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At One Click from South America

The ultimate wine adventure… Yes! In Chile!

If the idea of spending a few days sipping on a myriad of great wines, hopping from one vineyard to the next in a permanent state of enjoyment sounds appealing, then this is the place for you! ;)

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Chile has remained slightly under the wine-lovers radar for long. Nonetheless, its splendid valleys boasting endless vine-covered hills and world-class wineries have begun to create a buzz amongst travellers in seek of a good glass of Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay or any other of the many strains produced here.

The Central Valley region of Chile includes a diverse array of valleys; all with superb and unique wine climates and rich soils. The closeness to the Pacific Ocean brings cool breezes and the Coastal Mountain Range shelters the area, while the base of the Andes provides some higher altitudes, creating a great diversity of terroirs. This is still sort of an untapped paradise for wine tourism, with a booming economy and vibrant culture that make it an outstanding destination. While there are many great options to visit within the region, let us tell you a bit more about our favorite ones.

The Maipo Valley

Only about an hour drive south from Santiago, the capital, this valley produces some of the most renowned wines. Some even call it the “South American Bordeaux”. It is nestled between the Coastal Mountain Range, isolating it from the Pacific breeze, and the Andes, that rise dramatically and separate the valley from the Argentine wine region of Mendoza. It is one of the oldest wine producing areas with a great sense of heritage and some of the biggest producers in Latin America (such as Concha y Toro), but also has some young innovative boutique wineries (such as Aquitania).

The most popular wine style in the Maipo Valley is its rich and fruity Cabernet Sauvignon, although they also produce Carmenère, Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, among others. These can be tasted accompanied by some high-quality local food products, like chocolate, pates, breads and others.

Tours to the Maipo Valley are offered year-round. But, if you want the ultimate experience, you might want to aim for April, when the grapes for the Cabernet Sauvignon are harvested. And, just in case you feel some sort of guilt for doing nothing but drink during your trip –which you really should not feel- there are hiking and rafting opportunities. And make sure not to miss the natural hot springs to unwind after all that hard work tasting wines! :P

The Colchagua Wine Trail

A bit further south, around a 3-hour drive away from Santiago, the Colchagua Valley is a flourishing viticulture destination, with one of the best organized wine routes: the Ruta del Vino de Colchagua. A bunch of boutique wineries welcome you by reservation only, although sometimes are also open for walk-ins. Some of the most famed winemakers have their vineyards here, experimenting with the varied terrain, from the foothills of the mountain range, to the coastal areas. Colchagua is most famous for its Carmenère and juicy red wines in general, also including Syrah, Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.

This area is well known for its great hospitality and culture. Local owners complement wine tastings with local food and tours of their historical family-run wineries. And for those in seek of some more action, biking has recently emerged as a great way of exploring the Colchagua Valley, taking in some truly breathtaking landscapes between wine tastings.

 Like at Maipo, the Colchagua Valley can be visited during any time of the year. Nonetheless, weather is better from October to May, plus you might get to catch some harvesting.

The Casablanca Valley

 Much closer to the Pacific, the cooler climate and the great temperature variations make Casablanca splendid for some sorts of white wine, such as fruity crisp Chardonnays and Sauvignon Blancs, as well as some reds like Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah. This region is very well organized and not only offers great wines, but also an array of local restaurants. Most wineries work on a reservation-only basis.

Casablanca is a younger wine region, but its very convenient location, half way between Santiago and the picturesque coastal town of Valparaiso, turn it into a great alternative for those travelers with only an extra day to spare. While you are there, you should definitely seize the chance and visit Valparaiso and Viña del Mar, both beautiful towns that should not be missed. If you go in summer (December-March), don’t forget to take your swimsuit, as you might feel a sudden urge to hit one of the many beautiful beaches along the way.

Tip: If you want to take home a bottle or two, look for the D.O. label (designation of origin) for unique high-quality wines.

Check out this tour to get you started on your Chilean wine adventure!

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/chile/all-about-wine-in-chilean-central-valley/

The best Iguazu travel experience

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There are very few places on Earth as majestic as the Iguazu Waterfalls! It is hard to describe what one feels when standing in front of such an impressive demonstration of the power of nature. You really have to experience it first hand.

To make the most out of your trip, we have worked on a selection of our best tips for traveling to Iguazu.

A bit of geography

The Iguazu Waterfalls are situated between three countries: Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. While there are several options to visit, the most common way is to reach them from the Argentine side. From there you can cross over to the other two countries through the border crossings, all in the same day. Perfect for collecting stamps on your passport to then brag about with your friends! :P

 

A matter of time

The Iguazu Falls Park is fairly big, so it is best to allow enough time to explore it. Staying a night or two is a good idea. Accommodation on the Argentine side is best prepared. And, if you are a travel geek, like us, you should also get a park map in advance and get familiar with what there is to see.

Extra tip: a great time to visit the falls is during full moon in spring or fall, when there are night full moon tours available.

 

Don’t get stopped at the door of the party… Get a visa in time!

Remember to research on visa requirements prior to your trip so you can easily cross the borders. Many nationalities need a visa to cross over to the Brazilian side and this may have to be obtained in advance. Argentinian visas may sometimes be acquired in Brazil on the same day of the crossing. Contact us to guide you on this, depending on your nationality.

*US citizens are exempted from paying the reciprocity fee for Argentina since August 23, 2016. http://www.embassyofargentina.us/en/consular-section/reciprocity-fee-for-us-citizens.html

Trek your worries away!

There are several treks, both on the Argentine and the Brazilian sides, ranging from 600 metres to 7 kilometers long. As there are different types of entrance tickets to the park, you might want to make sure to get one that allows you to access the areas you are most interested in. Let us know how much walking you would like to do, so we can advice you on this.

Just do it!!

Do not, by any chance, miss out on the opportunity of taking a boat ride to the base of the fall. Just be prepared to get soaking wet and have an extra pair of everything in a waterproof bag. :P

 

Bragging rights!

Yes, you are entitled to show off your amazing trip on every social media platform you like. You can also go oldschool and send out a bunch of postcards to your friends and family. You’ll find many giftshops with mailboxes on your way to or from the Central Station and they should take credit cards, US Dollars, Euros, Brazilian Reals or Argentinian Pesos.

Practicalities

  • Bring a good waterproof jacket or a disposable poncho (much cheaper in town than inside the park) as you will get wet. An extra pair of pants and non-slip sneakers are also a good idea. Just be prepared for interacting with some water and embrace the experience!!!
  • Other things to pack: sunscreen, mosquito repellent, a sunhat, your camera, your passport, some cash, water bottle.
  • Keep your food safe from the coaties. They look cute but can also chase you around for that precious snack you’ve been hiding from your friends.
  • While it is still a good idea to bring some cash, you can also find ATM machines on site.
  • Bring any special medication with you, clrearly labeled and along with your physicians prescription.
  • If you want to blend in and feel like a local, get a mate cup, a thermos and some yerba mate and look for hot water dispensers or ask for a hot water refill at any restaurant. This hot tea is a national obsession!

So, need some ideas to get started planning your trip to Iguazu? Check out these itineraries!

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/brasil/best-of-brazil/

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/argentina/the-best-of-argentina/

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/argentina/argentina-metropolis-and-natural-wonders/

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/argentina/buenos-aires-iguazu-and-salta/

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/argentina/icons-of-argentina/

Peru and Machu Picchu top CNN’s Wonder List of the month

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Once again Peru has been recognized for its beauty and impressive legacy, being named the number one gem by the famous CNN news channel, through its “Wonder List” of the month section, by Bill Weir. Capturing the essence of the widespread Inca Empire through its extensive heritage scattered around the country, the video showcases stunning bird’s-eye views of Lake Titicaca in Puno, and especially of the city of Cusco and its famous Inca vestiges, such as the Sacsayhuaman and Choquequirao fortresses and, of course, the most impressive Machu Picchu.

Watch the video here: http://edition.cnn.com/travel/wonder/peru

The mysterious Inca citadel of Machu Picchu

¡A truly timeless gem! Machu Picchu is at the top of many “travelholics” bucket-list for many good reasons. The astonishing Inca citadel blows every architect’s mind, built with enormous blocks of stone, without the use of steel or wheels. And, if the engineering of it is not your thing, then the views alone guarantee an awe-inspiring encounter, as you discover this huge stone city nestled in-between the imposing mountains of the Andes.

If you are planning to visit the sacred city of the Incas, you might want to seize the opportunity now that it is dry season. July and August are probably the best months to travel to Machu Picchu, avoiding heavy rain and dense fog. As it is peak season, you might want to stay overnight in Aguas Calientes (the close-by town) and explore the ruins when the day-tour groups have not arrived yet.

Weather, acclimation and other considerations

While you are mostly safe by visiting during the dry season, it is always a good idea to check weather conditions in advance and pack for every temperature. Machu Picchu and Aguas Calientes have a sub-tropical climate, since they are closer to the rainforest and much lower than the city of Cusco. But it can also get a bit chilly at night and early in the morning. You will also go through Cusco or even stay there for a night or two at some point. The days can be pretty warm if you stand under the sun, but nights can also be really cold. So, our best tip is to pack as if you were your overprotective mother trying to be ready for EVERYTHING! Also consider wearing layers for your day excursions, as conditions can vary unpredictably. And, of course, you must bring your best hiking shoes to hit some of the many paths in and around Cusco.

If you are not used to the altitude, you might want to go straight to the Sacred Valley or Aguas Calientes as soon as you land in Cusco… and leave your city stay for your way back. This way you will start by getting used to the milder altitude of the valley, about 1,000 meters lower than the city. And, of course, take it easy at first, drink some coca or muña tea and stay very well hydrated. No, pisco sours don’t count as hydrating beverages, but still, make sure you try some at some point! ;)

Finally, bear in mind that recently introduced regulations require visitors to enter the Inca citadel of Machu Picchi with official tour operators or guides. Also, you will have to choose one of two time slots: from 6am to noon, or from noon to 5:30pm.

Contact us so we can advise on what is the best itinerary for you! ☺

Cuenca: a cultural hotspot and its ancestral roots

Cuenca, Ecuador

Among the most beautiful cities in Ecuador and in whole South America, Cuenca is a former Incan village, which was then conquered by the Spanish. These left an outstanding colonial imprint on the city, for which it was listed by UNESCO as a World Heritage Site.

Cuenca is the ideal destination if you are looking to get away from hectic and noisy cities. Its very tranquil atmosphere make it enjoyable to just stroll along its cobble-stoned streets and admire some outstanding colonial architecture, featuring impressive churches, façades with wrought iron balconies and red-tiled roofs showing up around every corner. There are over 50 churches in the old city center, all dating back to the 16th and 17th centuries, making a walk through town a sort of time traveling experience.

Cuenca is a true gem of history and architecture… and to top things up, it is surrounded by stunning landscapes, a river, natural hot springs and Incan ruins, making it a significant cultural hotspot, where you can also unwind for a few days.

The traditions and customs of Cuenca are preserved by its inhabitants and harmonically blend into their modern lives. The handcrafting tradition has been turned over from one generation to the next. So, if you are fond of taking home some fine handcrafts, you might want to check out Cuenca’s marvelous artisans workshops. Among the souvenirs you can get, as mementos of your wonderful trip, there are leather jackets, ceramics, jewelry and toquilla straw hats, all produced around Cuenca.

Situated at about 8,200 feet of altitude (approx. 2,500 meters) and with a pretty walkable size, just wondering through its streets and corners and unwinding at its parks can be enough for those in seek of a relaxing time. But, if you are keen on some more action, there are very interesting spots surrounding the town itself that might complement that colonial heritage experience.

Approximately an hour away from Cuenca you’ll find the fortress of Ingapirca. This is a former political and administrative Incan Center (ca. 1,400 A.D.) of great importance, which also lays on the route of the Great Inca Trail. The Incan ruins of Pumapungo are also a great alternative. But, if you’ve had your share of ruins to please the archaeologist within you, there are plenty of other things to see and do in and around Cuenca.

The walk along the riverside and into Parque El Paraiso seems to be a favorite. Also, there are heaps of art galleries, museums and street art happenings… Cuenca is, after all, recognized as Ecuador’s hotspot for the arts and culture. In between strolls, you can also enjoy a break at one of the pubs along Calle Larga and observe the students’ town ambience.

To get a nice panoramic view of Cuenca and get a grasp of its beauty in a single picture frame, go up to the Turi lookout point (Mirador de Turi). You can either take a taxi or bus up to the top… or walk up the over 400 staircase steps.

Also, the beautiful natural landscapes that surround Cuenca are not less appealing… so, if you appreciate nature and a good hike, consider driving out to the Cajas National Park, an ecological reserve about 30 kilometers from Cuenca. The area is well known for its breathtakingly beautiful mountains, lakes and scenery. If you are lucky you will also spot some of the park’s wildlife, such as rabbits and ducks… and, if you get really lucky, even a white tailed deer, a puma or a condor.

Some practical notes:

Cuenca is only a 45 minutes flight away from Quito, but it can also be reached by bus or car (approx. 8 hours) and enjoy the landscapes and little towns en-route, such as the native town of Saraguro. While the basics of Cuenca can be covered in a couple days time, some people stay longer, simply enjoying its slow-paced atmosphere, warm welcoming people and beautiful sights.

What you might not want to miss while in town: the Cathedral of the Imaculada, Parque Calderón, the Tomebamba river, the thermal baths, tour a panama hat workshop, the Iglesia de la Asunción, the museum of modern art, the Plaza Civica, the Turi lookout point… among many other.

Need some itinerary ideas? Check these out or ask us! :)

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/ecuador/cuenca-a-gem-in-the-southern-andes-1/

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/ecuador/cuenca-the-essentials/

Trendy South America

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South America has gained heaps of attention from travelers from all around the world. And there is a good reason for that… in fact, there are quite a few! Well, for starters, the tourism industry has experienced rapid growth in most of its countries, now offering a much better and extensive array of services, making it that much easier to travel around. But, what really is moving more and more people to embark on a once-in-a-lifetime South American adventure is the great array of flourishing destinations that stand out for their natural, historical or cultural features. So, let’s dive into that.

Here’s a list of what’s to see and do at 5 of the trendiest countries of this magical continent. You can either pick one or two to explore in depth… or –if you can add all those off-days that you have pending at work- make your trip a rather long one and go through all of them! ;)

ECUADOR

Ecuador is a nice little country that has a lot of different things to offer packed in a fairly small area, so you can easily get around. The city of Quito and the historic city of Cuenca are both World Cultural Heritage Sites and have some amazingly beautiful architechture! If you are more of a nature person, you can check out the area of Baños and the Mindo cloudforests, only a daytrip from Quito, or even adventure deeper into the rainforest. Of course, if you are visiting Ecuador, you must consider the Galapagos Islands. This archipelago is on top of many nature-lovers’ rankings for a good reason. It is one of the most naturally stunning places on Earth, with a hughe biodiversity and an array of wildlife that you can get really up-close with… kind of like your own little “national geogrpahic” expedition.

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PERU

It is undeniable that you must see the world wonder of Machu Picchu while in Peru. No arguing that! But you should definitely seize the chance to explore some other wonders of this country… like the great food in Lima. Peru has been voted Best Culinary Destination in the World for the last few years in a row and Lima is probably the place place to explore peruvian cuisine… don’t miss out on the ceviche, the many creole dishes and, of course, wash all down with a freshly shaked pisco sour! In Cusco, allow some time for visiting Machu Picchu, but it is also a great plan to stay in the Sacred Valley of the Incas for an extra day or two and explore the little towns, archaeological sites, artisans markets, trekking routes and breathtaking scenery.

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CHILE

Now, if your middle name is ‘adventure’, then you must go to Chile. It’s a really skinny but LONG country on the map, making it extremely diverse, with arid deserts like Atacama on the northern part and glaciers on the southern end, like at Torres del Paine National Park on the Chilean Patagonia. Adrenalin-seekers, trekkers and plain outdoors-lovers will have a blast here. But Chile has something to offer to every one. So, if you’re not feeling that outdoorsy, just hang around the capital Santiago and plan day trips to the coastal towns of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar or to some of the many vineyards close by and sip your worries away with a nice glass of Carménère, Chardonnay or whichever you prefer. :P

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BRAZIL

Of course you will want to experience Rio de Janeiro and its vibrant urban yet beachy scene, the laid-back Carioca atmosphere and its welcoming people. Life will be perfect as you sip on a caipirinha as you enjoy the sun on any of the great beaches of Rio. This is also a great destination for partying, so don’t miss the nightlife and hit the dance floor to pick up some samba moves! If you are seeking a more relaxed spot and stunning beaches to unwind at, head out to Buzios or Florianópolis and just let life pass by for a couple of glorious beach days.

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BOLIVIA

Bolivia is probable one of the lesser-known and newest trending destination in South America. Travelers are attracted to it by its awe-inspiring natural settings, which are indeed very unique. Of course, while you are there, check out the picturesque capital city of La Paz, nestled in between snow-capped mountains. But don’t miss sight of lake Tititcaca (also possible to visit from the Peruvian side, in Puno) and of the mind-boggling Uyuni saltflats, which boast a landscape that really seems out of this world… plus, you’ll get some AMAZING pictures to brag about to your friends! ;)

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Need ideas to start with? Check out our ‘Best of South America Tour’:

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/ecuador/best-of-south-america/

Trekking in Patagonia – why it should be in everyone’s bucket list

Trekking in Patagonia

If you consider yourself a trekker at heart and love nature, then you must check out Patagonia. Even if you have not been out hiking that much lately, this is the sort of place that is worthwhile undusting your hiking boots for –or why not?, even getting a brand new pair.

The Patagonia, extending over the south of Chile and Argentina, is every hiker’s dream. It’s monumental natural beauty has become part of its own brand identity. Walking it is really the best way to take in all those amazing views of imposing glaciers, mountains, pristine lakes and waterfalls, towering volcanoes, flowering meadows and many other ridiculously beautiful settings.

There are alternatives for everyone, from week-long routes that are best suited for experienced trekkers, to shorter and less demanding day hikes… but, trust us, no less awesome in any way! So, let us give you a few reasons for pushing Patagonia up on your bucket list:

1. Prehistoric vestiges at Torres del Paine National Park

This amazing route departing from Punta Arenas, in Chile, will take you through this amazing national park, enjoying views of lakes, rivers, fjords and glaciers, with the breathtaking Torres del Paine as a backdrop… so every picture will look like a postcard. Along the way there are interesting geological and archaeological sites. To top things up, you’ll end up at the Serrano Glacier and will have a chance to visit some prehistoric, over 12,000 year-old life vestiges at the Milodón cave. Camping en route is a plus, with amazing night skies and breathtaking sunrises that you will dream about for years.

2. Huella Andina, Argentinian Patagonia

Huella Andina is Argentina’s first long-distance trail, going through five national parks and some private land. It really caters for fans of hiking, regardless of their experience level, as there are stretches of all different lengths, that can be covered in one, two or three days time. There are also opportunities for going on horseback or by bike. Huella Andina is especially well suited for families, boasting over 20 trails of mid and low difficulty. Scenery is also stunning –as in whole Patagonia, really- featuring forests, cascades, lakes and more. If you are keen on a more demanding hike –and also have the mountaineering experience-, ask about the higher peaks at the information offices.

3. El Chaltén

This is hikers’ paradise. Pretty much every trail departing El Chaltén will shortly lead you into natural protected areas. It’s the perfect basecamp for many day hikes around the Fitz Roy Range, part of Los Glaciares National Park. Trails are very well delimited and there are camping sites, in case you are up for a longer hike and a good night sleep surrounded by nature. There are too many lakes and mountains to name, but heads up… you might not want to miss the twin peaks of Cerro Torre, Cerro Fitz Roy, Laguna de los Tres and the Chorrillo del Salto waterfall.

4. The Perito Moreno Glacier

It’s not really that often that you get a chance to walk on top of a glacier. This might not be a demanding hike, but indeed a very special one… A mini trek on a part of its huge 250 square kilometers surface will allow you to come up-close with this ever-changing natural wonder, exploring its cracks, ice blocks and little lagoons. Safety equipment and a pre-hike safety talk need to be provided by your guide.

5. Torres del Paine

The Torres del Paine W trek is one of the most known hiking routes in Patagonia and a definite classic. It takes 4-5 days and demands for you to be in a very good shape. But you can also ask about the option of breaking it into different day hikes. And there is also a longer circuit (7-10 days), called the Paine Circuit (or the ‘O’ Circuit). Anyway, these treks will reward you with fantastic views of glaciers  and the towering granite “Torres del Paine”. It is a good idea to book in advance, securing accommodation and other services availability.

6. Tierra del Fuego

Lots of options for day hikes here using Ushuaia as your base, but also offering some multi-day treks that will blow your mind, taking you through such diverse wilderness landscapes, from the stunning Patagonian fjords, to rocky ridges and beech forests. Ask about the Montes Martial Circuit, a 3-day trek circling behind Ushuaia.

Peru voted Best Americas Tourist Destination (Shanghai World Travel Fair 2017)

Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru.

Peru is most definitely a trendy destination. Its thriving tourism industry has been once again recognized internationally, being voted Best Americas Tourist Destination at the 2017 Shanghai World Travel Fair (SWTF).

The SWTF is China’s leading international tourism market, held annually in Shanghai. This year it gathered representatives from over 55 countries, as well as airlines, hotels, tourism operators and agencies, among other tourism businesses. Peru was recognized in great part thanks to its ongoing efforts to attract and cater for Chinese visitors, one of the major and fastest growing outbound tourists markets in the world.

Peru at SWTF

A Machu-Picchu-inspired pavilion attracted the attention of international tourist and particularly Chinese, all eager to discover the Incan citadel, as well as the many other “hidden” wonders that this country with great heritage has to offer. The Peruvian tourism operators and agencies participating in the event showcased their tours and services to the Chinese and other Asian countries’ representatives.

Chinese tourists in Peru

China is currently the second-largest Asian outbound market for Peruvian tourism –only after Japan-, more than 35,000 Chinese tourists being expected to arrive in Peru by the end of 2017. This is, among other factors, thanks to the visa waiver for Chinese citizens holding visas from the U.S., Canada, UK, Australia or the Schengen territory. But, moreover, the South American country has great appeal to them in its own right.

So, what is it that Chinese tourists like so much about Peru?

First of all, Chinese tourists tend to give a lot of value to history and culture, as well as natural beauty… and, well, Peru really has all of that.

Cusco is very well rated amongst them for its historic and cultural significance as cradle of the Incan civilization. And in particular the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu, of course, is definitely one of the most popular destinations for Chinese tourists in South America. Apparently they deeply identify with this, as their country too is a cradle of civilization.

Along with Cusco, another Peruvian destination that attracts these Asian visitors is Iquitos and the Amazon rainforest, boasting one of planet’s greatest biodiversity. Lima, of course, as a hub, is also a flourishing urban and culinary destination of great appeal.

5 places in South America that are even greater than the picture

South América is a continent that invites you to explore and immerse yourself in out-of-the-ordinary experiences that will give you away memories that will last a lifetime. The amazing scenery and colorful cultural expressions also grant travellers with great picture opportunities. But some places are so stunning that any photo can really do them justice. Here are our top 5 destinations that are even more impressive life than in pictures. ;)

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1. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

These islands are in every other travellers wish-list for a reason. Galapagos islands are considered a living laboratory of nature and evolution because of their unique characteristics… they are like a huge natural playground where visitors can experience up close encounters with nature, with breathtaking scenery as a backdrop. It is one of the most important marine reserves in the world, so that there’s not only amazing things to see on the archipelago’s islands, but under the sea as well. Pretty much everywhere you look there is a chance to spot some of natures wonderful creatures… from cute blue-footed boobies, to impressivly gigantic land and sea turtles, playful sea lions, pengüins, marine iguanas, among many others. Regardless if diving at its reefs and underwater caves, relaxing at any of the endless beautiful beaches or exploring the islands by land, there isn’t any picture that can really show how special this place is.

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2. Sacred Valley in Cusco, Perú

The Sacred Valley is nestled in the heart of the former Inca Empire, just over 30 kilometers outside from the city of Cusco. It streches over aproximately 60 kilometers along the Urubamba river, a fair bit lower than Cusco, making it into a very fertile and warmer land. These milder conditions, along with astonishingly beautiful landscapes, make it into a great place to just kick back, relax and enjoy life. There are also many magnificent ruins tucked away throughout the valley, as well as Spanish colonial villages, such as Pisca, where you can engage with locals and score some fine handcraft pieces. Follow the footsteps of the Incas exploring the many hidden gems that this very special Incan settlement has to offer. There are also many opportunities for adding an adventure component to the experience, for those keen on a bit of an extra thrill. Have your camera ready, but beware of possible lamas photobombing your shot! :P

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3. Uyuni Saltflats, Bolivia

This attraction is of an uncomparable natural beauty. It’s the largest salt flat in the world, with an area of 12,000 square kilometers, perched at over 3,600 meters above sea level. The endless white-painted salt desert creates an amazing optical ilussion that distorts the sense of distance between things that may be far away from each other. So you can try and take those funny pictures, like you were “crashing” a truck with your foot or “eating” your seemingly tiny friend. To top this up, this place hosts more great sites, like the Incahuasi Island, a volcanic outcropping covered with immense cacti up to 10 meters tall, volcanoes, mountains full of minerals, where you can let your inner geologist go wild or just enjoy some unbeatable sunsets.

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4. Atacama Desert, Chile

The Atacama desert is another imposing natural scenario. To discover it is a whole adventure, featuring endless shapes, colors, shades, lights, volcanoes, dry salt lakes, ponds, geysers and a starring performance by the power of nature at its finest. Some of its landscapes really look like out of this world, such as the mystical moon Valley (Valle de la Luna), where merely watching a sunset can be a show of remarkable beauty. A contrasting but astounding experience is the visit to El Tatio Geysers, the highest geothermal field in the world, at about 14,100 feet of altitude. The steam plumes towering high, cutting through the morning sky and the reflections on the salty crystal steam pools are just astounding.

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5. Buzios, Brazil

This destination seems to be tailored for complete relaxation on beautiful beaches. The Buzios Peninsula, 170 kilometers from Rio de Janeiro, is as close as you can get to beach-lovers paradise. More tha 20 crystal-clear-water beaches are in store for you. Some of them sort of tucked away, perfect if you are planning a romantic trip or just appreciate some layed back beach time. Buzios also offers opportunities for some great snorkeling and also for hiking through its gorgeous Atlantic forest. So, regardless of how active you choose to be, this destination will provide you with a picture perfect setting for it!

¿Need some ideas to start planning your South American journey? ;)

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/ecuador/best-of-south-america/

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/brasil/best-of-brazil/

10 impressions of visiting the Amazon

Iquitos, Amazon rainforest, Peru.

Iquitos, Amazon rainforest, Peru.

The Amazon is definitely one of the most amazing places on Earth. It’s the largest tropical rainforest in the world, hosting an enormous diversity of flora and fauna, and the Amazon River is the widest and the second longest (only after the Nile). The Amazon is a place that deeply impresses every single one of its visitors. From the less outdoorsy to the most incessant adventurers, this destination will spark your senses in many ways…

1.      Stand in awe of its grandioseness

There is no doubt about it… when you experience the Amazon, you know you are in front of something truly BIG. It is the biggest rainforest in the world, extending over more than 5.5 million square kilometers (about two times the size of India!). The Amazon River is the second longest river on Earth, flowing over approximately 6,600 km, but also the widest one. During rain season it can expand to up to 48 km width… It’s also by far the largest river in terms of average water discharge.

2.      Feel humid, warm and sort of sticky

The environment is tropical, with generally high temperatures, averaging between 25º and 30º celsius. Humidity is also very high, usually ranging between 70% and 90%. So, prepare mentally for a tropical slap as you get off from the plane.

3.      Enchanted by the mysticism

The Amazon is an intensly mystical place. There are endless legends about creatures and spirits living in the forests. These stories are part of the native communities’ oral traditions and also have a strong influence on their daily lives. Paintings by local artists and chants by shamans all convey that mysticism and guarantee an imagination boost.

4.      Be amazed by the indigenous tribes and locals’ daily lives

The Amazon is inhabited by around 350 ethnic groups. Some tribes are even believed to have never been in contact with the outer world. Others have been more or less influenced by occidental ways of living, but still preserve their traditional customs as well. Many are happy to welcome tourists and show them a bit of their daily lives.

5.      Live your own jungle book story

This gigantic rainforest is home to 10% of all species known to mankind, more than any other terrestrial ecosystem. With over 40,000 plant species, more than 400 mammals, around 1,300 birds, reptiles, amphibians and fishes, you’ll be surrounded by wildlife, even when you are not aware of it… So, keep your eyes and ears open!

6.      Feel respect for this great source of life

The Amazon actually also plays a big role in YOUR day-to-day life. Thanks to its size and dense vegetation, the Amazon rainforest produces over 20% of the world’s oxygen. The Amazon River is highly important for the water cycles, releasing around 55 million gallons of water per second into the ocean. Tons of food consumed by the world are produced here. And about a quarter of all western pharmaceutical products use amazonian ingredients.

7.      Feel alert (slightly afraid)

Although the Amazon’s biodiversity can indeed be utterly fascinating, there are some deadly creatures out there… venomous snakes and frogs, caimans, electric eels, jaguars, spiders, among others. It is thus highly important to comply with safety guidelines, always walk in groups, look where your stepping or grabbing and follow your expert guide’s instructions… Be alert and you’ll be just fine. It’s totally worth it, believe us! ;)

8.      Suddenly feel smaller

Everything is superlative here… from the widest river to the tallest trees. Plants and insects are bigger than usual. A bullet ant can be up to 1.2 inches long, beetles up to 6.5 inches… and some tarantulas can grow up to a size of 12 inches (leg span). The list can continue endlessly, but you get the idea.

9.      Be surrounded by an intense and ongoing sountrack

Most of the animals make some sort of noise, either on purpose or just caused by their movement. You can hear monkeys howl and jump between trees, fish and eels moving in the water, birds singing for their mates, cicadas chanting non-stop… The forest itself resonates as the rain pours down or the water flows down the streams. So you’ll have an ongoing sountrack for your jungle adventure.

10.     Waterways and boats will feel like standard transport

Cruising the river is the best way to get around… by the second day you’ll feel completely normal hopping on a boat just to go visit the neighbouring community. The movement of the boat can also be very soothing, but that’s just a plus. Oh, and keep an eye open for pink dolphins! ;)

Exotic Galapagos and mystical Machu Picchu: two South American wonders in one trip

MachuPicchux

If you are looking for an ultimate South American experience, combining nature with culture, history and amazing food, you might want to check out two of the most special places in the continent: Galapagos Islands in Ecuador and Machu Picchu in Peru. These two wonders will truly blow your mind in a journey that grants a fair bit of adventure with opportunities to relax and unwind from your day-to-day life. As a bonus, a mandatory pit stop in Lima gives a chance to eat your way through the capital of the world’s leading culinary destination –believe us, this title is very well deserved- and to explore this flourishing urban destination.

GALAPAGOS ISLANDS

This is by far one of THE most exciting destinations for nature lovers. It’s like a natural playground for diverse species, giving you endless opportunities to come up close with those iconic sea iguanas and giant Galapagos tortoises, thousands of bird species and a whole underwater universe, in an out-of-this-world setting.

The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic origin comprised of 18 main islands, located about 1,000 kilometers west of continental Ecuador. It is a National Park, a Marine Reserve and World Heritage (UNESCO), recognizing its enormous significance. It is a truly unique place where you can follow Darwin’s footsteps on his theory of evolution.

Of course, being tropical islands by the Pacific Ocean and near the Equator, Galapagos also has some superb beaches where you can sit back and just let every bit of stress fade away. Imagine white sand beaches, soothingly warm waters, the shadow of some trees to keep you fresh and natural rock pools. Among the favorite beaches on Santa Cruz Island (touristic hub for Galapagos) are Tortuga Bay (turtle bay), El Garrapatero and Playa de los Alemanes (beach of the germans).

If you are looking for some activities, there are great options too. Visit Las Grietas, a sort of small canyon with two volcanic rock walls on the sides and filled with clear water (don’t forget your snorkeling gear!). There are also several short hikes featuring fantastic desert-like landscapes filled with opuntia cactus (endemic), lava lizards and many birds. You can also visit “los gemelos” –two adjoining sinkholes that resemble craters-, the lava tunnels and the giant tortoises ranches. Oh, and don’t miss out on dining at the fun and flavorful “calle de los kioskos” (kiosks street) in Puerto Ayora, where you pick your own fish or lobster to throw on the grill.

MACHU PICCHU AND THE SACRED VALLEY OF THE INCAS

Prelude – eating your way through Lima

Before heading to Cusco you will necessarily go through Lima. So, why not stay a day or two and enjoy this thriving coastal city with countless dining options. Everything from street food to fine dining is exciting in Peru, with and enormous variety of dishes and styles. While you are there, you can also check out Lima’s downtown and the touristic quarters of Miraflores and Barranco… a bit of walking might help make new room for your next meal. ;)

Now… Cusco, the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu

A short flight from Lima will bring you right up to the highland city of Cusco, at almost 3,400 meters above sea level. Allow some time for exploring the city itself, but pay close attention to the gorgeous Sacred Valley and, of course, the mystical and stunning Machu Picchu.

You can start by discovering the valley first, to get a good sense of the essence of the area, where culture and history mix up with nature. Located just over an hour outside from Cusco, the valley stretches over approximately 60 kilometers along the Urubamba River. It is also a fair bit lower than Cusco, making it into a very fertile and warmer land. There are archaeological sites all over it, local communities, beautiful weaving and artisanal handcrafts, Incan agricultural laboratories and many other features. It is also the perfect place to just kick back and relax.

Once you get a grasp of the special place you are at, then you’re ready for the main number. You’ll take the train to the town of Aguas Calientes, from which you’ll discover the Incan citadel of Machu Picchu. This outstanding piece of Incan ingenuity will absolutely amaze you; so give it a good full morning just to wonder around. There are also complementing visits and hikes, such as the Inca Bridge, Huayna Picchu Mountain, Intipunku or the Machu Picchu Mountain. Don’t forget to take your classic postcard-worthy Machu Picchu Picture… it is a World Wonder after all! ☺

For more ideas on what to do in Aguas Calientes, visit this other post.

Check out this itinerary example:

https://www.journeyou.com/en/tours/peru/galapagos-machu-picchu-adventure/