Bartolome view (5)Llama Travel’s Travel Consultant Matt has travelled all over South America, from the dense jungles of the Peruvian Amazon rainforest to the colonial cities of Colombia, but for him, a certain volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean will always be a particularly special place. Read on to see why Matt thinks that the Galapagos Islands are as extraordinary today as they were when Darwin first set foot on them almost 180 years ago.

“As I ventured around South America taking in all the sites, cultures, food, smells and beauty of what is such an astounding and varied continent, I noticed that there was one destination that seemed to be on every travellers mind – the Galapagos Islands. This was even more evident when I arrived at the colonial city of Quito. The bars, restaurants and hotels were buzzing, full of holiday makers and locals sharing Galapagos stories and showing off their favourite photos of the wonderfully bizarre wildlife they had recently encountered. I couldn’t wait to join their ranks! After spending lazy Sunday afternoons in front of the television, watching David Attenborough marvel at the incredible creatures he would come acrossGalapagos Giant Tortoise, it would finally be my turn to explore the world’s most famous archipelago.

My Galapagos journey began with a short three hour flight from mainland Ecuador, across the Pacific, to the islands. I was transferred to my boat and I got my first glimpse of our new home for the week, a sailing boat gently rocking in the warm sunshine on beautiful crystal clear water. We set off from the bay and within minutes there was an abundance of sea lions in every direction, casually surfing and playing in the waves created by our boat. Within my first half an hour I knew that buying several SD cards for my camera was definitely a good decision!

On our first day we went in search of the famous Giant Galapagos Tortoise, however the search was over in minutes. After only a short walk through the long grass we could see dozens of giant tortoise shells, and although I had seen several photos and documentaries about them before, I was still shocked and amazed by their magnificent size. One of the first things that struck me was that the tortoises seemed unalarmed by our arrival and just continued eating the grass as if we were not even there, something that I saw repeatedly from the wildlife throughout the Galapagos. I crou
ched down next to one, imitating its shell for a photo, which prompted astonished friends and family back home to ask if it was really that big, or if I had shrunk on my travels, luckily it wasn’t the latter.

_R3A9258 (1)Throughout the week we visited various diverse islands, taking in a wide range of extraordinary landscapes, fauna and flora. From islands made of bizarre volcanic formations to stunning white sandy beaches that would put any paradise screen saver to shame. However, no matter how breath-taking the scenery, it was always the wildlife that stole the show for me. Nowhere else in the world can you see animals in such abundance and so close up without any hassle at all. Everywhere I looked there were florescent coloured crabs scuttling over salt, spitting marine iguanas, sea lions sunbathing next to tiny Galapagos penguins, frigate birds flying overhead with inflated bellies, boobies with the most incredible electric blue feet trying to attract a mate with what appeared to be an embarrassing two-step dance move. All this is before you put your head under the water for some of the world’s best snorkelling, I was really blown away by the splendour and magic that thrives below the waves.

You don’t need to be the most confident of swimmers to venture down into the water, even if you stay near the boat you will still be treated to a spectacular show of multi coloured fish and an array of stunning coral. The younger sea lions will most definitely pay you a visit and try to tempt you in to some mischievous games. You also get the opportunity to look out for dolphins, turtles, marine iguanas, manta rays and the harmless Galapagos reef shark.

Galapagos Sea LionsThe Galapagos wildlife live life with no natural predators, so they have no fear of humans getting up close and personal. Anybody who has a love for animals or adventure should definitely have the Galapagos Islands high on their bucket list, as this amazingly unique destination is not to be missed!”

If you have been inspired by Matt’s words to discover the magic of the Galapagos for yourself, then you can see a list of all our Galapagos holidays here. Llama Travel offers Galapagos cruises on five boats and also a hotel based option for those who prefer not to take a cruise. You can find out more information on all our amazing Latin American holidays by visiting our website at www.llamatravel.com, ordering our brochure or giving us a call on 020 7263 3000.

South America is a land of incredible vistas and astounding cities, but for me, the best thing about South America is the amazing animals that live there. From the long limbed Jabiru stork wading through the wetlands of the Pantanal, to the scuttling red Sally Lightfoot crabs that scamper the shores of the Galapagos Islands, and cheeky capuchin monkeys that swing through the treetops of Costa Rica, South America is a wildlife lover’s dream. The below list of my particular favourites only scratches the surface of the spectacular spectrum of wildlife that call the Americas home.

The Llama

Machu Picchu LlamaWhen talking about the top animal attractions of South America, what would be more natural than to begin with our namesake creature, the llama! Llamas have been synonymous with Peru for some time, they were first tamed some 5,000 years ago by the ancient inhabitants of the Andes. Llamas also had an important place in the Inca culture, providing food, clothing, transportation and even at times sacrifices to the gods. Life for Peru’s llamas of today is actually not all that different, just with a little less worry about the next Inti Raymi festival and a little more time photo bombing tourists at Machu Picchu.

Where to find llamas? They are certainly not hard to come by in South America, but the llamas of Machu Picchu are known to be particularly friendly and always up for a photo opportunity. You can see llamas on our Incas & Conquistadors 12 day holiday.

The Blue-Footed Booby

Blue Footed BoobiesA funny name for a funny creature. The blue-footed-booby is a large conspicuous seabird with a cigar-shaped body, a wedge tail and large webbed blue feet. The name ‘booby’ comes from the Spanish term ‘bubi’, which means ‘stupid fellow’. This is because the blue-footed booby is clumsy on the land, and like other Galapagos seabirds, can be very tame. The colour of the Boobies’ feet range from electric blue to indigo blue and even turquoise. No one really knows quite why their feet have evolved to be such a bombastic colour. A common theory is that the blue webbed toes are there to attract a mate, as the booby courtship rituals are all about the feet, with male boobies deliberately lifting their feet and strutting their stuff to impress the ladies. Interestingly, the blueness of their feet is also an indicator of a bird’s health, since the colour comes from pigments obtained from a diet of fresh fish.

Where to find blue-footed-boobies? Blue-footed-boobies, along with their cousins Nazca and red-footed boobies, can be found on various islands in the Galapagos. You can see blue-footed boobies on our Galapagos Santa Cruz and a Taste of Ecuador 11 day holiday.

The Galapagos Giant Tortoise

Galapagos TortoiseThe Galapagos boobies may be a lot fun, but the real star of the magical isles is the Galapagos giant tortoise, so much so that the islands were even named after them (“galapágo” means “tortoise” in Spanish). A large hulking creature weighing up to a hefty 250 kg, despite its rather Jurassic appearance, the Galapagos giant tortoise is known for its gentle docile demeanour, having evolved with the absence of predators. The absence of any real threats has also meant that these gentle giants are used to living long, with the oldest tortoise on record being over 150 years old. It is possible, though admittedly unlikely, that there exists today on one of the tortoise reserves of the Galapagos an old-timer that was a hatchling at the time of Charles Darwin’s famous visit in 1835. Speaking of Darwin, the arrival of mankind to the Galapagos Islands proved deadly to the giant tortoises and unmasked a previously unknown weakness, their own deliciousness! The tastiness of the tortoise became something of a legend, with sailors raving about how tortoise meat was so much better than chicken, beef and even butter. Reportedly there were once so many tortoises that one could cross a beach walking solely across their shells – but following the feeding frenzy their numbers dwindled. Thankfully, with their now protected status and the good work done at the giant tortoise reserve in the highlands of Santa Cruz, this one of a kind species is making a great comeback.

Where to find Galapagos giant tortoises? As the name implies, this beautiful creature makes its home on the Galapagos Islands. The highlands of Santa Cruz are a particularly good spot to meet them. You can see Galapagos giant tortoises on our Galapagos Beagle + a taste of Ecuador 14 day holiday.

The Condor

CondorsFound in the Andes mountains and adjacent Pacific coasts of western South America, the mighty condor is part of the New World vulture family and is the largest flying land bird in the Western Hemisphere. Cutting an impressive figure in the sky, the condor has a wingspan stretching over three metres wide, and a ruff of white feathers surrounding the base of its neck. There is something about its dull red nearly featherless head which gives the condor an air of nobility and intelligence. Indeed they are aviation masters, using thermal currents that flow from gorges to rise high in the skies, often gliding for long periods without a single movement of their vast wings. A condor soaring across the horizon is one the most majestic sights in all of South America, so it is not surprising that the Andean condor plays an important role in the mythology of the Andean regions, where they were once believed to be immortal gods. The bird of prey is also the national symbol of Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru.

Where to find condors? The Colca Canyon isn’t known as “where the Condor flies” for no reason. About 50 make the canyon their home. Sightings cannot be guaranteed, but the most spectacular location to try your luck is the Cruz del Condor view point. You can look for condors on our Incas & Conquistadors + Condors & Convents 12 day holiday.

The Poison Dart Frog

Poison Dart FrogThis fascinating family of frogs owe their name to the fact that the toxic secretions from their skin have been commonly been used by Amerindians to coat the tips of blow darts and arrows to make for a particularly deadly weapon. Some frogs are so toxic that they should not even be touched with uncovered hands. Fortunately this is not quite the case with the 8 poison dart frog species that live in Costa Rica, but nevertheless they should be treated with caution and respect. Unusually for amphibians, poison dart frogs are active during the day, so all the better to see their brilliantly jewel-coloured skin, which can shimmer from neon blue to golden yellow and black striped and spotted. These little beasties are not shy, they do anything but camouflage; instead they adopt what is known as an aposematic colouration defence, with their unnatural colourings giving any would-be-predators the clear message of “eat me, and you will be sick…or worse”. Interestingly, the toxic secretions of the frogs is dependent upon diet. Captive raised poison-dart frogs which are not fed ants do not develop the toxins necessary to back up the threat of their fierce skin tones.

Where to find poison dart frogs? These colourful critters can be found all over Costa Rica, but particularly in Tortuguero. You can see poison dart frogs on our Best of Costa Rica 11 day holiday.

If you have been inspired to discover the weird and wonderful wildlife of South America for yourself, then you can check out our great range of Peru, Costa Rica, Galapagos and Brazil holidays, all of which include opportunities for some fantastic wildlife spots. You can also find out more information on all our amazing Latin American holidays by visiting our website at www.llamatravel.com, ordering our brochure or giving us a call on 020 7263 3000.

Venture into the Pantanal

Brazil, with its beautiful beaches and colourful cities, has much to offer the adventurous holidaymaker. But for a unique and really fulfilling experience, I would recommend delving deeper inland and spending some time in the Brazilian Pantanal.

Pantanal Wetlands

The region known as the Pantanal fills an extensive area in central Brazil, and is home to the largest wetland on earth. What makes it so special is the amount of wildlife found here: thousands of species live in this ecological sanctuary. The largely open landscape means that wildlife sightings happen all the time: a giant anteater will stumble out of a thicket, its bushy tail trailing through the grass; red and blue macaws launch out of the treetops, gliding in pairs; water birds and red-necked jabiru storks dive into water pools, feeding on trapped fish.

Jabiru Stork, Pantanal Wildlife

Although this is a big farming region and ranching has an important impact on the balance of the Pantanal’s ecosystem, during my three nights here I felt detached from the outside world, in a land ruled by animals and birds rather than humans. For me, the most memorable activity was a sunrise boat trip, paddling gently on the Mutum River in a wooden canoe with a guide and a huge assembly of wildlife. As the crimson sun rose above the horizon and lightened into a bright flame colour, the cries of parrots, toucans and the chaco chachalaca filled the air as they began their day. The river water appeared calm on the surface, but the occasional appearance above water of a caiman’s unblinking eyes and the sight of a family of giant river otters fishing for breakfast in the distance exposed the world of activity below our boat. It was such a serene start to a day and the mix of discovery and relaxation felt like an unbeatable holiday experience. We returned to the dock and Rio Mutum Lodge for a filling pantaneiro breakfast, before beginning the rest of the day’s excursions; which included horse riding through dusty woods spotting monkeys and pineapple plants, cooling down in the swimming pool during the midday heat, and returning to the river in the afternoon to fish for piranhas.

Anteater, Pantanal Wildlife

The Pantanal is not the most accessible part of Brazil, but is well worth the effort of travelling into the country’s interior. Even those who are not usually inspired by nature are likely to savour the opportunity to see species not often found elsewhere, such as the shy tapir and the elusive anaconda. If you are interested in venturing into the Pantanal, you may have realised that the region undergoes a complete transformation each year, when the rains arrive in November and the low-lying plains are flooded. This can be a beautiful time to travel; however because excursions cannot usually run during rain storms, I would suggest making your first visit between May and October, in the dry season. At Llama Travel, we have designed our Pantanal extension to ensure you take as many excursions as possible during a 3-night stay, so you have the best chance of encountering the wonderful wildlife found here and become fully immersed in this magnificently unique corner of the planet.

Pousada Rio Mutum set in seven acres of leafy grounds on the banks of the Mutum River.

Pousada Rio Mutum set in seven acres of leafy grounds on the banks of the Mutum River.

If you have been inspired to venture into the Pantanal yourself, then check out our Spirit of Brazil + The Pantanal holiday, which includes 3 nights in Rio de Janeiro, 3 nights in the Iguaçu Falls, 2 nights in Salvador, 3 nights on the tropical coast north east of the city and of course 3 nights in a lodge on the wondrous Pantanal wetlands. You can also see our whole Brazil program here, and you can find out more information on all our amazing Latin American holidays by visiting our website at www.llamatravel.com, ordering our brochure or giving us a call on 020 7263 3000.

Llama Travel Director Luca Newbold, author of this blog, on route to the Inca Drawbridge

Just about everyone who visits Peru goes to Machu Picchu and loves it. You can visit on a day trip from Cusco or the Sacred Valley, and this is fabulous. It’s a long day (the Llama Travel excursion starts before 6am and you get back to Cusco around 9pm), but very satisfying. This includes a beautiful train journey, an in-depth guided tour of Machu Picchu and a great lunch in the restaurant next to the ruins. As Machu Picchu is quite a compact site, you visit most of the important parts of the ruins on the guided visit. So, given that you can visit Machu Picchu and see many of the significant sites in on a day trip, why would you want to spend a night there? Well, lots of reasons…

Visit the ruins when it is less busy

Machu Picchu

A big benefit of staying near Machu Picchu is that you can explore the ruins at your own pace when there are fewer people. Lots of visitors think that early morning is the best time, and try to get up for when the site opens at first light. This is a great time to visit, and Machu Picchu is particularly beautiful as the early morning mist parts and dawn’s rays strike the stonework. But it can be quite busy, with lots of people wanting to catch ‘sunrise’ at the citadel. Equally beautiful is the soft, late-afternoon light. This is also the quietest time in the ruins, as most of the day visitors have taken the train back to Cusco, and the majority of the visitors who arrived at 6am have also left the ruins.

Explore more of the ruins

Walk to the Inca Drawbridge

Although the main site is quite compact, there are several other parts of Machu Picchu away from the central area. It is possible to walk to the Sun Gate to get fabulous views of the ruins from above. You can also visit the sugarloaf of Huayna Picchu, just behind the ruins. Climb to the top (see Becky’s blog about this here), or you can visit the Temple of the Moon on the far side of the mountain. The Inca Drawbridge is about 20 minute walk from the citadel, and offers stunning views of the surrounding mountains. There are a restricted number of permits to enter Huayna Picchu so we recommend you buy these in advance. Llama Travel is able to arrange these tickets for you.

Climb Machu Picchu Mountain

Huayna Picchu trek

For a tougher challenge, and some of the most wonderful views, it is possible to climb Machu Picchu mountain, overlooking the citadel and Huayna Picchu. Although it is over twice the height of Huayna Picchu, its more gradual assent and wide, well-marked pathways make it a slightly easier hiking option. A round trip will take around 4 hours but it is definitely worth the effort. The trail to the top of the mountain takes you up ancient stone steps crafted by the Incas, with beautiful vistas of the Urubamba River, the surrounding mountain scenery and spectacular aerial views of the famous Inca ruins. There are a restricted number of permits to enter Machu Picchu Mountain so we recommend you buy these in advance. Llama Travel is able to arrange these tickets for you.

The valley below Machu Picchu

Aguas Calientes

Aguas Calientes is not the most attractive of towns, although it does have a quirky charm. There are hot volcanic springs at the top of the town, which Aguas Calientes is named after. The pools are rustic, and the volcanic waters slightly murky, but relaxing in the pools is a pleasant way to enjoy the amazing views of the surrounding mountains. There is also a little-known Machu Picchu site museum located near the bridge, about a 30 minute walk from Aguas Calientes town. This contains some artefacts recovered from Machu Picchu, although they are limited interest. You can also visit the botanical gardens near the museum.

Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel

Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel

The Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, just outside of Aguas Calientes, has beautiful tropical gardens which you can explore. There are guided nature tours included in the price of your stay at the hotel. The orchid trail through the gardens allows you to spot some of the hotel’s 372 native orchid species in their natural habitat (not all flower at the same time!). These include the largest orchid flower in the world, as well as tiny specimens only visible with a magnifying glass.  You can also go bird watching in the cloud forest, with a chance to spot the incredible cock-of-the-rock, the golden-headed quetzal, 18 species of humming birds, torrent ducks and 4 species of tanagers. You can also see spectacled bears at the conservation project in the hotel grounds, designed to recover bears negatively impacted by human impact. You can only visit the Machu Picchu Pueblo gardens and take the tours if you are staying in the hotel itself. If you would like to spend a night at Machu Picchu and further explore the area, Llama Travel offers several good hotel options, including the Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel mentioned above. Give us a call on 020 7263 3000 and we will be happy to help arrange your perfect visit to Machu Picchu. You can see a list of all our Peru Holidays here. which include trips to LimaCusco, the Amazon Jungle, Lake Titicaca, the Colca Canyon and of course Machu Picchu. You can also see more information on all our amazing Latin America holidays by visiting www.llamatravel.com or ordering our brochure.

Llama Travel’s Sales Manager Graeme has always been a fan of travelling in comfort and style. For his latest blog he has reviewed some of his favourite superior hotels in Peru, from location and facilities to dining and atmosphere, and why in his opinion they are worth every pound of their upgrade supplement!

“I like my comforts when I travel. I always have. When I check in to my hotel, I like to know a very comfortable bed is waiting for me, the minibar is stocked, room service is a phone call away and most importantly a bathroom with a fantastic shower and soft white bathrobe will make the long flight dwindle away and energise me for my holiday ahead.

I’ve written about some of our choice superior hotels for those of you, who like me, like a little bit extra.

Casa Andina Private Collection – Lima, Peru

Situated in the popular tourist area of Miraflores, the hotel with its large lobby, bar and seating area is welcoming and buzzing. The superior rooms include a king, queen or 2 full size beds. TV, Wifi & Air Con, minibar (stocked!), the all-important coffee maker, and safety deposit box, hair dryer, robe and slippers. The restaurant, bar, coffee shop and swimming pool and sauna make this city hotel really stand out. It is a perfect place to relax after a day exploring or a long flight. Breakfast is a large buffet of delicious hot and cold food, fruits, pastries, bread, juices, tea and coffee. It is just what you need. For more information, click here to visit the Casa Andina Private Collection website

Hotel Aranwa – Cusco, Peru

This 16th century colonial house is one of my favourite hotels. The charm, elegance and location are some of the reasons we offer the Aranwa as our boutique hotel option in Cusco. The deluxe rooms, which are oxygenated to help you acclimatise the altitude, are well appointed with luxurious furniture and colonial-style frescos.  The room boasts a king size bed or two queen size beds, a minibar and tea & coffee making facilities. The spacious bathrooms with double sinks include separate showers and baths. The restaurant is elegant and peaceful and surrounds the private and beautiful central patio. For more information, click here to visit the Hotel Aranwa website

 

Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel – Machu Picchu, Peru

When visiting Machu Picchu, it is very worthwhile spending a night in the town of Aguas Calientes.  If you’re taking the Inca Trail or Short Inca trail the Machu Picchu Pueblo is the perfect option to take some time to yourself and relax after a busy few days.  The rustic look and feel of the hotel is matched perfectly to incorporate its surroundings.  Take advantage of the guided excursions around the hotel grounds and cloud forest trails. Most excursions are included in the price of your stay. Breakfast and dinner (included) are everything you would expect from a superior hotel. Delicious choices for breakfast and an evening meal Gordon Ramsey would have trouble finding fault with are served in the restaurant overlooking the cloud forest. If that’s not enough to tempt you, the full range of spa services, pool and coca leaf sauna will. With so many areas to relax and enjoy everything the hotel offers, you’ll welcome your individual styled superior casita which includes a queen size or two double beds and offers a space for simple relaxation. The Machu Picchu Pueblo is by far, my favourite hotel in Aguas Calientes and not to be missed. For more information, click here to visit the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo website.”

If you would like to spend a couple of nights yourself at one of these excellent Peruvian hotels, then you can take a look at our Peru Holidays here, which include trips to LimaCuscoMachu Picchu, the Amazon Jungle, Lake Titicaca, the Colca Canyon and more.

If you have already booked a holiday to Peru with us, and are interested in upgrading your accommodation to any of the above hotels, give us a call on 020 7263 3000 and we can try and arrange this for you. You can also find out more information on all our amazing Latin American hotels and holidays by visiting our website at www.llamatravel.com, or ordering our brochure.

Llama Travel’s Travel Consultant Charlotte recently had the pleasure of taking her first trip to Argentina and Chile. It came as no surprise to her that the glaciers were vast and beautiful, Torres del Paine was magnificent and awe-inspiring and that Buenos Aires was elegant and thriving. Something that did come as a surprise to Charlotte was just how much she loved the Chilean Lake District. So much so that she has decided to make it the subject of her first blog from her Patagonia travels. Read on to see why Charlotte thinks the Chilean Lake District is more than worth a visit.

Puerto Varas, on the Shores of Lake Llanquihue

“I recently visited the wonderful countries of Chile and Argentina and fell in love with the amazing region of Patagonia.

Patagonia begins in the green and fertile pasturelands of the Lake District and finishes at the isolated and remote Cape Horn, an area often referred to as ‘the ends of the earth’. This region spans two countries, Chile and Argentina, and is made up of spectacular mountain peaks, lakes, glaciers, awe inspiring steppe land and snow-capped volcanoes. It is believed this magical land was named Patagonia by the explorer Ferdinand Magellan. It was so called after the race of mythical giants he claimed to have encountered called the ‘Patagons’. It isn’t hard to see how this magical and beguiling landscape could conjure up such fantastical ideas.

I started my journey with a visit to the Chilean Lake District, located in the northern part of the Patagonian region. It was just a two hour flight from Santiago De Chile down to the Lake District and then a short transfer from the small airport at Puerto Montt to our destination of Puerto Varas. Puerto Varas is a pretty Germanic style town located on the western shoreline of Lago Llanquihue beneath the shadows of the snowcapped Osorno and Calbuco Volcanoes. The landscape is incredibly verdant with lush forests and gently rolling farmland. The green fields and beautiful lakes do come at a price, this area has on average over 200 rainy days each year. However, there is a lot more to this wonderful area than the weather.

Views over the lakes

Built by German Colonists the town of Puerto Varas has a very European feel to it.  It has a rich cafe culture with a plethora of cake shops and, many locals claim, the best coffee in Chile. The town itself is quite compact and it is easy to walk from both hotels into the centre and down to the lakeside. Puerto Varas is one of the most popular outdoor activity hubs in Chile. In winter it is a popular skiing destination and in summer offers a wide range of activities from Mountain biking and climbing to a variety of water sports which can all be arranged locally.

On arrival into Puerto Varas I joined our guide for our new Osorno Volcano and Hike excursion. Our journey began by road as we headed into the foothills of the Osorno Volcano. The road winds through green forests for several miles before finishing at the Osorno Ski Centre. This is the beginning of the chairlift system which ascends the side of the volcano. In winter this is used to transport skiers up the mountain and in spring or summer can, on a good day, offer tourists a rare glimpse through the almost permanent cloud cover of the breath-taking Lake District. As we were a little ahead of schedule we managed to fit in a trip on the chairlift. Even in summer the temperature at the top was bracing and unfortunately the visibility was very limited.

Petrohue Falls

After a necessary hot chocolate to warm us up we descended the lower slopes to begin a five kilometre walk along the Sendero Solitario.  This picturesque walk gives impressive views over the Lake District landscape. On a good day you can also see up to the peak of the snow-capped Osorno Volcano. The soil beneath the volcano is extremely fertile and the forest which sweeps up the sides of Osorno is dense with flora and fauna. As we walked through this ancient forest our guide pointed out various flowers and explained the significance of these to the indigenous people of the Lake District area. The walk is done at a slow place and plenty of time is given to take pictures and enjoy the experience of walking through this pristine and beautiful area.

The excursion ended with a short walk to the stunningly turquoise Petrohue Falls. It is then around an hour’s drive along the edge of Lago Llanquihue back to Puerto Varas. We then spent a well-deserved and relaxing evening enjoying a fantastic dinner in the restaurant of the Cumbres Patagonicas hotel. This charming hotel is built in a traditional Lake District style and has incredible views over the lake.

Osorno Volcano

The next day it was unfortunately time to leave the Lake District. The Lake District is often overlooked by travellers to Patagonia. Perhaps this is because the region doesn’t have the instant attraction of the glaciers and the absolute wilderness that you find further south. The Lake District is different. Sitting on the cusp of Patagonia the Lake District is more accessible than a large percentage of the region. It is because of this that it feels more vibrant and more cultural than the south. There is much more to this area than landscapes, the local people are warm and friendly with a strong regional identity. There is an abundance of adventure sports and outdoor activities on offer in a relatively compact area so it is very easy to get out and explore the incredible countryside.

As we boarded our flight to Puerto Arenas, despite my excitement about the next part of the journey, I felt slightly regretful to be leaving the Lakes and I know that I will return soon for a much longer visit.”

If you have been inspired by Charlotte’s adventures in the Chilean Lake District, you can take a look at our Natural Wonders of Chile holiday, which includes three nights in Santiago, two nights in Torres del Paine, two nights in Puerto Natales and two nights staying in Puerto Varas, in the Chilean lake district. You can also include a visit to the Chilean Lake District with any of our Best of Argentina and Chile holidays.

You can find out more information on all our amazing Latin American holidays by visiting our website at www.llamatravel.com, ordering our brochure or giving us a call on 020 7263 3000.

Poison Dart Frog

Costa Rica is the happiest place on earth, according to the Happy Planet index. A statement that Llama Travel’s Travel Consultant Marianela, who has just come back from a 14 day trip to Costa Rica, is not about to contradict. From the dizzying heights of the Monteverde skywalks, to the dense jungles of Tortuguero and the calm flowing waters of the Tabacon Hot Springs, Marianela has put together her top 5 list of what makes Costa Rica such a blissful country to visit.

Tortuguero

TortugueroOne of the most incredible places I have ever been! I have to say, I wouldn’t have considered myself a jungle person. The idea of sleeping in jungle accommodation and making the beasties and bugs my best friends did not appeal to me at all. There is just something so captivating about the jungles of Tortuguero, brimming with lush vegetation and wildlife. The best way to explore the national park is by boat. If you are lucky like I was, you can even spot the sinister eyes of a Caiman peering out from the water. The grounds of the lodges in Tortuguero are full of surprises so if you feel adventurous, you can wonder around the forest that surrounds it, where you are likely to see toucans, frogs and monkeys.

Tabacon Hot Springs

Tabacon hot springsSpending a couple of hours submerged in the natural volcanic waters of the Tabacon Hot Springs is one of life’s true pleasures. Upon arrival you can see the steam that comes from the pools even from outside of the complex. The springs themselves are located on the hill of the property and are surrounded by vegetation. The ponds at the bottom of the hill are always the busiest ones, so if you are looking for privacy, walk further up and you will find the pools at the top of the property are virtually empty and beautifully secluded from the crowds. Each pool has a different temperature, I suggest to start from the hottest and end in the coolest pond. It is believed that the waters have medicinal properties, and help improve your circulation.

Monteverde Cloud Forest at night

Monterverde CloudforestVisiting the Cloud Forest at night time is especially exciting because a lot of the animals that inhabit the cloud forest are nocturnal. The forest becomes alive at night, pulsating with strange noises and the sense that the most outlandish creatures might wander from the foliage and cross your path. The trails at the Monteverde Cloud Forest are well preserved and the local guides are experts at spotting animals. Flashlights are provided upon arrival to the reserve. Among the animals that tourists are likely to spot at night time are snakes, spiders (especially tarantulas), coatimundis, a sleepy sloth, a wide-eyed kinkajou, an armadillo and bats.

 Poas Volcano

Poas VolcanoHome of some of the largest inactive craters in the world, Poas Volcano is one of the most visited sites in Costa Rica. The scenery and views around the area are splendid, and a clear view of the crater is a magnificent sight to behold. A walk to the Botos Lagoon is also a very scenic addition to the Paos Volcano. You are allowed at the viewpoint not more than 20 minutes due to smoke and fumaroles still coming out of its crater.

Sky Walk

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAA great opportunity to appreciate the cloud forest from a different perspective. The Sky Walk is a series of suspension bridges that start from the ground and take you high above the tree tops. The walk itself is a lovely nature walk where you will be able to appreciate a lot of plants and trees. Exotic flowers, a crow of coatis and huge ceibo trees make the walk particularly interesting. Our guide provided us with information about the forest and the efforts of the Costa Rican government to preserve it. Once you reach the highest bridge the different colours of the forest will take your breath away.

If you have been inspired by Marianela’s adventures in Costa Rica, you can take a look at our Best of Costa Rica program here, which includes three nights in the Costa Rican capital of San Jose, two nights amongst the jungle waterways of Tortuguero, two nights in Arenal under the shadow of the famous volcano, and two nights in Monteverde, home to the spectacularly bio diverse cloud forest. You also have the option to finish your holiday in style at either (or both) the stunningly beautiful beaches of Manuel Antonio or the exotic coastlines of Corcovado national park.

You can also find out more information on all our amazing Latin American holidays by visiting our website at www.llamatravel.com, ordering our brochure or giving us a call on 020 7263 3000.

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