Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

We were very pleased with the planning done by Jordan Harvey and his associates. We wanted to visit the Atacama Desert and they suggested pairing it with Easter Island…so we visited the most remote inhabited place in the world and the driest…a great combination. They also suggested going during off season, which was wonderful…the weather was a bit cool, but not a problem; and, the number of tourists was small.

We enjoyed the trip very much, though we were exhausted when we returned home. We were very pleased with Jordan and team’s choice of Casa Real, a winery & boutique hotel outside of Santiago…and though we are not big wine drinkers, we did enjoy the tasting and actually bought some wine. A highlight there was the helpfulness, friendliness, and kindness of the desk staff. We were delighted to have a tour of the hotel’s grounds and to learn about the history of the complex. One of the desk staff added to that by giving us a tour of the hotel and added many other historical notes.

Both of the Explora hotels were great. On Easter Island, we happened to be touring with two employees of Explora…with one of whom we shared quite a few of the excursions. As we left to go to Atacama and said our good-byes to them, they told us they had a surprise for us in the desert. When we arrived there, we had been upgraded to a junior suite…certainly a surprise and a beautiful, spacious accommodation.

Again, in both hotels, we thoroughly enjoyed the excursions…seeing beautiful, unique sites; learning about the history and the culture of the two regions; and, above all, interacting with the well-informed and personable young men and women who served as our guides, as well as meeting and interacting with fellow travelers from various parts of the world.

On several of our excursions, what we had seen on the planned journey was reinforced by some examples in the community. For example, in the desert we visited a site with cardones cacti from which the locals got wood for building, then in San Pedro, we got to see the church (an added bonus, an unplanned “wow” moment) which has a ceiling and front gate made from the wood of that cactus. On another trip, we were told about the volcanic mountain who was “seen” as the protector of the people and symbolized with a triangle; on the way back to the hotel, the guide pointed out the triangles on the walls around some of the house compounds. I could go on and on…these added cultural notes are really important for us to learn in any area to which we travel.

We are Cindy and Roger Cagle and are very experienced travelers. We had been planning a trip to Chile before the Covid scare shut down the world. Chile was the only major wine-producing country that we had not visited. We visited from April 10th to the 28th, so timed because April is Cindy’s “birthday month.” It seems some of us have birthdays and some lucky ones have birthday months. :)

Our delayed visit had two main objectives—to make Cindy’s milestone birthday memorable and to visit the best wineries and hopefully taste the best wine that Chile had to offer. Although we are experienced travelers, we have typically planned our entire trips ourselves and only used travel specialists to handle transfers, local connections, etc. We chose Jordan’s office because they were recommended as Chile experts on Wendy’s WOW List. We had an excellent experience choosing from this List for a Peru/Argentina trip we took several years ago assisted by Marisol Mosquera.

To be fair, we had much less input into the overall planning and execution of this trip than on all but one previous trips—a two+ week visit to China (where we had been several times) that went spectacularly. Also with the post pandemic daily stories of road rage and flight disturbances and disruptions, it seemed as if all travelers were likely signing up for “extreme adventure” travel. Thus we put this trip in its entirety in the hands of our specialists.

Their remit was simple, as expressed in our two main objectives for this trip. Lots of gaps to fill in though. Had it not been for Jordan’s team, we likely would not have found our way to Rapa Nui, where we spent three of the most unique days of any travel. Many places that you point to with anticipation often let you down when you experience them. Two in particular have not only met but exceeded our expectations—Machu Picchu and Rapa Nui. Ironically both trips were hosted by specialists from The WOW List.

Had it not been for Jordan and team, we certainly would not have ventured to the northern part of the Lakes District. Our three days at Vira Vira were awesome. Could not have been at a better venue than here for Cindy’s actual birthday. We strolled down the darkened lane leading up to the lodge until we caught a spectacular view of the Villarrica Volcano displaying its pyrotechnics on an awesome cloudless nighttime sky. Put your candles on birthday cakes, we’ll take volcanoes thank you.

Accommodations at Vira Vira are great and we also had a fantastic guide at Vira Vira. We took every excursion with him. We had plenty of moderate hikes (moderate takes on a new meaning at altitude), but he also came up with unique side trips that were very entertaining.

So, without question, we ticked the box that was the most important reason for the trip, a memorable birthday. We also had a great stay at the beautiful Clos Apalta. This was our favorite stay of the whole trip. First-class wines as well and an awesome sommelier at the lodge. But otherwise, we felt as if we had not seen the best wineries nor sampled the best wines that Chile had to offer.

We think Jordan’s office did an admirable job of crafting a unique tailor-made experience for us. We think we could have improved the wine experience by being more interactive. But we certainly would not have been able to surpass the experience that Jordan and team provided us.

A chef and sommelier guided the travelers through their WOW Moment dinner in a private restaurant, Argentina.

A chef and sommelier guided the Shapiros through their WOW Moment dinner in a private restaurant. Photo: Traveler Andy Shapiro

Shortly after finalizing plans for our 2-week trip, 7 nights in Argentina and 7 nights in Chile, combining Patagonia and their respective wine countries, we received an email from Wendy Perrin (“WP”) informing us that our trip was selected as one of the “10 Top Dream Trips for 2024” per WP’s 1/24/24 newsletter. We remember thinking “Hmmm… We’ll see.” Well, we just returned and this trip was nothing short of spectacular from start to finish! Our WOW expert Jordan provided a master class in planning, some on-the-fly problem solving and exemplary execution! We’ve worked with many WOW experts on numerous trips all over the world throughout the years and if there was a “WOW Mount Rushmore” Jordan would be on it!

This trip was just us, husband and wife, both 61 years old. We’re especially passionate about nature and wines and this adventure had been on the bucket list for quite some time! We’ve gotten so many great ideas for travel from the WP reviews so ours tend to be lengthy so some fellow traveler(s) like us may benefit. Our first day we arrived in Buenos Aires from NYC in the early evening and after checking into the Park Hyatt Palacio Duhau we were driven to a penthouse apartment to “experience” our WOW Moment that we had earned for 2 previous WP WOW trips. There, with a private gourmet Chef and a Sommelier, with the backdrop of a beautiful Buenos Aires night skyline, we delighted in a 7-course-with-Argentinian-wine-pairings gastronomic experience! The sommelier provided a valuable introductory education about Argentinian wines using maps, which we loved and appreciated. This was not a WOW Moment but rather a WOW Experience! AMAZING!

The next day we flew to Mendoza for 3 nights in wine country. We stayed at the Relais & Chateaux Cavas Wine Lodge which was gorgeously nestled into the vineyards. Somehow, our guess through Jordan but still a mystery, we were upgraded to a Vineyard Villa, which offered a rooftop deck with panoramic views of the vineyards and mountains, where we made sure to enjoy the beautiful sunrises, sunsets and evening stars. The food, accommodations, service, staff, maintenance, housekeeping, turn down, etc. as we have always found with the Relais & Chateaux properties we have stayed at throughout the world, were outstanding! Highly recommend the Cavas Wine Lodge.

Our two full days visiting Mendoza wineries with our private guide and driver were fantastic! The wine tours and/or incredible lunches with wine pairings at a combination of Argentina’s legendary wine estates and smaller boutique producers including but not limited to Catena Zapata, Viña Cobos, Durigutti, Alta Vista were the realization of a wine (and food and life) lover’s dream! Fun and awesome stuff!

Next was El Calafate… Argentina’s Patagonia where we were staying for 3 nights. If you’ve travelled long enough you will experience some problems. It’s when confronted with adversity that you really learn about the people you are working with that are on your Team. We had same-day flight connections from Mendoza to Buenos Aires to El Calafate. Unfortunately there were terrible storms in Buenos Aires that day, causing significant delays. We were in constant contact with Jordan and his Team, who were providing several back-up flight options if we missed any of our connections. We ultimately made it to the small El Calafate airport six hours late, arriving at 10 pm rather than 4 pm. Exhausted and wiped out, we’re waiting for our bags to arrive and as everyone around you is getting their bags you have that awful feeling that your bags did not make it, which of course was the case with us. Even at that late evening hour, Jordan and his absolutely amazing associate Carmen were in constant contact and assured us that our bags will eventually arrive, our Lodge would provide and we’d have whatever clothes and shoes were necessary for our activities planned, etc. We were upset, exhausted, frustrated, concerned and Jordan and Carmen were total poise under pressure and constantly reassuring. When we finally arrived at EOLO, our accommodations, at 11:15 pm, we were stunned to see a gourmet dinner waiting for us with a delicious bottle of Malbec arranged by Jordan, Carmen and EOLO! Wow! Made a brutal day end on a very happy positive note ALL thanks to Jordan and Team!

When we woke up the following morning in our panoramic corner room (only 2 of 17 at EOLO) we got our first glimpse of the Patagonia landscape with the majestic Andes Mountains and beautiful Lake Argentina, the largest lake in Argentina. Pictures, at least ours, lol, unfortunately do not do it justice. Descriptors such as stunning, spectacular, surreal, rugged, raw, otherworldly, transcendent, mystical, help but Patagonia really must be seen and felt to be believed, understood and appreciated. As promised, EOLO provided the necessary clothes until our bags finally arrived around 5 pm that day. We spent that entire first day “experiencing” the Perito Moreno Glacier, arguably the most accessible glacier in the world, by kayak (one of our BEST nature experiences ever and we’ve been to Antarctica, the Arctic, Africa, etc.), walkway and boat. Mind blowing! You can’t not be in awe! The next day we hiked around the 10,000-acre EOLO property enjoying the Mountains, Lake views, etc. MESMERIZING!

Some thoughts/tips on EOLO and the next lodge we stayed at in Chile’s Patagonia, Awasi. We’ve been reading the WP reviews for many years and knowing we would one day do a Patagonia trip, they were part of our rotation. There were several reviews where the clients just raved about both EOLO and Awasi and with some additional research it was just non-negotiable that we must stay at both of these places. We originally wanted to book our trip for February rather than March but BACKROADS had already booked EOLO for the entire month of February so we literally changed our travel plans to March so we could stay at both EOLO and Awasi. And we can unequivocally say “It was worth it!” WOW, did we love these places! They are both small lodges, similar to what you would stay at in Africa, with 17 and 14 rooms or Villas for Awasi. All-inclusive, delicious food, excellent sommeliers serving high-quality wines, amazing service, extremely comfortable accommodations, beautiful common areas, mind boggling views from everywhere, etc. etc. When you go to Patagonia, if at all possible stay at EOLO and Awasi, you’ll be very happy you did!

The next day we embarked on our six-hour relaxed ride with driver to cross over into Chile’s Patagonia, near Torres del Paine National Park, and arrive at Awasi for the next four nights. We had to process papers to depart Argentina and go through customs to arrive in Chile. Our driver took care of everything and made the process seamless and a pleasure. Similar to EOLO, all-inclusive, everything at Awasi was amazing, especially the private and very spacious villas! Each night after an exhilarating day of hiking (i.e. we were lucky to get several clear views of The Towers!) and a delicious meal with fantastic wines we’d come back to our villa and find the fireplace lit and waiting for us to sit on the comfy couch and chairs to just relax and process the incredible day we had. With our assigned guide we did various hikes each day that again offered some of the most stunning scenery we’ve seen anywhere on the planet. Patagonia stirs your soul. It’s a palpable feeling that is still with us. Similar to Antarctica you can only visit Patagonia ideally 4 to 5 months of the year because of the extreme weather. We visited at the end of their summer and beginning of fall and within minutes it could be snowing, raining, incredibly windy, sunshine or freezing. Crazy! Because of its proximity many travelers will stop in Patagonia after visiting Antarctica. We asked a group who was at Awasi how does the weather compare in Antarctica vs. Patagonia? They replied “Antarctica is warmer and less volatile than Patagonia!” Lol! It all makes for an awesome, unique and unforgettable experience!

We then embarked on a one-night stopover in Santiago, where the next morning we saw the city highlights with a great guide before heading to our final destination, Clos Apalta in the Colchagua Valley, part of Chile’s wine country. On the way we had an amazing winery visit, lunch and tasting at Villard Winery with the owner Charles Villard. What a treat to have this type of experience and spend such quality time with the winery owner and fellow wine lover! Fascinating and so much fun! Later that afternoon we arrived at Clos Apalta. Clos Apalta is one of the great wine estates in the world and is our favorite Chilean wine. During our trip-planning stages Jordan informed us that Clos Apalta had 14 casitas on the property where guests could stay. We also learned Clos Apalta was a Relais & Chateaux property. Little did we know we would be saving the best for last! The casitas at Clos Apalta were not only the nicest wine country property we’ve ever stayed and we’ve been to a lot all over the world, but we could make an argument it’s the nicest accommodation we’ve stayed anywhere! INCREDIBLE!!! The views (you feel like the vineyards are in your room!), the flow, the spaciousness, the humanness, the indoor and outdoor sitting areas, his and her closet space, bathroom, shower, etc. etc. We can’t say enough AMAZING things about these facilities. Moreover, the beautiful property, common areas, restaurant, food selections, maintenance, housekeeping, turn down service, etc. were all fantastic! High-quality wines were always served, very generous, diverse, thought out, smart! The Manager, Joaquin, who we became friendly with because we were so blown away by this Clos Apalta experience, is one of the best managers we’ve ever come across at a Lodge or Hotel anywhere. Joaquin, knowing our love for wine, on our last day arranged for us to have an extraordinary wine tasting with one of the on-site Clos Apalta oenologists. It was one of the three best wine experiences we’ve ever had (i.e touring and tasting with Gianfranco Soldera at his estate in Brunello di Montalcino was one and the same with Olivier Humbrecht at his Domaine Zind-Humbrecht estate in Alsace was the other. Lol)! LOVED IT!!!

This was a trip of a lifetime! A HUGE THANKS to Jordan, Carmen and everyone else on the Team who made this remarkable travel adventure so incredibly amazing from start to finish! It truly was a Top Dream Trip! We will forever be grateful! Muchas Gracias and BRAVO!

We picked Chile to celebrate my husband’s 50th birthday. We loved our previous South American trips to Peru and Galapagos, so we decided to head to Chile instead of crowded and expensive Europe. Jordan put together a 1-week trip involving wine tasting and relaxation at Clos Alpalta Residence followed by 4 days of outdoor explorations in the Atacama Desert. We had no idea we were in for such a treat at Clos Apalta! The food is delicious and fresh. Staff is very attentive and meticulous, leaving no details to chance. The accommodation is gorgeous with a view to die for, overlooking the winery. Visiting the on-site wine cellar was the cherry on top for our stay! We also got a chance to visit other wineries in the same area. Everything was arranged perfectly by the staff at Clos Apalta.

Our 4-day stay in San Pedro de Atacama was at Explora Atacama. Visiting the driest place on Earth was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that excited us. Maybe we were just happy to get out of the Midwest winter. The landscape was beautiful. Hiking through the canyons and walking though the salt flats reminded us how little of this world we have seen in our lifetime so far. My favorite part was seeing all the flamingos that live in the salt flats as well as all the wildlife like the vicunas and vizcachas that thrive in the highlands. The Explora resort had its own telescope for stargazing at night. What a fun experience that was! The food was also well made and tasty.

We were sad to leave Chile, but we plan on coming back to visit Easter Island and Torres del Paine in the future. And probably more wine tasting. We will task Jordan and his team with planning that trip when the time comes. We are so glad we had Jordan and his team plan this amazing trip for us. Their deep knowledge of this region is why we chose them.

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