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A Foodie Guide to Peru

Reflecting Peru’s mixed history and its fusion of cultures, Peru’s cuisine is equally eclectic. Peruvian cuisine’s influences include local ingredients as well as recipes from Europe, Asia and West Africa. Some would say that Peru sets the standard for world class fusion cuisine.     

So, let us offer you this guide to Peruvian cuisine. It doubles as a great checklist of recommendations to try while visiting Peru!

First, let’s tease you with these delicious Peruvian food photos…

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Traditional staples in Peru:

Corn, quinoa, chili peppers, beans, potatoes and other root vegetables

Here’s a handy Peru cuisine dictionary:

Lomo Saltado – stir-fried beef dish with onions, vinegar, ginger, chili, tomatoes & fried potatoes

Ceviche – Shrimp / sea bass marinated in lemon, chili & onion

Papas Rellenas – Stuffed baked potatoes

Palta Rellena – avocado stuffed with chicken salad

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Picarones – deep fried flour fritters made with eggs and served with honey

And while we’re at it, here’s what to drink in Peru: 

Inca Cola – lime green soda pop that tastes like fizzy bubble gum

Pisco Sour – alcoholic beverage made with white grape brandy

Mate de Coca – tea made from coca leaves

From Our Journal: Hiking Torres del Paine National Park

If you decide to complete one of the world’s most impressive trekking routes, the W Trek in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park, you may want to have a rough idea of what is ahead. To give you an idea of what you’ll experience, here are some journal snippets from one of our recent travellers in Chile’s Patagonia (provided to us with permission, of course).

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Day 1: Santiago – Punta Arenas – Torres del Paine

“Our group consisted of 9 individuals, predominately from United States and Canada. We started the journey from Punta Arenas early morning. After 3 hours of flat landscapes we broke our journey in Puerto Natales, the “entrance door” to this mountainous area of Southern Chile. Here we were introduced to our guide, passionate about the outdoors, with over 20 years of experience in Patagonia. We had no doubt that we would learn a lot from him! As the day progressed, we were stunned by the natural beauty, the immensity of the mountain range… That night, we reached our sustainable hotel – EcoCamp Patagonia, where we were in awe of the surroundings and had forgotten about our tiredness. The evening ended with a delicious Patagonian Fusion meal and we returned to our domes for a good night sleep, gazing at the stars through the window and dreaming about our long-awaited Torres del Paine W Trek.”

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Day 2: Torres del Paine – Paso Los Cuernos – The Horns (Hike)

“After a hearty buffet breakfast and an astonishing pink sunrise, we left the camp to start our trek along the beautiful snowcapped Almirante Nieto Mountain. It was the middle of spring, and a mix of red and yellow flowers were in bloom and covered the beginning of the trail. We stopped to admire the Horns (Los Cuernos) – dark horns towering the skyline – and Paine Grande, the highest mountain of the national park… After lunch we trekked through the beautiful red Firebush flowers. At the end of the day, we compared thoughts about the day’s hike and although we came from different backgrounds, we all seemed to feel an equal admiration for our achievements and the surrounding landscapes. Later, we devoured a hearty dinner while chatting I realized what a great group of us was gathered here to complete this amazing trek.”

Day 3: Torres del Paine National Park – French Valley (Hike)

“After an overnight rain, and a light rain in the morning, the surrounding forest felt mystical as the morning fog hung in the air. We started trekking despite the rain and soon forgot about the weather. Instead, most of us were mesmerized by the surroundings. Later, we reached the famous French Valley, which stretches between The Horns and Paine Grande. After climbing a steep one hour uphill, we reached the Paine Grande Lookout. The view was worth the climb! That night, we were ready for a well-deserved rest at the Paine Grande refugio but first the group met for dinner, discussing the day’s events, and through our experience we were quickly becoming close, forming friendships that would likely last beyond this week in Chile.”

Day 4: Torres del Paine National Park – Grey Glacier (Hike)

“We left Paine Grande early in the morning and began making our way through a quiet valley covered with extraordinary rock formations. After a short hike uphill, we reached the western area of the W Trek, where the feet of the western side of Paine Grande meets Grey Lake and there are huge icebergs, that have broken off the glacier, floating in this famous lake. From there, we were transferred back to EcoCamp which felt deliciously welcoming and cozy. Dinner that night was a wonderful treat, and I felt I would be well rested for the next day’s hike, the W Trek’s most challenging hiking day.”

Day 5: Torres del Paine National Park – Valle Ascencio (Hike)

Today, we trekked out from the camp at 8:30am. The first few kilometers were quite easy as we trekked over flat land. Then, we crossed a few bridges and started the long, ascent along the roaring Ascensio River. We enjoyed a well-earned break at El Chileno refugio. After this welcome rest, we continued through the lush green forest to start another uphill climb. We were surrounded by an indescribable energy in the forest, and the adrenaline of our hiking achievement made us feel like we were hiking on clouds. That kind of happiness is actually difficult to describe with words. That evening at EcoCamp, we gathered in the famous community dome and reflected on an incredible day, one we would likely never forget.”

Day 6: Torres del Paine National Park – Eastern Lakes (Hike)

“Our last trekking day was along a relatively easy natural trail that would take us to a great view of the Paine mountain range. While trekking we came across a herd of guanacos and a few ñandus – a kind of Patagonian ostrich. We also saw the beautiful condor, one of the biggest birds in the world, flying in the distance! After another short ascent, we were also delighted to discover ancient rock paintings, left by tribes that inhabited the area 6500 years ago. We weren’t expecting to see that and it was amazing. Next, a short drive brought us to the picture perfect Laguna Azul (“blue lagoon”). This was a perfect picnic spot and we enjoyed a great picnic lunch while admiring the breathtaking views. On our drive way back to EcoCamp, we stopped at the Paine Waterfalls (Cascada Paine), a magnificent cascade of magical waterfalls. It was a great night back at the EcoCamp afterwards, where we quenched our thirst with a beer at Ecobar and celebrated the end of our trek! The group exchanged details to that we could stay in touch and we enjoyed our last evening together over great food and drinks.”

Day 7: Torres del Paine – Punta Arenas

“Alas, the trek was over and it was time to head back to our normal lives again. But we would never forget these majestic mountains and our trek across these valleys. My muscles were a bit tired, but they had adjusted to the routine and my endurance had built up. And we were all now members of the W Trek Alumni Club, having taken about 92,000 steps together — burning at least 7000 calories during that week hiking! We said a sad goodbye to our guides. Without their skills, dedication and passion, it is sure that  we would not have been able to complete this trek. We boarded the van back to Punta Arenas to catch our flights, and all seemed to look back out the windows dreamily as we drove off…”

BikeHike Adventures runs this Hiking the W Route in Chile’s Patagonia weekly from October through February.

Cycling Cuba: The Terrain, Bikes, Roads — What to Expect

What are the roads like in Cuba? Are the roads good in Cuba? Is there much traffic in Cuba? What can a rider expect for the cycling terrain in Cuba? Is Cuba hilly? Are there many cycling climbs or is Cuba mostly flat?

We get many questions about Cuba, and these are some of the top questions we keep hearing for interested travellers. Trish Sare, Owner of BikeHike Adventures, answers these biking Cuba questions in this brief video. The footage used was captured by of one of BikeHike’s travellers earlier in 2016.

 

5 Trending New Summer 2016 Destinations

Istria, Croatia

Why is this THE exciting place to go now?

Because Istria boasts all the best of the famed Dalmatian Coast combined with the charm of Italy. The Dalmation Coast has been an ‘it’ destination for a while already and with that status comes crowds. Lots of them. Likewise, in Italy, it’s increasingly difficult to avoid the crowds of tourists.

Wander over to Istria though, and you’ll discover rolling vineyards, Roman architecture, and Italian-inspired cuisine that happens to blend the best of Croatia and Italy. Some people might even mistake a photograph from the region as one from Provence, France…Travellers who are in the know, from London to New York, have started to take notice of northern Croatia, a spectacular up-and-coming destination. If you hadn’t heard of Istria yet, you soon will…

Gourmet foodies will also love Istria for its truffles, the best in Europe some would say.

Istria, Croatia has surprising similarities to Italy, feels a bit like Tuscany

Istria, Croatia has surprising similarities to Italy, even feels a bit like riding through Tuscan villages…

Kotor, Montenegro

Some would argue Montengro is Europe’s underdog destination, about to break-through and become Europe’s next big destination. Until recently, the nation was part of Serbia (after the former Yugoslavia dissolved).

There is an allure about Montenegro that is almost magical, and it is hard to fathom that people haven’t always been drawn here en masse. The Bay of Kotor’s gorgeous fjord-like appearance along the sparkling blue Adriatic. Greek and Roman-influenced architecture dotting the steep hillsides. So far, the beaches are quiet, with few tourists. However, wealthy Europeans have already begun purchasing seaside real estate along this underdeveloped stretch of the Dalmation Coast. So, the area’s complete sense of calm won’t remain for long. Inland from the coast, the rural farmscapes are attracting expats in search of sprawling land estates in a traditional setting. Montenegro’s lack of development is attracting those who love the fact that Montenegro remains relatively untouched for decades, unlike neighbouring Croatia.

Viscri, Romania

Because of its traditional farming practices, Transylvania is another place travellers can easily feel they have escaped the passing of time.

Four hours northwest of bustling Bucharest, the Saxon village of Viscri has become a go-to escape in Romania after being recognized as a UNESCO World heritage destination. Viscri’s church and cemetery date back to the 12th century and now comprise a UNESCO World Heritage site.

However, what really makes the world take notice is this destination’s royal stamp of approval. The Mihai Eminescu Trust, a nonprofit overseen by Prince Charles, has devoted itself to protecting the heritage of Transylvania’s country towns such as Viscri. In addition, Prince Charles has an expansive country estate here that is open to the public, where tourists can stay when rooms are available. So, while staying there, enjoying horseback rides and more, you can truly enjoy a royal experience in and around Viscri.

Ljubljana, Slovenia

Drive a little east from Venice, and Ljubljana offers an incredible alternative to Venetian crowds. In fact, most days, it might seem that Ljubljana appears entirely devoid of tourists, the streets filled rather with locals.

The lack of tourism is not for lack of beauty. Ljubljana just happens to be one of Europe’s best kept secrets. A stroll around and you’ll quickly wonder why you hadn’t visited sooner. Decorative footbridges. Hilltop castles. Cobble-stoned piazzas. Cafés with tables spilling out into the street. One might even say the city has a fairytale-like quality to it, one magnified by the Dragon Bridge spanning the Ljubljana River. The bridge is a tribute to the legend of the beast slain there by Jason and the Argonauts.

Perhaps the lack of tourism can be attributed to lack of awareness of Slovenia as a country, the nation being so young, a territory that was for so long a muted buffer zone of sorts between louder, neighbouring territories. The mixing of regional interests in Slovenia remains evident today though in the city’s outstanding culinary blend. You’ll experience menus fusing influences from Italy, Austria, Hungary, and even Russia.

Cork, Ireland

Ask Corconians about Ireland’s history and they’ll proudly proclaim Cork as Ireland’s true capital. However, as a port city of 250 000 inhabitants, the vibe in Cork is a more laid-back, coastal one compared to Dublin’s city pace.  The language here is also a bit different. Cork has many foreign influences and Cork’s slang, known as ‘gammin’, is derived from a fascinating mix of Irish, French, Dutch and Indian.

At the moment, Cork is experiencing a revival as the entire city devotes itself to polishing its image while preserving its unique heritage. Old buildings and waterfront properties are swiftly being restored. And the city is attracting a thriving music, theatre and film festival scene.

And if you need even more reason to visit this intriguing city, Cork is also a gateway city to the Ireland’s remote and stunning southwest. The Wild Atlantic Way recently opened, which is breathtaking 2,500 km collection of roadways along a dramatic rocky coastline and includes a 216 km cycle route.

BikeHike Adventures offers tours in Croatia, Montenegro, Slovenia, Romania, Ireland and many more places…

2016’s Top Three South American Destinations

Cuzco, Peru

If you are planning to visit Machu Picchu though, best hurry. Further trekking limits may soon be put in place to protect the site and limit the number of hikers able to access the site, according to our local sources. While restrictions have been in place for a while already, there is talk that more restrictions are needed to preserve the heritage of the site. Now is the time to go.

While most travelers arrive in Cuzco to launch out on a trip to Machu Picchu, this gem of a town is worth more than just a fleeting visit. The longest-continuously-inhabited city in South America, Cuzco has much to offer in and of itself. At 11,000 feet above sea level, high in the Andes, this was once the center of the Inca world (around the 15th century). Cobblestoned streets, colonial architecture, and ancient Incan stonework tell visitors a story of mixed heritage.

Peru also happens to be one of the most affordable travel destinations for 2016 when spending US dollars.

It's time to see these sites in Peru while you still can...

It’s time to see these sites in Peru while you still can…

Rio de Janiero, Brazil

While you may not be attracted to the Olympic crowds, leading up to the 2016 Olympics, the city has been adding many exciting attractions that you can enjoy any time of year. The city has added a cable car going up to the famous “favela,” Providencia. The city has also just built the absolutely extraordinary Museum of Tomorrow (Museu do Amanhã). This 15,000-square-foot museum, which has quickly attracted an international buzz, has exhibits that explore the science of outer-space and the future of life on earth.

Brazil is also another one of the most affordable travel destinations for 2016 when spending US dollars as the Brazilian currency has been historically low lately despite the upcoming 2016 Olympics. However, don’t expect this historic low to last. Now is the time to best capitalize on this great exchange rate and experience the best of the new Rio!

Quito, Ecuador

It may come as a surprise to most people, but Quito is one of THE top up-and-coming cities in South America. While it was once ruled by backpackers, this city is in the midst of a major revival. Investors are flocking to the city (many of them fuelled by oil money) and infusing the city with a sense of modern chic. Upscale hotels, high end restaurants, even art galleries are beginning to flavor Quito’s cityscape and beautifully mix in with the city’s Spanish colonial buildings. Quito’s La Floresta neighborhood is apparently the one to watch as it is where the best new restaurants and trend-setting businesses have begun basing themselves. Top that off with Quito’s new airport and a citywide underground metro in 2016 and this Ecuadorian capital, sitting high in the mountains, is on quite the roll.

It’s the perfect time to explore Ecuador. And while you’re at it, why not pop over to the Galapagos (also part of Ecuador)? The currency is US dollars in Ecuador so it’s another great destination to spend your travel dollars without losing on an exchange rate.