unassuming of places – a stroll through wine country known as Mendoza, a bike ride through the tango capital Buenos Aires, or perhaps a boat ride at the imposing Iguazu Falls – but take you to the far ends of the world known as Patagonia. There are large distances to cover if you plan on gaining a comprehensive understanding of Argentina’s geographical, natural, and cultural personalities. Through it all, these tips are worth keeping in mind for a journey you won’t soon forget.

Leave Your Worries in the Snow: If you are looking for more than sea and surf on your trip to South America, then keep in mind the many ski opportunities in Argentina in particular. The areas around San Juan de Bariloche in the central region right next to Chile are prime for getting your fill of adventure. The steep Andes mountains make for great adrenaline rushes whether you wish to ski or hike in the scenic, snowy landscapes. One of our favorite base hotels in this area is the Hotel Llao Llao.

Visit the?Traslasierra Valley for Guaranteed Sun: Nobody wants rain and clouds to dominate their holiday photos or memories. Stop by the countryside Traslasierra Valley in the Cordoba province to be sure that it is always sunny wherever you go. Beautiful haciendas pave the way for you to go horseback riding, hiking, and do other activities, but one of the main charms in this region is also to just sit back and relax.

Surprise Your Taste Buds: In Buenos Aires, the capital of Argentina, an experience you should not miss out on is a visit to a closed door restaurant, in Spanish known as “puertas cerradas.” These restaurants vary in their styles-some have many tables and some just a few, some have fixed menus while others are a la carte, some might be lavish but others are simple and homestyle, some serve only Argentine food while others take influence from regions around the world-and it is particularly these kinds of varied details that make dining at these establishments such a delightful pleasure.

Walk up to a Growing Glacier: While much of the world is changing due to adjusting global climates, there are still 3 glaciers in Patagonia (South America’s far south) that are still growing, and the Perito Moreno Glacier is one of them. The face of this ancient, icy body is more than 3 miles wide, where pieces regularly calve into Lake Argentino. The adventurous can even trek across its surface!

Visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center

There is perhaps no other name more synonymous with the Galapagos Islands than Charles Darwin.

The author of the 1859 book On the Origin of Species, Darwin ignited what would turn out to be a forever debate about the merits of evolutions against the traditional ideas of creation based on religious testaments. As he traversed the waters around the archipelago more than 150 years ago, Darwin came to define his observations of the local finch birds and their specific beak attributes. His idea was that birds and other animals may have evolved from their ancient forms into their current states based on what is now known as the survival of the fittest and adaptation to their environment.

Darwin’s theory of evolution aside, he was also a dedicated and passionate natural scientist who was deeply passionate about the world around him. The Charles Darwin Research Center, established in 1964 and found in the outskirts of Puerto Ayora on Santa Cruz island,is run by the Charles Darwin Foundation and continues to respect and honor the Galapagos natural distinctions. It should be part of your Galapagos travel plan.

The Protected Galapagos Tortoise

The top reason many visitors go to the center today is to observe the giant Galapagos tortoises that are bred and protected on its grounds. These immense creatures are endemic to the Galapagos which means they are not found anywhere else in the world. Some can weigh more than 880 pounds and live more than 100 years! The most famous tortoise was named Lonesome George, a Pinta Island native and a very specific subspecies who was the last of his kind. Unfortunately Lonesome George passed away on June 24, 2012, but to this day he remains a beloved character of the Galapagos.

The Charles Darwin Research Center is also a great place to see baby turtles as they grow and before they are released back onto their respective native islands. Watch as they move surprisingly fast under rocks and into the shade, and also climbing on top of each other! Various exhibits throughout the grounds offer more background about the different animals found on the islands, not to mention many endemicOpuntia cacti (cacti that grow with trunks like trees), and colorful lizards that dart back and forth in front of your feet.

When visiting the Charles Darwin Research Center, be sure to bring a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of sunscreen because the walking paths can be difficult under the harsh Pacific sun.