Magical Realism, A Moqueca and Elizabeth Bishop

Designing a perfect Brazilian vacation for clients is similar to cooking my favorite Brazilian dish for close friends, which happens to be a Bahian Moqueca de Camarao! A moqueca is a seafood stew of coconut milk, dende oil, tomatoes, peppers, cilantro, garlic, fresh lime juice, onions and served with rice and farofa. Ingredients have to be perfectly balanced, exotic, a little spicy but not overpowering and leave everyone feeling happy, and satisfied.

Moqueca de Camarao
The first time I heard of a moqueca was in the pages of one of my favorite books, “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands” by the famous Brazilian novelist, Jorge Amado. I devoured Amado’s books while studying flute performance at Berklee College of Music in Boston. The book eventually became a film and Sonia Braga the beautiful Brazilian actress played Dona Flor perfectly embodying the sensuality of Amado’s heroine.

Many years later, while on a trip to Brazil with the Latin American novelist—Isabel Allende, we had the great fortune of sharing a moqueca with Jorge Amado in the heart of Bahia at the wonderful Sorriso da Dada Restaurant in Pelourinho. Just as in the magical realism of Gabriel Garcia’s “One Hundred Years of Solitude”, it seems that all things eventually come full circle. This past year the magical thread continued as I planned an itinerary for the Strauss family, based around the life of the great Pulitzer Prize winning poet—Elizabeth Bishop who lived in Brazil for 15 years in the 40s and 50s.

Last year, Bruno Barreto—the acclaimed director of “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands”, directed an award winning film about Elizabeth’s relationship with famed Brazilian architect Lota de Macedo de Soares called “Reaching for the Moon.” The Strauss family had seen the film and felt inspired to visit Brazil.  Dr. Ron Strauss had been studying the poetry and life of Bishop for the past twenty years, so the trip would be particularly meaningful for him.


Bruno Barreto’s “Reaching for the Moon”

Of course I wanted the Strauss Family to experience something special during their visit to Brazil, but as fate would have it, I didn’t realize just how very special this trip would eventually become! Dr. Strauss wanted to visit the famous residence that Bishop shared with Soares that is located in the hills above Rio de Janeiro, and is now owned by a wealthy shipping magnate, Dona Zuleika Borges Torrealba. The beautiful architectural masterpiece that was designed together by the Brazilian architect Sergio Bernardes and Bishop’s partner, Lota de Macedo Soares sits on a vast estate behind impenetrable stone gates and rarely has outside visitors. Needless to say, I spent weeks trying to find anyone that could help me find a way to get Dona Zuleika to open her estate to the Strauss family.

Unfortunately, Dona Zuleika was unreachable and everyone said that she was very private and rarely allowed outside visitors. I finally reached out to a friend, who happens to be the mother of Marisa Monte, one of Brazil’s top singers. Sylvia also just happens to be close friends with the great director Bruno Barreto! Sylvia asked if I thought perhaps the Strauss Family would enjoy a lunch with the director. Of course they would! So with the help of Sylvia, I was able to arrange a wonderful lunch with Bruno, but I was still unable to get them into seeing the famous Elizabeth Bishop house on the Zuleika estate. This was so important to Ron Strauss so I continued to look for a way to gain access.

A week before the trip everything was set for the Strauss’ arrival in Brazil, an itinerary with all kinds of Elizabeth Bishop related visits but still no entrance to “the house” — when out of the blue I received a message from one of my private guides in Rio. Valeria had attended a party in Rio over the weekend with one of her friends who just happened to be close friends with Dona Zuleika’s daughter! A phone call was placed and not only did Dona Zuleika give permission for a visit, she invited the Strauss Family to have lunch with her on the estate! The Strauss family would spend the day on the enormous estate high in the mountains above Rio, and visit the famous Bishop House known as Samambaia. Finally this itinerary was complete and probably one of the most memorable I have ever arranged for a client.

Here is the letter I received from Irene Strauss upon their return from Brazil.

“Without Jill Siegel, our trip to Brazil would not have been the all-encompassing experience it was. It would be so simple to say that Jill worked her “magic”, because she made it seem so effortless. However, her clear understanding of her clients’ (at this point, I’d say friends) wishes, combined with an amazing attention to detail — always completed in a prompt and gracious manner — would be far more accurate.

Our trip presented a real challenge. Three generations (69, 43, 11) all of whom had different visions. Being a history teacher, I wanted to discover Brazil’s past and culture. My son, a physician and student of poetry, hoped to visit all the places where Elizabeth Bishop, the Pulitzer prize winning poet, had lived during her sixteen years in Brazil. My granddaughter, a typical eleven year old, wished for it all — places to see, people to talk to and some shopping thrown in along the way.

Jill fulfilled every request — and more. Our stops in Rio de Janeiro, Ouro Preto and the Amazon region were perfect. Every day we experienced the diversity of Brazil’s history, culture, people, and food, as each of our wonderful tour guides (thank you Valeria, Celia and Anavilhanas staff) shared her/his knowledgeable, yet personal, perspective of the country. Aside from the landmark visits, we discovered the cashew fruit, which gave Bishop an asthma attack and caused her unplanned stop in Rio, several games of foot volley at Ipanema, feijoada (yummy!) at a local lunch stop, baroque churches and oratorios in beautiful Ouro Preto, and a two room school in a small village on the Rio Negro, where we learned of the problems and hopes of Brazil’s future. And these are only a few of our unique memories.

But the most amazing feat Jill achieved were the connections to Elizabeth Bishop. Before contacting Jill, the best we hoped for was to discover the locations of Bishop’s houses and take photos. However, we not only toured the homes where she lived (which are privately owned and not open to the public,) but we also were invited to lunch and spent the day with a recognized Brazilian mogul, who shared her perspective on Bishop. Jill also arranged a luncheon with Bruno Barreto, the director of the 2013 film about Bishop, Reaching for the Moon, and this incredibly kind and unassuming man discussed his research for and message of the film.

None of this, and so much more of our trip, would have been possible without Jill. I guess she really is a magician.”  Irene Strauss

Dining at Samambaia

Dining at Samambaia

Spectacular Villa Luz – Buzios, Brazil

Villa Luz is a stunning 5 bedroom hilltop villa with sweeping views of Ferrudura Bay as well as the Atlantic Ocean.  Graceful contemporary architecture comprised of a restrained palette of natural local materials provides a backdrop to the phenomenal natural setting.



Each suite has a private balcony facing the ocean.  The suites are entered via a courtyard garden replete with gurgling fountains and gentle waterfalls. The heart of the home is a 2 level 1,700 sq ft. living, dining and entertaining area. Two living areas and a bar also share the modern space with a 14 seat home theatre on the mezzanine. Sliding glass doors allow for the living area to be completely opened up to the garden, pool and sunsets providing a superlative and relaxing relationship with the natural surroundings.


On the mezzanine there is a 14 seat home-theater which has a large flat screen TV with DVD player and surround sound to create an outstanding home cinema experience.

The swimming pool is 14 meters X 4 meters with 8 sun beds surrounded by a sandstone tiled patio, accented with mini palm trees.  The outside area has a shaded gazebo which contains an open barbecue and table ideal for pool side lunches.

Includes cook and full-time assistance of an English speaking concierge.

For more information:  Villa Luz

For reservations contact:  Jill Siegel



Named to Condé Nast Traveler Magazine’s  World’s Top Travel Specialists List CN-Traveler-cover-201215 Consecutive Years

MONTCLAIR, NJ – NOVEMBER 2012– JILL SIEGEL, owner of South American Escapes has been named one of the world’s Top Travel Specialists by Condé Nast Traveler magazine for the 5th consecutive year.  By combining firsthand experience and 30 years of knowledge within the Brazilian Travel Industry, Jill provides the type of expertise needed  to create  seamless and unique travel experiences for her clients.  Out of thousands of candidates, 150 made the list this year.

“To be included on the list, travel specialists need to remain ahead of online travel sites, and they need to offer a combination of insider advice, local connections, added value, and special access,” said Condé Nast Traveler Consumer News Editor Wendy Perrin.

“Working within the Brazilian Travel Industry for the last 30 years has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience and I am honored to be recognized by Condé Nast Traveler for being one of the world’s top travel specialists,” said Jill Siegel.

Brazil Travel Specialist – Jill Siegel, focuses on exclusive out of the way places that provide the very best in the Brazilian hospitality and tourism sector.  From coordinating travel to the Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to arranging private travel arrangements for clients as diverse as Susan Sarandon or the great great grandson of Charles Darwin–Jill’s six years of living and working in Brazil makes her a true insider.

Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Travel Specialists list began as a service travel directory 12 years ago, yet it has turned into a must-have list of the most impressive, knowledgeable, and experienced travel specialists in the world.

Each year, Condé Nast Traveler Consumer News Editor Wendy Perrin leads a team of editors in evaluating applicants.  Listed travel specialists have undergone a rigorous screening process that includes a 47-question application with sample itineraries and client references, then continues with phone interviews and, in most cases, road-testing by Condé Nast Traveler staff.  Perrin receives hundreds of letters annually from around the world reporting back on the trips that were planned by these specialists, and you can read the most recent ones on Wendy Perrin’s blog at

About Condé Nast Traveler

Condé Nast Traveler does not accept free travel and accommodations, and its correspondents, as far as possible, travel anonymously.  The result is travel the way consumers experience it — good and bad, with reporting that is fair and honest.  Condé Nast Traveler has a circulation of over 800,000 and is published by Condé Nast Publications, Inc.

Click here to read the reviews of Jill’s client’s trips!

Phone: (973) 783-2277
Toll Free in USA and Canada: (888) 462-7428

Call Jill for custom designed itineraries to Brazil and expert travel planning.

Villas de Trancoso – Bahia, Brazil








Overlooking one of the most beautiful beaches in all of Brazil, Villas de Trancoso offers guests superb private luxury accommodations that are sophisticated, exquisite and perfectly idyllic.  Look no further for a perfect honeymoon or relaxed week long retreat, Villas de Trancoso succeeds on every level.

Each of the 5 one and two bedroom luxury villas is surrounded by lush gardens with access to a white marble pool, alfresco dining restaurant, and pristine beach area with shaded palms, showers and lots of comfortable furnishings and cushions.








Each Villa has its own private deck or outdoor lounge and spacious bedrooms as well as  bathrooms furnished with rare and exotic Brazilian hardwoods.  Other amenities include beds draped in mosquito nets, Direct TV, DVD, CD players, cordless phones, refrigerators, safes and of course air conditioning.


Villa Sky is a dramatic two story villa with dining and entertainment on the first level and the master suite on the second level.  In the center of the home is an atrium that rises to a glass skylight on the second level. From the master bedroom one can gaze into a star filled sky throughout the night.
Water sports, boating, fishing, diving, hiking to secluded beaches, horse back riding and access to Trancoso’s world class Terra Vista Golf Course are just some of the many activities available.  There is also a health and fitness centre, personal trainers, cycling, kayaking, body surfing and massage.

Villas de Trancoso has one of the areas best restaurants.  Chef Sidnei’s dishes coupled with his caring and attentive staff make dining under the stars and around the pool an unforgettable experience.

According to owner Galen Briggs – “The great thing about being small is we can do exactly what the guest requests.  Our starry nights are amazing!  We have even had guests that asked to sleep under the stars on the beach.  A starry night combined with the soft crashing of waves is a most amazing experience!”

Airport:  Porto Seguro

Facilities: Swimming pool,  golf, horse back riding, health and fitness centre, personal trainers, cycling,  kayaking, body surfing, massages.

Weather: All year round destination

 Reservations: Contact Jill

Ponta dos Ganchos Exclusive Resort – Santa Catarina, Brazil







Located on Brazil’s stunning emerald coast, Ponta dos Ganchos offers the ultimate in romance and world class sophistication.   The 25 private bungalows afford guests with sweeping views of the sea, each one decorated in lush, rustic and refined style featuring Brazilian hardwood and natural stone.
Each bungalow comes with luxury linens, fireplace, state of the art music systems, internet connections and flat screen TVs.  Most bungalows also feature private plunge pools affording the spectacular views of the emerald sea below.

Romantic and private dinners may be enjoyed on your own private island illuminated by tropical torches and serenaded by a guitarist or simply by the gentle lapping waves.   All meals are included in the packages and are served at any hour of the day.    Casual lunches and gourmet evening meals are served in the tri-level Beach Restaurant.  The contemporary regional cuisine features freshly caught fish, prawns, oysters and mussels.  The extensive wine list features over 250 labels including Chilean, Brazilian, Portuguese and Argentinian wines.







Scuba diving in the Marine Reserve of Arvoredo as well as chartered schooner cruises and sailing are available.  Guests have use of all resort amenities including heated indoor pool, fully equipped fitness room, an oceanside tennis court, billiard game room, kayaks, canoes and laser dinghies, ecological trails and running track and a secluded beach for swimming and snorkeling. The resort also has an on-site cinema with a library of 300 films for guests enjoyment.







Wedding packages are available.  Packages include 02 massages or Dior Spa Treatments, hairdresser and manicure, make-up artist, wedding ceremony on the island, Veuve Clicquot champagne, dinner on the island, breakfast served in the bungalow the next day, live music – guitar and violin, and red rose bouquet.

Jill can also arrange one of Brazil’s top wedding photographers to capture the magic of your special day.  Most recently  photographer Lauro Maeda photographed the gorgeous wedding of Donald Graham and Ingrid Schau at Ponta dos Ganchos.

Ingrid and Donald Wedding picture


Reservations: Contact Jill

Closest Airport: Florianopolis International Airport, 50-min drive



Conde Nast Traveler – Top Travel Specialist





MONTCLAIR-Based Travel Specialist One of 128 Travel Specialists

Named to Condé Nast Traveler World’s Top Travel Specialists List

MONTCLAIR, NJ – AUGUST 2008– JILL SIEGEL/SOUTH AMERICAN ESCAPES has been named one of the world’s 128 Top Travel Specialists by Condé Nast Traveler magazine.  By combining first hand experience and years of knowledge, the travel specialists named to Condé Nast Traveler’s 2008 World’s Top Travel Specialists list provide their clients with the most up-to-date, exclusive information out there.  Out of thousands of candidates, 128 made the list this year.

“To be included on the list, travel specialists need to remain ahead of online travel sites, and they need to offer a combination of insider advice, local connections, added value, and special access,” said Condé Nast Traveler Consumer News Editor Wendy Perrin.

“Working within the Brazilian Travel Industry for the last 26 years has been a wonderful and fulfilling experience and I am honored to be recognized by Condé Nast Traveler for being one of the world’s top travel specialists,” said Jill Siegel.

South American Escapes focuses on that special, exclusive out of the way place that provides the very best in the Brazilian hospitality and tourism sector.  From coordinating travel to the 1992 Earth Summit in Rio de Janeiro to arranging private travel arrangements for clients as diverse as Susan Sarandon or the great great grandson of Charles Darwin–Jill’s six years of living and working in Brazil makes her a true insider.

Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Travel Specialists list began as a service travel directory 9 years ago, yet it has turned into a must-have list of the most impressive, knowledgeable, and experienced travel specialists in the world.

Each year, Condé Nast Traveler Consumer News Editor Wendy Perrin leads a team of editors in evaluating applicants.  Listed travel specialists have undergone a rigorous screening process that includes a 47-question application with sample itineraries and client references, then continues with phone interviews and, in most cases, road-testing by Condé Nast Traveler staff.  Perrin receives hundreds of letters annually from around the world reporting back on the trips that were planned by these specialists, and you can read the most recent ones on Wendy Perrin’s blog at

About Condé Nast Traveler

Condé Nast Traveler does not accept free travel and accommodations, and its correspondents, as far as possible, travel anonymously.  The result is travel the way consumers experience it — good and bad, with reporting that is fair and honest.  Condé Nast Traveler has a circulation of over 800,000 and is published by Condé Nast Publications,cntraveler-cover Inc. 

Exclusive Hideaway Beach Villa – Trancoso, Bahia – Brazil


With a privileged location on a bluff overlooking the sea, this spectacular private villa was designed by Robert Novogratz  to reflect Trancoso’s laid back atmosphere and lifestyle.  Secluded and private, the large interior spaces all open to the breathtaking natural landscape that surrounds the villa.

Sip caipirinha’s poolside, horseback ride on the beach or walk to Trancoso’s famous Quadrado to enjoy the hip boutiques, restaurants and impromptu musical performances and parties.  You will never want to leave this place.

villa-trancosoThis hideaway sleeps 12 guests comfortably and is ideal for a large family.
Includes: 4 air conditioned Bedrooms with private decks, large living and dining rooms, flat screen TV / DVD room with A/C, modern kitchen, poolside bar, swimming pool, CD player, 6 bathrooms, 5 showers and English Speaking Housekeeper.




villa-poolPlease contact Jill for availability and prices. (Daily, weekly and Christmas rates available)

Closest Airport: Porto Seguro


Pousada do Quadrado – Trancoso, Bahia Brazil

pousada-do-quadradoLocated on the historic square in the tiny seaside village of Trancoso, Pousado do Quadrado offers the perfect escapes for those seeking privacy and comfort surrounded by luch tropical gardens and only steps away from some of the best beaches in Brazil.

In 2001, internationally renowned Brazilian designer Sig Bergamin took time out from transforming the Hamptons homes of the rich and famous to completely refurbish and redesign the interior of Pousada do Quadrado.


pousada-do-quadrado-veranMixing furniture and materials typically Bahian with touches of South East Asia, he created an eclectic and relaxing atmostphere that some have called the most beautiful pousada on the Bahian coast.
The pousada’s chef, Leticia Pimenta, has become a local celebrity in her own right earning high quadrado-deckmarks for serving the best Bahian cuisine in the region.

Rooms: 2 duplex apartments with verandas, 11 suites

Services: Restaurant do Jacaré

Activities: Local shopping on the square, beach swimming, beach excursions, horse back on the beach, kayaking

Rates: Please contact Jill for current rates.

Closest Airport: Porto Seguro

Etnia Pousada – Trancoso, Bahia – Brazil

etnia-maroccos-suite etnia-overviewLike stepping into an exotic edition of Architectural Digest, each of Etnia’s five bungalows will transport you to a different far off land.  Step into the Arabian Nights in the Maroccos Suite or lose yourself in the African inspired Tribal Suite.  If you prefer the local Brazilian flavor, the Trancoso Suite’s rustic style will feel like home.

Surrounded by banana, mango and Pau Brasil trees, Etnia Pousada enjoys a unique location.  Close enough to Trancoso’s Quadrado to enjoy festive Brazilian nights and close enough to the ocean for an early morning dip before breakfast.
etnia-poolA modern swimming pool surrounded by a wooden sun deck is the perfect place to enjoy your afternoon snack or a light meal.  Take a yoga class in the afternoon or luxuriate with a relaxing massage in the Etnia Therapy Center.

Services: Restaurant, pool and bar, antique boutique shop

Activities: ocean or pool swimming, horse back riding, eco-tourism, boating
etnia-chair-detailRates: Please contact Jill for current rates.

Closest Airport: Porto Seguro

Estrela d’Agua, Trancoso – Bahia, Brazil

estrela-entranceestrela-dagua-ocean-viewAchieving a perfect balance between sophistication and informality, Estrela d’Agua is a tranquil ocean front retreat surrounded by 20 kilometers of pristine beaches, cliffs and natural pools.  Suites and tastefully appointed bungalows are built around Brazilian tropicalismo singer Gal Costa’s former beach home.

Enjoy long lazy hours beach combing, swimming, fishing or just curling up in a hammock on a sun drenched verandah.  The muted natural tones of the airy interiors counterpoint the vivid colors of the tropical gardens.  Estrela’s native chef will indulge you in divine cuisine prepared from fresh local produce including fantastic seafood from an abundant daily catch.  In the evening stroll to the village “Quadrado” and join in the nightly festivities.

estrela-verandahRooms: 14 Suites, 2 Master Suites, 2 Bungalows w/minibar, TV, telephone, air conditioning, verandah and hammocks.

Services: 2 pools, gardens, verandah bar and beach bar, massage, gym and internet.

estrela-cabanaActivities: Boating, Horse back riding, ultra-light flying, tennis, golf course, eco-tours through the Atlantic Rainforest, boat tours to Espelho and Curuipe beaches.

Rates: Contact Jill for current rates.

Closest Airport: Porto Seguro

Hotel Monasterio – Cuzco, Peru

hotel-monasterio-blue-corrimachu-picchu-full-viewLuxuriate in oxygen enriched rooms 11,000 feet above sea level at Cuzco’s only museum hotel –  Hotel Monasterio.  Built over three centuries ago, the colonial San Antonio Abad Seminary has been completely transformed into a five star luxury hotel while still maintaining its Incan and Spanish style.  Many of the rooms offer charming views of the ancient city and the colorful rooftops of Cuzco.


illary-restaurantLunch and dinner may be enjoyed adjacent to the Main Square at the hotel’s Illary Restaurant, while the sumptuous breakfast buffet and Saturday night Incan dinners are offered at the El Tupay Restaurant located in the original refectory of the ancient monastery.

Cuzco, the capital of the Inca Dynasty is an ideal base from which to explore the ruins of one of the world’s greatest heritage sites – Machu Picchu, only a scenic three hour train ride away.


monasterio-brown-corridor monasterio-courtyardRooms: 109 Guest Rooms, 12 Junior Suites, 1 Deluxe Suite, 2 Royal Suites and 3 Presidential Suites.

Services: Illary Restaurant, El Tupay Restaurant, Lobby Bar, Massage Spa Services, Business Services

Activities: Walking tours of the ancient city, Tour of the Sacred Valley, Luxury Train Journey to Machu Picchu, mountain biking, whitewater rafting, fishing and horse back riding.

Rates: Please contact Jill for rates.

machu-picchu-ruins peru-childClosest Airport: Cuzco


Txai Resort – Itacaré Bahia, Brazil

txai-bungalow txai-detailSet among a 100 hectare coconut grove, Txai Resort’s private bungalows offer guests the ultimate in laid back sophistication and barefoot luxury. The flavor and colors of Brazil are everywhere here from the mesmerizing sea views to the unspoiled Atlantic Rainforest. Enjoy exploring the endless secluded beaches, trekking to waterfalls, horse back riding, surfing or a game of tennis.

txai-girlsTxai’s restaurant features the same Bahian delicacies made famous by Brazil’s beloved literary giant – Jorge Amado in “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands.” Savor the flavors of a “moqueca de peixe”, fish stewed with coconut milk, or the Bahian shrimp favorite, “Bobó de Camarão” all the while taking in the breathtaking natural setting.

txai-bungalow-interiorRooms: 10 Suites and 16 private bungalows.  5 bungalows with jacuzzi, built individually on stilts and surrounded by wooden decks spread out among the coconut groves to ensure maximum privacy. 1 triple bungalow accommodates up to 8 guests in three adjoining suites – the largest of which is a loft with mezzanine, accommodating up to 4 guests.



txai-beachtxai-poolServices: Restaurant, living room, 25m swimming pool steps from 4k beachfront, children’s pool, TV and internet access, 2 illuminated tennis courts and spa.

Activities: Canoeing, eco-tourism, fishing, horse back riding, nature trails, snorkeling, surfing, swimming and white water rafting.

Rates: Please contact Jill for current rates.

Closest Airport: Ilhéus in Southern Bahia State

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” — Mark Twain

Explora en Patagonia – Puerto Natales – Chile

explora-hotel-salto-chicotorres-del-paineEmerald green lakes and breathtaking mountain chains create a magical setting within the Torres del Paine National Park. It is here that Explora en Patagonia welcomes guests to experience the spirit of exploration in the legendary footsteps of famous adventurers such as Magellan, Drake, Humboldt and Darwin.With unusually shaped granite peaks, glaciers, lakes and waterfalls, plus unique flora and fauna, Torres del Paine is considered one of the world’s most spectacular parks. It was designated a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1978.Strategically set on the shore of Lake Pehoé, Explora’s Hotel Salto Chico was conceived as an exploration base site. It features refined comfort for total relaxation and the best gear ideally suited for exploring Patagonia. Each day choose from five different explorations on foot, horseback, van or boat, accompanied by Explora’s expert bilingual guides. After a day of invigorating activities, return to the comfortable environs of the lodge that has been carefully designed utilizing traditional lenga and cypress woods plus handcrafted slate and copper accents. Enjoy the indoor heated lap pool, exercise machines, sauna, massage rooms and open-air Jacuzzis at the nearby Casa de Baños del Ona.Explora’s restaurant features locally grown produce, regional cuisine and wine from the lodge’s own vineyards at Viña Gracia de Chile.


  • 6 Exploradores Suites with a view of Macizo del Paine
  • 36 Cordillera Paine rooms with a view of Macizo de Paine
  • 7 Salto Chico rooms with a view of Salto Chico Waterfall
  • 1 Rio Paine room with a view of Salto Chico Waterfall

explora-relaxationServices: Dining room, Bar, Room Service, telephones with international direct dialing, game and music room, library, laundry, safe boxes in rooms, internet, indoor heated pool, sauna, fitness center, massage, open air Jacuzzis.Activities: Daily explorations by foot, horseback, van or boat.

explora-hotel-salto-chicoPlease contact Jill for current rates.

Closest Airport: Punta Arenas

Time Lapse Video: Torres del Paine

Flowers and trees and birds and stars and glaciers, and all the other wonderful things that surround us in the world. We have all of this beauty around us and yet grown ups often lose themselves in offices and imagine they are doing very important things. Can you recognize the flowers by their names and the birds by their singing? … Young people, I hope you will take a long time growing up! Jawaharlal Nehru (1889-1964)

Pousada Maravilha – Fernando de Noronha – Brazil

maravilha-for-blog3Located 200 Nautical miles off Brazil’s northeastern coast, Pousada Maravilha is the first 5 star luxury inn located on the tiny island paradise – Fernando de Noronha. Blending seamlessly with its natural surroundings, Pousada Maravilha’s 5 private bungalows and 3 suites offer breathtaking views of the stunning turquoise bay. Muted tones with colorful accents highlight the simple interiors and set a mood of quiet tranquility and reflection. This beautiful island is the perfect destination for those who love diving, snorkeling, wind surfing, hiking or honeymooners who want to escape from it all and enjoy some of the best secluded beaches in South America.


maravilha-pool maravilha-viewRooms: 5 private bungalows and 3 suites. Cable TV, AC, balcony

Services: Restaurant, swim up pool bar, massage, tour services, transfers, excursions

Activities: Diving, snorkeling, surfing, kayaking, fishing, boating, bird watching, horse back riding, island tours, and bicycling.

mirante-do-forteClosest Airport: Flights daily from Natal and Recife airports

Google Maps: Fernando de Noronha

Image Gallery: Fernando de Noronha

Rates: Please contact Jill for current rates.

Welcome to South American Escapes Blog

estrela-jpgJill Siegel – Brazil Travel Specialist – Biography

I am a Brazil Travel Specialist with over 25 years experience working exclusively with the Brazilian and South American travel industry.  For the past 7 years I have been one of Conde Nast Traveler Magazine’s “Top Travel Specialists” for Brazil travel.   My interest in all things Brazilian began during my flute performance studies at Berklee College of Music in Boston. Many Brazlilian students attended this famous international music school, and I felt drawn to the friendly outgoing nature of these talented classmates whose infectious enthusiasm inspired my immersion in all things Brazilian including music, Portuguese language, literature, history, art, politics and wonderful cuisine. I was fascinated by the novels of Brazil’s famous literary genius, Jorge Amado, “Dona Flor and Her Two Husbands”, never imagining that 17 years later I would find myself spending a wonderful day with him at his home in Bahia, Brazil.

jill-and-angelaWith a strong desire to live and work in Brazil, I sought a position with a Boston based travel company called International Weekends and was soon on my way to Rio de Janeiro to manage an inbound charter tourism program. During this working hands on experience I was completely immersed in the Brazilian culture and found myself fluent in Portuguese after one year. Working with travelers visiting from all over the United States quickly became a challenging and educational way to learn a great deal about the Brazilian Tourism Trade.

ariau-best-arial-viewAfter 6 years working in Brazil, I returned to the United States and became the Official Travel Coordinator of NGOs for the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development also known as The Earth Summit, which took place in Rio de Janeiro in 1992. This was the largest environmental conference to date, gathering together heads of state from over 120 countries. My client list ranged from the Natural Resources Defense Council to recent Nobel Peace Prize winner Wangari Maathai. Many of my clients were scientists, environmentalists and politicians from all over the world who had a great interest in visiting the Amazon Region during their participation at the Earth Summit. The Amazon State Tourism Authority sponsored my visit to Manaus and I was able to research many travel options available ranging from a unique tree top lodge to Amazon River cruises.


carybe-and-isabel-allendeisabel-and-friendjorge-amado-isabel-allende-carybeIn 1997 I was contacted by the great Latin American author, Isabel Allende, to design and arrange an itinerary for an upcoming visit to Brazil including the Amazon, Rio de Janeiro and Bahia. It was during this trip with Isabel where I found myself visiting Jorge Amado in his home in Bahia. What a thrill it was to spend the day with two great Latin American writers, and Amado’s dear friend, Carybé, considered one of the greatest Brazilian Artists of all times. Carybé’s famous mural stretches across the International Arrivals Building at JFK Airport.


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOver the years I have also had the pleasure to know and work with the great ethnobotanist – Dr. Mark Plotkin, author of “Tales of a Shaman’s Apprentice”, and featured in the Oscar nominated Imax documentary “Amazon.” Nothing can compare with the fascinating experience of accompanying Dr. Plotkin on a trek through the Amazon Rainforest. Dr. Plotkin’s vast knowledge of plant and wildlife never ceases to amaze me.

I have also had the opportunity to bring National Geographic photographers to the Amazon region as well as the Pantanal in Western Brazil. These trips have allowed me to see these regions through the eyes of some of the world’s best nature photographers including Mark Downey and Rick Sammon.

Other clients have included Susan Sarandon, director George Tillman Jr. (Men of Honor), The Ralph Lauren Family, director/photographer David LaChapelle, and Matthew Chapman, great great grandson of Charles Darwin.

I am available for consultations, custom designed travel itineraries, and all aspects of travel planning to Brazil and South America.

Watch a fascinating video with Dr. Mark Plotkin:

Dr. Mark Plotkin visits Google to discuss his book, “Medicine Quest: In Search of Nature’s Healing Secrets.

Contact:  Jill Siegel

Back in the Trees Again – Ariau Amazon Towers

ariau-best-arial-viewIt had been two years since my last visit to Ariau Amazon Towers Hotel and I was more than eager to get back in the trees! Upon my arrival I was greeted by the “welcome committee”, a playful troop of woolley monkeys with the irrepressible Natalie in the lead. She immediately took to my shoulders and gave me the appearance of a Russian with one of those funny fur hats!



suite-divina-sunlitThe staff had fun making sure the rest of the rambunctious troop did not enter the reception area and kept them distracted on the boat launch. After convincing Natalie I would be around for a few days she released the monkey grip she had on my head and let me check-in and find my suite. This time I had the pleasure of the “Suite Divina”, with a 360 degree panoramic view into the rainforest canopy! This is truly heaven, three days with only the sounds of tropical birds and monkeys howling in the distance! Good-bye phone, fax, computer! Hello! Piranha fishing!



amazon-sunsetFinding my way down Tower 5 and onto the catwalk suspended over Ariau Creek, I spotted two bright red macaws perched on a tree. Spider monkeys scurried playfully at my feet as I carefully and quickly entered the restaurant on top of Tower 4, making sure none of my little friends would slip in as well. One of the absolute delights of Ariau is the regional Amazonian cuisine served up buffet style three times a day. At breakfast, an array of tropical fruits that are not even known outside of the region are displayed beside a large selection of warm homemade Brazilian pastries, breads and soft cheeses. A delicate white manioc pancake the color and texture of lace is enjoyed lightly spread with sweet butter. Homemade jams and jellies with exotic Indian fruit names such as cupuaçu, jaca and acai add just the right touch. Then there is the Brazilian Cafezinho.  Need I say more?

jimmy-and-roslyn-carter-at-ariauLunch and dinner feature the absolutely exotic Amazonian fresh water fish, the two-meter long pirarucu and the delicious tambaqui both prepared in the regional manner. On one wall of the restaurant are displayed hand carved plaques honoring illustrious guests who have also been initiated into Ariau’s magic – Bill Gates, Isabel Allende, Jennifer Lopez, Prince Frederick of Denmark and Jimmy and Roslyn Carter among many others.

After lunch our little international group pile into a motorized canoe with Ricardo our guide and we’re off for the afternoon to explore the flooded forest. As we leave Ariau Creek and approach the Rio Negro an indescribable feeling of vastness fills me with wonder as we approach the mouth of the Anavilhanas Archipelago – the largest grouping of fresh water islands in the world. Here the river becomes an ocean at 17 miles from shore to shore. Pink dolphins leaping from the water create a magical landscape only equaled by a Peter Max painting. The sky seems to go on and on forever. We enter the flooded forest and the motor is turned off, all at once the wonder of the rainforest explodes around us as we navigate the backwaters. The primordial forest, vines, lianas, bromeliads, butterflies – this is why I came, it is all right in front of me. I have returned to the place that I love. post by Jill Siegel