Make Your Next Trip Extraordinary

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.

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!!

The WOW List: Best Local Travel Fixers Worldwide

by Wendy Perrin | January 30, 2024

How to Get an Extraordinary Trip: Wendy’s WOW Approach

by Wendy Perrin | January 1, 2023

Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

by | January 1, 2023

Where and When to Travel in 2024

by | January 31, 2024

How to Get More For Your Miles and Points in 2023

by | January 31, 2023

10 Top Dream Trips for 2023

by Brook Wilkinson | February 1, 2023

Our Latest Newsletters