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.

Itacimirim Beach

It’s a sign of a good holiday when your first thought upon returning home is ‘phew, I need a break’. It is the sign of an excellent holiday when a break is already built in. On our brand new Spirit of Brazil programme, we provide a three night beach break to act as a peaceful limbo between the dizzying excitement of Rio, the Iguaçu Falls and Salvador, and the humdrum of everyday life.

We believe that, just as there are different ways to seek adventures, there are different ways to relax and unwind. Some enjoy a quieter pace of life; strolling down a tranquil beach, eating out in the evening and watching the sun dip below the horizon. Whilst for others the ultimate fantasy of relaxation is escaping to an exotic island paradise where palm trees spout from the ground, and the beaches are golden, gloriously empty and yours to explore.

So, in recognition of these two district categories of R&R, we’ve decided to provide two beach getaway options. The first is a three night sojourn in the seaside town of Praia do Forte, on the glittering Bahian coast. The second is a three night retreat to the paradisiacal archipelago of Fernando De Noronha, in the Atlantic Ocean just off the coast of Brazil.  In continuation of our blog series celebrating the diversity of Brazil, we are going to compare, contrast and take a close look at these two stunning destinations.

Praia Do Forte

Praia Do Forte

Praia Do Forte

Dreamy, picturesque, tranquil. Praia do Forte is a pretty seaside town an hour north of Salvador in the north-eastern state of Bahia. Beloved by both holiday-makers and Salvador locals alike, the town retains a lovely low key-feel and is the perfect place to kick back and relax.

Everything in Praia do Forte is within walking distance. Spend your days ambling along the main Alameda do Sol walkway, passing by and perhaps popping into the pint-sized church, or the Tamar sea turtle preservation centre. In the evenings, enjoy seafood dishes and typical Brazilian cuisine in the various restaurants dotted around the town, and sip a refreshing caipirinha whilst watching the brilliant red sun setting on the horizon.

Stunning view of beach in Itacimirim

Stunning view of beach in Itacimirim

Wherever you are, day or night, the sea is never out of reach. The beaches of the sublime Bahian coast are renowned for their idyllic beauty and soft yellow sand, and home to picture book palm trees, migratory birds and even, in the right season, nesting sea turtles.

Your Llama Travel hotel is located in the village of Itacimirim, a short drive from Praia do Forte. A beautiful area in its own right, Itacimirim is quieter than its neighbouring town and offers an authentic insight into life in a traditional Brazilian fishing village.

Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha is an archipelago of volcanic origin that lies over 200 miles from the north-east coast of Brazil. Blessed with turquoise waters, abundant marine life, stunning tropical landscapes, and pristine beaches – voted by Trip Advisor as amongst the most beautiful in the world – it is no surprise that Fernando de Noronha is considered the brightest jewel in Brazil’s crown.

Fernando de Noronha

Fernando de Noronha

Whereas Praia do Forte is quiet and peaceful, Fernando de Noronha is positively secluded. The majority of the island was made a marine national park in 1988, and tourism is closely restricted in order to preserve the local ecology. The beaches are never crowded, and it’s not a huge leap of the imagination to picture yourself as a member of the Swiss Family Robinson, all alone on your own small stretch of paradise. The wildlife of the Archipelago is of an equally out of this world and exotic quality. There are spinner dolphins, hawksbill turtles, coral reef fish and various endemic bird and reptile species that can be sighted all over the island.

Despite its sense of detachment, Fernando de Noronha has plenty of facilities and comforts.  The main island village of Vila dos Remédios has various good restaurants and even a couple of bars. Indeed, there is plenty to do other than just admire the general awe-inspiring splendour. Hike through the islands winding nature trails, explore the waters by boat tours through the archipelago and scuba dive and snorkel beneath the waves themselves amongst dolphins, turtles and fish every colour of the rainbow

Fernando de Noronha

So… Which beach break calls out your name? A few days beside the Brazilian seaside in Praia do Forte is already built in and included as part of our standard Brazil tour. A tropical retreat to Fernando de Noronha is available for a supplement, please ask us for details.

If you have been inspired by either of our beautiful beach options, take a look at our Spirit of Brazil holiday programme here, which includes three nights in the sensational city of Rio De Janeiro, three nights to admire the natural wonder of the Iguaçu Falls, two nights in the old colonial city of Salvador and of course three nights of R&R at the beach getaway of your choice.

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.

A huge region of stunning coastlines, dense jungle, open wetlands and scattered yet thriving cities, Brazil has long been a nut that Llama Travel has been keen to crack. We are therefore delighted to announce our brand new Spirit of Brazil holiday collection, which traverses the iconic hot spots and hidden secrets of this vast, varied and vibrant country.

So to celebrate the arrival of our brand new Brazilian holidays, and the magnificent diversity of Brazil itself, we are launching a series of blogs that shine a spotlight on the various cities, beaches, nature and amazing ways to experience all that Brazil has to offer. We begin with two very different cities:

Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer overlooking the stunning city of Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer overlooking the stunning city of Rio de Janeiro

At the mention of the word ‘Brazil’, the mind cannot help but conjure up an image of Christ the Redeemer, arms outstretched, looking out towards a magnificent kingdom of glittering lights, sparkling tropical beaches and hills rolling down into the ocean. Or perhaps it is the famous Sugarloaf Mountain, rising up out of the surf, which springs to mind, or laid back locals playing football on Copacabana beach. Rio de Janeiro may not be Brazil’s capital city (that honour goes to the lesser known Brasilia), but in terms of hype and and headlines, it is the capital of the world right now and one of the most well-known destinations in South America.

The bedrock of the city was first discovered by Portuguese sailors in 1502 who mistook it for the mouth of an enormous river, and named it Rio de Janeiro or ‘January River’ after the month of their arrival. With the discovery of gold in nearby Minas Gerais in the 1700s, Rio started to prosper and became a city with power, and it has not slowed down since.

What makes Rio a stand out city in South America is that it is ever-changing, with its eyes to the future rather than the past. Although some colonial architecture still stands in the old town, it is the comparatively contemporary phenomenons such as the art deco Christ the Redeemer, the striking modern cathedral, built in 1976, and the city’s status as a mecca of the beautiful game that make Rio de Janeiro so famous and iconic.

Rio’s global profile is set to rise even further, as the host of the 2016 Olympic and Paralympic Games, and word is that the city is also campaigning to prolific movie director Woody Allen to consider Rio de Janeiro as the location for the next film in his renowned travelogue series.

If you have been inspired to pay a visit to Rio de Janeiro during its perfect moment, then take a look at our Samba, Tango and Iguazu FallsSpirit of Brazil and Wildlife, Waterfalls and Rio Holidays, all of which include a few days in this buzzing metropolis.

Salvador

the comely colonial streets if Salvador

the comely colonial streets of Salvador

Salvador, capital of Brazil’s sunshine state of Bahia, is a charmingly unadorned old town city that tells a very different story from that of Rio de Janeiro. It is not without its modern comforts and amenities, but unlike Rio, what makes Salvador special is its past and how strongly its colonial heritage still permeates its culture of today.

The magnificent capital of Portugal’s New World colony, Salvador was colonised by Portuguese merchants in the early 16th century and quickly established itself at the heart of the flourishing sugar trade. Today, Pelourinho, the historical centre of Salvador, is a living museum of 17th and 18th century architecture, with pastel coloured houses in the Portuguese style, narrow cobbled streets and imposing gold-laden churches.

Salvador may not be as loud as Rio, but it has its own kind of energy. Brazil’s biggest street carnival is held in Salvador each year, and wild festivals have been known to break out spontaneously on the streets. At night, capoeira circles form on plazas, while the scent of acarajé (bean and shrimp fritters) and other African delights fills the evening air.

African customs play a huge part in Salvadorian culture. In the colonial era, Salvador was a capital of the slave trade, and thousands of men and women were brought from Africa to Brazil to work as slaves on the sugar plantations. Many of the city’s current inhabitants can trace their lineage back to the these early African communities, and the African influence is still strongly felt in the whole state of Bahia. The African Candomblé religion is still practiced today, and in the markets of Salvador, you are able to browse rows of garments, jewellery, figures, herbs and food used in Candomblé ceremonies. The African inspiration can also be found in Bahian cuisine, which is considered amongst the best food in Brazil, where African ingredients such as dendê palm oil, as well as seafood, coconut, fresh coriander and hot chillis form a big part of the typical Salvador diet.

If you have been inspired to walk the comely colonial streets of old Salvador da Bahia, then check out our brand new Spirit of Brazil Holiday program, which includes 2 nights in Salvador as well as visits to the the tropical coast north east of the city, the Iguaçu Falls, and of course Salvador’s counterpart city of Rio de Janeiro.

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.

Next week sees the release of Paddington, a film adaptation of the classic children’s book series about a speckled bear who journeys from “darkest Peru” to England, and throws himself and everyone around him into a whirlwind of adventures.

Here at Llama Travel, we do the reverse; whisking people away from their cosy firesides in good old Blighty and off to the teeming jungles, vast lakes, soaring mountains and faraway cities of Peru and the rest of the Americas. Someone who took the reverse Paddington journey with us quite recently is Llama Travel’s own Sales Manager Graeme, and he found it hard to imagine why anyone, bear in a duffle coat or otherwise, would ever want to leave Peru!

Paddington Bear

Paddington Bear visiting Museo Larco in Lima, Peru.

Check out the below for Graeme’s top 5 list of what in darkest Peru is worth shining a spotlight on…

Machu Picchu

The number one place to visit is without doubt the magnificent and wondrous Inca ruins at Machu Picchu. It’s origins and purpose are yet to be fully defined but what everyone can agree on is that your visit will leave you wanting to know more and more about the Inca people. Why do we love it so much? We love the different ways you can explore the ruins. Take the famous Inca Trail and arrive after a 4 day trek through amazing Inca villages while taking in spectacular mountain views. But be quick, spaces fill up quickly! You could also spend a night in the small town of Aguas Calientes at the foot of the ruins. My favourite hotel here is the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel. A beautiful rustic hotel, set in tropical gardens. A great place to relax for a night after a busy few days of exploring… If you’re going to treat yourself, this is the place to do it! Now that you’re relaxed, you can visit the ruins for a second time exploring at your own pace, or walk up Huayna Picchu – the sugar loaf mountain that overlooks Machu Picchu – for some of the best views and photo opportunities.

Machu Pichu

The People

The Peruvian people are some of the friendliest I’ve ever had the pleasure to meet. Everywhere I went, I was welcomed by the locals I met during our excursions, those at the hotels, and of course by the wonderful guides I had throughout my trip. We receive great feedback from customers about the guides that they met along the way. Look out for Elvis when visiting Machu Picchu. While everyone was friendly and welcoming, two occasions are particularly memorable. During our time on the Sacred Valley excursion, we stopped in the town of Chincheros to visit their local church, a fusion of Spanish and indigenous culture. The many frescos and paintings familiar to Christianity are displayed along with native local beliefs, subtly represented by golden suns and silver moons. Afterwards we were treated to a demonstration at a workshop on how the local women weave and dye clothing. An entertaining, relaxed and welcoming experience. We drank coca leaf tea, tried our hand at weaving and laughed with the local women who were all keen to show us their traditional way of living. In my opinion, the friendliest people live on the floating Uros islands at Lake Titicaca, where I met the youngest and most charming sales person in Peru. Three year old Stephanie, was making sure I didn’t leave without a pretty bracelet she had chosen herself. The local people open up their homes to tourists as way to earn money to help preserve their way of living and keeping their community together. A fascinating place to visit, made even more special by the people you meet.

Peru, Sacred Valley

The Food

One of the best experiences while travelling is tasting new and delicious food along the way. Peru is going through a food revolution right now and you will be spoiled for choice. Particularly in Lima and Cusco where you will find everything from local restaurants to Michelin star quality.The ceviche at the El Pardo Doubletree Hilton hotel in Lima is particularly tasty and always made fresh in front of you. I recommend doing your research before you go to make sure you hit the good spots during your free time. Peruvians enjoy large lunches and have smaller meals in the evening and remember to eat light when first arriving in Cusco to help combat the effects of high altitude. Expect lots of tasty soups, chicken, sea food, potatoes and quinoa during your stay. You’ll learn a lot about how fresh produce is cultivated in Peru and how the Incas experimented using microclimates to their advantage during our optional excursion to Maras and Moray.

Pisco Sour

The Amazon Jungle
Much of Peru lies in the Amazon rainforest and the town of Puerto Maldonado is where we begin our journey into the jungle. Easily accessed from Lima or Cusco, I enjoyed three wonderful nights here immersed in the jungle – but in comfort also. The tiny airport is not Heathrow (thankfully!) but can be busy with tourists all arriving on the same flight. Our guide was waiting outside with a sign and took us to the local office to process our paperwork, and offered us a refreshing cool towel and welcome drink, before we headed to the river port. After a short canoe journey upriver we came to the Hacienda Concepcion, our lodge for the next 3 nights. I’ll be honest, I had some slight trepidation about what the jungle would be like. Would there be many insects? What do you mean there is no internet?! Limited electricity? I quickly discovered that these trepidations were unfounded. There are insects, but a long sleeve top and some mosquito spray is good enough when you’re out exploring and the rooms and cabañas are fully enclosed. The limited electricity is not an issue. There was plenty of time to charge my devices and enough light and hot water when needed. The peaceful surroundings, the jungle noises and the excursions make you forget about emails, facebook and indeed the outside world in general. It can all wait. I’d recommend taking a cabañas for extra privacy at the Hacienda Concepcion or stay at The Reserva Amazonica for even more comfort and to take advantage of a wider selection of excursions. After a worthwhile 3km trek and visit to Lake Sandoval, spotting caiman along the way a hot shower, a drink at the bar or a relaxing massage is very welcome. Or for those who want to go deeper into the jungle, try the Refugio Amazonas or Tambopata Research Lodge.

The Amazon

Cusco
The perfect base to explore the surrounding region including Machu Picchu and the Sacred Valley. Modern day Cusco its self is a busy place, full of restaurants, museums, churches, markets and festivals. It is a blend of colonial Spanish and Inca architecture and the perfect place to spend a few days exploring on your own. You’ll be glad of a few days here to adjust to the high altitude. You should find Cusco a perfectly safe place to walk around, visit one of the many places of interest or buy some souvenirs. I had lunch at a lovely pizzeria overlooking Plaza De Armas, the main square in Cusco where I spent a few hours just watching everyone go about their business. The uber trendy Fallen Angel restaurant is where I found myself one evening for dinner. Our Peru holidays allow you enough time to acclimatise to the altitude, visit many of the places of interest including the famous Qorikancha, the main temple of the Inca Empire and free time to take in all that Cusco has to offer.

Cusco
If you have been inspired by Graeme’s adventures to trace back the steps of Paddington Bear all the way to darkest Peru on your own holiday of a lifetime, you can see a list of all our Peru Holidays here. You can also see more information on all our amazing Latin America holidays by visiting www.llamatravel.com or ordering our brochure. You can also give the Llama Travel office a call at 020 7263 3000.

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