This is just my humble intent of trying to single out the best mountain haciendas in the country, which is not an easy task. There are just too many high-quality accommodations in rural Ecuador to name such a few. Haciendas, colonial estates that would also flourish during the early Republican era in Ecuador, were basically enormous farms owned by wealthy families. As the industrial revolution helped create modern cities and left agricultural livelihoods behind, many of these haciendas lost their purpose; today, some have become first-rate tourism ventures instead, beautiful places to stay with excellent accommodations, reflecting a deep history and offering dreamy Andean landscapes to savor.
French bombshell Brigitte Bardot didn’t discover Armação dos Búzios (Búzios for short) but when she decided in 1964, at the top of her fame, to hide away in this small, unknown fishing village north of Rio de Janeiro for three months, she helped the world discover Búzios. The timeline of this gorgeous Brazilian beach resort, home to 23 some-odd beaches, each more perfect than the next, can be divided in two parts: B.B (Before Bardot) and A.B (After Bardot).
When the first thing I saw upon arrival was a young girl bathing her dog in the river, I knew things were different on Ilha do Marajó, a river island nearly the size of Switzerland at the mouth of the Amazonas, Tocantins and Xingú rivers on the northern tip of Pará state. Outside of urban areas, most Brazilians wouldn’t think twice about a dirty dog, but the Marajoara do things their own way. So much so that ironically enough, dogs aren’t even the usual pet of choice.
With her crown of pyroclastic cones, looming over the intermontane valleys of the ever-spectacular province of Cotopaxi, Mount Quilotoa – or ‘Princess Toa’ in native Quechua – has become one of the Quito area’s most coveted tourism destinations.
The humble provincial city of Riobamba is actually located smack-in-the-middle of the Ecuadorian Andes. Certainly overshadowed by Andean prima donnas Quito and Cuenca, visitors come and go without ever hearing about this very special area of the country. But there are many interesting things to do and discover here.
Chile is well-known for having a coastline that is almost 3,000 miles long. And with all that beachfront real estate, there is something for everyone. There are horseshoe-shaped coves for splashing, in the north at Guanaqueros, or in the central region, at El Canelo. There is surfing, in the north near Iquique, and famously at the big wave competition site Pichilemu in the central south.
And, since 2007, on the central coast, just a little over an hour’s drive from Santiago, there is also the world’s largest swimming pool, located at the beach. And it makes perfect sense.
It’s hot in Buenos Aires: prime time to flee the big city. If surf and sand isn’t your idea of paradise, skip the crowds along Argentina’s Atlantic coast. There’s a cooler, mellower summertime getaway awaiting in the lakes district – hike to high cliffs over the water, plunge through a shallow river on horseback, catch a fish, recline at an eco-friendly spa, or just indulge your chocolate addiction in Bariloche.
Most folks think of Brazil as a beach destination. Rightfully so, there’s no denying Brazil was sun-kissed by God almighty himself when perfect sands were being dished out to Earth. But Brazil is also home to a massive interior of pastoral hills flush with hidden waterfalls, deep canyons, rolling coffee plantations and dramatic rocky landscapes which come along with a culture entirely different from that of the beach – no bikini necessary.
One of Brazil’s most beautiful countryside destinations is the state of Minas Gerais, which is famous for colonial towns, hearty cuisine and cachaça, Brazil’s local firewater; but is perhaps best known for the friendliness of its people. I have a little joke in Brazil: Whenever I meet a Brazilian that I immediately love to death, they are almost always a Mineiro. To that end, Mineiros are especially good at hospitality. If you are visiting Belo Horizonte, Brazil’s third biggest city, on business or pleasure, consider hanging around a bit and making the 195-mile trek south to Reserva do Ibitipoca; better yet, if you’re in Rio de Janeiro (for pleasure – what else?), it’s even an even closer journey: 157 miles. But regardless of where you come from, this luxury plantation is a world away.
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