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Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in South America.
Must see locations, events and places to travel and enjoy in South America.
An empty hammock is always an invitation, and this one was more enticing than most. Slung low across the beach house decking, it was designed in the Brazilian style: a king- sized swathe of cream cotton fringed with decorative crochet.
The Urubamba River curves through Peru’s Sacred Valley, eddying and splashing toward Machu Picchu. Tourists seem to follow its momentum. They touch down in Cusco and hurtle through the Sacred Valley to get to that Inca citadel in the sky. Beyond a token stop at an alpaca farm or a weaving workshop, the valley rarely gets more than a passing night’s stay. Anywhere else, this fertile land of quinoa, sweet potato, and purple corn would be the main attraction. Here, ignored by most tourists, Quechua farmers tend their crops amid Inca ruins, 16th-century Spanish churches, and mountains said to embody the spirits of ancestors.
Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba, a National Geographic Unique Lodge, celebrates this often overlooked region. Lodge owners Jose Koechlin and Denise Guislain-Koechlin combined Inca-inspired masonry with Spanish colonial architecture, commissioned locals to weave textiles, and worked with area farmers to plant a 10-acre organic garden filled with native species such as golden berries and tree tomatoes. Guests go biking in the valley; learn to make chicha, or corn beer, on site; or follow a naturalist on a lantern-lit hike. And on their return to the lodge, Alfredo Quispetupa concocts a glorious pisco sour at the hacienda bar as the sun sets on the Andes.
Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba offers 36 rooms and suites with panoramic views. Naturalists provide information on lodge conservation projects, including Inkaterra Asociacion, which helps protect the biodiversity and local communities of the Peruvian Andes.
The glorious Choco: Just an hour from Quitos urban core, lies a land of birds, bears and astounding biodiversity…
The cloud forests that drape the rolling mountainsides to the northwest of Quito’s Metropolitan District hold record-breaking biological diversity. An enigmatic world covered in mist where thousands of tree, plant and orchid species abound and unfathomable bird variety thrives. Many municipal, state-run reserves and private conservation projects harbor excellent opportunities for adventures in nature, and a range of accommodation options for all budgets.
Quito is one of the most megadiverse cities on our planet in terms of bird species: a world bird capital, home to an unparalleled variety. Countless bird-lovers have turned Ecuador’s capital into one of the highest-ranking bucket-list destinations in the world.
The Andean Spectacled Bear, the only South American bear, is one of the Quito region’s most emblematic creatures. It’s amazing to think that over 45 bears live in the wild just 2 hours from the city. The city’s Andean Bear Conservation Program aims to consolidate a corridor for bears, through research, monitoring, education, communication and sustainable management.
Although elusive, several conservation projects exist that allow visitors the opportunity to spot bears in the wild, or at least see them through the images captured by dozens of camera traps.
That’s the spirit. There’s nothing for it but to throw yourself wholeheartedly into the hedonism that is the world’s biggest, brightest, loudest carnival street party.
So much so that the prospect of 40 days of good behaviour over Lent sends locals into a last-ditch party planning frenzy. Before everyone is expected to better themselves, they let it all hang out with music, massive parades, lots of drinking and non-stop dancing.
So long as you’re prepared to move to a samba beat, no one is going to stop you. Most visitors join in on a bloco (street party) where a band of drummers leads people through the streets in a non-stop dance off. You may be asked to colourcoordinate your t-shirt but won’t be required to strip down to next to nothing. Be warned, however: the music may make you do things you never dreamed of. Anything goes.
They say “like father like son” but in the case of the Montes, they stand for different sides of the Andes. Aurelio Montes, Sr. represents Chile and Vina Montes. Aurelio Montes, Jr. exemplifies Argentina and Kaiken. Although they are different countries and wineries, they have a lot in common, especially their passion for wine.
An exuberant passion for both wine and winemaking are two important components for producing an outstanding wine. This is true for both Aurelio Sr. and Aurelio Jr. I met Aurelio Montes, Jr., winemaker for Kaiken, a few years ago. When you’re in his company, his enthusiasm for his craft is quite apparent. You immediately sense his fervor for wine, the terroir and the entire winemaking process. This is also true of his father, which I sensed at a father-son tasting recently.
For Aurelio Jr., his love of wine started at a young age. His father made sure of this by dragging his son around the world with him as he was expanding his winery’s reach. Aurelio Jr. also worked in the vineyards starting at a young age.
At the time, Aurelio Montes, Sr. discovered the viticulture and terroir of the region east of the Andes – Mendoza, Argentina. As a result, he was moved to expand his winemaking prowess. He achieved this by having a hand in creating wines in a country very close to his native Chile, yet very different in the styles of winemaking. Hence, Kaiken was established in 2002.
Kaiken’s name represents the wild geese, caiquenes, that cross the Andes between Chile and Argentina during migration season. The name of the winery not only symbolizes this wild goose but also the Montes team that crossed the Andes to create the marvelous wines that embody the Kaiken label.
The Caiquen is also a very social bird and thereby suggests Aurelio Montes Jr. and Aurelio Montes Sr.
the social aspects that bring people together over a bottle of wine and food. It also represents the social responsibilities the winemakers feel they have in both Chile and Argentina.
The Aurelios are very civic minded and the community plays an important role in both wineries. Sustainability is important in every aspect of the vineyard. For Vina Montes and Kaiken, this means protecting the environment and biodiversity, as well as attention to operations management and social responsibility. In other words, it is the mission of both wineries to “respect the environment, embrace sustainable practices, work in harmony with the local community and create value for both the shareholders and employees.”
At Vina Montes, the Angels program speaks out in the wines, winery community, and the local surroundings. Aurelio Sr. does this through a learning project he finances that includes complimentary health and life insurance for his employees and their families. As he puts it, “Happy people means happy wines.” The angel is their symbol and also the guardian of the Vina Montes winery. Some of his wines are dedicated to this program, including the Purple Angel and Sparkling Angel.
Another unique aspect of Vina Montes is music. You can always hear it resounding in the barrel room and the vineyards. Often, Gregorian chants echo throughout the winery.
Perhaps to further the importance of a sustainable approach to winemaking, Aurelio Sr. hired a Feng Shui architect to design and construct the winery building in 1990 and ensure that its environment is attuned to the wines. Even the water flows through the winery in a certain way.
Christopher Columbus had a rather unfortunate way with names. Known in Spain as Cristobal Colon, he went and landed on a Caribbean island while trying to find India and named it “Anguilla” “Eel” in Spanish. Little could he have imagined that 500 years later, “Eel Island” would take its place in the pantheon of finest Caribbean destinations. The island remains one of my all-time favourite places in the world, to the extent I’ve been seriously torn over letting the secret out. You’re welcome.
Anguilla’s marine life and passion for sailing on a snorkeling trip aboard the beautiful Tradition. After a swim in the Bay (turtle sightings possible), deliciously warm waters of Little enjoy an equally divine lobster roll and rum punch lunch before sailing back.
Explore Anguilla’s 33 fabulous beaches. Best are: the two miles of fine white sand and hip beach bars at Shoal Bay; the gently curving sands full of pelicans at Meads Bay between the Four Seasons and Malliouhana; and the wilder Junk’s Hole on the (even) less busy east coast.
Albert’s Supermarket might be the least glamorous shop ever featured in these pages, but it’s one of the few places selling the top notch Pyrat XO rum. Blended from nine barrel-aged Caribbean rums, it used to be
bottled on the island but now comes in from Guyana* Snaffle a bottle to take home and sample on the rocks. Look for the Buddha icon on its neck. pyratrum.com
There are over 100 restaurants on the island but inevitably there are standouts. Wander along the beach at Rendezvous Bay and try the fishermen’s catch at Garvey’s Sunshine Shack (and it is the dictionary definition of “beach shack”). Alternatively, stick to the speciality broiled snapper with copious Carib beers while, if you’re lucky, Garvey jams with some musical mates.
There are several excellent places to stay but our vote’s for Malliouhana, a chic boutique bolthole on a dramatic bluff overlooking two beaches that has just been radically, and extremely tastefully, refurbished by the excellent US brand Auberge. Expect a slick, retro feel with glamorous, pastel art deco design, just 44 immaculate rooms and suites, and one of the Caribbean’s finest restaurants, overlooking the ocean, malliouhanaaubergeresorts.com
Hibernia Restaurant and Art Gallery gets the nod for its Franco/Carib/Asian fusion (try Laotian seasoned seafood tart with Japanese pickles). In hurricane season, the owners close up and head to Asia for ingredients such as Japanese shirasu anchovies, and eastern artworks to sell in the gallery. hiberniarestaurant.com
At Dune Preserve, another ridiculously atmospheric driftwood beach bar, this one owned by Anguilla’s star reggae singer Bankie Banx. Friday nights come to a fun, fuzzy rum and music-fuelled end with Bankie or son Omari playing .See also: The Pumphouse in Sandy Ground, which has live local music on Thursdays. bankiebanx.net
Started in1991, Bankie Banx’s famous reggae jam the Moonsplash Festival runs 9-12 March* Festival del Mar is celebrated over Easter weekend (14-17 April)- it’s a (healthily competitive) feast of things Anguillans love — music, food, rum, the sea, with some religion thrown in
The former Viceroy Hotel has reopened as a Four Seasons but its open-air Sunset Lounge remains the luxurious spot for a sundowner. While the shabby chic beach shacks have huge appeal, sometimes you want more sophistication. Order up lethal West Indian rums, fat Cuban cigars and watch the sunset as the DJ mixes reggae.
Swaying in the basket of a hot air balloon high above the arid Atacama Desert, you may have to remind yourself that what you see below you is still Chile. How can one nation have produced so many different landscapes? From the desert-bound north to the iron-grey peaks in the south, and the wetlands and glacial valleys in between, a visit to Chile can feel like a greatest hits tour through some of the world’s most spectacular terrain. That makes it a fantastic place to travel for a few weeks, a month, or even longer.
Most flights will arrive in Santiago, and it’s worth exploring the capital before you head out. There’s an excellent museum and shopping scene around the Centro, while barrios Brasil, Lastarria and Bellavista are blessed with affordable and delicious places to dine, and a nightlife lively enough to rival Rio de Janeiro’s. When you’ve had your fill of cosmopolitan comforts, jump on a plane and head north. It’s about to get a lot more wild.
SOME LIKE IT HOT
The Atacama Desert is the driest non polar desert in the world. It’s also beautiful, an otherworldly landscape that starts at sea level before climbing 4,000 metres to meet the Andes. Base yourself in San Pedro de Atacama, a fertile oasis the indigenous Atacama people once called home, and you’ll be perfectly positioned for trips into the wilderness. A balloon tour is a must for the breathtaking vistas on offer, and can be easily arranged by Rainbow Tours, but there’s plenty to see on foot too. Rise at dawn for a trip to the El Tatio geysers: if they erupt at the right moment, you can capture unforgettable photos of them framed against the rising sun. Keep an eye out for wildlife as you go: if you’re observant (and in luck) you’ll spot everything from flamingos, llamas and vicunas (a camel-like mammal native to South America) to the rhea, a giant, flightless bird.
No trip to the Atacama would be complete without a visit to the Valley of the Moon. Its lunar landscape has been created by millions of years of flooding and wind erosion, and it’s also the setting for one of Chile’s more dazzling and colourful sights. Perch yourself on top of a sand dune and wait for the sun to dip below the distant volcanoes on the horizon; as it does, the salt flats, the valley and your surroundings will be suffused in deep purples, golds and pinks.
Almost 2,000 miles south at the other end of Chile is the Torres del Paine National Park, famous for its strikingly vertical peaks and dramatic landscapes. It’s a Unesco-protected habitat, and there’s plenty of wildlife to spot on your hikes, including soaring Andean condors, stealthy pumas, and herds of grazing guanaco, another camel-like native creature.
It’s not the only southern spot famous for its beauty. Up the coast you’ll find the Lakes District, a vast wetland area of looming volcanoes, clear glacial lakes and small, pretty towns. Explore by horse and kayak to get the best views, and head to Cochamo Valley for exhilarating rock climbing. Chiloe Island, a little further to the north, is home to the Chile people, who live in brightly coloured wooden houses on stilts over the water. Spend a few days exploring their unique settlements and visiting some of the island’s churches, 16 of which are designated Unesco World Heritage sites, before kicking back with a warming bowl of curanto, the local meat, potato and seafood stew.
No visa is required for British citizens to visit Chile, and from January a new British Airways route will get you from Heathrow to Santiago in just over 14 hours. It’s best to visit in our spring, early in the new year, though make sure you come adequately prepared for the range of weather: in January, temperatures stretch from the high thirties in the north to near zero in the extreme south. Book with Rainbow Tours and you’ll be paired with a dedicated Chile specialist, who’ll help arrange a bespoke itinerary, flights and accommodation.
A 20th-century city of pure invention, Brasllia is the realization of a seemingly impossible dream. President Juscelino Kubitschek de Oliveira ( 1956-60) was elected partly on the bas is of his highly ambitious pledge to move the capital of Brazil746 miles (1,200 km) inland, from Rio de Janeiro into the country’s empty center, before the end of his first term. This was miraculously achieved by the tens of thousands of workers who created the specially built city from an area of scrubland. The principal public buildings, which include a cathedral, are strikingly designed. Brasilia fulfilled Kubitschek’s ambition to develop the country’s interior and create a monument both to modern architecture and Brazil’s economic potential.
Brasilia’s unique design is referred to as the Pilot Plan. Urban planner Lucio Costa said he simply used a shape that followed the lie of the land He wanted to form a centralized, geometric plan to create an ideal city, and therefore an ideal society. The design is based on two axes: a Monumental Axis and a Residential Axis. Six wide avenues are intended to provide the grandeur of a capital city, with the Supreme Court, Congress Complex, and Presidential Palace (Planalto Palace) representing the balance of the three powers. The residential area is made up of “superblocks” — six-story apartment buildings, grouped to form neighborhood units.
In 1957, Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer were announced as the winners of the competition launched to choose the urban design of Brasilia. Costa was responsible for the general design of Brasilia, but Niemeyer created the main buildings. Both were students of the modernist architect Le Corbusier, the father of functional, boxlike buildings. Costa has been criticized for not providing for public transportation, and for designing a city for 500,000 people that today houses two million residents, many living in slums. However, it is generally agreed that Niemeyer achieved his goal of creating a city with “harmony and a sense of occasion” with his powerful public buildings.
The vision of Oscar Niemeyer has become synonymous with the rise of modern Brazil. Born in 1907, Niemeyer graduated from Rio de Janeiro’s National School of Fine Arts in 1934 and collaborated with Lucio Costa and Le Corbusier on the new Ministry of Education and Health in Rio. His style became more daring as he incorporated reinforced concrete into his buildings. He is probably best known for his designs for the main public buildings in Brasilia, such as the concave and convex domes of the National Congress, the simple yet evocative cathedral and the spectacular Palace of Justice. A pioneer of modern architecture, he has won numerous prizes.
The striking yet simple form of the cathedral provides Brasilia with a recognizable identity. An illusion of space is created in the interior by the circular floor being set below ground level and therefore lower than the entrance.
This contains a huge crucifix carved from a single piece of tropical cedarwood.
This unusual, egg-shaped building is said to be a representation of the host (sacramental bread). It is connected to the cathedral by a tunnel.
Oscar Niemeyer’s design symbolizes a crown of thorns, and consists of sixteen 131-ft (40-m) high concrete columns that suggest arms reaching toward the sky.
This is decorated with stained glass made from 16 pieces of painted fiberglass. Suspended from its ceiling are three floating angels by the Brazilian sculptor Alfredo Ceschiatti.
Light gilds the row of rectangular buildings standing sentrylike along the Esplanade of the Ministries. Each one is home to a different government department. In the distance is the Congress Complex.
Palace of Justice
This low-rise, unimposing building features water cascading between its delicate white arches. Nearby is a stone sculpture of the head of Juscelino Kubitschek.
The juxtaposition of the dishes and twin towers provides the dramatic, space-age silhouette that is a symbol of the city.
In augurated in 1981, this monument was built to honor the former Brazilian president Juscelino Kubitschek, whose tomb is housed here.
In 1883, an Italian priest named Dom Bosco had a vision about the future site of Brazil’s new capital. Each year, on the last Sunday in August, a procession in Brasilia celebrates the anniversary of his dream.
1956: Kubitschek is inaugurated as president of Brazil. A competition is bunched for the design of Brasilia.
1957: Construction of the city begins, based on Lucio Costa’s Pilot Plan.
1958: The foundation stone of the cathedral is laid; the building is consecrated in 1970.
1960: Brasilia is inaugurated on April 21 and becomes the capital city of Brazil.
1987: Brasilia is designed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
The “Lost City of the Inca” is one of the most spectacular archeological sites in the world. Perched high on a saddle between two peaks, surrounded by thick jungle and often shrouded in cloud, it is almost invisible from below. A compact site of just 5 sq miles (13 sq km), it was built in 1460 by the Incan ruler Pachacuti Inca Yupanqui. Although frequently referred to as a city, it was more of a royal retreat for the Inca aristocracy. About 1,000 people inhabited the area and they were completely self-sufficient, being surrounded by agricultural terraces and watered by natural springs. Even at the time, few people outside the closed Inca community were aware of Machu Picchu’s existence.
The people who built Machu Picchu possessed incredibly advanced construction skills. Some of the building blocks weigh more than 50 tons, yet they are meticulously designed and fit together so exactly that the thinnest knife cannot be inserted between the mortarless joints. The ruins are roughly divided into two areas: the agricultural sector, consisting of terraces for cultivation; and the urban sector, with structures of varying size, canals, and steps. The design of the site reveals the creativity of the builders. The enormous walls, delicate terracing, and steep ramps could almost have been sculpted out of the rock by the elements.
The discovery of this major Incan site in 1911 was one of the most significant archeological finds of the 20th century. American explorer Hiram Bingham had set out to find Vilcabamba, the legendary last refuge of the defeated Inca empire, but instead he came across Machu Picchu. It took Bingham and his team several years to clear the thick vegetation that had covered the ruins. Underneath were houses, temples, canals, and thousands of steps and terraces. What made the discovery so exciting was the fact that the Spanish conquistadors had not found and plundered the site, and that it was also untouched by treasure hunters.
The Inca founded their capital, Cusco, in the 13th century and began a period of conquest. By the early 16th century, the Inca empire reached from Chile to Colombia and controlled around 12 million people. This well-organized civilization had a sophisticated economy and a road network of 20,000 miles (32,200 km). They ruled with fierce military might and had a strict social hierarchy, yet they also learned from the cultures they conquered. The Inca worshiped the natural world, seeing the Sun as the ultimate giver of life and their leader as its direct descendant. Mountain peaks, home of the spirits, were used for human sacrifice. Celestial events were monitored so they knew when to plant and harvest crops, and when to hold religious ceremonies.
With huge windows, the Temple of the Three Windows adjoins the Sacred Plaza, along with the Main Temple, which contains an almost flawlessly constructed wall.
Llama at Machu Picchu
The Inca used llamas as pack animals and they were also a source of wool, leather hides, and meat.
This sundial, the size of a grand piano, was extremely sacred and one of the most important features of the whole site. Winter solstice festivals took place here.
This large rock is believed to have been used by the Inca for their sacrificial rituals.
Preserved Brick Work
The Inca are admired today for their stone constructions, although it is not known how they man aged to make the blocks fit so closely together.
Comprising the residential and industrial areas, this is located in the lower section of the site.
Temple of the Sun
The only circular building on the site, this temple contains two windows positioned precisely to catch the first rays of the winter and summer solstices.
View of Machu Picchu
Made up of around 200 buildings and connected by more than 100 stairways, the ruined palaces, temples, and residences were built around large central squares.
There are regular trains from Poroy and Ollantaytambo, near Cusco, to Aguas Calientes, the closest town to Machu Picchu. The scenic journey takes 3 hours. From Aguas Calientes, a local bus zigzags up a steep, narrow dirt track to the Inca site.
The legendary Inca Trail climbs and descends a number of steep valleys and crosses three mountain passes of more than 12,000 ft (3,658 m). The breathtaking scenery includes snow-capped mountains, dense cloud forest, and delicate flowers. Cobblestones laid by the Inca, as well as the tunnel s that th ey constructed, can still be seen. It takes about f our or five days be fore hikers are rewarded with the unforgettable sight of Machu Picchu through the Sun gate (lntipunku).
c. 1200: The Inca found their capital at Cusco, Peru, and begin their far-reaching expansion.
1460: Machu Picchu is built, 7,970 ft (2,430 m) above sea level.
Mid-1500s: Machu Picchu is abandoned, possibly due to evil war over succession.
1911: The site is uncovered by US explorer Hiram Bingham.
1983: Machu Picchu is declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.