Trekking To The Clouds: An Inca Trail In Argentina

Salta

Salta Trekking to the Clouds

The following morning, I set out with my companions to embark on the exhilarating Trek to the Clouds! This trek was developed based on the famous “train to the clouds” that used to run through the high Andes connecting Salta (Argentina) and Chile. This 48 KM trek follows segments of an Inca Trail that had long been forgotten. We began at the foot of Cerro El Gólgota in Ingeniero Maury and ended four days later in Quebrada de San Lorenzo, right next to the city of Salta.

Salta

Salta Trekking to the Clouds

We began in a dry and arid climate, with staggering peaks washed with rich colors of crimson red, orange and dandelion yellow. During the final segment we entered the verdant rainforests of Salta’s Yunga. All along the route, we were in contact with the nature and local culture of this incredibly special area of Salta.

Salta

Salta Trekking to the Clouds

Winding up along the Quebrada del Toro, our first ascent was surrounded by massive cardones (giant cacti), with each turn revealing new snowy peaks glittering on the horizon of the high-desertscape. We continued on to the archaeological site of “Sillón del Inca” (Inca Seat), ruins that once belonged to the southern part of the Inca empire. Here we had the exceptional opportunity to camp in this massive ruin site. Surrounded solely by the almost-lifelike cacti, Incan ruins, and Milky Way, this was a site to behold.

Salta

Salta Trekking to the Clouds

Waking up, still in utter disbelief that we were the only humans around for miles in such an awe-inspiring place, we continued the trip visiting and staying with local inhabitants of the next valleys over.

Salta

Salta Trekking to the Clouds

Living in small villages over 10,000 ft high, our hosts, who breed livestock and work the fields for a living, opened their homes to us and shared their life stories. For the last two nights we camped in our local hosts’ humble fields and cooked together with them while sharing wine, stories and jokes.

Salta

Salta Trekking to the Clouds

Our final day, coming out of the Yungas, Salta’s rainforest, we were surprised at the trailhead with fresh empanadas and ice-cold refreshments. We celebrated our success and sadly said good-bye to our incredible guides.

Salta

Salta Trekking to the Clouds

Salta and its magical landscape did anything but disappoint. This hidden gem of rich culture, landscapes and adventure should not go unnoticed!

NOTE: Read more about the Trekking To The Clouds itinerary here. This trek can be offered as a 4-day, 3-day or 2-day trek. The up-coming set group departures for the 4-day trek are as follows:

GROUP DEPARTURE DATES 2017:
–November 15*
–December 6

GROUP DEPARTURE DATES 2018:
–April 28**
–May 26**
–June 23
–August 25**
–September 22**
–October 27
–November 24

*New Moon
**Full Moon

Private departures available upon request (2 person minimum)

READ THE OTHER PARTS OF MY SALTA ADVENTURE HERE:

  1. Exploring Salta: Argentina’s Undiscovered Land of Adventure and Wine PART 1
  2. Exploring Salta: Argentina’s Undiscovered Land of Adventure and Wine PART 2
  3. Gastronomic Delights and Mummies in Salta, Argentina

Want to explore Salta on your next adventure? Check out these itineraries:

Don’t see what you want? Want to customize your experience? Contact us!

Your friendly Argentina expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Argentina, Chile, Family Travel, Inca Trail, South America, Sustainable Tourism, Travel Advice, Trekking, Trip Journals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Gastronomic Delights and Mummies in Salta, Argentina

Once back in Salta, I had just enough time to visit the fascinating MAAM (Museo de Arqueología de Alta Montaña de Salta, Salta Museum of High Altitude Archeology), experience some of the incredible local restaurants and head off to the trek I had been waiting to do for years: Trekking to the Clouds!

(Read Part 1 of this adventure here, Read Part 2 here)

Salta

Outside the MAAM in Salta’s main square

Our first afternoon back in Salta we headed directly to the MAAM located on the main square. The last time I visited Salta I did not have a chance to visit this museum and it was something I always regretted. This unique museum is a homage to the Incan high-mountain sanctuaries as well as mountaineering. It has a serious and informative exhibition focusing on Inca culture and, in particular, the child sacrifices left on some of the Andes’ most imposing peaks.

Salta

One of the mummified children found on top of Llullaillaco Mountain

The focus is the mummified body of one of three children (rotated every six months) discovered at the peak of Llullaillaco in 1999. It was a controversial decision to display the bodies and it is a powerful experience to come face-to-face with them.

Salta

Llullaillaco Mountain

I had a peaked interest in this museum, as, after Salta I was going to be making an attempt at reaching the summit of Llullaillaco where these Incan mummies had been found.

(For more information on summiting Llullaillaco and/or using it as a starter mountain before attempting Aconcagua or Ojos del Salado, contact us!)

Salta

Casa del Molino, Salta

In the evening, we waited patiently for the doors of the famous, La Casona del Molino restaurant, to open. This unsuspecting house-converted-restaurant already had tantalizing aromas of grilled beef, boiling tamales and scrumptious empanadas wafting out of the windows and doors.  The humble beginnings of Salta’s gastronomic cornerstone are still apparent; the rooms of the house circled around a large courtyard and all the simple wooden tables and chairs seemed like they had been there since the opening, decades before. Each table was adorned with one small, white candle and the menus were one sheet of paper listing off all the best of Salta’s unique dishes. Small signs above every door listed the house rules, one of which reminded patrons that they would be asked to leave after 5AM.

Salta

Mouthwatering delights from Salta

As we stuffed ourselves with each new extraordinary dish that came our way, a musician started to sing and strum his guitar playing national folkloric tunes while locals joined in on the choruses. The night was magic and the perfect way to ready-myself for the trek to come!

Stay tuned for the rest of my Trekking to the Clouds adventure in our blogs coming out over the next weeks.

Read Part 1 of this adventure here
Read Part 2 of this adventure here

Want to explore Salta on your next adventure? Check out these itineraries:

Don’t see what you want? Want to customize your experience? Contact us!

Your friendly Argentina expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Aconcagua, Argentina, Chile, Family Travel, Inca Trail, South America, Travel Advice, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Salta: Argentina’s Undiscovered Land of Adventure and Wine PART 2

This morning we awoke to the mountain mist lifting from the rustic fields stretching out around Cachi. We piled into Jorge’s 4×4 and set off on the windy roads towards the famous high altitude vineyards of Donald Hess’ Colome. (Read Part 1 of this adventure here)

Salta

Colome Vineyards

Ever since I read the New York Times article entitled, “In Argentina, Wine, Art and Altitude” by Alessandra Stanley, the Colome vineyard and James Turrell Light Museum had been a place I always wanted to visit. Previously working with wine, high altitude wines had also always intrigued me. The robust flavors produced at these limits in conjunction with the deep color tones that the grapes grown at high altitude yield, are absolutely extraordinary. In Stanley’s article she tackles the grand feat of successfully painting a picture of the rugged beauty and oddities that thrive at Donald Hess’ Colome Vineyard and his James Turrell-dedicated Light Museum in the northwest corner of Argentina. “Together, the Hess winery and art museum may well be one of the most puzzling one-man grand projects since the Pyramids of Egypt”, Stanley only half-jokingly points out. She indulges in the, somewhat comical and rather imaginative contradiction that is the rigid, traditional and extraordinary Colome winery of Swiss businessman, Donald Hess, and his contrasting obscure light museum, which poses as a shrine to James Turrell’s work, filled solely with Turrell’s ingenious and puzzling pieces, tucked away amidst the arid, desert landscape of Salta’s Andean backcountry. This is a site to experience.

Salta

Courtyard of Hacienda Molinos

We soon arrived in Molinos: the gateway to the Hess’ Colome Vineyard and Estate. We could smell the peppered, desert air as we sat in the shade of the ancient pepper tree that accents the main patio of Hacienda de Molinos. We visited the humble colonial church before continuing on our way to the world’s highest vineyards. Here, we tasted the dark sapphire-colored wine, listened to the wind as it combed through the Andes from the neighboring Atacama Desert, saw how tradition, art and elegance collided in this remote haven and felt ourselves slip away from initial uncertainty of the harsh terrain (and abstruse light exhibit) and succumb to a zen-like tranquility in this exquisite setting.

salta

Quebrada de las Flechas

As the afternoon grew to a close we took off on the road again heading southeast to Cafayate, the principal wine production area in Salta. On our way, we passed through Quebrada de las Flechas, where jaw-dropping rocking formations, like massive arrowheads, jutted out of the earth all around us shooting towards the sky.

Salta

Vinas de Cafayate Wine Resort

The town of Cafayate was quaint and had people bustling around in nervous excitement readying themselves for the Argentina soccer World Cup qualifying match. For dinner, we joined a large family of locals in one of the numerous fantastic restaurants lining the main square to watch the match. After an extremely exciting victory we opted to walk back to our hotel, Vinas de Cafayate, for a much needed rest.

Stay tuned for the rest of my Salta adventure in our blogs coming out over the next weeks.

Read Part 1 of this adventure here

Want to explore Salta on your next adventure? Check out these itineraries:

Don’t see what you want? Want to customize your experience? Contact us!

Your friendly Argentina expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Argentina, Chile, Family Travel, Luxury, South America, Travel Advice, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Transformative Father-Daughter Inca Trail Journey

This father-daughter duo just completed the Inca Trail together and shared their incredible experience with us upon their return. Continue on to hear about their transformative journey!

This vacation was not only great for us because we achieved so much together (45km hike, 10,900ft in total ascent, reaching to 14,000 ft) but we feel that we bonded together in a way that has made us stronger as a family for decades to come.”

Inca Trail

Along the Inca Trail

“Happy to complete the famous Inca trail together as a father-daughter duo. It was an amazing 4 day journey which led us to push our bodies and minds during the day and heal them in a camp under the sky, lit with the sight of the Milky Way. We highly recommend to all families hoping they’ll come out stronger individually and together as a family on the other side of the journey. Our humble and somewhat longer explanation is to share our experience to those who might want to explore the same path.

With a little nervousness and doubts in mind lingering from a myriad of challenges faced during our Kilimanjaro expedition last year, we started our journey with Km 82 milestone on first day. What was supposed to be a group trek turned into a private trek with our awesome guide Germán Gerardo Cruz Aguilar . The first day was 5-6 hours of hike, relatively flat terrain on banks of Urubamba river. Pretty easy and a joyful experience, except for a few moments of excitement when our guide yelled “Run, Run, Run. Bulls are coming”. It was a big festival day and running of the bull might be common for locals but had our heart raced up a bit. In the end, we reached safe and sound to our campsite and surprisingly we also had a flush toilet and hot water shower at the campsite. We took advantage of it but made sure that we don’t let that set our expectations for what lies ahead of us.

Inca Trail

Along the Inca Trail

After good breakfast, we started our second day in high spirit. After all, first day hike felt like a walk in the park. Second day had about the same distanced of 9km as the first day except it was a constant ascent. The entire trail was made up of uneven stones, and most of these stones have lied in these locations from the Incan civilization thousands of years ago. You quickly realize that the challenge of the hike is not about the distance but the ascent. We continued our ascent slowly with small breaks but we remained strong to hike for  60-90 minutes between breaks. Fatigue was starting to show up on us but we had different ways to handle it. Keya gets in the zone and stays focused with her game face and less communication while I try to downplay by my humor and silly gestures. Our guide assured us that next day will not be bad as it will be both ups and downs rather than constant ascent we faced today. Nonetheless we still arrived at next campsite on time. I loved our routine of relaxing for an hour at the campsite then going to dinner tent for a tea and snack followed up by some bonding time between us in our tent, to reflect on today’s hike experience. We then would go for a dinner around 7:30, plan out the next day, and snuggle back in our sleeping bags for a well deserved healing sleep around 9pm.  We thought that the worst was behind us until our guide told us that we want to hit the trail before 6:30 in the morning so make sure you are up by 5 am and have a solid breakfast. But before the feeling could sink in, we were up and ready to go at 5 am on the next day of our journey.

Inca Trail

Inca Trail Unique Campsites

On the third day, the trail starts with 30 degree incline right from the campsite which is already at around 12,000 ft altitude. Most of you must be aware that highest incline in treadmill is 15 degree so you can imagine climbing up at 30 degree incline for two and half hours and going to 14,000 ft. Yes, that was the first pass of the day and highest point of our trail. The views of valley between snow peak mountains were breathtaking and sense of accomplishment was even more satisfying. We briefly hugged each other, took pictures and felt that now it will get easier. Quickly we realized that we are far from done for the day. We had a to go through steep 2000ft decent which we all underestimated, but it felt harder on this uneven and dangerous trail with lot of thumping impact on our knees. By the time we finished the descent in time for lunch, we were exhausted but we were not even half way to the campsite. We still had to go through another pass with 1500ft ascent and then a descent followed by additional 5km gradual ups and down to the campsite which we were promised that it will be breathtaking. It took us 11 hours to cover 15km hike, ascent 3500ft, decent 4000 ft and to pass through 14000 altitude. We watched orchids, visited Inca ruins and even sung songs along the way. It was the most challenging and most rewarding day so far. With a hearty meal and beautiful sightseeing of the campsite, we crashed with excitement of completing the track next day, meeting Avani and Rahul in nearby town and also taking a much needed shower.

Inca Trail

Along the Inca Trail

We were pumped up despite of tiredness of last three days but start was slow. Day started with a steep (very steep) descent with a lot of opportunity to tumble down the mountain. We made sure that our excitement and impatience to reach to finish line does not make us take a sloppy step or else we can hurt ourselves badly. After a solid 4 hours of descending, we took a lunch at the great archeological site Waynewayaña (forever young). We felt eternal peace, a surreal experience which is hard to describe but can say that have only felt a similar feeling only at 2-3 other places in our lives. It was the last stretch to the Sun Gate (another archeological site) from where we’ll get our first glimpse of Machu Picchu. Keya picked up a speed and started going at a pace where it was hard for me to catch up but it lasted for only about 40 minutes and the she suddenly stopped uttering the words in frustration “this trail is just not ending!!”  After strenuous four days and bare minimum living condition make you feel like a foot as long as a mile. After a few deep breaths, guide reached out to Keya and told her that he has nice surprise coming up for us. It was 75-100 steps at around 65 degree incline so time to bear crawl. Wrong timing but it makes you live through cliche of “one step at a time” and helps develop patience and perseverance. Keya aced the climb and soon we reached to Sun Gate. It was an instant reward – What a sight of Machu Picchu and Wayna Picchu. We took a lot of pictures and soaked in the view before starting the last hour of a relatively easy hike and finally reached to the official end of the trail. We tightly hugged each other and I was especially proud of Keya who conquered her fear by taking on another adventure, even after what she went through during Kilimanjaro not even a year ago. We reached hotel and got a warm welcome from Avani and Rahul who gave us support and encouragement, which made our journey possible.

Inca Trail

Campsite at night

Last and fifth day started early at 5am to go to Machu Picchu where we had a guided tour for 3 hours and then Rahul, Keya and I started our final hike to summit of Machu Picchu mountain. It was a first time for Rahul to attempt the ascent of 2000ft in 2 hours at 10,000ft altitude. It was not easy by any means but he was determined. Hike was series of steps which were too high for his small feet at age of 13. At times, he had to stretch his legs to the fullest to get to another step which is not easy when you have to climb steps equivalent of 350+ floors in two hours. We all plowed through and reach to the summit and enjoyed the panoramas of the great lost city of Inca, surrounded by the jaw dropping mountains of the Andes.

Inca Trail

Machu Picchu

This vacation was not only great for us because we achieved so much together (45km hike, 10,900ft in total ascent, reaching to 14,000 ft) but we feel that we bonded together in a way that has made us stronger as a family for decades to come.

– Manish”

Inca Trail

Exploring Machu Picchu

Want to plan your own Inca Trail adventure? Contact us!

Your friendly South America expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Family Travel, Machu Picchu, Peru, Sustainable Tourism, Travel Advice, Trekking, Trip Journals | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Exploring Salta: Argentina’s Undiscovered Land of Adventure and Wine PART 1

Arriving in Salta, located in northwest Argentina, from Buenos Aires always turns my world upside down. It had been three years since I was in Salta last. Salta is one of Argentina’s best kept secrets for nature and adventure enthusiasts along with foodies; I could not wait to be back!

Salta

Salta Cathedral

Departing from the modern, seemingly European city of Buenos Aires, you arrive suddenly in a hidden, Spanish colonial style city nestled into the rainbow-colored Andes. The cobblestone streets in Salta are lined with ancient jacaranda trees that provide shade during the sunny afternoons. People are remarkably friendly and proud of their city and it is not uncommon to have curious locals approach you to strike up a conversation about history, food or even the local soccer matches. Salta is a family friendly city and extremely walkable. Dotted with plazas and parks, visitors and locals alike can wander between these social and cultural hubs while taking advantage of the little cafes lining the squares for a coffee or mouthwatering empanada.

Salta

Cachi, Salta

In early October, I met up with a girl friend of mine to explore the natural wonders of Salta while simultaneously entertaining our palates with the mind-blowing high-altitude wines that Salta has recently become famous for.

Salta

Legado Mitico Salta

I arrived at night and was greeted by our guide, driver and new friend Jorge. There was a light mist in the evening air as we pulled into the city- Spring was just beginning in Argentina. I met with my friend, in our hotel, Legado Mitico. Located just a few blocks off the main square, Legado Mitico, is a cozy boutique hotel that was once a former mansion. The hotel circles around an inviting inner courtyard with Spanish tiles adding warmth to the décor. Our room had 15ft (5 m) ceilings and large French doors that opened onto a balcony overlooking the narrow street below. Excited for our adventure over the next five days, we went to bed early to ready ourselves for our early-morning departure the next day.

Salta

Los Cardones National Park

After a scrumptious breakfast of glazed medialunas, argentine croissants, local yogurt, juice and coffee, Jorge met us in his spacious 4×4 truck to begin our journey along the wine route through Salta. A 4×4 vehicle is definitely a must for this route as many of the roads are unpaved and winding, leading through the Yungas, Saltenan jungle, over high rocky passes and finally through vivid desert landscapes without towns or signs of human life for miles.

Salta

Exploring Los Cardones National Park

Salta is celebrated for its numerous microclimates. On our first day we passed through lush, sub-tropical jungle, over a staggering 13,000 ft pass leading to arid grasslands lined with striking orange, crimson and dandelion-colored rock formations. As we continued west into Los Cardones National Park, the land became drier and the scenery morphed to sandy, rocky soil, and millions of cacti sprouting up everywhere the eye could see. All the Cardon cacti in this park were easily over 12ft (4 m) meaning that some were over 800 years old! We stopped in the heart of the park to explore some of the short trails leading to several vantage points and then continued on to have lunch in the quaint town of Cachi, sitting at the foot of several massive peaks. Here, in the heart of this sleepy colonial town, we had a fantastic lunch on the veranda of a local hot spot. We toasted to our trip with deep, almost sapphire-colored Malbec and as we took in the beauty of our new surroundings.

Salta

Array of Salta wines

In the afternoon, we hiked through more cardon cacti to a pre-incan ruin site located just outside of Cachi.  From here, we went to our hotel, Merced del Alto. This gorgeous boutique property sits just outside of Cachi and was designed to model the old Spanish missions. The back pool of Merced del Alto beckons to its guests to sip wine and watch the sun set behind the jagged Andes. Dinner was served in front of one of the hotel’s oversized fireplaces in a cozy dining room.

Salta

Hiking with Jorge

Falling asleep on top of plush feather beds was the best way to end the day and rejuvenate.

Salta

La Merced del Alto

Stay tuned for the rest of my Salta adventure in our blogs coming out over the next weeks.

Want to explore Salta on your next adventure? Check out these itineraries:

Don’t see what you want? Want to customize your experience? Contact us!

Your friendly Argentina expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Argentina, Chile, Luxury, Travel Advice, Trekking, Trip Journals | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

NEW TRIP: 6-Day The Dientes Trek

Experience what has been called the best trek in Patagonia on this nature-lover’s paradise trek! Walk through the Dientes de Navarino massif at the far end of South America, trekking along rural roads through and alongside forests, peat bogs, valleys, ponds, lakes, and rivers. At the hike’s summit, take in stunning views of the Beagle Channel, the cities of Puerto Williams in Chile and Ushuaia in Argentina, Nassau Bay, the Wollaston archipelago, and the mythical archipelago of Cape Horn.

Dientes Trek

Dientes Trek

Where: Navarino Island in Tierra del Fuego, Chile.

Distance: 53.3 km (33 miles)

Time: 6 days/5 nights is the recommended amount of time to truly enjoy the trek, but some people choose to do it in 5 days/4 nights. Some people choose to extend it to 7 days.

Difficulty: Demanding – best for experienced trekkers. This trek tests your stamina and calls for long days of rough hiking on uneven terrain in virtually untouched territory. But the landscape and solitude makes the struggle well worth it.

When to go: Mid-December to mid-March. This falls during Patagonian summer, but the weather can still be unpredictable, with strong possibilities of high winds, rain, and chilly temperatures.

NOTE: This trip can also be started from Ushuaia, Argentina.

Dientes Trek

Dientes Trek

ITINERARY IN BRIEF:

  • DAY 1: Discover Puerto Williams
  • DAY 2: Start of the Dientes Circuit
  • DAY 3: Crossing the Dientes de Navarino Cordillera
  • DAY 4: Guerrico Valley
  • DAY 5: Last day of excursion and well deserved rest
  • DAY 6: Adios Navarino!

HIGHLIGHTS:

  • Trek the southernmost circuit in the world
  • Navarino Island
  • Enjoy amazing views over the jagged rock pinnacles of the Dientes
  • Amazing views throughout trek
  • Panoramic views of Puerto Williams, Canal Beagle, Ushuaia and more

ITINERARY IN FULL:

Day 1 : Discover Puerto Williams

Visiting: Puerto Williams

Fly from Punta Arenas to Puerto Williams, enjoying the beautiful scenery, followed by an afternoon outing to the OMORA Ethno-Botanical Park to experience the miniature forests of lichens, moss, and bryophytes with “turismo con lupa” (magnifying glass tourism). Finish your day with a nice dinner and a briefing about the next day’s excursion.

  • Meals: LD
  • Budget Lodging: Lakutaia Lodge
Dientes Trek

The Dientes Trek

Day 2 : Start of the Dientes Circuit

Visiting: Navarino Island

Start of the Dientes Circuit. Discover amazing views of the Beagle channel and Puerto Williams during the trek toward Salto Lagoon for the first night of camping. Depending on weather conditions, we will decide which of the two possible paths to take: the high end slope of the Robalo valley or from the back of the valley. Either way, the landscape will amaze you and you will get to the camping point in time for a warm dinner. 4-5 hours trekking.

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Camping
Dientes Trek

Dientes Trek

Day 3 : Crossing the Dientes de Navarino Cordillera

Visiting: Navarino Island

Cross the Dientes de Navarino Cordillera, while enjoying the breathtaking views of Nassau Bay and Wollaston islands, both part of Cape Horn. After passing by several lakes, climb the Ventarron path (696 mts) for an incredible view of the Dientes de Navarino and Mount Codrington. We will continue to enjoy the landscape while on the way to Laguna Martillo, our second camping site. 5.5 hour trek

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Camping
Dientes Trek

Dientes Trek

Day 4 : Guerrico Valley

Visiting: Navarino Island

Continue to the Guerrico Valley, walking through beautiful forests and experiencing amazing views of Montes Lindemayer. Climb Virginia pass (860 mts high), where you will get incredible views of the mountains and sea of Tierra del Fuego. Reach the campsite in time to dine and rest. 6 hours trekking

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Camping
Dientes Trek

Dientes Trek

Day 5 : Last day of excursion and well deserved rest

Visiting: Puerto Williams

Last day of excursion, heading downhill toward the ocean until we reach the Lakutaia Lodge in time to enjoy a nice lunch and have the rest of the day to rest, walk around the village, and share stories about your experience trekking the southernmost circuit in the world. Dinner will be waiting for you at the lodge at the end of the day. 4.5 hour trek

  • Meals: BLD
  • Budget Lodging: Lakutaia Lodge
Dientes Trek

Dientes Trek

Day 6 : Adios Navarino!

Visiting: Punta Arenas

After breakfast, flight out of Puerto Williams to Punta Arenas.

  • Meals: B

Want to book this trek of a lifetime? Contact us!

Your friendly South America expert,

Gretchen

Posted in Argentina, Chile, Family Travel, Patagonia, South America, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Galapagos Legend — Remodeled in 2017

The 100-passenger Galapagos Legend was remodeled in 2017.  See what’s new:

  • 17 completely new Balcony Suites
  • A new Panorama Lounge Bar on our Sky Deck, featuring panoramic floor-to-ceiling windows with better access to the pool and bar-open deck-area.
  • A new open Grill on our Moon Deck suitable for Al Fresco morning meals or dining options and stargazing in total comfort.
  • A new well-equipped Auditorium, ready to host important lectures as well as casual gatherings for briefings or for exclusive use.
  • A revitalized Fitness Center plus Jacuzzi area, exclusively designed to meet customers lifestyle demands.
  • An even funner and friendlier Kids Corner allowing your children to play and learn in a safe environment.
  • An improved Boutique offers a first-rate selection of quality handicrafts and souvenirs and unique Ecuadorian products.
  • You will also enjoy of internet plans onboard during all our cruises.
  •  There is a new Glass Bottom Boat, entirely designed for appreciate the Galapagos Marine World.
  • 620 m2 of open decks

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NEW TRIP: 9-Day In The Footsteps of The Gaucho: Argentine Estancia Adventure

Come check out our newest Argentine adventure: 9-Day In The Footsteps of The Gaucho: Argentine Estancia Adventure! Get to know the life of the Argentine cowboys, or “gauchos” in the tranquility of a ranch surrounded by the most incredible scenery. Stroll through uninhabited forests, appreciate nature’s contrasting colors and gaze upon the impressive mountains of Argentina’s Patagonia. Explore the spots most tourists miss by discovering hidden glaciers and adventuring to where nature’s maximum beauty is displayed.

This itinerary fully immerses you to the Argentine culture and the history behind it. It’s a one-of- a-kind combination that includes the Andes ’vast forests, crystal lakes, enormous glaciers, and mountains that reach the clouds. This trip gives you the opportunity to simply admire the sheer and profound beauty that is Patagonia.

  • DAY 1: Arrival in Buenos Aires and Transfer to Estancia El Ombu de Areco
  • DAY 2: Activites at Estancia El Ombu de Areco
  • DAY 3: Buenos Aires to El Calafate: Estancia Nibepo Aike and Perito Moreno Glacier
  • DAY 4: Horseback excursion to the Third of April Lagoon and Puesto Cachorro
  • DAY 5: Horseback Riding and Lake Argentino Southern Arm
  • DAY 6: Say Goodbye to Estancia Nipebo Aike – Transfer to Estancia Helsingfors
  • DAY 7: Trekking to the Laguna Azul (Blue Lagoon)
  • DAY 8: Estancia Helsingfors/ Laguna de los Tres /Trekking to Hostería El Pilar
  • DAY 9: Deaprture
Buenos Aires

Estancia El Ombu

Day 1 : Arrival in Buenos Aires and Transfer to Estancia El Ombu de Areco

Visiting: Buenos Aires

El Ombú de Areco is a historical estancia (ranch) just over an hour’s drive from downtown Buenos Aires in San Antonio de Areco, birthplace of the gaucho tradition. The Late-Colonial style mansion, built in 1880, offers visitors a magnificent setting for an unforgettable stay. You will be accompanied by one of our guides, who will tell you all the historical facts and interesting highlights of this lands and characters. Today you have a variety of options for activities; you can go horseback riding,hiking, or sightseeing in an old-fashioned carriage. This is an ideal place for prime bird watching and observing typical ranch-style activities such as herding animals and milking cows. In the evening, you will enjoy dinner, as well as a musical performance and some folkloric dance. Meals Included: Full Board (drinks included only during meals).

  • Meals: LD
  • Luxury Lodging: Estancia El Ombu de Areco
Buenos Aires

Gaucho Life at El Ombu

Day 2 : Activites at Estancia El Ombu de Areco

Visiting: Buenos Aires

Today, you will have the morning to participate in any activities you did not get to the day before. In the afternoon, you will have the opportunity to enjoy a Gaucho perform some folklore songs with the guitar or a traditional “Doma India”, an ancient demonstration that used to happen between the Gaucho and horses. This intimate act displays the commitment and relationship between the man and the animal,showing trust and loyalty. Meals Included: Full Board

  • Meals: BLD
  • Luxury Lodging: Estancia El Ombu de Areco
El Calafate

Perito Moreno Glacier

Day 3 : Buenos Aires to El Calafate: Estancia Nibepo Aike and Perito Moreno Glacier

Visiting: El Calafate

In the morning you’ll have a private transfer that takes you to the airport for your flight to El Calafate. Welcome to Southern Patagonia! El Calafate is located in the Patagonian steppe, dry and dramatic. It is on the border of Lago Argentino (Argentina’s biggest lake), considered capital of the glaciers. It is the gate to visit worldwide known Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the only glaciers in the world that is still advancing. After an appropriate time you will leave on a full day excursion to Perito Moreno Glacier (private service), in Los Glaciers National Park. A UNESCO World Heritage site since 1981 and home to one of the most awe inspiring landscapes in Argentina; Perito Moreno Glacier is a site to behold. A bilingual guide will be with you to share information about the glacier and the surrounding area. On arrival, you will have the chance to enjoy stunning views of the glacier from the nearby walking trail and lookout areas. But not just that, you will also be taken on the Perito Moreno Glacier boat cruise which brings you close enough to fully appreciate the enormity of the 80 meter-high ice walls! In the early evening, you will be transfer to Estancia Nipebo Aike. Once you check – in and have a look at the facilities, you will be prepared a traditional, homemade dinner of Patagonian lamb and fresh garden vegetables. Duration: 6 hours Recommendation: We highly suggest that you try to take an early flight in the morning, so you can arrive at mid-day, and take advantage of the day and the activities plan on the itinerary. Meals Included: Full Board PLEASE NOTE: NATIONAL PARK FEES ARE NOT INCLUDED IN PRICE

  • Meals: BLD
  • Luxury Lodging: Estancia Nibepo Aike
El Calafate

Horseback riding at Estancia Nibepo Aike

Day 4 : Horseback excursion to the Third of April Lagoon and Puesto Cachorro

Visiting: El Calafate

The ride starts early in the morning, with the climb up the Cordon de los Cristales (Crystal mountain range), which lies behind the main house. The higher you go, the more clearly the Argentino lake`s arms stand out. Once you reach a clearing, the track plunges into the Patagonian Andean woods. You will pass between lenga and guindos trees (Magellan beeches), riding along old tracks where the great sheep drives used to pass. On coming out of the dense woodland the way will opens out into the Valley of the Río Cachorro. Notros (Chilean firebush) and calafate bushes here are unusually tall. You will start descending towards the lower land until you`ll come to the riverbed. Surprise views of the Frías glacier start to appear in the distance. Riding between rocks and pasturelands and avoiding the marshlands, you`ll reach the corrals of the Río Cachorro (Cachorro River) outpost where the rangers might be working with the livestock. After a picnic lunch you`ll continue horseback riding to the 3 de Abril lagoon, a habitat of flamingos and black-necked swans, Cauquén (upland goose) and steamer ducks. Passing the lake, you`ll arrive to the outpost, and after unsaddling, there will be time to enjoy the surroundings and the cosiness of the refuge. A wood-fired stove and a brick clay oven, with the gentle light of the lantern, passing the mate round, the evening meal will be prepared while tales of adventures are shared. Meals Included: Full Board (evening meal and overnight at the outpost).

  • Meals: BLD
  • Luxury Lodging: Estancia Nibepo Aike
El Calafate

Nibepo Aike

Day 5 : Horseback Riding and Lake Argentino Southern Arm

Visiting: El Calafate

Early in the morning, you’ll start your horseback riding along the shore of the lake until you’ll reach the main buildings of the estancia, about 18km from the refuge. You will arrive in time for lunch with a typical Patagonian lamb roasted at the stake over charcoal embers, which will be ready just as the riders arrive. You will have the rest of the afternoon free, to relax and enjoy the facilities of the Estancia. Meals Included: Full Board

  • Meals: BLD
  • Luxury Lodging: Estancia Nibepo Aike
Patagonia

Estancia Helsingfors

Day 6 : Say Goodbye to Estancia Nipebo Aike – Transfer to Estancia Helsingfors

Visiting: Patagonia

In the morning you will have a regular transfer back to El Calafate, once in downtown; you will take another private transfer to Helsingfors Ranch. Set in a charming lodge in Los Glaciares National Park and surrounded by lush woods, Hosteria Helsingfors boasts 9 luxury rooms in an exquisite setting often compared to a JRR Tolkein’s Lord of The Rings stories. If you’re not too tired, you can explore around the area, and later you’ll set off on a hike to the Peninsula del Viento, (Wind Peninsula) An ancient livestock trail leads us towards Punta Del Viento, the first viewpoint of the arm of Moyano. It is a simple walk that has great views of the town and the grove of Sequoias. Along the way we visit the ruins of the House of Alfred Ramstrom, who was the first settler in the area. The Moyano“arm” goes into the mountains and to the East lays the immensity of the Viedma Lake with its celestial waters; the characteristics of the glacial lakes can be seen arriving on the shores. Level of difficulty: Easy, Distance of hike: 6 Km, Maximum height reached during hike: 200 meters above sea level, Amount of total time: 3 hours, In the evening, there will be a sophisticated welcome: original cuisine accompanied by the ranch winery’s very own selection of wines. **Note: This day that you are returning to El Calafate, we highly recommend getting some cash, as you might find that on the following Estancias to come, if you want to pay additional services, credit cards are not accepted.** Meals Included: Full Board

  • Meals: BLD
  • Luxury Lodging: Estancia Helsingfors
Helsingfors

Trekking at Estancia Helsingfors

Day 7 : Trekking to the Laguna Azul (Blue Lagoon)

Visiting: Patagonia

The day will be started on a path that leads out from the lodge and goes into the valley of the Rio Alfredo (the same river that feeds the lodge’s energy). You will begin to slowly hike up the Cerro Huemul, accompanied by the melody of the bubbling river. After around forty minutes of hiking, you’ll reach a panoramic viewpoint where you can see the magnitude of Cerro Fitz Roy coming out from the huge Lago Viedma. The walk continues plunging into the valley which becomes increasingly narrower, surrounded by Cordon Huemul and peaks that reach 2700 meters; the glacier of the Blue Lagoon you will already be able to see on the horizon of the valley. The trail then enters a forest where it is common to see guanacos and vultures curious to observe visitors approaching. Level of difficulty: Intermediate, Overall distance: 16 km, Maximum height reached: 850 m, Overall time on foot: 5 h 30 min, Meals Included: Full Board

  • Meals: BLD
  • Luxury Lodging: Estancia Helsingfors
Laguna Los Tres

Laguna Los Tres

Day 8 : Estancia Helsingfors/ Laguna de los Tres /Trekking to Hostería El Pilar

Visiting: Patagonia

In the morning, you will take a private transfer to the Laguna de los Tres, where the vehicle will continue to the lodge to bring the luggage. Meanwhile, you will begin hiking on foot to appreciate the close-up view of Fitz Roy’s granite walls. The view here is spectacular: on one side you see the lagoon and the glaciers, and on the other you see the steppe of El Chalten and the Lago Viedma in the background. After enjoying the view, you will continue climbing up a zig-zagging path to reach a 500-meter drop and arrive at Rio Blanco camp. We will continue the journey along a path that runs along the White River, which allows us to better perceive the different sounds of nature and, after 2 and a half hours walk, will arrive at the Inn. The El Pilar lodge is located in the Valle del Rio de las Vueltas, only 17km from El Chalten. Its location is distinguished by being isolated from the most frequented areas and be the starting point of many hiking trails: Lago del Desierto & Glaciar Huemul, Casa Madsen, Piedra de Fraile, Laguna de los Tres, Glaciar Piedras Blancas. In the evening, you will have a sophisticated dinner at the ranch. **Recommendation: The transfer from Helsingford Ranch to Hosteria El Pilar, it will be a long stretch to do, with no stops. So we`ll recommend the day before, reserve a box-lunch with the ranch.** Meals Included: Breakfast

  • Meals: B
  • Luxury Lodging: Estancia Pilar

Day 9 : Deaprture

Visiting: Patagonia

You will have the first part of the day free to roam about and explore. In the afternoon, there will be a private transfer to take you to the local airport for your flight to Buenos Aires. After that, you will have transfer connection to the International airport to take your flight back home Meals Included: Breakfast

  • Meals: B

STARTING PRICE: $3995 per person

Want to book your next Argentine gaucho trip of a lifetime? Contact us!

Your friendly Argentina expert.

Gretchen

Posted in Argentina, Chile, Family Travel, Patagonia, Trekking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

9-Day Costa Rica Honeymoon Adventure

This 9-Day Costa Rica Honeymoon Adventure, designed exclusively for adventurous couples and honeymooners, starts with a bang on Costa Rica’s best zip line and finishes with a relaxed stay on the beautiful Pacific coast. In between, you’ll enjoy hot springs, a scenic hike, and a guided walk through Costa Rica’s best wildlife reserve outside of Corcovado.

Accommodations are carefully chosen for comfort and character while enjoying a trip cannot be simpler, as we take care of all of your transportation from the moment you arrive in San Jose to when you are dropped off at the airport on Day 9.

Relax and enjoy an extraordinary experience!

Starting at $1495/person


Day 1: Arrive San Jose, Costa Rica

Welcome to beautiful Costa Rica! Upon arrival in San Jose, Costa Rica, you are met by your personal arrivals manager and transferred by private van to your hotel. Overnight in San José.


Day 2: Transfer from San Jose to Arenal Volcano

Breakfast at the hotel. Afterward, transfer to Arenal Volcano, about a 3-hour drive away including a stop en-route. This afternoon is at leisure to enjoy the grounds of the hotel and the amazing views all around.

Arenal Manoa and Hot Springs Resort is a beautiful property to relax and enjoy the marvelous views of Arenal Volcano. Surrounded by manicured gardens, rooms have been designed so that each one offers you a panoramic view of the volcano.

Guests can take advantage of the spacious gardens for walking and meditation as well as the opportunities to see the daily operations of a typical Costa Rican farm. Your room will feature two queen size beds that the staff will push together, air conditioning, private bathroom, telephone, private terrace, safe deposit box and more.


Day 3: Zip line!

Breakfast at the hotel. Today, enjoy the exhilarating Sky Tram & Trek zip line tour. Your tour will start riding an open-air gondola from the ground to the heights where you’ll be dropped off at an observation area for fantastic views. From this area, you will start riding down on a zip line track stretching across canyons and in between treetops, the exhilarating adventure of zip lining down the mountainside begins; ultimately returning you to the starting point at the main building. This is the most thrilling zip line in the country.

This afternoon is free at your leisure.


Day 4: Lake Transfer from Arenal Volcano to Monteverde

This morning, transfer to Monteverde via a scenic lake crossing. Board your land transportation from your hotel in Arenal to Arenal Lake, where you will take a boat to Rio Chiquito followed by land transportation to your hotel in Monteverde. The lake crossing is not only scenic it saves you about 1-2 hours of driving! Check in at your hotel and the rest of your day is at leisure to enjoy facilities of your hotel and the cloud forest surroundings of Monteverde.


Day 5: Cloud Forest Hike in the Mountains

This morning, enjoy a fascinating Monteverde hiking tour. The Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve will astound visitors with its beauty, bounty and great amount biodiversity. Wind-sculpted elfin woodlands give way to rainforests where tall trees – festooned with orchids, bromeliads, ferns, vines, and mosses – rise high into the sky. You’ll hike the continental divide, which on clear days, provides stunning vistas all the way to the azure Pacific Ocean in the distance.

Enjoy the afternoon on your own to discover more of Monteverde’s wonderful sights or simply relax at the hotel.


Day 6: Transfer to the beach

Breakfast at the hotel. This morning, transfer to Manuel Antonio, a famous beach area situated on the central Pacific coast. The balance of your day is free to enjoy the hotel facilities or the rainforest and beach of the area. If time and interest allow, check out a local surf school if the tide is up, or head to the eccentric El Avion for some drinks and dinner.

As soon as you step into your room at The Falls, you can feel relaxation start to wash over you. You’ll go past the hammock on the front porch and into your private oasis. fitted with a King-size bed, luxury bedding and a beautiful new bathroom, this is your home in paradise. The Falls Resort in Manuel Antonio is an award-winning boutique hotel and restaurant small enough to ensure a romantic getaway but large enough to host beautiful gardens, a waterfall, pool, and an attractive dining space. At The Falls, enjoy wonderful views of the Pacific Ocean below, while around you, white-faced capuchin monkeys, sloths, toucans, and the mono-titi monkeys frequent the trees overhead and blue butterflies and hummingbirds bustle about the garden.

As a bonus, the hotel is perfectly located for all of the most popular activities in Manuel Antonio. The mission of this boutique property is to create an exceptional experience where travelers feel like family, adventures are launched, and memories are made.


Day 7: Manuel Antonio National Park wildlife hike

Today enjoy a guided Manuel Antonio National Park tour in search of Costa Rica’s amazing wildlife. Transportation is provided and you will be picked up at your hotel to start your ride to the Manuel Antonio National Park. This national park is one of the most famous in our country due to its wide variety of flora and friendly fauna. The park has 3 different trails that go from flat to very steep.

On this tour a very knowledgeable nature guide will walk you through the Manuel Antonio National Park, explaining the mysteries of the rainforest. The trail you will take is flat and picturesque and loops through the park making your course about 2 miles long. Throughout your hike, your guide will stop and teach you about the park’s natural history, which includes exhaustive descriptions of animals and plants that can be observed during the hike. Along the way, you can take pictures or just admire the view.

One of the highlights of this tour is that Manuel Antonio hosts 3 of the 4 existing tropical primates (monkeys) living in Costa Rica. Half way through the hike, you will enjoy a leisure stop at the worldwide famous Third Beach. Once there you can rest on the beach or play with the waves. This stop is about 20 minutes.

Throughout the hike is common to see sloths, birds, and reptiles as well as admire orchids, butterflies, and tropical trees. Your guides are equipped with Pentax and Swarovski telescopes, so you can observe wildlife and take pictures from a different perspective. Once the tour is over transportation will be provided and you will be taken back to your hotel.

*** Special Note – Manuel Antonio National Park is closed on Mondays.


Day 8: Free day in Manuel Antonio

Free day in Manuel Antonio! Stroll the public beach or head back to the National Park on your own, now that you know the lay of the land. Rafting, horse rides, and nearby MidWorld with its fun ATV excursions are all local options for active travelers.


Day 9: Transfer to the San Jose Airport

Breakfast at your hotel. This morning, private transfer to the San Jose International Airport. Schedule a flight out no earlier than 1:30 pm. Adios Costa Rica!

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How to Plan the Perfect Family Tanzania Safari

9-Day Family Tanzania SafariTanzania is a great safari destination for families!  Except for the rainy months of April and May, the weather is pretty good all year long.  It is easy to see the animals in the national parks, yet it is a very authentic experience.  There are cultural opportunities such as visiting a Maasai tribe and a local school.  Families can finish their trip with some relaxing time on the soft, white, sandy beaches of Zanzibar Island.

Here are some tips to planning the perfect family safari in Tanzania.

  • Visit a Maasai village on safari in TanzaniaPick the right guides — We use great guides who are amazing with kids.
  • Spend more time in fewer places — Better to enjoy a few high-quality locations to reduce travel time.
  • Swimming pools — These offer a nice diversion between game drives, and they sure feel good after being hot and dusty.
  • Mix of activities — There is more to do on safari than game drives.  Options include meeting local people, trying out a bow and arrow, hiking, hot air balloon safaris, and much more.
  • Money can buy happiness — If you have the budget for it, luxury accommodations have programs designed for kids.  They are also more exclusive and can cater to your family’s needs.  Flying between the parks will also cut down on long drives.

There are many lodges and tented camps that offer swimming pools, hiking, evening entertainment, and other activities.  These accommodations are great examples:

Kudu LodgeKudu Lodge:

A budget lodge with a fun swimming pool complete with elephant sculpture.  They have family rooms, BBQ dinner outside some nights, and a pool table.

 

Tanzania safari at the Ngorongoro Sopa LodgeSopa Lodges

Have swimming pools, evening entertainment, pool tables, and other diversions.

 

Gibb's FarmGibb’s Farm:

Offers lots of activities like feeding the bushbabies, milking cows, hiking to the elephant caves, and has huge rooms in just a beautiful location.

 

Lemala CampsLemala Camps

A great permanent tented camp option with programs designed just for kids.

 

Klein's CampKlein’s Camp

Located just outside the park, so families can visit an authentic Maasai village, go hiking, and other great activities.

 

Posted in Family Travel, Safari, Tanzania | Tagged | Leave a comment