Chapter 13 Latin American potpourri.
There's a waterfall nearly three times the height of the Empire State Building and another almost as wide as the Grand Canyon. There's the world's second biggest coral reef, huge mysterious drawings on a vast plain, an island covered with oversized stone heads, and an abandoned city at 8,000 feet in the Andes.
Do you know the names of these places? If not, you soon will. And you'll be able to use your knowledge to enhance the trip of anyone bound for Latin America.
The Central American isthmus, which connects Mexico to the South American continent, will probably be low on the priority list of most travelers. Though the land itself can be quite lovely and the weather tropical, the historical and cultural attractions are relatively undeveloped. More important: some of the area's countries have been torn by enough intermittent wars and anti-American sentiments to keep tourists away.
Air connections to and throughout Central America are the best bet for those who wish to visit the area. Car rentals are available and occasionally offer a good way to see the countryside; however, driving can be difficult in some places and dangerous in others. Bus service is widespread, but not recommended. Cruises may stop here as well, especially in Costa Rica and Panama. Indeed, cruises that pass from the Pacific to the Atlantic through the Panama Canal are quite popular.
Spanish is the national language in all Central American countries except Belize [beh-LEEZ], where English is the official language. English, however, is commonly spoken by travel personnel throughout the region.
Here are the countries, from north to south, you should know about:
Guatemala. Guatemala has had political instability. Its rich Mayan culture is the major attraction, particularly in the town of Tikal [tee-KAHL], which has excellent ruins and artifacts. Otherwise, most Guatemalan ruins remain covered with earth and vines. Guatemala City, the capital, has some fine museums that explain Mayan civilization.
Belize was formerly known as British Honduras.
Belize. Formerly British Honduras, Belize is a tiny, politically stable country on the Caribbean coast with many Mayan ruins, a lush landscape, and some of the best dive spots in the world. Belize has the world's second largest coral reef. At the reef's northern end is Ambergris Cay with fine beaches, good fishing, and great diving. In the reef's middle are the Turneffe Islands, which feature what some consider the world's best dive site, the Blue Hole. The country strives to ensure that all new development is environmentally sensitive, most especially at its nature reserves.
Honduras. Honduras has a poor economy and has been affected by fighting in neighboring countries, some of which occasionally spills over its borders. Its capital, Tegucigalpa, is quite pretty. The town of Copan is renowned for its Mayan ruins. The Bay Islands off Honduras offer good dive sites, including one where visitors can actually dive with dolphins.
El Salvador. El Salvador had been strife-ridden for many years but is now courting tourism. This scenic, mountainous country has much to offer. There are fine beaches, Mayan ruins are everywhere, and the capital of San Salvador is beautiful.
Nicaragua. Nicaragua has also suffered on occasion from war and crime. For literature lovers, the Mosquito Coast (the setting for the novel of the same name) lies on this country's Caribbean shore. Mayan ruins, abandoned gold mines, beach activities, and an old pirate settlement are among its attractions.
Costa Rica's rainy season (May-November) is often interrupted in mid-July by the canicula, when rain nearly disappears.
Costa Rica. Costa Rica is the success story of Central America: it's stable, prosperous, and has decent tourist facilities. In the country's central highlands is the capital city of San Jose, which contains some interesting museums and churches, a lovely national theater, and plenty of shopping. The climate here is pleasant. There are also interesting tours through the countryside and jungle: Costa Rica has a wealth of national parks and rain forest reserves, which makes it an appealing destination for ecotourists. The most famous of these is Monteverde Cloud Forest Reserve. Cruise ships call on the ports of Limon and Puerto Caldera, usually on Panama Canal itineraries. Offshore sportfishing in Costa Rica is especially attractive.
The Pacific Ocean is at the Panama Canal's eastern end.
Panama. Panama wavers between pro- and anti-American sentiment, between substantial tourism and no tourism at all. Politics greatly affects tourism here. The most impressive destination is Panama City, the capital, near the Panama Canal. This city--with a history strongly influenced by the Spanish, Indians, and pirates--is a popular cruise stop. Panama City boasts interesting Spanish colonial structures, old churches, and colorful plazas. Balboa is the American district: There's not much history to be found here, but it's safe and comfortable. Off Panama's Pacific coast is pretty Taboga island; off its Caribbean side are the San Blas islands, a haven for Indian culture.
Costa Rica means "rich coast," based on the hope that there was much gold there. (There wasn't.)
The area lends itself to cruises, particularly along Costa Rica, through Panama, or to some of the nearby islands. Book only the finest hotels in Central America. Tourists seriously interested in the local culture, those on cruises to South America or the Caribbean, or those who have relatives or ancestors from here will likely be the ones to visit Central America. Vacationers who love fishing, secluded beaches, and diving are rapidly "discovering" Central America; its safer destinations are appealing recommendations for those who've seen the more traditional ocean-oriented spots. A few fine resorts have opened or are under development in Central America.
The legendary El Dorado, stocked with golden riches, was reputedly in this region. It has never been found. But with three Andes ranges, broad beaches, miles of coffee plantations, and an Amazon jungle, Colombia has a wealth of another kind. Unfortunately, the country's long history with crime may discourage vacationers from sampling its attractions.
For those who are interested, Avianca (AV) is the national airline, flying into the capital of Bogota (BOG), deep in an Andean valley. Major airports are also in the Caribbean port city of Barranquilla (BAQ) and the resort port of Cartagena (CTG), once a walled fortress. Good air connections crisscross the country, along with so-so rail service, crowded buses, and poor roads. The national language is Spanish.
Bogota's residents live in a cool, springlike, almost unchanging climate. The El Dorado tradition lives on here in the huge collection of the city's famous Gold Museum. A half-day trip from the city is Zipaquira, with its "Salt Cathedral" carved out of rock 450 feet below ground. Astonishingly large, it can hold almost 10,000 people. San Agustin Park is a 150-square-mile archaeological reserve dotted with stone monoliths. Leticia, accessible only by air or boat, is a gateway to Amazon adventure cruises. San Andres Island, about 300 miles north of Colombia, was the base of English pirate Captain Henry Morgan.
Caracas, Venezuela's capital, lies in a northern Andean valley. Venezuela's other major geographic feature is the Orinoco River, which flows through the grassy plains (the llanos), into the Atlantic. Simon Bolivar Airport (CCS) in Caracas is the gateway into the country, though cruise ships also call on the nearby port of La Guaira. Merida (MRD) is the Venezuelan air gateway to the Andes, where visitors can ride the world's highest cable car. There's good air and bus service, but no train service to speak of. Though renting a car is easy, driving is difficult. Por puestos (taxis that pick up and drop off passengers along their routes, like a shuttle bus) are a popular way of getting around. Spanish is the national language.
Venezuela named its unit of currency, the bolivar, after Simon Bolivar.
The climate in Venezuela is very steady; in Caracas, for example, daytime temperatures average in the upper 70s year-round. Jungle areas are hotter and Andes destinations cooler. Venezuela has a dry season from December to early May, with moderate and occasional rainfall the rest of the year.
Venezuela has a number of interesting destinations:
* Caracas, for the most part, is a handsome, modern city. It retains a strong Spanish influence and has an active, international nightlife. Mt. Avila offers great views of the city. The most notable among the city's churches is Santa Teresa Basilica. The birthplace and grave of Venezuela's national hero, Simon Bolivar (who helped free South America from Spain), is here. Colonia Tovar, an interesting, German-like village, is nearby.
Angel Falls, which plummets from "Devil Mountain," was discovered by and named after an American, Jimmy Angel.
* Angel Falls, at 3,212 feet, is the world's loftiest waterfall. (It's nearly 18 times higher than Niagara Falls.) Located in the southeast jungle near the town of Ciudad Bolivar and reached by plane, the area also has thousands of varieties of orchids.
* Beach resorts are found along the Caribbean coast. Two of the most popular are Macuto, not far from Caracas, and the immensely popular Margarita Island (in the Caribbean just east of the ABC Islands).
Venezuela is particularly convenient as an extension to a trip into the Caribbean. It's a frequent stop on Southern Caribbean and trans-Canal cruise itineraries. The government is a moderately stable democracy, which might strongly appeal to those concerned about the political climate in Latin America. Tourist services tend to be first-rate. An air tour to Angel Falls is an intriguing option; the drama of this attraction appeals to those who seek off-the-beaten-path experiences.
The Dutch traded Manhattan for Suriname (originally Dutch Guiana).
These three very small countries--Guyana [guy-AH-nah], Suriname [SUR-eh-nahm], and French Guiana [ghee-AH-nah]--huddle together on the Atlantic coast. The Guianas are largely jungle, with many rivers (especially in Guyana) and savannahs. Guyana has a national carrier, Guyana Airways (GY), which flies into the capital of Georgetown (GEO); Suriname's national airline, Suriname Airways (PY), lands in Paramaribo (PBM), the capital. Other airlines service the region as well. The gateway into French Guiana is its capital, Cayenne (CAY). These three countries' ports are occasionally stops on Southern Caribbean or South American cruise itineraries. Train, bus, and boat are the easiest ways to get around; there are also some air connections. Rental cars are available, but driving conditions aren't good.
Each of these countries has its own national language: English in Guyana, Dutch in Suriname, and French (of course) in French Guiana. The climate is tropical, with conditions steadily humid and hot (though nights from December through February can get chilly). July through November might be the best time to visit here. May and June also have pleasant temperatures, but this is the rainiest season.
* Guyana, sadly, is best remembered for the tragic Jonestown massacre in 1978. There are, however, excellent trout and ocean fishing opportunities, and some interesting sites--notably in Georgetown. There's also Kaieteur Falls, which cascades down from a height of 740 feet.
The world's tallest wooden structure is Georgetown Cathedral.
* Suriname has a strong mix of cultures and religions, including Hindu, Moslem, and Catholic. In Paramaribo, a fairly sophisticated city, there are many interesting churches, marketplaces, and colonial buildings. Jungle excursions into Suriname's nature parks and reserves appeal to ecotourists. Suriname has occasional civil unrest.
French Guiana is the launch site for France's aerospace program.
* French Guiana is the least developed country of the three. Its most noted attraction: a tour of the notorious penal colony, Devil's Island, which is offshore from Kourou. This is where the French soldier Alfred Dreyfus was unjustly imprisoned at the turn of the twentieth century. Devil's Island is a frequent stop for cruise ships heading to or from South America. On the mainland, jungle and river excursions are possibilities. But since poverty, heat, and crime are ever-present problems, such trips are suitable only for the hardiest of adventure travelers.
Since these are such challenging destinations, most people should visit the Guianas via a cruise or a well-established tour operator. Very adventurous travelers will find the Guianas an appealing challenge.
Panama hats actually originated in Ecuador.
Located in the northwest corner of South America, Ecuador borders the Pacific Ocean. The Andes mountain range shapes much of the country's geography. The climate stays fairly steady all year, though different areas vary greatly. The highlands--which include the capital, Quito (often called the City of Eternal Spring)--tend to have cool temperatures. The west coast--where Guayaquil is located--is much warmer, with highs in the 90s. Ecuador has a rainy season from January to April; the rest of the year it's very dry.
On Ecuador's Trans-Andean railroad, passengers are allowed to ride on the train's rooftops.
The national airline of Ecuador, Ecuatoriana (EU), provides service to Mariscal Sucre International Airport (UIO) in Quito and Simon Bolivar Airport (GYE) in Guayaquil, as do a few other carriers. Cruise ships dock at Guayaquil. There's good air service within the country. Visitors to the Galapagos Islands can fly to either Baltra or San Cristobal or take a boat there. Train service is limited in Ecuador, but there's a complicated series of connections between Quito and Guayaquil; the winding route through mountain passes is spectacular. Buses are very crowded, and though car rentals are widely available, road conditions aren't good. Taxis are a good way to navigate cities. Spanish is the national language.
Though Guayaquil is Ecuador's largest city, its attractions are limited to some interesting Spanish buildings and a few cultural museums. Ecuador has two major destinations: Quito and the Galapagos Islands.
Surrounded by immense mountains, Quito has a natural setting that few country capitals can match. A strong Spanish architectural influence marks the city. Quito boasts some fine museums specializing in pre-Columbian art, and a great many churches. The city's historical district, "Old Quito," is quite interesting. A beautiful day drive will take visitors to Mt. Cotopaxi, a national park. A half-day trip is 15 miles north to the equator, which is marked with a monument; some interesting ruins are along the way. Farther to the north and south lie a string of colorful towns, each with a popular marketplace (Otavalo is the best known).
The Galapagos Islands were where Charles Darwin did much of his research for his theories on evolution.
The Galapagos Islands possess some of the world's most remarkable wildlife. (The giant tortoises are believed to be the world's oldest living animals.) The cindery islands are of volcanic origin, and a few active ones still exist. The Ecuadoran government sets a strict limit on the number of visitors to the Galapagos, so trips and tours should be booked well in advance.
Ecuador is less developed than some of the more popular nations in South America. However, it's also less crowded and is relatively stable. For ecotourists, the Galapagos are a must-see (usually as part of a cruise from the South American mainland).
Few countries can boast as many well-known, first-rate attractions as can Peru. Most tourists take Aeroperu (PL) or another carrier and land first in Lima [LEE-mah] (LIM) or, via cruise ship, in the port city of Callao. They encounter a nation of dramatic contrasts: the warm, dry Pacific coast; the mighty Andes just inland (which can get quite cold during the June-to-September, south-of-the-equator winter); and the hilly, rainy jungles of the eastern lowlands, where the Amazon finds its source.
Set elsewhere, the 5,500-mile-long Andes would stretch from London to San Francisco.
Lima, which was the center of Spain's New World government, retains much of its colonial architecture, especially at Plaza de Armas. The city brims with fine museums and several ornate churches (most notable is the Church of St. Francis, which has a vast system of catacombs beneath it). Nearby are Pachacamac, an Incan ruin; Miraflores, a charming beach town; and the Nazca Plain, whose huge mysterious designs drawn on the ground have intrigued archaeologists and tourists for decades. Visible only from the air, the drawings of animals, people, and geometric shapes are best seen via local charter plane expeditions that you can book in advance.
Cuzco, the former capital of the Incan Empire, is another of Peru's well-known destinations. About 400 miles southeast of Lima, it features ancient ruins, colonial mansions, several museums, a Renaissance-style cathedral, and a world-class hotel, the Monasterio. Not far is Pucara, an ancient Incan fortress. But Pucara pales in comparison to Peru's most remarkable attraction, Machu Picchu. Perched high in a dramatic Andes setting and hidden until it was rediscovered in 1911 by former U.S. Senator Hiram Bingham, Machu Picchu boasts more than 200 Incan temples, terraces, and residences. Most tourists visit it via a special morning train from Cuzco, returning in the late afternoon.
Soroche is what Peruvian locals call altitude sickness.
Iquitos [ee-KEE-tos], a city on the Amazon in northeast Peru, is the jump-off point for "Green Hell" boat tours up the Amazon River into the jungle.
What draws visitors to Peru? The country's felicitous climate, accessible location, startling scenery, budget prices, and high-recognition attractions make it one of Latin America's easiest "sells." It's frequently an add-on destination to such bordering countries as Ecuador, Colombia, Brazil, Bolivia, and Chile. Many escorted tour packages are available to this "soft" adventure country.
There are problems related to a trip to Peru. As with many Latin American destinations, poverty leads to petty crime, terrorism, and health concerns--even in Lima and Cuzco. These problems, as well as inflation and limited hotel space, make booking packaged tours an advisable sales strategy. Since budget hotels leave much to be desired, upselling to luxury-class accommodations is an attractive option. Travelers to the region should discuss with their physicians possible treatments for preventing or minimizing altitude sickness.
Bolivia's Aymara Indians were the first to cultivate the potato.
Located in the center of the continent, Bolivia is one of the two landlocked countries in South America. (The other is Paraguay.) It's dominated by the Andes and is at extremely high altitudes; in fact, the thin air might be difficult for most visitors until they adjust. La Paz, the world's highest capital city, is in the far west-central portion of the country, not far from Lake Titicaca.
Visitors can reach Bolivia by air, landing at El Alto Airport (LPB) in La Paz. LAB (LB) is the national carrier, though other airlines service the country. The railway network is extensive, but trains are slow. There are air connections between major cities, as well. Because of the high altitudes, the climate in Bolivia is cooler than in the rest of South America; June through August, especially, is extremely chilly. The regions deepest in the mountains get quite cold. Spanish is the national language.
The two main sites for tourists in Bolivia are around La Paz and Lake Titicaca. Here are some of the most popular attractions:
* La Paz is a modern, fairly sophisticated city. The main boulevard and hotel area, El Prado, provides fascinating markets of all kinds, including a legal "black market." The city also has many fine cultural museums. The drive to the Chacaltaya ski run is breathtakingly stunning, but its steep and winding curves should be recommended only for the fearless.
* Tiahuanaco, with its famed ancient stone ruins and the unusual rock formations of the Valley of the Sun, is 40 miles from La Paz.
* Lake Titicaca is shared by Bolivia and Peru, though it's most commonly accessed from Bolivia. It's the highest navigable lake in the world. Copacabana is a popular, lively resort on its southwestern shore.
Chacaltaya, at 18,000 feet, is the world's highest ski run.
Bolivia is a beautiful country but quite challenging. It should especially be recommended to more adventurous travelers. It's very well suited as an extension of a trip to Peru, since Lake Titicaca covers parts of both countries. Bolivia has begun to take advantage of its appeal to ecotourists. Many specialized tour companies are developing and selling adventure tours that appeal to hikers, campers, and lovers of nature. Because so much of Bolivia is at high altitudes, visitors may need some time to adjust.
The Mennonite sect, which is best known for its presence in Pennsylvania Dutch country, also settled in Paraguay and Mexico's Copper Canyon.
Paraguay, just east of the Andes, is the second of South America's two landlocked countries. The capital city, Asuncion (ASU), is the gateway into Paraguay; buses are the most common means of getting around. The climate is hot from September to April, with rain possible at any time of the year. It's also fairly humid. From May through August, the temperature finally cools down to the 70s during the day. The national language here, too, is Spanish.
Paraguay offers some pleasing attractions for those who visit it:
* Asuncion is a charming city. There's an odd, small-town feel here, with trees and gardens everywhere. The city's slow pace is especially evident during a three-hour siesta at midday. There are some churches, parks, and museums. A particularly charming train ride leads to the botanical garden and zoo. For cruise lovers, the Paraguay River connects Asuncion to Buenos Aires, Argentina.
* The Golden Triangle is the eastern farmland area of Paraguay. Visitors will find small, old villages throughout the Golden Triangle.
* Iguazu Falls is at Paraguay's eastern border. Very few tourists, however, access the falls from Paraguay, choosing instead Brazil or Argentina, which are more strategically located to the Falls.
Since it's often missed on the larger "sampler" tours of South America's highlights, Paraguay is a good recommendation for travelers returning to this southerly continent for a second visit. A jungle safari trip is often part of a more general escorted tour package. Paraguay is well known for its shopping opportunities. Because of holiday festivities, it's not advisable to go during December and January. May through September (winter) probably offers the most pleasant weather and the fewest crowds.
Tucked between Brazil and Argentina, Uruguay is one of the most European countries of South America and one of the safest. For this reason, it's one of the continent's most visited nations. Its capital, Montevideo [mon-tay-vee-DAY-o] (MVD), on the southern coast, is where most visitors arrive, either by air or by cruise. Ninety miles east is the superb Punta del Este, the most famous beach resort on Uruguay's 200-mile-long "Riviera of South America."
Uruguay has a very comfortable, temperate climate. Its lengthy summer lasts from November until March. July is the coldest month, with daytime temperatures in the 50s. Rental cars are widely available and visitors might enjoy driving around the countryside. (Montevideo's traffic, though, can be insane.) There's also a good bus system. Spanish is the national language.
Though small, Uruguay has some particularly interesting sites:
Montevideo is well-known for its cuisine.
* Montevideo is a friendly and spacious city. Many of its attractions surround the Plaza Independencia, including the mosaics and marble of the Palacio Legislativo and the beautiful Teatro Solis. There are also very good parks, markets, and museums. The nearby resort town of Carrasco has excellent beaches and grand old mansions. And a half-hour away is Tablada, often called the "Town of the Gauchos."
A hovercraft carries passengers between Buenos Aires and Montevideo.
* Colonia is about 70 miles west of Montevideo and a one-hour trip, via hydrofoil, from Buenos Aires, Argentina. The historic town preserves the cobblestoned and walled ambiance of Spanish and Portuguese colonial times.
* The "Riviera" runs east from Montevideo. Punta del Este is its most popular resort. Trendy and lively, it offers gambling and has many nightclubs. Excellent fishing is nearby.
Uruguay is a good choice for people interested in exotic nature, for gamblers, and for those who want to visit a South American country largely free of crime and political turmoil. It's also a wonderful add-on to a visit to Brazil and/or Argentina. Punta del Este is popular with sun-seekers who love "discovering" a new resort destination. Air day trips from Montevideo to Buenos Aires or to Iguazu Falls are potential cross-sell opportunities.
Many find the country's blend of cultures rather intriguing. (Uruguay, like Argentina, has many people of Italian and German descent.) This--and the availability of fine meats from Uruguay's ranches--makes for an especially diversified cuisine.
The Tango originated in Argentina at the end of the nineteenth century.
Argentina, South America's second largest country and a magnet for tourism, is about one-third the size of the United States. The country shares its western border with Chile; the Andes serve as a border between the two. Its major city and capital is Buenos Aires. The popular beach resort Mar del Plata is south of Buenos Aires. The Lake District is in the western part of the country, near the Andes.
There's a very strong European influence in Argentina, where a local is almost as likely to have an Italian name as a Hispanic one. Though Spanish is the national language, English is widely spoken in the major cities. Buenos Aires is the gateway into Argentina for cruises and for flights, at Ezeiza Ministro Pistarini Airport (EZE). Flying time from New York is nine hours; from Los Angeles it's 14 hours. Aerolineas Argentinas (AR) is Argentina's large national carrier, though many other airlines serve the country. Within Argentina, there's very good air service. There are also good bus and railroad networks. Car rentals are widely available, but distances can be long and challenging in some areas and city traffic is hectic. The weather in Buenos Aires is wonderful: The summer months of December through February hit the mid-80s and descend to the mid-60s at night. Winter (June through August) is cooler but still pleasant (see Figure 13-1).
More than one-third of all Argentine are of Italian descent. Southern Argentina's indigenous people wrapped their feet in furs. So Spanish explorers called them "Patagones," or "big feet." Hence Patagonia.
[FIGURE 13-1 OMITTED]
No visitor to Argentina should miss a stay in Buenos Aires, one of the world's great cities, with lively, active nightlife. Considered by some to be a South American Paris (some of the buildings even have gray mansard roofs), sprawling Buenos Aires is very cosmopolitan and has wonderful cuisine, top fashion, good museums, many parks, and wide boulevards. The city is also fairly safe for tourists. Notable attractions are:
* Plaza de Mayo, the political heart of the city, with colonial buildings and the city's cathedral. Its Casa Rosa (Pink House) is a landmark government building.
* Avenida 9 de Julio, reputedly the widest boulevard in the world.
* Colon Theater, a huge, world-class opera house that has hosted the likes of Toscanini, Nijinski, and Baryshnikov. Tours are offered regularly.
* Diverse neighborhoods, such as San Telmo, the old colonial section with cobblestone streets, tango nightclubs, and markets. Another fun neighborhood to visit is La Boca, the Italian district, noted for its intensely colored buildings, fine art galleries, alfresco dining opportunities, and lively restaurants.
* Calle Florida, a popular pedestrian-only street of shops and stores (including many leather manufacturers who will provide a custom-made coat in 24 hours).
On Calle Florida is a replica of Big Ben's tower, given to Buenos Aires by the city of London.
Some of Argentina's other destinations include:
* Mar del Plata, about 250 miles south of Buenos Aires, with five miles of great beaches. There are hundreds of hotels, excellent shopping, and a huge casino.
* Iguazu Falls, probably the widest waterfall in the world. The falls are shared by Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay but are more often visited from Brazil.
* The Lake District, often compared to Switzerland. The town of Bariloche, just south of Lake Nahuel Huapi [nah-WEL wah-PEE], is a popular year-round resort; summer offers great fishing, whereas the winter season (from June through October) provides excellent skiing. Other major ski resorts are Las Lenas and Chapelco. Nahuel Huapi National Park is a beautiful, immense natural wonder.
* Patagonia, a vast stretch of land in southern Argentina, is famous for its animals, birds, and rolling, largely unspoiled countryside. To its south is the Strait of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego (shared with Chile), and the port of Ushuaia--all of which are important ports on cruises around the tip of South America or to Antarctica.
Gaucho ranches feature barbecued meals and horseback riding on the pampas (broad, grassy plains).
The Alicar Palace is considered to be the best hotel in Buenos Aires.
Argentina will appeal to those who want a European flavor to their Latin American experience. It's safer than many other South American destinations, an important consideration for some. For those planning to travel around the country, an air package is ideal. Argentineans love sports of all kinds; sports packages are therefore an attractive cross-sell for Argentina-bound travelers. Tourists almost always visit one of the tango clubs in Buenos Aires and it's usually worth the experience. Buenos Aires was once Latin America's most expensive city, but an unpredictable economy has made it a more reasonable destination.
Chile is 2,650 miles long and has no rivers of any size.
This pencil-thin country--at one point, it's only 56 miles wide--snakes down the west coast of South America to the tip of the continent. Chile is separated from Argentina by the Andes. Most of the interesting sites are in the central plains of the country. The area is flanked by bone-dry desert to the north, whereas the south (split by the Strait of Magellan and reaching almost to Antarctica) breaks up into little islands and fjordlike inlets. Chile's capital, Santiago, is located almost directly in the center of the country. Northwest of it is the major port of Valparaiso and the popular beach resort, Vina del Mar. A bit farther north is Portillo, a major ski resort. Another of Chile's most famous sites is actually more than 2,000 miles west of the mainland: Easter Island, with its mysterious, giant statues.
LAN-Chile (LA) and Ladeco (UC) are the national airlines and fly into the gateway of Santiago (SCL). Valparaiso is the port of entry for cruises. Air service and trains (basically limited to the southern part of the country) connect the major cities. Chile has an excellent bus system. Car rentals are widely available, though some of the conditions off the Pan-American Highway can be quite difficult. Spanish is the national language.
The leader of Chile's war of independence was named Bernardo O'Higgins.
The weather in Santiago from November through March (summer) is pleasant and dry, but it can get hot. Winter gets chilly, dropping to as low as the 30s at night. Vina del Mar's climate tends to be milder throughout the year. On Easter Island, the weather is temperate, ranging between 60 and 80 degrees.
Santiago, surrounded by the Andes, offers beautiful scenery, lovely colonial architecture, and many modern structures. The city has good museums and an excellent planetarium.
The most interesting sites include:
* Plaza de Armas, where many of the finest colonial buildings are found, including the huge cathedral and the National Historical Museum.
* San Francisco Church and Colonial Art Museum, a fascinating complex.
* Fantisilandia, a popular amusement park. In addition to Santiago, Chile provides tourists with other wonderful places to visit, including:
* Vina del Mar, a very expensive, fashionable beach resort.
* Portillo, one of the world's finest ski resorts, open at full operation from June through September and on a more limited basis the rest of the year. A lively ski carnival takes place here in August (which, of course, is in the middle of winter!). Two other Chilean ski resorts are Valle Nevado and Chillan.
* Easter Island, far off in the Pacific, with a volcanic, tree-stripped landscape. There's great mystery behind its ancient culture. The most famous attractions here are the huge statues, erected most probably for religious purposes. The island can be reached via air (a five-hour flight from the mainland of Chile) or cruise.
Easter Island may have been the world's first man-made ecological disaster. The natives completely deforested the island.
For many years, Chile was under military rule. However, it's once again a democracy, and tourism is on the rise. The country provides opportunities for skiers as well as beach lovers. Expeditions to Easter Island are popular with culture-seekers.
TRAVEL TRIVIA Ten Top Whale-Watching Areas * Patagonia, Argentina * Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary, Antarctica * Bay of Samana, Dominican Republic * Campbell River, BC * Cape Cod, MA * Baja California * Kaikoura, New Zealand * Cape Town to Cape Agulhas, South Africa * Shikoku, Japan * Lofoten Islands, Norway SOURCE: World Wildlife Fund
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MAP ACTIVITY [ILLUSTRATION OMITTED] A traveler wants to visit the places listed below. Which number represents each on the map? Place/Attraction In Which Country? Number on Map A. Montevideo A. -- A. -- B. Quito B. -- B. -- C. Tikal C. -- C. -- D. Cartagena D. -- D. -- E. Machu Picchu E. -- E. -- F. World's highest capital F. -- F. -- G. Angel Falls G. -- G. -- H. Buenos Aires H. -- H. -- I. Santiago I. -- I. -- J. The Golden Triangle J. -- J. --
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CASE STUDY German and Leah Ruiz are a couple in their late thirties. Though they were both born in the United States, German's grandparents are from Venezuela, and he has relatives there whom he's never met. They plan to take a 10-day trip; six days will be spent in Venezuela and the remaining time they'll spend in Buenos Aires. They don't have to worry about an itinerary in Venezuela; the relatives will take care of that. Buenos Aires is another matter and that's where they'll need some help. Circle the answer that best suits their needs: (1) They want to visit an old Italian district known for its colorful houses. Where should they go? La Boca Plaza de Mayo San Telmo Portillo Why? (2) They'd like to squeeze in a natural wonder on their way from Venezuela to Buenos Aires. Which would be impossible for them to visit? Angel Falls Iguazu Falls The Amazon The Sea of Tranquility Why? (3) Which of the following services would be most appropriate for you to book for them in Buenos Aires? A cruise on Lake Titicaca A city tour An Amazon cruise A ski package Why? (4) They decide that they want to drive down the coast for a couple of days and spend some time at a beach resort. Which should it be? Mar del Plata Punta del Este Vina del Mar Villa D'Este Why?
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CREATIVE ACTIVITY A new Star Wars movie is in the works. Here's the plot: Luke Skywalker, now an old man, must find a successor to carry on the Jedi tradition. At the same time he is pursued by the evil clone of Darth Vader. First, Skywalker goes to a planet of mountains and ice. Then he travels to a hot, jungle planet. He leaves its lowlands, crosses a parched desert, and climbs to a mysterious ruined city in the cliffs, where a Yoda-like creature gives him many clues. But his pursuers catch up to him here. They chase him behind vast waterfalls and corner him in a fjord. What? Did you think we'd give away the ending?! Anyway, you're the producer for this movie. You must find the necessary locations to shoot the scenes described. You decide, Why not shoot the entire film in Latin America? It will save money, and it has all the scenery needed. In which Latin American place would you put up cast and crew for each location, assuming that you could take them by train or bus to and from the location each day? (Don't worry about the routing from base to location.) Assume flights are available to all places--no need to look up schedules. Setting Place? (1) Mountains and ice (1) (2) Jungle (2) (3) Desert (3) (4) City in the cliffs (4) (5) Waterfalls (5) (6) Fjord (6) What might be your flight itinerary for this shoot, assuming it starts and ends in Los Angeles?
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PULLING IT ALL TOGETHER: THE MATCHING GAME Directions: Below is a list of cities, attractions, and so on, some which we have covered, some which we haven't. There are all manner of connections among them. With your group, you have exactly 10 minutes to come up with as many connections as possible. (Items may be used more than once.) Write your answers below. Note: There are at least 20 possible connections. For example, Sugar Loaf and Corcovado--both are mountains. Dunns River Bogota Bariloche Galapagos Vina del Mar Iguazu Machu Picchu Las Hadas Sierra Madres Las Brisas Asuncion Sugar Loaf Angel Corcovado French Guiana Copacabana Andes Easter Plaza de Mayo Chichen Itza Cayman Copan Mar del Plata Haiti Portillo Bonaire Zocalo
Marc Mancini, PhD
Department of Travel
West Los Angeles College
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|Title Annotation:||LATIN AMERICA AND THE CARIBBEAN Rhythms of Culture|
|Publication:||Selling Destinations, Geography for the Travel Professional, 4th ed.|
|Date:||Jan 1, 2004|
|Previous Article:||Chapter 12 Brazil where everything sizzles.|
|Next Article:||Part IV Europe continental flair.|