Tag Archives: Brazil

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

South America WOW Trips: Reviews from our Travelers

For sun in winter, value for money, less jet lag, few tour groups, and an outstanding diversity of landscapes and experiences, it’s hard to beat South America. From celeb-magnet beach towns in Brazil to coffee-region haciendas in Colombia to Amazonian lodges in Ecuador to heli-hiking in Chile to top-value wine regions in Argentina—not to mention the Galapagos Islands and Patagonia—South America doesn’t get old. The following reviews show you what’s possible when you plan your trip with a Trusted Travel Expert for South America. Here’s what it means to get a WOW trip.

Chile: “We ended up hiking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, cruising across an Andean lake…”

John Strachan and his family cruising on Lago Todos los Santos with Volcán Osorno in the background, Chile.

John Strachan and family cruising Chile’s Lago Todos los Santos with Volcán Osorno in the background.

“All we told Tom was that we wanted to go to the Atacama Desert and then somewhere else in Chile where there would be fun, outdoor activities for our kids (10 and 12). Animals would be a bonus. And, in deference to the kids, we didn’t want to spend too much time in cities. We ended up hiking, horseback riding, whitewater rafting, cruising across an Andean lake surrounded by volcanoes, and more.

The Atacama Desert deserves top billing. It’s 40,000 square miles (half the size of Kansas) of the driest desert on earth. It’s harsh, and inhospitable, and why would anyone go there? Because it’s flat-out stunning. The geothermal activity has churned up volcanoes, mountains, salt formations, sand dunes, and rainbows of color. We were surrounded by otherworldly beauty and never saw another human. It was unique and dream-like.

From the desert to the rich forests and crystal pools of Chile’s Lake District. The terrain was stunning, the hotel was ideal, and the activities were abundant—lake cruising, paddleboarding, whitewater rafting. Our family fell in love with the region and were only sorry not to have more time. Wendy’s crew hooked us up with Tom, and this is the second great trip he has planned for us. So huge thanks to both Tom and Team Perrin.” —John Strachan

Read more reviews of Chile trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Brazil: “A day trip on a schooner where we visited several bays and beaches and had lunch at a place that was only accessible by boat…”

Tropical view of Copacabana Beach with city skyline of Rio de Janeiro Brazil aerial view

Copacabana Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Photo: Shutterstock

“We booked a two-week trip to Brazil with Paul, and he came through big time. The best tour guide we’ve ever had, Lais, met us at the airport on arrival and transported us to the beautiful Hotel Fasano right on Ipanema Beach. We were able to spend two full days on the beach, where we really got a feel for the local culture.

My wife had wanted to see the dancers at Carnivale, but we didn’t arrive in Rio until it was over. Somehow Lais pulled off a miracle and found a group that was meeting in a public park and recreating their Carnivale performance. It was called a Samba Hangover Dance. We were able to hang out with the locals for a few hours and see the performance up close.

Then we went to the top of Sugarloaf Mountain, where we were met by a master craftsman who taught us how to make the best Caipirinhas we had on the entire trip. While in Rio we were able to eat at Garota de Ipanema, the cafe where Vinicius de Moraes originally saw the famous ‘girl from Ipanema’ go by before writing the lyrics to the song. On Paul’s advice, we also went to eat at Aprazivel restaurant in the hills above Rio for a delicious meal in a beautiful restaurant with an amazing view of the city below.

Next, we boarded a plane to Iguassu Falls. We stayed at the Hotel das Cataratas in the national park and only 100 yards from the falls. The hotel is the only one in the park and you often had the viewing areas to yourself. Our guide took us on a tour the next day of both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides of these gigantic, 2 ½-mile-wide falls. Seeing them was awe-inspiring, but taking a boat ride under them was exhilarating and an experience not to be missed. At Niagara Falls you get misted when taking the boat ride, but at Iguassu you actually go under the falls. It was safe and great fun.

We ended our trip with a stay in the colonial town of Paraty. We’d seen the big city while in Rio, the jungle in Iguassu, and now a peaceful, historical small town in the center of the country. Our stay at Casa Turquesa was magical. It’s a 9-room inn with a beautiful pool and lovely rooms. We enjoyed navigating the original rocky streets while visiting the shops in town. Paul had arranged a day trip on a schooner where we visited several bays and beaches and had lunch at a place that was only accessible by boat. It was a perfect, relaxing way to end our trip.

A final note about safety. In the United States we’d read traveler warnings and received a notice to beware of dengue fever from our government. Some friends were wary of us going to Brazil. In response I’d like to note that we never felt uncomfortable or unsafe for even a minute during our trip. Are there places in the city of Rio that you shouldn’t visit? Of course, just like in New York City. So don’t go there. Your guides will help you with that. I’ve told friends that Rio is like NYC, but with a better view. Even though we’d taken mosquito repellent to avoid getting dengue fever, we only used it once the whole trip and I never saw a mosquito the whole time.” —Ted Embacher

Read more reviews of  Brazil trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Colombia: “Warm weather, adventure, culture, food, direct flight, and small, if any, time change…”

Cartagena de Indias/Colombia, 06/05/2020: The vintage colonials facades of San Diego neighborhood in the heart of walled city

The San Diego neighborhood is lined with colorful facades. Photo: Shutterstock

“We had a lot of requirements for our family’s (kids 17 & 19 yrs old) vacation: warm weather, adventure, culture, food!, direct flight, and small, if any, time change because my husband had to leave early due to work commitments. Amazingly, we found all those things on our trip to Colombia, a beautiful, colorful, and culturally and geographically diverse country!

Wendy’s team put us in touch with Boris, who put together a trip that covered all the bases, with stops in Cartagena, Medellin and Bogota. Our activities and guides were top-notch, but there were several highlights, including a private rum, chocolate, and Colombian fruit tasting—what’s not to like?

Our time in Medellin was packed with varied and fascinating experiences ranging from culture to farms. Casa de la Memoria Museum in Medellin is not to be missed, as it details the conflict and history of when the drug cartels plagued the city. These events are so recent that people have first-hand memories. The same is true for Comuna 13, a maze of alleys built into the hillside (like most on Medellin), where the graffiti tells the story of the people and events of the district. The city has undergone an amazing renaissance and is now vibrant and lively. Paragliding over the hills of the city was good fun.

One big surprise was our visit to an orchid farm, which has the largest variety of orchids in the world. The climate in Colombia is perfect for growing these beautiful flowers. We were guided through the greenhouse by one of the scientists, who himself had discovered three types of orchids. I thought our teens would be bored at this stop, but we all loved it!” —Wendy Minocha

Read more reviews of Colombia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Ecuador & the Galapagos: “A 300-year-old hacienda that seemed like it belonged to a dear family friend…”

A horse eating grass near colonial hacienda

Colonial hacienda near Cotopaxi Volcano in Ecuador. Photo: Shutterstock

“We wanted a balance of active adventuring and some much-needed downtime for a spring-break trip as a family and Allie more than delivered! Between a delightful boutique hotel in Quito’s old town, Casa Eden, with proprietors who fussed over our kiddo like their own grandchild, to a 300-year-old hacienda in Otavalo that seemed like it belonged to a dear family friend (with the family’s friendly horses wandering through to say hello to visitors and the chef happily teaching us how to make empanadas or offering samples of freshly made local gelato), we had ample time to relax.

Allie set us up with fantastic drivers/guides throughout Ecuador, with special shout-outs to our guide who took us to see artisanal chocolate being made, to eat bizcochos at a super-local non-touristy spot, and to meet a weaver whose family has made award-winning textiles in the same manner for hundreds of years, as well as set us up with great hiking and exploring by foot and horseback, incredible meals, and a stop at the equator (I was skeptical of the museum but it’s a hidden gem and great for families).

Allie also connected us with a breathtaking week in the Galapagos on the Ocean Spray: There was just one other couple on the boat besides our family, so we had incredible small experiences snorkeling, kayaking, and on some of the smaller islands, where our naturalist, Enrique Silva, really took the time to interact with us and point out things for our kid (who was a first-time snorkeler but by the second day was cruising everywhere thanks to his help). The catamaran was very comfortable and the rooms quite large—but the real highlight was the warmth and kindness of the staff and crew (and the food—which was phenomenal).” —Katherine Sanders

Read more reviews of Ecuador and Galapagos trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Chile, Peru, and Bolivia: “We hiked up volcanoes, sat in hot spring pools, rode bikes through slot canyons…”

Milinda Martin on her way up a volcano on Altiplano, Bolivia.

Milinda Martin on her way up a volcano on Bolivia’s Altiplano.

“Just returned from Chile, Peru, and Bolivia! Recently, Wendy has been recommending South America, and I’m so grateful I took advantage of this. Despite the warm temperatures, there were few tourists, which ensured a really authentic experience. Ashton helped me plan an extended trip to all my desired destinations: Torres Del Paine, the Amazon Basin, Lima, Santiago, Valparaiso, the Atacama, and the Altiplano of Bolivia.

It was a long journey, but I felt so supported as a single traveler all along the way. In Patagonia, Ashton recommended Patagonia Camp, a fantastic place owned by the Matetic family, of Chilean wine fame. Outstanding guides, excellent excursions, beautiful lakeside yurts, and the most divine food/wine. The camp helped ensure I met other travelers, so meals were always full of conversations.

For the Amazon, I asked for somewhere that didn’t have a ton of tourists, which took the cruises out of Iquitos off the agenda. Instead, Ashton recommended Posada Amazonas, an indigenous cooperative that sits on the Tambopata River in Peru. Here, I was the only guest for the first two days, so fully enjoyed my hikes, boat rides, and village visits that allowed me to see how life is lived in this region. The rooms are open to the rainforest, which made for magical evenings full of sounds. And it did rain on several days, which sounded one thousand times better than any recorded soundscape!

Then it was time for a few cities—Lima, Santiago, and Valparaiso. In Lima, Ashton and Wendy arranged a WOW Moment, which was right up my street: a ceviche lesson, tasting, and tour with Marisol. We went all over the city, sampling different types of ceviche and learning about this rich Peruvian tradition.

My last stop was my favorite part, four days in San Pedro de Atacama, followed by a four-day “travesia” across the Altiplano to the Uyuni Salt Flats. My Quechuan guide and driver introduced me to so many aspects of the local culture, including participating in the carnival celebrations. We hiked up volcanoes, sat in hot spring pools, rode bikes through slot canyons, and ate all the local dishes. On our final evening in Uyuni, after indulging in a wine/tapas al fresco meal, it started to rain, which meant the salt flats became a mirror of the skies. I spent three days in La Paz on the way home and loved that too. Such fascinating geography and a lively city. Four weeks of amazing journeys in three countries. I could not have asked for more, and was so thrilled with all of Ashton’s recommendations and support.

My favorite aspects of working with one of Wendy’s experts is the ability to customize when/where I’m going, to focus on places that are not overrun with tourists, to meet the local people and see how they live, and to get outside and really feel a part of the stunning landscape. Onwards!” —Milinda Martin

To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Colombia: “A fantastically executed visit to a fascinating and diverse country.”

The courtyard of a convent santo ecce homo with beautiful greenery in the center.

The convent of Santo Ecce Homo near Villa de Leyva, Colombia. Photo: Shutterstock

“My wife and I traveled to Colombia from January 25 to February 5. Boris planned and executed the trip, and we could not be more pleased. We had four primary destinations: Bogota, Villa de Leyva, the coffee region and Medellín. We skipped Cartagena because we had been there before. We had several unique experiences, my favorite being lunch and a tour of a private collection containing every one of the hundreds of Colombian orchid varieties.

Boris also found wonderful ways to accommodate us when we had different interests—for example, while I was touring a coffee plantation, my wife was with a charming local woman cooking our Colombian lunch at her home. The four hotels chosen were all exceptionally lovely. The three guides we had were among the very best we have had in our travels to over 90 countries. The destination offers a virtually unlimited range of experiences to suit anyone, and Boris clearly is expert at marshaling them. In summary, a fantastically executed visit to a fascinating and diverse country.” —Robert Rosenberg

Read more reviews of Colombia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Peru: “My granddaughter climbed Huayna Picchu, also known as ‘the stairs of death,’ an experience she will never forget…”

The view of the Sacred Valley in Peru.

The Sacred Valley in Peru. Photo: Shutterstock

“My granddaughter and I just returned from our latest adventure, this time in Peru. This was our third New Year’s adventure organized by Allie, our other two experiences being the Galapagos Islands and Santiago/Easter Island, Chile. This trip’s primary objective was the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu. We had a great 11 days.

Our base in the Sacred Valley was the Sol y Luna Hotel. Could not have asked for better accommodations. We visited many Inca sites. We also had a day of whitewater rafting. The Urubamba market is open twice a week, so we took the opportunity to shop with the locals. Being the new year, the flowers were aplenty, yellow, a color of note to the Peruvians at New Year. The highlight of the trip was Machu Picchu citadel. Pictures do not do it justice. The vastness of the site in the clouds and the river far below. It was beautiful!

On New Year’s Eve we had good intentions on staying up to ring in the new year, but Allie had other plans, gratefully and thankfully. The next morning we returned very early to the citadel. Allie was able to obtain tickets for Huayna Picchu. Tickets are in a limited number. We were very fortunate, as many people are disappointed when they find out tickets are not available. Allie had procured ours well in advance. My granddaughter climbed Huayna Picchu, also known as ‘the stairs of death,’ an experience she will never forget.

We returned to Cusco for a day, then it was off to the Amazon. Our flight was followed by a 45-minute powered canoe ride to the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, an eco lodge and our home for the next three days. We had a riverside cabana on the Madre del Dias River. In the mornings, we could hear howler monkeys and other unknown critters. It was the rainy season, so we had rain and thunderstorms daily. The weather did not hamper our activities, actually the weather was part of the experience. Although we had a twilight boat excursion and jungle canopy walks, our highlight was fishing on Lake Valencia. We went piranha fishing, followed by a shore lunch.

Unfortunately, our time had run out, we had to get back to the States. I said earlier that this was our third New Year’s adventure organized by Allie, which was my favorite. All were unique, different experiences and introduced us to some great people.” —Jim Stock

Read more reviews of Peru trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Chile: “The terrain was so varied it felt like we had gone to a different planet each day.”

The travelers shot at the Moon Valley Atacama Desert in Chile.

Laurie Richter and friends above Moon Valley, in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

“Visiting BOTH Patagonia and the Atacama Desert is an absolute must. The beauty and ruggedness of both places was unsurpassed. They were pristine and there were very few other people or vehicles. And they were so different from each other.

The scenery in Patagonia is breathtaking—newly formed mountains, green glacial lakes, layers upon layers of natural formations. Explora Lodge wasn’t fancy but the location was unsurpassed, and the quality of the guides and excursions available provided something for everyone. We mostly hiked and, with the windy conditions there, even a simple hike was pretty strenuous. Try out the spa and the outside hot tubs.

On to the Vik Chile in wine country, outside of Santiago. Spectacular facility in a beautiful setting with a wonderful winery. The food in the restaurant is spectacular and not to be missed. The winery tour and tasting was a highlight as well.

Then on to the Atacama Desert, which may have been the unexpected highlight for me. Again, wonderful lodging (Nayara Alto Atacama) with terrific service and, again, some of the best food you can imagine. The terrain was so varied it felt like we had gone to a different planet each day. You are at elevation (8,000 at the lodge and up to 14,350 at the geysers) so you need to be prepared for that, but everyone in our group was fine. You do spend a lot of time in the vans, as most of the hikes and sites are 45 minutes to an hour and a half away, but this isn’t Disneyland, and no lodge can be close to everything.

I can’t stress enough that, if you can afford the time and money, make sure to see both Patagonia and the Atacama Desert. Unforgettable.” —Laurie Richter

Read more reviews of Chile trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Peru: “He networked us to the front of lines for access to everything (including the line for buses up and back from Machu Picchu)…”

Springtime at Machu Picchu Peru

Springtime at Machu Picchu. Photo: Luis Felipa

“We just returned from a fabulous 10-day trip to Peru. Allie helped us find probably the best guide in all of Peru! Our guide, Nick, met us in Cusco and was with our group of four the entire trip. His English was impeccable, and his extensive network of contacts made it seem like he knew EVERYONE in Peru, which became a running joke. However, it became central to the success and ease of our trip, as he networked us to the front of lines for access to everything (including the line for buses up and back from Machu Picchu). To Allie’s credit, she had just returned from a trip to Peru a month before we left, had Nick as a tour guide, and personally selected him to be the guide for our trip, for which we cannot thank her enough!

Allie’s local partners also provided a van and a wonderful driver for the trip, and we felt very safe when driving on the very narrow, twisting roads of the Sacred Valley and the mountains around it, which was not an easy feat! Allie also provided very helpful recommendations for what to bring (ponchos for rain in Machu Picchu which we experienced for an hour our first day) and found walking sticks we could borrow rather than schlepping them with us.

We also had the opportunity to do the full-day experience at MIL, which we would highly recommend! As much as the food there is fabulous, the learning experience by hiking into the hills behind the restaurant with a knowledgeable local guide provided a fabulous addition to better understand the Peruvian culture and food presentation at MIL. It was a highlight of the trip and books up months in advance, so be sure to get reservations online as soon as trip dates are established!” —Julie Olson

Read more reviews of Peru trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Colombia: “Incredibly varied landscapes…fresh and delicious food everywhere…warm locals willing to share their stories…”

Wax Palm Trees in the Corcora Valley, Colombia

Tracy Reller and her family hiking among wax palm trees near Colombia’s coffee-growing region.

“Colombia is a beautiful country with incredibly varied landscapes, amazing agricultural bounty (mostly done by hand—saw only one tractor the entire time), wonderfully creative, fresh and delicious food everywhere, and warm locals willing to share their stories.

Boris arranged activities that we either wouldn’t have been able to do on our own or wouldn’t have been the same. They turned out to be some of our favorite experiences. For example, we toured two different poor neighborhoods in Medellin with Spanish-speaking neighborhood leaders involved in the graffiti art transforming the neighborhood. It was fascinating to see these communities up close and to hear their stories of the violence and hopes for the future.

Another favorite experience was visiting very different markets used by locals. First, Paloquemao in Bogota—very clean, well organized, items from produce to meats/fish to home goods and flowers, beautifully presented. That was in contrast to the Barzuto market in Cartagena, where we seemed to be the only tourists navigating the dirt floors, tight winding walkways though makeshift stalls, fish and meat sitting in open hot temperatures with a French chef shopping for our cooking lesson (we only bought produce there). It was a sight to see!

Finally, we would not have known about some amazing restaurants we visited for lunch that were not even in our itinerary. One of those restaurants, in Bogota, didn’t even have a sign out front, but our guide knocked and was welcomed in. Our hotels were all wonderful and a welcome respite at the end of every day. Most outstanding were the Four Seasons Casa Medina in Bogota, Hacienda Buenavista in the coffee region, Villa Playa Tayrona, and Casa San Agustin in Cartagena.

Our guides were wonderful and really added to our experience. They were intelligent, interesting and informative. It’s a gift to get to spend time with a local, get to know them and share details about our lives. We gain a better understanding of a country and its people with a guide rather than just crossing tourist sites off a list.” —Tracy Reller

Read more reviews of Colombia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Brazil, Argentina, Chile, and Uruguay: “Desert, city, jungle, beach, pampas all in one fantastic itinerary…”

Sugarloaf Mountain and Botafogo Neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro by Sunset with Full Moon in the Sky

Rio de Janeiro’s skyline at sunset, with the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain in the middle distance. Photo: Shutterstock

“Desert, city, jungle, beach, pampas all in one fantastic itinerary. My husband and I spent a month sampling the wonders of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay and Brazil. Paul organized a great itinerary with activities, free days and travel days that went seamlessly. Plus, we had a surprise WOW Moment—an anniversary boat trip to one of the most beautiful beaches in Brazil.

Paul took great care of us, including checking us in for our flights and having the hotels print our boarding passes. He made restaurant recommendations and reservations for us. His hotel choices met all the needs we requested. The activities were varied, interesting, enjoyable, and perfect for two people in their 70s.” —Sandra Southwick

Read more reviews of  Brazil and beyond trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


From Peru’s Lake Titicaca to Bolivia’s Salt Flats: “A truly spellbinding experience…”

Salar de Uyuni salt flat during the starry night, Bolivia

Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni salt flats reveal a vast and bright night sky. Photo: Shutterstock

“Our trip was amazing—from visiting the salt flats to checking out a silver mine, boating on Lake Titicaca, visiting cathedrals and museums, eating delicious foods, and meeting wonderful people.

We were delighted from start to finish with Marisol and Mark’s exceptional advice and service, and a big thank-you to Wendy for the WOW Moment: The unobstructed expanse of the isolated salt flats make star-gazing on the Salar de Uyuni a truly spellbinding experience, as the full breadth and immensity of the night sky can be observed and appreciated with the telescope provided or with the naked eye. Located at altitude with almost no light pollution thanks to a sparse population, the Salar de Uyuni is one of the best places to stargaze in South America.” —Dominique Tran

Read more reviews of Peru and Bolivia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Ecuador’s rainforest and the Galapagos Islands: from swimming under waterfalls to snorkeling with sea lions

Peggy Schuemann

The Schuemann Family at Mashpi Lodge, Ecuador. Photo: Peggy Schuemann

“Mashpi Lodge is an amazing destination. The 3.5-hour drive is a bit daunting, but the destination is well worth the travel time. We traveled with our son, his wife, and their three boys, ages 13, 11, and 7. We asked Allie to arrange for a private guide for our family of 7, and she was very happy to set this up. Mashpi is in the cloud forest, which proved to be a wonderful experience for each of us. The lodge is beautiful and fits seamlessly into the area, while providing lovely, spacious rooms and an extremely comfortable experience. The food was outstanding. Anderson, our guide, is a former researcher at Mashpi who changed his focus to guiding several years ago and was knowledgeable about the entire area. Our first hike took us to the Life Center, where we were mesmerized by the bird life, including beautiful toucans and parrots. Our oldest grandson is not fond of butterflies. But Anderson took him aside and gradually introduced him to the butterfly enclosure. When Anderson asked if we would like to hike in a river, we pictured a calm stream. However, we have wonderful memories of hiking in a fast-moving river where our son and his family swam under a waterfall. The highlight was when Anderson decided to venture out our last night during a heavy rain to fulfill our grandson’s dream of seeing a glass frog. At the last minute Anderson located this elusive frog, and everyone got to hold it. We only had two nights at Mashpi, and would perhaps suggest another night, but we were busy every minute and have lasting memories of Anderson and the lodge.

Peggy Schuemann

The Schuemann family hiking in the Galapagos.

Soon we were back in Quito and boarding our flight for the Galapagos. We boarded the Theory, with a capacity of 20 passengers. Traveling with 3 active grandsons, I was a bit apprehensive about this smaller ship. Would our grandsons have enough room to expend their energy? Never fear, the Theory met and surpassed every expectation. Our trip was during spring-break time, and there were three other families on board, two of which were multi-generational, like ours. There were an additional three children, all within our boys’ age range. We saw all of the highlights, blue- and red-footed boobies, frigate birds, marine and land iguanas, and the huge tortoises. We snorkeled with the sea lions as we looked down to see our guides, and the ship captain, swimming behind white-tipped sharks and using their video cameras to take photos. One highlight was when our guide spotted orcas from our panga (zodiac) and we followed them, along with the other pangas, for about half an hour, racing through the blue waters of the Pacific.

Hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, paddle boarding, and just relaxing on the beaches of the Galapagos archipelago filled our days. Again, Allie arranged for Pepe, our private guide, and he made sure we “did it all.” Our son is trained as a chef, and he raved about the delicious food, asking the Theory chef for several recipes. The six children on board quickly befriended one another, and one night declared there would be a “kid’s table” at dinner.

I have used WOW travel planners for Spain, Morocco, Australia, South America, Montana and Wyoming, Norway, and other destinations. All have been very approachable, great listeners, and planned trips for us down to the last detail. Allie did the same for Ecuador, with Mashpi and the Galapagos. Thanks for the memories, Allie!

Peggy Schuemann

Peggy Schuemann enjoys a WOW Moment on her Galapagos cruise.

By the way, since I had used a number of WOW travel planners, we were eligible for a WOW Moment. It was so exciting when the captain invited us to the bridge for a special visit. There were appetizers and a toast. The captain had some props for the children to wear and captain’s gear for the rest of us.” —Peggy Schuemann

Read more reviews of Ecuador and the Galapagos trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Peru and Machu Picchu: “We didn’t encounter unmanageable crowds anywhere…”

A traditional Peruvian food cooked underground and stones.

Peru’s recent status as a destination for foodies is just the latest chapter in a long culinary tradition dating back to the Incas. Photo: Shutterstock

“From Lima to the Tambopata Reserve in the Amazon, from Arequipa to Colca Canyon, from Cusco to the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu, we were spellbound by the warmth of the Peruvians and the beauty and diversity of the terrain and climates throughout the country. We didn’t encounter unmanageable crowds anywhere—in fact, we were pleasantly surprised by the tourism levels, even at Machu Picchu and in Cusco. We are thrilled that we worked with Marisol and her team to plan this fantastic trip.

A definite highlight was our day exploring the ‘real’ Sacred Valley. The time spent with Maria and her family was priceless. From dancing with her parents to walking the Andean hills with her llama, from a spiritual ceremony thanking the gods to plowing the field with bulls, from sharing a lovely lunch made from locally produced ingredients to an in-depth demonstration of their textile artistry, we felt humbled and honored to have been offered a glimpse into their daily lives.

Another highlight was our WOW Moment in Ollantaytambo. On an organic farm, we learned the traditional Inca cooking technique of pachamanca and savored the delicious al fresco lunch while admiring the snow-capped peaks of Mount Veronica. Thank you, Wendy, for a delightful experience!

We are immensely grateful for all that we experienced on this trip and owe a huge ‘thank you’ to Marisol for helping us create such impactful memories.” —Molly O’Neill-Emmi

Read more reviews of Peru trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Argentina’s Bariloche and Salta regions: “The scenery was unbelievably gorgeous…”

Church in the city of Bariloche. Argentina

The cathedral in Bariloche overlooks Nahuel Huapi, a glacial lake in Argentina’s Patagonia region. Photo: Shutterstock

“We chose Bariloche and the Salta region to see a wide range of landscapes, as well as to have exposure to indigenous culture in the Northwest. We stayed four nights in Bariloche and enjoyed terrific hiking and a variety of lake views. We loved staying at the Aldebaran, away from town and in a beautiful setting. Flying north to Salta for 11 nights, we stayed in four different communities (Purmamarca in Jujuy Province, and Salta, Cachi and Cafayate in Salta Province). Although the trip involved some long drives, the scenery was unbelievably gorgeous and the landscapes totally engaging.

We had a fabulous evening in Salta enjoying a local peña (not a typical tourist show); visited three different weavers (including a very special visit at Tejedores Andinos); indulged in three lunches at different vineyards; had other amazing meals and wines in beautiful settings; and visited three museums that are among the most unique we’ve ever seen. Working with Jordan and Krista is an absolute pleasure: They have fabulous local contacts, and each of our two guides greatly enhanced our understanding of Argentina as well as made certain we were always comfortable and pleased with our activities.” —Rhoda Schulzinger

Read more reviews of Argentina trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Patagonia: From cruising past glaciers to hiking in Torres del Paine

Explora Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park. Photo courtesy Southwind Adventures

The Explora lodge in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park has an enviable location on the shores of Pehoé Lake. Photo: Southwind Adventures

“Our trip to Patagonia was incredible. A couple of days in Buenos Aires was a great way to break up the long travel and a treat to explore an interesting, colorful city with our guide, Claudio. Tom’s suggestion to spend four nights on a small ship exploring the glaciers of the Beagle and Drake channel was spot on. We loved adventures in the zodiacs every day, as well as amazing guides and very good food.

The highlight of the trip was Torres del Paine. The most beautiful place we’ve ever seen. So glad we stayed at Explora, with the best view in the entire park, fabulous guides to take you hiking, and great food and service!” —Carrie Lazarus

Read more reviews of Patagonia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


The Galapagos Islands: “It was simply mind-boggling how many amazing animals we saw up close…”

photo of Sea turtle swimming underwater in the Galapagos island

A sea turtle is one of many creatures you’re almost certain to see in the Galapagos island. Photo: Shutterstock

“My family of four (two parents, 10yr old, 12yr old) took a one-week Galapagos cruise aboard the Elite. Allie planned the trip. EVERY aspect of the journey was incredible, and none of us wanted to leave.

We are so happy Wendy linked us up with Allie. Allie was essential to helping us sort through the blizzard of options (land-based or boat-based? which of a hundred boats? large or small? monohull or cat? four-day or longer? etc.). She helped us make it perfect.

With Allie’s guidance we chose a small boat (the Elite has a 16-person max). Small boats can be rocky, so she steered us toward a catamaran for more stability, to minimize the risk of seasickness. The water was generally smooth, but on one or two nights with bigger waves, we were very happy to have two hulls, especially while watching how tippy the monohulls were. We didn’t really think about it beforehand, but being aboard a catamaran allowed for a wider beam and more spacious rooms on board.

The reason to go to the Galapagos is the geological and natural history, so I’ll start there. We saw blue-footed boobies, courting frigate birds, gulls, Galapagos hawks (hunting and eating marine iguanas!) and more. We encountered a number of Galapagos tortoises in the wild. In the water, on numerous snorkeling activities, we saw more types of reef fish than I could name, from little gobis and half-inch baby puffers up to tuna. Small sharks skimmed the bottom, oblivious of us. Penguins flashed by, within a few feet, as they hunted, and we actually saw them catching fish. We never sought out sea lions because as soon as we hit the water, they found us, swimming within inches of us in circles and loops, trying to get us to play with them. Pods of sea turtles munched on algae as we floated above, swimming so close to us at times that we actually had to struggle to swim away in order not to contact or disturb them. It was simply mind-boggling how many amazing animals we saw up close.

My 12yr old was captivated by being on a boat and got to know Marcello, the captain, and Rey, the first mate. They let him take the wheel a few times. Both were great with the kids aboard. On the zodiac boats that took us from the Elite to the shore, the guys who drove those boats also let our kids take the helm a couple times. The whole crew was super friendly and seemed committed to sharing their beautiful islands and making sure everyone left having had an extraordinary experience. They all had their specific jobs which they took seriously (it was a boat, after all, so it’s all serious at some point), but when they had time, they stepped outside their appointed roles to help guests or to point out interesting things. For example, one of the crew, Francis, snorkeled whenever he could and did a great job enhancing our experience, pointing out hard-to-spot creatures like sea cucumbers or rays camouflaged on the ocean bottom.

One unexpected aspect of the trip was the beauty of the islands. Had we never stepped ashore, the trip would have been memorable just for the gorgeous islands, striking sunsets, impressive vistas, and stunning beaches. I genuinely cannot think of anything that could be improved upon. We badly want to go again, bringing aunts, uncles, and cousins to share this exceptional experience.” —John Strachan

Read more reviews of Galapagos trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Patagonia and Chile’s Atacama Desert, including a “private stargazing evening…”

Barbara Schoenfeld and her family on a boat ride on Lago Grey in Patagonia to see the glacier.

Barbara Schoenfeld and her husband enjoying a Christmas Eve cruise on Grey Lake.

Tom designed a Christmas/New Year’s trip to Chile for our family of six. He rose to the challenge of transporting us down and back up half the length of the continent. He organized visits to both Patagonia and the Atacama Desert, securing rooms at Hotel Las Torres in Patagonia and Explora Atacama. Both were excellent choices for their top-notch adventure staff and boutique experience.

He pretty much had to plan three trips because we originated in San Francisco, New York, and New England, and we had three different time frames. He and his staff handled the transportation logistics smoothly.

Barbara Schoenfeld

Alain Maury’s SPACE Observatory, Chile. Photo: Barbara Schoenfeld

And I’m not just saying this because I’m writing a review for Wendy’s WOW List, but the best part of the trip was the Wendy WOW Moment. We had a private stargazing evening, hosted by French astronomer Alain Maury, at his observatory called SPACE (San Pedro de Atacama Celestial Explorations). Above is the photo he took of us in front of one of his telescopes. Plus we have a video he recorded on my son’s cell phone where he described what we were seeing on the Sea of Tranquility on the moon—particularly the smudge where the US Apollo 11 landed.” —Barbara Schoenfeld

Read more reviews of Chile and Patagonia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Uruguay and Argentina’s wine country: “Hundreds of wineries to choose from…”

Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina

Vineyards in Mendoza, Argentina. Photo: Cavas Wine Lodge

“This was the second time that I worked with Maita and Santiago, and, once again, the trip was everything I’d hoped it would be and more. I started in Mendoza, Argentina, at Cavas Wine Lodge, which is located in a gorgeous vineyard and has gorgeous views from all angles. Santiago arranged for me to go to several wineries, and each was excellent and so much fun! There are hundreds of wineries to choose from, so I was delighted that Santiago found ones that were perfect for me.

Then I flew to Montevideo, Uruguay, and was driven to the absolutely delightful and gorgeous town of José Ignacio. Maita and Santiago had recommended this over Punta del Este, and they were spot on. I never would have found this little town and am now considering buying property there! Santiago arranged very interesting tours to Garzon winery, lunch at Garzon restaurant, where I met Francis Mallman(!), and Pablo Atchugarry’s amazing and beautiful art, as well as the must-see Casapueblo.

Maita and Santiago will listen to your likes and dislikes, and what you want out of the trip, and will then create a bespoke itinerary that you will absolutely love! I am already working on a third trip with them.” —Susan Cunneen

Read more reviews of Uruguay and Argentina trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


From Bolivia’s Salt Flats to Chile’s Atacama Desert: hiking, photography, WOW food…

Salar de Uyuni salt flats Bolivia

Bolivia’s mesmerizing Salar de Uyuni.

“We just returned from our amazing adventure in Bolivia and the Atacama Desert. Marisol and Mark created a 14-day adventure that catered to each of our individual interests from hiking, food, tapestries, and photo opportunities. Of course, our trip would not have been as enjoyable without our amazing drivers—who somehow got us to each of our destinations and who spotted and stopped so we could photograph foxes, llamas, vicunas, guanacos, viscacha, flamingos, ducks, Suri alpacas, and was always on the ready to stop for an armadillo.

The reservations Mark made for our lunch and dinners highlighted the Bolivian food culture in La Paz—we especially enjoyed Gustu (WOW!), Ancestral (DELICIOUS!), and Ali Pacha (AMAZING!—and this coming from an ‘anti’ -vegetable’ person!). It was fascinating to learn about traditional indigenous life not only through food, but by visiting the Tarabuco market, visiting master weavers in their homes, and visiting Elizabeth’s (our Sucre guide) hacienda in Candelaria, where we helped to make a traditional countryside lunch (we are looking forward to making the Sunday soup for our families).

We also enjoyed the stunning views of the Uyuni salt flats. We had a delicious lunch alongside a small patch of water with flamingos, hiked a small island, were mesmerized by the reflections on the water at sunset where we enjoyed a lovely bottle of wine and some treats, and were awed at seeing the sky full of stars twinkling over the salt flats!” —Peggy Murphy

Read more reviews of Bolivia and Chile trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Trekking in Patagonia: “I can’t quit showing off my trip photos…”


Traveler Jeannie Mullen in Torres del Paine National Park.

“Since returning from two weeks of trekking in Patagonia, I can’t quit showing off my trip photos! Every time I looked, a National-Geographic-worthy photo leapt into my iPhone.

My goal for this trip was to get in as much trekking as possible—specifically, I wanted to see what my improving fitness level would allow me to do and challenge myself to do more but still get home in one piece. Tom‘s trip suggestions and logistics planning were spot-on, and he was able to secure great private trekking guides in each location of the trip, as I wound my way through Chile and Argentina.

First, Torres del Paine: Oh my goodness, what a location. Scenery, wildlife … it absolutely has it all. Tom suggested that Explora was the most advantageous location to do the sort of trekking that I was interested in, and it was perfection.

My guide for three days, Francisca, was delightful, knowledgeable, and encouraging. On our first half-day trek to view wildlife, we saw everything, including the elusive puma … taking an afternoon nap. We had him all to ourselves for over an hour. On some very long, back-to-back treks over the next two days (Grey Glacier and the French Valley), she and I had some terrific conversations, shared our personal stories, and learned a lot from each other, given our different cultures and generations.


Guanacos (close relatives of llamas) are among the few residents of Patagonia. Photo: Traveler Jeannie Mullen

Crossing the border and entering Argentina, I was seamlessly transferred to another guide and driver, Juan and Beto, who showed me some of Argentina’s most gorgeous terrain. We hiked to the base of Cerro Torre and the very next day to the base of Fitz Roy. I have to confess I had serious doubts that I could do these hikes, but Juan was very encouraging and guided me through … he took my goal seriously … and I had three gorgeous treks in El Chalten (and sore feet) to show for it.

On our way back to Calafate to view the Perito Moreno glacier, Juan and Beto invited me to share the mate (mah-tay) experience with them—a tradition practiced by all the locals: a warm emulsion of (mostly bitter) local herbs. I was so thrilled to be offered the opportunity to experience it the way the locals do (versus ordering it at a restaurant just to say that I had). I’m pretty sure that Juan and Beto got a kick out of watching the “gringa” trying to finish it, which one must do before returning it to the one who prepares it.

On to Ushuaia for a final three days of trekking through Glacier National Park. Ushuaia is not on everyone’s radar screen, unless there is a cruise to Antarctica involved, but it should be. It’s an interesting, evolving place in a very remote part of the world that you don’t really hear that much about. The mountains on Beagle Channel make for some really striking views. On our hikes (through sun, wind, light rain, and even a curious 10 minutes of hail which happened on a clear, sunny day) my guide, Santiago, was very engaging and shared a lot about his country (current economy, government, growth and job opportunities in Ushuaia) and his family.

I leave in just under a month for another hiking trip that Tom planned for me over the upcoming holidays—in Chile’s Lake District. Stay tuned!” —Jeannie Mullen

Read more reviews of Chile and Patagonia trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.


Chile’s Wine Country and Valparaiso

Marsha Friedli

Marsha Friedli and husband, Craig, in front of the Moai statue in Vina Del Mar.

“Wendy Perrin and her travel experts knocked it out of the park! We, my husband and I, were finally taking a COVID-delayed cruise around Cape Horn starting in Santiago, Chile. We wanted to spend several pre-cruise days in the Maipo wine region and visit Valparaiso. Wendy put us in touch with Maita’s office, and our major contact was Eva.
In the Maipo wine region, Eva’s hotel recommendation was Casa Real Santa Rita, 2 nights. It was delightfully restful after our long flight and staying here was perfect. Our hostess at the hotel was also our guide and wine steward for the historic property. We had a wonderful afternoon wine tasting on the veranda which overlooked the gardens and pond. We also enjoyed the food and wine pairings that were offered. This is a property to return to again.

In Valparaiso we had a wonderful day enjoying the amazing graffiti that decorates the city. Thanks to Franco, our guide, we had a private showing at an art gallery and were able to see the city and its unusual architecture from 3-4 stories up. Valparaiso is a city of stairs and narrow streets and twists and turns. Fortunately our guide, Franco, knew where to go and when to avoid the crowds on the funiculars. He maximized our limited time visiting. One of my must-see items on this trip was to visit the Moai statue gifted to Chile that is located in Viña del Mar. And we did! We were also able to walk along the beautiful beach and enjoy the art and the people out and about. Franco also had lunch reservations at a lovely castle-looking restaurant that had a tasty menu of Chilean seafood dishes. As an added plus, our table overlooked the harbor. Delightful! In Valparaiso, our hotel, Casa Higueras, was a place you wanted to stay and linger longer. Our room had a wonderful view of the harbor and Pacific Ocean.

Maita’s team made this a great way to start our cruise and gain a better understanding and appreciation for the beautiful country of Chile.” —Marsha Friedli

Read more reviews of Chile trips. To get your own WOW trip, start with our trip questionnaire, reached via the black button below.



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Sugarloaf Mountain and Botafogo Neighborhood in Rio de Janeiro by Sunset with Full Moon in the Sky

WOW Moment: Mountaintop Cocktails in Brazil

Gerry and Anne O’Connor of Stony Brook, New York, visited Brazil in fall 2018, where their adventures included a surprise WOW Moment. A WOW Moment is, of course, an exclusive insider experience that Wendy adds to every third qualifying WOW List trip. The O’Connors’ WOW Moment came on Day 7 of a 22-day itinerary designed by Rio-based Brazil specialist Paul Irvine. Usually, when a traveler returns from a WOW Moment, we interview them. But Gerry was so moved by his Rio surprise that he wrote an article for us before we even had a chance to ask him. What follows are his own words about what Paul orchestrated for them in Rio.

How It Began

We were seven days into our trip when our local guide, Carlos, piloting a propane-gas-driven Ford through Rio traffic, turned toward us and said with a devilish glint in his eye, “Today begins your WOW Moment.”

Anne and I were dumbfounded. During our many conversations with Paul, we had never talked specifically about the WOW Moment. We had become so focused on the journey that we had forgotten all about it. But after numerous emails and itinerary modifications, Paul knew us well—our interests, limitations, hopes, and dreams.

We had met Carlos after our first night in Rio. As we were leaving the hotel for our first day of touring Rio, the concierge nodded toward Carlos, gave us the thumbs-up sign, and mouthed, “He’s the best!” We knew we were in good hands.

Now, however, he was smiling but totally non-communicative, which was very unlike him. Normally loquacious, he had pressed his mute button.

The Surprise Is Revealed

At Rodrigo de Freitas Lagoon, Carlos parked the car and asked if we were up for a short walk. I grabbed my camera, water bottle, and backpack. We walked, strolled, and walked some more, almost completely circumnavigating the lagoon. Anne and I began exchanging puzzled glances and shrugging our shoulders, convinced that Carlos was either lost or stalling for time.

As we passed through a slightly open iron gate, I suddenly saw a windsock. That’s when I remembered telling Paul about a helicopter ride we’d had in Kauai, and how much we had enjoyed seeing inaccessible terrain from aloft. At the same time, I recalled Carlos, our normally talkative guide, telling us how much he hates heights.

The helicopter arrived, and from it emerged a female pilot festooned with military-like epaulettes—most impressive! After a quick pause for introductions and photos, off we went.

A Different Perspective on the City

The aerial view of Rio is awe-inspiring. It revealed in graphic detail the scope and depth of the city’s architecture, its variable terrain, and its population density. It also highlighted the city’s diversity of housing and, unfortunately, its cultural inequality and the poverty of the favelas surrounding sections of Ipanema and Copa.

Rio, as seen from a helicopter

Rio, as seen from a helicopter. Photo: Gerry O’Connor

We flew south along the coast and then turned north, flying over Copacabana Beach, with the statue of Christ the Redeemer looming just off our port side.

We gradually descended to a postage-stamp platform that jutted from the side of Morro da Urca, a smaller peak adjacent to Sugarloaf. Engines and blades rotating, we exchanged handshakes and mouthed our farewells to the pilot, who was off to São Paulo to ferry an executive to a private villa.

A Hands-on Lesson in a Brazilian Tradition

After buying tickets for the cable car ride to the summit of Sugarloaf, Carlos ushered us to a portico with a spectacular view of the mountain. For the next 45 minutes, in an area cordoned off for us, we were given a private tutorial by a master mixologist that included the making of a perfect caipirinha, Brazil’s national drink, as well as an explanation of the origin and cultural significance of cachaça, the distilled spirit made from fermented sugarcane juice that is the drink’s main ingredient. Our bartender was specific and exacting, the consummate chemist, peering sternly over our shoulders as we gleefully attempted to replicate his precision and exactness. Consuming our beverages—with maybe a little more cachaça than was originally recommended—was the final component of this drink-making experience. The drinks were bloody delicious.

A Perfect Ending to a Perfect Day

The O’Connors making caipirinhas, with Rio’s Sugarloaf mountain in the background.

Paul is a good puppet master, but even he couldn’t pull off a perfect sunset, as clouds rolled in to obscure the view from the upper reaches of Sugarloaf. Still, nothing could dull or dim the thrill of the afternoon.

We rode the Swiss-style gondola back down the mountain and took an Uber back to town. While in traffic, Carlos—having regained his comfort level now that we were safe and secure on the ground—called the restaurant where we had dinner reservations and explained our more-than-one-hour delay. The restaurant not only held our reservations but also welcomed us with complimentary margaritas. In all our travels, a finer day would be hard to recall.

Mark Twain famously said, “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” The WOW Moment is another tool that opens us to world views that are nearly impossible to comprehend without this kind of first-hand experience.


Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

On every third qualifying trip, Wendy will add to your itinerary a surprise WOW Moment. A WOW Moment is an exclusive insider experience that helps make a trip extraordinary. Each WOW Moment is totally different. They vary depending on a huge range of factors, including the country you’re headed to, the timing of your trip, logistics, availability, and more. You can read a sampling of the more over-the-top WOW Moments (those most conducive to editorial coverage) here. Learn which trips qualify, and how the process works, here: Wendy Wants To Amp Up Your Trip!

Field of Light installation by Bruce Munro; at Uluru, Australia

Where to Travel in 2018

There are so many exciting, beautiful, relaxing, delicious, educational, awe-inspiring, adrenaline-pumping, perspective-shifting places to see—and so little time. That’s why we’re here with our annual list of recommendations for where to go next. The following places are worth seeing in 2018 for reasons that range from blockbuster events and noteworthy anniversaries to the fact that they’re at that delicate tipping point between buzz-worthy and overrun. See them before the tourist hordes beat you to it. No matter where you decide to roam this year (and you’ll find additional ideas here, based on which month you can get away), we wish you safe and extraordinary travels.


Valena Zalanului, guesthouses, Romania

Valena Zalanului, guesthouses, Romania

Romania turns 100 years old in 2018, a centenary marked by cultural celebrations that will give travelers even more reasons to explore this underrated but increasingly popular country dotted with 13th-century villages and UNESCO World Heritage sites. Mark your calendars for the Transylvania Film Festival (May 25–June 6), the Full Moon Horror & Fantasy Film Festival (August 10–13), or the annual Electric Castle music festival (July 18–22). Be sure to make time for Romania’s other homegrown activities, such as hiking in Central Europe’s largest forest or watching artisans ply their craft using the same tools and techniques used for centuries.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Romania trip possible, contact Wendy here.

Puebla, Mexico

Museo Internacional del Barroco, Puebla City, Mexico

Museo Internacional del Barroco, Puebla City, Mexico. Photo: Journey Mexico

This charming colonial city has been on savvy travelers’ radar for a while now, what with its fresh crop of sophisticated hotels (including a Rosewood and a Cartesiano) and tourism improvements such as a sightseeing cable car and a train connecting Puebla City to Cholula, where you’ll find trendy new eateries and pop-up markets that give that town a Oaxaca vibe. All of this is on top of Puebla State’s historic and cultural legacy, born from its UNESCO World Heritage monuments, its internationally renowned cuisine, and its beautiful pottery. Most visible on the city’s undamaged skyline is the undulating white façade of the new Museo Internacional del Barroco, which houses exhibitions about the artistically rich (though often underrated) Baroque aesthetic of the 17th and 18th centuries—a period that had a major influence on the look of Puebla City itself. If you’re thinking that the 2017 earthquake made all of this irrelevant, we’re happy to report that you’re wrong: The museum withstood the quake, and so did this resilient city, where hotels remained open, reconstruction began immediately, and tourism rebounded quickly. Get there soon before everyone else realizes it’s ready for them.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Puebla trip possible, contact Mexico travel specialist Zach Rabinor through our site. Here’s why.


Adelie penguins jumping in to sea in Antarctica

Adelie penguins dive into the water in Antarctica. Photo: ExpeditionTrips

New and improved Antarctica voyages are on tap for 2018, with upgraded ships, cutting-edge itineraries, and program enhancements. The tricked-out World Explorer will debut in 2018 with classic Antarctic peninsula itineraries but with the new option to fly there directly from Chile rather than brave the choppy Drake Passage by water. The recently refurbed 114-passenger expedition vessel Hebridean Sky will offer kayaking, camping, and a citizen-science program for families. For those looking for even more unusual routes, Le Boreal and Le Soleal will venture to South Georgia Island and the Falklands, and the Silver Explorer will journey to those destinations plus the rarely visited South Sandwich Islands.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the Antarctica expedition cruise best suited to your specific trip goals and needs, contact Antarctica travel specialist Ashton Palmer through our site. Here’s why.

Angra dos Reis, Brazil

boat in the water Angra dos Reis, Brazil.

Angra dos Reis, Brazil. Photo: Pixabay/gabrielvannini

Many Brazilian elites own beach homes two hours from Rio in Angra dos Reis, which is known for its beautiful coastline. The bay has more than 300 islands covered in Atlantic rainforest, many of them uninhabited, with picture-perfect beach coves and very calm emerald-colored waters. The reason more travelers don’t go to Angra dos Reis is that, until now, there has not been a hotel of the same caliber as the beach homes for rent. That’s about to change, with the opening of the Fasano Angra dos Reis in early January. The resort will have 54 suites—all with sea views—plus an 18-hole golf course, two restaurants, and nightlife options. It will now be easier to combine Rio and Angra dos Reis into one quick trip that introduces you to both Brazil’s energetic urban vibe and its blissful beaches.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Brazil trip possible, Ask Wendy. Here’s why.

Parma, Italy

winding colorful street in Parma Italy with biker on it

Parma, Italy. Photo: Shutterstock

Yes, this is where the famous ham comes from. But prosciutto di Parma is not the only reason to go. Parma is in Italy’s Emilia-Romagna region, where you can find the best of what Italy’s pantries have to offer, including Parma’s Parmigiano Reggiano, Modena’s balsamic vinegar, and Bologna’s egg pasta. A trip to Parma is delicious anytime, but in 2018 you’ll be able to sample its culture via the Festival Verdi, an annual opera series dedicated to the maestro, who helmed several of his most famous productions in Parma. This year’s fest will showcase four rarities, including an early ‘comedy,’ the Shakespearean tragedy Macbeth, and Le Trouvere, a rewrite in French of one of his most popular works, Il Trovatore. “You can pair all of it with a plate of the finest Culatello di Zibello, torta fritta, and a glass of bubbly Lambrusco to fulfill an Italian opera-food-lover’s nirvana,” notes Italy travel specialists Maria Landers and Brian Dore, who are opera singers in addition to being Trusted Travel Experts on Wendy’s WOW List.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Emilia-Romagna trip possible, contact Maria and Brian through our site. Here’s why.

Gdansk, Poland

Gdansk, Poland. Photo: Poland Tourist Organization

Gdansk, Poland. Photo: Poland Tourist Organization

For years it was just another Baltic cruise port—one overrun with tourists and not that interesting. Thanks to recent investments, Gdansk has new hotels (the stylish Puro is already open and two four-star properties are on their way), trendy restaurants (Piwna47 and Mono Kitchen are standouts), and three new museums that have put its rich and complex history back at center stage. The Emigration Museum shares stories of Polish émigrés all over the world, especially to the U.S., while the Solidarity Center focuses on the struggle for freedom and democracy in Poland and beyond. “The collection is very interactive and not just a bunch of names and dates,” points out Gwen Kozlowski, an Eastern Europe travel specialist on Wendy’s WOW List. “Poland somehow creates super-interesting museums like this (such as the Warsaw Uprising Museum, Schindler’s Factory in Krakow, and the POLIN Museum of the History of Polish Jews).” This curatorial talent is demonstrated particularly well at Gdansk’s third new museum, the World War II Museum—where, for example, a kids’ section shows the same Warsaw apartment on the day WWII started, one year later, and toward the end. The Museum garnered a lot of attention when it opened in March 2017, as much for its exhibits about Gdansk’s former life as Danzig, the contested “free city” where Germany invaded Poland in 1939 and started WWII, as for the current Polish government’s role in trying to dictate how that history is portrayed. “Gdansk is now much more than souvenir shops, mediocre pierogi, and amber jewelry stores,” says Gwen. “It’s a city that should be on your radar.”

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Poland trip possible, contact Gwen through our site. Here’s why.

Northeastern France

WWI war cemetery in Verdun, France

Verdun, France. Photo: Pixabay

November 11, 2018, marks the 100th anniversary of Armistice Day and the end of WWI, which will be commemorated across Europe. But Northeast France is where the Armistice was signed—at the Clairière de l’Armistice in Compiegne—so that’s a good place to include in an itinerary focused on “The War To End All Wars.” Verdun is a must, so you can see where the largest and longest battle on the Western Front was fought between the German and French armies. Today, you can walk through the fort and what’s left of the trenches, comparing the beauty of present-day farm country with wartime fields that were so heavy with shells that it made the mud bounce. Other stops might include the Museum of the Great War, in Meaux, which has Europe’s largest collection of artifacts from WWI; the open-air Montsec American Monument, which features a bronze relief battle map of military operations in that area; the Thiepval Memorial, which pays tribute to the thousands of missing soldiers of the Battle of the Somme; and the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery in Romagne-Sous-Montfaucon: It’s the largest American cemetery in Europe, not far from the 200-foot granite American Memorial that commemorates the U.S. army’s victory during the Meuse-Argonne Offensive.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best France trip possible, contact Wendy here.

Hoh Xil, China

Wild horses in Hoh Xil, China

Wild horses in Hoh Xil, China. Photo: Wild China

Out in China’s western province of Qinghai, Hoh Xil remains one of the last untouched natural landscapes on Earth. This plateau, which is the largest and highest in the world, was just named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. This is a smart time to see it because foreign passport holders can now visit the edge of the national park with an exclusive permit. Be among the earliest adventurers to explore this wilderness—home to more than 230 rare species of animals.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best China trip possible, contact China travel specialist Mei Zhang through our site. Here’s why.

Uluru, Australia

Field of Light installation by Bruce Munro; at Uluru, Australia

Field of Light installation by Bruce Munro at Uluru, Australia. Photo: Mark Pickthall

Iconic Uluru and its ancient outback landscapes are perennial traveler favorites, but now is a compelling time to move them to the top of your bucket list. Travelers to Australia’s Red Centre will now be treated to something special at Ayers Rock: internationally acclaimed artist Bruce Munro’s Field of Light installation. The rock and the surrounding Red Desert were the original inspirations for Munro’s sprawling outdoor artwork, after a visit in 1992, and this iteration (which was supposed to close in March 2018 but was just extended to 2020) is the most expansive in all the years since—a carpet of 50,000 solar-powered stalks illuminating the landscape.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Australia trip possible, contact Wendy here.

Monteverde, Costa Rica

Monteverde Costa Rica

Monteverde, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

The Monteverde Cloud Forest, in the mountains of northwestern Costa Rica, is a lushly biodiverse reserve that nature lovers like to spend days exploring. For years the hotel and restaurant options in the town of Monteverde were limited, making it a destination for backpackers and die-hard naturalists only. But recently a range of new places to stay and eat have opened. Monteverde now has several local craft beers, galleries where you can meet the artists, and local artisanal chocolate. Visit now before it becomes overcrowded.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best Costa Rica trip possible, contact Wendy.

Tbilisi, Georgia

aerial view of Tblisi Georgia

Tbilisi, Georgia. Photo: Georgian Tourism Ministry

It’s quickly becoming Eurasia’s creative and cultural center of cool. In fact, it’s hardly under the radar anymore, what with magazines reporting on its annual Fashion Week (Vogue wrote that Georgia is where the world’s best knitwear is being woven these days) and Anthony Bourdain touting its food and drink (Georgia is one of the oldest wine regions in the world). “At the turn of the 20th century, Tbilisi was a vibrant capital city that attracted artists, musicians, writers and travelers, and it has now returned to its roots,” explains Zulya Rajabova, a travel specialist on Wendy’s WOW List for Central Asia, where she grew up. “It began with the lure of fabulous food and wine, and now this relatively untraveled city is attracting more and more visitors.” Go while you can still get tickets to the city’s annual jazz and art festivals, sample its more than 500 varieties of wine in peace, or stroll its curving cobbled streets without being overwhelmed by parades of tour groups.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get a superlative Georgia trip, contact Zulya through our site. Here’s why.

The Northwest Passage

Arctic Ice Bridge, Canada

The Canadian Arctic has jaw-dropping views including this ice bridge. Photo: David-McEown

As climate change progresses, media attention on the Northwest Passage has increased—and so has traveler interest. First traversed in 1906 by professional explorer Roald Amundsen (also the first person to later reach the south pole), the route through the Arctic Circle above North America has become increasingly popular for cruises. “Space is filling up at a record pace,” warns Ashton Palmer, expedition-cruise specialist on The WOW List, so book now. Of what’s still available, Ashton recommends the 92-passenger Akademik Sergey Vavilov’s itinerary through the Northwest Passage and Greenland, the larger 240-passenger MS Fram’s eastbound route, or the just-renovated Ocean Adventurer, which will loop from Ottawa to Greenland following in the footsteps of early Arctic explorer Sir John Franklin. More ice-ready ships are expected to launch in 2018 and 2019, so interested adventurers should expect more availability—and more people—heading through the Passage in the near future.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the Northwest Passage expedition cruise best suited to your specific trip goals and needs, contact Ashton through our site. Here’s why.

Cabo Pulmo, Los Cabos, Mexico

underwater diver with fish in Los Cabos, Mexico

Diving in Los Cabos, Mexico. Photo: Los Cabos Villa Vacations

The southern tip of the Baja Peninsula will be turning heads in the coming year, thanks to the highly anticipated debut of posh new resorts such as Zadún, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve in San José del Cabo; Montage Los Cabos, on Santa Maria Bay; and a Nobu Hotel in Cabo San Lucas. But savvy travelers should look east of the tourist corridor, toward the less flashy East Cape area, home of Cabo Pulmo National Marine Park. This protected stretch of the Sea of Cortez is home to one of only three living coral reefs in North America, and its clear waters offer some of the best diving in all of Baja; the area was added to the UNESCO World Heritage list in 2005. In 2018, a Four Seasons resort will open a little farther up the coast at Costa Palmas, a two-mile beachfront campus that will include a yacht club, a marina, private villas and residences, a hotel, a Robert Trent Jones Jr.–designed golf course, and a beach club. Cabo Pulmo is an easy day trip from Los Cabos, but now visitors will be able to stay near the park in five-star digs. “This is definitely going to change the laid-back atmosphere of this untouched area,” says Julie Byrd, Trusted Travel Expert for Cabo on Wendy’s WOW List. “It will make the park more crowded but will also offer a high-end option in the area.”

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best possible trip, contact Julie through our siteHere’s why.

Sri Lanka

Elephants swimming during the Gal Oya boat safari, Sri Lanka

Elephants swimming during the Gal Oya boat safari, Sri Lanka. Photo: The Fabulous Getaway

In 2018 Sri Lanka will celebrate 70 years of independence, as well as 70 years of cricket. But the main reason to go soon is that a big tourism boom is coming that will likely change the undeveloped feel of the island. For example, right now, there is one lodge with access to Gal Olya National Park, where you can take a boat safari to watch elephant herds swimming in the Senanayake Samudra. Wendy and her family visited Sri Lanka a year ago and spent part of their trip at the island’s first big five-star beach property, the Anantara Peace Haven Tangalle Resort. (That trip was her family’s best Christmas vacation abroad.) More luxe hotels have been popping up around the country—including the Wild Coast Tented Lodge, a Relais & Chateaux property near Yala National Park—and a Shangri-La beach resort is coming soon to Colombo. Wendy’s family found still-unspoiled landscapes, rich local culture and traditions, delightful people, and even opportunities to give back. Go now.

To be marked as a VIP traveler and get the best possible trip, contact Miguel through our siteHere’s why.

St. Helena

Sandy Bay, St. Helena island

Sandy Bay, St. Helena. Photo: Ed Thorpe

Given its location in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean 1,200 miles west of Africa and 1,800 miles east of Brazil, St. Helena is one of the world’s most isolated islands—which is why, back in 1851, it made an ideal place to exile Napoleon to. Today, the 47-square mile British territory has a population of 4,600—who call themselves “Saints”—and they want you to know that there’s a lot more to do on St. Helena than just visit the house where the French emperor lived and died. You can dive to shipwrecks, swim with whale sharks, go on picturesque hikes to see some of the 500 endemic species of flora and fauna, and get to know them personally. And now that South African Airlines recently launched flights from Johannesburg and Cape Town—shortening the journey from five days at sea on a mail boat to five hours by air on a 76-seat Embraer—all of that’s going to be a lot easier. Plus, the long-distance trip will make for some pretty cool stories to tell your friends when you get back home.

Be a smarter traveler: Read real travelers’ reviews of Wendy’s WOW List and use it to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook, Twitter @wendyperrin, and Instagram @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Olympic City, Rio de Janeiro.

5 Safety Tips for Rio During the Olympics, or Anytime

As host to the world’s largest Carnival, Rio de Janeiro is used to welcoming massive influxes of tourists. This year, 400,000 visitors are expected in August for the Olympics and in September for the Paralympics games. Some attendees might be wary about traveling to Brazil due to the Zika virus scare, however, and others might have concerns about crime or how the recent impeachment of Brazil’s President Dilma Rousseff (over alleged budget manipulations) will affect the country. So we’ve connected with our Brazil-based Trusted Travel Expert Martin Frankenberg to get his perspective and advice. “Most visitors are surprised by how safe they feel in Rio after all they’ve read and heard about the city’s safety concerns,” he says. “Still, travelers should be alert, as they would be in any big city.” While Zika virus is a concern, he points out, the date of the Olympics actually lowers your risk: “Remember that during the winter months, which are July and August in Brazil, there are far fewer mosquitoes.”

Here are tips for a safe and memorable trip to Rio:

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Staying safe in Rio isn’t hard with a bit of planning. Photo: Flickr/Ramon Llorensi.

1. Look out for camera snatchers.

The most common crime tourists need to think about, Martin says, is camera snatching, mostly carried out by teenagers. To avoid being a target, Martin advises, don’t wear flashy jewelry, keep your camera safely stowed when not in use, and avoid walking alone on an empty street.

2. Avoid the waterline at night on Copacabana Beach.

“Don’t go to the waterline on the beach at night, unless there are a lot of people there,” says Martin. “The beaches are general deserted at night. While a romantic walk along the water might seem tempting, you will be a prime target for theft. Therefore, it’s best to keep an evening stroll to the promenade sidewalk that runs along the beach; this is safe.”

3. Take the subway, not the bus.

The Olympic events are taking place in four main locations: Maracanã, Barra, Copacabana, Deodoro. Each of the venues is accessible by public transit; you can view maps and plan your route on the official Rio 2016 website. The subway is very safe, says Martin, and has the added perk of being air-conditioned. Buses are less safe, he warns. They’re a concern also indicated on the US State Department’s safety report on Brazil (due to frequent theft on buses). The only Olympics venue you should not take the subway to, Martin advises, is the Deodoro complex, where equestrian, biking, canoeing and a few other events are being held. Since it’s out in the suburbs, which are less savory than the city center, he recommends private transportation. Your hotel concierge or apartment manager should be able to arrange this; alternatively, you can use Uber in Rio. Once inside the event venues, you should be totally safe.

4. Pack long-sleeved shirts, long pants, and insect repellent with at least 20% DEET.

It’s important to protect yourself against Zika virus, of course. As Wendy wrote in her TripAdvisor column,,“The World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control are learning new information about the Zika virus every day, so the [mosquito-borne] epidemic is an unfolding story, but they agree that the travelers with the most reason for concern are pregnant women.” Bookmark the CDC’s Zika page for the latest information.

While pregnant women or those planning on getting pregnant are advised to postpone their trips, other travelers need not panic. “Only one in five people who get the Zika virus get any symptoms at all,” Wendy writes. “Those symptoms—a mild fever, joint pain, a body rash, and conjunctivitis—usually disappear after two to seven days, and the virus clears itself from the body about a week after infection.”

Since the way to get Zika is to be bitten by an infected mosquito, follow the CDC’s precautions against mosquitoes. Use insect repellent that contains 20% or more DEET. Use screens and close doors and windows. Wear clothing—preferably light-colored, preferably permethrin-treated—that covers as much of your body as possible. On Wendy’s trip earlier this month to countries affected by the Zika virus, she and her family wore an ExOfficio line of permethrin-treated clothing called BugsAway.

“Rio is a large city of more than six million inhabitants, and the population here is really not scared,” notes Martin. “As a percentage, the number of infected people is low, and the number of people with any complications is incredibly low.”

5. Know your emergency numbers.

In case you do encounter any health or safety issues in Brazil, dial 190 for the police and 192 for an ambulance; note that the operators might not speak English. At hospitals doctors usually speak English, but nurses do not. If you’re in need of a good hospital, Martin suggests Clinico Sao Vicente (João Borges, 204 – Gávea, Rio de Janeiro, tel: +55-21-2529-4513). It’s located above Leblon and has English-speaking staff.

If you haven’t booked your tickets to Rio yet, it’s not too late. Martin still has full-service private villas available, and can source tickets for anyone booking accommodation with him.

Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Meet our writer

Lily Heise’s work in tourism and travel writing have seen her blossom hunting in Kyoto, tracking down hidden Angkor temples and getting lost in the Argentinian outback. Her writing has been featured in CondeNast Traveler.com, The Huffington Post, Business Insider and Frommer’s Guides, and she also share tips on France, other travel destinations and romance on her blog Je T’Aime, Me Neither. You can catch up with her on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

A picture-perfect sunset, as seen from the Negro River, , a tributary of the Amazon in Brazil

Things to Do in Brazil Beyond the Olympics

The Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro are almost here, and in addition to providing the chance to see Usain Bolt win another pile of gold medals, the Games are also an opportunity to explore the best of Brazil. August is technically winter in the southern hemisphere, but Brazil’s weather is mild and dry—making it a great time to add some nature to your Rio city stay.

Here is a savvy selection of places to see and things to do beyond the Olympic events.

Rio de Janeiro

With the Olympic events in Rio spread out across four hubs, traffic in the city will be a nightmare—which is one reason to book your tickets through a Trusted Travel Expert from Wendy’s WOW List, as those tickets will get you access to the V.I.P. shuttle vans operating throughout the city in their own lane. “One hub, Deo Doro, is in serious suburbs,” says Martin Frankenberg, one of Wendy’s Trusted Travel Experts for Brazil. “Unless you’re a die-hard equestrian fan, think hard. It could take one and a half to two and a half hours to get there, depending on traffic.” Martin also mentions that Deo Doro is a dodgy area after dark and therefore isn’t a great place to go wandering around. That said, he emphasizes that Rio is a safer city than people think; still, it is a city. “You just have to be smart,” he says. “Don’t leave your camera sticking out, don’t wear jewelry…..Use common sense..”

As part of the Olympics, a lot of new stuff is being built in Rio, and not all of it is specifically for the Games. Martin recommends the stunning Museum of Tomorrow, designed by famed architect Santiago Calatrava, and the Museum of Image and Sound in Copacabana.

The Amazon

The Amazon starts its dry season in August, which means river levels are lower and beaches are exposed. “People are often shocked by the beauty of the white-sand beaches that form here,” says Martin, “making a trip here unique from the experiences one can have in Ecuador or Peru’s swaths of the same river system. In fact, I know of few other places in the world where you can have a different beach entirely to yourself each evening at sunset.” Don’t expect to see wildlife here, though. If you want that, try…

The Pantanal

August is an ideal time to check out the Pantanal, the biggest hot spot for wildlife in the Americas—jaguars, alligators, capybaras, and thousands of birds and fish. If you are looking for a safari-like experience, this is the place.


In contrast to Rio’s urban crush, Paraty is a scenic small coastal town set along the Costa Verde against a backdrop of mountains. It’s a charming beach escape with colonial buildings dating from the 17th and 18th centuries, only a three-hour drive from Rio.


“Also within driving distance of Rio, this area has incredible lodges,” says Martin. “One of my favorites is the Reserva do Ibitipoca. It’s a farm estate with amazing waterfalls, horses, beautiful country scenery.” The property is on a preserve covering 4,000 hectares of natural wilderness and is part of an effort to not only protect the current environment but to make sure that all growth here is sustainable.


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

How to Get the Best Tickets to the Olympics

If you’ve been thinking about experiencing the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro this summer, don’t wait any longer to plan your trip. The best hotels are nearly sold out. Luckily, one of our Trusted Travel Experts for Brazil, Martin Frankenberg—a Brazil native based in São Paulo, with an office in Rio—just dropped us a line to share some good news and useful tips.

As we explained in our how-to-plan article last summer, Olympic tickets and hotel bookings are available only through Authorized Ticket Resellers (ATRs)—and even back then nearly all of the hotel rooms were already spoken for by the International Olympic Committee and its long list of VIPs, sponsors, and staff.

The news is that Martin can now officially sell tickets and book hotels for you—and he has access to the hotels you’d actually want to stay in. At the time of this writing, he can still get travelers into the Sofitel, the Caesar Park, and the new Grand Hyatt. A few other new-for-the-Olympics luxury hotels—including the Trump and the Emiliano—are expected to open soon, too, possibly bringing a few more room options.

As for events, Martin notes that you can still buy tickets to just about everything, even the most popular events like the opening ceremony. (The only two not available at this time are the men’s tennis final and the men’s basketball final.) Of course, certain events come with big buzz and matching prices. For example, while the initial round of gymnastics will cost you only $300–$400, the finals round for sprinter Usain Bolt is more like $3,000. The most expensive tickets go up to about $7,000.

Fortunately, prices for official tickets are regulated, and if you buy through Martin you’ll pay the set price plus a transparent handling fee and be assured that your tickets are legitimate. You’ll also be buying what’s known as VIP hospitality tickets. That means they come with a few perks:

  • the best available Category A seats
  • access to the event’s hospitality lounge for food and beverages
  • a pass to use the VIP mini vans in Rio’s Olympic driving lane—which means you won’t be stuck in traffic as you travel between events

We recommend reaching out to Martin via this Trip Request Form because then you’ll be identified as a Wendy Perrin traveler, which brings a few additional benefits. You’ll be set to have the best possible experience in Brazil.


Be a smarter traveler: Use Wendy’s WOW List to plan your next trip. You can also follow her on Facebook and Twitter @wendyperrin, and sign up for her weekly newsletter to stay in the know.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

How to Plan for the Rio Olympics Now

On August 5, the Rio Summer Olympics will be exactly one year away. And if you want to be in Brazil when they happen, now’s the time to plan.

We contacted Martin Frankenberg, one of our Trusted Travel Experts for Brazil, to find out what you need to know about booking hotels and finding tickets—and what you need to avoid. Below, he gives us his advice for planning a trip to the Rio Olympics.


Rio has a surprisingly limited number of hotels, especially luxury hotels, so there is an absolute shortage of hotel rooms in the city. As a pre-condition for Rio winning the Olympics bid, the local government had to secure that almost 100 percent of the inventory would be offered to the IOC (International Olympic Committee) and their sponsors.

There are only two ways to get a hotel room:

•Through Authorized Ticket Resellers (ATRs) in your country
This is the official source through which travelers can book hotel and ticket packages. Bear in mind, however, that what’s available to the general public is mid-level accommodations, in three-star hotels and at very high prices, and tickets for secondary events. You won’t find premium tickets, or high-demand events such as the Opening Ceremony or many Gold Medal events, through this channel.

•Through brokers
There are a few companies with “contacts” in the IOC or with corporate sponsors that have access to unused hotel inventory. Expect to pay very large markups if you go through these channels. As a rough price guideline, expect to pay these brokers between $1,500 and $ 3,000 per room per night in three- and four-star hotels, and more for five-star options. The two top hotels in Rio — the Copacabana Palace and the Fasano—are not available.

The solution is to rent an apartment or villa:
After a very successful World Cup, where many of our guests stayed in these accommodations, we have built a large portfolio of some of the best private homes in Rio. These range from well-located one-bedroom apartments to six-bedroom private estates for VVIPs. All have been meticulously inspected by us, and we will take care of all service for you during your stay.


Ticket purchases are available only through ATRs and brokers.
Every country has an Authorized Ticket Reseller (you can see the full list here), and they produce a ballot system where you can apply for tickets via the Internet. After a few days they will let you know if your application has been successful. In the US, the official ATR is CoSport and at this point, very few tickets are left. ATRs also sell hugely overpriced hotel-and-ticket packages and ticket-and–VIP hospitality packages, the details of which have yet to be released.

If you are looking for good tickets to premium events, your greatest chance is to find a reliable broker. Matueté cannot intermediate the purchase of tickets for you from brokers, but can introduce you to some that our clients have successfully used in the past, during the World Cup. The responsibility for purchasing tickets through them is entirely yours.

Getting Around

Traffic in Rio is notoriously bad. A lot is being done to improve the public transport of the city for the Olympics, but it’s impossible to say at this point if many of these will be completed on time. Here are some important points to consider:

• The Olympic venues are spread over a very large area, so plan the events you watch each day with this in mind. Avoid having to cross the city many times in a single day.

• Special car passes sold with premium tickets are the best way to avoid traffic jams, as these allow the pass holder to use the special ‘Olympic car lanes’ —expressways that link all the venues together. As of today, it is still unclear how/if these can be sourced.

• The public transport system will work very well to get from places like Ipanema and Copacabana to the Maracanã /Tijuca area. It is still unclear if the system that connects to Barra da Tijuca will be ready on time. Even so, the distances are very long.

• Don’t bother booking cars and guides now. The infrastructure of the city will be closer to completion in early 2016, when we and other travel providers will be able to make more specific recommendations.

Beer sampler at Cerveceria de Valle Peru

It’s National Beer Day. Where In the World Is Your Favorite Beer?

We love food holidays: National Beer Day, which falls today, is at the top of the list (along with World Nutella Day on February 5, and National Ice Cream Day on July 19). What better way to celebrate your hard-working self on this gloomy Tuesday than with a cold pint at the end of the day…or at lunch, if you can get away with it. Actually, there is a better way: Use today as an inspiration to start planning a trip to a great beer destination. Our Trusted Travel Experts weighed in with some of their favorite spots around the world to take advantage of well-stocked pubs, restaurants with notable beer selections, and picnic spots where nothing beats fresh market food and a local bottle of brew.


Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge

Kenai Fjords Glacier Lodge, Alaska

Moose’s Tooth brewpub in Anchorage. Maybe it’s the convivial atmosphere or the inspired pizza toppings (smoked salmon? apricot sauce?)—or perhaps it’s simply the strong beer on tap, but for whatever reason, it’s a favorite local haunt. —Judith Root, Trusted Travel Expert for Alaska

Read Judith’s Insider’s Guide to Alaska


Plaza España, Barcelona

Plaza España, Barcelona Photograph by Jaime Gros

Friends while away entire afternoons at Vaso de Oro, a tapas restaurant in the seaside district of La Barceloneta. The place hasn’t changed in 50 years, and the food is consistently superb. Try the homemade foie gras and the house-brewed beer. —Virginia Irurita, Trusted Travel Expert for Spain

Read Virginia’s Insider’s Guide to Barcelona

Cape Town

Chapmans Peak, South Africa

View from Chapmans Peak. Photo courtesy South Africa Tourism.

Woodstock’s Old Biscuit Mill on Saturdays. Over 100 farmers, bakers, grocers, fishmongers, butchers, craft-beer-brewers and chefs set up at this market each week. —Julian Harrison, Trusted Travel Expert for Africa

Read Julian’s Insider’s Guide to Cape Town and the Winelands

County Kerry, Ireland

Ring of Kerry, Killarney. Courtesy Jonathon Epstein

Ring of Kerry, Killarney. Courtesy Jonathon Epstein

Helen Sullivan’s pub and restaurant in Kilmackalogue, on the Beara Peninsula, is a place so charming that you won’t believe it’s for real. It’s smack on the sea, and the fish and famous mussels she serves are all freshly caught. Experiences don’t come any more authentic than at Sullivan’s. —Jonthan Epstein, Trusted Travel Expert for England, Ireland, and Scotland

Read Jonathan’s Insider’s Guide to Killarney and County Kerry, Ireland


Pick up picnic provisions upstairs at the Mercato Centrale, where you’ll find tasting stands with ready-to-eat wares and specialty shops selling everything from Tuscan cheeses to artisanal beer. Once you’ve stocked up, hail a taxi to take you about seven miles from Florence’s center to Pratolino, where the Park of Villa Demidoff awaits. This estate, originally built by the Medicis in the mid-1500s, had been abandoned for centuries before Prince Paolo Demidoff restored it in 1872. Now a public park, the grounds are dotted with the remains of the original artificial caves and fountains, a number of statues, a small lake, and miles of walking paths. —Maria Gabriella Landers and Brian Dore, Trusted Travel Experts for Italy

Read Maria and Brian’s Insider’s Guide to Florence

Juigalpa, Nicaragua

Restaurant la Embajada. It’s in the town of Juigalpa, on the way from Managua to San Carlos, and it’s impossible to find on your own. There’s no sign, no nothing. They serve only meat—great quality meat! (Juigalpa is one of the most important cattle areas of Nicaragua.) Wash it down with a local Toña beer, then go a block away to buy some fresh cheese. — Pierre Gédéon, Trusted Travel Expert for Nicaragua

Read Pierre’s Insider’s Guide to Nicaragua


The Cerveceria del Valle brewery in the Sacred Valley on the way to Machu Picchu. Inaugurated in October 2014, Cerveceria produces delicious IPAs, porters, pale ales, and other brews found in bars in the valley and in Cusco; we can organize a guided tour with the owner. Peru’s craft-beer scene has exploded over the past few years; a 2014 festival in Lima showcased 60 types of craft beer from 16 different breweries. —Marisol Mosquera, Trusted Travel Expert for Peru

Read Marisol’s Insider’s Guide to Peru for Food Lovers


Charles Bridge. Photo by Dan Weisberg Photography.

Charles Bridge. Photo by Dan Weisberg Photography.

For a splurge, spend an evening at La Degustation Boheme Bourgeoisie in Prague. It’s an event to eat at this small Michelin-starred restaurant in Old Town, where the six- and eleven-course tasting menus imaginatively update traditional Czech fare: think garlicky pastry-crusted beef tartare and a meringue-like tomato dish filled with honey and balsamic vinegar. Courses are paired with complementary wines, beers, and fruit juices.

For a cheaper thrill, hit the pubs, which are everywhere in Prague, and Czech beers are good and affordable. You can drink the most famous brand, Pilsner Urquell, virtually anywhere. —Gwen Kozlowski, Trusted Travel Expert for Eastern Europe

Read Gwen’s Insider’s Guide to the Czech Republic

Trancoso, Brazil

Don’t miss Caraiva. After a two-hour drive down dirt tracks and a ferry ride over the river, you come to the tiny village of Caraiva, as cut off from the outside world as it’s humanly possible to be these days. Pull up a stump in the shade of the almond tree at the Boteco do Pará; order a portion of skate-wing pasteis, the catch-of-the-day baked in a banana leaf, and an ice-cold beer; and spend a lazy afternoon watching the colorful fishing boats come and go. —Paul Irvine, Trusted Travel Expert for Brazil

Read Paul’s Insider’s Guide to Trancoso


Where’s your favorite beer destination? Tell us in the comments!

Private Villa, Transcoso, Brazil

Five Expensive Destinations That Will Be Cheaper in 2015

The dollar is once again king: Since the Great Recession, the Unites States’ economy has recovered better than any other major country’s: At the start of 2015, our currency was at an eleven-year high compared to those of other major countries, while the euro was at a nine-year low. Local currencies are down at least 10% against the January 2014 dollar in many popular travel destinations, including Mexico, Argentina, the euro zone, Sweden, Norway, and much of Africa. Parts of the world that not long ago were unaffordable for many are now within closer reach. Here are five places where the strong dollar will carry you surprisingly far in 2015:


Temple monks in Wakayama, Japan

Temple monks in Wakayama, Japan. Courtesy Paco

Since 2012, the yen has decreased in value by a whopping 43%. Hotels have raised their rates a bit, says Duff Trimble, our Trusted Travel Expert for Japan, but not nearly enough to keep up. This makes the country a bargain compared to what it cost to travel there a few years ago. You’ll find the best deals outside the peak periods for cherry blossoms (early April) and fall foliage (late November). Game for a last-minute getaway? Why not try skiing in Japan this winter.

To get the best possible trip, Ask Wendy.


Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia

Sossusvlei Dunes, Namibia. Courtesy Cherri Briggs

South Africa & Namibia
A weakening rand and strong U.S. dollar mean that these two African nations are a steal for American travelers right now (the Namibian dollar is tied to the South African rand). Two years ago, $1 bought you about 8 rand; today, the rate is above 11.50. Over the course of a five-night safari, that difference could save a couple more than $3,500 at Royal Malewane, a luxury lodge situated on a private game reserve adjacent to Kruger National Park.

Read Insider’s Guides from some of our Trusted Travel Experts for Africa: Nina Wennersten and Dan Saperstein’s Insider’s Guide to South Africa Safaris, and Cherri Briggs’s Insider’s Guide to Namibia

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request forms to contact Nina and Dan, or Cherri.


Evening View, London, England

The view from Victoria Tower of the Houses of Parliament, the River Thames, Westminster and Westminster Bridge, towards the East as dusk is falling. Courtesy Visit Britain

Yes, the dollar buys more British pounds than it has in over a year. But that’s not the only reason that there’s value to be found in this perennially expensive city, says our Trusted Travel Expert for the United Kingdom, Jonathan Epstein. Several new five-star hotels have opened recently, and the competition has driven prices down: At the Milestone Hotel overlooking Kensington Palace, for instance, your fourth night is free (in a suite, the third night comes at no charge); at the Athenaeum Hotel in Mayfair, Epstein’s clients get 50% off a second room during certain times of year.

Read Jonathan’s Insider advice for London Heathrow overnight layovers.

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request form to contact Jonathan.


Gardens of Peter, St. Petersburg, Russia

Gardens of Peter, St. Petersburg, Russia. Courtesy Greg Tepper

With “diminished crowds and dramatically lower prices,” reports our Trusted Travel Expert for Russia, Greg Tepper, “now is the best time to visit Russia in many, many years.” Despite the current political climate, urban Russians are generally pro-Western, and personal safety is no more a concern than in Rome or Paris. If you want the best value, advises Tepper, start booking now: Hotels are at a huge discount, but many have already warned Tepper that they may soon start quoting rates in dollars or euros. Dance lovers would be wise to plan a trip during the Mariinsky International Ballet Festival in mid-March, when acclaimed dancers from around the world perform together in St. Petersburg. Tepper’s three-night programs to Moscow and St. Petersburg are the perfect introductions to these legendary cities; for WendyPerrin.com readers, the packages (including luxury hotel accommodations with breakfast, airport transfers, and one day’s private guided touring) start at $1,675 per person in Moscow and $1,200 per person in St. Petersburg—about 25% off what the same would have cost last year.

Read Greg’s Insider’s Guides to Moscow and to St. Petersburg.

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request form to contact Greg.


Even in the quiet year shoehorned between hosting duties for the World Cup and the Olympics, Brazil is a hot destination—but also a more affordable one for Americans, thanks to the most favorable exchange rate in almost a decade. From the megalopolis of Rio de Janeiro to the jungles of the Amazon, prices are about 20% lower than even last year, and the Brazilian real isn’t predicted to strengthen until 2016.

Read our Trusted Travel Expert Paul Irvine’s Insider’s Guides to Rio de Janeiro and to Trancoso, Brazil.

To get the best possible trip, use Wendy’s trip-request form to contact Paul.


Where are you headed this year?