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 Margaret: Is there an online shop that can send me a string of Chilean lapis lazuli? Kicking myself for not buying the earrings and strand on sale at the Airport when I left Santiago on 28 October.
A Eileen:

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!

Q Mary: Hi. My husband and I are flying into Guayaquil for 4 days of business training with Young Living and wanted to see more of Ecuador for a few days. What can you recommend? If we go to Cuenca, what’s to see there? How about the Galapagos Islands? Can we get a flight from Guayaquil to the Islands and are there touring boats that we can join for a few days? Other ideas? Thank you, Mary Ann
A Ilan:

Hi Mary Ann,

As you mention, from Guayaquil, Cuenca is about a 3-4 hour drive and it is a beautiful Andean city that you won’t regret visiting. The historic center is truly a great place to wander about, pedestrian friendly with low adobe-wall and tiled-roof houses and pretty squares. Also, enquire about the Inca ruins at Ingapirca, about an hour north of the city. Guayaquil in itself is a very tropical urban city. There are some nice outdoor outings, like Cerro Blanco (a forest reserve about 20 minutes from downtown Guayaquil) and a very interesting ‘theme’ park, Parque Historico. For the Galápagos Islands you need to research in terms of your preferences. There are cruise tours (although the word ‘cruise’ here is a little misleading; boats can, by law, only hold 100 passengers, so most operators are small, 16-passenger yachts), expensive ones do offer more comfort and, above all, they operate correctly (in terms of safety measures, adherence to National Park regulations, etc.). Flights from Guayaquil are available (that is actually the only way to get to the islands), although prices are high.  You can also get to the main port towns (Puerto Ayora or Puerto Baquerizo Moreno) stay in a hotel and take day tours from there. You don’t get to the more remote places, but there is plenty to discover, as well. Depending on what you’re into, you can also visit Quito, the capital (flying there is the best choice) and check out its historic center, visit the Mount Cotopaxi reserve or perhaps a train ride across the country. I hope that gives you some ideas. The nice thing about Ecuador is that everything is close by.
Q (Sevananda): Hello Ilan! Other than Galapagos, Quito, Cuenca and Banos; what are the most awesome places to visit in Ecuador? Will be there from 29 Jan-31 mar 2015. Thanks!
A Ilan:

Hi Jose Manuel,

There are great places and when you get to Quito, head out to the Supermaxi or your nearest Libri Mundi bookstore and grab a copy of Ñan magazine (I’m the editor!), where you’ll find plenty of awesome travel ideas throughout the country. Of course, apart from those you mentioned (and I wouldn’t rule out the Otavalo area, which may sound commonplace, but there are great sites, like Zuleta), one needs to get a little adventurous. The Amazon Basin (río Napo) and the many lodges located on its shores are a truly unique experience, and I would place amongst those top Ecuador sites you mention. You also have Piñán, north of Otavalo. Few people ever go there, but I was just there and it is amazing.  The Machalilla National Park and Los Frailes virgin beach complex is also special; El Cajas, west of Cuenca; Loja, in the extreme south, the Valley-of-Eternal-Youth Vilcabamba, and the Puyango petrified forests; and if you want to get ‘expeditionary’, there’s Yanahurco, the Atillo Lakes, the Nangaritza River (Zamora), the Chimborazo area (Ecuador’s highest volcano at well over 6000 meters), you can also hop on a mountain train across Ecuador there’s a lot to do, depending on what you’re into.
Q Kerry: Hi Ilan, What is the best way to get from Quito to Mancora? I am on a budget so I am thinking a bus. How long would that take? Thanks!
A Ilan:

Hi Kerry,

Bus is actually the way to go if you’re on a budget. It can take over 20 hours if you do what most people do, which is get to Guayaquil’s Terminal Terrestre (Transportes Ecuador, Calle Juan Leon Mera, a block away from the Artisanal Market in La Mariscal)  and then from Guayaquil’s Terminal Terrestre (after a 3-4 hour wait, maximum), take southbound CIFA straight to Máncora (you can also divide your trip and see the sights in Guayaquil). This is actually the simplest route. You can also book a ticket to Huaquillas (Transporte Panamericana from Quitumbe), which takes less time, but you have to transfer to a bus to Tumbez and then travel to Máncora from Túmbez on another bus. It’s faster, if time is an issue, but more complicated. Any which way, make sure you get into the stopover city (Huaquilas or Guayaquil) in the day, to coordinate the connections more safely and effectively (this means traveling at night from Quito).
Q RAYMOND: My wife Amanda is from a small town called Libano. If I took the 10 day trip, would she be able to spend a half day in Libano?
A Natalie:
Hi Raymond,

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!

Q Carrie: My husband and I will be arriving to Ecuador in January. We prefer to stay away from hotels and get really into the culture with homestays. Can you recommend either a website or families in Quito/Banos for more information on homestays? Thanks!
A Ilan:

Hello Carrie,

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.

Q buzz: What is weather like in Ecuador?
A Ilan:

Hello Buzz,

Weather in Ecuador depends on where you’re going. In the coast (Guayaquil, Manabí) it is hot and humid. So you need to dress light. In the mountains (Quito, Cuenca), it is mild during the day (the sun can be very strong at midday, so bring hat, sunglassess, sunscreen) and it can get quite cool at night (definitely fit for a sweater or windbreaker), but it is never hot and humid. Most consider it spring-like weather.
Q Jon: We will be spending a few days outside Quito in late Oct, while staying at “Septimo Paraiso” and ecolodge near Mindo. We will be driving a rental from the airport. How do we find the start of “Eco-Ruta el Paseo del Quinde? — the old route to the coast.
A Ilan:

Hello Jon,

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!

Q Olivia: Best way to get from Santiago import to a B&B in Vina del Mar.
A Eileen:

Dear Olivia,

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!

Q Lily: Hi, Eileen, my daughter is going to travel to Chile in October this year on business. I am worrying about her safety. Is Chile a safe place? Can she take taxi around by her self? Sorry, I am a worrisome mother.
A Eileen:

Dear Lily,

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.

×

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.
×

Terms & Conditions

Comments or opinions expressed in the Only in South America blog (the “Blog”) are those of their respective authors and contributors only. LATAM Airlines Group S.A. does not guarantee that the information contained on this blog is accurate or complete, and that it does not necessarily represent the views of the company, its management or employees. LATAM Airlines Group S.A. is not responsible for, and disclaims any and all liability for the content of comments written by authors to the Blog.

Although the Company welcomes feedback from customers, this Blog is not intended to replace its Customer Relations Service. Comments or queries relating to specific issues beyond the scope of the Blog discussions should be directed to socialmediausa@lan.com

×