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Introducing Mendoza, Argentina’s wine capital

Introducing Mendoza, Argentina’s wine capital

The Malbecs are mouth-watering, the wineries cutting edge and the Andes resplendent. Every way you look at it, Mendoza is a delight. The pleasant provincial capital of Mendoza owes its prosperity to the Andes, or more specifically the network of acequias (irrigation channels) that taps into the raging snowmelt torrent that is the Rio Mendoza. Built by the Huarpe and perfected by the Incas, the acequias still flow through the streets of the city and the water they bring is life-giving in every sense of the word. Without it there would be no wine, no fountains and no shady avenues... The many faces of Malbec Argentina is fifth-largest wine producer in the world and Mendoza is its undisputed capital. Malbec, which in its native France is only used in blends, has come into its own in Mendoza’s high-altitude desert environment. While most of Mendoza’s highest ranked wines are Malbecs, there are also several excellent red blends and smattering of wonderful Chardonnays too. Winemakers love …
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Experiencing Antarctica is easier than you think

Experiencing Antarctica is easier than you think

What do you get the man who has everything? A ticket to Antarctica of course. With icebergs, penguins, whales and more, it’s the very definition of a bucket list destination. The White Continent. Terra Australis. The Seventh Continent. The coldest, highest, windiest, driest, and remotest place on the planet. There are many ways to describe it, but every single one of them inspires wanderlust. Fortunately, visiting Antarctica has never been easier than it is now… We’ve described two of the most popular itineraries below, but guests who want to spend even longer exploring Antarctica should simply ask one of our Destination Experts about the other possibilities. Option 1: Fly in – 6 days cruising in Antarctica – Fly out This option starts and ends in Punta Arenas, Chile and allows you to a) maximize your time in Antarctica and b) totally avoid the rough and treacherous waters of the Drake Passage. The two-hour flight from Punta Arenas to Antarctica is an attraction in itself, but the …
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Meet the Qhapaq Ñan crew: Kevin Floerke

Meet the Qhapaq Ñan crew: Kevin Floerke

A bona fide archaeologist with a special interest in Inca roads who also just happens to be a drone pilot, rock climber and videographer...Kevin was made for our Qhapaq Ñan expedition. Born and raised in the wine country of Northern California, Kevin has always been pathologically curious about the world and its people. He majored in anthropology and archaeology at UCLA, but it was a chance encounter at the university rock climbing wall that nudged him in the direction of the Incas. There he met a professor who was in urgent need of an experienced climber for a project in the Peruvian highlands. The rest, as they say, is history... All roads lead to... Kevin has spent every summer since then hiking and working in the Andes. As one of his first archaeological projects, Kevin, in collaboration with the Smithsonian Institute, used GPS data, drone, aerial and satellite imagery, and the extensive knowledge of local collaborators to survey all of the Inca road remnants within a 75 mile …
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Unforgettable Quito add-on: Mindo cloud forest retreat

Unforgettable Quito add-on: Mindo cloud forest retreat

Teeming with orchids, hummingbirds, tanagers, toucans and butterflies, a few days in a Mindo cloud forest lodge is a wonderful addition to any Galapagos itinerary. The Mindo cloud forest is two-and-a-half hours’ drive from Quito, on the outer slopes of the western Andes. It's located at a very pleasant altitude of around 4,200ft (compared to 9,200ft in Quito). The drive there is really scenic, along winding roads with great forest views. The cloud forest itself is an enchanting world of tumbling waterfalls, crystalline rivers, endemic orchids, colorful hummingbirds and thick, verdant forests packed full of wildlife. The lodges Mashpi Lodge is a 5-star establishment with gorgeous rooms, fine dining and professional service. That being said, it’s also a very eco-friendly lodge and is located in an extremely pristine section of forest which is home to a staggering 500 species of birds. Check out this video of their incredible ‘Dragon Fly’ cable car through the canopy. Run by Tom …
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Meet the Qhapaq Ñan crew: John Leivers

Meet the Qhapaq Ñan crew: John Leivers

Veteran Australian adventurer John Leivers has spent more time walking in the Andes than most llamas. His vast knowledge and on-the-ground experience of the Qhapaq Ñan make him an irreplaceable member of the team. John, who is now 64, divides his time between coaching and ‘sweeping’ a women’s surf boat crew in Perth, Western Australia and being the “chief consultant” on SA Expeditions’ ground-breaking Qhapaq Ñan Expedition from Ingapirca in Ecuador to Cusco in Peru. He will hike every step of the way alongside, with Nick Stanziano, (Founder and Chief Explorer of SA Expeditions), providing invaluable insights into the route, history, politics and more. As Nick says ,“Since I first conceived this Qhapaq Ñan expedition until today, John’s stories, mentorship and expertise on the Qhapaq Ñan have been ever present.” John in action with the 'Senyoritas' women's surf boat crew in Perth. John has always been “one of those blokes who’s keen to see what’s over the next ridge and deal with …
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All you need to know about Argentina’s Cueva de las Manos

All you need to know about Argentina’s Cueva de las Manos

The enigmatic Cueva de las Manos (Cave of the Hands) in Argentine Patagonia is one of the finest examples of ancient rock art on the planet. Read on to find out more... What is it? The Cueva de Las Manos Pintadas (Cave of the Painted Hands) is not so much a single cave as a series of rock overhangs at the base of a cliff-face in the remote and spectacular Cañón de Río Pinturas in Patagonia. The site is most famous for its breathtaking collage of more than 800 black, white, red and ochre handprints, painted over 9,000 years ago, but there are also excellent depictions of guanacos (a relative of the llama and the artists’ main source of food), rheas (a large flightless bird that still roams the Patagonian plains), puma prints and human beings. In addition to living creatures there are also representations of geometric shapes, zigzag patterns, red dots, the sun, and hunting scenes. Photo credit: David Of the 829 handprints most are male, one has six fingers and only 31 are of right …
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Pariacaca in literature...Of gods, engineers and doctors

Pariacaca in literature...Of gods, engineers and doctors

The section of the Qhapaq Nhan which joins the highland outpost of Jauja (aka Xauxa) and Pachacamac on the coast traverses some of the continent’s most spectacular – and storied – landscapes. For centuries travelers have marveled at, and written about, the fabled mountain of Pariacaca – an 18,868 ft ‘apu’ or sacred mountain. For this month’s blog I read as many accounts of the region as I could find and have shared some of the best excerpts below. There are pieces on the beauty of the landscapes, descriptions of the incredible flight of 1,500 stone steps known as the Escalera de Pariacaca; and a fascinating treatise on Pariacaca’s unlikely and important place in the history of medicine. I hope you enjoy reading about it as much as I did... On the natural beauty of the landscapes The Jauja Valley is commonly regarded as one of the most beautiful in Peru – something which clearly has not changed much since Pedro de Cieza de Leon, author of the definitive Crónicas del Perú, passed …
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Qhapaq Ñan: Not your average World Heritage Site

Qhapaq Ñan: Not your average World Heritage Site

Spanning six countries and 273 distinct sites, the Qhapaq Ñan’s nomination as a UNESCO World Heritage Site was a global first. We unpick the backstory. Not all UNESCO World Heritage Sites are created equal. Honoring and protecting a single cathedral or castle in a developed country with an established infrastructure is a relatively facile process, but doing the same for a road network which in its heyday spread across the length and breadth of the Andes is an entirely different prospect. El Caminante awakens the sleeping giant Were it not for the exploits of Peruvian author and adventurer Ricardo ‘El Caminante’ Espinosa, the Qhapaq Ñan may well have been forgotten by history. As recently as the 1990s the Qhapaq Ñan was – in the words of Espinosa – “just another legend, or in any event, a reality that time had snatched from us forever...which had lain hidden for centuries precisely because of its gigantic size.” Ricardo 'El Caminante' Espinosa enjoys a rare breather alongside the …
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Five staples of Andean cuisine

Five staples of Andean cuisine

When you combine high altitude, low rainfall and bitter winters you get hungry people. This week’s blog looks at five cornerstones of the Andean diet. Corn Choclo, the most common variety of Andean corn or is much paler than its North American cousin and its kernels are larger, starchier and chewier. Choclo is eaten on the cob (usually with a slice of cheese as choclo con queso) but it also makes its way into soups, stews, humitas and ceviche. What’s more, it’s the base for the quintessential drink of the Andes: chicha, or corn beer. To market, to market... (Photo: Tomas Sobek) While choclo is the most common variety of maize in the Andes, it is by no means the only one. Colors range from white and yellow to red, purple, and black, and Peru alone boasts over 50 varieties. One of the most eyecatching (and delicious) variants is maíz morado, or purple corn which is the base of api morado – one of the most delicious hot beverages I’ve ever tasted. Potatoes The potato was first …
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Shopping for souvenirs in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Shopping for souvenirs in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Argentina is a shopper’s paradise – If you know what to look out for and where to find it. This blog gives you the inside scoop on three quintessentially Argentinean gifts. Because nobody wants to be given a knock-off Maradona football shirt or a made-in-China mate gourd… Wine Wine has been produced in Argentina since the 1500s, but the country has only entered the premium market in the past few decades. Argentina is now the largest exporter of wines in the New World and home to some seriously high-end wines. Most first-time visitors are under the impression that wine is only produced in the regions surrounding Mendoza, but in actual fact there are wine farms as far north as Salta, which is closer to Bolivia than to Mendoza, and as far south as Patagonia. Different regions specialize in different varietals, so look out for: Malbec and Chardonnay from Mendoza Syrah from San Juan Torrontés from La Rioja Cabernet Sauvignon and Torrontés from Cafayate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from …
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Vilcashuamán: An Inca experience like no other

Vilcashuamán: An Inca experience like no other

“Vilcashuamán is now a small village, remote on its hill-top, perched on the ruins of the great Inca city whose temples have been pillaged for building blocks.” – so said the Canadian explorer, anthropologist and academic John Hemming. In five short centuries Vilcashuamán has gone from being a thriving Inca city located at a vital strategic crossroads to a geographically isolated rural backwater… Albeit one replete with incredible archaeological and historical treasures. Vilcashuamán was founded by the Inca Pachacutec after Inca forces defeated the Chanka in a bloody battle which is re-enacted annually in Vilcas Raymi – a colorful festival in the last week of July. Check out this link for a video of the festival. The current plaza pales into insignificance when compared to the Inca square which could hold 20,000 people. (Photo credit: Eduzam) Then and now In its heyday Vilcashuamán enjoyed an incredibly strategic location on the Qhapaq Ñan at the point where the main North-South …
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Lodge to lodge treks near Machu Picchu

Lodge to lodge treks near Machu Picchu

Dilemma: You’ve always wanted to do the Inca Trail but you also value the finer things in life. Get the best of both worlds by doing one of the luxurious lodge to lodge treks on offer near Cusco. You’ll get the chance to hike in one of the most spectacular corners of the Andes and you’ll visit remote villages and Inca ruins. You’ll experience a way of life that modernity has passed by and you’ll spend your last day immersed in the majesty of Machu Picchu. New perspectives on Machu Picchu (Photo credit: Philip Dixon) Lodge to lodge treks give you the chance to live out an authentic Andean trekking experience without having to sleep on hard ground or eat stodgy pasta. On both the Lares and Salkantay treks you can rest assured that the locally-inspired cuisine will be gourmet, the showers hot and the beds luxurious. If the idea of a less crowded, more luxurious and ultimately more spectacular experience appeals, read on to find out more about the various options. The Salkantay Trek …
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