Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

A frog clinging on the traveler's glasses frame.

A Mashpi glass frog clings to a traveler’s glasses frame. Photo: Traveler Robin Madden

We just returned from a 10-day trip to Ecuador, with our two adult sons and one of their partners, and unlike most, we did not include the Galapagos in the itinerary. We chose to visit the Amazon and stay at Napo Wildlife Center (NWC) and Mashpi in the cloud forest. These two places were chosen due to their commitment to the local communities and preservation of the incredibly biologically diverse ecosystems in which they are each set. Jordan Harvey is listed on The WOW List for Chile, Argentina and Patagonia, but looking at his company’s website, we found just the type of trip we wanted in their Ecuador listings. We worked with Carmen, with some input from Jordan, who put together a seamless experience. We began in Quito, with a daylong visit to some churches, the equator, chocolate and agave tastings, and a fabulous restaurant set in the caldera of an old volcano. Despite the recent unrest, we felt comfortable, and heeded the advice to not go out without a taxi at night.

Getting to Napo and the NWC included a short flight, a two-hour speed boat ride and another 1.5 hours by paddled canoe. Though remote, the lodge is both elegant and comfortable. Our experience included a dedicated and very knowledgeable guide, Juan, as well as a local guide from the indigenous community, and an additional paddler for the canoe. The food and drink was very good, and Edison the bartender was everywhere making everyone feel welcome. It is owned and operated by the local community—a rarity in luxury lodges. Mornings started early, 5:30, but oh, the payoff! We saw multiple species of monkeys, more than 40 different birds, caimen, river otters, and a sloth, as well as various snakes and insects. The food was good, and accommodations very comfortable despite no air conditioning. We even had a jacuzzi on the deck of one our suites! Our WOW Moment occurred while being paddled on the lake at sunset, when chilled wine was served along with gifts of handmade jewelry and a gorgeous bowl made by the local women. Then upon arriving back at the dock, there was a sumptuous spread of food and more wine! Enough to share with many others.

At Mashpi there were also extraordinarily knowledgeable guides. Fernando (Anderson) was our guide, and he is the “frog whisperer.” He found them and many other species everywhere. He is a biologist who did research there prior to becoming a guide and identified a new species, the “Mashpi glass frog,” which he found for us on a night walk. We had the extraordinary luck of witnessing a battle between a wasp and a tarantula. The wasp won, killing the tarantula and depositing her eggs inside to hatch in about 10 days. Fernando videotaped the whole encounter. It was like watching a National Geographic special, but it was right there in front of us. The most surprising thing was the food at Mashpi. We knew the lodge would be luxurious and visually striking, and had great guides, but did not expect the world-class cuisine that was constantly delivered at every meal with great service. Would highly recommend Jordan’s team, and hope they get added as Ecuador specialists on The WOW List.

Our family of 7 spent the Christmas holiday in Patagonia. Jordan’s team planned an amazing trip that included stops in Buenos Aires and Santiago, then adventures in Patagonia that included kayaking the Perito Moreno glacier and 4 days in the amazing Cerro Guida Estancia. This place was magical! We wrapped it up in Easter Island for New Year’s—it was a wonderful holiday and Jordan’s team was super attentive and awesome to work with—we can’t wait to go back!!

Travelers in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate, in Argentina's Patagonia region.

Anne and Paul Freitas in front of the Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate, in Argentina’s Patagonia region.

My husband and I were extremely blessed to be able to take a magnificent trip in October to Chile, Argentina, and Patagonia. What beautiful countries and amazing people! Jordan Harvey and his team planned the perfect trip for us. We used their partner, Exito Travel, to book all of our flights and we were very glad we did. Igor and his team at Exito did a fabulous job handling everything, including revisions, communicating continually and resolving situations expediently. We always knew we were in good hands. Although we encountered a slight problem when no one was there to meet us when we first arrived at the airport in Buenos Aires, it was very quickly rectified by Jordan’s team and their regional partner. They went above and beyond to ensure our guide and driver arrived within 10 minutes. No harm done at all and it was good to know that we could reach out if there was a problem or question and immediately get assistance.

In Buenos Aires, we got a tour of the vibrant city that included visits to the famous Teatro de Colon and Recoleta Cemetery, the burial place of Evita Peron. Our guide, Natalia, was not only friendly and knowledgeable, but a fantastic ambassador who brought Argentina to life for us and filled us with excitement for the rest of our trip. During our first night in Buenos Aires, we enjoyed a fabulous, private 7-course dinner with blind wine tastings at the gorgeous home of a wine sommelier. We learned all about the grapes and wine regions of Argentina and got to learn more about what makes Argentina so special. On our second night we had a tango lesson. Our instructor, Martin, was not only very skilled, but amazingly patient and good-humored with us, because we really needed 1000 hours of lessons as opposed to the hour that we had with him. And he still managed to teach us the basics pretty well. He was then brave enough to take us dancing at a traditional milonga club that had a live band. What a special evening!

The next day we flew to the Southern Patagonian town of El Calafate. Our local guide, another Natalia, brought us to our glacier-trekking excursion, enlightening us about the area and filling us with anticipation for our adventure. After a ferry ride, we met our mountain guides, who led us on a hike to Perito Moreno Glacier, where we strapped on crampons for our 90-minute glacier trek, filled with breathtaking views of the gorgeous blue ice, and followed by a special glass of whisky (served with glacier ice) to enjoy with our fellow trekkers. Just when we thought the day couldn’t get any better, Natalia met us and took us hiking to get different views of the glacier, sharing her perspective on life in Patagonia and her wisdom around glacier evolution. We called her our “Glacier Whisperer” because she could tell us exactly when pieces of ice would break off and fall into the water. She was just so much fun! We ended the day with a trip to the glaciarium ice museum and enjoyed drinks at its Ice Bar.

The next day we took various forms of transportation, including a zodiac boat, to get to remote glacier areas with more magnificent views. Our 8-mile hike was pretty tough and there were many areas where I needed extra help to climb. Our guide was truly amazing! He was not only extremely skilled but was just an angel. He held my hand more times than I could count and always made sure I was safe, comfortable, and able to complete the hike.

In Chile, we stayed at an authentic Patagonian estancia and wildlife conservation area, saw native guanacos (part of the camel family), and rode horses with gauchos. We visited nearby Torres del Paine National Park with its amazing turquoise lakes and experienced the powerful Patagonian winds (75-100 mph). Estancia Cerro Guido was truly an amazing highlight of our trip. We received incredibly special attention. We were there 4 days and nights and easily could have stayed months — just beautiful grounds and lodging, fabulous food, and truly special staff.
We then flew to Punta Arenas on the Strait of Magellan — literally at the end of the world. Although our trip to see the penguins on Isla Magdalena was cancelled due to the high winds and weather, Jordan’s staff immediately arranged for us to have a city tour instead, which we thoroughly enjoyed, even in the cold and rain. Our tour guide was so enthusiastic and made what could have been a disappointing day one that was very enjoyable.

Our trip ended with 2 days to relax and enjoy the grounds at Casa Real at the Santa Rita vineyards outside of Santiago. What a beautiful place! Again, the staff was especially attentive and went out of their way to accommodate us when our flight back to the United States was delayed. They called the local airport for us, allowed us to keep our rooms well past our check-out time, and even made us a special dinner before we left.

This was truly a trip of a lifetime!!!

Travelers posing beside the Tongariki moai on Easter Island.

Brad and Sherry Upshaw pose beside the Tongariki moai on Easter Island.

You know how lucky you feel when you find the right plumber or mechanic or roofer? It is even more important to find the right travel professional when you are dealing with an even greater budget. This is the second time we have asked WOW Lister Jordan Harvey’s team to craft a South American trip for us. The first trip in Feb/Mar 2022 had to pivot several times to adjust to the fluid pandemic situation. Their communication and problem-solving was proficient. It was an easy decision to ask them to create a second bespoke vacation for us in Nov/Dec 2023.

We worked with Renee again because we knew she understood when to suggest and recommend possible itineraries as well as listen to our specific requests. Her expertise balanced our half-day tours with free time to explore on our own. She also knew the best timing for our complicated 23-day trip. They used fantastic local guides, planned amazing activities, selected perfect accommodations, and every airport transfer was seamless. We had 10 flights which we coordinated through Exito. Their collaboration was essential as several flight times changed along the way. All of our anxiety was eliminated knowing how well everything was prepared and handled for us.

Our holiday included chaotic Buenos Aires, “Fin del Mundo” Ushuaia, Chocolate Capital Bariloche, an Andes Lakes Crossing, river rafting in Puerto Varas, a peaceful retreat outside Santiago, and the unique Rapa Nui — Easter Island. It was another adventure of a lifetime thanks to Jordan’s office and Wendy’s WOW List.

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