For all round efficient, safe touring, all well organised to interesting, and inaccessible or difficult places - Captain's Choice can't be bettered.
Joan Lawrence - Ancient & Holy Lands, 2016
On our first private jet journey, we travel east across the Pacific via Tahiti and Easter Island to Buenos Aires. Sink into your seat and allow our inflight crew to pamper you with the finest food and beverages. After crossing the international dateline, it is early evening when our private jet lands in busy Buenos Aires. Our introduction to the city is a luxurious Belle Époque hotel, the Alvear Palace, which we will call home for three nights. It is located in the exclusive Recoleta neighbourhood, where elegant boulevards and leafy parks lend a Parisian air.
We enjoy a leisurely dinner and a quiet night in anticipation of tomorrow's explorations.
Buenos Aires is an assortment of many different neighbourhoods, each offering a different aspect of the city. Today, we drop in at its most iconic ones for an overview of BA, as the locals call it.
After breakfast, take a morning stroll through the Recoleta neighbourhood. At midday, we have a quintessential Argentinian lunch at a traditional steakhouse offering the country's famous pampas-fed beef.
In the afternoon, we visit the Plaza de Mayo, Casa Rosada, the Teatro Colón opera house, Recoleta Cemetery and La Boca, a working class district, which once housed Italian immigrants. The immigrants livened up the district by painting their houses in bright colours, a custom that continues today. It was here that the tango evolved, and, as we walk through the district, we will come across many dancers performing in the streets.
This evening, we celebrate the dance in its most spectacular form with dinner and a live show at Rojo Tango, an intimate cabaret room where the dancers weave through the audience’s tables. As if we need more reason to look forward to this, Rojo Tango is located in the Hotel Faena, designed by Philippe Starck.
Today, we retreat to the country. The estancia is a type of sprawling estate established in the 19th century, often crowned with a mansion of grand architecture. Here, we immerse ourselves in the lifestyle of the Argentinian elite, with an exclusive polo match put on especially for you. At lunch, the brilliant and flamboyant Francis Mallmann, Michelin-starred chef and global ambassador for the region's cuisine, personally prepares a culinary adventure for our taste buds. We will sample the finest Argentinian wines, handpicked by Mallmann and paired with lunch.
The remarkable day continues with these Your World experiences. Pick the one that entices you most.
Tonight, prepare to be lost in the flavours, sights and sounds of Argentina’s most sought after dining experience. Puertas cerradas or closed-door restaurants are a cross between a private dinner party and a restaurant, where the city’s best chefs present their talents in personal living rooms, villas and hidden gardens. No two meals or locations are alike. Tonight, we sample several.
Today, we are bound for Rio de Janeiro. Before that, we stop in at the world’s largest system of waterfalls for a few hours, a side-trip possible only with a private jet. We take in the once-in-a-lifetime vista of Iguassu Falls from the Brazilian side and savour a private lunch on a balcony with unrestricted views of the water.
After lunch, pick from these Your World experiences that will enhance your visit.
We continue on our private jet to Rio de Janeiro, enjoying dinner on board before landing.
Our flight from Iguassu Falls lands in Rio de Janeiro in the evening, where you are whisked directly to the Belmond Copacabana Palace for a well-deserved rest.
We start our first full day in the city with a tour of the sights that are quintessentially Rio. We visit Corcovado Mountain to see the statue of Christ the Redeemer up close. Our next stops are the legendary beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, and then, the Metropolitan Cathedral of Rio de Janeiro, built in 1964 but styled after a Maya pyramid.
At lunch, we savour the delights of an authentic churrascaria, Fogo de Chão, where the meat is slowly roasted over a fire to succulent perfection, according to Southern Brazilian tradition.
The afternoon, relax and prepare for tonight’s gala dinner and Carnival-style samba show at Das Canoas House, a splendid example of modern architecture. For fans of the architect, Oscar Niemeyer, it is indeed a treat to be inside the home he built for his family.
Today is set aside for you to design as you choose, with many Your World experiences to select from.
In the late afternoon, we gather to share stories of our day over caipirinhas, then take in sweeping views of the city from a helicopter, before landing at Sugarloaf Mountain, another of Rio’s favourite vantage points.
This evening, you are free to choose where to dine. Select from a list of Rio’s best restaurants - including Baby Beef Barra, Rubaiyat, the Hotel Cipriani Restaurant, or the Michelin-starred MEE.
After breakfast, our flight leaves for Cuba. We have lunch and dinner on board before arriving in Havana. We check in to the recently renovated Kempinski Manzana de Gómez for the next three nights.
We acquaint ourselves with the city through a guided walking tour, taking in the Plaza de Armas and Old Havana. The city’s crumbling grandeur presents itself, an echo of the days when it grew rich as a port for Spanish galleons carrying treasures from the Americas. We stop in at the opulent Captain General’s Palace and some of Ernest Hemingway’s old haunts, before having lunch at a local restaurant.
The afternoon is left free for exploration on your own. Or, if you wish, select from these Your World experiences.
This evening, we dine at Café del Oriente, which, at the height of communism, was Havana’s only luxury restaurant. After dinner, we invite you out to a salsa spectacular. It might be Thursday, but in Havana, every night is a weekend night. The best salsa bars change regularly, but with our finger firmly on the city's pulse, you can be sure that we'll find ourselves dancing along to the liveliest, most popular of bands.
If yesterday was dedicated to Old Havana, today, we explore some of the other districts that make up the city. We visit fortresses built to guard the port’s entrance, first El Morro, and then, La Cabaña. After that, we pay a visit to Plaza de la Revolución, the square from which Fidel Castro once regularly addressed Cubans. At the Museum of the Revolution, we learn more about the revolutionary war of the 1950s.
Lunch today is at a couple of paladares, or private restaurants, one of which is the inventive Ivan Chef Gusto, set in an 18th century colonial building with eclectic interiors. The menus change regularly and feature only what’s fresh in the market that day.
This afternoon, Your World experiences from yesterday are once again made available. We encourage you to select one of the experiences you missed, or alternatively, explore the city on your own terms.
With the advent of economic reform, chefs all over Havana are free to open paladares of their own. This explosion of choice is to our benefit. Tonight, you are free to select from a carefully curated list of Havana’s most delicious and atmospheric paladares.
After lunch on a short flight, we arrive in Panama City with the afternoon to spare. Choose from these Your World experiences.
Our residence in Panama is the American Trade Hotel, located in a restored landmark building in the Old Quarter. A stroll down the street will reveal a district undergoing a renaissance. Elegant old buildings, some restored, others still waiting to be, line cobblestone streets. Hawkers and high society are equally represented, lending an electric vibrancy to the quarter.
This evening, choose from the delectable offerings of three handpicked restaurants.
Today is reserved for full immersion in the engineering wonder that is the Panama Canal. Unlike a typical traveller who will only observe it from land, we will board a private cruising boat, transit the canal and experience the locks first hand.
At Gatún Lake, 26 metres above sea level and the highest point on the canal, our boat picks us up and proceeds through the Culebra Cut, the narrowest portion of the canal. We pass through the Pedro Miguel Locks, which lowers our boat 18 metres so that it can enter Miraflores Lake. We then go through the Miraflores Locks and dock at the Port of Balboa.
A special private dinner awaits you this evening. Trained at both Attica in Melbourne and the Icebergs Dining Room in Sydney, Chef José Carles of Donde José has returned to Panama and gone on to apply the techniques he's learnt. Tonight, he presents eight elegant courses that, together, tell Panama's culinary story. Our venue is the distinctive Biomuseo, designed by Frank Gehry. Located on the Amador Causeway, we enjoy panoramic views of the ocean and cargo ships entering the canal.
This morning, our jet takes us to Guayaquil where we board a local flight to Baltra Island in the Galápagos. Here, we leave the plane behind and board our expedition ship, M/V Galápagos Legend, headed for our first wildlife encounter. Upon landing at Santa Cruz Island, we visit a natural reserve for the archipelago's famous giant tortoises. These majestic creatures live up to 200 years and often weigh close to 300 kilograms. You can also choose to walk inside amazing, cavernous lava tubes. We follow this with a visit to pit craters, where the surface has collapsed and 'sunken forests' have grown.
We sail to Santiago Island, landing on Puerto Egas, a black volcanic sand beach visited by Darwin in 1835. The shore is ringed by eroded rock formations that have become home to an abundance of wildlife species. Among them, marine iguanas, starfish and the bizarre yellow-crowned night heron. Don't forget to comb the tide pools for Sally Lightfoot crabs and watch out for fur seals, who love frolicking in the cool waters.
After lunch on our ship, we head to Bartolomé Island, named after Sir Bartholomew Sulivan, a naturalist and lieutenant aboard HMS Beagle, and also Charles Darwin's lifelong friend. While only 1.2 square kilometres, it offers some of the most breathtaking moon-like landscapes in the archipelago. Here, we will challenge ourselves with a hike to the summit of the island, encountering great views of the surrounding islands, including the sharp blade of Pinnacle Rock. This island is also home to blue-footed boobies and lava lizards.
We linger for a while, enjoying the beach and taking the opportunity to snorkel, where you might find yourself swimming amongst Galápagos penguins, sea turtles, white-tipped reef sharks and countless colourful fish.
By now, we have fallen into the daily rhythms of an explorer. We start the day in a part of Santa Cruz Island that we have not visited yet. We walk past a brackish lagoon where flamingo often go to feed, then up Dragon Hill, a nesting ground for endemic land iguanas. The surrounding forest is inhabited by mockingbirds, Darwin's finches, yellow warblers and Galápagos doves.
As usual, we head back to the ship for lunch and to compare stories. After that, we sail to North Seymour Island, where large colonies of blue-footed boobies, great frigatebirds with crimson throat sacs and swallow-tailed gulls go about their day. It is always lively, noisy and full of fanfare here. You are likely to encounter sea lions and occasionally, a Galápagos snake.
A private flight takes us directly from the Galápagos to Guayaquil. There, we rejoin our private jet for the flight to Lima, where a scheduled flight takes us to Cuzco. We check in to the Belmond Hotel Monasterio, a former seminary, and our home for the next four nights. This evening, we dine in at the hotel.
Please note that Cuzco is 3,400m above sea level. If you are uncomfortable with or cannot travel to high altitudes, please seek advice from your doctor. It will be our pleasure to arrange an alternative, fully-escorted, low-altitude itinerary.
Our first full day in Cuzco begins at the city's cathedral, with art by Quechua artists of the 17th century Cuzco Painting School. After that, our Inca pilgrimage begins at the Temple of the Sun, a showcase of Inca masonry. On Hatun Rumiyoc Street, stone walls remaining from a once-grand Inca ruler's palace line the walkway with modern buildings built over them. The highlight is a particular stone, hand cut with 12 separate angles, a bewilderingly high level of skill.
We adjourn for lunch at our hotel before leaving on an exploration of Sacsayhuaman, a hilltop fortress overlooking Cuzco. Like Machu Picchu, it was built of stone blocks, but of ones far bigger. We continue on to the Kenko Temple, a wak'a, or holy place, believed to be where sacrifices and mummification were conducted. Our last stop is the red fortress of Tambomachay.
This evening, dine at one of Cuzco's best and most inventive restaurants. These are some of our favourites.
Today, we dedicate ourselves to the astonishing Machu Picchu. As is convention, we travel there in style, on the luxurious Belmond Hiram Bingham train.
Each stone within these classical Inca buildings was cut by hand and fit perfectly with adjoining stones, no mortar needed or used. The structures were designed to withstand earthquakes, with stabilising features such as trapezoidal windows, narrowing from bottom to top.
The energetic amongst us have the option of waking earlier to take the Vistadome train to Aguas Caliente. We then travel by road to Machu Picchu. The early start pays off as we clamber through the ruins before the crowds arrive, then follow a steep and uneven footpath to Huayna Picchu. While this jagged peak features in many photos, towering over Machu Picchu, it sees but a fraction of its visitors. As spaces are limited, be sure to confirm your place early.
That afternoon, we rest our legs with tea at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge, adjacent to Machu Picchu, before returning to Cuzco on the Hiram Bingham train. We will enjoy a four-course dinner aboard the train.
We start the day with a morning tour of the Sacred Valley of the Incas. We stop in at Chinchero, which, according to myth, is the birthplace of the rainbow. Today, it is the market, featuring traditional Peruvian textiles that we are after.
At the Pre-Columbian salt mines of Maras, the evaporation ponds make for an interesting photograph. Our next stop is Moray, a rarely visited site that was once the ‘agricultural laboratory of the Incas’. Natural depressions were turned into concentric terraces to test for hardy crops.
We return to Cuzco in the afternoon, where you may choose from the following Your World experiences.
Before dinner, we are treated to a private cultural performance. Following that, dine at one of these restaurants.
Hanga Roa, the only town on Easter Island, greets us when we land in the afternoon. Once we arrive, we visit the abandoned village of Orongo, a collection of stone houses perched on the lip of a volcanic caldera. On one side, the 300 metre cliff affords dizzying views of the ocean. On the other, a gentle, grassy slope leads to a freshwater crater lake.
Once we have satisfied our curiosity about the island, we check in to the architecturally-distinct Explora Rapa Nui resort, where local elders welcome us to their land with traditional singing and dancing.
This evening, we dine at the Explora’s acclaimed restaurant, tantalising our taste buds with several courses featuring exotic local produce. You might find plantain and guava making appearances, along with fish caught that very morning.
We are here on Easter Island to see the moai, and there is no better time to view them than during the dramatic sunrise. This morning, you have the option of greeting the day at Ahu Tongariki, home to some of the island’s tallest moai.
Later, we explore Rano Raraku, where stone for the gigantic moai was quarried. After that, we make another trip to Ahu Tongariki for those who missed it at sunrise.
Lunch is at the beach of Anakena, where the Polynesians first landed after crossing the Pacific in dugout canoes. A traditional umu lunch, made by burying fish in hot stones, lets us delve into local custom. At the same time, we feast our eyes on a traditional Polynesian show led by an elder.
Enjoy a relaxing, free afternoon before joining your fellow travellers for a farewell dinner where we contemplate our immense journey.
We leave Easter Island this morning, boarding our private jet, bound for home via Tahiti and New Zealand. Settle in to your final flight and make the most of the service on board. We cross the international dateline and land in Sydney the following day - the afternoon of the 13th of September, where we say our goodbyes. We hope to see you again on your next Captain's Choice journey.
Let’s face it, travelling can be a chore, distracting you from the new and fascinating places you are in. We’ve moved everything mundane behind the scenes. You will never have to carry a map. Or luggage. Or small change for tips. Everything is included, accommodation, all dining and drinks, travel insurance, and sightseeing. When available, we even supply internet at your hotel. Our Valet Luggage service is also included - we pick up your luggage up and make sure that they arrive safely at your next hotel. We also provide home-to-airport-to-home transfers. And just in case, a doctor travels with us too.
Welcome to your homes away from home. Each one has a certain something that sets it apart from every other residence at its location. Whether for its history, cultural significance or natural setting, we’ve selected only the very best.
Business-class private jet journey from Sydney to Sydney.
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