Shimmering, Simmering, South America
By Marguerite DuBosque
South America is a wondrous combination of glorious natural wonders – breathtaking mountains, shimmering rainforests, spectacular waterfalls, white sand beaches, alpine lakes, and dramatic glaciers. Although it is a continent of extreme natural beauty, it also offers sophisticated travelers some of the finest world-class cities-showcases of gorgeous European-style colonial architecture, and alive with fantastic entertainment, cuisine, and wine. Situated between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, the sun literally rises over the majestic mountains of Brazil and sets on the snow-capped peaks of neighboring Chile.
Many travelers to South America begin their sojourn in Rio de Janeiro, the pulsating “sun and fun” capital of this southern most continent. Rio is known the world over for its legendary beaches and numerous sightseeing opportunities. No visit to Rio is complete without experiencing the iconic statue of Christ the redeemer, majestically perched atop Corcovado Mountain. It rises 2,300 feet from the bay below, and can be reached via a scenic cog railway ride to the top. And no visit to Rio would be complete without a dinner of churrascaria – the delectable feast of barbecued meats, marinated and roasted over charcoal in the true Brazilian style. And lastly, no visit to Rio can possibly be complete until the fortunate tourist finally shops for some precious gems of rainbow hues, mined right here in Brazil. The variety, beauty, and excellent pricing of these precious stones are downright mind-boggling – mere mortals have been known to swoon at their site.
The next stop on our thrilling South American odyssey will be the incomparable Iguassu Falls, which straddle the borders of both Argentina and Brazil. This magnificent panorama of waterfalls is nothing short of magical. Vibrant flying “carpets” of blue Morpho butterflies are as thick as the rising mist, spray, and fog, of this amazing natural wonder. Those in the know claim that Iguassu Falls are more magnificent than either Niagara Falls in North America or Victoria Falls in Africa!
Moving right along, we take a flight to Buenos Aires, one of the most exciting cities of the world. Buenos Aires, often referred to as “Big Apple,” has often been called “the Paris of South America.” With its wide boulevards, outdoor cafes, and countless parks, this is a city that never fails to delight its visitors. The Broadway show “Evita,” and the ensuing movie of the same name – starring Madonna – only served to heighten its fame.
The rhythm of South America is surely the samba beat. The sounds of the tango – the romantic and heart-rending national dance of Argentina – reverberate throughout the country, day, and night. And this is “gaucho country – the name of the South American cowboy – so expect big and bountiful beef dinners!
Next stop – Welcome to Santiago, Chile’s cosmopolitan capital! The country of Chile is a 2,600-mile wide ribbon, lining the scenic coast of the Pacific Ocean. It is more than 10-times longer than it is wide, and Santiago itself is located in the center of the country, perched between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific. Chile is a country of great contrasts and variety – from the wine country of the Maipo Valley to the lofty ski slopes of Portillo, and in the extreme south, the beginning of Antarctica. The ski season in Chile and Argentina runs wild from mid-June to October, as their seasons are the opposite of ours.
Daytrips from Santiago are numerous and convenient. One of the favorite offerings is the trip to wine country, just a couple hours south of the capital. The fauna, flora, and climate here are so similar to our own California wine country – one would think they were actually in Napa Valley.
Another extremely popular day trip is the combination of visiting Vina del Mar and Valparaiso. Driving through the rolling hills of Chile’s Curacavi Valley, one is struck by the sheer variety of fruits and vegetables thriving in the rich soil. This are is nicknamed “the fruit basket of the world” and for good reason.
Vina del Mar is a modern resort known for its stupendous gardens. It was founded in 1874 as a weekend getaway for wealthy Chileans, and its shore is lined wonderful seafood restaurants. The town boasts elegant mansions and lovely beaches. After lunch the tour continues to Valparaiso, a superbly picturesque seaport and Chile’s major port city. It bustles with exotic energy, with shipping containers arriving from and departing to all corners of the Earth.
The continent of South America, given its wide variety of tourism opportunities, appeals to every type of traveler – beach fanatic, architecture buff, history scholar, foodie, wine aficionado, skier, and of course – The fisherman! The lakes od Chile and Argentina are known the world over to be brimming with fish, just waiting to become a story-teller’s legend and a delectable evening meal.
One excellent reason to visit this region right now is that it is considered to be heartland of ecotourism. “Green” tourism is the rage right now in the world of travel. Latin America was one of the first continents to jump onto this important bandwagon. Its many countries aspire to offer travel experiences that bring focus and attention to the fragile ecosystems and indigenous people of the region. Such awareness may indeed foster a greater appreciation of the delicate balance between nature and man.
Air travel time from the United States to South America could not be easier. There are numerous non-stop and well-priced flights from major cities in the United States to capitals in South America. One terrific selling point is that there is virtually no jetlag, as the continent enjoys roughly the same time zones as the United States.
Another important reason to consider South America right now is the favorable exchange rate of the U.S dollar to their currencies – no “Euro blues”! the side trips available to tourists are truly amazing – Peru, the Galapagos Islands, the Amazon, Antarctica, and even Easter Island.
Make your plans to travel down to South America NOW! Board that giant silver jet and experience South America in all its glory!