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South America WOW Trips: Reviews from our Travelers

by WendyPerrin.com | April 3, 2024

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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

Patagonia

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.

Patagonia

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.

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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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