Founded in 1582 by Spanish conquistadors, Salta is one of the oldest remaining settlements in all of Argentina. The city’s rich history is evident on nearly every corner, from the Pepto-Bismol pink, 19th-century Catedral Basílica de Salta in the main plaza, to the rows of colonial houses fanning out beyond.
Salta’s palm-tree-lined streets are scenic enough in their own right, but the city’s surroundings may be even prettier. Salta sits in a broad valley in northwest Argentina, ringed by high Andes peaks to the west and red-rock deserts to the south. The best way to appreciate the view is by riding the teleférico— or chair-lift — which zips up 1,016 meters to the top of Cerro San Bernardo in an eight-minute ride. The panorama from the peak is incredible, and there is a café and gardens at the top to explore.
The city also makes an excellent starting point for road trips into the canyon lands and arid landscape surrounding it. In this region, you can visit centuries-old villages and catch a glimpse of the unique, ancient cultures of the Andean people. You can find more information on excursions around Salta on the city’s web site.
~Andrea, Argentina Insider
Though already marked by controversy with the canceling of Quito’s quintessential act of celebration, the bullfights, this year’s “Fiestas de Quito” will still have more than 450 events held during the next three weeks for residents and visitors alike.
Fiestas de Quito is the capital city’s celebration to honor its founding, officially marked as December 6, 1534 when 204 Spanish conquerors entered the city where the Spanish would remain for three centuries during their colonial reign. Though the Spanish many years ago, their influence has remained to the present day. Though the diminishing cultural spectacle of the “toros” would seem a significant blow to the city, ever since the 1960s Quito’s annual celebration has grown in ways previously unimaginable.
Fiestas de Quito is a time when the city is packed with multiple music concerts, food celebrations, parades, dances, go-cart races, bike rides, fireworks, sport tournaments, card tournaments, theater presentations, and other spectacles that are just hard to categorize. READ MORE
If you are the type of traveler that likes to travel off the beaten path, here are some alternative tours in Cusco for you to explore.
Land of the Yachaqs
Yachaqs means Wise in Quechua, the language of the Incas. Less than two hours away from Cusco, in the Sacred Valley, there are communities that carry on the wisdom and way of life of Incan ancestors. You can visit eight of the many communities in the area and experience their traditions, agricultural and artisan techniques.
If you are into textiles or crafts, I recommend you Amaru community in Pisac (near the famous archaeological site). This is a half-day activity in which you will discover natural dyes by picking the plants from nature, participate in shearing, cleaning and coiling of the sheep or alpaca wool and learn about the iconography used in Andean textiles. After such an amazing morning you will enjoy lunch prepared with local ingredients. READ MORE
Looming over the picturesque vineyards of Mendoza in northwest Argentina, Cerro Aconcagua tops out at 22,841 feet. That makes it the tallest mountain in the world outside of Asia, bigger than Mount McKinley or Kilimanjaro. Only the Himalaya are higher. Best of all, Aconcagua is an easy day trip outside the wine-region hub of Mendoza.
Hardcore mountain climbers come to the Andes from around the world to attempt the 13-to-15 day trek up to Aconcagua’s snow-capped summit. Those interested must purchase a permit from the authorities in Parque Provincial Aconcagua.
Thankfully, you don’t need two weeks and advanced climbing skills to appreciate Aconcagua’s beauty. In fact, you can even catch a pain-free glimpse of what it’s like to stand on the summit here. Countless outfitters in Mendoza offer day trips from the city to the park for a close-up view of the peak, as well. Check out Mendoza’s official tourism site list for some options. It’s also possible to rent a car in Mendoza and make the three-hour drive to Aconcagua yourself.
~Andrea, Argentina Insider
The old history of chocolate is the story of how people forgot where it came from. The recent history is about re-discovering its origins.
What you should know if you visit Ecuador is that, although this country does not produce an especially large amount of cocoa, it does produce the greatest volume of fine or flavor beans in the world.
The term fine or flavor is used by the International Cocoa Organization (ICCO) and refers to cocoa beans which have a distinctive flavor, distinguishing them from “bulk” beans. Bulk beans are cocoa varieties that have a chocolate flavor, but lack certain properties or tasting “notes” found in flavor beans, which give a floral and fruity aftertaste.
Flavor beans actually represent a very small percentage of world cocoa production – only five percent. But the majority of those flavor beans – 60 to 70 percent – are grown in Ecuador. In contrast, Ivory Coast grows ten times more cocoa than Ecuador, but none of it is fine or flavor.
Cocoa is currently classified under ten categories or clusters, one of which is the fine or flavor cocoa of Ecuador known as “nacional” or national cocoa. READ MORE
Lima is a huge city with a population of almost 9 million “Limeños”. As in any big city there are interesting things happening all around. But where to go if you have a free day? Don’t worry, I will give you recommendations on culture, gastronomy, and nature that you can enjoy walking or by bike.
You can hire a tour bike as part of a group or if you are more adventurous you can go by yourself. You will find it by following this route:
If you are in Miraflores, follow the sidewalk along the Pacific Ocean until you reach Barranco. This traditional district was a 19th Century seaside resort for locals who owned the beautiful houses which still adorn the streets today. It is also the birthplace of many artists and you can still feel the bohemian atmosphere. You will find many of the city’s important art galleries such as Lucia de la Puente, Cecilia Gonzalez and 80m².
For many, birding is a numbers game. All serious birders keep a list, referred to as the Life List, which is the complete list of bird species seen (and documented) during a lifetime. Realistically, how many birds can you see before you die? Assuming you never left your own country, Ecuadorians could probably see twice as many as U.S. citizens.
There are about 9,800 species of birds on the planet. Very few birders have seen more than 7,000. To see that many you truly must travel the world, though in Ecuador, it is easy to get quick start to building your life list.
Of the 9,800 species in the world, one third of them are found in South America, with 1,600 of those in Ecuador alone. By comparison there are approximately 900 species of birds in all of North America. Because of Ecuador’s small size it is the country with the highest density of bird species per acre in the world. READ MORE
Covering more than 97 square miles—about the size of 50 U.S. football fields—Argentina’s Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most incredible sights in all of South America. But what makes seeing this massive spectacle in person so thrilling is that the ice does not stand still. Perito Moreno is one of the few glaciers on Earth that is advancing, not retreating.
It is continuously regenerating, which is an impressively loud process. Those who visit will likely witness massive chunks of Perito Moreno’s 240-foot-high walls of frozen H2O crumbling into the lake below. If you’d like a glimpse of the action, check out the video at this link.
In addition to such footage, the website also has information on El Calafate, the remote town that serves as the base for excursions to the Perito Moreno Glacier. LAN Airlines offers flights into El Calafate’s modern airport.
~Andrea, Argentina Insider
When the Spanish arrived to South America they discovered what they considered to be an eerie tradition among the native inhabitants. Once every year throughout the sierra and coastal regions the indigenous people would remove the bodies of their loved ones from their burial tombs for a procession and celebration.
The processions coincided with the beginning of winter – the end of the dry season and the beginning of the rainy season – a time when fertility returns to the Earth. The processions were a way of giving thanks and asking for blessings in the planting and harvesting of crops. The ritual also involved offering food to the deceased, since it was believed that such an offering was a way to communicate with the dead. READ MORE