Photo: Brian Gratwicke
Since there was just too much art to fit into one post, it’s time for Part Two of our introduction to Colombian traditional artisan work and handcrafts – just in time for the holiday season! These pieces and traditions come from the western and southern parts of the country, where the strong influence of Afro-Colombian and Andean indigenous communities is clearly visible in the art. As with most other traditional handcrafts, the legitimate versions of these artesanías are created by hand over days or even weeks by local artisans, who often learned the craft from previous generations of their family. They serve as beautiful decorative pieces and accessories, but even more than that, these crafts are a way to preserve and transmit the unique traditions of some of Colombia’s oldest cultures.
Photo: Tambako the Jaguar
Birding may not be on the mainstream travelers to-do list, but it’s serious business nonetheless, and Brazil is a bombshell for birdwatching. South America has the largest number of bird species of any continent and Brazil is among the top three countries in the world with over 1832 cataloged species and soaring higher. And while Hollywood might have poked fun at the birdwatching lifestyle in Jack Black, Owen Wilson and Steve Martin’s The Big Year (2011), there are a lot of people who get very excited about our fine-feathered friends.
Photo: SF Brit
For penguin peepers, glacier chasers, cruise fans, and those who love to visit far-flung places, Antarctica delivers. There are long days of summer sunshine, glassy waters and a constantly-changing seascape. Dolphin, whale and albatross sightings are practically guaranteed. From closer to the coast, or from landings, penguins, sea lions, different species of seals (including sometimes southern elephant seals) are also a sure thing.
When you’re visiting one of the largest cities in the world, it’s easy to feel lost in the crowd. But a wave of new businesses are scaling down to offer travelers more personalized experiences in Buenos Aires. Here are a few of my favorites from this spring, including a closed-door restaurant with a gorgeous communal table and a sophisticated townhouse-style hotel with only a handful of rooms.
Some 20 year ago, the surfing world discovered Ecuador, and conversely, Ecuador discovered surfing. We can’t really say that ‘hoards’ of surfers from every corner of the globe suddenly flooded Ecuador’s beaches to surf… That would be grossly inaccurate. But such things as ‘surfing towns’ did bud from out of nowhere and exes were placed on the map identifying where the best waves brewed.
Certainly one of my favorite ecosystems, full of orchids, ferns, colorful birds, waterfalls and other amazing flora and fauna. From all the places I’ve been to, the Manu Road has always been the most challenging. From the highlands it takes you deep into the forest. But biking this one-way road full of cliffs is even more challenging. Are you brave enough to take on this adventure?
Photo: Natalie Southwick
Colombia’s diverse landscape and cultural influences have inspired thousands of different artisans across the country to create stunning handcrafts and pieces of art. These artistic products are seen as vital expressions of the country’s talent and diversity, and represent the different groups of people and regions that make Colombia what it is. From the colorful handmade mochilas of the indigenous Wayuu people in La Guajira to the carved wooden instruments of the Amazon, each region of Colombia produces its own beautiful, unique creations. Because there’s too much ground to cover and too much to see for just one post, we’ll start at the Caribbean coast and work our way south, saving the Pacific for next week.
Photo: Brazilian Beach House Co.
Anyone who has visited Brazil since the strengthening of the Brazilian Real a few years ago, and certainly anyone who has looked into hotel accommodations for upcoming mega world events like the 2014 FIFA World Cup and the 2016 Summer Olympic Games, are surely intimately familiar with the Portuguese term, “Custo Brasil,” or “Brazilian Cost,” a phrase used to (explain? justify?) the rising costs of doing business in this South American giant and, as a result, prices that leave visitors often sticker shell-shocked. There’s no sugarcoating it: Brazil is an expensive country to visit.
But there are ways to cut costs. One excellent idea is to steer away your dream of sleeps on the sands from often high-priced hotels and pousadas to pooling your money, resources and groups of friends into renting an entire piece of paradise all for yourselves. That’s where the Brazilian Beach House Company comes in. Started by English expat Steven Chew in 2005, the company specializes in finding fully-staffed beach homes for all budgets on the most pristine patches of sand the country has to offer. Often times, if a group of friends or couples split costs, you can rest your weary heads in paradise for a fraction of the cost of an overpriced pousada – and turn an entire luxury home into your own private Eden (with a private chef to boot).
We asked Steven to highlight a few of his favorite homes in Brazil, from Bahia to Rio de Janeiro (*and we threw in our personal favorite in as well). It’s a tall order as luxury beach homes are something Brazil does very well indeed. ”Here are my list of five favorites,” he says. “Or at least some of the them as the list could have run and run …”
Without further adieu …
How can you compare the beautiful places of the world, and decide which one is the most beautiful? Virtual Tourist ran a contest to have participants choose the 8th wonder of the world, and Chile’s vast Torres del Paine National park won. About 500 million votes were cast, and Torres del Paine beat out Guatemala’s Tikal, Belize’s Great Blue Hole, and Old Town Dubrovnik, as well as about 300 other nominated wonders.
At any Argentine parrilla, or steakhouse, you can spot the tourists in a heartbeat. They’re always the ones who arrive too early for the meal – the people silently staring, bewildered, at the thick menu, wondering what the difference is between morcilla and chorizo (and trust me, it’s a key distinction.
If you’re not lucky enough to have a local friend to show you the ropes, you can learn how to eat like an Argentine with Parrilla Tour, a guided food circuit that takes travelers into a series of hole-in-the-wall parrillas, traditional empanada shops, and artisanal heladerías.
In the interest of preserving authenticity at these little-known venues, the tour operators don’t allow journalists to publish the names or locations of the restaurants and shops we visited. You’ll have to go yourself – but in the meantime, learn what to order. Just follow the parrilla experts’ advice in four easy steps, illustrated with my photos from last Friday’s tour.