Photo: Terra Hall
Three hours and 5,000 years from Peru’s capital is a land once lost, that has only recently been found. Archaeologists believe this city is the Americas’ oldest, rivaling the ancient civilizations of Mesopotamia and Egypt in its complexity, and the city of Troy and the prehistoric Stonehenge in age.
April is one of the busiest months for cultural events in Bogotá, and this year things are kicking into especially high gear with the 14th Festival Iberoamericano de Teatro (Iberoamerican Theater Festival), which takes place every even-numbered year here in the capital. Though the festival is relatively young, it has enjoyed remarkable success in the years since its founding in 1988, and is now one of the largest theater festivals in the world.
Known as the “white city” for its monochromatic colonial buildings, Popayán is a city with deep cultural, historical and religious significance and one of the country’s great architectural gems. Founded in 1537, it is one of Colombia’s oldest cities and was one of the most important cities on the continent during Spanish rule, due to its strategic location linking Lima, Quito and Cartagena.
Architects notwithstanding, Brazilians don’t tend to be too impressed with their space-age capital, carved out of nowhere in the 1950s by then-President Jucelino Kubitschek, architect Oscar Niemeyer, urban planner Lucio Costa and landscape architect Burle Marx.
Most think it’s boring (it’s not), too hot (that’s true), too confusing (only at first), tourist-unfriendly (it doesn’t have to be) and an urban symbol of the country’s ills – corruption and bureaucracy, for example – and not the futuristic capital of the country of the future it was built to symbolize (well …). Most tourists (who aren’t architects or budding architects) dismiss it as skippable (it’s hard to tear yourself away from those beaches, after all) and that’s a shame. For as confusing and polarizing as Brasília is, it’s nothing if not fascinating.
Every day of travel brings something new. But most people like to try to fit in a bit of food, drink, activity, culture and shopping in there somewhere. The problem is planning on getting to the places where these things can be had at exactly the right time.
Enter Santiago’s quirky Bellavista neighborhood. Sandwiched between the Mapocho River to the south, and the towering Cerro San Cristobal to the north, this area has something to offer in all of the above categories with something to suit every budget and taste, from backpacker to luxury.
Photo: Ilan Greenfield
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.
Speaking of heritage artwork in Ecuador that you may want to take back home with you, I’d like to introduce to you a certain Eduardo Vega. One of the country’s foremost potters, Eduardo Vega is sure to impress you on your visit to Cuenca, or so I’d like to conjecture. Here, you’ll be able to discover the master’s gallery and workshop, located in his own home, which incidentally is only a few steps away from a nice sightseeing stop, Turi Church. The lookout point offers the most spectacular view of the city of Cuenca.
Photo: Andrea Tello
Of course, this list is completely arbitrary. I’ve also tried not to be too mainstream. I don’t want to be like everyone else out there, so I’ve decided to ignore Otavalo for now (I shall revisit, worry not) and speak of signature items that represent Ecuador’s exciting cultural heritage in a more contemporary, off-beat way. Each item is from a different corner of the country.
Six is a short list, but hey, it’s a good start!
Let’s cut to the chase here – this is not an unbiased post. I have repeatedly and publicly stated, to pretty much anyone within earshot, that Villa de Leyva is one of my favorite places in Colombia. However, I’m hardly alone in this opinion – in fact, I don’t know a single person that has visited Villa and failed to fall in love with it. Cartagena may be Colombia’s most romantic city, but Villa de Leyva seems designed to capture the heart of any visitor, as long as they don’t mind a few cobblestones underfoot!