South America – The Barefoot Nomad Travel. Tech. Family. Fun. Fri, 15 Jun 2018 22:40:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Eight Extraordinary Things To Do In Patagonia Tue, 15 May 2018 17:00:00 +0000 This guest post is brought to you by Anda Galffy of Travel Notes & Beyond, who shares her favorite things to do in Patagonia.

Stretching across Argentina and Chile, Patagonia is the southernmost region of South America. Patagonia is huge in every way and it is home to some of the most incredible landscapes on this planet, including snow-capped mountains, dense forests, massive glaciers, roaring waterfalls and unbelievable wildlife. For an outdoor lover, Patagonia is an inexhaustible source beauty and adventure. There is so much to see and do here that you could easily spend months in Patagonia and still not see it all!

Things To Do In Patagonia

With that in mind, here are my recommendations for places to visit in Patagonia, on both the Chilean and Argentinian sides.


Chilean Patagonia

Hike in Torres del Paine

There is a reason why Torres del Paine National Park is considered one the world’s best backpacking and trekking destinations. The park is a maze of hiking trails varying from easy, to moderate and more difficult. If you feel more adventurous, you can choose to do one of the multi-day circuits that last anywhere from 4-9 days and take you all around the mountains. But if walking for 8 hours a day and sleeping in tents is not your cup of tea, you can take shorter day hikes and experience the beauty of Torres del Paine just the same. The good news is that you don’t need to be an experienced hiker to enjoy this park.

Hiking in Torres del Paine

Hiking in Torres del Paine

Take a boat trip to Glacier Grey 

Located inside Torres del Paine National Park, Glacier Grey is part of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field –one of the largest continental stretches of ice on the planet. Getting up close and personal with Glacier Grey is one of the highlights to any trip to Patagonia. As the boat gets closer to the glacier, you begin to appreciate the 40-meter high river of ice that rises above you. The blue tones of the ice are astonishing. You are so close to it that you can see the cracks in the ice wall and feel the cold air that surrounds it.

Tour the Mylodon Cave

The Mylodon Cave (Cueva del Milodon) is located just a little outside Torres del Paine National Park. The cave was discovered in 1896 by the German explorer Eberhard Hermann who found inside the strange remains (fur and bones) of the extinct Mylodon sloth, hence the name of the cave. The cave is not very big, but it is really interesting to visit.

Cueva del Milodon

Cueva del Milodon

Try horseback riding

One of the best ways to view the scenery of Patagonia is by taking a guided tour on horseback. Many of the estancias (working farms) around Torres del Paine offer horseback riding excursions to the glaciers and in the foothills of the Cordillera Paine. You don’t need any particular skills to be able to ride one of these horses. The baqueanos(Patagonian cowboys) are excellent guides and will teach you a lot about horseback riding. Visiting one of these estancias is also a great opportunity to find out more about the culture and harsh realities of day by day life in Patagonia.

Horseback Riding in Patagonia

Argentinean Patagonia – Los Glaciares National Park

Visit Perito Moreno Glacier

Perito Moreno glacier is one of the biggest attractions in Argentinean Patagonia. Locate on the southern area of the Los Glaciares National Park, about 90 km away from El Calafate, this stunning 70-meters-thick slab of ice that spans over 121 square miles. Perito Moreno is famous for its dynamic changes. It grows in winter and recedes in summer, producing a cyclic phenomenon with spectacular ice falls from its front walls. If you only were to visit one glacier in your life, it should be Perito Moreno.

There are several ways to experience the glacier. You can get up close with a boat tour and hear the loud noise made by the cracking ice falling into the water below. Or you can walk on the viewing platform leading up to different viewpoints. The platform gets quite close to the glacier, to the point that you can basically feel the cold air that surrounds it. But if you’re feeling truly adventurous, you can take a tour out onto the glacier to do some ice trekking.

Perito Moreno

Perito Moreno

Drive (or bike) to Lago del Desierto

One of the nicest roads to drive in southern Patagonia is the one from El Chaltén to Lago del Desierto. The road follows Rio de las Vueltas, passing spectacular waterfalls, pristine meadows and dense Lenga forests. The Fitz Roy peaks are in sight all along the way.

Despite its name (that suggests a desert area) Lago del Desierty is actually surrounded by acres and acres of beautiful Lenga forest. Besides enjoying the scenery, you can also take a boat out onto the blue-green waters of the lake. Catamarans leave from the pier and journey across the lake, making trips that last about 45 minutes.

Lago del Desierto

Lago del Desierto

Hike to Mirador Piedras Blancas

This is one of the most beautiful hikes you can do from the little village of El Chaltén. The trail head that starts at Hosteria El Pilar takes you to a beautiful mirador (vista point) that offers great views of the Piedras Blancas glacier. This is a moderate hike that goes mainly through a beautiful forest. If you to continue hiking past the mirador, the trail will take you to a gorgeous plain from where you can see the majestic peaks of the Fitz Roy mountain. This trail goes to the Campamento (campground) Poincenot and from there to the famous Laguna de Los Tres, but that is a difficult hike.

Mirador Piedras Blancas

Mirador Piedras Blancas

Take a boat trip to Viedma Glacier

This ride will take you across Lake Viedma, passing by Mount Huemul and approaching the front wall of the Viedma glacier. The boats leave from the picturesque Bahía Túnel harbor, located in a natural protected bay, a few hundred meters away from the delta formed by the Túnel River. The harbor is only 17 Km south of El Chaltén.

A Final Note

Visiting Patagonia was a dream come true. I still can’t get over it. The first sight of its gorgeous scenery literally took my breath away. Nothing can quite prepare you for your first glimpse of Patagonia. For no matter how many pictures you see or movies you watch, when you touch down in Patagonia you realize that no photo can do justice to this place.

About the Author

Anda Galffy is an award-winning travel writer and passionate photographer living in Southern California. She is the creator of Travel Notes & Beyond, a collection of travel stories from her wanderings around the world. Her posts focus primarily on the cultural aspect of a destination. She strives to inform, inspire and engage, by providing itinerary ideas and tips on exciting destinations.

You can follow her on Facebook and Pinterest.

The best adventures in Patagonia to fuel your wanderlust Looking for the most amazing destinations in beautiful Patagonia? Helpful tips and stunning photos of the best of Patagoina, from hiking in Torres del Paine to visiting the Perito Moreno Glacier. Things to do in Patagonia Planning to travel in Patagonia? Read about the best things to do in Patagonia, whether you're on a hiking or national parks adventure in Argentina or Chile. ]]> 2
What To Expect On An Ecuador Amazon Tour With La Selva Lodge Thu, 22 Jun 2017 17:00:00 +0000 Thinking of taking a tour in the Amazon rainforest? Think you need to fly into Brazil or maybe Peru to make it happen?

The truth is, the Amazon jungle is a giant ecosystem running through 9 countries in South America, and, though Brazil accounts for the largest share of it, it’s not the only way to experience the Amazon rainforest. Like more and more people are doing, we chose to see it while visiting Ecuador.

Honestly, the Amazon isn’t the first thing I think of when someone says Ecuador. My first thought of Ecuador is of the famed Galapagos Islands and that’s a shame, because Ecuador is a wonderful, accessible way to visit the mighty Amazon rain forest.

During our Amazon jungle tour in Ecuador, we saw almost everything we’d dreamed of in the Amazon, including monkeys, bids, piranha, plus plenty of exotic insects and creepy crawlies galore.

Canoeing expedition at La Selva Lodge

We visited the Amazon as a family of four, with our two kids, ages eight and eleven, so we wanted to stay somewhere comfortable for the kids (and honestly, comfortable for us as well).

We wanted to be able to do all the activities we dreamed of and still have a clean shower at the end of the day. We also wanted good food and a comfortable bed, so we chose to stay three nights/four days at the highly rated La Selva Lodge (see reviews on TripAdvisor here). La Selva included transportation, all activities, and gourmet meals, but did not include airfare from Ecuador’s capital city, Quito (though that can be arranged).

Click here to see La Selva Lodge prices and availability.

First, I’ll tell you all about our Ecuador Amazon Tour. Spoiler – it includes blow darts, monkeys, jungle hikes, and even piranhas! If you’re interested in checking out the food and our room, scroll down or click here to skip directly to our review of La Selva Lodge Ecuador.

Our Ecuador Amazon Tour

Our four night Amazon tour at La Selva Lodge definitely kept us busy from the very beginning, when we arrived at the lodge in a dugout canoe (you can read our journey into the Amazon here) via tranquil Heron Lake (it’s also known as Garzacocha Lake).

La Selva Lodge is located deep in the jungle, about an hour plane ride from Quito to the small town of Coca (also called Puerto Francisco de Orellana), followed by an almost two hour journey on a motorized canoe, a 10 minute walk through the rain forest, and then a half hour paddle in a dugout canoe down a small creek and then across Heron Lake to the Lodge.

approaching La Selva Lodge on the lake

Our first peek at La Selva Ecolodge in the Amazon in Ecuador

La Selva itself is located deep in the Amazon basin, on a tranquil lake that’s connected to the Amazon River system. The Lodge is a stone’s throw from Yasuni National Park, which is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet. At La Selva Amazon Eco Lodge, they take care of all the excursions with in-house guides so there’s no need to book another company for activities.

During our  stay, we hiked through the surrounding rainforest, fished for piranha, spotted birds from a 100 foot treetop canopy tower, took a night paddle and even took a night hike through the awakening jungle. When we were done, we relaxed in our fully equipped cabana. We saw more wildlife than I thought possible, including monkeys, birds, black caimans, butterflies, amphibians, insects, and tarantulas.

Tip! We visited independently, but you can also visit La Selva Ecolodge as part of an all inclusive La Selva Lodge tour with G Adventures. The G Adventures tour includes flights from Quito and other transportation, as well as the standard La Selva package of accommodation, activities and gourmet meals. See prices and availability on G Adventures.

All of our jungle activities were guided by both an English speaking guide (the incredibly knowledgeable Daniel) and a local native guide (patient and helpful Medardo, who grew up a stone’s throw away from the Lodge in a local tribe). As a family with two kids, we wanted to make sure that we were in good hands in the jungle. Both Daniel and Medardo were attentive, knowledgeable, careful, and a lot of fun.

With two kids in tow, fishing for piranha was high on our must do list.

piranha fishing in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Medardo, our native guide showing off his piranha catch

Our native guide Medardo prepared traditional bamboo fishing poles, and loaded us up with raw meat as bait, and we set out in a dugout canoe.

English speaking guide taking us piranha fishing in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Daniel, our English speaking guide taking us piranha fishing in the Ecuadorian Amazon

It was definitely unnerving to see how the raw meat bait disappeared from our hooks within a matter of seconds!

catching piranha in the Amazon

Look at those teeth!

In the end, we ended up reeling in several piranha, most of them less than six inches long, but a few larger than our heads (eek!). Our guide, Daniel, even caught a catfish.

Dad and daughter fishing for piranha in the Amazon

Charles and Jordan fishing for piranha in the Amazon

One of our day trips took us to a local Amazon tribes village (the Pilchi village). We spent most of the afternoon there, learning about their way of life, eating food prepared by the local women, and learning about how they use local plants and animals. Stay tuned, as we’ll be writing an entire new article about our time at the local Amazon tribe!

traditional food at local village in the Amazon in Ecuador

Traditional food at local village in the Amazon in Ecuador

While the whole trip was memorable, our son Cole especially loved the chance to try his hand at using an authentic blow dart gun. Traditionally, the men of the Pilchi tribe used the poison tipped blow dart, to take down wildlife to eat. Our darts, of course, weren’t poisonous but we did enjoy testing out our aim regardless.

Medardo, our local guide, was taught how to use the blow dart by his father who was one of the last of his tribe to use the blow dart as an everyday hunting tool. They had very strict rules on who could use a blow dart and when, so it was a special treat that we had an official expert with us on our trip.

Boy learning to shoot a blow dart in the Ecuadorian Amazon

Cole learning to use a traditional blow dart gun with our guides Daniel and Medardo

Another one of the highlights of staying at La Selva was climbing to the top of their own 10 story observation tower, deep in the heart of the jungle.

On our first attempt to climb the tower, we were surprised by a booming thunderstorm during our walk. Luckily, Daniel and Medardo had thought to equip us in comfy rubber boots and rain ponchos. They even had boots and ponchos to fit the kids, though if your little one is younger than Jordan (age eight), you may want to bring a raincoat for them. The smallest poncho was pretty big on her.

A rainy walk on an Amazon rain forest tour in the Amazon in Ecuador

We chose not to climb the tower that morning because of possible high winds and lightning, and instead went back later in the day when the storm had eased however it highlighted the fact that when you’re in the rainforest, sometimes it’s going to rain.

looking up at the 35 meter tall observation tower at La Selva

The observation tower as the rain began to loom, turning the jungle an eerie shade of yellowish grey.

Despite its location deep in the jungle, the observation walk was only about 10 minutes away from the lodge. When we made it back when the weather cleared, we were greeted with this view from the top of the observation tower. It felt like we could see all the way back to Quito!

view from La Selva Lodge observation tower

During all of our hikes and activities, it was only the four of us and our two guides. This is the standard at La Selva Lodge, with one or two guides per group of four or five people.

That ratio meant that we got a personalized introduction to the rain forest, which was perfect as our English speaking naturalist guide Daniel was patient with the kids’ questions and quick to change our schedule if the weather or an opportunity presented itself.

Family on a nature walk in the Amazon in Ecuador

Family hike through La Selva Lodge rainforest

For the most part, we walked on raised platforms and paths through the jungle, although some of the trails were on dirt. All of the trails were well marked, though I was glad to have guides along to guide us home!

Looking at a troupe of monkeys at Yasuni National Park in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador

Looking at a troupe of Capuchin monkeys in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador

Parrot Clay Lick

One of the most unique experiences we had at La Selva was visiting the exposed clay riverbank where brightly colored parrots gather to eat clay every day. The parrot clay lick is inside Yasuni National Park along the fast and large Napo River. The clay apparently neutralizes toxins in many of the nuts and foods the birds eat and the three species of parrot common to the area gather in large groups in the mornings to digest the clay.

Parrot licks Yasuni National Park in the Amazon Rainforest in Ecuador

From La Selva, visiting the clay lick is a 10 minute motorized canoe ride as well as the 15 minute paddle up the lake and down the creek to get to La Selva’s Rio Napo dock.

We did have to wait about 15 minutes before the birds appeared, but we saw well over 30 parrots. The majority of the parrots we saw were green Mealy Amazon Parrots, but the Blue-headed Parrot and Yellow-crowned Amazon Parrot also visit the salt lick and they could be seen in the surrounding trees.

If you’re really lucky, you’ll see hundreds of parrots at one time.

We spent a lot of time in the water on our Amazon tour in Ecuador. La Selva’s lake Heron is connected to the mighty Napo River by a small creek and many tributaries. We paddled along on the water, watching monkeys scurry overhead, birds flying through the trees, and even saw large black caiman crocodiles lounging along the shore.

canoeing in the Amazon Jungle

At the dock at La Selva

In addition to scheduled and guided excursions like jungle hikes, piranha fishing and visiting the local indigenous community, the lodge offers many independent activities. If you’re so inclined, you can take one of the canoes or kayaks out on the lake, grab a massage, or even enjoy a yoga class on the water.

dock at La Selva Lodge

Charles was the only one brave enough (or is it crazy enough? I’m not sure) to do this, but you can even swim off the dock at La Selva. You’ll be swimming with caimans, electric eels and piranhas, so use caution!

Swimming with piranhas in the Amazon at La Selva Lodge

Charles swimming with piranhas in the Amazon at La Selva Lodge. Yup, still has his toes.

We all had a fantastic time during our family yoga class. Daphne, our yoga instructor, gives personalized or group classes in the Gazebo overlooking the lake. Our class was aimed to entertain the kids, but you can also get classes customized to your needs.

Family Yoga at La Selva Lodge Amazon Ecuador

Wildlife in the Ecuadorian Amazon

La Selva Lodge is perched beside Yasuni National Park, which is one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, and home to millions of species of plants, birds, insects and mammals.

We were lucky enough to see several monkey species in the park, including black capuchin monkeys, white-fronted capuchin monkeys, spider monkeys, and howler monkeys.

Yasuni is home to at least 596 bird species. We didn’t quite see all 596 species, but we did see so many that I lost track. Our favorite place to bird watch was up in the lodge’s observation platform above the restaurant and lounge. From there, we could look over the lake and into trees in the surrounding jungle.

La Selva Lodge bird watching in the jungle

The lodge had some quality binoculars and equipment for bird watching, which made it fun and easy. The trees were honestly teeming with birds like toucans, parrots and the comical hoatzin (which locals call the stinky turkey).

Looking at birds through binoculars at La Selva Lodge Amazon \

bird in the trees at La Selva

bird nest at La Selva

Huge hanging bird nest at La Selva

This is truly the wild, so experiencing and seeing animals is really up to nature. La Selva was fantastic about getting us out to see local wildlife, and took us on canoe rides, and nature walks, including a night walk through the jungle. Our english speaking naturalist, Daniel, was very informative on each species we saw and Medardo, our native guide, knew exactly how to close we could get without scaring it away or being in danger.

cool little tree frog at la selva lodge

During our night walk, we saw a tailless scorpion, two tarantulas (one in a tree, and another in a ground burrow), and plenty of frogs and other invertebrates.

If creepy crawlies aren’t your thing, we also saw a tiny (and adorable) little opossum, plenty of birds, and a troupe of Capuchin monkeys that night. The monkeys were a bit feisty, throwing stuff at us from above, including bean pods they’d just eaten. They would eat the sweet white fluff around the beans, and then throw down the bean and pod.

monkey in the trees at La Selva through binoculars

creepy crawly in the jungle at La Selva

that's a tarantula in a tree

Yes, that’s a big tarantula in a tree

Ecuador’s Yasuní National Park is also home to countless plant species. Everywhere we looked, the jungle was covered in lush green, and a profusion of flowers, ferns, and orchids.

tropical plant in the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador

At home in Canada, we only see the bird of paradise flower in high-end, expensive florists. Here in the jungle in Ecuador, they grew wild almost everywhere.

Bird of paradise flower at la selva lodge

Bird of paradise flower at La Selva Lodge

During our visit to the local Pilchi tribe’s village, the village women showed us crops they grew for food, as well as local jungle plants shamans use for medicine.

flower at local village in the Eucadorian Amazon

cocoa pod growing in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador

Cocoa pod growing in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador

A Review of La Selva Lodge

Just being in the Amazon itself is a bit of a trial, as it can get oppressively humid and hot, and plenty of activity can quickly lead to heatstroke. We had our children with us, so we wanted to stay someplace where we could be comfortable, with a cool place to rest, as well as decent food. La Selva delivered that in spades, and more.

From the start, when the La Selva team met us in the Quito airport with boarding passes already printed out, helped check our luggage, and handed us a gift for each of the kids, we knew we were in good hands.

Lounging in a hammock at La Selva Lodge Amazon Ecuador

Charles’ favorite place to hang out at La Selva

The La Selva Lodge is a big place, with private bungalows dotting spacious, landscaped grounds, surrounded by jungle on all sides.

Looking over the rooftops at La Selva Lodge

From our cabin, it was a two minute walk to the secluded spa with its outdoor Jacuzzi, and a short 30 second hop to the main building with a large restaurant, viewing area, lounge and dock.

the docks at La Selva ecolodge

La Selva Lodge front desk and lounge

La Selva Lodge front desk and lounge area

We had a family suite, with a king bed in one one room and two double beds in another. Outside, we had a private porch, hammock and a sunken tub in the deck. The rooms had a lot of nice little extras, from a dry box to keep electronics free of moisture, to mosquito netting over all the beds. There was also a washroom with double sinks and warm showers.

La Selva ecoLodge tub in deck

La Selva Lodge king bed in room

La Selva ecuador bathroom

La Selva Amazon kids beds

Meals at La Selva

Our stay at La Selva included all meals and snacks. Dinner, supper and breakfast are served at specific hours, but there are light snacks available from friendly Marcello, the bartender, any time of day.

Breakfast our first day started things off right, with a delicious fruit plate, cheese and meat plate, tiny corn tamales in corn husks, coffee, tart orange juice, pineapple juice and an offer of eggs.

We especially loved the chef’s willingness to accommodate us, as me and the kids are vegetarians. They were happy to whip up kid-friendly veggie meals, and asked us what we’d like best.

vegetarian appetizer at La Selva ecolodge

seafood appetizer at La Selva ecolodge

They also offered up great fish and meat meals which Charles was thankful for after early days and long nights hiking and going on adventures.

supper at La Selva lodge

They also offered some great desserts which everyone was thankful for.

dessert at La Selva Lodge Amazon

Shrimp and traditional Ecuadorian food at La Selva Lodge

Family in the dining room at the lodge

Dinner menu at La Selva

Weather: We went in early March, and found it warm and with humidity never dropping below 80% any time. When it rained, which it did at some point every day, the humidity got even higher. I set out some pants to dry from a walk one night, and in the morning they were wetter from the overnight humidity than they’d been the day before. Damp everything is pretty standard Amazon rainforest fare so pack accordingly. That said, the staff at La Selva does offer a laundry service.

Bugs: Well, it is the Amazon jungle, so there are bugs. Surprisingly, we found that there weren’t a lot of mosquitoes when we visited in March. Charles was surprised that there were way fewer mosquitoes in the Amazon jungle than in his hometown of Winnipeg, Manitoba however it’s still a good idea to bring mosquito repellent, especially on the night walk. We also didn’t find any creepy crawlies in our room, much to our eight year old daughter’s relief and each bed has a netting that we made sure we used.

WiFi: Yes, there is WiFi at the lodge. The WiFi is via satellite, so it’s enough to check email, but don’t count on streaming Netflix or uploading your photos with La Selva Lodge Ecuador WiFi.

Hot water: There are hot water showers. We did have our hot water go out once, but we told the front desk, and they had it up and running in a couple of hours.

Drinking water: La Selva gets its water from an underground well. There’s filtered drinking water available at all times in the main lounge, and they bring a pitcher of filtered water to your room every day. Guests are also given personal refillable water bottles to use while they stay at the lodge.

Location: The La Selva Amazon Ecolodge is in Ecuador’s Amazon region, bordering Yasuni National Park and the mighty Napo River. To get to it you need to get to Coca where they’ll take you down the Rio Napo River for a few hours to their private docks and then you need to take a canoe up a small creek and across the Garzacocha (Heron) Lake.

La Selva Lodge reviews: Click here to see reviews for La Selva EcoLodge Ecuador.

How to Book La Selva: You can book La Selva Lodge through or compare prices on TripAdvisor here.

Click now to see prices and availability.

G Adventures La Selva Lodge Amazon Adventure: We visited independently, but you can also visit La Selva Ecolodge as part of an all inclusive La Selva Lodge tour with G Adventures. The G Adventures tour includes flights from Quito and other transportation, as well as the standard La Selva package of accommodation, activities and gourmet meals.

See prices and availability on G Adventures.

What To Expect On An Ecuador Amazon Tour With La Selva Lodge | Touring the Amazon in Ecuador | Ecuador Amazon rainforest | Ecuador Amazon Lodges | Ecuador Amazon tour | Ecuador Amazon jungle
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Our Experience at Hotel Albemarle on Isabela Island Galapagos Mon, 12 Jun 2017 21:00:00 +0000 A few months ago, we had the good fortune of staying right on the beach in Puerto Villamil, which is the only settlement on Isabela Island in Ecuador’s famed Galapagos Islands.

Not only was Isabela Island our favorite of the three Galapagos islands we visited, but it felt completely different from both the more sophisticated Santa Cruz and the up and coming San Cristobal.

Albemarle Hotel on Isabela Island Galapagos

If sandy streets, relaxed vibes, a slightly Caribbean feel and an overabundance of some of the most unique animals in the world appeal to you, then Isabela Island might be perfect for you. Even more similar than the Caribbean, Puerto Villamil reminded us of our long stays on the southern beaches of Thailand with it’s eclectic selection of restaurants and it’s sandy, wide streets.

While we were there, we stayed at one of the islands best reviewed hotels, the Hotel Albermarle. Situated right on the beach, only seconds from the surf complete with scores of palm trees and marine iguanas just out it’s front door, Hotel Albemarle was a great place from which to explore Isabela island.

Our review of the Hotel Albemarle in the Galapagos Islands

Named after the original name for Isabela Islands, the Mediterranean styled Hotel Albemarle makes guests feel at home, no matter where they hail from.

Check prices and availability now.

View of the beach out the front door at the Hotel Albemarle

View of the beach out the front door at the Hotel Albemarle

Complete with a couple dozen or so rooms, many overlooking the white sands of the beach and the clear blues of the Pacific Ocean, stepping into the white lobby from the sand covered road in front feels like a hidden oasis from the hot sun of the Galapagos.

Without a doubt, one of Hotel Albemarle’s best features is the people working there. The resident manager, Carlos, was always on hand giving us great advice on which spots on the island not to miss and local tidbits on the best restaurants and best tour companies to go with. He always made sure we enjoyed our stay and was incredibly nice to talk to with his impeccable English.

Natalia, the next in line, was great as well and we had some great conversations the nights she was working. Both the cleaning staff and the breakfast cooks where also helpful and polite.

Fresh Fruit at the Hotel Albemarle Isabela Island Ecuador

Fresh fruit for breakfast

As well as the small front lobby complete with a few computers, the hotel also features a small pool in the center and a breakfast nook to enjoy the tasty, free morning breakfasts.

There’s also a fridge with water, drinks and beer you can purchase for about the same price as one of the local shops in town. The Albemarle Hotel also has filtered water where you can refill your own water bottle at any time during your stay, which was a nice plus.

Peeking at the pool at the hotel Albemarle

If you want to relax, there are comfy sun loungers around the pool with some of the best free internet we found on any of the islands. There’s also a great roof top terrace that’s perfect for early morning coffee or late night relaxations. Just don’t try sitting up there during the day unless you want an instant tan under the unrelenting Galapagos sun.

View from the terrace sundeck at the Albemarle Hotel Galapagos

Note: In general, the internet on any of the Galapagos Islands is just a fraction better than dial up and unreliable even on the best of days.

Don’t expect to push all your pictures up to the cloud or get much internet-based work done while you’re there. Streaming anything from YouTube or Netflix was also next to impossible anywhere on the islands.


We were in a pool side ground floor family room, with two twin beds and a double.

Inside family room at the Hotel Albemarle Isabela Island Galapagos

We loved the high ceiling (it must have been 10 or 12 feet high), with plenty of fresh air and a bright, white room.

Clean towels and sink at the Hotel Albemarle

Like all the hotels on Isabela Island, the Hotel Albemarle is a small boutique hotel. You won’t find any well known hotel chains on the island and that’s helping to keep the money local while ensuring that the island doesn’t outgrow it’s world heritage status.

The wildlife on Isabela Island

Considering 97.5% of the Galapagos Islands is a national park and that the entire set of islands is surrounded by a huge marine reserve that’s second in size only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, you’re guaranteed to spot some amazing endemic wildlife on and around the island.

Marine Iguana on Isabela Island Galapagos

From sea lions and marine iguanas on the shores, hammerhead sharks and sea turtles in the water, to giant Galapagos tortoises and blue footed boobies on the land, you can also find the only tropical penguin in existence on Isabela Island. The Galapagos penguin often plays right beside the main dock in town and a few have even been known to show up around the beach in front of Hotel Albemarle.

If you’re in the Galapagos Islands to view wildlife, and let’s be realistic, almost everyone that goes there does, then Isabela Island is probably the island for you. Nearly every Tripadvisor review (see reviews here) concerning Isabela Island has one single gripe, that they didn’t budget more time to stay there. Well, that and the fact that they didn’t bring enough cash, since there aren’t any ATMs on Isabela Island.

Note: Most of the day trip operators and even a few restaurants take credit cards. Just make sure you verify that before going and note that most of the tour operators charge you more if you pay with a credit card. Like the rest of Ecuador, the US dollar is the main currency everywhere in the Galapagos Islands.

Around Hotel Albemarle and Puerto Villamil

From day trips to just hanging out on the beach, there are tons of things to do outside the Hotel Albemarle Isabela. Right in front of the hotel is a gorgeous beach complete with a volleyball court and small playground for the kids.

Marine iguanas at the pier in front of the Hotel Albemarle

Off to the side is a protected marine iguana nesting site with dozens of marine iguanas basking in the sun or competing for mating rights and for an animal that spends the majority of the time just sitting there watching them fight can be quite entertaining.

To the other side of the beach there is the town jetty that makes for scenic views and, when we were there, they were getting ready to open a bar at the end of it.

Right next to the hotel is the town’s often boisterous enclosed football (soccer) field. For such a small town there are soccer games nearly every night and on the weekends it can get quite loud at times. Be prepared that if you’re in a room adjoining the field, don’t expect to get any sleep before 10:30 when the last game is often played.

Carlos informed me that the town is planning to move the football field further into town and setting up an open aired market in the paved zone in it’s place. This will be a great addition to the town as well as ensuring that people with early mornings can get the sleep they need.

Just down the sandy road that runs in front of the hotel, on the other side of the soccer field, is a series of chill out bars playing soft reggae while watching the waves break along the beach.

On the other side of the hotel runs the main street of Puerto Villamil, here is where you’ll find restaurant after restaurant featuring local delicacies as well as pizza, pasta and lots of fish. There’s also some of the bigger touring companies, a ferry company and some small grocery stores.

Note: Because the Galapagos Islands are so remote, over 600 miles or 1000 km’s from the mainland, supplies on the island can be hard to get at times. While we were there, the main cargo boat that supplies all the islands sank and all the stores and restaurants had mass shortages on stocks for a few weeks so a lot of menu items weren’t available while we there.

Animals of the Galapagos Islands

Some of the most scenic day trips you can do in the Galapagos Islands originate from Isabela Island so whether you’re taking one of the many tours or going it alone, there’s a lot to do for such a sleepy place. Carlos at Hotel Albemarle was great at giving us suggestions on where to go and most of all, when to go to get the most out of it.

Sea Lion on a bench and Marine Iguana on Isabela Island Galapagos

Like most of the Galapagos Islands, you can be sure to see sea lions and marine iguanas just about everywhere you look as well as the remarkable frigate birds flying overhead. In the wetlands of the island you can see pink flamingos and common stilts and Darwin’s finches exist near land and sea.

Under the water you can see hammerhead sharks as well as plenty of sea turtles, stingrays, manta rays and sea horses. If you’re snorkeling there’s a good chance you’ll be visited by an inquisitive sea lion and, if you’re lucky, the only tropical penguin in the world, the Galapagos penguin.

Day trips from Isabela Island

Some of the more notable day trips from Isabela Island include our favorite, snorkeling at Los Tuneles with it’s lava channels and tunnels where you’ll see plenty of sea turtles, reef sharks and the the blue-footed booby.

Isabela Island Galapagos day tour blue footed boobies in the wild

For the hikers there’s the Sierra Negra Volcano which is the second largest active volcano in the world. This 16 km walk will take you to the rim where you’ll see spectacular views of thevolcano and the surrounding islands.

See day trip prices and details here.

If you want to see the only tropical penguin in the world up close then you’ll want to do the Tintoreras tour. On this tour they take you across the channel from the dock to explore the little islands where the penguin resides. Expect to see plenty of sea lions and you get to look down on some amazing shark nesting channels on a small hike.

If you want to get your feet wet you can hit any of the many beaches throughout town or the one across from Hotel Albemarle. However if you want to do some snorkeling, then Concha de Perla is where you want to go. Grab the wooden pathway beside the main dock and walk for a minute until you get to the small dock and jump in. You can see everything from sea turtles to reef sharks at the Concha de Perla.

If you want to see some giant Galapagos tortoises then you’ll want to take the wooden walkway just past Iguana Crossing that will take you over lagoons and swamps filled with flamingos and stilts to the Giant Tortoise Breeding Center. It’s around a 30 minute walk and you’ll get to see some of the giant tortoises first hand. If you’re tired from the walk, just take a 5 minute taxi back to town.

If you want a little tragic history, you’ll want to rent a bike and bike down to the Wall of Tears. It’s around 5 km from town and can get quite hot if you don’t go in the morning or late afternoon but it’s an interesting bike down well marked roads where you can stop at quiet lagoons and totally secluded beaches.

What you need to know about the Hotel Albemarle Galapagos

Hotel Albemarle is in the small town of Puerto Villamil, on Isabela Island in the Galapagos, Ecuador. It’s a stone’s throw from the town’s restaurants and shops.

Check TripAdvisor reviews.

Check prices and availability now.

You can find out more about the Albemarle Hotel on their website.

Where to stay in the Galapagos Isla Isabela Our review of Hotel Albemarle Galapagos

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Lounging with Sea Lions at the Red Mangrove Hotel Galapagos – Our Review Mon, 01 May 2017 17:00:00 +0000 We arrived at Santa Cruz Island in the Galapagos soaked to the bone.

The four of us were pelted by rain and salt water spray for almost the entire two and a half hour ferry ride from Isla Isabela to Santa Cruz. That ferry ride from Hades is a story we’ll tell another time, but it’s enough to say that we would have probably sold all our worldly possessions for a warm shower and a dry towel right then.

Red Mangrove Hotel Galapagos seal on lounge chair

Sea lion lounging at Red Mangrove

Luckily, the folks at Red Mangrove Hotel Galapagos were happy to help.

Check prices and hotel information here.

We trudged into their lobby as wet as if we’d swum right out of the ocean, and they didn’t bat an eye. The staff just helped us carry our soaking wet luggage to our room, where we used their dry towels and piping hot shower to restore ourselves.

Micki soaking wet on ferry to Santa Cruz Galapagos

Travel blogging isn’t always as glamorous as you’d think. Micki and little Jordan soaking wet on the ferry to Santa Cruz

Then we got to work drying three suitcases worth of wet clothes, plus the soaking wet clothes we wore on the ferry.

Luckily for us, the Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge had a de-humidifier in our room. It’s the first time we’ve ever been in a hotel that included one. It was a huge help drying out our stacks of clothes that got soaked by rain on the ferry from Isla Isabela to Santa Cruz and it made what could have been an otherwise long ordeal into barely an inconvenience.

The best part of Red Mangrove!


Red Mangrove Hotel Galapagos seals and marine iguanas

One of the best features of the Red Mangrove Hotel in Puerto Ayora on the island of Santa Cruz is its friendly residents. Yup, you guessed it, they’re the sea lions that lounge everywhere on the benches and boardwalk that surround the property.

We dropped by the boardwalk several times during our stay and the sea lions were always there, often joined by some cheeky marine iguanas.

Tip! No need to go searching for wildlife on the island of Santa Cruz, when you stay at the Red Mangrove, the wildlife comes to you!

Sea lions lounging at the Red Mangrove Hotel in the Galapagos

The coastal location does mean that Red Mangrove’s restaurant and boardwalk have a stunning view of the azure waters of the Santa Cruz Port.

Red Mangrove Hotel Galapagos panorama of ocean side and dock

Hands down, besides for the fact that our room included a de-humidifier, our favorite parts of the hotel were the ocean side boardwalk and pier.

Red Mangrove Hotel Galapagos view from rooftop of ocean

About the rooms at Red Mangrove

While I believe most of Red Mangrove’s rooms are on upper floors or with great views facing Academy Bay, we had a family room on the main floor, halfway between the lobby and the hotel’s entrance. It was quiet, roomy, fully equipped and clean, but if I go back, I would spend a few dollars more and stay in an ocean side or upper level room with views of the sea for our next visit.

Red Mangrove Hotel Galapagostwi single beds in family room

Our family room had two single beds, plus one queen. They were both comfy, but the single beds had an extra layer of comfort from a small memory foam topper. We almost kicked the kids out of their beds so we could sleep in the comfy singles!

Our room came complete with it’s own enclosed courtyard so it would make a great place for families with small children to roam about safely.

family room at Red Mangrove Galapagos Hotel

Important: Just after we stayed there, Hotel Red Mangrove was bought by the folks at Haugan Cruises, who also happen to own the same La Selva Lodge we stayed at during our stay in the Amazon a few weeks before. Haugan Cruises has a great reputation in the Galapagos,  and we’re looking forward to seeing the improvements they bring! While we stayed there it was called the Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge, and it’s now re-branded to be known as the Red Mangrove Hotel by Haugan Cruises.

Check prices and hotel information here.

About the mangroves

The hotel has a unique coastal location among the mangroves (thus the Red Mangrove name). If you’ve ever spent much time by the ocean, you’ll know that mangroves are a vital part of a coastal ecosystem. They provide nutrients, and are home to many species of birds and wildlife.

Kids looking at the mangroves at the Red Mangrove Hotel in the Galapagos

Kids looking at the mangroves at the Red Mangrove Hotel in the Galapagos

Unfortunately, mangroves often have a stagnant water smell. We found this stale smell to be minimal at Red Mangrove Aventura Lodge, however it was definitely present, especially on the walkway after the unusually heavy rains when we arrived. Also, there are only a few rooms set within the mangroves themselves at the Red Mangrove Hotel, since most of the rooms are overlooking the water.

Note: You may see the hotel occasionally called the Hotel Mangle Rojo (which is just Red Mangrove translated into Spanish).

Red Mangrove Galapagos walkway

Red Mangrove restaurant – what’s there to eat?

While we were there, the Red Mangrove Restaurant offered pretty much only sushi for supper. We aren’t sushi lovers (and Micki and the kids are vegetarian), so we didn’t get a chance to try it out though it got decent enough reviews. It was also on the higher end of the price scale.

Red Mangrove Hotel Galapagos sign for restaurant and sushi bar

Isla Grill at the Red Mangrove Hotel

If you’re a lover of sushi, you probably would have enjoyed the Red Mangrove restaurant, however we just found out that the new owners are completely redoing the restaurant at Red Mangrove. The new restaurant is going to be called the Isla Grill and will offer both traditional and international foods with unique surf and turf meals. There will also be pizzas, burgers, salads and I’m guessing great breakfast options if it’s anything like the food we ate at the award winning La Selva Lodge. We want to go back just to try them out.

See TripAdvisor reviews here for the old Red Mangrove Restaurant

Red Mangrove Restaurant Galapagos

While we were there, the Red Mangrove hotel did offer breakfast and lunch as part of an inclusive meal deal, however we didn’t opt for it, so we ate in town most days during our stay on the island. In some ways it’s too bad we didn’t get a chance to review their breakfast offerings, however the breakfasts are going to change when the restaurant soon re-opens as the Isla Grill.

Tip! If you’d like to visit the restaurant to check out the sea lions and gorgeous views, come during the evening happy hour, where you can get 2 for 1 drinks.

Red Mangrove Galapagos Happy Hour

How to book

Check prices and availability here.

It may be easiest to book a room at the hotel through booking sites like Expedia or

You can also book directly with the hotel, although you’ll have to fill out a clunky contact form on their website.

Tip! Book an ocean side or upper level room to get gorgeous views and lots of natural light and air flow.

Check prices and availability here.

Want to find out more?

Red Mangrove Hotel Galapagos Lobby

If you want to find out more, visit the hotel’s website, or see them on Facebook or Twitter. Due to the fact that it’s under new ownership, we expect the hotel to undergo a few changes and, if it’s anything like La Selva, probably for the better.

If you’re interested in SCUBA diving in the Galapagos Islands, there’s also a well regarded SCUBA center at the Red Mangrove hotel. Check their reviews here.

The hotel also offers free bike rentals.

Where is the Hotel Red Mangrove Galapagos?

The Red Mangrove Hotel Galapagos is on the island of Santa Cruz, in the town of Puerto Ayora. It’s on the west side of town, and a little isolated from the busy town itself. That said, it was only a quick five minute walk to the main part of Charles Darwin Avenue, where we found more restaurants and souvenir shops than we could count.

If you’re flying in, you’ll land on nearby Baltra Island to the north and be taken for free by bus and ferry over to Santa Cruz, where you can take a taxi to get to the hotel. If you’re flying from the Galapagos Islands, the hotel can help you order a taxi that will get you to the ferry that will take you to the airport.

The hotel is about a 15 minute walk from the pier along nice paved roads or you can grab a taxi for under two dollars. If you go east, the Charles Darwin Research Center is just a few minutes down the road and is definitely worth a visit.

lounging with sea lions in the Galapagos

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Canoeing Into The La Selva Lodge In The Ecuadorian Amazon Fri, 21 Apr 2017 17:00:00 +0000 What do you think of when I say Amazon? If you’re like us and live five thousand miles away from South America you probably think of the online store.

Now, what happens when I say Amazon rainforest? Suddenly, jungles, animals, huge rivers and unknown dangers start popping up in your mind.

Now, what happens when I say Amazon luxury ecolodge, with gourmet meals and personalized tours based on your own interests? Conflict of emotions? There shouldn’t be because that’s exactly what La Selva Lodge, in the jungles of Ecuador is all about.

We had the amazing opportunity to spend five days at La Selva Lodge in Ecuador firsthand checking out what makes this the number one ecolodge in the area. I’ll give you a hint, good food, good people and amazing surroundings.

Finally arriving at La Selva Lodge

We met up with Miguel, the lead coordinator at La Selva Resort at the Coca airport. We were flying in from the Ecuadorian capital of Quito where we had previously met with a La Selva spokesman who quickly helped us through the check out process and informed us about meeting up with Miguel once we landed in Coca.

After a quick 45 minute flight, we grabbed our bags and jumped in their private van with another two fine fellows from Quito to head to their office in town. Once there, Miguel explained what we were up to for the rest of the day.

Boarding the plane in Coca on return

Basically, the easy part was over, now we needed to do some walking, some boating, some more walking and then boating again.

It was pretty much that way every day going forward, with constant changes on what we were doing, what we would be seeing and what times everything would be happening. Since nature waits for no one, our plans at La Selva changed as fast as the weather. That turned out to be a good thing, but I’ll save that for later.

After a quick washroom break (there’s no washroom on the boat) and receiving a few refillable water bottles we set off walking toward the town docks. Only two blocks away we got our first taste of the mighty Amazon.

Main La Selva Office in Coca

It turns out that my actual knowledge of the Amazon is far less than I once believed. For one, the Amazon river is actually comprised of several tributaries spread out over seven million kilometers starting in Ecuador, Peru, Columbia, and five other nations and continuing through Brazil before finally dumping into the Atlantic Ocean.

Here in the town of Coca or, as it’s officially known, Puerto Francisco de Orellana, the river is called Rio Napo and is one of the Amazon’s largest tributaries. It’s also quite a large and fast river in its own right.

Our ride for two hours to the private docks of La Selva on the River Napo

As we made it down to the docks and donned our supplied life jackets, we learnt that we were going to be traveling downstream for around 2 hours via a very long and fast boat before getting off the main river and taking a small walk over to a creek where we’d take canoes the rest of the way to the lodge. This is pretty much the way most of the Amazon lodges work in that area of the Yasuni National Park, with each lodge sitting on it’s own lake or river off the main Rio Napo river.

We also received some nice boxed lunches to eat on the ride to our next stop. Ours included a burrito, apple, muffin and a tasty granola bar. It also included a tasty local beer called Pilsener.

Boxed lunch on the way to the La Selva Lodge

As we made our way down the river, we realized just how dangerous the river can be. Luckily, our captain was an expert driver and easily navigated the ever changing sand bars, the massive tree trunks floating down the river and the hidden dangers that existed everywhere.

Unfortunately, the elusive pink Amazon river dolphin was nowhere in sight. We later found out they’re not that common around Coca and, unlike their ocean relatives, they rarely leave the safety of the muddy and turbulent waters so they’re incredibly hard to spot. That never stopped us from looking though.

Just about to boat the Rio Napo to La Selva Lodge

As we approached the private La Selva docks a few hours later, we were thankful for the protective canopy our boat offered and the rain ponchos we were given. During our two hour ride it had suddenly downpoured and we were quickly reminded why they call this area of the world a rainforest. It also explains why the Amazon river has more flow of water than the next seven largest rivers in the world combined.

La Selva Lodge’s private dock off the Rio Napa

After taking off our life jackets and hitting the washrooms again, we walked the few hundred feet to a small creek while the porters moved our luggage over. Now the real adventure began.

As we climbed into the loaded down double canoe the fact that we’re in the Amazon truly hit home. After spending a few days in Quito’s eternal springlike cool temperatures, the hot, humid weather was both a relief and a curse. The temperatures were warm, but we learned quickly to say goodbye to nice, dry clothing.

As anyone who’s spent time there will tell you, in the Amazon, there’s just damp and more damp.

Loading the double canoe and stowing bagged luggage

Once our canoe was fully loaded, our paddlers quickly set off down the stream. Within minutes we were lost as the mangrove filled creek branched off in several areas. Luckily, our guides knew the path and we made our way through the eerie landscape.

Piranhas, black caimans, boa constrictors and electric eels all call this water home.

Knowing that there is everything from piranhas, to electric eels, to black caiman, to fish the size of our boat below us didn’t do anything to steady our nerves as the laden down canoe slowly navigated the sharp corners. There was so much going on around us that our fears quickly turned to wonder at all the new sounds and movement.

Up ahead, Miguel, who was with us on his way back to the lodge as well, spotted a troupe of black capuchin monkeys leaping over us, scrambling to get across the small creek. It would be the first of seven encounters with monkeys for us while we were at La Selva Lodge, and the first of the five species of monkey we saw during our stay.

Paddling the small creek. There are Black Capuchin monkeys in the trees around us.

Besides for the Capuchins, we saw countless varieties of birds on that first canoe ride. I would name them, all however we were so in awe of our surroundings the first day that we never cataloged them. The hoatzin, more commonly known as the stinky turkey to the locals, was definitely one that stood out and was always found along the creek. Its crazy spiked mohawk and distinctive call made it a favorite find to everyone.

We also saw dozens of beautiful bird of paradise flowers everywhere we looked along that creek. These are found only in specialty flower shops back home, they usually sell for a ridiculous sum, so it was cool to see so many of them everywhere we looked.

Wild Birds of Paradise near La Selva Lodge

As we finally exited the creek 20 minutes later, we realized that we really hadn’t researched La Selva Lodge enough before getting there. Maybe that was a good thing, because as we turned a bend and saw the La Selva Lodge sitting high above the beautiful lake it calls home, we actually gasped at the beauty of the moment.

Surrounded by calm, tea stained water, the La Selva Lodge stood out in comparison to what we had just witnessed, yet blended perfectly with the surrounding Amazonian jungle. It looked like it belonged there. Even more importantly at the time, it looked inviting after a long day of flights and boats.

We also didn’t know it, but our Amazon adventure was just beginning and it would one of the busiest yet rewarding stays our lives.

Stay tuned for our complete review of the wonderful La Selva Lodge in the coming week, including our encounters with monkeys, birds, lizards and tarantulas deep in the Amazon jungle, as well as yoga classes by the water, gourmet food, outstanding guides, our visit to a native village, parrot clay licks, fishing for piranha and climbing a 10 story tower high above the Amazon canopy to spot some of the Amazon’s most sought after species.

Interested in checking out La Selva Lodge for yourself?

You can check out their webpage here, book a stay with them here, view their well ranked TripAdvisor page here or you can get an idea what a 4 day trip to La Selva Lodge entails with Gadventures.

Canoeing Into The La Selva Lodge In The Ecuadorian Amazon

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Why You Need To Visit The Hot Springs At Hotel Termas de Papallacta Ecuador Tue, 18 Apr 2017 17:00:00 +0000 The Papallacta Hot Springs in Ecuador are a local secret. To be honest, we probably would have missed them had our lovely Airbnb host Cristina not casually mentioned them our first day in Quito.

We were careening through Quito’s busy morning traffic, worn out from long flights and short days, when Cristina talked about her very favorite place to relax just outside the city.

It sounded like a dream: A nice hotel, dozens of hot pools and a world class spa overlooking a small village, high in the lush cloud forest of the Andes only an hour east of Quito.

Flash forward a few days, and our little family of four were soaking in the hot spring pools at Hotel Termas de Papallacta Ecuador, surrounded by verdant mountain slopes, hummingbirds, and tropical flowers. We know a good hot spring resort when we find one and Termas Papallacta definitely belongs in that category.

Check prices and availability now.

Keyhole peek through stone at Termas Papallacta Hotel

Termas de Papallacta Hotel, sometimes called Papallacta Hot Springs Resort or Termas Papallacta, is located in the small Ecuadorian town of Papallacta, in the Andes of South America. It’s at a whopping elevation of 10,800 feet (3,300 meters). In comparison, Denver, Colorado is a mere 5,400 feet (1,645 meters).

Tip! Because of the extremely high elevation in Papallacta, be mindful of elevation sickness. If possible, try to leave a day or so to acclimate to the elevation in Quito before you visit.

We arrived on a cool, rainy day midweek in February, which was really the perfect time to take in the magic of this place.

Hotel Termas de Papallacta Ecuador Review

Spa hot pool with faucet Termas Papallacta

One of the Spa’s many private hot pools

Below you’ll find our Termas Papallacta hotel review, including a look at our room, the public pools, the spa, the spa’s hot pools, the resorts private hot pools, the restaurants, and even information on hikes around Papallacta.

Check prices and reviews.

Contents – Click any of the following links to skip directly to that area

The hot pools at Termas Papallacta

Exclusive Spa hot pools hotel Termas Papallacta

All of the hot pools at Hotel Termas de Papallacta sit at the base of lush mountains high in the Andes. In total, there are dozens of pools and hot tubs, with water of varying temperatures, that range from swimming pool size to intimate pools for only a few people. Unlike most natural hot pools, there is little to no sulfur smell around the pools or the resort!

That said, there are essentially three types of hot pools at Termas Papallacta:

  • the public hot pools for day guests (included free of charge with your room)
  • the exclusive spa hot pools, available to hotel guests (15% off for guests) and the public (higher fee than the public pools)
  • guest only private hot pools located outside the family cottages and scattered around the main hotel

We’ll give you a detailed overview of all the hot pools below however first we’ll talk a bit about the grounds and our room.

The grounds at Termas Papallacta

Pink flowers Termas Papallacta

The expansive grounds around the resort alone are reason enough to visit Papallacta. The grounds are painstakingly cultivated, with lush vegetation and tropical flowers overflowing every nook.

Lush vegetation at Termas Papallacta Hotel

If you’re lucky, you’ll get a peek at some of the native animals, including hummingbirds, the spectacled bear, pikas, the mountain tapir, and even a small native wild cat called the Pampas cat. When we were there we saw a small rabbit, hopping along by one of the private pools, and an otter by the river, along with plenty of hummingbirds and butterflies.

Rooms at the Hotel Termas de Papallacta Ecuador

The resort has accommodations for everyone from single travelers to couples, to families and groups of friends.

Master bedroom in family cabin with king bed Hotel Termas de Papallacta Ecuador

Master bedroom in family cabin with King bed

We stayed in a family bungalow, which was just across the creek from the lobby. It was only about 100 meters from the main lodge, but felt far enough to feel like a private oasis.

To get to the family bungalows, you cross the road from the main lobby and drive over a small, covered wooden bridge that passes over a small rushing creek. The gate is often closed however there is always someone around to open it if you’re coming or going.

Family cabin - bridge leading to family cabin area Termas de Papallacta resort

Wooden bridge leading to family cabins

Our place was a two story cabin with a sitting room, a spacious bathroom and a master bedroom with it’s own well appointed en suite bathroom on the main floor. Upstairs, in the loft, was another four single beds.

All of the beds were comfortable, with plenty of spare blankets and pillows. They even provided a space heater for the upper level, which we appreciated to help keep the kids extra toasty up in the loft at night.

Upstairs loft in family cabin Hotel Termas de Papallacta Ecuador

Upstairs loft in a family cabin

Since we visited on an especially cool weekend in February, we truly appreciated the heated water running under the travertine covered floors. That’s right, complete in floor heating! Some cabins even feature fireplaces and a sunken tub.

There were lots of little touches, from purified water in a big water cooler with plenty of glasses, to soft robes and fluffy towels for poolside use and comfy slippers. Outside, we had our own little patio with table and chairs off the side of our family cabin. There was even private parking.

Family cabin outside at Hotel Termas de Papallacta Ecuador

Family cabin at the Papallacta Resort

I was surprised the free WiFi worked so well in the cabins, and was fast enough to work with. Now, it wasn’t lightning fast, but it was usable, and I thought that was a big win in a small town high in the mountains in Ecuador.

Probably my favorite part of the family cabin were the private hot pools just outside our cabin door. 

Family cabin private hot pool Termas Papallacta

Family cabin private hot pool at Termas Papallacta

The resort has two small clusters of bungalows, and each cluster of bungalows has its own exclusive thermal water pools for guests. We shared our pools with only a handful of other bungalows, and we often went outside to find we had all of the pools entirely to ourselves.

Check room prices.

If a family bungalow is too big for you, Papallacta Hot Springs Resort has standard rooms, with two doubles or one king bed, as well as rooms with king bed and a Jacuzzi next to the main lodge.

Termas Papallacta hot pools by main resort building

There are also suite cabins perfect for couples or a small family (three people max) with king beds, small sofa beds, fireplaces, and in floor heating.

Termas Papallacta main lodgings

The Termas Papallacta has also just started a new bed and breakfast option, which allows access to the public pools, along with a more modest room and breakfast.

Find information on rooms and prices.

Tip! Hotel Guests get a 15% discount on spa services.

The public hot pools at Termas de Papallacta

Besides for the guest only private pools, Termas Papallacta resort has two types of hot pools for day visitors, the public hot pools or public baths as they’re often called (which we’ll talk about here) and the exclusive hot pools available at the Spa (we talk about those a little later).

Public area lounging in upper pool at Termas Papallacta

There’s a lot of confusion online about the cost to access the public baths at Termas Papallacta resort, with most reports mistakenly quoting prices to access the exclusive spa hot pools, which are more expensive than the public thermal baths. The confusion comes from the fact that the public can pay to access two separate areas of the Termas Papallacta: the main public baths (which are less expensive, but lovely), and the exclusive spa area baths.

Access to the public spas is free if you’re a guest of the Termas Papallacta resort. Check resort prices here.


Public hot pools ticket booth at Termas Papallacta

Public hot pools ticket booth

If you’re not staying at the hotel, there’s a modest charge for tickets to the main thermal baths at Termas Papallacta.

  • Adults $8.50 USD
  • Kids age 3 to 11 are $4 USD
  • Children under 3 are free
  • Seniors (over age 65) and special needs are $4.00 USD

Hours at the public hot pools are 6:00 am to 9:00 pm.

To get to the public hot pools, go past the lovely Termas de Papallacta Spa Resort main building, and you’ll find the public pools on your left, across from the large parking lot. The entrance to the public hot pools is under the sign that says Balneario (translated, this roughly means waterside resort in Spanish).

Wicker baskets for belongings in public hot pools Papallacta

You’ll pay at the ticket entrance building or show your hotel wristband for free access. Towels cost $1 with a $5 deposit however, if you stay in the resort, towels are provided for free. Staff will pass you a sizable wicker basket to hold towels and other belongings.

Public pool area lockers Termas Papallacta

Locker area

Most people just throw all their belongings in the baskets and carry them everywhere they go however once you get inside there are lockers you can rent for the day that are more secure.

Once you pass the ticket booth, you then walk over a small bridge and a rushing stream to access the pools. You’ll also pass a small building with medical staff on hand in case of emergencies.

Public hot pools main pool at Termas de Papallacta

Once inside the gate, there’s 10 hot pools of varying temperatures to enjoy, grouped into three main areas.

When you first walk in, you’ll see the main pool on the right, which is kept at a moderately warm temperature, and is large enough to double as a swimming pool. This pool is one of the best for children since the water isn’t too hot and there’s plenty of space for them to play in. It’s also a great spot to lounge in since you won’t overheat and there are numerous jets everywhere.

Public pool area at Termas de Papallacta

Main pool – moderate temperature

Off to the left is another section of three more hot pools and a plunge pool.

Hot pools down to the left from the entrance

Straight ahead, you’ll find a restaurant and snack shop before the washrooms, showers and lockers.

Just past the restaurants are another set of pools up a small hill. You’ll find the hottest public pools at Papallacta are on the top hill. As such, you won’t find many children there.

For the brave, there’s three cool plunge pools around the property. All are filled with icy cold green river water and are a hyper fast way to cool down.

Public hot pools Termas Papallacta upper level

Tip: Staff seem to be constantly draining and refilling the hot pools. If you find the pool you want is empty, just show up again in a few hours and it’ll probably be up and running again.

Restaurants inside the public Papallacta hot pool area

Aside from the main restaurant in the hotel’s main building, and a fancier restaurant in the exclusive Spa, there is a smaller restaurant and snack bar located in the public hot pools area of Termas Papallacta.

The Pumamaki restaurant and the Kiosco snack bar are side by side in the center of the public hot pools.

Kiosco Snack Bar

Kiosco snack bar at public hot pools Termas de Papallacta

The Kiosco snack bar sells snacks like hot dogs, nachos, chips and crackers plus drinks and gifts like Termas Papallacta themed shirts and towels. You can also pick up sunscreen and a few other toiletries here. There’s a nice terrace outside, and you order from the front counter.

Pumamaki Restaurant

Pumamaki Restaurante Termas Papallacta public pool restaurant

The Pumamaki restaurant offers sit-down service, with seats inside and on the terrace outside. You can get breakfast, lunch and dinner here. There’s a six page menu with a wide selection, including the fresh trout that’s famous in Papallacta as well as sandwiches and Ecuadorian style soups (be sure to try the Locro de la Casa/Potato soup with cheese), salads, grilled steak, plus desserts, drinks, and wines. There’s also a kids menu.

Restaurant prices in the public thermal baths area of Papallacta run about $9 USD for a economic set menu to $14 USD for a compete set menu, which includes appetizer, dessert and main course.

Tip: There’s also a public accessible restaurant in the main building as well as a restaurant in the Spa area.

Termas Papallacta Spa

Spa hot pool with faucet Termas Papallacta

One of the Spas many private hot pools

Termas Papallacta’s spa is tucked away just past the main building on the right. The spa offers a suite of luxurious treatments, plus at least eight exclusive hot pools.

Spa pools cost $22 for adults, $14.50 for children, and $11 for seniors. Spa hot pool access is not included in hotel rates however, as a guest of the resort, you get 15% off all spa services.

Spa rose in front of hot pool at Termas Papallacta spa hot pool

Tip: If you happen to visit Papallacta during a busy time, we’d highly recommend paying extra for access to the quieter, exclusive spa hot pools.

The spa offers a range of spa treatments, from private Jacuzzi baths to chocolate or mud wraps, to relaxing massages. Prices are quite reasonable by North American standards, at about $69 for a 60 minute deep body massage, or $60 for a hot stone massage. There are also individual thermal Jacuzzis and steam baths at the Thermal Grotto available for about $12.

The Spa hot pools are much quieter than the public baths, and we didn’t see any children here, other than a young girl of around 12 or 13.

Spa view outside over hot pools Termas Papallacta

We were lucky enough to enjoy a steam bath at the Thermal Grotto, which left both of us completely relaxed and utterly spent.

Spa Termas Papallacta lounging area

There’s also a restaurant in the Spa area. It was closed when we visited, but the views over the private spa hot pools are gorgeous.

Main Restaurant: Termas de Papallacta Restaurant

The main restaurant is in the main building just behind the lobby, and it serves delicious food (if slightly expensive for Ecuador). That said, we thought dining there was well worth the money, and found that compared to Canadian or American prices, the food was fairly moderately priced for the quality.

Main restaurant at Termas Papallacta

The restaurant at Termas de Papallacta has a good selection of American style food, including pastas, seafood, fish and plenty of Ecuadorian specialties. We ate here for lunch and dinner for two days in a row, and found plenty of delicious food to keep us happy.

There’s also a buffet breakfast available every morning as well as a set menu for those that want something special.

Our eleven year old loved the traditional Ecuadorian potato and cheese soup, which was comforting and warm in the cool mountain climate.

I tried a traditional soup of palm hearts, popcorn and plantain chips. It was delicious, and served cold, which I wasn’t expecting, with a burst of fresh flavor. I think the closest thing I’ve ever tried is gazpacho.

Main restaurant palm heart soup with sides Hotel Termas de Papallacta Ecuador

Palm heart soup

If you’re a seafood fan, be sure to try the trout, which is locally, and sustainably, farmed. None of us are big seafood fans, so we didn’t try it, but other diners told us that it was fresh and flavorful, and one of the best items on the menu.

We also really loved the pesto pastas, and the restaurant kindly made a butter pasta for our eight year old, which she devoured every night.

Note: You can also eat at the Pumamaki restaurant and the Kiosco snack bar inside the public hot pools area. Check out the info on the public hot pools above for more info on them.

Hiking and Guided Walks at Termas Papallacta

Beautiful red flowers at Hotel Termas Papallacta

Termas Papallacta has an area called the Exploratori (or alternatively, The Terra Foundation or Exploratory Center), where you can book a guided walking tour, and camping spots. You can find it to the the right of the public baths.

Campground at Termas Papallacta

Campground at Termas Papallacta

The center is open 8 am to 5 pm.

Tip! When we were there in February mid-week it seemed to be closed down, but other readers have said it was open for them. It may be best to ask at the front desk for information.

The center can give you information about plants and animals, with four different trail options and a native tour guide. Guided tours range from $2 USD to $6 USD, and a tent camping spot at Papallacta Resort is $6 USD a night. You can even arrange longer treks, horseback riding and rafting. Ask about treks to the Cayambe-Coca Ecological Reserve.

Tropic flower and lush green leaves Papallacta Hot springs resort

There’s also a self guided trail called the Sendero de la Isla along the Papallacta river. The trail starts next to the public pools (Balneario), and takes about an hour and a half to navigate. You’ll walk over several small foot bridges, and have the chance to see llamas and other wildlife, along with the stunning cloud forest scenery.

Getting to Papallacta Hot Springs in Ecuador

Papallacta is about a 45 minute drive from Quito’s airport, and about an hour from Quito’s city center.

There are several ways to get to Papallacta, including renting a car, taking the bus, grabbing a taxi, or taking a tour that includes transportation.

Rent a car

Highway to Papallacta Ecuador

Highway to Papallacta Ecuador

We rented a car to get to Papallacta. It’s a 40 mile (73 km) drive on windy roads, and mostly uphill, with some steep grades (maximum posted speed was 60 km most of the way). The road is newly paved and generally in good condition, and the scenery is stunning. When we visited mid-week in February, there was very little traffic on the road however there was fog in places.

When you arrive in Papallacta, head left through town and up the hill to get to the resort.

If you drive, watch carefully as we saw a few major potholes on the highway due to recent rains. These were big enough to do some major damage to a car however most were well marked.

Quito is also a challenging city to drive in, as many intersections aren’t well signed, and we found that our Google Maps GPS didn’t have many of the new roads marked. That said, roads were generally in great condition and newly paved.

Family cabin parking at Termas Papallacta hotel

Our Mr. Bean sized car that barely ran

Based on our experience, we found driving to Papallacta quite easy but personally wouldn’t recommend renting a vehicle from Thrifty Car Rental Ecuador Quito Shyris Ecuador. It gets a 1.6 of 5.0 Google rating for a reason.

They charged us more than our reservation, said they didn’t have the car we reserved in stock, and gave us a horrible tiny car that barely fit our luggage and us, and could only get up to 30 km/hour on many of the uphill sections on the highway to Papallacta. They also threw on a condition at the end (just as we paid) that we couldn’t drive the car in Quito during rush hour. Luckily, this fit our schedule but is a little ridiculous. Other Thrifty locations in Quito get pretty bad reviews on Google as well.

We did find some good reviews for Budget Rental Cars in Quito on and Google, so we’ll try them the next time we’re in Quito. Check car rental prices here.

Public Bus

You can take a public bus from Quito to Papallacta for around $3.00 each way. Since bus schedules change all the time, it’s best to do a search just before you go. That said, you should be able to catch any bus going to Coca, Lago Agrio, Tena or Puyo and get off at Papallacta. Just be sure to ask if you can get dropped off in Papallacta when you buy your ticket, and confirm your drop off with the driver.

Local buses in Ecuador are much easier to manage if you speak at least a bit of Spanish. In Papallacta itself, you’ll need to pay another $3 or so to get a ride up the hot springs on one of the communal truck taxis. Getting down you can get the hotel to call a taxi for you and they should also be able to help you arrange bus transportation back to Quito.

Taxi or shuttle

You can get to Papallacta by taxi or shuttle, and it should cost about $50 USD per way, but you’ll need to find a driver willing to wait for several hours while you enjoy the hot springs.

It may be easier and cheaper to get a tour instead with a reputable company like Viator. Tours start at around $85 USD for return transportation and a private guide. Check tour prices here.

Papallacta hot springs tour

Spa hot pools terra cotta jug Termas Papallacta

The easiest way to get to Papallacta is to go with a tour. Reputable tour companies like Viator have day tours starting at around $60, with more luxurious tours with hotel pickup at around $136.

Check prices for day trips to Papallacta here.

Viator also has some fantastic combo tours, including a tour that lets you stay overnight in a private cabin at the Termas Papallacta, with a visit to the nearby Antisana Volcano. Click here for more info and prices. If you’d like to see the Amazon as well as the Andes, there’s a seven day private Amazon and Andes adventure tour as well (check prices here).

Click this link to find more things to do and see in Quito.

Should I do a day trip to Papallacta, or stay the night?

We’d highly recommend staying the night at the Papallacta Hot Springs Resort if you can find the time. It’s a magical experience to stay on site, and you’ll get to experience much more of the resort than if you just stay the day. You’ll also get to experience the private pools at night and early morning.

Check prices and availability here.

How to book Termas de Papallacta hotel

Main building Termas Papallacta hotel

You can book Termas de Papallacta directly with the hotel, or on hotel booking sites. Check prices and availability now.

Check reviews on Expedia or TripAdvisor.

Tip: Termas Papallacta, and the rest of Ecuador, use the US Dollar as currency.

Where is Termas Papallacta hot springs resort?

Fun fact: The name Papallacta translates from papa (potato) in Spanish and llacta (town) in Quichua. The town was originally known for, as you can probably guess, growing potatoes. Today, Papallacta is best known for its luxurious thermal spas, and for producing a significant portion of the water supply for Ecuador’s capital, Quito.

Papallacta is located about an hour drive East of Quito, the capital city of Ecuador, high up in the Andes mountains. Quito is the world’s highest official capital city, at an elevation of 9,350 ft (2,850 meters), and, with over 7 million residents, has daily international flights from all corners of the world. This modern South American city is also a great gateway to the Galapagos Islands and excursions into the Amazon.

Papallacta Hot Springs in Ecuador | Papallacta | Papallacta Ecuador | Papallacta Hot Springs | Ecuador Hot Springs

Why You Should Visit the Hot Springs at Hotel Termas de Papallacta Ecuador | Papallacta | Papallacta Ecuador | Papallacta Hot Springs | Ecuador Hot Springs



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10 Must-Visit Places in Brazil Thu, 09 Mar 2017 18:00:00 +0000 The best things to do and see in Brazil

Brazil has always been toward the top of our must-see countries in South America. Brazil is a huge country, with sweeping swaths of rain forest, the gorgeous Green Coast, world class cities brimming with culture, and a unique Portuguese influence.

We’ve spent the past three months traveling through Ecuador, the Galapagos, Columbia, Belize and Mexico, and there’s so much more to see in Central and South America. For now, we’ll have to be content with planning a trip to beautiful Brazil.

That hasn’t stopped us from making a wishlist of our top 10 things to do and see in Brazil. Here they are; hopefully they’ll give you a little wanderlust as well.

Iguazu Falls

Iguazu Falls Photo by Marissa Strniste

Iguazu Falls Photo by Marissa Strniste

With almost 300 small waterfalls, the area close to the border with Argentina can be easily visited on footpaths. The falls are on the Iguazu River that crosses lush tropical rain forests, so hiking is made even more exciting by the opportunities to spot creatures that live only here.

Sao Paolo

Sao Paolo is among the largest cities in the world and the perfect destination if you’re looking for an exciting vacation in a cosmopolitan environment with a vibrant cultural and culinary scene.


The center of the state of Ceara and dynamically developing city, Fortaleza is well-known worldwide and popular for its beaches, elegant hotels and restaurants, and it’s also the perfect jump-off point for exploring the natural beauties of the area.

Rio de Janeiro

One of the world’s most exciting cities, Rio is not only home to the Carnival. Rio is also surrounded by natural attractions such as Ipanema Beach, the Copacabana and Sugarloaf Mountain, as well as man-made attractions like the statue of Christ the Redeemer. The city is also an excellent destination for those looking for a party scene like nowhere else in the world.


Often called the Venice of Brazil, Recife has many romantic waterways and bridges. The 17th century colonial buildings in the old town, the vibrant cultural scene, the nightlife and the natural beauties of the surrounding area of rain forests, rivers and islands make this modern city very special.


Located in the southeast of country, Bahia is often called the soul of Brazil. The food, music, festivals and other cultural events create a unique experience.

Chapada dos Veadeiros

Chapada dos Veadeiros Photo by Chris Jackson

Chapada dos Veadeiros Photo by Chris Jackson

A huge natural park in the center of the country, Chapada dos Veadeiros has one of the world’s oldest and most varied ecosystems. If you are interested in a natural environment that has withstood human efforts to dominate it, a trip to the park will surely delight and astonish you.

Porto de Galinhas

This small beach town close to Recife provides the perfect destination for a beach holiday, with reefs, natural pools, crystal waters and soft-sanded beaches.


The state fascinates visitors with its rich cultural life in the capital city, Sao Luis, as well as with the natural paradise around the Delta das Americas, the meeting place of rivers, creeks and an astonishingly beautiful destination for fans of extreme sports.

Costa Verde

Another coast line of epic beauty, the Green Coast offers a varied landscape, spotted with idyllic towns and villages and beaches of unrivaled beauty.

About Visiting Brazil

Visitors to Brazil must obtain a visa from one of the Brazilian diplomatic missions unless they come from one of the visa exempt countries.

You can get a visa by contacting a consulate in your country or going through a company that specializes in helping you with a Brazilian Visa.

Tip! Using a visa application company can make your visa process much less complicated, but ensure that your visa company is reputable by checking Better Business Bureau (BBB) and online ratings for the company.

What are your top destinations in Brazil?

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15 Awe-inspiring Things to See and Do in South America Tue, 02 Aug 2016 23:00:00 +0000 15 Awe-inspiring Things to See and Do in South America Today SM

Visiting South America has been on our family bucket list since we first started it.

It’s a continent packed with stunning views, amazing wildlife, and one of a kind experiences.

We’ve come so close to visiting several times, but we’ve always had to cancel our plans due to last minute changes. I have every faith that we’ll make it to South America soon, but in the meantime we’ve scoured the tour options on Exodus Travels, and came up with a list of 15 amazing experiences in South America.

Here it is: the ultimate bucket list of 15 awe-inspiring things to see and do in South America.

What would you cross off your list first?

Trace Darwin’s footsteps in the Galapagos

Sea Lion Pup by dagpeak Flickr

Sea lion pup by dagpeak Flickr

As a true science nerd, the chance to visit the inspiration for Darwin’s ‘The Origin of Species’ in the Galapagos Islands. Exodus offers a unique, small group wildlife tour that traces Darwin’s footsteps. They’re one of only a few tour companies to offer extended trekking on the island of Isabela.

Swim with marine iguanas

One of the coolest things in the Galapagos, and that’s saying quite a lot in a region packed with unique wildlife and plant species, is that you can swim with marine iguanas.

Dance the tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tango in Buenos Aires

Buenos Aires is one of the most vibrant, buzzing cities on earth, and home to the tango, one of the most sensual dances in the world.

Everyone should learn to tango in Argentina before they die – Ian McKeever

Stand in the spray of the Iguazu Falls

Iguassu Falls

The Iguazu Falls are part of a cascade of hundreds of waterfalls almost two miles long. They emerge from the jungle, with the The Devil’s Throat, the tallest of the waterfalls, reaching almost 269 ft high.

Hike the mountains of Patagonia

Patagonia’s one of the world’s remaining vast and wild spaces. It’s tucked at the remote southernmost tip of South America, straddling both Argentina and Chile. Argentinian Patagonia is home to grasslands and desert, while Chilean Patagonia showcases temperate rain forests and jaw-dropping glacial fjords.

Watch ice fall from the Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier Argentina Photo by Geoff Livingston

Perito Moreno Glacier Argentina Photo by Geoff Livingston

Located in Patagonia, the Perito Moreno Glacier pushes over the southern (Brazo Rico) side of Argentino Lake, separating it from the rest of the lake. Because the glacier acts like a dam, the water level on the Brazo Rico side be as much 30 meters higher than the main body of Argentino Lake.

Occasionally, the dammed water of the Brazo Rico side spectacularly bursts through the glacier, pouring into the main body of Argentino Lake.

Spot jaguars, giant anteaters and giant river otters in Brazil


Photo by Eric Kilby

The Pantanal wetlands are one of the last places on earth you can spot elusive jaguars, giant anteaters and giant river otters, plus tapirs, Jabiru storks and the Hyacinth macaw.

Explore Brazil’s Diamond Trails

Once home to a diamond rush, Brazil’s lost world, Chapada Diamantina, is home to spectacular waterfalls and mountains.

Visit the world’s largest salt flats at Uyuni in Bolivia

Driving on clouds at Salar de Uyuni

Walking on Clouds by Francisco Orts

At over 4,086 square miles, Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats stretch farther than the eye can see. The flats reflect light in a way that makes it almost impossible to tell where land meets sky.

Discover Peru’s Lost City of the Incas at Machu Picchu

Peru’s ancient Inca Trail winds from the mighty Urubamba River, winding through cloud forests and mountain passes, and ultimately reaches the lost city of Machu Picchu. Built in the 15th century, Machu Picchu remains a marvel of engineering, created handcut stones fit together without mortar, and built on steep mountainous terrain.

See the mysterious Nazca Lines from the air

Nazca Lines courtesy Exodus Travels

Photo Exodus Travels

The Nazca lines are one of the earth’s few remaining great mysteries. We don’t know exactly when they were made, who made them, or even when they were constructed. The Nazca lines are 300 figures etched into the Peruvian desert, only visible from the air.

Explore the Amazon by boat

The Amazon Rain Forest has one of the world’s greatest concentrations of biodiversity. It’s home to jaguar, sloth, river dolphin, anaconda, poison dart frogs, plus countless animals and dense plant life.

Visit Easter Island

Statues at Easter Island Photo Exodus Travels

Statues at Easter Island Photo Exodus Travels

Easter Islands enigmatic giant stone statues are a reminder of a long-ago Polynesian civilization that lived on this isolated place. The island itself is only 16 miles wide, and, at almost 4,000 miles from the Chilean coastline, is the most isolated inhabited island on earth. Today, the statues stare silently at visitors, but thousands of years ago they were part of a vibrant, seafaring Polynesian culture.

Sight-see in Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Torres del Paine National Park

Photo courtesy Exodus Travels

The glacial landscape of Torres del Paine National Park look like they’re ripped straight from Lord of The Rings. Hikes here in Chilean Patagonia take take you across stunning scenery of pristine mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers.

Watch the sun set over the Atacama Desert

Photo courtesy Exodus Travels

Photo courtesy Exodus Travels

The great Atacama desert is like no other place on earth. It’s nestled between the Andes and the Pacific ocean, and boasts beautiful vistas of volcanic mountains, salt flats, and ravines among its hostile and arid terrain.

About Exodus Travels

Exodus Travels is all about adventure.

While leading people on epic adventures around the globe, they focus on how to travel responsibly by leaving places as they found them, ensuring that communities benefit, and realizing that every destination is someone else’s home. Learn more about Exodus Travels commitment to Responsible Travel.

15 Awe-inspiring Things to See and Do in South America Today

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Win A Trip for Two to Cartagena, Colombia with LAN Airlines Sun, 17 Aug 2014 20:50:00 +0000 Win a Trip to Cartagena Columbia with LAN Airlines 2

One of our favorite things to do here at The Barefoot Nomad is to give you a chance to travel!

Today, we’re thrilled to bring you a chance for US residents to win a trip for two to Cartagena, Colombia. To enter, just go to the LAN Airlines contest entry page.

Cartagena is tucked right beside the clear waters of the Caribbean Sea. It’s a city where you can spend the morning strolling through the colorful colonial buildings of the old city (a UNESCO World Heritage site), and go for a splash in the crystal clear Caribbean waters later in the day.

Visit the Historic Walled City

Cartagena’s walled Old City is a UNESCO World Heritage site, packed with charming hotels, restaurants and bars. The narrow streets are lined with brightly painted colonial buildings and colorful flowers. You can take in a performance by a street musician on your way to see the historic Castillo San Felipe.

Win a Trip to Columbia with LAN Airlines 6

Dive into the Corales del Rosario Natural Park

The remote location and protected status of the Corales del Rosario Natural Park means that it has some of the Caribbean’s best snorkeling and pristine, white sand beaches.

Win a Trip to Cartagena Columbia with LAN Airlines 4

Stay at Casa San Agustin

The winner will stay at the charming Casa San Agustin, a small hotel lovingly restored in Cartagena’s walled Old Town.

Win a Trip to Cartagena Columbia with LAN Airlines Casa San Agustin

Enjoy the Nightlife

At night, vibrant Cartagena really comes into its own. Take a horse and carriage ride through the charming streets, and stop off at one of the many restaurants to enjoy fresh seafood.

Win a Trip to Cartagena Columbia with LAN Airlines 1

Contest Details

Win a trip for two people to Cartagena, Colombia from the USA! The winner receives:

  • round-trip tickets on LAN Airlines
  • four days/three nights in Cartagena with breakfast included
  • accommodations at Casa San Agustin

The sweepstakes end at 11:59 pm (EDT), September 4, 2014, and are only open to legal residents of the 48 contiguous United Sates and the District of Columbia, who are of legal age of majority in their state and/or district of residence.

How to Enter

Entering is easy. Just go to the LAN contest entry page, and click on Enter to Win a Trip.

Good luck! We’d love to see one of our readers win!

Win a Trip to Cartagena Columbia with LAN Airlines Banner


Disclosure: This post was sponsored by LAN Airlines.

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Why You Need to Visit the Galapagos Islands: In Photos Thu, 06 Feb 2014 18:00:00 +0000 As a recovering scientist (more on that here), I’ve always been fascinated by the Galapagos Islands.

We haven’t visited the Galapagos yet, but I’m looking forward to a day when I get to take our two little ones and chat with them about Darwin’s famous finches.

I’ve spent so much time scouring through photos and blogs in preparation, in fact, that I thought I’d share some of these with you.

I’m happy to note that most of these fantastic photos were taken by fellow travel bloggers. You can find even more of their great photos here on our Galapagos Dreaming Pinterest board.

Sealion at San Cristobal Photo courtesy of Adam Off The Radar

Sealion at San Cristobal Photo courtesy of Adam Off The Radar

Blue Footed Booby Photo courtesy of Adam Off The Radar

Blue Footed Booby Photo courtesy of Adam Off The Radar

Kicker rock on San Cristobal courtesy of Finding The Universe

Kicker rock on San Cristobal courtesy of Finding The Universe

Finding The Universe venus setting across Floreana Galapagos

Venus setting across Floreana. Courtesy of Finding the Universe

Marine Iguanas on Land Photo Courtesy Green Global Travel

Marine Iguanas on Land Photo Courtesy Green Global Travel

Penguin on the Surface Photo courtesy From A to B

Penguin on the Surface. Photo courtesy of Alaska to Brazil by Truck

Underwater at Concha del la Perla Photo courtesy of Adam Off The Radar

Underwater at Concha del la Perla Photo courtesy of Adam Off The Radar

Turtle at San Cristobal Photo courtesy of Adam Off The Radar

Turtle at San Cristobal Photo courtesy of Adam Off The Radar

Baby turtleBaby turtle Photo courtesy of theplanetD

Photo courtesy of ThePlanetD

Frigatebirds by Peter Wilton Flickr

Frigatebirds by Peter Wilton Flickr

Eagle ray by lowjumpingfrog Flickr

Eagle ray by lowjumpingfrog Flickr

Tortuga Bay Santa Cruz Photo courtesy of Adam Off The Radar

Tortuga Bay Santa Cruz Photo courtesy of Adam Off The Radar

Sea Lion Pup by dagpeak Flickr

Sea lion pup by dagpeak Flickr

Sally Lightfoot Crab by A.Davey Flickr

Sally Lightfoot Crab by A.Davey Flickr

Marine Iguana Amblyrhynchus cristatus on Santa Cruz Galapagos Islands by Dallas Krentzel Flickr

Marine Iguana Amblyrhynchus cristatus on Santa Cruz Galapagos Islands by Dallas Krentzel Flickr

Lonesome George by A Davey Flickr

Lonesome George by A. Davey Flickr

Iguana by SaraYeomans Flickr

Iguana by SaraYeomans Flickr

Galapagos Tortoise Geochelone nigra by H.A.S PhotoDesignsHeart+Soul Flickr

Galapagos Tortoise Geochelone Nigra by H.A.S PhotoDesignsHeart+Soul Flickr

Red Landscape in the Galapagos Photo courtesy of ThePlanetD

Photo courtesy of ThePlanetD

Colorful Crab courtesy Traveling Canucks

Colorful Crab courtesy Traveling Canucks

Little Seal by the Traveling Canucks

Little Seal by the Traveling Canucks

Ever in Transit Reef Octopus

Reef Octopus. Photo courtesy of Ever in Transit

Ever in Transit Galapagos Landscape

Photo courtesy of Ever in Transit

Ever in Transit Galapagos Beach

Photo courtesy of Ever in Transit

Ever in Transit Galapagos Opuntia Cactus Adapted To Grow Tall So Tortoises Can’t Eat The Leaves

Opuntia Cactus – adapted to grow leaves high on the plant so tortoises can’t reach the leaves. Photo courtesy of Ever in Transit.

Ever in Transit Galapagos Yellow Cordia Glue Bush Cordia Lutea

Yellow Cordia Glue Bush Cordia Lutea. Photo courtesy of Ever in Transit

Darwin's finch by Green Global Travel

Darwin’s finch. Photo courtesy of Green Global Travel

Mating Green Sea Turtles by Brian Gratwicke on Flickr

Mating Green Sea Turtles by Brian Gratwicke on Flickr

Little penguin underwater Photo courtesy From A to B

Little penguin underwater Photo courtesy From Alaska to Brazil by Truck

Galapagos Islands by Michael R Perry on Flickr

Galapagos Islands by Michael R Perry on Flickr

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Galapagos Rift Exploration 2011 by NOAA Ocean Explorer on Flickr

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Galapagos Rift Exploration 2011 by NOAA Ocean Explorer on Flickr

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Galapagos Rift Exploration 2011 EX1103 Leg2 by NOAA Ocean Explorer Flickr

NOAA Ship Okeanos Explorer Galapagos Rift Exploration by NOAA Ocean Explorer Flickr

Why You Need to Visit the Galapagos Islands: Beautiful photos to inspire you to visit
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