Photo: Ponta dos Ganchos
Let me preface this blog post by saying I have stayed in a lot of insane hotel rooms around the world. A lot. There was the absolutely ridiculous bungalow at the Six Senses Yao Noi, overlooking Phang Nga Bay in Ko Yao Noi, Thailand; there were the postcard-perfect vineyard views from the Poetry Inn in Sonoma, California; there was the memorable granite bathtub suite at Sabi Sands Game Reserve in South Africa; there was the insanely perfect Andes views from Cavas Wine Lodge in Mendoza, Argentina. The list goes on and on, nearly 80 countries deep at this point (don’t hate the player, hate the game).
If there ever was a city from which one might to need to occasionally flee to the countryside, it’s São Paulo, Brazil’s concrete jungle, home to nearly 21 million people and traffic jams the length of marathons. The numbers alone will stop you in your tracks (12,500 restaurants, 420 cinemas and theaters, 15,000 bars and so on), while the skyscrapers – endless in all directions and beyond – make Manhattan look like a paltry suburb. Now, let’s not get it twisted, as far as urban playgrounds go, you’ll nearly want for nothing here (maybe reasonable prices!), but anyone living and working here will surely agree: Sometimes a little Zen is in order. That’s where Unique Garden Spa & Resort comes in.
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.
Photo: Ilan Greenfield
Papallacta is only about an hour from Quito by car, and some 30 minutes from Quito’s new international airport, as one makes their way towards the eastern slope of the Andean mountain range. Continue along some 3 hours on the same highway and you reach the Amazonian rainforest basin. Papallacta, however, lies somewhat higher in elevation, but its natural dimension is breathtaking nonetheless, and its proximity is even more of a reason to visit, even if your stay in Quito isn’t long.
Photo: Micah & Erin
One of Colombia’s main draws for tourists is its wide range of natural beauty – but, as we all know, beauty doesn’t last forever. Whether it’s deforestation or rising water levels from climate change, landscapes don’t stay the same forever, especially when humans get involved. Luckily, many of the folks involved in the country’s tourism industry are already wise to this, and are focusing plenty of energy toward supporting ecologically friendly, sustainable development and tours. A short Google search will lead you to several excellent companies that operate with a sustainable focus, but if your main concern is the destination, here are a few of the country’s “greenest” spots.