South America

South America

South America

7 must-see churches in Ecuador


Spanish colonists built Ecuador’s oldest churches during the 16th century. Their religious influence persists to this day, and some of Ecuador’s grandest cathedrals were built as late as the 20th century. Ecuador’s population is around 80 percent Catholic, and on Catholic holidays, the streets fill with parades. Easter, Holy Thursday, Carnival, and Christmas are all important days to attend church and light a prayer candle.

No matter when you go to Ecuador, stop by some of these grand churches to see some of the country’s most vibrant art on display. Cuenca is an especially pious city, and it’s a lovely place to walk around at night to see the churches glowing with candlelight.

Santo Domingo de Guzmán, Guayaquil

Santo Domingo is in the oldest part of Guayaquil. Although Dominican monks originally built the church in 1548, this cathedral has been destroyed or fallen apart several times. The church you see today is the 5th construction, and was completed in the 20th century. If you go inside, you can see one of the church’s original, 500-year-old walls near the sacristy.


New Cathedral, Cuenca

The New Cathedral’s striking blue-and-white domes make it one of the most recognizable buildings in Cuenca, and it stands out in a city full of Gothic cathedrals. Inside you’ll see a floor made of pink Italian marble. The blue glass in the domes came all the way from Czechoslovakia.


St. Francis Church, Latacunga

This is the oldest church in Latacunga, and you’ll find it next to the city’s historic square. In addition to this white church, Latacunga is home to La Mama Negra – a statue of the Virgin Mary that is believed to have protected the city from a volcano eruption in 1742. Every September the streets fill with dancers and musicians, and a woman representing La Mama Negra rides down the street on horseback.


Compañía de Jesus, Quito

It took over 100 years to build this baroque cathedral, and it shows. La Compañía de Jesus (The Society of Jesus) boasts one of the most striking interiors of any church in Ecuador, with sumptuous decorations and a golden hue. Completed in 1765, you can see evidence of Moorish influence in some of its detailed archways.


Basilica del Voto Nacional, Quito

Basilica del Voto Nacional (Basilica of the National Vow) was built during the neo-Gothic craze of the mid-19th century, and it has a façade that’s worth taking some time to admire. Look closely at the gargoyles – many of them take the form of native animals, including a Galápagos tortoise.


San Francisco Convent, Quito

You’ll see a blend of architectural styles in the San Francisco Convent, due in part to the fact that it took 150 years to complete. When you visit this convent you can see a beloved icon called the Virgin of Quito. This statue depicts the Virgin Mary dancing on a snake, and it dates back to the 18th century. From an art history standpoint, this statue is especially significant because it exemplifies the Ecuadorian art movement known as the Quito School.


Metropolitan Cathedral, Quito

This cathedral is one of the oldest and most important cathedrals in Ecuador – it serves as the archdiocese of Ecuador, which means that high-ranking church officials use this church as their home base.


Zach Smith is CEO of Anywhere.

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South America

Top 3 boutique hotels in Salvador, Brazil


The city of Salvador is a highlight of Brazil for many visitors. The capital of the state of Bahia in the north of the country, it contains the world’s largest collection of colonial architecture and pulsates with a diverse and fascinating culture.


Salvador is known for its strong African roots. The north of Brazil is, sadly where the Portuguese imported their slaves when they first colonised the country, mainly from West Africa. With slavery long abolished, the legacy today remains as a vibrant culture with a strong African influence. Salvador is the city with largest black population in Brazil and this gives it a very different feel to cities in the south such as Rio or Sao Paulo. Drumming and dancing are popular and it is not uncommon to encounter a drumming school practising in the streets. Nothing beats this as stand by watching the smiling faces of the group as they move through the streets in perfect rhythm.


One of the most fascinating aspects of this culture is the dance cross martial art known as Capoeira. Capoeira originates from Angola and was brought over by the African slaves. It is a strong and skilled combination of dance, acrobatics and music that is becoming popular in many countries through the world. It is Brazil, and particularly Salvador and the north where it is most famous and has even been given a protected status by UNESCO. Visitors to the city can watch a demonstration and even take part in a class; it’s a fantastic way to keep fit!

Capoeira is not the only UNESCO protected part of Salvadorean culture. The old town of the city, known as the Pelourinho is a beautiful collection of colonial architecture, the largest in the world. A picture-perfect blend of pastel-coloured buildings, terracotta rooves and cobbled streets, it is a touristic highlight of the city. Interspersed amongst these buildings are many churches with spectacular examples of frescoes and ceilings. Outside of the Pelourinho, the most famous church in the city is the church of Nosso Senhor do Bonfim. It is the most venerated church in the city and the site of a famous festival every January. The popular Bonfim bracelets, coloured cotton ribbons wound round the wrist, are worn in Salvador and throughout Brazil. They are seen originally as a good luck charm and nowadays also as a fashion symbol.


The Pelourinho features some of the best hotels in Salvador, known for their boutique charm and luxury accommodation. Here we talk about the three best boutique hotels in Salvador.

Villa Bahia

Housed in two adjoining colonial mansions, Villa Bahia maintains the style of the 17th and 18th centuries in a charming manner. The 17 rooms are decorated in a unique style with wooden floorboards and crisp white linens with warm, colourful accents. Each of the rooms reflects a different period in the history of Bahia ranging through Africa, Asia and Europe. Th e public spaces are equally charming with a courtyard in the centre of the hotel that houses a swimming pool, lined with exotic plants.


A second patio offers a more botanical feel with different plants and a relaxing environment. The restaurant serves delicious cuisine, locally inspired but with French influences and using the freshest ingredients. Guests can enjoy their meal in the restaurant or on the patio, in a fresher environment. The rooftop terrace is a crowning glory of the hotel and the perfect place to relax with a drink and enjoy the view over the rooftops of the Pelourinho.


Casa do Amarelindo

Casa do Amarelindo is a beautiful hotel in a restored, 17th century mansion. Offering 10 rooms decorated in an elegant style with polished wooden floors and authentic decorative touches. Each offers views over the Pelourinho or the beautiful All Saints Bay, looking out to sea. Amenities include Nespresso machines, safe and complimentary WiFi. The restaurant serves fresh, Bahian cuisine with an emphasis on fish and seafood, all with international influences.


Guests have the flexibility to enjoy a delicious breakfast in the restaurant, by the pool, in their room or on the panoramic terrace. The bar serves cocktails from around the world including the Brazilian Caipirinha and a range of first class cachaças. Guests wishing to be more active can use the Fitness Centre with views over All Saints Bay. The hotel’s pool is the only one in the Pelourinho with a view of All Saint’s Bay. Guests can dive into the pool and imagine themselves diving into the sea itself. The panoramic terrace offers breath-taking views of the bay and islands beyond, the Bonfim church and other key landmarks in the city. It is ideal for relaxing at the end of the day with a cooling cocktail as you watch the sun go down.


Aram Yami

Aram Yami, like all boutique hotels in Salvador, is a former colonial mansion situated in the heart of the Pelourinho. Effortlessly combining classic authenticity with modern cool, it is a beautiful hotel. The six suites are all uniquely decorated with views over the Pelourinho or All Saints Bay. Many have glazed doors that open onto private balconies, allowing the sea breeze to flow in.


Polished wooden floors and crisp white linens create a fresh and clean feel and funky touches include statement wall paper, four poster beds and bright linen accents. Guests can enjoy a typical Brazilian breakfast full of fresh fruits, tapioca pancakes, freshly squeezed juices, eggs and much more. Aram Yami offers 2 pools and some suites come with their own private pool.


Simon Williams is Director of The Bespoke Travel Group.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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South America

10 spectacular treasures of Peru


Peru has long been a backpacker’s paradise; however, this “Empire of Hidden Treasures” has now entered into the limelight as a must-see travel destination for upscale travelers as well. From riverboat expeditions deep in its exotic rainforest, to journeys along its vast coastal desert – traveling via the breathtaking peaks of the Andes in between – Peru has a staggering variety of places to visit. Indeed, Peru is a country that offers something for everyone. Here we outline our 10 favorite spots in a land that is more complex than its fine tapestries.


1. Machu Picchu: the mecca of South American travel

The thought of Peru typically evokes the image of this country’s emblematic Machu Picchu citadel, the “Lost City of the Inca.” Peru’s most popular tourist attraction and one of the planet’s most perplexing archaeological enigmas, Machu Picchu is located 7,000 feet (2,100 meters) above sea level in the Andes Mountains, which begs the existential question as to how many of its stone blocks, some weighing more than 50 tons, reached the site and were cut and fitted together in such a precise manner. This UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site is also one of today’s Seven Wonders of the World.


For its breathtaking beauty situated in such rugged geography, amazed and entranced visitors make their once-in-a-lifetime pilgrimage to this site to contemplate its houses, temples, fountains and baths, in addition to its agricultural terraces and evidences of an irrigation system. Most leave with only one word to describe the experience: “incomparable.”

2. “Sacred Valley of the Inca” (Urubamba Valley)

Together with Machu Picchu, Urubamba Valley (also known as the “Sacred Valley of the Inca”) is another must-visit destinations in Peru. Though the valley roughly lies between Machu Picchu and the city of Cusco, its altitude is more than 600 meters lower, thereby providing it with a warmer micro-climate and allowing travelers to better acclimatize to the region’s high altitudes. A visit here allows one to truly appreciate the grandeur and high level of development of the Inca civilization. Once the heartland of the Inca Empire, today this area retains numerous archaeological sites of interest and several typical indigenous villages in which you can get a sense of authentic day-to-day Andean life. These sites include the Inca towns of Písac and Ollantaytambo, with their stone-paved streets, stairways, arches, and atmospheric plazas; the Artisania and Chinchero markets, the Chincero Church… and so much more.


3. Cusco: the historic capital of the Inca Empire

Typically a jumping off point for exploring the nearby Machu Picchu citadel the Sacred Valley, Cusco is a destination that should definitely not be shortchanged in haste. The historic capital of the Inca Empire, the city possesses pre-Columbian buildings that earned it too a UNESCO “World Heritage Site” designation. Inca palaces of supreme beauty will be part of your daily walk through the streets, as will be the fine plazas, splendid churches and denizens who are so welcoming of visitors. The heart of the city is the main square, the “Plaza de Armas,” which is surrounded by restaurants, cafes and churches, while just outside the city limits is an important Inca site known as “Sacsayhuaman,” an enormous walled complex constructed of large limestone boulders. All of this makes Cusco one of most important tourist destinations in Peru.


4. Lake Titicaca and the Floating Islands of Uros

In ancient Andean cultures, Lake Titicaca is considered the birthplace of the Sun God, and today its shores and islands remain the home to peoples such as the Aymaras and Quechuas, who are among Peru’s oldest ethnic groups – predating the Incas by a thousand years. This means that traveling to this lake will allow you to explore traditional villages where Spanish is a second language, and where ancient myths and beliefs still hold true. In addition, you will see for yourself that this mystical and fascinating lake is South America’s largest (at 8,372 km2, or 3,232 sq. miles) and is the world’s highest navigable body of water (at 3,856 meters above sea level). To get you past anything touristy here, a good tour operator can introduce you to an authentic cultural experience at this idyllic destination.


5. Lima: a world center of gourmet fusion cuisine

Hungry for Peru? Get a taste of both local life and local cuisine with any visit to Lima. Recognized worldwide, the capital city’s food scene is hot, but it’s not just a flash in the stove-top pan. In recent years it has been widely touted as one of the world’s culinary hotspots, offering an array of exotic tastes that appeal to demanding palates. Lima’s laidback yet vibrant dining scene ranges from backstreet cevicherías to gourmet restaurants. And when you combine these restaurants with local “peñas” (folk music sessions), great casinos, salsa discos, pubs and great nightclubs, you have combinations that can’t be beat. Lima itself is Peru’s largest city.


Known as “The City of Kings”, this sprawling metropolis possesses an architectural blend of pre-Hispanic, colonial and modern infrastructure. Its historic district features fascinating attractions that consist of colonial-era churches, monasteries, Spanish palaces and one of the oldest universities in the Americas. Perched on scenic bluffs overlooking the Pacific Ocean, you will find upscale residential districts such as Miraflores, San Isidro and Barranco (“the Cliff”), which each offer an abundance of plush hotels and trendy restaurants.

6. Arequipa: the White City

The second biggest city in Peru, Arequipa is known as the “White City” thanks to its unique architecture – which is why the city’s historic district has been a UNESCO-declared World Heritage Site for more than a decade. This district embodies a rich mix of the indigenous and Spanish colonial cultures. Examples of Spanish colonial architecture can be found throughout this city center, characterized by charming streets, and colorful buildings and flowers. The entire city of Arequipa is surrounded by three picturesque volcanoes, the most imposing being the “Misti” Volcano, a snowcapped figure that will accompany you throughout the city, while the beautiful countryside is bathed in the picturesque Chilli River. Arequipa’s eternal spring means that any time of the year is perfect for visiting the city. All of this explains why Arequipa has long been popular with tourists. A charming destination and well worthwhile destination, Arequipa is also a great start before heading out to the Colca Canyon.


7. Colca Canyon: scoot over Grand Canyon!

Much deeper than the Grand Canyon, Colca Canyon reaches a depth of 4,160 meters, making it one of the deepest in the world, and therefore one of Peru’s most popular tourist attractions. From the canyon’s “Cruz del Condor” viewpoint, you can develop an equally deep appreciation for the immensity of this astounding place, as well as a chance to witness majestic Andean condors in flight. Possessing more that amazing sightseeing, however, there is something for everyone here, ranging from vibrant culture to extreme sports.


8. The Peruvian Amazon on board a floating boutique hotel

The Peruvian Amazon is not naturally hospitable. The dense tangle of impenetrable jungle, poisonous plants, flesh-eating fish, insufferable heat and high humidity aren’t easy to contend with. At the same time, though, this river and region are characterized by extraordinary levels of biodiversity, indigenous cultures and exotic jungle life untouched by civilization as we know it. To open this area up to the more demanding traveler, Peruvian Amazon riverboat cruises allow you to visit these remote ecosystems while enjoying the comforts, commodities and services of a 5-star floating boutique hotel. On board a luxury riverboat on the Peruvian Amazon, you can enjoy your expansive observation deck, outdoor Jacuzzis and an al fresco lounge after previously trekking into the jungle to meet with remote indigenous communities, listen to howler monkeys, and view parrot clay licks. A Peruvian Amazon riverboat cruise is one of the most memorable journeys you could ever wish to experience.


9. Ballestas Islands: “the other Galapagos”

A must-see for all wildlife lovers, the Ballestas Islands are a group of rocky islands located off the Pacific coast near the town of Paracas. Home to thousands of birds and mammals — including penguins, sea lions, Inca terns and pelicans — this abundant wildlife has earned these islands the nickname of “The Everyday Man´s Galapagos,” as they constitute a unique experience for those who unable to travel to the Galapagos. Don’t be put off though, some of the most upscale and elegant accommodations can be found here.


10. Nazca Lines

Sitting quietly on a high arid plateau off Peru’s northern Pacific coast, you can find one of the earth’s greatest mysteries. Here, you can discover the Nazca Desert, world famous for its more than 70 ancient geoglyph drawings of animals and other shapes. So large that almost all of them can only be seen from the air, these drawings – the “Nazca Lines” – are found between the towns of Nazca and Palpa. Created between 200 B.C. and 700 A.D., these range from simple lines to stylized figures of spiders, lizards, monkeys and even people. Thanks to the dry, windless and stable climate of the Nazca Desert, these lines have remained uncovered through today. For an incredible out-of-body experience, travelers can witness these enigmatic patterns by taking an early morning flight in a light aircraft, or by viewing three of the figures from an observation tower along the Pan-American Highway.


Alfonso Tandazo is President and CEO at Surtrek Tour Operator.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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South America

Top 3 luxury hotels in Trancoso, Brazil


Trancoso is perhaps the coolest beach destination in Brazil. It’s where national and international celebrities head to super chic hotels and private villas to live it up in luxury. Jay-Z and Beyoncé are regulars here along with Matthew McConaughey but the village still maintains a small town feel, despite the hype.

Situated on the southern Bahia coast the town was a little known village some ten years ago but now is the place to be seen. The wealthy from Rio and Sao Paulo come here for a beach break and it is filled with designer boutiques and restaurants offering the finest food outside of these two cities.

The town is centred on the historic Quadrado, a large grassy square and the town still retains an intimate charm and offers a variety of accommodation. The lovely little pastel coloured buildings offer good shopping, even away from the designer boutiques and there are gorgeous beaches such as the Praia dos Nativos or the Praia do Trancoso. Aside from fabulous accommodation options the town is next to one of the best golf courses in Brazil, the Terravista club with its superb 17th hole and is a challenging course.

Trancoso provides the perfect escape for those seeking privacy, an exotic location and some of the best beaches on a holiday to Brazil. It’s perfect for a luxury holiday to Brazil and ideal for honeymooners.

Below are our top 3 suggestions if you are looking for hotel accommodation in the village whilst there are also some incredible villas available too.


UXUA Casa is a special place to stay. Situated next to the famous Quadrado and with only nine exclusive residences, each with their own unique design, this really is the place to be seen on holiday in Trancoso.

UXUA Casa, which translates as ‘Marvellous House’, is the creation of renowned designer Wilbert Das (formerly of the Diesel fashion label), and is a very special way to experience Trancoso.

Ideally situated adjoining the Trancoso Quadrado, UXUA Casa offers a choice from nine exclusive residences each uniquely themed and carefully styled with art and antiques from the Trancoso area, set in stunning natural surroundings you are provided with a beautiful home in Trancoso whilst enjoying all the services and additional comforts of a luxury hotel.

Each of the nine accommodations include large comfortable beds, in-door and out-door living areas, air-conditioning, flatscreen TV and Wi-Fi.

The pool at the UXUA Casa was designed to have lake-like quality, built incorporating beautiful green aventurine stone, which Bahia locals widely believe to have therapeutic power, calming the mind and reducing stress. A wide range of modern health and beauty facilities are available to guests.

Food and drinks can be served to you on the beach at the hotel’s sunken boat beach bar where the seafood skewers are particularly delicious, especially when washed down with a passion fruit caipirinha! UXUA Casa’s bar and restaurant offer specialities prepared from the finest local produce and all the staff are recruited locally and taught English, which is rare to find in Brazil.

Villas de Trancoso

Villas De Trancoso is a dreamy paradise set on one of the most stunning beaches in Bahia. Located 1.5 km from the Trancoso Quadrado, the Villas de Trancoso offer a choice from 11 luxury beach villas and suites.

The superb accommodation is suitable for both couples or a family to enjoy a romantic holiday in the most exquisite and private of environments. The villas are wonderfully designed incorporating native Brazilian furnishings and gorgeous Brazilian woods. White linen backdrops, colourful rugs, hand painted fabrics and fashionable local art adorn every one of the guesthouses. Each Villa includes air-conditioning, fine linen draped beds, spacious bathrooms (with waterfall showers & hairdryers), a furnished veranda, flat-screen TV, I-pod docks, Wi-Fi (also available on beach), secure storage, and a mini-bar.

Villas De Trancoso is the ideal beach escape, perfect for a honeymoon or even a wedding! The hotel staff are happy to ensure your every wish as you wander amongst brilliantly manicured gardens, enjoy the splendid white marble pool, and maybe treat and refresh yourself with a cocktail at the sunk-in pool bar. The coastline at Villas De Trancoso offers pristine golden sands, dotted with palm trees and extending over a mile should you wish to take a breathtaking walk by the ocean. The privacy offered and quality of relaxation couldn’t be better. At night the gardens at Villas De Trancoso become a magical nightscape with an award winning lighting display.

Villas De Trancoso definitely boasts a renowned 5-star restaurant. Breakfast is served from 8am and you can enjoy a special Brazilian breakfast including fine fresh coffee, seasonal fruits, baked breads, cheeses and pastries. Omelettes can also be made for you in whichever style you like. The main restaurant opens for lunch at 12 serving Brazilian favourites and an international selection. Delicious specialities (including a speciality of the day) can be served to you by candlelight, and you can take meals by the pool or even on the beach. Villas De Trancoso fully embraces the passion Brazil has for food. You are offered all kinds of meats, slow-cooked over glowing coals, and a wide seafood selection.

All the exciting recreational activities in Trancoso (such as world class golf, kayaking and horse-riding) can be accessed from the hotel, and Villas De Trancoso gives you even more with a guided treetop adventure trail just 30 minutes away. Spa and massage facilities, tennis courts, guided mountain bike outings, and a health, beauty and fitness centre are available to all guests. Massage, manicures and pedicures can be provided around the hotel cabana and pool, or you can choose to enjoy these services in your own guesthouse. You could have a gentle workout in the shade on the beach, or maybe delight in a game of frisbee on the beautiful soft sands by the sea.

Pousada Brisas do Espelho

The Pousada Brisas do Espelho is located in one of the most charming corners of Southern Bahia. It’s a delightful small pousada set in a preserved area halfway between the villages of Trancoso and Caraiva.

Getting to the pousada is a journey of 1 hour and 40 minutes by car from Porto Seguro airport (or 15 minutes by light aircraft) and then a 5-minute stroll from your room brings you to crystal clear waters lapping three of Brazil’s most beautiful white sand beaches; Outeiro, Espelho and Amores.

The property has a total of 19 rooms (12 Contemporary & 6 Vila of 30 square metres each, and 1 Master Vila of 60 square metres) and all have 400-thread sheets, air conditioning, internet LED TV and minibar.

There are 6 Contemporary rooms with a terrace overlooking the garden, while the other 6 on the ground floor lead directly to the pool and a lush lawn. The décor of the pousada mixes antique furniture with pieces from Bahian artisans plus a contemporary design in an elegant mix of past and present. The lounge and restaurant – with high ceilings, lots of wood and the white theme continued – offer breakfast, lunch and dinner and a beautiful pool is set in a tropical garden with a bar-lounge where lunches are served. On the top floor, pampering massages are available with sea views.

The menu – created by the French chef Marc Le Dantec, the same as Figo Restaurant in São Paulo which also belongs to the owner of the pousada – features local cuisine with a deft touch of sophistication. The ingredients used are from the region and vary with the seasons, and the chef, who lived for 10 years in Bahia, interprets and transforms local flavours into a unique experience. Brisas do Espelho is located in a large preserved condominium area not far, but set apart, from the bustle of Espelho. The closest beach is stunning deserted Outeiro, a short walk away and the pousada guests also have the use of the club there with its swimming pool, drinks and snacks just yards from the beach. When guests are not relaxing, activities include a range of wonderful beach walks, Stand Up Paddle and kayaking, golf, fishing or diving amongst coral reefs.

Simon Williams is Director of Bespoke Brazil.

If you would like to be a guest blogger on A Luxury Travel Blog in order to raise your profile, please contact us.

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