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This month marks the hundred-year-anniversary of the "re-discovery" of this Inca citadel by Hiram Bingham. Machu Picchu deserves its clichés--'place of a lifetime,' 'bucket-list destination'...'mystical'...'amazing'... Sometimes, it's okay to simply stick with others' adjectives; the thesaurus isn't always a good thing. You're not necessarily an 'unoriginal tourist' just because you agree with scores of published accounts that describe a site the same way. The distinctive trapezoidal windows of Inca construction almost always frame compelling views--the magic of stone. You're in the heart of the Andes; for a moment, stop seeking words. Drink in the view.
Certain things in life are simply impossible to adequately capture in a mere photograph. Iguazú Falls is definitely one of them, and above is my best effort to convey the epic expanse of 'The Devil's Throat.' Situated on the border of Brazil and Argentina, the falls are the watery dividing line between the two countries at this exact point. I accessed the falls from the Argentinian side, via Iguazú National Park and took a mini train (the Rainforest Ecological Train to be exact), some trails, and more than a few catwalks to reach this particular vantage point. Unlike some falls in the US and Canada, in the southern hemisphere you can get dangerously close to the roaring waters of these grand spectacles. The sound is deafening, the spray is enticing, and the visuals are simply amazing. As I stood there, trying to take it all in, all I could do was feel my heart pounding as I stared into the mouth of the devil. Most depictions of Lucifer entail horns, a tail and copious amounts of fire meant to terrify all who are witness to his power. I can assure you, though made of mere cliffs and water, THIS devil could douse any other devil and never look back.
Easter Island is a strange, remote, and magical place. After a full day of wandering around this tiny island, we were fortunate enough to witness an absolutely breathtaking sunset over the Pacific. The "beach" here is made up of pitch black volcanic stone. I found it to be utterly fascinating.
One of my favorite places when I visited Peru in April was the famous Lake Titicaca in Puno. At 12,500 feet above sea level and nestled between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. The lake has a fascinating history: Incan mythology cites it as the place from which the rest of the world emerged. On any trip to Peru a visit to Lake Titicaca is a must-do, and make sure to wake up early enough one morning to catch a beautiful sunrise over the lake.
I have a thing for cemeteries. Everywhere I go in the world, I usually visit the homes of the dead. In Paris: Père Lachaise. In Savannah: Bonaventure. Therefore, it was to my great delight that I was able to stop by La Recoleta when in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Famous as the burial site of celebrities such as Eva Peron -- it's often ticked off lists by tourists who simply think they're supposed to go there. Perhaps I was no different. Excepting that I went with the eye of a photographer. What fascinated me about the famous cemetery was the play of light and shadows amongst the graves. In the hot sun of a South American afternoon the sky seemed somehow more cobalt, the yellow a bit brighter, the white of the stone almost blinding. It became a place of true beauty and not of sadness. I thought about what it means to leave something behind when one is gone, what legacies last and what dies with us. I thought about how many people fear and revile cemeteries or how many people simply don't understand them. I tried to muster in my own mind anything other than appreciation for the beauty of the art and sculpture that was is so many people's last legacy in Buenos Aires. I couldn't see La Recoleta as anything less than beautiful. I wonder if on a gray day I would have felt differently...
Although we wanted to hike the Inca Trail we didn't have the time. At first we were disappointed, but when we were able to get to Machu Picchu before all of the hikers arrived we felt a little better about our decision not to do it. If you are unable to hike, for whatever reason, take advantage of getting to the site as early as possible. It was great to have the place basically to ourselves for a little while.
There are not many places in the world where you can capture three distinct species in a single frame. In the Galapagos you can, from just a few yards away. I especially liked watching (and photographing) the way very distant relatives interacted. Here, newborn sea lion pups chase the tails of marine iguanas while vibrant Sally Lightfoot crabs skitter from the Godzilla-like creatures.
Bus stops 4 through 9 on the Mendoza City Tour take you through General San Martin Park’s popular landmarks including the Continental Fountain, Hill of Glory (Cerro de la Gloria), the 760-acre Zoological Park, and the Cornelio Moyano Museum--Mendoza's museum of natural sciences and anthropology. Image courtesy of Mendoza City Tour.
was the terrific hiking - one can cover the island by foot or bike and spend at least 4 days morving from morning to night. A guide is indespensible - the Rapa Nuis have been tellling some version of their island's story for 40 years now. Go - go now- tourism is growing by leaps and bounds - that isn't a bad thing, but why not experience Easter Island without the crowds?
Palmares Open Mall is an upscale open-air mall that could have been plucked from any wealthy American suburb. It’s laden with popular restaurants, a movie theater, supermarket and over 120 stores, mostly Argentine brands. If you’re itching for slice of USA’s fast food nation, there’s a McDonald’s, Burger King—and for the coffee addicts, a Starbucks. I recommend sticking with the Argentine outposts like Zitto for quality fast food, Bonafide or Freddo for coffee, and Don Mario or Montecatini for high-end dining. From downtown Mendoza, you can take the 20-minute ride by taxi or remis (black car) for around 50-60 pesos. There’s a remis stand in the McDonald’s drive-thru parking lot when you’re ready to return.
The little city of Banos is situated on the side of volcano Tungurahua and has gorgeous waterfalls like this one, the Pailon del Diablo or Devil's Cauldron. To get up this high the trail first drops about 1000 feet into the valley and then climbs via stairs and ladders until it ends inside the waterfall under a sheltered rock overhang with millions of gallons of water thundering around. It's quite wet and the "trail" turns into a crawl space at certain points but the view is astonishing.
The Uxua Praia (beach) Bar is the most coveted spot on the beach. A short walk from the Quadrado, it's been built out of old abandoned fishing boats that had been on the site. The main bar is shaded by a thatched palm roof and a cocktail alter features a statue of Mary surrounded by bottles of cachaca and other alcohol. The bartenders make excellent versions of the national drink, the caipirinha, but also have cold beers and will hack open coconuts and pop in a straw so you can sip coconut water. It's the perfect spot for a sunset cocktail.
Bolivia's alpine salt flats of the Salar de Uyuni form one of the harshest livable climates on planet Earth. Despite enduring the frigid wind chill at 15,000 feet, this flamingo enjoys a meal foraged from beneath the salt.
This store is just a little ways off the main street of the San Blas arts district in Cusco, but definitely worth the diversion. Inside, funky, modern jewelry and handbags are mixed with neatly hung vintage dresses, shirts, and jackets. The walls are covered with artistically placed magazine pages that reflect the style of the wares for sale. It's one of those stores where you go in thinking "oh I could get a souvenir here" and end up buying one or more of the beautiful bobbles for yourself.
Is there anything better than toast? Seriously, these two pieces of bread haunt me. [This is from a really cool guest house, El Aguamiel, in the middle of a small vineyard. Not over-the-top, just smartly designed with stunning views of the Andes - and very well-priced.]
We were among the first 50 or so people into Machu Picchu in the morning and the fog completely set the scene. It really made you feel like you were in a lost city and helped you understand how it could have been lost for so long.
This place intrigues me to this day. I still wonder if the mystery will ever be solved. Why did the Incas leave this city? Why build it on top of a mountain? How did they come up with an elaborate way of building this city without a written language? The trip to Lima > Peru > Aguas Calientes is a journey itself. This is definitely my top recommendation for anyone looking for an adventure!
I didn't expect after spending the day hiking around Machu Picchu to experience another moment of breathtaking beauty. The town of Aquas Calientes exists among a raging river that demands your attention. While waiting for the train I looked over a wall and witnessed the unity of water, earth, and people. Amazing.
A full day hike from El Chalten and back will lead you to one of the most beautiful vistas in Los Glaciares National Park - Laguna de Los Tres in front of Mount Fitz Roy. This is a pleasant hike through valleys but there is a steep climb up the end that you must be prepared for! It is a 400 m climb up switchbacks but the view is worth it. Pack a lunch so that you can sit and eat by the lake and enjoy your hiking accomplishments! More Information: http://www.ottsworld.com/blogs/group-adventure-patagonia/
On the way from Arequipa to the Colca Canyon, the road traverses the altiplano--an average of 4000 m/12000 ft above sea level. Wild vicuña and their domesticated llama cousins kept us company in the thin air, with snowcapped volcanoes on the bright, cold horizon. To know who belongs to whom, the Quechua-speaking herders adorn their llamas with red-yarn 'earrings.' Vicuña wool, once the exclusive property of Inca royalty, is gathered only once every few years; each animal produces only about a pound of wool a year. A few decades ago, only a few thousand were left in the wild; fortunately, they've recovered and still thrive on the Andean plateaus.
Galapagos Conservancy is a partner and supporter of #GivingTuesday, a day dedicated to giving back during the Christmas holiday season (now in its third year). Galapagos Conservancy has used #GivingTuesday to support a marine iguana conservation effort by requesting pledges of $5 that go toward identifying a mysterious disease afflicting the world's only known sea-grazing lizards. To date, more than 100 animals have died of unknown causes; this effort helps support laboratory tests, monitoring programs, and a rapid response initiative, all of which contribute to a larger conservation strategy. The marine iguana is one of the most unique species of animal living on the Galapagos, and it thrills most everyone who visits. Let's help keep it that way.
The magnificent frigatebird soars above the waters of the Galapagos, terrifying fish everywhere it goes, stopping just long enough to puff out its chest to impress the opposite sex. The frigatebird is notable for its tremendous size, ability to fly day and night for hundreds of miles at a time, the males' bright red throat sack that fills with air during mating season, and propensity for terrorizing other sea birds by attacking them and forcing them to drop their catch. These aerial pirates are spread throughout the Galapagos Islands, but their most impressive breeding site may be North Seymour Island, where they nest in low shrubland near the coast.
James Turrell is one of American's most stunning artists and his work has found a home in the middle of nowhere in the province of Salta, Argentina. Colome Bodega crushes some of the finest torrontes and malbec wine, thanks to vintner Donald Hees, who happens to also be a celebrated art collector. He created an on-site museum dedicated to Turrell's work that plays with your sense of space, with color and light. The museum can be visited by appointment only and is worth the insane dirt road you must travel three hours from Cafayete to get there. You'll deserve the glass of vino tinto when you arrive, then be prepared for some of the most mind-bending art you'll ever experience.
After traveling overland for three days through the Atacama desert in southern Bolivia, this alien green rock could not stick out more. The area is dry, brown and vast, yet all of a sudden this strange, bright green rock lives. It was beautiful, rough and looked great against the arid desert and blue bird sky. After doing a little research I found out that it was lichen. Certainly one of highlights of my four day adventure.
I'm not a cruise guy in any way, and I went into this adventure with trepidation. I worried about all the things one worries about when they consider a cruise. Turns out, I had nothing to worry about. This was one of the most remarkable travel experiences I've ever had. Choosing the right cruise ship is important, of course. The folks at Metropolitan Touring arranged passage for me aboard La Pinta, a smallish vessel that made everyone feel at home and at ease. The food was fantastic, the crew accommodating, and our naturalists tuned in and well informed. Other passengers mentioned how they had fun aboard the Nat Geo ships, but I couldn't have asked for a better adventure.
The Plaza de Chacras is a quaint town square bordered by restaurants and shops. Don’t miss the plaza’s most beautiful landmark—Iglesia Nuestra Señora del Perpetuo Socorro—an enchanting whitewashed church and treasured architectural gem. On Sundays there is an open-air market with vendors selling handmade jewelry, antique coins and furniture, clothes, paintings and other artisan wares. You may also catch a live concert or musicians playing in the square. Viamonte y Aguinaga, Chacras de Coria, Lujan de Cuyo, Mendoza
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