Big on eating out, but short on amigos? Casa SaltShaker in Buenos Aires has you covered. The in-home private dining restaurant in the upmarket Recoleta neighbourhood serves up exquisite Andean-meets-Mediterranean cuisine, prepared by USA-born chef and sommelier Dan Perlman.
Puertas cerradas (closed-door restaurants) are big in BA and Casa SaltShaker’s five-course tasting menu paired with wine is a winner.
Take a seat at the communal dining table with nine of your soon-to-be best mates and tuck into mouthwatering dishes like matbucha (tomatoes and roasted capsicum with spicy coriander sauce), braised pork shoulder with smoked eggplant puree, and chocolate star-anise cheesecake.
The food is guaranteed to please, but it’s the intimate setting and conversation we love the most.
For the engineers tasked with building a train line between Quito and Guayaquil at the beginning of the 20th century, the mountainous terrain of the Andes presented a challenge. The completed route traverses gorges, rivers, forests and a particularly harrowing mountainside descent known as the Devil’s Nose, where more than 2,000 workers died during construction. The train winds down a sheer, rocky slope, travelling more than 500 vertical metres in a 12-kilometre journey, during which passengers are treated to breathtaking views of what is known as the Condor’s Aerie.
In case the idea of riding a century-old train route down what is essentially a cliff makes you shudder, don’t panic – the tracks and carriages have been refurbished, so you can white-knuckle your way down the mountain in comfort.
Heli-skiing on remote slopes is one of the coolest things you can do on snow. Throw in a luxury yacht and a crew at your beck and call, and you’ve got a seafaring, sky-scraping, snow-slicing adventure unlike any other.
Imagine cruising the wild waters of Patagonia with 32 staff at your disposal and two choppers waiting to whisk you off to play with snow on untouched mountains.
Your luxe vessel, Atmosphere, comes with hot tubs, private chefs and an open bar. When you’re done exploring the digs, jump in a zodiac for an aquatic expedition, go on a guided wildlife adventure and make your mark in fresh powder.
There’s no better view in Rio than at The Maze Inn, and we’re not
just talking about the over-balcony vistas. The bar and inn is a hit with Hollywood celebrities, including Sylvester Stallone and Edward Norton (Snoop Dogg was also a guest), providing plenty of star-spotting opportunities.
Nestled among the alleys of Tavares Bastos, Rio’s first favela guesthouse is also a world-class jazz venue, with a terrace boasting incredible views of Sugarloaf Mountain, the city and Guanabara Bay.
The first Friday of every month is party time, attracting talent and crowds from all over the world, so keep your celebrity radar finely tuned – you might find yourself rubbing shoulders with a screen legend letting their hair down during a break in filming. Plonk yourself on the terrace with a caipirinha while a saxophone tootles in the background and watch the cable cars weave their way up Sugarloaf like fireflies.
Squelch mud through your fingers and feel it ooze between your toes inside Colombia’s El Totumo volcano. About an hour’s drive from Cartagena, this pillar of goop promises a soothing and somewhat bizarre activity for travellers willing to slither into its embrace. To give it a go, cough up some pesos, strip to your togs and clamber up a rickety wooden ladder to the top of the volcano’s cone. Once you are immersed in the warm slop, a masseuse will offer to pummel your shoulders and massage the sludge into your scalp, all in the name of relaxation.
The experience doesn’t end when you emerge resembling a concrete-clad monster. Hand yourself over to one of the local ladies, who’ll scrub you squeaky clean in the nearby lake. Just get ready to temporarily part with your swimsuit; the women are very, very thorough.
There are four boutique properties in the pristine Huilo Huilo Biological Reserve, but nothing compares to Nothofagus Hotel, with its striking balance between whimsical design and luxe lodging.
Ensconced in temperate rainforest, Nothofagus resembles an inverted cone of spiralling wood and glass that emerges from the forest like a tree sprite version of the Guggenheim. In keeping with the natural aesthetic, the hotel is accessed via wooden walkways elevated above the rainforest floor, and the interior is built around a large nothofagus beech tree.
The cosy, wood-panelled rooms are a perfect base for exploring the lush, unspoiled reserve, and the hotel also includes a top-notch spa where you can unwind after a long day of trekking and bird-watching.
Sea lions are cool. Orcas are cooler. And if you happen to be at Peninsula Valdés around February you just might witness one of the coolest, albeit most gruesome, showdowns between beasts in the wild. As sea lions give birth in huge numbers here, pods of orcas lurk in the shallows looking for a feast of pups. The killer whales come with a killer instinct and often lunge out of the water, beaching themselves to grab their unsuspecting prey.
If there’s no orca action, you can enjoy the purity of watching pups frolicking on the beach and bleating like lambs to their mothers. If you miss the February feast, never fear. Between June and December, the World Heritage-listed peninsula, on the central coast of Argentina, is prime whale-watching territory, with scores of southern rights breaching off the coast.
There is something to be said about stumbling into a small uni town in the middle of Atlantic Canada with a thirst for craft beer and jazz and blues. Every September, New Brunswick’s capital Fredericton comes alive for five days of music and mayhem as some of the world’s best bluesmen, jazz masters and the odd thundering rock group set up camp among the tented stages and turn this picturesque town on the banks of the St John River into party central.
It is low key and cool, so much so, you might very well find yourself wandering past a barefoot Michael Franti, yoga mat under one arm, on his way to the park to meditate before headlining that evening.
Entertainment is everywhere and you’ll more often than not find yourself in a local pub with an extraordinary blues player jamming with friends all afternoon. It is very easy to settle in, especially with the excellent craft beer on hand. Picaroons and Grimross are hard to top.
When the sun goes down the big guns come out and the larger venues start to reverberate. The choices are vast, from the Cox & Palmer Blues Court to the loud and wild Mouse Light Blues Tent.
Sleep in late and don’t go too hard early as the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival is definitely one for stayers!