As our clients know we specialise in travel to countries that we feel offer something extraordinary & unique. Our portfolio ranges from the undiscovered stunning wilderness of Madagascar to the ancient civilisations of Jordan, Sri Lanka & Peru to a more recent history of Cuba to the abundant nature of Costa Rica, Ecuador & the Galapagos Islands. As some of our clients are now running out of destinations to travel to with us, we are always looking for our next special destination.. after speaking to our clients & listening to what they want we decided on Argentina..
So once decided we have to plan the hard work of going over there on the first inspection trip.. Now believe me they are hard work as we visit so many hotels in each region as well as trying to fit in all the activities our clients may want to do. We even visit hotels we know we will not like but take a look so that if a client ask about it we can point out why it is not a good option etc..
Argentina is an astonishingly diverse country, you can be in the North in a tropical climate & later the same day be in the Glacier National Park in the very south of the country. In-between there are many other stunning areas to visit. All this magnificent diversity allows Argentina to boast, quite correctly, that they have something to offer everyone.
Within a trip to Argentina you can be inspired by the amazing Tango dancers, enjoy the colourful & stylish city- Buenos Aires, visit the most dramatic waterfalls in the world Iguazu, go to the “land of sunshine & wine”Â Mendoza, visit the colonial towns in the far Northwest region, include the beautiful glacial lakes of the Lake District, see the elephant seals, penguins, sea lions & Arctic Right Whales in Punta Tambo & Peninsula Valdes region, experience the stunning centrepiece of the Glacier National parkÂ and the dramatic sight of the Perito Moreno Glacier.
All of this, & we have not even mentioned the famous Polo horses, world class Skiing, the welcoming working estancias that you can stay in & enjoy incredible horse riding, the shopping, the treks available, golfing, adventure sports, the food (& not just the famous beef which Argentina is famous for -vegetarians will be very impressed as well!), the wonderful welcome all visitors receive.. & the list goes on.. Argentina offers so much more than you could ever expect from 1 country you can even stay in the most southern city in the world â€œ Ushuaiaâ€œ which is the gateway to the icy continent of Antarctica.
So Helen & I have just returned from having an amazing trip. We started the trip together & then split up so we could cover more areas. We both stayed in Buenos Aires for the first few days inspecting the hotels, visiting the different areas & enjoying a Tango Show & afternoon tea @ the opulent Alvear Palace Hotel!! This is a great city to visit & has something for everyone.. There is a wide range of hotel types & standards & the food & wine of course is superb.
We then flew up to Iguazu to visit the falls.. It would be a real shame to visit Argentina & not visit the fallsÂ as they really are a must see.. The Falls are the most spectacular waterfalls in the world & act as a natural border between Argentina & Brazil. On the Argentine side you are more within the falls & so close to the powerful water. There are several nature trails & the iron work walkways over the river & some falls are wonderful. You can easily spend a full day enjoying the numerous walkways. A really fabulous walk is the route that takes you across the upper river to the Devils Throat, where the water plunges 240ft.
It is also worth having a half day visit to the Brazil side of the falls as from there you get the magnificent panoramic view of the falls. On the Brazil side there is only 1 walking route, so it gets busy & I recommend getting there for opening time before the coaches arrive, before it gets too hot & most important before the sun comes around & inhibits the view.
This is a very busy, touristic region & there are several hotels to choose from. You can stay on either the Brazil or Argentine side or even both.
A 2-3 hour transfer away you can get completely away from the tourists & stay within nature @ Yacutinga Lodge. The lodge has 20 cabins & guided tours are included within your stay. Only 4 hectares out of the 570-hectare area of the property have been used to build this unprecedented ecotourism complex in Argentina. During the construction process special care has been taken to minimize negative impacts on nature. This lodge and its surrounding nature reserve are part of a sustainable eco-project which protects the sub-tropical rainforest. It offers its visitors an exciting ecological experience whilst staying in its comfortable lodgings. Excursions are focused on providing guests with an understanding of the area by walking through nature trails, floating down the river on a raft or relaxing in the grounds listening to the birdsong.
After staying here Helen & I split up.. she had a night in Buenos Aires before heading to an authentic Estancia (read more on Helens own blog). I flew down to Trelew to visit the wonderful Peninsula Valdes. Within the Patagonia region the Valdes Peninsula is one of the most important wildlife reserves in the country & was designated a World Heritage site in 1999. It is the breeding ground for southern right whales, elephant seals, sea lions & the nesting site for thousands of shore birds -Â including pelicans, cormorants etc. I saw so much & was in a boat literally feet away from huge Arctic Right Whales. I was also on the beach with huge Elephant seals, that even made me look small!!! I have to tell you about the most amazing place that I stayed in.. El Pedral Lodge.. El Pedral Lodge is the most wonderful lodge & I will never forget my time there. It is located 1 hour from Puerto Madryn & 1 hour 20 mins from Trelew airport in Punta Ninfas across from Valdes Peninsula. The lodge will only ever have a maximum of 12 guests to ensure the personalised service they offer, the food is wonderful with freshly baked bread & cakes a real joy. The whale season runs May to November with the high season months being September, October & November you will not fail to be impressed by all the wildlife etc. I loved it & without a doubt was the biggest highlight of my trip.
I then flew down to El Calafate to visit the glaciers.. I have to admit that it was a bit of a come down to be in the town of Calafate after such a special place like El Pedral Lodge. But I later visited & stayed in some other really special hotels & estancias in the area so I can make sure my clients do not experience the initial disappointment I felt. Parque Nacional Los Glaciers & its most famous attraction – the World Heritage site of the Perito Moreno Glacier is another must see area & a wow factor photo opportunity. This incredible wall of ice & snow is one of south America’s greatest natural wonders. I visited the glacier by walking the balconies & also got really up close on the boat trip. I did not get the time to walk on the surfaceÂ but hopefully next time!
So that was the end of my first trip to ArgentinaÂ - apart from a last night back in Buenos Aires before taking my BA flight home. The biggest highlights for me were definitely my stay @ El Pedral Lodge with the boat trip to be so close to the whales, visiting the glacier & being surprised that Buenos Aires was such a lovely city.
Now I just have to put the work into set up of the website pages & the brochure. I am sure my existing clients will really enjoy a tailor-made trip to Argentina (as well as new clients of course!!) & I am excited to talk them through the possibilities & designing their perfect trip.
Whilst visiting Jordan recently I was surprised to learn that there are several areas that are very green and furtile! Not at all what I was expecting in this land of ancient civilisations and desert. The Royal Society for the Conservation of Nature look after six protected wilderness reserves and I visited Azraq in the eastern desert region of the country.
The word ‘Azraq’ translates into ‘Blue’ in the Arabic language and even during the last days of summer, when the water levels were at their lowest, we walked the boardwalk trail across the reserve through the reeds and saw native birds taking advantage of the pools. I have been reliably informed that a visit in Spring when water levels are at their peak, you may see over 2000 species of wild flowers – yet a further reason to re-visit Jordan!
For interest, other Reserves protected by RSCN in Jordan include Dana, Ajloun Forest Reserve and Mujib. Some of the Reserves have eco-lodges or small guesthouses where you can enjoy the tranquillity after everyone except the wildlife has left!
The Galapagos Islands with their extraordinary wildlife and home to Darwin’s theory of Evolution, recently announced that what was thought to be the last remaining La Pinta tortoise in the World, Lonesome George, may soon be a father.
A female tortoise – the closest living species to the La Pinta tortoise, and one that has accompanied George since 1993 laid three intact eggs that are being cared for in an artificial incubator at the Charles Darwin Centre. Found in 1972 on Pinta island, George is estimated to be in his 70s, middle age for a giant tortoise.
The Galapagos Islands with their extraordinary wildlife, is a trip in a lifetime and 2009 is the Bicentennial year of Charles Darwin – the naturalist widely credited for the discovery of evolution following his visit and observations of wildlife on the Galapagos Island
A new species of palm tree has been found in Madagascar – one which grows for as long as 50 years and as high as 60-feet high, bursts into flower and then dies. Named Tahina Spectabilis which is Malagasy for ‘blessed’ or ‘to be protected’, the new Palm is so massive it can be seen in Google Earth.
Madagascar is a treasure for wildlife enthusiasts and wildlife viewing here is effortless. With over 200,000 plant and animal species and 80% of them endemic, you’ll not only see some of the 51 varieties of Lemur’s for which Madagascar is famous for, but reptiles, birds and plants that are not found anywhere else on earth.
I have just returned from my first trip to Jordan and already can’t wait to go back!
Jordan lived up to more than my expectations. I recommend anyone to visit Jordan and would love to tell you all about it. It was also very interesting being there during Ramadan.
I flew with Royal Jordanian from Heathrow and could not fault the airline; it was a very pleasant journey with entertainment to pass the time.
I travelled to Jordan as part of a group tour. On arrival into Amman I obtained my visa. After being collected from the airport we travelled to the centre of Amman (approx 40 minutes) before arriving at our hotel (Red Rose hotel 3*).
I managed to catch a few hours sleep before starting the tour the next morning.
Our first day of the tour we travelled north to Um Qais and Jerash ancient roman ruin sites. Um Qais is much smaller than Jerash but there you are so close to other Middle East borders where you can see the Golon Heights and Sea of Galilee. There is a small rest house here which used to be an old ottoman schoolhouse with beautiful views. Jerash is still one of the best preserved roman cities in the world and you can really feel how it must have been all those years ago. We then drove approx 50 mins back to Amman for another overnight here where we enjoyed our first Jordanian meal. Delicious!
The following day we enjoyed a city tour of Amman city including the archaeological museum and amphitheatre which also has a folklore museum there which is worth a look. As we drove through the city it was interesting to see the difference from east to west, with the west being more prosperous. We then had an afternoon departure to the Dead Sea approx 1 hour drive from Amman. The Dead Sea is a lovely area to stay for a few nights to really relax. While the others were floating in the Dead Sea I went to inspect the Kempinski and Movenpick hotels. I loved the Movenpick, it has such a lovely atmosphere and the greeting and offer of tea as you walk in really gives a lovely first impression. The hotels have a vast amount of facilities to keep you wined, dined and entertained during your stay. We had an afternoon visit here but I would definitely recommend staying for a few nights (depending on the itinerary) and it can be very welcoming after so much walking.
We were then all very excited as we started to travel to Petra. On route we stopped at a few view points along the way including Dana Valley nature reserve and Shawbak Castle (crusader castle) which now has a visitors centre, the first sight of the castle can be quite breathtaking. Finally we arrived to Petra. As we arrived quite late to Petra I wasn’t able to experience Petra by night where the walk through the siq to the monastery is lit with many candles so I definitely have to fit that in next time! (Another reason to go back!) We arrived at the 4* Crowne Plaza hotel which is literally a 2 minute walk to the entrance of Petra so an excellent location! This hotel has rooms with a view of the Petra Mountains which is a lovely sight in the morning. Another hotel just a couple of minutes walk is the 5* Movenpick which is an excellent hotel with a beautiful roof top bar where you can enjoy Jordanian music and dancing in the evening. For people who would like to be a bit further out of the centre of Petra I visited the Beit Zaman which has just reopened after a major renovation. The hotel used to be former Bedouin houses and is beautiful with lovely views over Petra.
Slightly higher above Petra you also have the 4* Movenpick Nabatean Castle hotel (approx 10 min drive from Petra), this is a lovely hotel with many facilities and breathtaking views over Petra across Wadi Musa.
We were all very excited at breakfast and couldn’t wait to get going! We had a full day in Petra but we still needed more time. Petra is amazing and indescribable and I can only say go and see it for yourselves and you won’t be disappointed! We walked as much as we could within the time we had. You can easily stay for 2 or 3 nights so you can take your time to see everything possible. I was determined to climb the 1000 steps (or there about) to the monastery and in 40 degree heat this was quite a challenge but believe me it is well worth it when you get to the top! One of the group members decided to race us and take a donkey and she says she has never been so scared in her life! I’m glad I decided to walk! Once you get to the monastery if you walk slightly further you reach the most spectacular view points so if you have the energy go and enjoy the view! I wish we had longer in Petra to see some of the other sights including little Petra. After a full day in Petra it was a fairly early night for most!
After a late breakfast the following morning we set off for the desert – Wadi Rum made famous by Laurence of Arabia. I was a bit worried before we got there as to the facilities at the camp and what it would be like, I had already set my mind that I wasn’t going to sleep a wink. However I was to be pleasantly surprised and thoroughly enjoyed staying a night in the desert – I had the best nights sleep all week! It was so peaceful when we arrived after driving a couple of hours by 4×4 jeeps to visit Laurence’s spring, a sand dune with the option of tumbling down and also one of the many canyons in the desert that provide shade from the intense sun. We arrived at the camp at 5.30pm and after relaxing in the Bedouin type tent with a tea we waited to watch the sunset, this was so beautiful and I have never taken so many pictures of the sun! The camp was quite basic and is fairly new so they are developing it to be able to take more tents and better shower/toilet facilities – watch this space. The tents were good with wooden floors and proper pine beds with mattresses we even had blankets with Spiderman or Disney on! After the sunset you enjoy a traditional meal and of course a breakfast in the morning with a nice cup of tea! I felt so relaxed after our overnight and would definitely recommend Wadi Rum on any trip to Jordan.
Next we travelled from the desert to Aqaba (approx 40 min drive), Jordan’s main port. This is a small coastal resort and good for a few days to relax on the beach. The hotels are excellent here with many facilities. After leaving Aqaba we stopped at Mount Nebo – the site of the death of Moses where you have beautiful views. Then on to Madaba where we were to finish the tour. Madaba is the closest town to the airport so is ideal for your 1st or last night/s in Jordan. Madaba is famous for its mosaics and is where you will find the 6th century mosaic map found during construction in 1898 of the Greek Orthodox Church of St Georges. You will also find the church of the Apostles and the Madaba museum. Whilst staying in Madaba I would recommend a meal at Haret Jdoudna which is a lovely restaurant which serves an amazing Jordanian menu.
Then it was time to travel back home. Jordan is an amazing country and the people are so friendly it makes you feel very welcome and safe.
My trip to Jordan exceeded my expectations and would recommend it to everyone as it is very hard to describe everything and how special and diverse the country is. I would love to go back tomorrow!