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Archive for south america

Machu Picchu of the North

By Linda Tancs

Machu Picchu might be Peru’s most-visited site, but there’s an equally dazzling fortress to the north worth a visit. For that head to Chachapoyas, located in the north of Peru along the slopes of the Andes. Already known for its many waterfalls (Gocta being once considered the third highest waterfall in the world), this off-the-beaten-track region of the country boasts a spectacular fortress, Kuélap, outside the city. It’s notable for over 400 circular stone houses inside the complex, occupied by about 3,500 ancient inhabitants. Getting there is the challenging part; air travel is the best route. The nearest airport, Jaén, is a little over three hours away.

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Salt and Light in Colombia

By Linda Tancs

A popular day trip from Bogotá, Colombia, the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá is an underground church—literally. It’s carved out of an abandoned salt mine, illuminated by colorful lights. Among the statues and sculptures you’ll find naves with pew seating, a dome and the Stations of the Cross. The tourist train departs Bogotá on weekends; otherwise you can take a bus.

The High Life in Bolivia

By Linda Tancs

The world’s highest administrative capital is La Paz, Bolivia, reaching almost 12,000 feet above sea level. At that altitude, you’ll benefit from visiting the many viewpoints in the city. A popular one is Mirador Laikakota, a magnificent lookout point offering clear panoramic views of the city center. Also, Sallahumani (located next to the La Paz – El Alto road) offers cityscape views and mountain views of Illimani, the highest mountain in the Cordillera Real of western Bolivia and the second highest peak in the country. Whatever you choose to view, you’ll likely do it using La Paz’s cable car system, providing fast and and reliable transport between the city’s major attractions at an altitude of about 13,000 feet.

Reading in Rio

By Linda Tancs

If you were bored with libraries as a kid, then Brazil’s Royal Portuguese Cabinet of Reading will surely reinvigorate your interest. Recognized as one of the most beautiful libraries in the world, its limestone exterior is no match for the ornately decorated interior that boasts the largest collection of Portuguese literature outside Portugal. Although construction didn’t begin until the late 1800s, the library was founded in 1837 by a group of 43 Portuguese immigrants who wanted to promote their culture in Brazil. Hardly a tourist trap, this cultural and architectural gem is conveniently located in Rio de Janeiro’s city center.

Drawing the Line in Ecuador

By Linda Tancs

Located about 14 miles north of Quito, Ecuador, Mitad del Mundo commemorates the site where 18th-century French explorer Charles-Marie de La Condamine once calculated the globe’s equatorial line. Of course, that calculation was made without the benefit of modern technology, which sadly reveals that the actual line dividing the planet into a Northern Hemisphere and a Southern Hemisphere is actually 262 yards or so away in the vicinity of the Intiñan Solar Museum. Well, why not make a day out of it and visit both locations. Take an elevator to the top of the trapezoidal monument at Mitad del Mundo for great views of the surrounding countryside and indulge in equator-related science experiments at the museum, where you’ll find a painted red line purportedly indicating the real middle of the world.

An Icon of Ecuador

By Linda Tancs

Ecuador has nearly twice as many bird species as the U.S., numbering around 1,600 or so. Perhaps no winged creature is as emblematic of the country as the black-breasted puffleg hummingbird, found virtually nowhere else in the world. Its habitat is the Yanacocha Reserve, a retreat in the Andes created primarily to protect this critically endangered bird. The reserve is located about 45 minutes from Quito.

Gateway to Galapagos

By Linda Tancs

Guayaquil is a port city in Ecuador, known as a gateway to the Galapagos Islands. More than a transit stop, this commercial city stretching along the Guayas River is enlivened by a riverfront promenade, Malecón 2000, featuring historic monuments (like La Rotonda, a statue depicting a famous meeting of South America’s two most prominent liberators), modern sculptures, museums, botanical gardens, fountains, bridges, children’s play areas, shopping outlets and restaurants. The northern end connects with Las Peñas, the oldest neighborhood in Guayaquil, boasting the largest concentration of colonial architecture and picturesque wooden houses. The founding of the city is celebrated with a festival tomorrow, preceded by today’s national celebration of the birthday of liberator Simón Bolívar.

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