Joe in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile Joe in San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Highlight of the trip / Favourite viewpoint

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile - I’m struggling to think of a place I’ve been to in the world that offers such jaw-dropping scenery from start to finish. From the incredible views flying into Calama airport right up until we were spotting Guanaco’s on the way back to the airport to fly onto my next destination. The hotels are charming and the area offers a great mix of adventure and relaxation. There is so much to see in the area and the variety is staggering, ranging from the lower-lying salt flats and the volcano dotted skyline. The lunar landscape can seem other-worldly and it’s easy to think at times that you have been plucked from the Earth and transported to another planet. However, now and again in the middle of the day the Moon serves as a timely reminder where you are

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Undoubtedly my favourite viewpoint was atop Campanario hill in Bariloche, Argentina. Accessed via a chairlift this view is considered to be a “Top 10 In The World” by National Geographic and was used as a cover photo back in 1993. 360° views are possible at the top but the view facing towards the Llao Llao peninsula is truly stunning.

Bariloche, Argentina Bariloche, Argentina

Where I had my best meal / What I ate and the approximate cost

My best meal was lunch at the AWA hotel in Puerto Varas, Chile. The kitchen sources local produce and utilises seasonal ingredients grown in their organic garden as well as further afield. Their menu changes daily so you are always bound to find something new and innovative.
I am slightly biased as I adore Ceviche, so anyone serving it is going to win my admiration but the restaurant recently won an award to recognise their take on the dish as they use a creative combination of flavours that makes it different to any other Ceviche dish I’ve ever tasted (I’ve had a lot!) An example of this would be the inclusion of Murta berries which are unique to the region, it gives the dish a sugary but slightly bitter flavour. This was just the starter, the main was locally sourced Trout with Quinoa and a Mango & Lemongrass sorbet for dessert. To wash it all down I had a craft stout beer brewed in the local brewery. It’s rare to find a restaurant that takes such pride in the local area and is able to showcase so many flavours in just one sitting using regional produce. The approximate cost was close to £30 (£35 with a drink).

Ceviche - with a twist! Ceviche - with a twist!

Favourite Accommodation

My favourite hotel I stayed in was Tierra Atacama, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile - a boutique hotel in the heart of the desert with only 32 rooms. A member of “The Best Boutique Hotels” group and a National Geographic “Unique Lodge Of The World”. I stayed in an Oriente room which has an outdoor patio area and incredible views of Licancabur, in fact the whole hotel has amazing views of the volcano. The hotel offers an all inclusive concept with excellent dining options, an amazing spa on site and a fantastic range of excursions. The hotel also takes pride in its sustainable approach using solar energy and its own water source. Although a boutique property, the hotel has a large garden area with seasonal fruits and lots of birdlife. It’s situated outside of the main town so there is very little noise and light pollution. The skies are some of the clearest on the planet and at night sitting outside in complete silence looking skyward is so relaxing you don’t even need the spa!

Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa, Chile Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa, Chile
View of Licancabur from Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa View of Licancabur from Tierra Atacama Hotel and Spa

Favourite Activity

Visiting Iguazu Falls on both the Argentinian and Brazilian side was an amazing experience. Seeing one of the “New Wonders of The World” was awe-inspiring. I don’t think I have really ever felt the true force of nature up until that point. To be able to get so close on the Brazilian walkways to one of the main falls and feel the power generated by what is relatively only a very small portion of the waterfall system is a feeling hard to replicate. On the Argentinian side my guide and I were fortunate enough to be the first people of the day to get to the “Devil’s Throat”. Having just a few minutes in isolation to appreciate the roar and spray of the water below and the surrounding scenery was a real privilege.

Iguacu Falls Iguacu Falls

Favourite Beach

I didn’t spend much time by the coast or indeed on a beach in my trip but being in Rio on a Sunday morning was a great experience. The roads adjacent to the beach (Copacabana and Ipanema) close only for pedestrian use. It’s a great place to people watch and you can appreciate just how important the beach areas are to people living in the cities. From all over the city people come to ride bikes, walk their dogs or simply walk up and down the promenade catching up with friends.

Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro Copacabana beach, Rio de Janeiro
Walking down the promenade of Copacabana beach Walking down the promenade of Copacabana beach

General feeling

Having only backpacked previously in the region I was pleasantly surprised at the standard and variety of hotels on offer. There truly is something for everybody and I can only see things improving as the continent attracts more European travellers. In terms of the landscapes, the diversity is astonishing. To be able to fly from the desert in northern Chile to the southern icefields and fjords of Patagonia in just a few hours is a testament to not only what Chile has to offer but the continent as a whole.

Did you know...?

  • Buenos Aires’ subway was the 1st in South America and 9th in the world
  • In November Jacaranda plants lining the streets of Buenos Aires turn purple making it a great time of year to visit
  • Recoleta cemetery in Buenos Aires is technically the most expensive place to stay in the city….
  • Mendoza has a restaurant (1884) belonging to the most famous chef in South America (Francis Malmon) which makes it a great option for dinner after visiting vineyards in the day
  • Mendoza is the largest wine region in Argentina with around 160 vineyards in the area
  • Bernardo O'Higgins Riquelme was a Chilean independence leader who freed Chile from Spanish rule in the Chilean War of Independence. He was a wealthy landowner of Spanish and Irish ancestry. Lots of streets and areas in Chile bear his name as well as a football team
  • The port town of Valparaiso was founded before Santiago, the capital of Chile
  • Valparaiso has 8 working funiculars
  • Chile possesses the world’s largest reserves of lithium and copper exportation is the largest industry in Chile
  • San Pedro de Atacama is a natural oasis with lots of water underground
  • Puerto Varas and Puerto Montt in Chile are named after former Presidents
  • There is a huge German influence in and around Puerto Varas and this is reflected in almost every walk of life. German settlers arrived to farm the land and protect the Argentinian border.
  • Puerto Varas is situated on the 2nd largest lake in Chile and 3rd largest in South America
  • The area of Bariloche (Argentina) is larger than Buenos Aires and the lake area can fit the city inside 2 and ½ times over
  • Campanario Hill in Bariloche has been voted as a “Top 10 View In The World” by National Geographic and featured as a cover photo in 1993
  • Iguazu's surrounding forest is home to the opossum, the only marsupial that is found outside Australia
  • On a Sunday the roads adjacent to the beaches in Rio de Janeiro close for pedestrian use. People often ride a bike, walk their dogs or simply go for a stroll along the beachfront
  • Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro has the 3rd oldest cable car system in the world
Joe

By Joe Johnson

28th June 2019



Talk to our Argentina expert

Joe
Joe Johnson

Joe is a welcome addition to our Latin America team. He previously completed a 5 month personal trip around South America. His knowledge of the region has been enhanced even further by a 5 week research trip around Argentina, Chile and Costa Rica. However, his passion for travel started long before this. He has visited 53 countries (and counting) and he loves nothing more than discovering the unknown and trying new experiences. Not one for a straightforward beach holiday his main passion whilst abroad is scuba diving but any adventure activity or getting out into the great outdoors is what truly appeals to him. Having spent 5 years with other specialist travel firms he could not have had better experience in crafting the best itineraries.

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