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Archive for south america

The Garden City of Chile

By Linda Tancs

Chile’s enchanting Viña del Mar is called The Garden City. Its gardens are indeed beautiful, as are its castles, old mansions and beach resorts. Think of it as a cross between Miami and Beverly Hills. And throw in a little Monte Carlo thanks to its glamorous Municipal Casino. You can admire all its charms with a horse and carriage ride along the breathtaking promenade. It’s easy to lose track of time, but you’ll find that, too, at the giant botanical clock (Reloj de Flores) on a sloping lawn at the foot of Cerro Castillo. An icon of the city, this fully functional musical flower clock was built for the 1962 FIFA World Cup. Thanks to the Mediterranean climate, it flowers year round.

Made From Scratch

By Linda Tancs

Brazil’s third most populous city, Brasília was built from scratch (an empty plateau in the heartland) in the 20th century, intended to replace Rio as the nation’s capital. It’s perhaps best known for its futuristic buildings such as the National Congress, the crown-like, hyperboloid structure of the cathedral and the presidential palace. Take in the bird’s-eye view from the TV tower, the highest point in the city.

The End of the World Train

By Linda Tancs

There’s a certain finality to Argentina’s Tierra del Fuego National Park, the southernmost tip of the Andean-Patagonian forest, a place where a particular variety of red fox resides and birch forest predominates. It’s there that you’ll find the final part of the Andes. It’s also where you can catch the End of the World Train (Tren del Fin del Mundo), a historic, narrow-gauge steam railway journey between Ushuaia (commonly regarded as the southernmost city in the world) and the park. The hour-long journey (one way) presents stunning vistas accented by the Pipo River, Macarena cascade, a tree cemetery and the forest. An onboard audio tour is available in English, Spanish and Portuguese, and the train runs year-round.

Valparaiso’s Museum House

By Linda Tancs

Pablo Neruda was a Nobel Prize-winning Chilean poet, diplomat and politician. Of his three homes, his writer’s nook in Valparaiso became his favorite hideaway—although hardly hidden, since it towers above the other rooftops overlooking the south side of a broad, open bay of the Pacific Ocean. The multilayered, multicolored abode is named La Sebastiana after its original owner, Sebastian Collao, who assigned the whole third floor of the building as a bird cage. Neruda’s taste was no less whimsical. Some of the windows resemble a ship’s skylights, and the interior is littered with old maps, paintings, a merry-go-round horse and a large portrait of Walt Whitman, his “father in poetry.” The audio guide is available in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish.

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.

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.

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