Galapagos’ monument par excellence, its Tower of Pisa, is known as Pinnacle Rock. Although it is a natural monument (let’s just say it’s some kind of hill), legend has it, it is also partially manmade.
Its peculiar figure, like a shark’s tooth jetting out from the sea, was purportedly created during US Navy shooting practice. I can only envision some kind of missile blowing off what joined the monolith to the rest of the geological formation found to one side of it. In any case, it is quite the spectacle.
Photo: Natalie Southwick
Vancouver, Canada. Queenstown, New Zealand. Cape Town, South Africa. And…. San Gil, Colombia?
San Gil may not make most publications’ list of Top 10 Cities to Get Your Adrenaline Pumping, but that’s just because the folks writing those lists don’t know about it yet. This formerly sleepy town in the northeastern Colombian department of Santander has recently re-branded itself as the “Adventure Capital of Colombia,” and so far it seems to be living up to that reputation, if the legions of happy visitors are any indication.
Photo: Denis Isbister
One of Ecuador’s quaintest views suddenly appears as you approach the medium-large fishing village of Puerto López. The beautiful golden sand shines against some of the Ecuadorian Pacific’s bluest waters, with picturesque boats hanging out about the bay. Surrounded by the lush forests of the Machalilla National Park, the sight has never failed to impress me.
Photo: Kevin Raub
Whatever toots your horn: Hiking, biking, diving, mountains, canyons, flora, fauna, dunes, rivers, oceans, caves or prehistoric rock paintings – the list is exhausting, actually! – Brazil has got a reason for you to ditch the Havaianas and get out and about with some sort of nature that doesn’t involve caipirinhas on the beach and sand in your sunga (that’s Portuguese for those Speedo-type bathing suits!).
Over 15% of Brazil is under environmental protection, clocking in at 1.3 million sq km to be exact. Between Atlantic rainforest, tropical rainforest protected wetlands and the most amphibian, bird, mammal, reptile, and vascular plant species on Earth (according to Mongo Bay, one of the world’s most respected environmental science and conservation news sites), Brazil is the world’s most biodiverse country, which leaves a wealth of national parks to explore beyond Ipanema and Copacabana – nearly 70 in total. Here are our five favorites:
With a stunning coastline of almost 3,000 miles, Chile definitely has a beach to suit every taste. There are beaches for checking out tidal pools, like Isla Negra, and for big wave surfing like Pichilemu, a couple of hours south west of Santiago, and of course, beaches for rock-scrambling, wading, long walks at sunset, and even the occasional chungungo (marine otter) sighting. The last one I saw in Maitencillo, on an early morning walk.
But if I had to pick just one beach, from the north, center and south of Chile’s extraordinarily long coastline, for long days at the beach, azure waters and sheer entertainment, I know which ones are my favorites, starting from the south.
Photo: Bridget Gleeson
The first time I saw a penguin in his natural habitat was right here in Argentina. I was with a marine biologist on a speedboat, both of us bundled up against the cold, gliding through the still bay off the coast of Puerto San Julián. As we approached the rocky coast of a small island, I spotted a small group of black and white birds emerging from the water, their plumage sleek and glossy, waddling one by one along the beach in a comical parade. I grew up with Mary Poppins and trips to the zoo – seeing penguins on the beach, and getting out of the boat to walk around their little colony, was an experience I’ll never forget.
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.
It seems fit to say that one of the most fascinating sites in the Galapagos island chain would be one of the most remote. Isla Fernandina, the archipelago’s westernmost ‘outpost’, is a place whose journey to experience it is truly worth the adventurer’s soul.
A confined, non-inhabited heap of lava (non-inhabited by man, that is), among the youngest islands on our planet, Fernandina is actually going through the process of being born. A veritable last frontier, the vastest of the vast Pacific Ocean officially begins here.