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.
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
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.
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
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!
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
A Lima native, Karina eats Peruvian adventure for breakfast, lunch and dinner. A travel guide in the Amazon and elsewhere, she loves helping people discover and appreciate what makes Peru, Peru.
Favorite Amazonian flower: lobster claw (heliconia rostrata)
Favorite type of ceviche: sea urchin
Favorite place to surf: Los Organos
Lance Andrew Brashear
Having lived in Quito since 2003, Lance knows Ecuador inside and out, from the jungle to the coast to the Galapagos. When he’s not out there exploring, he’s relishing the joy of being a husband and dad.
Favorite place to get lost: Quito historical district
Favorite museum: City Museum in old town
Favorite Galapagos animal: Blue-footed boobie
August 2012 Questions
Yes, I moved to Quito from the U.S. in 2003. In my case, moving was not difficult because I had the support of a family (my wife’s family). But, we had to figure out the visa issues, which I recall as time consuming but not difficult. I am sure things have changed since then and many people now come for different reasons and receive different visas that what I obtained.
Fortunately, there is a great network of expats in the city of Cuenca, Ecuador. Even if you desire to relocate to a different city, I recommend getting in the information circle where you can find out about the requirements and can find plenty of contacts who can ease your transition. I will share how to do that below.
Why Cuenca? Cuenca, Ecuador’s third largest city, is the number one city, according to International Living Magazine, to retire and/or live outside the United States, taking into consideration all factors such as cost of living, security, climate, services, and general quality of life. As a result, Cuenca has seen its expat population grow ten fold in the past three years, from about 400 to approximately 4,000 full-time and part-time residents (statistic is from the Ministry of Foreign Relations, which opened a visa processing office in Cuenca this year to address the increased need for processing applications).
How to get in touch with them to learn about transitioning to life in Ecuador? First, go to Cuenca High Life. There you will see a sign up for GringoTree, which is an email service with all kind of information for the Gringo Community (the mail goes to more than 4,000 contacts). Twice a day you will receive emails with postings from fellow expats asking questions, providing information etc. You can also make your own posts and will receive responses. Cuenca High Life also has information that you will find helpful.
A close alternative to a shuttle bus is catching a Turbus Aeropuerto or Centropuerto bus to Metro Estación Pajaritos (US$3 aprox – $1.700 CLP). Different bus companies depart to Viña del Mar from here for about US$5.
Another option –but expensive- are the private minibuses or taxis that cost around US $180 to $150 ($90,000 – $80,000 CLP).
The Sacred Valley in Cuzco has everything for the best family vacation experience. You can go horseback riding through cornfields and snowcapped mountain landscapes, learn traditional weaving techniques in an Andean village and harvest potatoes with villagers. These are some of the many activities you can enjoy in this rich valley. If your kids are adventurous, there is a canopy zip line only 15 kilometers from Machu Picchu village where you can also camp after the fun. For more information visit Cola de Mono.
White water rafting in the Urubamba River is also highly recommended if you have children. You can experience class II to IV rapids, depending on the section of the river.
If you have a free afternoon and you would like your kids to experience an alternative walk in Cuzco, the Myth and Legends walking tour is for you. During this two-hour walk you will discover a different side of this amazing city while your guide tells you the most authentic legends, myths, ghosts and saint tales of Cuzco. For more information, visit the tour website.
Argentina is large and varied, so it really depends on where in the country you would like to visit and what sorts of activities you’d like to do. Argentina is nearly as large as India, and from top to bottom, it encompasses almost every type of climate, from the hot dry deserts around Salta in the North to the wind-whipped, glacier-dotted forests of Patagonia in the South. That said, there’s no one time of year that’s best to visit every section of the country.
Keep in mind that Argentina’s seasons are reversed from those in the northern hemisphere: Around Christmastime, Buenos Aires is hot and humid, with temperatures regularly topping 100 °F, and during July and August, the city dips into the chilly 40’s °F nearly every night. Springtime here, from September to November, is the most pleasant time to visit the capital. The jacaranda trees there, which seem to frame nearly every picturesque brick street in the trendy Palermo barrio, are bright purple, in full bloom, then, and the temperatures hover in the pleasant 70’s.
If you’re interested in wine, Argentina’s autumn, from March through May, is a perfect time to head to the vineyard regions of Salta and Mendoza. Salta is famed for its white Torrontes varietal, while Mendoza is more acclaimed for red Malbecs, but both shine in the fall, during the harvest season, when the vineyards are surrounded by crimson foliage.
The icy bottom tip of Argentina, better known as Patagonia, is also at its best in the spring and autumn. Peak travel season here is during Argentina’s summer, when the temperatures in this southerly region are at their highest. But that’s also when accommodations across Patagonia charge their highest, peak-season rates. You can find better deals at hotels and restaurants, and far fewer crowds, in Patagonia during the shoulder seasons of autumn and spring.
If you like nature, the area of Tambopata National Reserve has a wide offering of lodges to enjoy an Amazon rainforest sunset or take a nap in a hammock with paradise tanagers and howler monkeys in the background. If you are more into luxury travel, there is a lodge that will spoil you while you enjoy flora and fauna in one of the most diverse places in the world.
To visit Machu Picchu in a unique way, you can take the Hiram Bingham train, which connects Cusco to the citadel through the majestic Urubamba River. The experience offers you gourmet food and live music while you enjoy the most spectacular scenery. To experience the cloud forest ecosystem at its best, stay at Inkaterra hotel and enjoy its amazing orchid collection.
And if you have already visited the main destinations in Peru and want to relax and enjoy the Pacific Ocean, Vichayito Beach in the North of the country (20 minutes from Mancora) has nice hotels, spas, the best marine cuisine and the opportunity to watch humpback whales on their way from Alaska to Antarctica from August to October. You just need to fly to Tumbes and then it’s just a 1.5-hour car ride to paradise.
The low season in Peru is from December to March, which is also considered the rainy season in the highlands and rainforest and summer in the coast. This is when you can find the best offers. But also take into account that the Inca Trail closes on February for maintenance, although you can still visit Machu Picchu. If you are looking for trekking adventures, this isn’t the best season since trails are very muddy.
February is also the month when carnivals are held and you might get wet not only due to the rain but from the water bombs thrown in the streets. If you are in Puno, don’t miss La Virgen de la Candelaria festivity, celebrated on February 2. Around 200 groups of dancers and musicians gather in one of the largest festivities in South America.
For Alpaca woollens of good quality and reasonable price you should go to the Mercado Artesanal (Handicraft Market). It is located half a block from the Cathedral at the end of El Sol Avenue. You will have to search a little but you can find real Alpaca and baby Alpaca scarves. All the small shops near the main square are very expensive and they do not always have good quality. For very fine and stylish woollens try Alpaca 111 and Kuna located at the main square or walk around the Plaza de Armas and its surroundings. If you are going to the Sacred Valley you should browse around Pisaq market which also has nice silver jewels.
There are thousands of “cevicherias” in Lima, but if you are in Miraflores and would like to try a local, cheap and delicious place, I recommend you try El Rincon de Bigote (Mustache´s nook), located in José Gálvez 529 (open from Tuesday to Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 4 p.m.). The specialty of the house is clams, and beware since you can become an addict of this delicacy. Ceviche is great too as well as the Arroz con mariscos (Rice with shellfish). “Bigote” is very popular so try to go as early as you can. If you get lost, the number is: +51.1.241-2484.
If your budget is higher and you would like to try more sophisticated dishes you should head to Pescados Capitales, a first-rate restaurant located at La Mar Avenue (Sea Avenue). As the avenue’s name implies, you can find many other “cevicherias” with sea treasures, but not many have the jewels you will find here.