In the Amazon

Because I’ve always wanted to…

Issue 37 / May 2019

May greetings to you all,

Brazil is a country that I’ve visited many times over the years.  It is such a huge and diverse country that it deserves many visits.  I returned recently to explore the Amazon and to revisit some favourite haunts such as Salvador and Trancoso in Bahia.  What a special country it is!  So vibrant and varied.  I would like to tell you about some of the highlights from this wonderful trip which you can see in full here.

Laterally yours,

Amazonia – an epic adventure in the unimaginably vast expanse of the Amazon delta

A once-in-a-lifetime must-see, the magnificent Amazon river is over 4,000 miles long and has thousands of tributaries. Into its 2,600,000-square mile basin flow rivers and streams from 9 countries.  The Amazon rainforest is by far the largest on the planet and between them the river and forest house tens of thousands of species of plants, fish, birds and animals.

Atrium Quinta de Pedras, Belem

Belem is a bustling port town known as the gateway to the Amazon.  It’s also known as Mango Tree City due to the numerous gigantic mango trees lining the streets of the old riverfront city.  Belem has had something of a revival in recent time and boasts some exciting places to eat.  Of the few places to stay in the old city, Atrium Quinta de Pedras is the best.  It’s in a good location close to the port and right in the historical centre.   From there you can explore waterways which boast nature aplenty whilst in sight of the city.  Belem market is one of the biggest in South America and sells enormous river fish some of which you’ll never have heard of before.

Vila de Alter, Alter do Chao

Alter do Chao is a beach destination with a real difference, situated on the Tapajo river, part of the Amazon river system. In the dry season it features extensive beaches which are enjoyed by local and tourist families but during the flood season the beach is submerged leaving only a few sandy islands. These you can get to by boat or by swimming. Vila de Alter is situated a short drive out of the busy small town at Alter do Chao and is a beautifully designed boutique hotel with 6 rooms spread around an attractive jungly garden. Wonderful “birding”, jungle walks and a variety of scenic boat and kayak trips are available here as well.

Villa Amazonia, Manaus

Manaus was once called the Paris of the Tropics due to its wealth, sophisticated culture and economic importance during the rubber boom of the 18th century. Located in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, the city features some beautiful buildings built from fine European materials. The highlight is the Amazonas Theatre which is topped by a massive dome in the colours of the Brazilian flag made up of millions of enameled ceramic pieces. Villa Amazonia is the perfect place to stay.

Uakari Floating Lodge, Tefe

Venture deep into the true heart of the Amazon at Uakari Lodge, which floats within the Mamiraua reserve and is named after the spectacular eponymous monkey of the same name with its bright red face and long silky coat.  Tefe is an hour’s flight out of Manaus from where you are taken by boat to Uakari.  In the flood season you spend your days wandering down the river from side to side, and in the flooded rainforest in between, spotting a remarkable range of wildlife.  Spotted when we were there were crimson woodpeckers, festive parrots and sloths to name just a few.

Mirante do Gaviao, Analvahinas

Mirante do Gaviao is on the Rio Negro, an Amazon tributary with a very different feel to the mainstream river at Tefe.  Its acidity means less wildlife can be seen but there’s still plenty to see, especially an abundance of pink dolphins.  At Mirante you can also enjoy the designer surroundings in amazing suites shaped like boat hulls, or from the gorgeous pool and restaurant.

Analvahinas Lodge

A 10 minute boat ride around the corner is the larger Analvahinas Lodge from where you can swim from a floating bar at sunset watching dolphins arching up from the water, above, or swim in the infinity pool with a view, below.  Both hotels aim to keep you busy all the time with boat rides and jungle hikes where you can spot tarantulas emerging from their lairs and learn how to make a grub kebab from scratch!

Villa Bahia, Salvador

Salvador despite being a large city has at its heart Pelourhino, a latin American colonial district like no other.  There are something like 160 churches here, many on a huge and theatrical scale with some extraordinarily bold and bright decoration within.  Enjoy exploring the winding, hilly cobbled streets and soaking up the all-year-round carnival atmosphere in the capital of Afro-Brazilian culture. Villa Bahia is a well-established staple right in the heart of Pelourinho, or try the new Fasano with views over the ocean from its rooftop bar and pool.

Uxua Casa, Trancoso

Trancoso is made up of two parts which make a gorgeous whole – the unique, historic and now rather chi chi Quadrado, and the outstanding beach down below.  Uxua is often cited as one of the best hotels in the world.  Its restaurant fronts on to the Quadrado and concealed behind are 11 boho chic rooms arranged around a luxuriant garden and pool. Uxua also has its own bar down on the beach serving ice cold beer from inside an old fishing boat.  If you want to stay on the beach it has to be Villas de Trancoso, or the new Fasano due to open later this year.

Up Periscope: Israel: The Norman, Tel Aviv and The Efendi, Akko

I spent my birthday in May in Israel where we stayed at the outstanding hotel The Norman.  The Norman is a splendid, beautifully restored 1920s building with everything you could wish for in a hotel including the stunning rooftop pool above, a glamorous cocktail bar and restaurant and a fantastic range of rooms and suites.  Go and see it for yourself – it’s something special!  Take a day trip to Akko (Acre) to see the extraordinary Crusader Hospitaller Refectory and walk through the alleys of the old town to the port.

The best restaurant in town is Uri Buri, owned by the chef and eponymous owner Uri Jeremias, below.  This is a must-book seafood restaurant with a difference, offering the freshest fish cooked simply but with imagination.  Stay at the Efendi Hotel, two historic houses in the old town merged into one and beautifully restored with passion by Uri.

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