Category Archives: Peru

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New Year’s Eve in South America

If you’re bored of the typical New Year’s Eve celebrations – standing in the cold with a cheap glass of champagne and setting off fireworks in your back garden – then it might be time to consider alternative ways to enjoy New Year’s Eve in South America!

Whether you love to party or prefer to get close to nature, this continent can offer you the celebration of a lifetime. So start your year as you mean to go on!

 

Hike the Inca Trail

Peru

Inca camp, New Year's Eve in South America - RealWords/RealWorld

A tent with a view!

How about waking up on New Year’s Day to a sunrise over Machu Picchu? Well it’s entirely possible! Spend four days hiking the Inca Trail, and celebrate with a delicious Peruvian feast cooked over a fire by your personal chef, before retiring to your camp for fabulous, sunset views of the Inca Valley.

Alternatively, spend New Year’s Eve at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, in the grounds of the UNESCO site, where they host an annual party with a gala dinner. It’s the closest hotel to Machu Picchu, so you could be the first visitor of the New Year – if you’re feeling up to an early start after the party that is!

 

Tango til Dawn in Buenos Aires

Argentina

tango, New Year's Eve in South America - RealWords/RealWorld

Have a passionate New Year’s Eve in South America…

The capital of Argentina is famous for its national dance, the tango, and there are some incredible shows that will bring passion and romance to your New Year’s Eve. An evening of tango, traditional Argentine cuisine, cocktails and live music is the perfect way to immerse yourself in the local culture, and see in 2016 in style!

We recommend the more well-known tango houses such as El Viejo Almacen or La Ventana if you really want to go all out. They provide food and entertainment leading up to midnight, and a DJ takes over to keep the party going until the early hours of the morning.

 

Celebrate on the Caribbean Coast

Colombia

Colombia, New Year's Eve - RealWords/RealWorld

Head to the beach for a laid back celebration!

The Colombian’s sure know how to party, but there is more on offer than a night of great music. Colombia has some of the best beaches in the Caribbean, and many of them also offer great scuba diving. So you can either spend New Year’s Eve in South America dancing with the locals in Cartagena or drinking a rum cocktail in a beach hut on the Caribbean Coast.

Cartagena puts on a fantastic fireworks display, and the place to be for the best view is the Sofitel Hotel, where you can enjoy a drink on the rooftop bar overlooking the beach. And if you really want to see the New Year in with a bang, the hotel also hosts one of the county’s most impressive parties.

 

Stargaze in the Atacama

Chile

Atacama, New Year's Eve in South America - RealWords/RealWorld

You won’t need fireworks to light up the skies in the Atacama…

If you really want to get away from it all, head to the deserts of northern Chile and spend your New Year’s Eve watching the skies. The Atacama is one of the best places on earth for stargazing, as is the Elqui Valley, and there are many trips aimed at people interested in astronomy.

Of course, you probably won’t be dancing the night away at a party, but you could toast to the New Year with a glass of the local Pisco. And forget about fireworks, because shooting stars and galaxies are far more exciting to watch anyway!

 

Party in Rio de Janeiro

Brazil

Rio, New Year's Eve in South America - RealWords/RealWorld

The best party on Earth…

Of course, if you are looking to spend your New Year’s Eve in South America dancing and drinking, look no further than the party capital of the world, Rio de Janeiro! Apart from Carnival, this is the biggest celebration of the year in Brazil, and it sees thousands of people take to Copacabana beach to watch the live DJs and world-famous fireworks display.

Wherever you are in the city there will be celebrations, but if you want to avoid the madness of Copacabana we recommend heading to the hillside neighbourhood of Santa Teresa for great views of the city and a more laid back night.

 

More Ideas for New Year’s Eve in South America…

Even if New Year’s Eve isn’t the highlight of your calendar, it’s a great time to get away – temperatures in South America are at their highest and a short holiday after Christmas is the perfect way to start the year!

Take a look at the best winter getaways in South America

 


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The Best Markets in South America

From witches markets to antique fairs, hippie art stalls to meat vendors, and just about everything in between, these are the best markets in South America…

 

The Witches Market

La Paz, Bolivia

Witches Market, La Paz - RealWorld, Best Markets in South America

This is definitely one of the more unusual markets in South America, selling all sorts of weird and wonderful charms and talismans. Squashed into the cobbled, hilly streets around Santa Cruz in the centre of La Paz, the market is mainly aimed at tourists. You will see everything from preserved llama feautuses to dead frogs and “lucky” alpaca legs on sale…

When The market is open every day, but tends to be a little quieter on Sundays with some shops not open.

What to buy Llama foetuses certainly aren’t everyone’s cup of tea… (plus, we don’t even know if you’d get them through airport customs!), so an alternative way to embrace the local culture is to get a coca tea leaf reading. Or you could stick to the more traditional souvenirs such as alpaca wool jumpers.

Make it happen We recommend going with a guide who can translate, as many of the locals won’t speak English, plus they’ll be able to give you a bit more information about the various customs of the “witches” and uses for the spells and charms.

 

San Telmo Antiques Market

Buenos Aires, Argentina

San_Telmo_Sunday_Antique_Market - RealWorld, Best Markets in South America

Once a week the trendy neighbourhood of San Telmo comes to life, centred around the Plaza Dorrego, the heart of the cities favourite antiques market. The area is littered with antiques shops, which spill out into the street, as well stalls selling second-hand gear and handmade clothing. There are also plenty of street performers around, so make a day of it and enjoy lunch at one of the many cafes, whilst being entertained by a tango dancer or two.

When The antiques market is open every Sunday during the day, depending on weather.

What to buy The market is one of those places where you’ll find loads of hidden gems, such as weird and wacky antiques, and upcycled furniture. Apart from overspending, the main risk here is buying more than you can fit in your suitcase!

Make it happen Either walk from Plaza de Mayo or get a subway, unless you’re staying in San Telmo itself, which we highly recommend.

 

Otavalo Market

Otavalo, Ecuador

Otavalo_market - RealWorld, Best Markets in South America

One of the oldest and most well-known markets in South America is Otavalo, near Quito. Markets have been taking place in the Andean area since before the Incas, and every year Otavalo seems to grow and grow in popularity.

When Every Saturday, but get there early to beat the crowds and explore the animal markets.

What to buy Typical brightly coloured textiles and woollen clothing are popular, but there is a lot of cheap imported souvenirs from China as well, so make sure you are supporting the economy by buying locally made products.

Make it happen Otavalo is a couple of hours outside Quito, so either set off early or arrive the night before to make the most of your visit.

 

The Port Market

Montevideo, Uruguay

montevideo - RealWorld, Best Markets in South America

In between the port and the old town of Montevideo is another of the oldest and best markets in South America. It has become somewhat of a tradition for locals to have lunch at one of the food stands on Saturdays, and hence they lovingly refer to it as “the meat market”. The atmosphere is great and so is the range of goods for sale, so spend a few hours browsing the stalls and people watching outside the nearby cafes.

When The market is open weekday afternoons, but the weekends, especially Saturday, have the most stalls and the best atmosphere.

What to buy Delicious local meats are the highlight for most visitors, as is coffee from the vans, but the leather goods also make for a good purchase.

Make it happen The market is conveniently located in the centre of Montevideo, but you can also visit it from Buenos Aires via ferry.

 

Pisac Market

Sacred Valley, Peru

sacredvalley-pisac - RealWorld, Best Markets in South America

Pisac is a typical Peruvian village in the Sacred Valley, about an hour’s drive outside of Cusco. The town is very picturesque and is best known for its Inca ruins, however its weekly market is one of the most popular in Peru, and draws hundreds of visitors to the area every week.

When The main market is every Sunday, and the smaller market takes place on Tuesdays and Thursdays. However every day of the week there are stalls and shops selling local handicrafts.

What to buy The area is known for its ceramics, so handcrafted bowls and painted beads are good souvenirs. You can also buy traditional Peruvian textiles and locally grown fruit and veg.

Make it happen We recommend visiting the market as part of a longer tour of the Sacred Valley, as a couple of hours is more than enough time to browse the stalls and explore the town.

 

The Hippie Fair

Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro

ipanema hippie fair - RealWorld, Best Markets in South America

Set up by a group of hippies back in the ‘60s, this popular Ipanema market is a great example of the laidback, fun atmosphere of Brazil. Most of the stalls have an arts and crafts theme, selling everything from paintings and ceramics to handmade jewellery and bright clothing.

When The market takes place every Sunday during the day.

What to buy Haggle hard and you could bag yourself a couple of nice paintings by local artists. There are so many smaller gift-type things to buy that you’ll probably end up spending more than you intend to. Of course, it’s also a great place to buy a traditional Brazilian bikini, if you’re daring enough!

Make it happen After a morning sunbathing on Copacabana or Ipanema beach, have a wander to the Praça General Osório square, a couple of blocks off the boulevard, for some retail therapy.

 

More Markets in South America…

You’ll find that almost every big city has some kind of market, so you certainly won’t struggle to find a range of souvenirs and locally made goods, but what are the best gifts to buy in South America…?


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cotopaxi-mountain

The Forced Awakenings of South America– Sights Worth Getting Up For…

Inspired by Star Wars (sort of…) we’ve chosen our favourite ‘forced awakenings’, or sights worth getting up for in South America. So, if you’re a morning person these activities are sure to entice you, and if you prefer a lie in, we’ll try our best to tempt you with this selection of treks, wildlife experiences and sunrises on our favourite continent!

 

Dawn Canoe Ride in the Pantanal

Pantanal, RealWorld, Sights worth getting up for in South America

Sunrise in the beautiful state of Mato Grosso…

The Pantanal is our top destination in Brazil for wildlife lovers, and dawn is a great time to spot some of the more elusive species, as well as watching a wide variety of animals feeding on the river banks. From capybaras to jaguars, crocodiles to parrots, you’re sure to see a great selection at sunrise. So despite having to be up before dawn to board a dugout canoe, this experience is well worth the effort and always turns into a holiday highlight!

 

Sunrise over Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu, RealWorld, Sights worth getting up for in South America

Discover Peru’s lost Incan civilisation…

The Sun Gate, or Inti Punku, was once the main entrance to the ancient site, and is one of the most sacred spots in Machu Picchu. The fairly strenuous trek from the main site takes about an hour and follows part of an original Inca trail, so you need to set off early to ensure you get there in time. You are rewarded with, arguably, the best view of Machu Picchu, and a fantastic sunrise. Plus, you will have a couple of hours to explore before the crowds arrive.

 

Camping in Antarctica

Antarctic, RealWorld, Sights worth getting up for in South America

Say ‘good morning’ to a penguin!

Ok, so this forced awakening probably isn’t to everyone’s taste… But waking up on an Antarctic sheet of ice is a once in a lifetime experience and definitely one of the best sights worth getting up for in South America. Camping is easily done as an overnight excursion, when cruising the area from Ushuaia in Argentina. After a cold night’s sleep, you will be disturbed bright and early by the colonies of penguins and seals loudly hunting for their breakfasts!

 

Lakeside Birdwatching in the Amazon

Parrots, RealWorld, Sights worth getting up for in South America

The colourful delights of the Amazon

Just like in the Pantanal, dawn is one of the best times of the day in the Amazon. Heading out before breakfast with your local guide may seem like an unnecessary activity, but the vast amount of wildlife at sunrise is a sight to behold. Many of the nocturnal species will still be active, as other animals are just awakening. Trekking through the rainforest to the river or a nearby lake is usually on the agenda, so you can find a comfortable spot to birdwatch and enjoy the cacophony of hungry creatures.

 

Hiking Cotopaxi Volcano

Cotopaxi, RealWorld, Sights worth getting up for in South America

Ecuador’s wild and wonderful Cotopaxi…

This forced awakening will see you hike to altitudes of over 5,000 meters above sea level in Ecuador. The variety of terrains and inclines make the trek challenging enough, without the added difficulty of lower oxygen levels, which is why we advise an early start so you can take your time and enjoy the surroundings. Cotopaxi is one of the highest volcanos in the world and is also home to one of the world’s highest glaciers, so this is definitely one trip to tick off the bucket list!

 

More Sights Worth Getting up for in South America…

Beat the crowds and start your sightseeing day early! Watch the sunrise over an exciting new land, or enjoy a morning coffee with the locals, human and animal alike! A tailormade trip to South America is the only way to experience the best of the continent, and see those sight worth getting up for before everyone else…

 


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The Best Places to Propose in South America

Popping the question is a big deal, so our guide to the best places to propose in South America is sure to inspire you to get down on one knee. From helicopter rides over Venezuelan waterfalls to vineyard getaways in the Andes, the hardest question is, where do you start?!

 

At the Top of Sugarloaf Mountain

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

rio-de-janeiro, best places to propose in south america, realworld

Sugarloaf Mountain in Guanabara Bay, Rio de Janeiro

Rio de Janeiro is more than just a party city, and there are countless romantic spots to pop the question, such as in the beautiful botanical gardens or on sunny Copacabana beach, but our favourite has to be Sugarloaf Mountain. You will feel like you’re on top of the world, surrounded by the breath-taking landscape of Brazil’s favourite city and Guanabara Bay.

Rio_de_Janeiro_night, best places to propose in south america, realworld holidays

Sunset view from Sugarloaf Mountain

We think that sunset is the perfect time to propose, as the fading light will create gorgeous colours, and the cloudier sky will make you feel like you’re on top of the world… And our favourite place to spend the first night of your engagement is the famous Copacabana Palace, with the best views of Sugarloaf Mountain. So forget about cracking open a bottle of bubbly to celebrate, a strong and refreshing Caipirinha will do the trick!

Click here for more information about tailor-made trips to Rio de Janeiro

 

Beneath the World’s Highest Waterfall

Angel Falls, Venezuela

Angelfalls, best places to propose in south america, realworld holidays

In the clouds at Angel Falls

Angel Falls is one of the most underrated natural wonders in the whole of South America, and the long journey there through Canaima National Park only makes it more spectacular. As the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world (around 20 times higher than Niagara Falls!), it’s quite a neck-breaker to behold, which is lucky for you as your partner will be too busy craning their neck to notice you getting down on one knee!

tepui, canaima national park, best places to propose in south america, realworld

The tabletop mountain tepuis of Canaima National Park has to be one of the best places to propose in South America

To make your proposal even more special, we recommend taking a helicopter flight over the tepuis and the falls to really appreciate their height and the vastness of the surrounding national park (which is the same size as Belgium!). After seeing it from above you could set off on foot to explore Canaima, or take a dip in Jaspers Creek, where the water appears to run red due to an abundance of semi-precious gem stone on the riverbed.

Click here for more information about tailor-made trips to Angel Falls and Venezuela

 

In the Country of Tango, Wine & Passion

Argentina

buenos-aires-tango, realworld, best places to propose in south america

Tango in the charming streets of San Telmo

There are a few romantic destinations in Argentina for a passionate proposal. If your better half loves city breaks then Buenos Aires is an obvious choice. Home to the sensual ballroom dance, the tango, Argentina’s capital is bursting with character and charm. The neighbourhood of San Telmo is a good option for boutique accommodation and colonial cobbled streets, with buskers round every corner showing off their best dance moves.

mendoza, realworld, best places to propose in south america

Does it get more romantic than this?

The wine region of Mendoza offers stunning views of the Andes, and vineyards as far as the eye can see, making it one of the best places to propose in South America. Book yourself into one of the luxurious vineyard fincas, and you can spend the night enjoying a famous Argentinean steak, washed down with a glass of the world’s finest Malbec.

Click here for more information about tailor-made trips to Argentina

 

On the Shores of the World’s Highest Lake

Lake Titicaca, Peru & Bolivia

lake-titicaca-copacabana, realworld, best placs to propose in south america

The Bolivian town of Copacabana on the shores of Lake Titicaca

Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world at 3,800 meters above sea level, as well as the largest lake in the whole of South America, located on the border between Peru and Bolivia. The thinner air, colder temperatures and mirror-like stillness of the lake create a very surreal and peaceful atmosphere. The area is thought to be very sacred, and is in fact the cradle of ancient civilizations such as the Incas of Peru.

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Traditional reed houses on the floating Uru Islands

A trip to Titicaca will give you a few great chances to get down on one knee. A boat trip to some of the mysterious floating reed islands, a sunset walk along the lakes edge, or snuggling up in a traditional Andean dwelling during a homestay, are all romantic options to consider for the nail-biting moment!

Click here for more information about tailor-made trips to Lake Titicaca

 

At the Centre of the Earth on the Equator

Quito, Ecuador

Ecuador, equator, RealWorld, best places to propose in South America

Quito’s ‘Mitad del Mundo’ equator museum

If your other half is the centre of your world, then how about proposing at the centre of the world? Just outside Ecuador’s capital city, Quito, is the ‘Mitad del Mundo’ attraction, where you can have your photo taken at longitude and latitude 0°. Admittedly, the site is not the most romantic location in South America, but popping the question whilst straddling the Northern and Southern hemispheres is definitely a story to tell the grandchildren!

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A hut in the Cloud Forest Reserve could be just the ticket for a romantic proposal

And after he/she has said yes there are some great accommodation options available which gives you the chance to show your more romantic side. In the centre of Quito there are a number of beautiful, historical hotels. Or a couple of hours out of the city into the Cloud Forest Reserve, you can spend the night in the Andean rainforest, surrounded by wildlife…

Click here for more information about tailor-made trips to Ecuador

 

More of the Best Places to Propose in South America…

Of course there are countless more great places to propose in South America, depending on your travelling style – Trekking the Inca Trail is great for those outdoorsy types, or a road trip in Chile is a good option if you’re more adventurous, or head into the Amazon to get closer to nature…

And if you’ve tackled the hard part already, South America is also a great honeymoon destination!

 


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Family Holidays to South America

With year-round sunshine, beautiful beaches, and more natural wonders than you can shake a stick at, we think family holidays to South America are a great alternative to the more popular long-haul destinations.

So, if you’re bored of the typical all-inclusive package deals, it might be time to consider a wildlife adventure in the Pantanal, or a camping trip to Patagonia instead. And don’t let the longer flight put you off, as the seat-back entertainment systems mean there are now hundreds of films and games to keep the kids occupied!

And a week spent exploring ancient Inca ruins or snorkelling with shoals of tropical fish is bound to be more educational and exciting than spending a week in a resort… But if you still need persuading, take a look at our top destinations for family holidays to South America, for every type of child!

 

The Galapagos

floreana peninsula, the galapagos - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

Floreana Peninsula, the Galapagos

If your kids are mini David Attenboroughs in the making, the Galapagos Islands offer the perfect family holiday. From snorkelling to walking with giant tortoises, there are plenty of child-friendly activities, and if you don’t fancy spending all of your holiday on-board a yacht, there are island-hopping options available as well, so you can sleep on dry land.

a sandy beach on the island of San Cristobal in the Galapgos National Park - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

San Cristobal, the Galapagos

To get to the Galapagos, you’ll have to pass through Ecuador anyway, so why not spend a couple of days in Quito and experience the Andean way of life. There are some great day trips from the city too, including the Cloud Forest, where the kids can look out for the endangered spectacled bear, the real-life Paddington!

 

Peru

machu picchu llamas - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

Llamas at Machu Picchu

Forget hiking the Inca Trail, there are hassle-free ways to visit Machu Picchu with the whole family. The Vistadome train is an exciting adventure for the kids, and if you get a private guide to show you round the site you can go at your own pace and tailor the tour to the little ones.

cusco market - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

Cusco Market

Cusco is a good base for your Inca-themed family holiday, and there are plenty of affordable hotels to choose from. The city itself is best explored on foot, and the market is a fun place for the younger ones to buy their souvenirs. Other activities in the area include rafting, cycling in the Sacred Valley, and of course learning all about the ancient Incas!

 

The Pantanal

pantanal sunset - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

Sunset in the Pantanal

The thought of taking the little ones into the Amazon Rainforest is daunting, but the Pantanal in Brazil is much more manageable, and offers the same great wildlife-spotting opportunities, specifically bird-watching. Plus, the wetlands are more open than the jungle, meaning it’s easier to spot the animals, such as the capybaras and giant otters that play on the riverbanks.

esteros-capybara - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

A Capybara in the Pantanal

This is a great choice for an educational family holiday, and even the eco lodge accommodation offers the chance to learn about greener living. The fun activities such as horse riding, canoeing and nature trekking will be right up the kids’ street, and they’ll be learning without even realising it!

 

Colombia

cartagena-street - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

Cartagena, Colombia

Despite its bad press over the years, Colombia is now a safe and family-friendly holiday destination. The beautiful port city of Cartagena is a good base for your trip, with plenty of day trips on offer, and the charming centre is contained within historical walls and is popular with tourists, so you’ll feel safe taking the kids out to dinner on an evening.

tayrona arrecifes - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Northern Colombia benefits from a fabulous location on the Caribbean Coast, so why not take a boat to the nearby by Rosario Islands and snorkel the coral reefs, or head north to Tayrona National Park and discover some stunning, secluded beaches? The possibilities are endless when you consider family holidays to South America…

 

Patagonia

torres-del-paine-lake-pehoe-boat - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

Torres del Paine, Patagonia

Outdoorsy families should look no further than Patagonia when planning their next adventure. The Southern Andes region in Chile and Argentina has plenty to offer those who like their holidays action-packed! From the impressive Perito Moreno Glacier to the grand wilderness of Torres del Paine National Park, there are countless great hikes to complete as well as more adrenaline-fueled activities, such as kayaking and climbing.

perito-moreno-4 - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

Perito Moreno Glacier, Patagonia

The accommodation ranges from quaint log cabins in the smaller villages to eco-friendly camping domes in the National Park, so there are some great options for families. Tours are a good idea for groups in Patagonia, as they take away any safety concerns you might have, and allow you to see the highlights of the region with a knowledgeable guide.

 

Brazil’s Northeast Coast

Porto de Galinhas - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

Porto de Galinhas, Pernambuco, Brazil

Although the excitement and energy of Rio is a great experience for adults, it might not be suitable for young families, which is why we think the Northeast coast of Brazil is the place to go for some quiet family time, off the beaten track. There are a number of great beach resorts, such as Porto de Galinhas, where the hotels are luxurious and the waters are calm and warm.

recife-carneiros-beach - Family Holidays to South America, RealWorld Holidays

Carneiros Beach, Recife, Pernambuco, Brazil

The northern cities are a great alternative to Rio as well, with Recife, Olinda and Salvador offering an authentic taste of Brazil without the hustle and bustle. Plus, with year-round sunshine, why not opt for a winter getaway instead?

 

Family Holidays to South America

Hopefully we’ve persuaded you to consider family holidays to South America! If you need any more information or inspiration, our country guide pages contain everything you need to plan your trip of a lifetime, and of course we’re always on hand to make some suggestions as well!


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amazon river boat

Best Things to do in the Amazon

A visit to the Amazon Rainforest is up there as one of the best travel experiences in the world. From wildlife-spotting opportunities to luxury accommodation, a trip into the jungle can be whatever you want it to be. This is where the tailor made travel companies really come into their own!

We take a look at the 10 best experiences and things to do in the Amazon Rainforest!

 

1) See the Meeting of the Waters in Manaus

amazon-meeting-waters-wikipedia

This phenomenon is best observed near Manaus in Brazil, where the Rio Negro and the Amazon River meet. For over 5 miles the two rivers, one almost black and one a light sandy colour, run side by side without mixing. This is due to the Rio Negro being a much warmer, denser and slower flowing river than the Amazon. Nature really is amazing, isn’t it?

Where? The Meeting of the Waters is a great trip if you’re visiting the Amazon near Manaus in Brazil.

 

2) Head into the Treetops for a Bird’s Eye View

cloud forest

There are many canopy walkways in the Amazon, offering visitors a chance to see those animals which rarely venture down to ground level. These consist of a series of hanging bridges, towers and viewing platforms, most of which are over 25 meters high, so not a great experience for those with vertigo! But if you’re brave enough to take to the trees you will be rewarded with some fantastic photo opportunities!

Where? Inkaterra in Peru, and Refugio and Posada Amazonas in Brazil all offer great canopy walkways, but the bridge at Sacha Lodge in Ecuador is probably the most impressive, at over 250 meters long and 30 meters high.

 

3) Go Fishing for Piranhas

piranha fishing

Fishing with a typical bamboo rod might be a popular tourist activity, but it’s great fun. If you’re lucky enough to land on a school of hungry piranhas, you could literally catch hundreds of them. This normally happens during the dry season when water levels are lower, and the fish get trapped in smaller pools with no food. However this is also when most attacks happen, so you wouldn’t want to join them for a swim…

Where? Most Amazon stays will involve a boat trip to go piranha fishing, so no matter which country you visit the rainforest in, there should be the opportunity to catch (and eat!) them.

 

4) Watch the Parrots at a Clay Lick

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Clay licks, or collpas, are naturally occurring patches of earth abundant in minerals and sodium, which attract flocks of hungry parrots, and are a great spot for wildlife photography. Amazonian birds have a diet mainly consisting of nuts, seeds, grubs and fruit, so these salt licks make up for the missing nutrients. Many colourful species can be observed, making for quite a spectacle.

Where? Yasuni National Park on the Napo River in Ecuador has a couple of popular clay licks, but they are dotted all over the Amazon and many lodges include them as part of their itineraries.

 

5) Learn about Local Tribes

Brazil Amazon Tribe

The local tribes of the Amazon are some of the most untouched civilisations in the world. While most tourists visit the jungle for wildlife reasons, learning about the indigenous people is a fascinating experience, and one not to be missed during your trip. While most itineraries include educational activities, which teach you basic survival skills and the medicinal uses of various plants, it’s great to dig a little deeper if you can. Ask questions, support local businesses, and most importantly, be respectful and always use ethically conscious travel companies.

Where? The whole of the Amazon provides countless educational opportunities, and most of the lodges are passionate about protecting their environment.

 

6) Board an Amazon River Cruise

amazon-delfin-deck

An especially good option for those visitors who want to experience the jungle without compromising on comfort, an Amazon River cruise offers the best of both worlds. Staying on the river means you will get some unique wildlife-spotting opportunities, especially at night when the jungle really comes alive. However there are still plenty of opportunities to disembark and explore deeper into the jungle with your knowledgeable guide.

Where? Our favourite cruise boat is probably the Delfin I in Peru, which offers 5 star accommodation and even a plunge pool in the deluxe suite!

 

7) Try some Exotic Amazonian Cuisine

Amazon Food

Amazonian cuisine is gaining a bit more international recognition lately, which is unsurprising considering the deliciously exotic flavours and unique dishes. On any Amazon adventure you will have the chance to sample some local foods; everything from grilled river fish to fruits you’ve probably never even heard of. Of course there are a few more questionable snacks on offer, such as the Ecuadorian tree slug, or how about a handful of Colombian big-butt ants on your pizza?

Where? Don’t let us put you off! Everywhere you go in the Amazon will give you the chance to try the local cuisine, and the food varies greatly from place to place.

 

8) Take a Twilight Hike

amazon-pacaya

As everyone knows, the jungle is a noisy old place at night, so the chance to spot some of the more elusive, nocturnal species is a great experience. The forest is a completely different place when the sun goes down, and feeling your way through the trees with just a torch for light is quite thrilling.

Where? Most Amazon lodges off night-time walks, and normally these are available on request, so you will have your own guide who will keep an eye (or an ear) out if there are any animals you are particularly interested in seeing.

 

9) Swim with Pink Dolphins

amazon-pink-dolphin

Ok, so you don’t actually have to jump into the murky Amazon River to enjoy these fascinating creatures, but there are plenty of tours which will allow you to do so. Apparently they prefer calmer waters, and use their sonar to steer clear of caiman and alligators, so the theory is that it’s safe to swim with them. There is much debate as to why they are pink in colour, but some believe it is due to the quality of the water they inhabit.

Where? It’s hard to predict where the elusive pink Amazon River dolphin will be, and they are less sociable than their salt water cousins, but there’s a good chance of stumbling upon them whilst on a boating or fishing trip.

 

10) Get Even Closer to Nature by Camping

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Trekking and camping in the Amazon basin remains as popular as ever with seasoned-travellers and zoologists alike. It’s the best way to get up close and personal with the wildlife, plus, you’re environmental footprint is almost none existent. After a day or two of hiking and sleeping under canvas, you’ll no longer care about the critters in your bed or the smell of your sweaty socks! And sitting around the campfire as the sun sets, eating the fish you caught earlier, and spotting nocturnal creatures in the trees around you, has to be one of the best experiences on the planet!

Where? Iquitos in Peru is a good choice, and our favourite itinerary combines camping with some lodge stays as well, so you get a complete Amazon experience.

 

More things to do in the Amazon…

We hope we’ve given you some ideas of things to do in the Amazon. Of course, the rainforest has so much to offer its visitors, that we couldn’t include everything. So if you would like any more information or our assistance planning a jungle adventure, then just contact us!

 


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Arapaima2

Top 5 Amazon River Monsters

Everything in the jungle seems to be bigger and more dangerous, so choosing just five Amazon river monsters is a tough ask! From blood sucking fish to ferocious sharks, these guys make piranhas look like pets…

 

Arapaima

A real Amazon river monster - the Arapaima

Do not adjust your set… this is a real Arapaima

This carnivorous fish, known locally as the ‘Dragon Fish’, can grow to a terrifying nine feet in length and up to 90kg in weight. Its scales are as tough as armour, its tongue is barbed, and it can breathe oxygen from the air as well as the water. Although it mainly eats birds, small mammals and other fish, you wouldn’t want to join it for a swim, as there are many myths which tell of arapaima drowning men and then eating them!

 

Bull Sharks

Bull shark in the River Amazon

You talkin’ to me?

Although more commonly a salt water predator, the aggressive bull shark can happily survive in fresh water as well, and has been found nearly 2,500 miles from the ocean in the Amazon River. They are around eight feet long, can weigh up to 300kg! There is not as much food for them in fresh water rivers, which is why they have been known to attack small mammals, dolphins, and humans!

 

Pacu

pacu amazon river fish

Coming soon to a river near you…

The pacu is a much bigger relative of the piranha, growing up to three feet in length. Their strangest feature is their human-like teeth, which assist with their omnivorous diet. Although scientists don’t believe they pose a danger to humans, there are plenty of myths which tell of men losing their testicles to the pacu… This news is even more worrying considering the rate at which they seem to be reproducing and migrating, having recently been found in Europe!

 

Candiru

amazon riverboat

Is it safe to go back into the water?

Another one for the men, the candiru is the legendary fish which is said to implant itself into the male urethra, where it holds itself in place with thousands of tiny spines so it can drink the victim’s blood… And because of these spines, it is nearly impossible to remove, causing severe damage or even amputation! Scientists remain sceptical, claiming there is no firm evidence to support all the stories of Amazon river monsters, but there many unexplained mysteries lurking in its murky waters…

 

Electric eels

Electric-eel

They may sound like the best of a bad bunch, but these Amazon river monsters grow over two meters in length and can generate powerful electric shocks of up to 600 volts! This is about five times stronger than a standard plug socket, and is powerful enough to knock down a horse. Although the shock alone probably won’t kill you, it will likely stun you, leaving you unconscious and at risk of drowning.

 

If you fancy meeting some of the most dangerous Amazon river monsters, as well as plenty of friendly parrots and butterflies, then check out our Amazon rainforest holidays and jungle lodges!


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nannai

Best Swimming Pools in South America

From jungle lagoons to natural hot springs, rooftop pools to private jacuzzis, they are all so impressive we struggled to choose between them! But here is our rundown of the best swimming pools in South America…

 

Pestana Rio Atlantica, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

pestana

There are just too many fabulous rooftop pools along Copacabana beach to choose between, but the Pestana has to be one of our favourites. With panoramic views of the bay and Sugar Loaf Mountain, as well as a great bar, you might even bump into a celebrity or two!

 

Colca Lodge, Peru

colca lodge

Get closer to nature in one of Colca Lodge’s thermal pools, on the banks of the river and fed by natural hot springs. The water is not only lovely and warm but rich in minerals that are beneficial to your health, plus, the view’s not bad either!

 

Anavilhanas Jungle Lodge, Brazil

anavilhanas1

It’s not so much the pool that’s special at Anavilhanas, but the location, set in the heart of the Amazon Rainforest overlooking the Amazon River, meaning you don’t even have to leave your rubber ring to experience some of the best wildlife in the world!

 

Tierra Atacama Hotel & Spa, Chile

tierra atacama

If there’s one place you definitely need a dip in a swimming pool, it’s the Atacama Desert! And with views of the Licancabur Volcano and comfy seats to lounge in, the Tierra has to be our favourite desert oasis!

 

Nannai Resort, Porto de Galinas, Brazil

nannai3

 

Located on the beautiful Pernambuco coast in Northern Brazil, the Nannai Resort offers a selection of pools to choose from. The main pool just off the beach takes in fabulous views of the Atlantic Ocean, while the spa pool is perfect for a relaxing, shady swim, but our favourite place for a dip is the private pool right outside your treehouse accomodation!

 

Loi Suites, Iguazu Falls, Argentina

LoiSuites_Iguazu_34

One of our favourite hotels for a trip to Iguazu Falls, the Loi Suites offer luxurious accommodation in a secluded jungle setting, making for a really relaxing stay. A series of wooden walkways slope into the pools, creating a little lagoon in the middle of the forest.

 

San Alfonso del Mar, Chile

san alfonso

Although it may not be to our taste, the pool at San Alfonso is definitely impressive! Considered the largest in the world, it stretches over 1000 meters, covers 20 acres, and is filled with sea water from the Pacific. With plenty of wind surfers and kayakers, it’s not the best pool for relaxing in, but great if you like water sports!

 

Arennas Mancora, Peru

arennas mancora

The ultimate getaway, Arennas Mancora has to be the most luxurious hotel in Peru, and one of our favourite honeymoon destinations! With a private jacuzzi pool for every suite, and amazing views over the Pacific, you’ll want to get married again and again!

 

So after a sweaty few days spent trekking the Inca Trail or partying all night in Rio, it’s good to know there are some world-class swimming pools to float around in. So grab your swimsuit and dive in!

 

How about checking out some of our favourite hotels in Buenos Aires: http://www.realworldholidays.co.uk/blog/2015/05/08/our-top-5-hotels-in-buenos-aires/


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coca tea

Altitude Sickness in South America

Altitude sickness is often a big worry for people travelling to South America, but there’s no reason for it to ruin your trip. If you are flying to altitude from sea level you are likely to notice a difference, but you’ll be glad to know that most visitors feel absolutely fine. Some experience a slight headache or fatigue for the first day or two, but it’s very rare for symptoms to be any more severe than that. The good news is that if you do find yourself feeling a bit unwell there are a range of options to help you recover quickly!

The main offenders for altitude sickness are Peru and Bolivia, but certain mountainous regions of Chile, Argentina, Colombia and Ecuador may also cause problems. This is because the Altiplano of the Andes stretches 4 countries, and is the second highest and most extensive plateau on Earth, outside of Tibet. The bulk of it covers the border between Peru and Bolivia, but the Andes continue north through Ecuador and Colombia, and south through Chile and Argentina.

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In the clouds at Machu Picchu

 What is altitude sickness?

Altitude sickness occurs when your body is suddenly exposed to a higher altitude, usually above 2,500 meters above sea level. The thinner air means you won’t be taking in as much oxygen, which can lead to headaches, feeling tired, out of breath and nauseous. Most of the time the symptoms are mild, but in rare cases it can lead to hospitalization due to a build-up of fluid in the lungs or brain. But these kinds of reactions are extremely rare!

Will I get altitude sickness?

There is no way of telling who will suffer, and you may be fine on one trip and not on another. The best way to avoid it is to ascend gradually, each day increasing the altitude by no more than 500 meters. Flying straight to a high altitude destination is not recommended but is sometimes the only option, in which case we have plenty of tips to alleviate symptoms:

  1. Keep Hydrated – This is probably the most important tip! Not only are you at high altitude on the Altiplano, you are also in an extremely dry environment, so your body will lose water much quicker than it normally would. As one of the main symptoms of altitude sickness is a headache staying hydrated will make a huge difference. Avoid drinking a lot of caffeine or alcohol for the first couple of days as well.
  2. Eat little and Often – Andean cuisine is hearty and filling (also delicious!) but this is not necessarily what your body wants whilst trying to acclimatise. Eating small portions will keep your energy levels up without making you feel lethargic.
  3. Take it Easy! – Your body will have to adapt to functioning with less oxygen, and you will probably find yourself out of breath quite easily for a day or two, so don’t rush out for a full day of sightseeing as soon as you step off the plane!
  4. Drink Tea – The locals recommend coca tea to combat the symptoms of altitude sickness, and although there is no scientific evidence that it helps, the warm, herbal drink seems to make people feel better. You could also try Andean mint tea, which is caffeine free and great for upset stomachs as well.
  5. Medication – There are plenty of over the counter medications for altitude sickness which you might want to consider, but be aware that most of these treat the symptoms not the cause. Taking paracetamol and having a lie down normally does the trick. Speak to your doctor if you are worried or have a medical condition which may be affected by high altitudes.
  6. Oxygen – Most hotels have oxygen tanks for guests who are feeling particularly unwell. In extreme circumstances you may have to see a doctor or descend to a lower altitude, which is the only way to alleviate the symptoms.
  7. Ascend Gradually – The best (and really the only) way to avoid altitude sickness is to ascend gradually, each day increasing the altitude by no more than 500 meters. Ok, so we know this isn’t always possible, but acclimatising in somewhere like Cusco before travelling to Lake Titicaca will make a noticeable difference.
coca tea

Coca tea can help alleviate the symptoms of altitude sickness

Where might I get altitude sickness?

  1. El Tatio Geysers, Chile – This might come as a surprise, but certain places on the Chilean Altiplano and the Atacama Desert are 4200 meters above sea level! However, it is likely you will be acclimatising in San Pedro de Atacama which is significantly lower, and most visitors will only be spending day trips at high altitude.
  2. La Paz – El Alto is over 4000 meters above sea level and most visitors do experience some symptoms. We don’t recommend flying straight into La Paz; our preferred route is via Lake Titicaca which is beautiful and will give you time to acclimatise first.
  3. Lake Titicaca – At 3800 meters Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world. If you are arriving from Cusco you will only be ascending slightly, which shouldn’t cause too many problems.
  4. Uyuni Salt Flats – It’s hard to say exactly how high the Bolivian salt flats are, but most of the plains that tourists visit lie at approximately 3600 meters above sea level. If you are travelling from either La Paz or the Atacama you should be well acclimatised.
  5. Cusco – Although not the highest tourist spot in South America, at 3400 meters, you may feel the effects of the higher altitude, as most visitors fly in straight from sea level. In which case you should take it easy for the first couple of days.
  6. Quito – At 2800 meters most visitors should be fine visiting Ecuador’s capital, but flying in from sea level may cause some symptoms.
  7. Bogota – Similarly to Quito, Colombia’s capital lies at 2,600 meters, which may cause symptoms for some people.
  8. Machu Picchu – Contrary to popular belief, Machu Picchu lies at just 2400 meters above sea level, and with most visitors travelling from Cusco, you should be feeling great by the time you arrive at the Inca site!
Streets_of_Cusco,_Peru_(7034974831)

The hilly streets of Cusco will leave you breathless, literally!

So, we hope we’ve put your mind at rest! South America is an amazing continent with so much to see, that the fear of feeling slightly unwell for a day or two really shouldn’t put you off. As you can see, Machu Picchu isn’t as high as everything thinks, and if you’re brave enough to road trip through the Atacama Desert to see the geysers then we’re sure you’re not afraid of a bit of altitude sickness!

So start brewing that coca tea and head to the Altiplano!


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TAM

Best Flight Routes to South America

It’s a long way from Europe to South America whichever way you look at it, but the journey doesn’t have to be as gruelling as you might think. There are a number of direct routes, plenty of airlines to choose from, daily flights to most capital cities, and, most importantly, some very competitive prices!

Last week, British Airways announced they would be launching a direct flight between London Gatwick and Lima in Peru, starting May 2016. We couldn’t be happier to hear the news! In fact, it’s inspired up to put together a list of the best flight routes to South America…

 colca-llama

Peru

From May 2016 British Airways will fly direct from Gatwick to Lima on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays throughout the summer, and then twice weekly from October. This is great news for anyone wishing to visit the land of the Incas, as Peru is a popular destination in South America, and these quicker, easier flights will surely be more appealing!

The flight times are good; a day time flight outbound and an overnight flight inbound, and it takes just over 12 hours. We’re seeing plenty of return flights for around £660 which is really good value, and during the school holidays you can still get a return for less than £1000 which is very reasonable too.

If your dates don’t fit in with the direct route, British Airways have plenty of indirect flights with a short connection, which are still good value. Alternatively, Avianca and Air Europa have some good deals for around £800, from other London airports.

 

buzios-geriba-beachBrazil

British Airways run direct flights daily between London Heathrow and Rio; a day time flight outbound and an overnight flight inbound. The flight is around 11 hours, and you can find fares for less than £700.

We also like the indirect TAP flights via Portugal, as they offer a lot more flexibility. You can fly into Rio and out of a Northern airport, such as Salvador, Fortaleza or Recife. Prices are around £700 for indirect returns, but there are cheaper deals to be had as well.

And if London isn’t the most convenient airport for you there are some good indirect flights to Rio with KLM via Amsterdam or Air France via Paris. The flight times are good, with short connections, and prices of around £700.

But if you’re a real bargain hunter and you’re flexible on dates and airports, then you can get a return flight to Rio for less than £500! Most of these flights involve mixing and matching airlines on your outbound and inbound trip, and some of them have longer connections.

 

cartagena-rosarioColombia

Avianca run direct flights daily between London Heathrow and Bogota, which take just over 11 hours. They vary in price depending on the season, starting at just below £500, but £700 is more realistic.

Indirect flight with KLM and Air France mean you can fly from other UK airports. These come in at around £700-800, but the flight times are still good, with changes in either Amsterdam or Paris.

Colombia is one of the rare gems where you can still pick up cheap deals; as low as £400 for a return flight! These often involve flying out of one London airport and in to another, but if that’s not a problem for you then you can grab yourself a real bargain!

 

amazon-yasuniEcuador

Unfortunately there are no direct flights between the UK and Quito, but KLM are our top choice for flight times and short connections. Flying to Ecuador is an expensive affair anyway, and KLM are more expensive than other airlines, with return fares costing around £800.

Although we prefer the convenience of a European connection, lots of these flights go via Bogota in Colombia, which often means a longer stopover. But if this doesn’t bother you, and you are also happy flying in and out of a different airport in the UK, there are some cheap fares to be had. At certain times of the year you can get a return flight to Quito for just over £600 with Avianca or Iberia.

 

buenos-aires-tango

Argentina

British Airways fly direct daily, excluding Tuesdays and Thursdays, from Heathrow to Buenos Aires. The flights takes 13-14 hours and cost around £700-800 return, which is fairly good value given the distance. The trip is made more bearable given the fact that both flights are overnight, making it one of the best flight routes to South America!

For a cheaper deal, British Airways do indirect flights via Madrid for less than £700. There are plenty of other airlines who fly similar routes, and sometimes it’s nice to be able to get off the plane and stretch your legs for a few hours, so it’s always worth shopping around when booking flights to Argentina.

 

atacama-sunriseChile

Chile is the furthest away from Europe, and thus the longest flight! Unfortunately the options are limited and often expensive. However, there are bargains out there if you are flexible with dates and don’t mind a longer connection. We found returns between London and Santiago for less than £600, often combining airlines or flying in and out of different UK airports. Airlines to look at include British Airways, Iberia and Air France.

We like the LAN route via Madrid, as the flight times are good with overnights in both directions, and the connections in Spain are short. The downside is this route tends to be quite expensive, but until British Airways brings out a direct flight (hurry up!) it is one of the better routes.

We don’t usually recommend flying via the USA, although you can do with American Airlines, as you’ll need to leave longer for your connection due to airport security procedures, and all travellers must have a valid US visa or ESTA visa waiver. Remember that the visa will add slightly more to the cost of the trip and can be a hassle to sort out, making that bargain flight option look significantly less attraction.

 

potosi-cerro-ricoBolivia

Flying to Bolivia is a nightmare for aeroplanes due to the high altitude, and for this reason there aren’t many flights into La Paz, and the fares are normally quite expensive. American Airlines have plenty of options via American airports such as JFK New York and Miami, but just be aware that you’ll need a valid US visa or ESTA visa waiver even if you just have a short connection time.

We prefer to fly to Bolivia with Avianca, changing in Madrid and another South American airport. Many international flights land in Santa Cruz, as the altitude is a lot lower. Fares from Europe to La Paz are some of the highest in South America, but for around £700 you can usually get an indirect flight with 2 or more changes.

This kind of trip doesn’t suit most travellers, so if you’re not flexible on dates and want the quickest flight possible be prepared to fork out upwards of £1000 for your return fare!

 

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Which is the best airline to fly to South America with?

We often get asked which airline is the best, and to be honest most of them are fairly similar. Nearly all long haul airlines offer the same amount of leg room (not much!) and inflight meals (albeit the same-old tasteless plane food!), as well as seatback entertainment.

If you are part of a frequent flyers programme then it makes sense to collect air miles on longer flights like South America, however it’s still worth considering other airlines as they might turn out to be significantly cheaper.

Even on non-English speaking routes we’ve found good service. Maybe we’re old fashioned but we believe a smile gets you everywhere, so be nice to the airhostesses and they’ll be nice to you! On long haul flights the staff tend to be more attentive anyway, bringing the drinks trolley round every hour or so (great news!), and giving out blankets and eye masks. So don’t be put off flying with TAP Portugal or the South American airline TAM/LAN, as they

 

AerolineasWhat about flights within South America?

In most cases you won’t have too much choice of airlines within South America. TAM or LAN (recently merged into one company), Star, Avianca, Gol and Azul are popular low cost options. They all offer competitive prices on popular routes, and are similar to the European budget airlines like Ryanair, Jet2 and EasyJet.

We often get asked about the safety of airlines in South America, and in our experience the planes are modern, the staff are friendly, and everything is comparable to their European equivalents. Even flying to the Bolivian Salt Flats or the Amazon Rainforest in one of the smaller carriers shouldn’t be any less safe, so just relax and enjoy your holiday!