Meet The Insiders

When you really want to know about a place, you ask a local. That’s the idea behind our team of South American Insiders. These on-the-ground experts are always out and about, looking for the experiences found only in South America. Got questions? Fire away, and enjoy the benefits of some good, solid, insider information.

About Terra Hall

This American journalist traveled to places many Peruvians have never heard of, stocked her kitchen with fruits that look like they're from a sci-fi flick, and re-enrolled in school so she can say phrases beyond "¿Dónde está la biblioteca?." Whether it's paragliding over the Malecon, where Lima's green coast meets the royal blue sea, or rappelling 300 feet into a canyon, everyday in this country is an adventure.

Terra Hall's Favorites

Favorite Peruvian food: Vegan lomo saltado
Favorite outing to date: Hiking along the edge of a mountain, later followed by repelling 300 feet into a canyon and exploring an abandoned mine now inhabited by bats
Favorite neighborhood: Barranco, for its bohemian vibe and artisan shops

About Natalie Southwick

This Boston-raised and Chicago-educated journalist never felt so at home as she does in Bogotá. In just over a year, Natalie swam in the jewel-blue Caribbean near Santa Marta, chowed on ceviche in Cartagena, hiked through misty wax palms in Salento, ogled dinosaur fossils in Villa de Leyva and danced salsa into the wee hours in Cali.

Natalie Southwick's Favorites

Favorite food: Ajíaco
Favorite coffee shop: Juan Valdez Café
Favorite hidden gem: José Celestino Mutis Jardín Botánico in Bogotá
Favorite place to spend all my money: Usaquén Sunday market

About Kevin Raub

Co-author of Lonely Planet’s Brazil guide and coordinating author of the Brazil section of South America on a Shoestring guide, Kevin has–not surprisingly–traveled extensively across Brazil. He learned to dive in Fernando de Noronha, sought after the perfect moqueca from Espírito Santo to Bahia and swam with pink dolphins in the Amazon. Kevin also regularly tweets about his adventures @RaubOnTheRoad.

Kevin Raub's Favorites

Favorite São Paulo Restaurant: Maní
Favorite Beach: Praia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha
Favorite Bar Snack: Coxinhas at Bar Veloso, São Paulo
Favorite Ecotourism Destination: Bonito, Mato Grosso do Sul

About Ilan Greenfield

Ilan is a musician, composer, writer, translator and art enthusiast living in Quito with his wife and two children. He also created an Ecuadorian travel magazine christened ‘Ñan’ (or ‘road’ in Quechua) with a close group of colleagues. He says that Ecuador is as small as a peanut on a world map, but at the same time, the whole world fits snuggly within it. He certainly has a lot to tell and many reasons to invite you to come to Ecuador and, as they say, ‘take the plunge’...

Ilan Greenfield's Favorites

Favorite beach: Los Frailes
Favorite restaurant: Los Tiestos, in Cuenca
Favorite Galapagos Islands: Fernandina, the youngest, and Española, the oldest!
Favorite Ecuadorian band: Of course, that would have to be my band, the Swing Original Monks… check us out…

About Eileen Smith

Since moving to Santiago eight years ago, Eileen has sat with huasos at a rodeo in Futaleúfu, eaten chancho en piedra near the river in Talca and bought olives in Punta de Choros. As a travel writer, she dispenses advice for a living, so feel free to ask a question!

Eileen Smith's Favorites

Favorite beach town: Pichilemu
Best hiking near Santiago: Parque Mahuida, or Aguas de San Ramón
Favorite spot for lunch in the Vega Chica: Tía Ruth’s
Best place to buy souvenirs in Santiago: Pueblo Los Dominicos

About Bridget Gleeson

In the name of travel journalism, Bridget has been up to the highest cliffs of the Andes, down to chilly sea level at the end of the earth in Tierra del Fuego, and right in the center of the crowded dance floor at tango clubs in Buenos Aires. She fell in love with Argentina and its people and is happy to share what she learned with her fellow travelers.

Bridget Gleeson's Favorites

Favorite Tango Song: Niebla del Riachuelo (Cobián & Cadícamo, 1937)
Favorite Wildlife Experience: Whale-watching in Península Valdés
Favorite Café in Buenos Aires: Any of the 73 bares notables (historic bars) designated by the city
Favorite Cultural Experience: A traditional asado with choripán, Malbec and good friends

Your Latest Questions & Answers

Q David: Hi! I’ll be visiting Bogota July 16th through the 22nd. Are there any cool events happening in Bogota in this time frame?
A Natalie:

Hi David,

As I’m sure you know, the World Cup wraps up on July 13, so hopefully the city will still be in the midst of celebrating Colombia’s heroic, unexpected, underdog victory (we’re feeling cautiously optimistic here)! August is usually the big month for festivities and other events in the city, so July may be a bit quiet in comparison, but there’s still plenty to do, no matter what time of year you’re here.

If you want to learn a bit more about Colombia itself, the Feria de las Colonias will be happening at the Corferias convention center until the 20th. The event’s tagline is “See All of Colombia in One Day,” which might be a bit hyperbolic, but it does bring representatives from all of the diverse regions of the country to showcase the best food, products, handcrafts, sites of interest and traditions their regions have to offer. Since the goal is to promote tourism, there will probably be lots of glossy brochures and people in traditional clothing – and likely music and food from the regions. For a whirlwind tour of the country without actually leaving Bogotá, it might be worth stopping by.

Before you visit, I also recommend taking a look at the “monthly events” section of the blog Bogotá Brilliance. They do a fairly comprehensive job of gathering information about events happening in the city, particularly theater and arts events. The postings typically don’t go up until the beginning of the month, though, so they won’t have anything listed until around July 1. Check sometime after then, though, to see if there’s anything that catches your interest. Whatever you end up doing, I’m sure you’ll enjoy your time here in Bogotá!

Q GIESSEPIE: How much is an additional bag going to cost me? I’m flying to Quito, Ecuador, with LAN Airlines.
A Terra:

Hi Giessepie,

LAN’s economy class includes second piece of luggage free. For more information visit: http://flylan.us/1mzBYG8

Q Steven: What should I expect in terms of climate in Lima, Cusco, Machu Picchu in early May? How safe is the water likely to be in 3 star hotels? What are characteristics of Peruvian cuisine?
A Terra:

Hi Steven!

You’ve asked some really great questions. May is a great time to come to Peru. While it will be autumn, don’t plan to see the bright orange and yellow leaves that typically come with a change in the climate.

Instead you can expect mild temperatures and partly to mostly cloudy skies in Lima. In May, the typical day will be in the mid to upper 60s (18-21C), with lows right around 60F (16C). While these temperatures may seem refreshing, I’d recommend bringing a light sweater or jacket as the high humidity on the coast (70-100%) can make it feel slightly cooler. It rarely rains in Lima, so wet weather won’t be a concern for you.

As far as Cusco and Machu Picchu weather are concerned, that jacket will come in handy. While you won’t have to deal with the humidity, you will be at a much higher altitude. You can expect a daily high of about 65-70F (18-21C). Once the sun goes down, though, you may need to bundle up; temperatures drop to just above freezing – about 35F (2C). In May, the rainy season in Cusco will have just ended. Skies could be bright blue; they could also be cloudy with a chance of rain.

Because Peru is a major tourist destination, the water is safe to shower and brush your teeth with and use for cooking.  Unlike some other parts of Latin America, Peru doesn’t have the problem of bacteria and parasites in its water. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. The government heavily treats the water used in most major cities and it is for this reason that locals and tourists alike go for bottled water when they are thirsty.

Finally, Peru is making a splash in the international food scene. The Economist, a prestigious British magazine, just called Peru the “gastronomic mecca” of the world. And, Peruvian travel industry associations report that about 75,000 tourists come to Lima each year just to sample the menu. Some of the must-try dishes are:

:: Causa: This dish comes from the Quechua Indian work ‘Kausaq,’ meaning “that which gives life.” Causa, which is served cold and usually as an appetizer, is seasoned mashed potatoes stuffed with tuna, egg, chicken, shrimp or avocado and then topped with aji (a spicy dipping sauce) or black olives.

:: Ceviche: Considered Peru’s unofficial national dish, ceviche is raw fish or seafood marinated in lima, onions, cilantro and other spices. It’s always served cold and usually as an appetizer. Read more about it here.

:: Cuy: In short, cuy is roasted guinea pig. While the animals are considered pets in some parts of the world, Peruvians consider the rich, gamey tasting meat a delicacy.

:: Picarones: Think doughnut meets Peru. This fried dessert is made of squash, sweet potatoes and/or quinoa (so they’re totally healthy!) and then covered in with molasses. In short, it’s a party in your mouth!

:: Pisco Sour: This is an incredibly refreshing adult beverage made of lime, syrup, egg whites, and Peru’s ever-popular Pisco (a grape brandy). It may sounds like a strange concoction, but trust me, the end result is a beautifully crafted and classy cocktail.

Q Will: Would it be realistic to plan a driving trip leaving from Puerto Montt, and ending up in Torres Del Paine, of course crossing in and out of Argentina where necessary? We have 7 days total for this portion of the trip. My worry is we may spend too much time in the car and not enough exploring but would we end up missing a beautiful drive if we instead flew into Coyhaiqe?
A Eileen:

Hi Will,

It is realistic that you could do that drive, but it really depends on what you are looking for. There is a lot of empty space in Patagonia, but that is also part of the beauty. If you take the most direct route, you’d be driving north in Chile, through the lakes region and then out of Chile and on to Argentina’s unpaved Ruta 40. It is about a 2400 km drive, much of it unpaved, and fairly slow. I do think you could make it in seven days, but you would spend much of it in the car.

However, you’d see parts of the Argentine Lakes region as well, which is equally beautiful to that in Chile. If it were me, I’d take three or four days with a car around Puerto Montt (assuming that Puerto Montt is a fixed point on your trip), exploring the area around Pucón, and taking a trip down onto Chiloé, to see the stilted houses, eat area food (like curanto, a type of clam bake cooked in a pit), etc, and then come back up again and fly elsewhere.

You could then fly to Coyhaique, and from there, rent a car, see only about half the distance, in Argentina, and still get to Puerto Natales (for access to the park, which is three hours further), before your time ran out, and probably significantly less jangled re: unpaved roads.

There is another option, though it would require some precise planning on your part to make sure you reserve a space beforehand on a once-daily (in summer) ferry. Here, you would take a ferry from Puerto Montt to the town of Chaitén, which has been rebuilt since a recent volcanic eruption and lava flow, and from there drive south to Coyhaique and then finish up the trip as planned. If you do this, you wouldn’t go to Pucón and the other lakes region hotspots, but you would save yourself the backtracking up through Chile and then back down in Argentina to get to the same latitude you were at earlier.

Let me know if that clears things up or muddies the water. I would choose one of the options that involves less off-road driving, but to each his own. No matter what you choose, it will be a very memorable experience!

Q Richard: How do I make Chilean empanadas de horno?
A Eileen:

Hi Richard,

I’m not surprised you’re looking for a good empanada recipe! The classic Chilean recipe has pino, or seasoned ground beef and a hard-boiled egg inside. If you were in Chile the easiest way would be go out to one of your favorite empanada places to get one, but at home, you’ll have to do it the slightly more complicated way.

One of my favorite go-to websites for cooking Chilean food is that of Pilar Hernandez, En Mi Cocina Hoy. Here, she gives her best empanada de pino recipe, first in Spanish and then English. Of course, you can also try whatever other filling you like, like cheese and mushrooms or swiss chard, but Pilar’s recipes are a great place to start.

Happy cooking, and buen provecho!

Q Kathy: Hi Bridget! Would you happen to know how Oktoberfest is celebrated in Argentina today? What is the history and significance of the celebration in Argentina? When does it start and end?
A Bridget:

Hi Kathy,

Thanks for your question. The truth is that I had never before heard of any Oktoberfest celebrations in Argentina – it’s not traditional here. But then I did some research and found out that there is, in fact, a big festival associated with Oktoberfest each year in the town of General Villa Belgrano in Cordoba. Since 1964, a huge beer festival is held over eleven days in the city’s specially designed ‘Beer Park.’ There’s free-flowing beer, of course, served from the barrel into mugs, plus lively music and classic German dishes from sausages to apple strudel. Cultural highlights include a parade and the election of the National Queen of Beer. It sounds like the place to be this October in Argentina! Happy travels.

Q Claudia: I heard that LAN operates a shuttle bus to Vina del Mar. Is this still the case or no? It is for a Canadian client so I’m looking for the easiest way. Thank you!
A Eileen:

Hi Claudia,

LAN does not offer shuttle service between Santiago and Viña del Mar.

Q Evelyn: We have bought tickets with LAN to go from Santiago to Punta Arenas. Does LAN operate a shuttle from either Vina del Mar or Valparaiso to the airport in Santiago? If so, how much does it cost. Thank you.
A Eileen:

Hi Evelyn,

LAN does not offer shuttle service from Viña del Mar or Valparaiso to Santiago airport.

 

Q Moira: Hi Eileen! Does LAN Airlines still have a mini bus that goes to Vina Del Mar for their passengers?
A Eileen:

Hi Moira,

LAN does not offer shuttle service between Santiago and Viña del Mar. There are however several easy options for a variety of budgets that will get you where you need to go.

You can easily take one of two shuttle services that will get you to a nearby bus terminal where you can catch a bus to Viña del Mar. The two services are the TurBus and Centropuerto buses. Both leave from the airport approximately every 15 minutes, and both will take you to the Pajaritos bus/metro station. They cost 1,400 CLP and 1,300 CLP, respectively (about $3). Buses to Viña del Mar depart from the Pajaritos station about every 20 minutes, from a variety of companies, and cost usually cost between $4 and $7 dollars.
Another easy (but pricier) option is to take a private minibus or taxi. There are services that provide this route at $70 per person, with a two-person minimum.
Q Sara: We would like to travel from Rancagua to Vina del Mar, then to Pichilemu, then to Talca. We will take a LAN flight into Santiago. Is there a LAN shuttle to Vina?
A Eileen:

Hi Sara,

Although LAN does not offer shuttle service between Santiago and Viña del Mar, there are several easy options for a variety of budgets that will get you where you need to go.

You can easily take one of two shuttle services that will get you to a nearby bus terminal where you can catch a bus to Viña del Mar. The two services are the TurBus and Centropuerto buses. Both leave from the airport approximately every 15 minutes, and both will take you to the Pajaritos bus/metro station. They cost 1,400 CLP and 1,300 CLP, respectively (about $3). Buses to Viña del Mar depart from the Pajaritos station about every 20 minutes, from a variety of companies, and cost usually cost between $4 and $7 dollars.
Another easy (but pricier) option is to take a private minibus or taxi. There are services that provide this route at $70 per person, with a two-person minimum.

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