There's something truly inspirational about being introduced to a different culture and meeting new people. I've been fortunate enough to visit different countries and cities, but South America has always been on my radar and perhaps always will be – given the scale of the continent.
Recently, I had the opportunity to travel with APT on an abridged version of the South America with Arequipa and Colca Canyon itinerary, taking in Peru (Lima, Sacred Valley and Cusco), Chile (Santiago) and Argentina (Buenos Aries). APT requires little introduction for Australians with a penchant for luxury and travel – and I knew this was going to be a memorable experience.
While the famous sites and landmarks were certainly on the agenda too, it was the company's knack for spiking its small group itineraries with culturally rich and often exclusive 'Signature Experiences', which truly impressed me. Here are just three brief scenarios to explain...
Dancing With Children on Lake Titicaca
Straddling the boarder of Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is another South American wonder rightfully earning its place on the bucket list of many travellers. At 3,800 metres above sea level, it's the highest altitude lake in the world, and for many a mere glimpse is all they need to write home about.
As our high-powered speedboat raced across the deep blue waters of Lake Titicaca to the tiny village of Luquina, I knew APT has something even more special in store. The village is home to a unique school project organised by APT and funded partial by donations contributed by the company on behalf of guests. The primary school was full of children who sung and danced for us and, with such infectious energy, it was only a matter of time before we were dancing with them!
A local lunch and stunning views of the Capachica Peninsula capped off what was an a once-in-a-lifetime experience on South America’s largest, most beautiful lake.
Whitewashed Casitas at Machu Picchu
Stone pathways take visitors on a journey of adventure near Machu Picchu, and that’s just on the grounds of the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel, one of South America’s loveliest boutique properties. This mountain retreat features stylish terra cotta roofed casitas (little houses) which form an Andean-style village while retaining all the luxuries of a 5-star property.
Staying high up in the cloud forest has its advantages which are quickly reveled to APT guests who stay at the property. A stay at the Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel provides travellers with an opportunity to visit the 15th century Inca site first thing in the day. What value can you put on beating the crowds and seeing the misty morning veil rise over the otherworldly site?
Cafe Scene of the Literati in Buenos Aries
A visit to Buenos Aires would not be complete without a visit to Café Tortoni. The story begins in 1858, when a French immigrant established the stylish venue and named it Tortoni – after the Parisian café of the same name on Boulevard des Italiens where the Parissiense cultural elite gathered in the 19th century.
Like its namesake, Café Tortoni was frequented by painters and writers, and their artistic aura can still be felt in the historic ambiance of the place. Today it remains one of the most beautiful cafes in the world – the decoration of its early years conserved – and jazz or tango still reverberates from the basement stage.
There’s almost always a line to get in, but with APT we were immediately ushered inside and given the best table in the house for coffee and croissants.
With each of APT's Signature Experiences, I came away with a kindred appreciation for the places I saw and the people I met. From a stylish café on a quaint Buenos Aires laneway to the majestic mountains of Machu Picchu, each experience revealed yet another fascinating secret of the great South American continent.