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 HallThis 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 FavoritesFavorite 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 SouthwickThis 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 FavoritesFavorite 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 RaubCo-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 FavoritesFavorite 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 GreenfieldIlan 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 FavoritesFavorite 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 SmithSince 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 FavoritesFavorite 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 GleesonIn 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 FavoritesFavorite 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
There are many stores that sell lapis lazuli in Santiago, a few of which have online stores. Try Lapis Lazuli House. Faba, which is another good option for online (or in person) shopping. Other stores may also have online shops, or be able to ship something to you as well. I hope you’re able to pick up what you are looking for online at one of these shops!
Hi Mary Ann,
Hi Jose Manuel,
Líbano is in the department of Tolima, located about halfway between Bogotá and the coffee axis city of Manizales. It looks to be about a 4-hour drive or so from Bogotá and a bit less coming from Manizales. If you are in either of those cities, you should be able to find transport that would take you there. You would probably have to leave fairly early if you’re only planning to spend part of a day there, as traffic can get pretty heavy in the mornings, but if you’re willing to sit in a vehicle for a few hours each way, it’s definitely doable.
Hope this is helpful!
I’m not aware of any particular families that are doing this in Quito. Couch surfing is popular amongst backpackers, and increasingly popular in Ecuador as a whole, but it is also something I don’t have any experience with. I do know of a Spanish Institute that houses students with families, and people of all ages are enrolled. Maybe they have contacts of families wishing to host visitors in Quito. The school is called Simón Bolívar Spanish School +(593 2) 254-4558, and their website is www.simon-bolivar.com.
The Eco-Route takes you a few kilometers before the Mindo turn-off, which you take to Séptimo Paraíso (it is only a couple of minutes down the road). All of this is paved. A large portion of The Eco-Route is not paved, which is what makes it so special! To get to the Eco-Route you must cross the city towards Mount Pichincha, the large volcano you see in front of you once in Quito. You must get to Avenida Mariscal Sucre, locally known as “La Occidental”. This is a peripheral highway that edges western Quito. The turn off to El Quinde Eco-Route is also clearly labelled Mena del Hierro (this is a small neighborhood that slopes up the mountain), it’s a very obvious overpass some 500 meters south of the El Condado condo complex (if you’re northbound, you don’t actually reach El Condado). If you’ve found the turn off, you should be on Calle Machala, climbing up the mountain, so to speak. You continue straight on a winding paved road heading towards the town of Nono. A wonderful visit, by the way, is the Yanacocha Forest Reserve. This is a 20 minute detour to your left a little before Nono — the detour lies some 10 kms from the turn-off point at La Occidental. Once in Nono, you must go left at the first intersection and then continue along for a very beautiful ride!
Unfortunately, there is no public transportation directly from the airport in Santiago to Viña del Mar. You can hire a private car through one of the companies at the airport, which will cost you $160 US, one-way (per car, not per person). Another option is to either take a taxi, transfer or the Centropuerto bus (in descending order of cost) to the close by Pajaritos metro station. Here there is a small bus depot from which buses to Viña leave about every 15 minutes until approximately 9:30 PM. Your B&B should be able to either provide transportation or recommend how to get to their location from the Viña del Mar bus station, which is quite centrally-located.
I hope that helps!
Chile is absolutely a safe place, and it is definitely okay for your daughter to take a taxi. The application SaferTaxi, available for iPhone and Android, is a great option to order a known taxi, and does not cost more than a regular taxi. It is also possible for your daughter to ask restaurants and hotels to hail or call a taxi for her if she is concerned about doing it herself. There are also radio taxis that she can call, but this is easier for Spanish speakers, which I am not sure if your daughter is. Radio taxis depend on locations, so the first two options I gave are easier. Santiago is much safer than many major cities in the United States, though like in the US, a pinch of caution never hurt!
I hope I’ve put you at ease. I have been in Santiago for ten years, and have found taxis to be just fine.