Meet the Managing Director Paulo Veloso
I am delighted that Paulo has agreed to answer a few questions for Silver Travellers.
Q: Tell me a little about why you set up Veloso Tours.
I developed an interest in Latin America from an early age from reading about the incredible achievements of the ancient Inca Empires and the European colonialists.
Having worked in Latin American tourism most of my life, I set up Veloso Tours in 1999 to enable travellers to not only see the major sites in Central and South America but also to get behind the scenes for a more authentic experience of the cultures, people and history of this fascinating region.
I am also passionate about customer service and proud of our team dedicated to making our clients holidays the best possible experience. The high praise we receive from our customers continues to motivate us all.
Q: Your company is a Latin America specialist tour and cruise company. What is so unique about this part of the world?
There are such a wide variety of experiences to enjoy. Ancient sites like Machu Picchu, Easter Island and Chichen Itza. Incredible scenery such as Colca Canyon, the Iguassu Falls or Torres del Paine National Park. Then you have the Amazon with its fascinating flora and fauna and the world’s longest river. Wildlife is top on the agenda for many, with the Galapagos Islands, Tortuguero National Park in Costa Rica and the Pantanal in Brazil top of many people’s travel bucket lists. And I have not even mentioned the delightful old colonial cities (such as Cusco or Cuenca) and vibrant cities like Rio, Buenos Aires and Havana with their famous festivals.
Many of the best sites are best seen from the comfort of an expedition cruise, and Latin America has much to offer here, from cruises around Cape Horn, coastal cruises in Chile to adventures on the Amazon River.
But perhaps the most unique and memorable thing to mention is the Latin American people who will share a feeling of joy and a spirit of joie de vivre evidenced through dance, cuisine and friendship.
Q: If you had to pick just 3 places on this vast continent to visit, where would they be?
This is difficult as there are so many great places to explore.
First on my list would be the Galapagos Islands with its unique wildlife, flora and fauna. Swim with sea lions, observe birds nesting at your feet unafraid of humans. Quite extraordinary.
Second would be Peru, but be sure to plan carefully to experience Machu Picchu and Lake Titicaca without the crowds of tourists. Plus there’s Cusco, the Sacred Valley, Arequipa, Colca Canyon, Lima and Northern Peru to enjoy.
And finally, Costa Rica a paradise of natural wonders, from exploring Tortuguero National Park by riverboat to dramatic Arenal Volcano. Walk amongst the trees in the Monteverde Cloud forest and admire indigenous birdlife in Manuel Antonio National Park. Costa Rica also has some excellent beach resorts to relax at the end of a tour.
Q: We occasionally hear that South American cities can be dangerous, is this something you’ve found?
Not at all. Like all overseas travel you need to take good advice on where to stay and how to travel. Veloso Tours has a large team of expert local guides, your hosts who guide you in each destination and provide invaluable help on where best to eat and visit independently – to ensure your trip is hassle free.
Q: A cruise along the Amazon sounds extraordinary, what’s a typical itinerary like? Do you need to be very fit and active to fully enjoy the experience?
Amazon River Cruises venture into the flooded rainforest, tributaries and creeks in small local boats. Each day you will learn about the flora and fauna of the Amazon with expert local guides, meeting local communities and observing the life of the river. Perhaps spotting river dolphins, and try your hand at fishing for piranhas.
There is a good choice of vessels and itineraries, usually from 4 to 6 night’s duration. We can advise on the most appropriate cruise for each client.
You do not need to be too fit and active to enjoy a cruise on the Amazon River. As long as you are able to walk comfortably, get on and off small boats and navigate stairs, then you will thoroughly enjoy an Amazon River cruise.
Q: Then contrast that with a voyage to Antarctica, which must be the trip of a lifetime?
It certainly is a trip of a lifetime. On these voyages, which generally depart from Ushuaia (the southern most tip of Argentina), all you will need are good sea legs. The vessels Veloso Tours recommends are extremely comfortable with all the usual facilities of a normal cruise ship, with spacious cabins, dining room, lounge, bar, shop, spa and fitness room. There are daily lectures and when you arrive in Antarctica you will be taken ashore on smaller zodiac boats. As the weather is quite cold, the cruise company provides special jackets and footwear.
Q: And then the Galapagos, what are your standout moments from visiting these islands?
A must see is Santa Cruz Island and the Charles Darwin Centre. Apart from that, each island has its own wildlife with the more distant islands, like Tower Island, having larger populations with fewer visitors.
You’ll be amazed how the birds, sea lions, iguanas and other creatures allow you to get up close and personal, with no fear of humans. You will feel you have landed in another world, their world. It’s a wonderfully humbling experience. Don’t miss swimming with sea lions, birds nesting at your feet and marine iguanas spitting salt. You can even see penguins in the Galapagos.
Q: The Inca and Mayan civilizations hold great fascination for many travellers, is it easy to get a true sense of them from the remains today?
Yes, very much so. The most popular sites are well preserved. My advice is to ensure your itinerary to sites like Machu Picchu or Chichen Izta is well planned to visit without the hordes of tourists. And visit lesser-known gems such as Uxmal, Palenque and Coba in Mexico, Caracol in Belize and Tikal in Guatemala. Veloso Tours local guides are invaluable in helping you get a true sense of the Inca and Mayan remains providing fascinating insights and bringing the history to life. This is particularly useful to family groups.
Q: I know you have some excellent, detailed information on your website www.veloso.com about when to visit each region and what to expect, however do give me some idea of how long an in-depth tour might take, say of Chile?
To see the best of Chile, you really need a minimum of 14 nights. It’s a long, thin country; so do expect a number of domestic flights to get around. I would recommend our Ramblers tours which explores the capital city Santiago, visits the famous port of Valparaiso, travels north to the Atacama Desert and then southbound to Patagonia to explore Torres del Pane National Park. Finally, take a 3-night cruise on the Skorpios III expedition cruise ship to admire the dramatic glaciers crashing into the sea in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The Ramblers Tour (including international flights from the UK) is priced from £7,184 per person (twin share).
Q: And questions our readers often ask – is English widely spoken, and what type of food can one expect?
Yes, although Spanish is obviously the main language of Latin America, English is spoken widely. Veloso Tours guides all speak good English and are your hosts for your travels.
The cuisine of Latin America is very enjoyable. Apart from classic meat dishes in Argentina and Brazil, Burritos in Mexico and Ceviche in Peru, there is a new fusion cuisine developing in several countries combining fish dishes with Asian influences. Veloso Tours website showcases Latin American restaurants in the UK, so interested travellers can gain a taste of Latin America before they depart.
Q: Finally, Paulo, is there any one thing someone travelling to Latin and South America should take?
I recommend taking the right attitude! Travel to Latin America with a spirit of adventure and discovery and I promise you will be rewarded with wonderful experiences and memories to treasure forever.
Paulo is happy to speak personally to any Silver Travel Advisor members interested in travelling to Latin America, Central America or China. The number to call is 020 8762 0616.
More about Paulo
Born in Portugal, Paulo Veloso studied photography, design and business studies. He speaks English, Spanish, Portuguese, and French fluently. Over the last 30 years Paulo has travelled extensively in Latin America researching and assessing hotels, lodges, guides, transport and services. Paulo lives in London.