A summertime beacon next to a pristine lake and green fields, the floor to roof glass windows of Hotel De Cielo shimmer beneath the sun.
But visit in winter and this hotel seemingly disappears into the frozen, snow-white landscape high in the Argentinian Andes. No matter the season, Hotel De Cielo is a cosy refuge from the outside world.
There are three ‘Sky Lofts’, each with a mirrored outside that make it feel as if you’re invisible. The Hotel describes the lofts as ‘microcosms of warmth’.
Wake up, put on the kettle, and enjoy the thrill of being in such a majestic location; surrounded by South America’s famous mountain giants.
One of the great things about discovering a speakeasy, is searching for it. Don’t expect to find a sign for Floreria Atlantico but if you enter a flower store (thankfully open till the wee hours) then head through a door the basement, you will be find this hip Buenos Aires speakeasy.
The cocktail menu takes its inspiration from the European countries from where people immigrated to Argentina including American bartenders and their cocktail culture, the English and the Dutch who brought their gin, the wines Amaris of the Italians, Spanish, French and Portuguese. There’s also sumptuous tapas and parilla (grill) for visitors who need a bite to eat.
Rather than being a generic speakeasy or a facsimile of the USA-style speakeasy, Floreria Atlantico located near the docks celebrates Argentina’s own country’s rich and varied treasures and pays homage to its rich culture products and people.
Get ready to loosen the hips as the percussionist troupe La Bomba De Tiempo launch into an improvised funk-fuelled latin performance every Monday night at 7pm.
Each performance is a truly unique experience with music generated from hand signals between the musicians and the conductor. The head honcho will execute more than 90 signs with his hands to lead the improvisation into a rhythmic frenzy.
Now in its twelfth season, every show’s had a guest who participates in the game of musical improvisation and interaction. Hundreds of Argentinean and foreign musicians from different backgrounds and styles have performed and more than five million sweaty peeps have experienced the rhythmic elixir. It’s happening every Monday and dancing is mandatory!
Just south of Brazil, squatters have cobbled together scrap-wood houses in the desert landscape of Cabo Polonio National Park. The town is a hippie’s paradise – there are no paved roads or running water, there’s little electricity and private vehicles are banned.
Ownership of Cabo Polonio is split between private citizens and the government, who designated it a protected national park in 2009. Buses from Montevideo drop those in the know at a petrol station by the highway, where they hop onto a truck that chugs across the dunes and down to the beach. A handful of hostels lurk between shacks, and residents rent rooms to guests. Spend your days lazing in a hammock while watching cows cruise the beach or sea lions congregate below the nearby lighthouse.
A mini-high season flourishes from December through to February, when locals transform their kitchens into restaurants and vendors travel door to door selling mussels and cake.
There’s every chance you’re never going to want to check out – everything about Mio Buenos Aires is carefully considered, from the six-metre-high front door made from French oak wine barrels to the carefully selected works by Argentine artists displayed throughout the public areas.
Each of the 30 stylish rooms and suites is designed around an epic bathtub, carved from tree trunks by local artisan Mario Dasso, and includes a private cellar of wine, a nod to the day jobs of the vintner family who built this stylish bolt hole. If you need to withdraw from the city for a little while, tuck yourself into the sofa in the mezzanine library overlooking the landscaped terrace.
Córdoba might not be South America’s nightlife capital, but the up-and-coming barrio of Güemes looks set to plant Argentina’s second city on the map. Design-led Capri is the latest joint to lead the charge, with a colour palette inspired by the famed island resort, coupled with 80s-style minimalism and an urban finish that creates a vibe ripe for carousing. Pop in for the signature Fresh, a combination of English breakfast tea and gin, spiced with ginger and grapefruit juice.
A marble countertop skirts the frontage and a total lack of doors means the boundary between interior and exterior is blurred, allowing eyes to wander and drawing in passers-by intent on savouring the night-time delights of Córdoba. For a hit of nostalgia, take the weight off in one of Capri’s ‘college’ chairs – old-school-style furniture given a modern makeover and a dash of real-world comfort. It’s a thoughtful nod to this thriving city’s title as Argentina’s major university town.
You’d be forgiven for thinking this expanse of red water was a mirage if you were travelling in any sort of altered state through Bolivia’s southwest altiplano. You’re not seeing things though. This shallow salt lake, covering 6000 hectares, rests at about 4250 metres above sea level and is a neighbour to the famous Salar de Uyuni. The unusual colour of the water comes from a surfeit of red algae and other microorganisms. White patches are also not a visual illusion – just massive borax deposits on the lake’s surface. The other attractions at Laguna Colorada are the flamingos that can be seen wading in the shallows. One of the three species is the rare James’s flamingo – also known as the puna flamingo – which is native to the region but was thought extinct until a small population was discovered in 1956. While they’re still considered endangered, the abundant plankton in the water keeps them coming back in hefty numbers for food. They’re naturally white, by the way; it’s the algae that stains them this glorious shade of pink
Erawan waterfall Thailand
Located near the border of Myanmar, Erawan National Park plays host to a range of natural attractions. There’s a handful of caves, including Ta Duang Cave, which features examples of ancient rock art, and wildlife including elephants and deer. But most people who visit this part of western Thailand come for Erawan Waterfall, with its seven tiers and incredible emerald-hued pools. (Erawan, if you were wondering, is the three-headed white elephant of Hindu mythology the falls are said to resemble.) Set deep in the forest, the seven different levels are accessed by an ever-steeper path. The rewards are excellent though, with several of the pools home to schools of fish. The best time to visit is early in the morning – it’s a popular spot for tour groups and the pools become more muddy than miraculous when lots of people get in to swim – and during or just after rainy season (May to October).
Lake Hillier Australia
Lakes of bubble-gum pink seem to be something of an Australian phenomenon.
Apart from the Insta-famous pond in Melbourne’s Westgate Park that turns pink when salt levels peak, the rest can be found in Western Australia. Lake Hillier is one of the most famous, and the only one that remains pink all year long. The colour is caused by a microalgae called Dunaliella salina, which is found in water that’s highly saline. It’s located on Middle Island in the Recherche Archipelago, near Esperance, and is best enjoyed on a scenic flight with Goldfields Air Services. That way you can truly appreciate the juxtaposition of the lake, which is the same shade as Pepto-Bismol, and the deep blue of the ocean, separated only by a thin stretch of scrub and white sand. goldfieldsairservices.com
Blue Hole Egypt
Slightly north of the town of Dahab, you’ll come across this popular dive site in the Red Sea. Even if there wasn’t a cluster of buildings on the stretch of beach that meets the desert announcing you’d arrived, you’d still notice it on approach. Just metres off the shore and surrounded by a shallow reef, this is one patch of seriously royal blue. The reason for the eye-catching change of colour is an underwater sinkhole more than a hundred metres deep. There’s an abundance of coral and marine life on the walls of the hole, making it a very inviting spot for divers and snorkellers. But don’t be fooled by the calm conditions if you’ve strapped a tank to your back. Plenty of divers have come unstuck here, trying to go far deeper than they should to find the underwater arch that leads to the open ocean.
Five Flowers Lake China
So impressive is the nature reserve and national park of Jiuzhaigou, located in the Sichuan province in China’s southwest, it’s been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and World Biosphere Reserve. Covering more than 72,000 hectares it’s renowned for its incredible beauty – tiered waterfalls, snow-topped mountains, colourful autumn leaves – and has seen a steady increase in visitors since it opened to the public in 1982. Rather than boasting just one vibrant colour, Five Flower Lake changes depending on the weather and surroundings. Sometimes it’s turquoise, other times jade, deep blue and even amber. Most of the time it’s vivid aqua, but the best time to visit is when the leaves of the surrounding forest are starting to change and the mirrored surface takes on the varied shades of the foliage.
Think you could survive in the jungle better than Tarzan? Find out what it takes on an adventure into the Amazon. Fly by light aircraft from Georgetown, Guyana’s capital, to the village of Surama, where you’ll be kitted out with specialist equipment by a survival instructor and two local guides.
As you venture deep into the wilderness you’ll begin honing skills to keep you alive, including how to find water, build a fire, hunt game with a bow and arrow and signal rescuers. Once your training is complete, it’s time to go solo (or with a buddy, if you choose) with your newly acquired knowledge. Don’t fret if the situation gets a bit hairy – instructors are on standby to help out.
Learn to outwit, outplay and outlast in the jungle.
Long believed to be the birthplace of the Incas, your exploration of the mesmerizing Lake Titicaca is one that will see you completely immersed in the local indigenous cultures. Home to a cluster of floating islands, you’ll get the opportunity to visit the Uros Islands (constructed entirely by the local Uru people using the Totura reeds that grow in Lake Titicaca), Amantaní Island and Taquile – a place where 350 Quechua-speaking families exist completely unchanged by modern society.
Your overnight home-stay experience will take place on Amantaní Island, and it’s here a local family will welcome you with open arms and homes to share their unique lifestyles. Witnessing first-hand their revered traditions and long-preserved customs is a privilege you won’t soon forget.