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Archive for south america

Holy Water in Ecuador

By Linda Tancs

Nestled at the foot of Tungurahua (an active volcano) in Ecuador is Baños de Agua Santa (baths, or springs, of holy water). A major tourist center between the central Andes and the Amazon of Ecuador, it’s prized for its hot springs credited with healing powers. The views aren’t bad, either, surrounded as it is by mountains and waterfalls flowing into deep ravines. You can view the cascades on a gondola-style cable car strung from one hilltop to the next. As you might imagine, it’s a great locale for landscape photographers. Enjoy a three-and-a-half-hour drive south from Quito through the Andes.

The Charm of Suriname

By Linda Tancs

Arguably one of the best-kept secrets in South America, Suriname is a small country on the northeastern coast of the continent. Once a Dutch colony, its capital Paramaribo reflects the integration of the European culture of the Netherlands and the indigenous cultures and environment of South America in the years of intensive colonization of this region in the 16th and 17th centuries. This fusion is what garnered the historic Inner City its designation as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, boasting attractions like a wooden cathedral, presidential palace and a palm tree landscape garden. Fusion extends to gastronomy as well, particularly in Blauwgrond, an ethnically mixed district known for its Javanese restaurants called warungs. Take a walk along the waterfront for local handicrafts and delicacies.

The Inca Trail

By Linda Tancs

The Inca Trail is a hiking trail in Peru that terminates at Machu Picchu. Lauded as one of the most iconic treks in the world, you’ll be following in the footsteps of the ancient Incas, who ultimately designed a network reaching 25,000 miles through their South American empire. The classic route to Machu Picchu is 26 miles from the trailhead known as Kilometre 82 to the ancient citadel, which is sprinkled with ruins and cloud-cloaked mountainsides. That trek generally takes four days and includes camping. A shorter trail from Kilometre 104 can be accomplished in a day. Whichever trek you choose, you’ll need a permit so it’s advisable to book several months in advance. The end of April or May is a good time to visit; the ground is drier and permits generally won’t sell out as fast as during the peak season from June to August.

The Venice of Brazil

By Linda Tancs

Embraced by the Atlantic Ocean, the Brazilian city of Recife developed as a city of trade and as a major port. It’s known as “the Venice of Brazil” because the city is crossed by waterways linked by numerous bridges. Recife Antigo (the old town) offers glimpses into the city’s colonial past following the Dutch and Portuguese occupations. Other sites to visit include the Mamulengo Theatre (puppet theatre, a staple in northeast Brazil) and Paço do Frevo, a cultural space dedicated to frevo dance and music, which has been recognized as an Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO.

Smoking Mountain

By Linda Tancs

They say that only the most adventurous dare to climb Mount Fitz Roy, the highest peak in Southern Patagonia’s Glacier National Park. At over 11,000 feet above sea level, you can understand why. Due to a fairly consistent atmospheric haze over its peak, it was originally named Chaltén, a word meaning “smoking mountain” in the indigenous Tehuelche tribe’s dialect. The current moniker, Fitz Roy, is a nod to Captain FitzRoy of HMS Beagle, the ship that voyaged around South America with Charles Darwin. Although there’s nothing volcanic about the revered granite walls, you’ll get smokin’ views of Fitz Roy from Laguna de Los Tres, some 1,400 feet from the base camp reserved for mountaineers.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Argentina’s Dead Rock

By Linda Tancs

The third largest national park in Argentina, Lanín National Park is named for the area’s largest peak, Lanín volcano, a word meaning “dead rock” in the native Mapuche language. It is, indeed, a dead rock—an extinct stratovolcano that can be seen for miles on a clear day. Many visitors come to climb the volcano, but the park is also prized as a conservation area for the monkey-puzzle tree, what naturalists call a  “living fossil” dating back to the Mesozoic Era. The park is located southwest of Neuquén province.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Bears and Unicorns in Bolivia

By Linda Tancs

Located in the so-called Elbow of the Andes, Bolivia’s Amboró National Park is a place of tremendous ecological diversity. In fact, its location features the convergence of three ecosystems: the high-altitude Andes altiplano, the dry Chaco region and the lush pampas of the Amazon Basin. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the fauna varies widely as well and includes some rarities. For instance, spectacled bears roam there, the only wild bear remaining in South America. You’ll also find the horned curassow, a rare bird species. Its trademark blue “horn” above the orange bill is responsible for the nickname, “unicorn bird.” Several tours are available to guide you through this immense region. If traveling independently, it’s best to hire a local guide.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

The Other Brazilian Rainforest

By Linda Tancs

Although nearly adjacent to the Amazon, Brazil’s Atlantic Forest (Mata Atlântica) is the lesser-known cousin. One of the five most diverse hotspots in the world, this tropical and subtropical rainforest once stretched along the Atlantic Coast of Brazil for a whopping 476,000 square miles. Today, its footprint is much smaller (at around 38,600 square miles) due to centuries of deforestation for timber, sugar cane, coffee, cattle ranching and urban sprawl. In fact, two of the world’s largest cities, Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro, were both built over it. A small percentage of the land is protected, most notably in Chapada Diamantina National Park, where one of the country’s highest waterfalls (Cachoeira da Fumaca) is found. It’s so high that the water vaporizes before it hits the ground, earning it the name “Smoke Waterfall.”

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

Flower of the Ocean

By Linda Tancs

The Colombian island of Providencia is affectionately known as “the flower of the ocean.” It’s an appropriate nickname, considering that it lies entirely within UNESCO’s Seaflower Biosphere Reserve, an oceanic archipelago with coral banks, small islands and islets forming part of atolls. Those are rare systems in the Caribbean, where this getaway rests between Central and South America. It was once a haven for pirates like Captain Morgan, whose memory is invoked by landmarks like Morgan’s Cave and and Morgan’s Head. The unspoiled island also became one of England’s first colonies, established in the 1600s by English Puritans. Now its Spanish heritage is infused with Creole and a distinct African-Caribbean vibe. You’ll get there via a flight from sister island San Andrés.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

A Tough Trek in Rio

By Linda Tancs

Pedra da Gávea is Rio de Janeiro’s most imposing monolith. The trek to the top is also the most arduous, commanding at least three hours. The hardest leg of the trail, known as Carrasqueira, is a steep climb leading to rewarding, bird’s-eye views of Sugarloaf, Corcovado, the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema and even the Serra dos Órgãos mountain range. Hire an experienced guide for the safest experience.

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To limit the spread of COVID-19, attractions may be closed or have partial closures. Please keep those affected by the virus in your thoughts and be sure to follow the safety practices advocated by the Centers for Disease Control. Stay safe, and be well.

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