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South America Odyssey

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A Tourist Guide to Cuba

An introduction to Cuba
We have put together this guide to introduce Cuba to you knowing that is very easy to get bamboozled by too much information. We hope this short guide will be enough to set you on the right course, without being too detailed. As such it is not meant to be definitive – for further details we strongly recommend that you look at our website or get in touch as we would be delighted to talk to you all about Cuba.

Cuba summary

A Cuba Holiday should be at the top of every intrepid traveller’s list. Cuba is famed for its revolutionary history and slow concessions to the 21st century, but it is beginning to change, and now is the perfect time to holiday in Cuba. This intriguing Caribbean island moves to a unique and mesmerising rhythm and we love it; we are full of ideas and tips that we would like to share with you.

Highlights of Cuba

The following locations have proven very popular with those that have travelled with South America Odyssey to Cuba. We know the pros and cons of each destination and if you have any further questions about these locations, as well as other destinations, please do get in touch as we would love to speak to you about them.

Havana
Landing into Havana and driving through the suburbs of this crumbling city always fills me with excitement and anticipation. Havana is a city like no other where so much has been written about it, but you need to go to experience it first hand to understand Havana. Music, old American cars, small taverns serving mojitos with their in house bands blasting out Cuban hits and world class museums and interesting architecture and more gives those visiting a plethora of options. There are lots to experiences and we suggest a minimum of three or four nights in Havana.

Trinidad
A small UNESCO World Heritage city with a vibrant music scene that comes together every evening to entertain locals and tourists. Trinidad is a pretty looking city that is also a great base from which to explore the nearby Escambray Mountains or the pristine nearby beaches. This small town was built on the back of a sugar boom in the area and the history of the city and how it thrived is particularly interesting. Two or three nights in Trinidad is essential on any touring itinerary of Cuba

Vinales
The rural, sleepy and old fashioned area of western Cuba that is famed for growing the best tobacco in the world. Vinales is very laid back and whilst here you can rest, relax and explore this agricultural heartland that has not yet let modern ways of life seep into the culture of the region.

Beaches
Cuba is blessed with miles upon miles of golden sandy beaches and crystal clear waters. If you fancy a few days on a beach then you are in a good place. Along the northern coast there are many large all-inclusive options, a couple are decent for three or four nights, but there are some areas that we never recommend. Near Trinidad you can visit the beaches during the day and retreat back to the city at night for some food and music. There is also a very small island for complete escapism where you can stay in a little bungalow on the beach.

Cuba FAQ’s

When is the best time to visit Cuba? The best season is from the middle of November to late April. During these months the weather is hot and sunny. May and June are beginning to get humid and September and October is the hurricane season and should be avoided.

Do I need a visa to visit Cuba? Yes, but for European citizens it is very easy and we can advise you on how to acquire one post booking. For American citizens it all depends on the purpose of your visit.

How do I get to Cuba? The main airport is Havana airport and there are direct flights from London Gatwick two times a week. There are also daily flights from Amsterdam, Paris and Madrid.

Are the hotels in Cuba outdated? In all honesty, yes. The majority of the hotels in Cuba are outdated, yet it all adds to the charm of being in a country that has not changed much. In Havana there are a couple of more comfortable “luxury” options that are comparable to a good 4 star hotel. Outside of the capital then accommodation usually comprises of a clean and comfortable ensuite with antique furniture and old art.

Has Cuba changed a lot and lost its charm as a tourist destination? Cuba has changed a little since our first visit in 2005, but nothing happens quickly In Cuba. You can still see the old American cars, listen to the music of the island and visit a country that for the main has not changed much for decades.

Is visiting Cuba good value? We think so. However, it is not a super cheap country. The good quality guides, renting reliable cars and staying at the best hotels can all add up and the government heavily controls prices. Food and drink in Cuba is reasonably priced.

How much does a Cuba holiday cost? As a guidance then a 12 day three/four centre trip with a private driver and guide would cost from £3,000/$3,900 per person.

How long do you recommend for my Cuba holiday? We suggest around 12 days as being ample to soak up the highlights of central and western Cuba. If you want to venture further east then 2 weeks is a minimum.
What should we expect from a Cuba holiday? We love Cuba, however it can be a tricky place to visit and a sense of humour is often required. Cubans are utterly fun and charming people, especially when not working, but things can take a while to get accomplished. The plumbing can sometimes break and occasionally there are electricity shortages for a few hours. But Cuba is wonderful and for those ready to experience something unique then you will love Cuba.

Don’t miss a puma sighting because of your shoddy binoculars!

South America is home to scenes of dramatic landscapes, fascinating wildlife, colourful birds, beautiful cloud forests and all in all the great outdoors at its very best… The list could go on and on – it is so vast, with so much to see…

One thing is for sure, wherever you are travelling to on your South America adventure, the only way to make the most of it is to have some good binoculars – we can’t stress this enough…

From spotting the vibrant birds fluttering around Monteverde in Costa Rica, to glimpsing the specific quirks of the unique Galapagos wildlife, and to the ultimate South America wildlife spot of a rare puma in Patagonia –  you definitely don’t want to miss moments of a lifetime because you got a “bargain” pair of unfocused, blurry binos! Trust us – this is so important.

A good place to start when considering a good pair of binos is this article which gives all the info you need when choosing a perfect pair for your trip of a lifetime. In our opinion, not buying a good pair of binos for such an adventure is equal to going to Italy and not eating pasta or pizza… Something you will 100% look back on with regret.

A Tourist Guide to Brazil

An introduction to Brazil
Thank you for getting in touch and requesting information on Brazil. We have put together this guide to introduce Brazil to you knowing that is very easy to get bamboozled by too much information, therefore we hope this short guide will be enough to set you on the right course, without being too detailed. As such it is not meant to be definitive – for further details we strongly recommend that you look at our website or get in touch as we would be delighted to talk to you all about Brazil.

Country summary and map

Brazil is a colossal country in size that makes up more than half of the continents land mass. In
This staggeringly diverse country you will find some of the continents finest beaches, remote lodges in the biodiverse Amazon and Pantanal, charming colonial towns and pulsating cities. Brazil offers so much for everyone, and that’s why so many people fall in love with this special country and return regularly to continue their love affair.

Highlights of the county

The following locations have proven very popular with those that have travelled with South America Odyssey to Brazil. We know the pros and cons of each destination and if you have any further questions about these locations, as well as other destinations, please do get in touch as we would love to speak to you about them.

Iguacu Falls
The Iguacu Falls is a collection of 280 waterfalls and without a doubt one of the “big 5” tourist attractions in South America. Many colourful bird species and small mammals call this extraordinary place home. As well as helicopter rides you can water-raft, take a short train ride to where the Parana and Iguazu rivers merge or take an exhilarating speed boat ride under the falls. The best hotel worth staying in is Das Cataratas – a stunning hotel by Belmond is the only hotel located within the National Park giving you private early access to the Brazilian side of the falls before the crowds.

Rio de Janeiro
Rio is one of South America’s most iconic cities. It looks down on world famous beaches, vibrant communities and is a passionate city whose heart beats that little faster once a year during carnival.
A place where glitzy malls back on to run down neighbourhoods and the Cariocas (Rios residents) live passionately amongst the marvelling tourists. It comes alive on weekends where there are a couple of notable street parties with local food vendors, cocktail makers, and you can’t mention Rio without mentioning its love affair with football. A 5* stay is ensured at Belmond Copacabana Palace which looks over the famous beach – many stars have passed through its doors as noted by the “Hall of Fame” on the second floor. For a hotel away from the beach then the Sofitel is also a super option.

Pantanal
Wildlife spotting in the Pantanal is surprisingly easy when the seasonal flooding subsides (April-September) and the ecosystem of ponds, streams and lakes are prime locations to spot storks, capybara, caiman, parrots, puma and jaguars. Most of the area is privately owned by large farm conglomerates or international conservation programs making it the best wildlife experience in Brazil.
One of these private reserves is home to Caiman Ecological Reserve – this will provide an informative, traditional, comfortable base to explore the region from and is one of our favourite lodges in Brazil.

Amazon Rainforest
The colossal tropical rainforest sweeps across over half of Brazil offering a sanctuary for a multitude of flora, fauna and indigenous tribes. A stay here is about being in a beautiful habitat, rather than seeing lots of wildlife- as the area is so vast, the animals don’t tend to congregate around the lodges and people. Although hard to get to as you have to fly before settling into your lodge, it is worth the visit if you want to be surrounded by this rare and threatened ecosystem.
Enjoy daily botanical excursions from the comfort of Cristalino Lodge – our favourite remote hideaway deep in the forest.

Paraty and Buzios
These two towns are picturesque stop offs near to Rio De Janeiro and great for families.
Paraty is a charming little town that floods daily and is a great spot where you can explore the forests, soak up some Brazilian rays or wonder around the preserved historical centre. A picturesque spot ideal for families and those looking for more than just a beach due to its close proximity to the forest where you can trek, kayak, snorkel and much more. Stay at Casa Turquesa for a very comfortable stay in a friendly boutique hotel located within the UNESCO historically protected area.

In Buzios you can find an abundance of crystal clear waters and trendy eateries on this green peninsula a few hours north of Rio de Janeiro. Now trendy bars and up market boutique hotels litter this location that is used by urbanites to escape the hustle and bustle of Brazils cities at the weekend – the South of France of Brazil. One of our favourites is located close to the peaceful waters of the Ferradura beach. The Insolito is a boutique property with lush green gardens, all the mod cons and great views out over the bay.

Trancoso
This laid back beach location is slowly hitting the tourist radar due to its chilled out vibes, crystal clear waters and the friendly nature of the locals. Find a 17th century whitewashed church, stylish little bars, delicious seafood restaurants and miles upon miles of beach – an ideal spot for some escapism.
Villas Trancosas is a fantastic place to stay if you are looking for a romantic and stylish boutique hotel – a great base to explore the region from. Closer to the water and not as hip is Pousada Tutabel-a beautiful option with direct access to the beach, yet within easy walking distance to the town.

Brazil FAQ’s

When is the best time to visit?
Brazil is an all year destination but as it is so expansive, it really depends on your itinerary. The hottest time of year is late December – March and is the local holiday season so can get very busy. Avoid The Pantanal during the wet seasons (Nov-March) as mosquitos can be a problem – but if you are after beaches, then this is the ideal time to visit. Please speak to us about all the best time to visit as it all depends on your interests.

How much dos a trip to Brazil cost?
There is no easy answer to this one as all of our itineraries are designed from scratch to suit your interest and budget. As a general guide then a two week trip to Brazil would start at £4,615/$6,000 per person, excluding international flights.

What is the currency?
Brazilian Real – cash can be taken out from many ATMs at airports and in larger towns.

What is the language?
Brazilian Portuguese is the main language. English is widely spoken in the hotels.

What is the time difference?
GMT -3 hours

How do I get there?
A few airlines offer direct flights to Brazil, but others have European connections. Average flight time is 11 hours.

Neighbouring countries to combine with Brazil itinerary Iguazu Falls is a convenient pathway into Argentina for most visitors if you want to explore this similarly vast and diverse country. There are also direct flights to Peru taking 5 hours, if you wish to also explore the famous Machu Picchu and other points of interest.

A Tourist Guide to Argentina

An introduction to Argentina

We have put together this guide to introduce Argentina to you knowing that is very easy to get bamboozled by too much information. We hope this short guide will be enough to set you on the right course, without being too detailed. As such it is not meant to be definitive – for further details we strongly recommend that you look at southamericaodyssey.com/argentina or get in touch; we would be delighted to talk to you through the options.

Country summary

Argentina is the 8th largest country in the world which makes you spoilt for choice when deciding where you want to visit. Deep in the south is an outdoors lover’s paradise – Patagonia. Here you can don crampons and crunch along glaciers, trek or ride through national parks, visit penguin colonies or catch a boat to Antarctica. In the northern part of the country you will find some of the worlds most renowned and revered wineries. No trip to Argentina would be complete without a stint in Buenos Aires which you can explore by day before slicing into a succulent steak at a traditional parrilla before heading to a late night tango show.

Highlights of Argentina

Patagonia
Argentinian Patagonia is vast, remote, wild and breathtaking. It is made up of extremes in terrain and landscapes. Dotted in certain parts are different wildlife species so you must plan your trip carefully depending on what you want to see as it is such a huge region. South, at the edge of the world, you can sail over to Antarctica from Ushuaia. Take a boat from El Calafate to the impressive Perito Moreno glacier – the only advancing glacier in the world. Further north you can visit the Fitzroy national park for beauty equalling the acclaimed Torres de Paine in Chile – though less visited than Torres. Here you will find jagged horizons, wildlife and flora over rolling hills and nestled in between these, crystal lakes. From the glaciers in the south to the snow tipped volcanoes in the north you will not be disappointed. Eolo Lodge is a luxury hotel located close to El Calafate. Estancia Cristina is a remote property that is reached by boat is also a comfortable way of discovering Patagonia whist being located at an old ranch.

The Lake District
Here, you will find scenes beauty. Think crystal clear, glacier-fed lakes in between dramatic rolling hills, snow-capped mountains and lush green forests. Along with the spectacular sights, be enthralled with all the activities this fantastic region has to offer such as skiing in the winter, walking, horse riding, kayaking and fishing – endless things to do.
Bariloche is an ideal place to base yourself in whilst you travel around the Lake District – it is characteristic of the region in its beauty and sits just on the outskirts of the beautiful Nahuel Huapi Lake. Bariloche has varying styles of accommodation but all of which are excellently situated. Stay at Llao Llao Hotel for an activity based big hotel experience, or to the more intimate Las Balas for great views of the lake from your window.

Buenos Aires
This is Argentina’s vibrant capital and is known as the ‘Paris of South America’. The romance of this city is encapsulated by the Latino performers in the bustling squares, fantastic wine selections, interesting art and colourful barrios (neighbourhoods). It is thriving, stylish and nostalgic city with a hint of a European feel to the city, but with the zest of South America. For a supremely luxurious stay look to the classic and stylish barrio of Recoleta, and within it Alvear Palace. A great boutique option at a reasonable price is Legado Mitico Buenos Aires.

The Pampas
The endless plains of the Pampas are home to the classically Argentinian cowboys who wrestle and rodeo, make this a stop of point to ride horses and guzzle on fantastic wine and BBQ beef. Although not much there but a few small and traditional towns, it has a definite atmosphere and authenticity to it – so we would recommend it as a good relaxing introductory stop to get a feel for the history of Argentina and its culture.
For a great Argentinian cowboy experience look no further than Estancia La Bamba – with its great views, very comfortable accommodation and array of activities it is an ideal base.

Mendoza
Mendoza is a wine lover’s dream. Here, in the west of the country, some of the best wines in Argentina are produced. The feel of the region is pretty much encapsulated in its nickname as the “land of sunshine and wine”. You can also do activities from here if you are not content with sipping Malbec and soaking in the scenes of the Andes. We would recommend staying in one of the vineyards like Cavas Wine Lodge which offers a super comfortable stay in a 60 acre private vineyard with dramatic views, and of course, excellent wine and food.

Iguazu Falls
The Iguazu Falls is a collection of 280 waterfalls and without a doubt one of the “big 5” tourist attractions in South America. Many colourful bird species and small mammals call this extraordinary place home. As well as helicopter rides you can water-raft, take a short train ride to where the Parana and Iguazu rivers merge or take an exhilarating speed boat ride under the falls. The only hotel worth staying in for these excursions is the Loi Suites. With its excellent location, this is the only option for fully immersing yourself in the wild close proximity of the falls.

The North-West
The North West provides an alternative and varied region, slightly off the beaten track. A great place to base your-self here is Salta. Find pre-Inca ruins, and historical museums, beautiful villages and architecture, and scenery ranging from salt flats, moonscapes, to huge mountains. We would recommend a stay at Legado Mitico, a colonial mansion whose individual rooms are dedicated to a local hero.

Ibera Wetlands
If you have not yet had your fill of wildlife spotting visit the Ibera Wetlands – the expansive marshes are home to over 300 bird species and a huge variety of mammals and fish. Go here for birding, horse riding and go on boat trips. Stay at the fantastically located Aguape Lodge – you will get a comfortable stay in a great location to explore the area from.

Neighbouring countries to combine with Argentina itinerary
This is a good opportunity to visit Chile, and see what the other side of the Andes has to offer. Cross in several different locations – in the north travel from Salta to the Atacama Desert, from Mendoza to the bright lights of Santiago, from Bariloche to Puerto Montt or from El Calafate to Torres del Paine.

Argentina FAQ’s

When is the best time to visit?
Prime time to visit is between the months of December to March when most of the country is hot and dry. September, October and November are considered the shoulder seasons where the north is still basking in the sun, but the weather in Patagonia can be harsh. Those looking to try out the ski resorts should consider a trip in July and August.

How much dos a trip to Argentina cost?
There is no easy answer to this one as all of our itineraries are designed from scratch to suit your interest and budget. As a general guide then, a 22 day trip to Argentina staying in mid-range hotels would cost £6,155/$8,000 per person excluding international flights. For a full itinerary please see
http://digital.africaodyssey.com/Itinerary/Landing/55635BB1-27C8-435C-BFA2-D5F888FF0202

What is the currency?
Argentinian Peso is the currency. Credit or debit cards are widely accepted.

What is the language of Argentina?
Spanish is the official language. English and other languages are widely spoken in tourist hotels and locations.

What is the time difference?
GMT -3 hours. New York is -1 hour.

How do I get there?
There are direct flights from UK. Average flight time is 16 hours. There are also lots of options from the US.

How long do you recommend staying?
It all boils down to personal preference and what you might want to experience. Once you are there we suggest that 2 weeks as a minimum because there is so much to enjoy.

Is Argentina a good family holiday destination? It certainly is. To fully appreciate the beauty of the country then it is better for older families as there are internal flights, great walking opportunities, food experiences and late nights involved.

A Tourist Guide to Chile

An introduction to Chile
We have put together this guide to introduce Chile to you knowing that is very easy to get bamboozled by too much information. We hope this short guide will be enough to set you on the right course, without being too detailed. As such it is not meant to be definitive – for further details we strongly recommend that you look at southamericaodyssey.com/chile or get in touch as we would be delighted to talk to you all about Chile.

Country summary

Chile is an elongated country that measures 4,300km in length and only 177km wide. Chile is all about the great outdoors. In southern Chile you will find Patagonia and the world renowned National Park of Torres Del Paine.

Contrastingly, in the north the arid deserts and salt flats make for a great combination.

Surrounding Santiago there are a number of marvellous wineries and lodges for some rest and relaxation. For a lover of the outdoors in search of stunning and dramatic scenery then look no further and put Chile place on your list.

Contrastingly, in the north the arid deserts and salt flats make for a great combination. Surrounding Santiago there are a number of marvellous wineries and lodges for some rest and relaxation. For a lover of the outdoors in search of stunning and dramatic scenery then look no further and put this place on your list.

Highlights of Chile

The following locations have proven very popular with those that have travelled with South America Odyssey to Chile. We know the pros and cons of each destination and if you have any further questions about these locations, as well as other destinations, please do get in touch as we would love to speak to you about them.

Patagonia
This is a wild and truly stunning area of Chile – a wilderness lover’s dream. Ice capped mountains dominate the skyline, whilst on the ground find vibrantly coloured lakes, hidden waterfalls, cool forests, meadows and roaming hardy wildlife. For lovers of a unique and spectacular environment then Patagonia is a must. There are lots of lodges to select from depending on your preferences. Tierra Patagonia, Explora and Awasi are all first class properties that operate on an all-inclusive program so once there you do not need to worry about extra costs.

The Lake District
Sometimes the beauty of the Lake District gets overshadowed by the renowned Torres Del Paine National Park in Patagonia. However, this area is equally worth considering a visit as it is abundant in lakes, volcanoes and general natural splendour with some of the best food in Chile influenced from European immigration and an abundance of fresh local produce. The area is excellent for mountaineering, hiking, water rafting, fishing and horseback riding. There are lots of smaller, boutique hotels abundant in local character in the area. Hotel AWA located on Lake Llanquihue with views out over the Osorno Volcano is a gorgeous option that combines modern luxury with local interior décor. For a home away from home then the tiny Quincho Hotel is a favourite with those seeking seclusion and a luxury guest house like feel. The new kid on the block located on the unique island of Chiloe is Tierra Chiloe- a beautiful property that operates on an all-inclusive program with meals, transfers and a variety of excursions included.

The Atacama Desert
This eerie and awe-inspiring desert – the driest place on earth – is not a wasteland, but a peaceful location with fantastic star gazing, sunsets over “The Valley of the Moon” and rough edged horizons sitting on expansive flat plains. Choose from the stylish Alto Atacama which lies just outside the small town of San Perdo de Atacama for a remote stay, or the Tierra Atacama which boasts a luxurious and modern feel. For uber luxury then Awasi is a hotel where you have a private driver and guide for the duration of your stay creating a very personalised and exclusive trip.

Santiago
Santiago is a fantastic cosmopolitan city overlooked by the snowy-peaked towering Andes and coastal mountain range. We believe that the beauty of Chile lives in the great outdoors beyond the bustle of Santiago so a couple of nights at most in Santiago will suffice. We suggest staying in Luciano K or the Singular hotel which are both perfect situated in the bustling Lastarria neighbourhood and further afield.

Valparasio
An hour and a half’s drive North-West of Santiago is the attractive and (quite literally) rainbow coloured bohemian city of Valparaso. It is nestled on a hillside resulting in its ever famous escalators which tirelessly scale up and down the city. Check out the social scene in Victoria Square, or bargain hunt for gems through O’Higgens Square’s cluttered and vibrant flea-markets. There are a couple of standout properties located with views over the port-Palacio Astoreca being the most luxurious and Relais & Chateax hotel. A slightly more economical option is the family run Casa Higueras.

The wine region
Chile is famed for boasting some of the world’s finest wines and the Central Valley has multiple wineries with accommodation on the property for a wine experience. VIK Chile is a super contemporary winery with immaculate rooms with an artistic feel throughout. For a winery that is more classical and traditional in fell then La Casona at Matetic is a great option. Sipping some vino whilst soaking in the brilliant views at the start, middle, or end of your trip is a relaxing and delicious way to get a good understanding of one of Chile’s most popular exports.

Easter Island
If you have time, fly over to Easter Island off the coast of Chile, which is home to the world’s largest open-air museum consisting of 600 Moai stone statues. We would recommend visiting here purely for those with an active interest in the statues – otherwise you may be disenchanted by the long 6 hour flight from Santiago to arrive at a tiny island with very cold beaches, and little shelter. But for the keen historians, accommodation on Easter Island cannot beat the fantastic Explora Easter Island hotel.

Chile FAQ’s

When is the best time to visit Chile? If you want to include Patagonia in your trip then the best time to visit is from October to March. During these months the weather is most agreeable. Although you can still experience four seasons in one afternoon. Other areas of Chile can be visited year round.

We are thinking of also visiting another Latin America country whilst we are that side of the world. Where combines well with Chile? Crossing the Andes from Chile into Argentina is possible at a number of points. One especially popular combination is to cross the border to visit the Glaciers at Calafate and then fly up to the fantastic Buenos Aires for further exploration of Argentina.
How much dos a trip to Chile cost?
There is no easy answer to this one as all of our itineraries are designed from scratch to suit your interest and budget. As a general guide then, a two week trip to Chile staying in top range hotels would cost from about £6,000/$7,800per person excluding international flights. For a full itinerary please see here.

Is the altitude a problem?
Some Northern parts of Chile such as areas in the Atacama Desert are in high altitude, which can cause altitude sickness. A holiday in Patagonia will not be so, but it is important to be aware of the altitude in your specific destinations as some of Chile’s attractions are over 3,000m. but just something to be wary of. Even if you are very fit, keep in mind to always stay hydrated and hopefully you will acclimatise quickly. Talk to your GP if you have any medical conditions prior to your trip.

What is the currency?
Chilean Peso is the currency. Credit or debit cards are accepted in larger towns and cities.

What is the language?
Spanish is the official language. English is widely spoken in hotels and tourist destinations.

What is the time difference?
GMT -4 hours.

How do I get there? If you are flying from the UK then British Airways fly direct on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. There are also lots of indirect options from the main European hubs. Flying from the US there are multiple options also.

A Tourist Guide to Ecuador

An introduction to Ecuador
We have put together this guide to introduce Ecuador to you knowing that is very easy to get bamboozled by too much information. We hope this short guide will be enough to set you on the right course, without being too detailed. As such it is not meant to be definitive – for further details we strongly recommend that you look at our website or get in touch as we would be delighted to talk to you all about Ecuador.

Country summary

Ecuador is the 4th smallest country in South America, yet it encapsulates so many of the continents finest
attributes. The central region is dominated by
towering Andean peaks and fiery volcanoes and exploring this region is all about traditional life that often centres around weekly markets and town
plazas. In the east is the biodiverse Amazon jungle where you can stay at a remote lodge and learn
about traditional indigenous life and spot a huge variety of wildlife. Last but not least, a flight to the enchanting, tamed and revered Galapagos Islands should be on everyone’s bucket list.

Highlights of Ecuador

The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands is in all honesty, the must see place in Ecuador. Travel via boat through the Islands gaping at this exotic and jam packed wildlife spectacle. The marine life is like nothing you will see, and you can get incredibly close to the animals who have no reason to fear you – it is unparalleled for wildlife viewing and really feels like the ‘enchanted islands’ which they are so aptly named. And if this isn’t enough, explore the island from different perspectives snorkelling, diving and in some parts, walking. Most Galapagos Island cruises are about 7 days and the price depends on the size and type of boat – the smaller and more luxurious, the more expensive.

For further information on the Galapagos and the boats that we recommend and can offer guaranteed best prices please have a look at our guide.

Quito
Quito is the capital city of Ecuador and sits in high altitude in the midst of the Andean peaks and volcanoes. It is split in two parts – one side has a colonial feel to it with its cobbled streets and architecture, whereas the other side is the opposite – a cosmopolitan hub of busy urban dwellers. Take your time to explore museums, food markets, and historical sites such as the 16th century cathedral in Plaza de Independencia.
Discover the shiny new side of Quinto from the centrally located Hotel Plaza Grande with its rooftop bar, giving you a great view of the city from above. Or for a more historical stay go for Patio Andaluz in the heart of colonial Quito.

The Amazon
The Ecuadorian Amazon is hugely expansive. Although it makes up almost half the country it is hardly inhabited with only 5% of the population living here. Visit here for fresh water dolphin spotting, monkeys, anacondas, armadillo, 1200 bird species and more. You can also have cultural village visits from here which is a great was to get a better feel for the country. Stay on the edge of a lagoon in amongst the wildlife at Sani Lodge – a remote eco lodge and a birders dream.

Cuenca
Here, you will find Ecuador’s colonial city and a UNESCO world heritage site. It is an ideal place to relax and wander around. The centre is the most attractive part but everywhere is draped with history. It is a nice stop, but the draw of visiting this region is also the journey to get there through the Ecuadorian Highlands and the Valley of the Volcanoes which is a fantastic way to experience the mighty Andes. Stay at Mansion Alcazar with its fantastic location and colonial, elegant interiors fitting of the town as a whole.

Cloudforest
There are several cloud forests that have mossy foliage and hugely diverse populations of birds and frogs. The moisture in the clouds makes the forest a luscious green and packed with life – well worth a visit if you are spending time in Ecuador.
Mashpi Lodge is an excellent option for those seeking luxury in this unique location – unwind in the Jacuzzi after taking a trip along the canopy cables which wind through the forest from the lodge. Mindo is also possible to visit on a day trip from Quito

The Highlands
The Highlands of Ecuador stretch through the middle of the country and comprise of the Andes mountain range making this region a focal point for the country. For those that venture into the small communities and villages you will see traditional life and escape the mass numbers that flock to the Galapagos. There are a couple of luxury haciendas that are superb places to stay whilst exploring these gorgeous locations. Our favourite hacienda has to be the impeccably run Hacienda Zuleta.

Ecuador FAQ’s

When is the best time to visit?
There are several microclimates in Ecuador that influence the best time to visit. Take into consideration
that the best time to visit the Galapagos Islands are from December to May, although outside of these months then we still recommend visiting the islands, apart from late September when the seas can be a little choppier and many of the boats are in dry dock. Down the central highlands of the country then the best time to visit are from June to September.

How much dos a trip to Ecuador cost?
There is no easy answer to this one as all of our itineraries are designed from scratch to suit your interest and budget. As a general guide then a two week trip to Ecuador, including a week in the Galapagos Islands starts from around £6,150/$8,000 per person. For a full itinerary please see http://digital.africaodyssey.com/Itinerary/Landing/16DA8822-B5A7-40F6-8972-EB0F11F93C6E

Neighbouring countries to combine with Ecuador itinerary
After exploring the Galapagos Islands and once you have exhausted Ecuador, Lima in Peru is only a short flight away from Quito or Guayaquil. Here, there is plenty to do with fantastic museums and internationally renowned restaurants – you will not get bored if you spend a few days here. For those of you with no time restraints, why not visit the legendary Machu Picchu and explore a bit more of Peru as well.

Is the altitude a problem?
Some regions of Ecuador such as Quito at 2,850m can get up to very high altitudes. It is not a problem, but just something to be wary of. We always design our trips taking into account the altitudes that you will be experiencing.

What is the currency?
Ecuador uses the US dollar, and it can be withdrawn from ATMs in larger towns using UK credit/debit.

What is the language?
Spanish is the main language. Additionally Quechua and other indigenous languages are spoken in the rural areas.

What is the time difference?
United Kingdom (GMT)is-5 hours. New York is +1 hour. California is -1 hours.

How do I get there?
There are no direct flights from the UK and popular change airports are Amsterdam, Paris and Madrid.
If you are flying from the US then there are more options.

A Tourist Guide to Peru

An introduction to Peru
We have put together this guide to introduce Peru to you knowing that is very easy to get bamboozled by too much information. We hope this short guide will be enough to set you on the right course, without being too detailed. As such it is not meant to be definitive – for further details we strongly recommend that you look at our website southamericaodyssey.com/peru or get in touch, we would be delighted to talk you through the options.

Peru summary

Peru is a fantastic destination with something for everyone. Whether you visit the ancient Andean citadel of Machu Picchu, explore the traditional villages and towns, head east into the dense and biodiverse Amazon rainforest, or if you go to the cosmopolitan capital city of Lima on the Pacific you are sure to love Peru. A country with a fantastic infrastructure for tourism and some of the friendliest locals.

Highlights of Peru

Lima
Lima is an interesting mix of old history and new development. It’s location on the Pacific Coast means picturesque views and opportunities for day trips to nearby islands if time allows. Among the historical intrigue of the city is the Museo Larco which has more than 45,000 Ancient Peruvian pieces including old treasures and mysterious artefacts to goggle at on your stop here. There is much to see in these world class museums, and also lots to eat with some of the world’s best restaurants.
We suggest staying in the fitting former colonial mansion Hotel B, a beautiful boutique and arty hotel which is a perfect base to explore the city from.

Cuzco, The Sacred Valley & Machu Picchu
Cuzco is a fantastic location for wandering around and soaking up the interesting atmosphere is provides. As the former capital of the Inca Empire, Cuzco is seeping with old history and hidden gems. With its cobbled streets, markets and nearby Inca Ruins it makes for an extremely interesting city.
There are lots of great hotels from which to select. La Casona is a small and luxurious option located in a exclusive private and historical plaza. Another luxurious options is the Hotel Monasterio that seeping with history it perfectly encapsulates the vibe of the city. For a more economical option then El Mercado is a good four star hotel abundant with quirky local design and colours.

A short drive from Cuzco, the Sacred Valley is the place to be. It has everything – culture, colourful markets including Pisac (the best in South America), horse riding, water rafting, mountain biking, trekking and even more historical sites.
For an authentic experience with a picturesque view of the Andean Mountain, we recommend staying at the Explora Sacred Valley or Sol y Luna. Sol y Luna is our favourite hotel that is run by the owner Petit, with the sole aim of financially supporting her extremely successful local school.

Finally, you will not find a more dramatic backdrop than the infamous Machu Picchu – the main reason to visit Peru. It is 120km south of Cuzco, and can be accessed through the popular Inca trail (a 4/5 day trek), or alternatively via train and bus – you can basically decide how long your trip there will take. Whatever your transport mode, this historical mystery is sure not to disappoint and is a serious must see.
For easy access then the Machu Picchu Sanctuary Lodge is the no.1 choice, but being the only hotel in this location comes with a hefty price tag. El Mapi and Puebla in nearby Aguas Calientes are both more reasonable priced alternatives.

The Peruvian Amazon
This area is what you’d expect from the name. Hugely dense with 20,000 different plant species and one of the most biodiverse pockets in the world, the nature and wildlife here is unparalleled. This is a fantastic opportunity to see a different side of Peru, and a nice contrast to the other places you will visit. We recommend that you immerse yourself in this wild environment by staying at one of the remoter located, yet basic lodges such as Tambopata Research Centre. The most comfortable lodge is Reserva Amazonica.

Arequipa, Colca & Lake Titicaca
If you have time go and see the UNESCO ‘white city’ of Arequipa, aptly named for its buildings of white volcanic rock which makes this world heritage site a possible attraction along with its view of El Misti volcano. Colca is another option for the culture keen – it is a canyon surrounded by picturesque towns, with an authentic Peruvian feel as many of the women still dress in traditional clothing. Cola Lodge is a wonderful, charming and lush place to stay as you can enjoy their natural hot springs whilst drinking a cocktail under the stars. Close to the Bolivian border sits Lake Titicaca, a huge body of water with fascinating islands dotted around it.

Even more places in Peru
Nazca Chiclayo and Trujillo are also options if you are on your trip for the long haul. Please contact us for any more information on the above.

Neighbouring countries to combine with a Peru itinerary
Visiting Peru is also a fantastic opportunity to branch out to Ecuador and the Galapagos Islands for nature lovers. Or even Chile for a more diverse experience – visit Patagonia, one of the most beautiful and isolated areas in the world or hit up the lights of Santiago; there really are lots of options. It just depends on what kind of holiday interests you the most.

Peru FAQ’s

When is the best time to visit?
The three main regions of Peru all have their own microclimates, meaning that the best time to visit one area doesn’t necessarily make it the best time to visit another. That being said, for most the highlights of Peru are focused around the southern highlands which are best visited between April and September. During these months the weather in the highlands will be dry and sunny during the day and very cool in the evenings due to the altitude. If you want to spend an extended amount of time in Lima then the best months are from December to March.

How much dos a trip to Peru cost?
There is no easy answer to this one as all of our itineraries are designed from scratch to suit your interest and budget. As a general guide then a two week trip to Peru staying in mid-range hotels would cost £3,500/$4550 per person excluding international flights. For a full itinerary please see http://digital.africaodyssey.com/Itinerary/Map/b1dd82d3-d2d9-4d9b-8005-600c789ae0c1

Is the altitude a problem?
Many of the sites in Peru are in high altitude, which can cause altitude sickness. It is not a problem, but just something to be wary of. Even if you are very fit, keep in mind to always stay hydrated and hopefully you will acclimatise quickly. We always design our trips taking into account the altitudes that you will be experiencing. Talk to your GP if you have any medical conditions prior to your trip.

What is the currency?
Peruvian Nuevo Sol is the currency. UK credit/debit cards are accepted at many ATMs.

What is the language?
Spanish is the main language and English is widely spoken by those working in tourism.

What is the time difference?
GMT -5 hours.

How do I get there?
If you are flying from the UK then flights are around 12.5 hours long. Hop on the direct flight from London Gatwick or other non-direct routes which include changes in Amsterdam, Paris or Madrid. There are lot of options from the US.

A Tourist Guide to Costa Rica

An introduction to Costa Rica
We have put together this guide to introduce Costa Rica to you knowing that is very easy to get bamboozled by too much information. We hope this short guide will be enough to set you on the right course, without being too detailed. As such it is not meant to be definitive – for further details we strongly recommend that you look at southamericaodyssey.com/costa-rica or get in touch as we would be delighted to talk to you all about Costa Rica.

Country summary
Costa Rica is a small and compact country about the same size as Switzerland in Europe. Visiting this carbon neutral and eco-friendly country is all about the outdoors. Whether you are relaxing by the beach in a cool surfery town, trekking through pristine rainforest in search of jaguar or twitching in the cloud forest you are sure to fall in love with this beautiful Central American country. Costa Rica is tranquil, fun loving and a perfect getaway for those searching tranquillity, nature experiences, adventure and fantastic hospitality.

Highlights of Costa Rica
The following locations have proven very popular with those that have travelled with South America Odyssey to Costa Rica. We know the pros and cons of each destination and if you have any further questions about these locations, as well as other destinations, please do get in touch as we would love to speak to you about them.

San Jose
San Jose is the capital of Costa Rica and the majority of international flights fly into the Juan Santamaría International Airport. Flights normally arrive at night and we suggest one night in San Jose is about right before venturing deeper into the country. If you want to avoid the traffic then stay at one of the Costa Rica is all about the great outdoors, so instead of stopping overnight in the city, we think it is worth staying on the outskirts at a beautiful coffee hacienda like Xandari. For those that like city life and want to see the centre of the city then the best hotel is Grano de Oro.

Tortuguero
Tortuguero is an excellent introduction into the biodiversity and wildlife of Costa Rica. Days are spent exploring the flooded waterways of this exotic Caribbean jungle. During the months of July to October sea turtles come in their thousands and lay their eggs on the beaches of Tortuguero at night- a spectacle not to be missed if you are lucky enough to be there during these months. The lodges here are simple and family friendly. Manatus is the smallest hotel that is relatively luxurious. Other good alternatives are; Mawamba Lodge or Aninga.

Arenal
Staying at Arenal National Park means picturesque views of Arenal Volcano, hanging bridges over dramatic waterfalls, heated springs and an abundance of adventure activities from zip wiring to abseiling and river rafting. There is a wealth of accommodation options here your stay depends on your preference; an intimate, tranquil experience in Lost Iguana which is remotely located to the multi award winning and centrally located Nayara or an more basic, yet good option such as Lomas del Volcan. During peak seasons Arenal can get busy as international tourists come to experience the world class infrastructure and activities of this exciting tourist hub. During these months there is a really fun and exciting vibe. Perfect for families.

Monteverde
A perfect example of a cloud forest, Monteverde is ram-packed with life and a birders dream. A huge attraction here is the environment itself which is incomparable to anything else and feels truly timeless.
Experience this park from the comfort of Belmar, a remote boutique family hotel.

North Pacific Coast- The Nicoya Peninsula
There are three areas here, all with very different styles and accommodation. In the north is Peninsula Papagayo, where you can find accommodation similar to our favourite, El Mangroove – a big hotel in close proximity of luscious sunbathing beaches. Further south find Tamarindo; a cool surfery bustling province with nightlife and long beaches. Our favourite accommodation is Capitan Suzio, a boutique hotel right on the beach or the relaxed Cala Luna (15 minutes drive away). South again, and you get to the gorgeous Santa Teresa Beach with our favourite romantic hideaway Flor Blanca , the barefoot luxury option of Latitude 10 or the larger Punta Islitta that has panoramic ocean views.

The Osa Peninsula
Nestled in the remote corner of Costa Rica, the Osa Peninsula is truly the jewel in the crown of Costa Rica in terms of biodiversity. The National geographic proclaimed it one of the world’s most biologically diverse places on earth. There are fewer lodges in this heavily protected national park, and the lodges do tend to get booked up far in advance. Most of the lodges operate a full board program with small group tours included in the price. Lapa Rios and Playa Cativo are the most luxurious eco lodges in majestic settings that we absolutely love. El Remanso is a little more economical and is also a superb option.

Costa Rica FAQ’s

When is the best time to visit Costa Rica? The best time to visit Costa Rica is from December to April when it is dry and hot in most places. A typical day would have temperature averages of 27° Celsius. During the “green season” that runs from April to November it rains most afternoons and at times you win need to put a poncho on. The rewards are that there are fewer tourists, the forests are lush and green, and if you head to the coast you can watch turtles laying their eggs.

Do I need a visa to visit Costa Rica? US and European citizens do not require a visa to enter Costa Rica; other nationalities should make their own enquiries with the nearest embassy. Travellers require a full valid passport with at least 2 clear pages, valid for at least 6 months beyond your date of departure.

How much dos a trip to Costa Rica cost? There is no easy answer to this one as all of our itineraries are designed from scratch to suit your interest and budget. As an idea, the itinerary below would cost roughly $4,800/£3,555 per person. See http://digital.africaodyssey.com/Itinerary/Map/85f31121-af6d-45e3-a400-e0cb4ee57209 for more details.

How long do you suggest for a Costa Rica holiday? Speaking from experience we suggest that 10-14 days is perfect. But it really depends on what your interests are and how quick you like to travel.

What is the currency in Costa Rica? Cash withdrawal of Colón Notes is easy as many ATMs are credit/debit card friendly and can be found in most towns. Contact your bank first and tell them that you are going to Costa Rica. US dollars can be exchanged in banks and are also widely accepted.

What language do Costa Ricans speak? Spanish is the main language. English is widely spoken by those working in tourism.

What is the time difference? GMT -5 hours/EST +2 hours

How do I get to Costa Rica? There are direct flights from London Gatwick to San José on Saturday, Tuesday and Thursdays (11 hour flight). There are also daily flights via the main European hubs. If you are flying from the US then there are multiple options.

We are thinking of also visiting another Latin America country whilst we are that side of the world. Where combines well with Costa Rica? Combining Costa Rica with a cruise in the Galapagos makes for the ultimate wildlife experience. Mexico is also a country that combines history, art, pristine beaches and delicious food. You could fly over to Cuba for a unique experience in a fascinating and quickly evolving county. Please speak to us about all the exciting possibilities.

Peru’s Food Revolution

The juggernaut that is the Peruvian food revolution shows no sign of slowing as Lima, the capital city, now boasts three of the “World’s Top 50 Restaurants”.

What Peruvian restaurants made the top 50?

Astrid y Gaston, the pioneering restaurant of contemporary Peruvian cuisine was listed in position 33. This leading restaurant run by wife Astrid Gutsche and husband, Gaston Acurio, is a Peruvian food institution based in a leafy and affluent neighborhood of Lima.

Maido, a Japanese-Peruvian fine dining restaurant by Mitsuharu ‘Micha’ Tsumura was listed in position 8. Micha names his distant Japanese ancestry as a main influence on his palate and style.

Central, a restaurant by Virgilio Martinez, was the highest ranked Latin America restaurant coming in 5th place at the annual awards. Martinez also won the Chefs’ Choice Award for representing the biodiversity, history and culture of Peru. If a food pilgrimage to Lima is too long for your taste buds to wait then try one of his London based restaurants, Lima Floral and Lima.

Other noteworthy winners at the acclaimed awards went to the experimental Heston Blumenthal whose restaurant Dinner came 36th. Heston Blumenthal was also recognized with the Diners Club Lifetime Achievement Award.

What is Peruvian food?

The three distinct geographical region of Peru, combined with a diverse demographic influences create eclectic tastes and recipes. The coastal region supplies Peru with fresh fish from the Pacific Ocean; the fertile Andean mountain range is the birthplace of the potato, of which there are over 3,000 varieties, and the Amazon in the east boasts tropical fruits.

Japanese and Chinese influences mixed with traditional Peruvian staples have led to the creation of innovative fusion dishes known locally as Nikkei and Chifa. Nikkei and Chifa combine with Peruvian house hold ingredients such as corn, potato, chili and citrus fruits to create light, delicate and fresh dishes, often with a little kick.

Did any other Latin American restaurants make the list?

There were only three other Latin American restaurants on the prestigious list:

· Pujol in Mexico City which came in 20th. For reservations follow this link to their website. https://www.pujol.com.mx/

· Quintonil also Mexico City based came 22nd. For reservations follow this link to their website. http://www.quintonil.com/en/

· Borgao in Santiago de Chile came in 42nd. For reservations follow this link to their website https://www.borago.cl/

South America Odyssey has teamed up with Lima’s best chefs to offer a private Lima food tour as part of a bespoke Peru tour.

Currently offering high quality Peruvian imported foods and drinks, Viva Peru aims brings you access to everything Peru.

 

Galapagos Boat Deck Plans

Please see below a pdfs for the deck plans for various boats:

MY Eric and Letty Deck plan

MV Sky

 

 

 

 

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