The Llao Llao

The beautiful Llao Llao Hotel

There aren’t too many travelers who arrive at a 5-star luxury resort by public transportation. So when our bus from Bariloche stopped right outside the famous Llao Llao Hotel, Tony and I were the only passengers to get off. It was love at first sight. Without a doubt, this was one of the most gorgeous settings imaginable. The luxury hotel was built on a ridge between two lakes and backed by the sharp granite peaks of Cerros López and Trenador. This was a side of Patagonia we hadn’t seen. Gone were the subpolar forests of the south and the dry desert steppe of the east; instead, we stood in a dreamy Alpine wonderland surrounded by soaring mountains and lush evergreen cypress and coihue forests. We couldn’t wait to Continue…

The Titilaka Experience

We’re soaring along ten feet above the surface of Lake Titicaca basking in the high-altitude sun. The Titilaka hotel boat feels like our own private yacht; there are no other passengers onboard. Our guide Armando is below preparing some snacks, so Thomas and I have the roof deck all to ourselves.

The views are out of this world. The waters glisten with a muted palette of blues; the islands dazzle with a patchwork of rusts and greens. Surreal stone ridges and huge vertical upthrusts of solid rock run along the southern shore. To the north, a wall of clouds breaks to reveal the snow-covered peaks of the Cordillera Real. It feels like the setting in a National Geographic dream. Ahead of us, our destination floats on the surface of Titicaca. It’s the man-made reed islands of Uros, one of the strangest UNESCO World Heritage Sites on the planet Continue…

Canyon Adventures at Colca Lodge

The landscapes around Colca Canyon are savage and raw. Here, the Peruvian Altiplano plummets thousands of feet into the meandering Colca River. It’s a stunningly harsh region where villagers cling to the slopes in a cultivated tapestry of  geniusly terraced farms. In the distance, Mt. Sabancaya erupts sending a column of smoke high into the air. Just next to it looms Nevado Ampato, the volcano where the famous Ice Maiden was found.

The scenery is wild and striking. Huge, spectacular cracks along the road prove that those old B-grade movie earthquakes do exist. Volcanic waters burst from the earth and stream down the cliffs forcing your bus to slam on the brakes. The shifting earth is alive here. It’s beautiful, but not the kind of place that you expect to find luxury. Then again, Colca Lodge is not your typical hotel Continue…

The Volcano, the Maiden, the Cloister and the Crepes

Arequipa's most famous volcano, Misti El Misti volcano rises behind Arequipa

You do have to wonder why anyone would think it’s a good idea to build a city in the shadow of not one, but three massive volcanoes. Hello, doesn’t anyone remember Pompeii? Apparently, the Spanish colonists had forgotten to read that chapter in their history books when they founded Arequipa in 1540.

Peru’s second largest city is strangely monumental considering it has been a magnet for natural disasters for nearly five centuries. Despite the volcanic rocking and rolling that periodically tests the city’s foundations, an impressive amount of the colonial-era sillar architecture remains. In fact, it might actually be that traditional use of the whitish, porous volcanic rock that has allowed the city to survive the quakes. It’s certainly those sillar buildings that have earned Arequipa its nickname, the White City, as well as its place on the list of UNESCO World Heritage Sites Continue…

Gocta Lodge Adventures – Kuelap, Revash, Mummies and More

View of Gocta Falls from Gocta Lodge

Stepping out onto the balcony of our room here at Gocta Lodge, it’s hard to believe this view isn’t on the cover of every travel magazine on the planet. We came to Chachapoyas to explore Peru’s rising star Kuelap, which many are calling the Machu Picchu of the north. Yet, the view from our hotel room may eclipse that rising star.

We look out over a jungle-filled canyon framing the spectacular two-tier Gocta Waterfall, which has only recently been named one of the highest in the world. A flock of several dozen parrots swoops by above our heads. Hummingbirds dart from flower to flower below. The scene is our introduction to the incredibly rich Chachapoyas region, an area overwhelmed with natural, historical and cultural attractions. The isolated highland capital of Peru’s Amazonas state and its surrounding treasures are just starting to pop up on the tourist radar. But if the Peruvian government has its way, that’s all about to change Continue…

12 Lima Surprises

Spectacular art of the Museo LarcoMochica Headdress in the Museo Larco

Lima is one of those cities which travelers tend to rush through. More than once, we’ve heard tourists count their luck that they only had to spend a few hours here in transit, or were able to bypass the metropolis altogether. So we were quite shocked when we got here and sort of fell in love with this South American capital. Lima has a fun, quirky vibe,  and Limeños are humorous, welcoming and helpful.

Yes, this town definitely has a rough side, and visitors and locals alike hold their breath every time they step into a taxi out of fear of being abducted. But if you pick your neighborhoods, take official taxis, and use your head, you’ll quickly discover that Lima is a unique city with a great deal to offer. Here’s just a sample of what we think makes this city of 8.5 million pretty great Continue…

Ten Things We Loved about Merida

merida-11

Who doesn’t love a city where you can get away with a lime-green house, right? Colorful Merida feels VERY far away from the Mayan Riviera. The city is far more mellow, and there’s a much healthier proportion of tourists to Mexicans. Merida is relaxed and authentic. Nobody jumps in your way offering you a tour to Chichen Itza despite the fact that Chichen Itza is only about 70 miles away. In fact, there are dozens of Mayan sites in the surrounding area and tons of potential day trips. But it’s not a city that immediately reveals itself. It would be easy to shoot through and remain totally unimpressed. Merida takes a bit of time to discover – and that was just fine for us. Here’s a bit of what we loved about the Yucatan’s low-key capital Continue…

Valladolid, Yucatan

Parque Francisco Canton Rosado

Our big goal for this Latin America trip is to slow it down just a notch. Rather than moving every couple of days, we decided to base ourselves in a nice location, do day trips out, and come back to a familiar place at night. Here in the Maya heartland, we chose the charming colonial town of Valladolid as our hub. And I’m happy we did because Valladolid offers two of my favorite things: relaxation and food.

One of the greatest attractions here is the beautiful central park right across from the town’s cathedral. We have spent hours sitting in the shade watching locals come and go, walk their dogs and have their shoes shined. It’s literally the best Continue…

Ten Ways to Experience Catalonian Cuisine

Catalonian Cuisine

Wild mushroom salads, cured meats and sausages, roasted red peppers in olive oil, wines, cheeses, salted cod, crema Catalana… the cuisine of Catalonia is every bit as rich as the artistic and architectural heritage of the region. In fact, the current “best restaurant in the world” is in Catalonia.  Whether you are indulging in stewed prawns on the coast or pigs feet in the mountains, there’s something for everyone. Don’t know where to begin? No problem. Catalonians are a sophisticated bunch, but they are also exceptionally down-to-earth and ready to share their food with you. The best way to learn is to start eating and asking lots of questions. Here are ten tips to get you going Continue…

Never Too Many Cooks in bcnKITCHEN

bcnkitchen-8 The secret to Spanish cooking is good Rais

Ever since Thomas did his cooking class in Cambodia, I’ve been looking for my own similar Food-Venture. Luckily, our stop in Barcelona included a day at bcnKITCHEN, a unique facility which offers everything from cooking classes to show-cooking to corporate bonding sessions.

When I think about it, Catalonia Tourism was probably strategically using our day at bcnKITCHEN as a type of corporate bonding session to allow our group of traveling bloggers to connect while exploring Catalan cuisine. It was a brilliant move, a recipe for success.

And the secret to this recipe, like much of Spanish cuisine, was good rice… I mean Rais Continue…