South American Attractions

South American Attractions

Top Ten Venezuelan Attractions

Top Ten Venezuelan Attractions

       Venezuela is a country on the northern coast of South America covering an area of 916,445 square km (353,841 sq mi) with an estimated population of 29,105,632. Venezuela is considered a state with extremely high biodiversity, with habitats ranging from the Andes mountains in the west to the Amazon Basin rainforest in the south, via extensive llanos plains and Caribbean coast in the center and the Orinoco River Delta in the east. Venezuela was colonized by Spain in 1522 despite resistance from indigenous peoples and became the first Spanish American colony to declare independence (in 1811), but did not securely establish independence until 1821 (as a department of the federal republic of Gran Colombia, gaining full independence in 1830). During the 19th century Venezuela suffered political turmoil and dictatorship, and it was dominated by regional caudillos (military strongmen) well into the 20th century. The country has intermittently had democratic governments between 1945 and the present day; like most countries of Latin America, it has suffered some coups and military dictatorships. Economic shocks in the 1980’s and 1990’s led to a political crisis causing up to 3,000 deaths in the Caracazo riots of 1989, two attempted coups in 1992, and the impeachment of President Carlos Andrés Pérez for embezzlement of public funds in 1993. A collapse in confidence in the existing parties saw the 1998 election of former career officer Hugo Chávez, and the launch of the Bolivarian Revolution, beginning with a 1999 Constituent Assembly to write a new Constitution of Venezuela. Venezuela is a federal presidential republic consisting of 23 states, the Capital District (covering Caracas), and Federal Dependencies (covering Venezuela’s offshore islands). Venezuela claims all Guyanese territory west of the Essequibo River; this 159,500 square km (61,583 sq mi) tract was dubbed Guayana Esequiba or the Zona en Reclamación (the “zone being reclaimed”). Venezuela is among the most urbanized countries in Latin America; the vast majority of Venezuelans live in the cities of the north, especially in the capital, Caracas, which is also the largest city. Since the discovery of oil in the early 20th century, Venezuela has been one of the world’s leading exporters of oil and has the largest oil reserves. Previously an underdeveloped exporter of agricultural commodities such as coffee and cocoa, oil quickly came to dominate exports and government revenues.

  1. Canaima National Park

           Canaima National Park is a 30,000 km² park in south-eastern Venezuela that borders Brazil and Guyana. It is located in Bolívar State, and roughly occupies the same area as the Gran Sabana region. The park was established on June 12, 1962. It is the 2nd largest park in the country, after Parima-Tapirapecó, and 6th biggest national park in the world, equal, in size to both Belgium and Maryland. About 65% of the park is occupied by plateaus of rock called tepuis. These constitute a unique biological environment, also of a great geological interest. Its sheer cliffs and waterfalls (including the Angel Falls, which is the highest waterfall in the world, to 1,002 m) are spectacular landscapes. The most famous tepuis in the park are Mount Roraima, the tallest and easiest to climb, and Auyantepui, from which fall the Angel Falls. The tepuis are sandstone and date back to a time when South America and Africa were part of a super-continent. The park is home to indigenous Pemon Indians, part of the Carib linguistic group. The Pemon have an intimate relationship with the Tepuis, and believe they are the home of the ‘Mawari’ spirits. The park is relatively remote, with only a few roads connecting towns. Most transport within the park is done by light plane from the airstrips built by various Capuchin missions, or by foot and canoe. Pemons have developed some basic and luxurious camps, which are mainly visited by tourists from across the world. In 1994 the Canaima National Park was named a World Heritage Site by UNESCO, as a natural reserve that has abrupt relief special and unique around the world, the tepuis, which are a kind of plateau of millions of years old, with vertical walls and almost flat tops.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, Top Ten Waterfalls, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canaima_National_Park,
  2. Los Roques Archipelago

           The Los Roques islands are a federal dependency of Venezuela, consisting of about 350 islands, cays or islets. The archipelago is located 80 miles (128 km) directly north of the port of La Guaira, and is a 40-minute flight, has a total area of 40.61 square kilometers. Being almost an untouched coral reef, it attracts many “high-end” visitors, especially from Europe, some of which come in their own yachts and anchor in the inner, protected shallow waters. However, development and tourism are controlled. Because of the wide variety of seabirds and rich aquatic life, the Venezuelan government declared Los Roques a National Park in 1972.
    Links: Top Ten Reefs, Top 100 Beaches, National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Roques_Archipelago,
  3. Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas

    The University City of Caracas is the main Campus of the Central University of Venezuela. It was designed by the Venezuelan architect Carlos Raúl Villanueva and was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2000. The Ciudad Universitaria de Caracas is considered a masterpiece of architecture and urban planning and is the only university campus designed by a single architect in the 20th century that has received such recognition by UNESCO. The Campus and buildings of the Universidad Central de Venezuela are considered to be Villanueva’s masterwork. Built on the site of the old Hacienda Ibarra, which originally belonged to Simon Bolívar’s family and connected to the new city center around Plaza Venezuela, the project required a massive undertaking of both urban planning and architectural design. The administration of President Isaías Medina Angarita bought the Hacienda Ibarra in 1942 in order to give the University a larger location than the Saint Francis Covent, giving Villanueva a unique opportunity to apply his conscious integration of art and architecture on a grand scale. This vast urban complex of about 2 km² included a total of forty buildings and it became one of the most successful applications of Modern Architecture in Latin America. Villanueva worked closely with all the artists who contributed with their oeuvres and personally supervised the project for over 25 years until the late 1960’s when his deteriorating health forced him to leave some buildings in the design stage.
    Links: Top Ten Architectural Works by Carlos Villanueva, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciudad_Universitaria_de_Caracas,
  4. City of La Guaira

           La Guaira is the capital city of the Venezuelan state of Vargas and the country’s chief port. It was founded in 1577 as an outlet for Caracas, 30 km (19 mi) to the southeast. The town and the port were badly damaged during the December 1999 floods and mudslides that affected much of the region. Today, La Guaira exports cocoa beans, coffee, and tobacco. After the founding of Caracas by the Spanish in 1567, toward the turn of the 16th century, the Port of La Guaira emerged on the coast and, since that time, has been the gateway to Caracas. This coastal city, almost without land to develop and bathed by the Caribbean Sea, became an important harbor during the 18th century. Attacked by buccaneers and by the English, Dutch and French armadas, La Guaira was transformed into a fortified, walled city. During the War of Jenkins’ Ear (1739 – 1748), the Battle of La Guaira took place off the coast of La Guaira. This period also saw the trading monopoly of the Real Compañía Guipuzcoana de Caracas, which controlled the major ports of La Guaira and Puerto Cabello and was instrumental in the development of large-scale cocoa production along the valleys of the coast. Another small naval battle was fought off La Guaira in 1812, between privateers of the U.S. and the UK. Now this is the second port by importance in Venezuela after Port of Puerto Cabello.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten South American Cities, Top Ten Portshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/La_Guaira,
  5. Ciudad Bolivar

           Ciudad Bolívar is the capital of Venezuela’s southeastern Bolivar State. It was founded with the name Angostura in 1764, renamed in 1846, and, as of 2005, had an estimated population of 338,250. The town lies at a narrowing of the Orinoco River and the original name was a contraction of the town’s full descriptive name, Santo Tomé de Guayana de Angostura del Orinoco (“Saint Thomas of Guiana of the narrows of the Orinoco”). The city lies at a spot where the Orinoco narrows to about 1 mile (1.6 km) in width, and is the site of the first bridge across the river. Another bridge has recently been constructed downstream at Puerto Ordaz. Ciudad Bolivar’s historic centre is in a good state of preservation, with original colonial buildings around the Plaza Bolívar, including a cathedral. It today serves as an important port on the Orinoco River for the eastern regions of Venezuela. One of the Orinoco Basin’s chief commercial centers, its main products include gold, iron ore, cattle, hides and rare woods. The town also gave its name to the Angostura tree which grows in the area. The bark of the small shrub-like tree was traditionally used as a bitter tonic and fever reducer. Angostura bitters were invented there, though the company which produced them has since moved to Trinidad and Tobago. In 1973 a Museum of Modern Art opened. It was designed by Carlos Raúl Villanueva and was named after the city’s famous son, the kinetic sculptor Jesús Rafael Soto.
    Links: Top Ten Architectural Works by Carlos Raúl Villanueva, Top Ten Sculptures by Jesús Rafael Soto, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciudad_Bol%C3%ADvar,
  6. Hacienda Chuao (Chuao Plantation)

           Chuao is a small village located in the northern coastal range of Venezuela. It was founded in the 16th century. The village is famous for its cacao plantations where some of the finest cocoa beans in the world are produced. The village is surrounded by mountains and dense rainforests to the south and by the Caribbean Sea to the north. There is no road access and visitors must come by boat from the town of Puerto Colombia along the coast, or by foot, crossing the mountains and the luxurious cloud forest from Turmero near Maracay. In the Chuao plantation there are currently pure Criollo and hybrid varieties of cacao being grown. Criollo beans from Chuao are of very high quality, and are considered Venezuela’s finest beans together with Porcelana Blanca beans from Lake Maracaibo (another genetically pure variety of Criollo).
    Links: Top Ten Chocolates, Top Ten Chocolate Makers, Top Ten Cacao Regionshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chuao,
  7. Coro and its Port

           Coro, also known as Santa Ana de Coro, is the capital of Falcón State and the oldest city in the west of Venezuela.
    Links: Top Ten Ports, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Ana_de_Coro,
  8. Links: Top Ten South American Attractions, Top Ten Venezuelan Hotels, Top Ten Venezuelan Restaurantshttp://whc.unesco.org/en/statesparties/vehttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Venezuela,

Recommendations for Vacationing in Venezuela

Top Ten Uruguayan Attractions

Top Ten Uruguayan Attractions

       Uruguay is a country located in the south eastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area. An estimated 88% of the population is of European descent. Colonia del Sacramento, one of the oldest European settlements in the country, was founded by the Portuguese in 1680 and Montevideo was founded by the Spanish in the early 18th century as a military stronghold. Uruguay won its independence in 1811–28 following a three-way struggle between the claims of Spain, Argentina and Brazil. It is a constitutional democracy, with a president who is both the head of state and the head of government. Uruguay is one of the most economically developed countries in South America, with a high GDP per capita and the 52nd highest Human Development Index in the world as of 2010, and the first by human development in Latin America. Uruguay is also noted for its low levels of corruption, being ranked by Transparency International as the 2nd least corrupt country in Latin America behind Chile. It was the highest rated country in Latin America on Legatum’s 2010 Prosperity Index, with good political and labor conditions. Reader’s Digest ranked Uruguay as the 9th “Most livable and greenest” country in the world, and first in all the Americas. Uruguay is ranked highest in Latin America on the Global Peace Index.Uruguay and Bolivia were also the only countries in the Americas which did not go into recession as a result of the late 2000’s financial crisis. In 2009,Uruguay became the first nation in the world to provide every school child with a free laptop and wireless internet.

  1. Montévideo

    Montevideo is the largest city, the capital, and the chief port of Uruguay. The settlement was established in 1726 by Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, as a strategic move amidst a Spanish-Portuguese dispute over the platine region, and as a counter to the Portuguese colony at Colonia del Sacramento. According to the census of 2004, Montevideo has a population of 1,325,968 (about half of Uruguay’s population). It has an area of 530 square km (200 sq mi) and extends 20 km (12 mi) from west to east. The southernmost cosmopolitan capital city in the Americas and 3rd most southern in the world, it is situated in the southern coast of the country, on the northeastern bank of the Río de la Plata, “Silver River.” The city was under brief British rule in 1807 and was involved in the first major naval battle in WWII: the Battle of the River Plate. It is also the place where the Montevideo convention was signed, in 1933, by 19 nations of the Americas. The city hosted the 1st FIFA World Cup in 1930. Montevideo has a rich architectural and cultural heritage, the latter including tango and candombe. According to Mercer Human Resource Consulting, in 2007 Montevideo provided the highest quality of life in Latin America. Described as a “vibrant, eclectic place with a rich cultural life,” it is the hub of commerce and higher education in Uruguay: its first university, the Universidad de la República, was founded in 1849. The architecture of Montevideo reflects its history, ranging from colonial to Art Deco, and influenced by Spanish, Portuguese, Italian, French and British immigrants.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten South American Cities, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Montevideo,
  2. Palacio Legislativo

           The Legislative Palace in Montevideo, Uruguay, is the name of the working place of the General Assembly of Uruguay.
    Links: Palaces, Top Ten South American Palaces, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Palacio_Legislativo_%28Uruguay%29,
  3. Historic Quarter of the City of Colonia del Sacramento

           Colonia del Sacramento is a city in southwestern Uruguay, by the Río de la Plata, facing Buenos Aires, Argentina. It is the oldest town in Uruguay and capital of the departamento of Colonia. It has a population of around 22,000. It is renowned for its historic quarter, a World Heritage Site. Modern Colonia del Sacramento produces textiles and has a free trade zone, in addition to a polytechnic centre and various government buildings.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colonia_del_Sacramento,
  4. Chamangá: A Rock Paintings Area

    Chamangá is an area within a rocky terrain in the Flores Department of Uruguay, where a considerable quantity of ancient rock art has survived. The Chamangá River, a tributary of the Yí River, flows nearby. In recent years there has been some considerable interest in these examples of rock art, both by the Uruguayan government and by academic researchers.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chamang%C3%A1,
  5. Architectural Works of Eladio Dieste

           Eladio Dieste (December 10, 1917 – Montevideo, July 29, 2000) was a Uruguayan engineer and architect who made his reputation by building a range of structures from grain silos, factory sheds, markets and churches, all in Uruguay and all of exceptional elegance. His uncle was the poet Rafael Dieste. A particular innovation was his Gaussian vault, a thin-shell structure for roofs in single-thickness brick, that derives its stiffness and strength from a double curvature catenary arch form that resists buckling failure. There were several architects in South and Latin America who were working in the modernist idiom, such as Carlos Raúl Villanueva in Venezuela and Félix Candela in Mexico, but Dieste, was one of the few to bring architecture and structural engineering into close proximity, especially in the service of sometimes humble commissions. His buildings were mostly roofed with thin shell vaults constructed of brick and ceramic tiles. These forms were cheaper than reinforced concrete, and didn’t require ribs and beams. In developing this approach, even in comparison with modernists the world over, he was an innovator. Dieste is quoted about his use of materials and structure: “There are deep moral/practical reasons for our search which give form to our work: with the form we create we can adjust to the laws of matter with all reverence, forming a dialogue with reality and its mysteries in essential communion…For architecture to be truly constructed, the materials must be used with profound respect for their essence and possibilities; only thus can ‘cosmic economy’ be achieved… in agreement with the profound order of the world; only then can have that authority that so astounds us in the great works of the past.” With regard to structure Dieste stated: “The resistant virtues of the structure that we make depend on their form; it is through their form that they are stable and not because of an awkward accumulation of materials. There is nothing more noble and elegant from an intellectual viewpoint than this; resistance through form.” Many of the techniques that he developed to achieve these forms, such as pre-stressing of brickwork and moveable formworks, were in advance of contemporary techniques in the developed world.
    Links: Top Ten Architectural Works by Eladio Dieste, Top 100 Architectural Works, Top 100 Architects, Top Ten South American Architectural Workshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eladio_Dieste,
  6. Cultural landscape and Industrial Fray Bentos

    Fray Bentos is the capital of the Río Negro Department of western Uruguay and it is a port on the Uruguay River. It is located close to the border with Argentina and about 160 km (99 mi) due north of Buenos Aires.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fray_Bentos,
  7. Links: Top Ten South American Attractions, Top Ten Uruguayan Hotels, Top Ten Uruguayan Restaurants, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Uruguay,

Gnosis Approved Products

Top Ten Peruvian Attractions

Top Ten Peruvian Attractions

       Peru is a country in western South America. It is bordered on the north by Ecuador and Colombia, on the east by Brazil, on the southeast by Bolivia, on the south by Chile, and on the west by the Pacific Ocean. Peruvian territory was home to the Norte Chico civilization, one of the oldest in the world, and to the Inca Empire, the largest state in Pre-Columbian America. The Spanish Empire conquered the region in the 16th century and established a Viceroyalty, which included most of its South American colonies. After achieving independence in 1821,Peru has undergone periods of political unrest and fiscal crisis as well as periods of stability and economic upswing.Peru is a representative democratic republic divided into 25 regions. Its geography varies from the arid plains of the Pacific coast to the peaks of the Andes Mountains and the tropical forests of the Amazon Basin. It is a developing country with a high Human Development Index score and a poverty level around 31%. Its main economic activities include agriculture, fishing, mining and manufacturing of products such as textiles. The Peruvian population, estimated at 29.5 million, is multiethnic, including Amerindians, Europeans, Africans and Asians. The main spoken language is Spanish, although a significant number of Peruvians speak Quechua or other native languages. This mixture of cultural traditions has resulted in a wide diversity of expressions in fields such as art, cuisine, literature and music.

  1. Machu Picchu (1400 AD)

           Machu Picchu (Quechua: Machu Pikchu, “Old Peak,” is a pre-Columbian Inca site located 2,430 meters (7,970 ft) above sea level. It is situated on a mountain ridge above the Urubamba Valley in Peru, which is 80 kilometers (50 mi) northwest of Cuzco and through which the Urubamba River flows. Most archaeologists believe that Machu Picchu was built as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472). Often referred to as “The Lost City of the Incas,” it is perhaps the most familiar icon of the Inca World. The Incas started building the estate around 1400 AD, but it was abandoned as an official site for the Inca rulers a century later at the time of the Spanish conquest of the Inca Empire. Although known locally, it was unknown to the outside world before being brought to international attention in 1911 by the American historian Hiram Bingham. Since then, Machu Picchu has become an important tourist attraction.
    Links: Top Ten Mystical Places, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Machu_Picchu,
  2. Lines and Geoglyphs of Nazca and Pampas de Jumana

           The Nazca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert of Peru. The high, arid plateau stretches more than 80 km (50 mi) between the towns of Nazca and Palpa on the Pampas de Jumana. Although some local geoglyphs resemble Paracas motifs, scholars believe the Nazca Lines were created by the Nazca culture between 200 BC and 700 AD. The hundreds of individual figures range in complexity from simple lines to stylized hummingbirds, spiders, monkeys, fish, sharks or orcas, llamas, and lizards. The lines are shallow designs made in the ground by removing the ubiquitous reddish pebbles and uncovering the whitish ground beneath. Hundreds are simple lines or geometric shapes; more than seventy are designs of animal, bird, fish or human figures. The largest figures are over 200 meters (660 ft) across. Scholars differ in interpreting the purpose of the designs, but they generally ascribe religious significance to them, as they were major works that required vision, planning and coordination of people to achieve.
    Links: Top Ten Archeological Mysteries, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nazca_Lines,
  3. Lima

           Lima is the capital and largest city of Peru. It is located in the valleys of the Chillón, Rímac and Lurín rivers, in the central part of the country, on a desert coast overlooking the Pacific Ocean. Together with the seaport of Callao, it forms a contiguous urban area known as the Lima Metropolitan Area. With a population fast approaching 9 million, Lima is the 5th largest city in Latin America, behind Mexico City, São Paulo, Buenos Aires and Rio de Janeiro. Lima is home to one of the largest financial hubs in Latin America. Lima was founded by Spanish conquistador Francisco Pizarro on January 18, 1535, as la Ciudad de los Reyes, or “the City of Kings.” It became the capital and most important city in the Spanish Viceroyalty of Peru. Following the Peruvian War of Independence, it became the capital of the Republic of Peru. Today, around one-third of the Peruvian population lives in the metropolitan area. Lima is home to the oldest higher learning institution in the New World. The National University of San Marcos, founded on May 12, 1551 during Spanish colonial regime, is the oldest continuously functioning university in the Americas. Located principally in the city centre or Cercado de Lima and Rímac areas, the Historic Centre of Lima is among the most important tourist destinations in Peru.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten South American Cities, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historic_centre_of_Lima, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lima,
  4. City of Cusco and the Sacsayhuaman Fortress
    File:82 - Cuzco - Juin 2009.jpg
           Cusco is a city in southeastern Peru, near the Urubamba Valley of the Andes mountain range. It is the capital of the Cusco Region as well as the Cuzco Province. In 2007, the city had a population of 358,935 which was triple the figure of 20 years ago. Located on the eastern end of the Knot of Cuzco, its elevation is around 3,400 m (11,200 ft). Cusco was the site of the historic capital of the Inca Empire and was declared a World Heritage Site in 1983 by UNESCO. It is a major tourist destination and receives almost 1.5 million visitors a year. It is designated as the Historical Capital of Peru by the Constitution of Peru.
    Links: Temples, Top Ten Sun Temples, Top Ten South American TemplesTop Ten Churches, Top Ten Walls, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cusco,
  5. Chan Chan Archaeological Zone

           The largest Pre-Columbian city in South America, Chan Chan is an archaeological site located in the Peruvian region of La Libertad, five km west of Trujillo. Chan Chan covers an area of approximately 20 km² and had a dense urban center of about 6 km². Chan Chan was constructed by the Chimor (the kingdom of the Chimú), a late intermediate period civilization which grew out of the remnants of the Moche civilization. The vast adobe city of Chan Chan was built by the Chimu around 850 AD and lasted until its conquest by the Inca Empire in AD 1470. It was the imperial capital of the Chimor until it was conquered in the 15th century. It is estimated that around 30,000 people lived in the city of Chan Chan. The city is severely threatened by tornadoes from El Niño, which causes heavy rains and flooding on the Peruvian coast, as well as earthquakes and looters. It is in a fertile, well-watered section of the coastal plain. Present-day visitors to Chan Chan can enter the Tschudi Complex, believed to be one of the later citadels built in the city. There are also several other Chimú and Moche ruins in the area around Trujillo. This site was discovered by the Conquistador Francisco Pizarro.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chan_Chan,
  6. Chavin de Huántar

           Chavín de Huántar is an archaeological site containing ruins and artifacts constructed beginning at least by 3,000 BC and occupied by later cultures until around 400-500 BC by the Chavín, a major pre-Inca culture. The site is located 250 kilometers (160 mi) north of Lima, Peru, at an elevation of 3,180 meters (10,430 ft), east of the Cordillera Blanca at the start of the Conchucos Valley. Some of the Chavín relics from this archaeological site are on display in the Museo de la Nación in Lima and the Museo Nacional de Chavín in Chavin itself. While the fairly large population was based on an agricultural economy, the city’s location at the headwaters of the Marañón River, between the coast and the jungle, made it an ideal location for the dissemination and collection of both ideas and material goods. This archeological site is a large ceremonial center that has revealed a great deal about the Chavín culture. Chavín de Huántar served as a gathering place for people of the region to come together and worship. The transformation of the center into a valley-dominating monument had a complex effect; it became a pan-regional place of importance. People went to Chavin de Huantar as a center: to attend and participate in rituals, consult an oracle, or enter a cult. Findings at Chavín de Huántar indicate that social instability and upheaval began to occur between 500 to 300 BC, at the same time that the larger Chavín civilization began to decline. Large ceremonial sites were abandoned, some unfinished, and were replaced by villages and agricultural land. At Chavín de Huántar, no later than 500 BC, a small village replaced the Circular Plaza. The plaza was occupied by a succession of cultural groups, and residents salvaged building stones and stone carvings to use in house walls. Multiple occupation floors indicate the village was continuously occupied through the 1940’s.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chavin_de_Huantar,
  7. Historic Center of Arequipa

           The historical center of Arequipa, built in volcanic sillar rock, is an example of ornamented architecture, represents a masterpiece of the creative coalition of European and native characteristics. A colonial town challenged by the conditions of nature, the indigenous influences, the conquest process and evangelism as well as for a spectacular natural scenario. This combination of influences is illustrated by the city’s robust walls, archways and vaults, courtyards and open spaces, and the intricate Baroque decoration of its facades.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Historic_centre_of_Arequipa,
  8. Manu National Park

           Manú National Park is a biosphere reserve located in Madre de Dios and Paucartambo, Cusco. The park is fairly inaccessible by road and is largest National Park in Peru, covering an area of 15,328 km². The Biosphere Reserve includes an additional 2,570 km², and a further 914 km² are included in a “Cultural Zone,” bringing the total area up to 18,811 km². The park protects several ecological zones ranging from as low as 150 m above sea level in parts of the Southwest Amazon moist forests to Peruvian Yungas at middle elevations to Central Andean wet puna at altitudes of 4,200 m. Because of this topographical range, it has one of highest levels of biodiversity of any park in the world. Overall, more than 15,000 species of plants are found in Manú, and up to 250 varieties of trees have been found in a single hectare. The reserve is a destination for birdwatchers from all over the world, as it is home to over 1,000 species of birds, more than the number of bird species found in the US and Canada combined. It is also acclaimed as having one of the highest abundances of land vertebrates ever found in Latin American tropical forests.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, Top 100 Birds, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Manu_National_Park,
  9. Rio Abiseo National Park

           The Rio Abiseo National Park is located in the San Martín department of Peru. The park is home to a large number of species of flora and fauna, as well as the location of over 30 pre-Columbian archaeological sites. Since 1986, the park has not been open to tourism due to the fragile nature of both the natural and archaeological environment.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, Top Ten Frogs/Toads, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rio_Abiseo_National_Park,
  10. Sacred City of Caral-Supe

    Caral is a large settlement in the Supe Valley, near Supe, Barranca province, some 200 km north of Lima. Caral is the most ancient city of the Americas, and is a well-studied site of the Caral civilization or Norte Chico civilization.
    Links: Top Ten Ancient Cities, Cities, Top Ten South American Cities, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Caral,
  11. Ollantaytambo

           Ollantaytambo is a town and an Inca archaeological site in southern Peru some 60 km northwest of the city of Cusco. It is located at an altitude of 2,792 m (9,160 ft.) above sea level in the district of Ollantaytambo, province of Urubamba, Cusco region. During the Inca Empire, Ollantaytambo was the royal estate of Emperor Pachacuti who conquered the region, built the town and a ceremonial center. At the time of the Spanish conquest of Peru it served as a stronghold for Manco Inca Yupanqui, leader of the Inca resistance. Nowadays it is an important tourist attraction on account of its Inca buildings and as one of the most common starting points for the three-day, four-night hike known as the Inca Trail.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ollantaytambo,
  12. Cahuachi

           Cahuachi, in Peru, was a major ceremonial center of the Nazca culture, based from 1 AD to about 500 AD in the coastal area of the Central Andes. It overlooked some of the Nazca lines. The Italian archaeologist Giuseppe Orefici has been excavating at the site for the past few decades. The site contains over 40 mounds topped with adobe structures. The huge architectural complex covers 0.6 square mi (1.5 square km). The American archeologist Helaine Silverman has also conducted long term, multi-stage research and written about the full context of Nazca society at Cahuachi, published in a lengthy study in 1993. Scholars once thought the site was the capital of the Nazca state but have determined that the permanent population was quite small. They believe that it was a pilgrimage center, whose population increased greatly in relation to major ceremonial events. New research has suggested that 40 of the mounds were natural hills modified to appear as artificial constructions. Support for the pilgrimage theory comes from archaeological evidence of sparse population at Cahuachi, the spatial patterning of the site, and ethnographic evidence from the Virgin of Yauca pilgrimage in the nearby Ica Valley (Silverman 1994). Looting is the greatest problem facing the site today. Most of the burial sites surrounding Cahuachi were not known until recently and are tempting targets for looters.
    Links: Pyramids, Top Ten South American Pyramidshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cahuachi,
  13. Kenko

    Kenko (or Qenqo, from the Quechua “q’inqu” meaning “labyrinth”) is one of the largest huacas (holy places) in the Cusco Region. Many huacas were based on naturally occurring rock formations. It was believed to be a place where sacrifices and mummification took place.
    Links: Top Ten Labyrinths, Top Ten Sacred Places, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kenko,_Peru,
  14. Pachacamac

           The temple of Pachacamac is an archaeological site 40 km southeast of Lima, Peru in the Valley of the Lurín River. Most of the common buildings and temples were built 800-1450 AD, shortly before the arrival and conquest by the Inca Empire. To date, several pyramids have been uncovered; archaeologists have identified at least 17 pyramids (many of them irreversibly damaged by the El Niño weather phenomenon). Besides pyramids, the site had a cemetery and multicolored fresco of fish from the Early Intermediate period (200-600 AD). Later, the Huari (600-800 AD) constructed the city, probably using it as an administrative center. A number of Huari-influenced designs appear on the structures and on the ceramics and textiles found in the cemeteries of this period. After the collapse of the Huari empire, Pachacamac continued to grow as a religious center. The majority of the common architecture and temples were built during this stage (800-1450 AD). By the time the Tawantinsuyu (Inca Confederacy) invaded the area, the valleys of the Rímac and Lurín had a small state which the people called Ichma. They used Pachacamac primarily as a religious site for the veneration of the Pacha Kamaq, the creator god. The Ichma joined the Incan Empire, which used Pachacamac as an important administrative center. The Inca maintained it as a religious shrine and allowed the Pachacamac priests to continue functioning independently of the Inca priesthood. This included the oracle, whom the Inca presumably consulted. The Inca built five additional buildings, including a temple to the sun on the main square.
    Links: Pyramids, Top Ten South American Pyramids, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pachacamac,
  15. Písac and the Sacred Valley

           Písac is a Peruvian village in the Sacred Valley on the Urubamba River. The village is well known for its market every Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday, an event which attracts heavy tourist traffic from nearby Cusco. One of its more notable features is a large pisonay tree which dominates the central plaza. The sanctuary of Huanca, site of a sacred shrine, is also near the village. Pilgrims travel to the shrine every September. View of the Sacred Valley from Intihuatana. The Temple of the Sun was closed to tourists after thieves stole a piece of it. The area is perhaps best known for its Incan ruins, known as Inca Písac, which lie atop a hill at the entrance to the valley. The ruins are separated along the ridge into four groups: Pisaqa, Intihuatana, Q’allaqasa and Kinchiracay. Intihuatana group includes the Temple of the Sun, baths, altars, water fountains, a ceremonial platform, and an intihuatana, a volcanic outcrop carved into a “hitching post for the Sun” (or Inti). The angles of its base suggest that it served to define the changes of the seasons. Q’allaqasa, which is built onto a natural spur and overlooks the valley, is known as the citadel. The Inca constructed agricultural terraces on the steep hillside, which are still in use today. They created the terraces by hauling richer topsoil by hand from the lower lands. The terraces enabled the production of surplus food, more than would normally be possible at altitudes as high as 11,000 ft. The narrow rows of terraces beneath the citadel are thought to represent the wing of a partridge (pisaca), from which the village and ruins get their name. The birds are also common in the area at dusk. With military, religious and agricultural structures, the site served at least a triple purpose. Researchers believe that Písac defended the southern entrance to the Sacred Valley, while Choquequirao defended the western entrance, and the fortress at Ollantaytambo the northern. Inca Pisac controlled a route which connected the Inca Empire with the border of the rain forest.
    Links: Top Ten Valleys, Temples, Top Ten South American Temples, Top Ten Sun Temples, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/P%C3%ADsac,
  16. Sechin River Structures and Sun Observatory

    Description:
    Links: Top Ten Rivers, Top Ten South American Rivers,
  17. Huaca del Sol

           The Huaca del Sol is an adobe brick temple built by the Moche civilization on the coast of what is now Peru. The temple is one of several ruins found near the peak of Cerro Blanco, in the coastal desert near Trujillo, Peru. The other major ruin at the site is the nearby Huaca de la Luna, a better-preserved but smaller temple. By 450 AD, eight different stages of construction had been completed on the Huaca del Sol. The construction of the temple was additive; new layers of brick were laid directly on top of the old, hence large quantities of bricks were required for its construction. It has been estimated by archaeologists that the Huaca del Sol was composed of over 130 million adobe bricks and was the largest pre-Columbian adobe structure built in the Americas. The number of different makers’ marks on the bricks suggests that over a hundred different communities contributed bricks to the construction of the Huacas. The Huaca del Sol was composed of four main levels and the structure was expanded and rebuilt by different rulers over the course of time. Located at the center of the Moche capital city, archaeological evidence suggests that this temple was used for ritual activity and as a royal residence and burial chambers. During the Spanish occupation of Peru in the early 17th century, the waters of the Moche River were redirected to run past the base of the Huaca del Sol in order to facilitate the looting of gold artifacts from the temple. The creation of this hydraulic mine greatly damaged the Huaca del Sol, and it is estimated that approximately two-thirds of the structure has been lost to erosion and looting. The remaining structure stands at a height of 41 meters (135 feet). It is believed to have originally been about 50 m in height. Looting and erosion due to El Niño continue to be major concerns to this day.
    Links: Top Ten Sun Dials, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huaca_del_Sol,
  18. Túcume

           Túcume is a pre-Hispanic site in Peru, south of the La Leche River on a plain around La Raya Mountain. It covers an area of over 540 acres (220 ha) and encompassing 26 major pyramids and mounds. The area is referred to as Purgatorio (purgatory) by local people. This site was a major regional center, maybe even the capital of the successive occupations of the area by the Lambayeque/Sican (800-1350 AD), Chimú (1350–1450 AD) and Inca (1450–1532 AD). Local shaman healers (curanderos) invoke power of Tucume and La Raya Mountain in their rituals, and local people fear these sites. Hardly anyone other than healers venture out in this site at night. The plains of Túcume are part of the Lambayeque Valley, the largest valley of the North Coast of Peru. The Lambayeque Valley is the site of scores of natural and man-made waterways and is also a region of about 250 brick pyramids.
    Links: Pyramids, Top Ten South American Pyramids,
  19. Sillustani

           Sillustani is a pre-Incan burial ground on the shores of Lake Umayo near Puno in Peru. The tombs, which are built above ground in tower-like structures called chullpas, are the vestiges of the Colla people, Aymara who were conquered by the Inca in the 15th century. The structures housed the remains of complete family groups, although they were probably limited to nobility. Many of the tombs have been dynamited by grave robbers, while others were left unfinished.
    Links: Top Ten Tombs, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sillustani,
  20. Bonus: Huascaran National Park

           Huascarán National Park is a national park in the Cordillera Blanca, a range of the Andes, in Ancash of central Peru. The highest mountain in Peru is located in the park (also named Huascarán, reaching 6,768 m high). This park is the habitat of the Puya raimondi, the Cougar, the Jaguar, the Llama, the Guanaco, the Marsh Deer, the Peruvian Tapir, the Peruvian Piedtail, a hummingbird species, and many kinds of ducks including the Southern Pochard.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Huascaran_National_Park,
  21. Links: Top Ten South American Attractions, Top Ten Peruvian HotelsTop Ten Peruvian Restaurants, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peru,

Gnosis Approved Products

Top Ten Suriname Attractions

Top Ten Suriname Attractions

       Suriname is a country in northern South America. At just under 165,000 square km (64,000 square mi)Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America. It has an estimated population of approximately 490,000, most of whom live on the country’s north coast, where the capital Paramaribo is located.

  1. Central Suriname Nature Reserve

           The Central Suriname Nature Reserve was created in 1998 by Conservation International and the government of Suriname to protect the areas pristine tropical rainforest ecosystem, which contains 16,000 square kilometers (6,178 sq mi) of both mountain and lowland primary tropical forest including sections of the Guyana Highlands. Some of the most outstanding features in Central Suriname Nature Reserve are several granite domes, uplifted monoliths of granite rising high above the surrounding rainforest. Barren surface of dark-colored granite is exposed to impact of Sun thus creating unique xerophytic biotope which includes endemic plant species. The best known granite dome is the 245 m high Voltzberg.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Central_Suriname_Nature_Reserve,
  2. Historic Inner City of Paramaribo

           Paramaribo is the capital and largest city of Suriname, located on banks of the Suriname River in the Paramaribo District. Paramaribo has a population of roughly 250,000 people, more than half of Suriname’s population.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paramaribo,
  3. Links: Attractions, Top Ten Suriname Hotels, Top Ten Suriname Restaurantshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Suriname,

Top Ten Paraguayan Attractions

Top Ten Paraguayan Attractions

       Paraguay is a landlocked country in South America, bordered by Argentina, Brazil and Bolivia. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the country from north to south. Due to its central location in South America, it is sometimes referred to as Corazón de América, or the Heart of America. The Guaraní have been living in Paraguay since prior to the arrival of Europeans in the 16th century, when Paraguay became part of the Spanish colonial empire. Paraguay gained independence from Spain in 1811. As of 2009 the population was estimated at 6.3 million. The capital and largest city is Asunción, while the economic center of the country is Ciudad del Este. The official languages are Spanish and Guaraní, both being widely spoken in the country, with around 92% of the general population speaking Spanish and 98% speaking Guaraní. In 2010, Paraguay experienced the largest economic expansion in Latin America and the 2nd fastest in the world, only after Qatar.

  1. Asunción

           Asunción is the capital and largest city of Paraguay. The “Ciudad de Asunción” is an autonomous capital district not part of any department. The metropolitan area, called Gran Asunción, includes the cities of San Lorenzo, Fernando de la Mora, Lambaré, Luque, Mariano Roque Alonso, Ñemby, San Antonio, Limpio, Capiatá and Villa Elisa, which are part of the Central Department. The Asunción metropolitan area has more than 2 million inhabitants. The Municipality of Asunción is listed on the Asunción Stock Exchange, as BVPASA: MUA, a unique feature of any city. It is the home of the national government, principal port, and the chief industrial and cultural center of the country. Local manufacturing production includes footwear, textiles and tobacco products.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten South American Cities, Top Ten Cigars, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Asunci%C3%B3n,
  2. Ciudad del Este

           Ciudad del Este (Spanish for City of the East) is the 2nd largest city in Paraguay and capital of Alto Paraná Department, located at the Rio Paraná. Founded in 1957, it was originally called Puerto Flor de Lis, then until 1989 Puerto Presidente Stroessner, after Alfredo Stroessner. It is part of a triangle known as the Triple Frontier. It is linked to the Brazilian city of Foz do Iguaçu by the Friendship Bridge. The city is the seat of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Ciudad del Este.
    Links: Top Ten Bridges, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ciudad_del_Este,
  3. Encarnación

           Encarnación is the capital city of the Paraguayan department of Itapúa, located at the south of the department, on the right-hand shore of the Paraná River, opposite Posadas, Argentina. The city has an area of 588 km² and a population of 93,497 (2002).
    Links: Top 100 Beaches, Top Ten Carnivalshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Encarnaci%C3%B3n,_Paraguay,
  4. Links: Top Ten South American Attractions, Top Ten Paraguayan Hotels, Top Ten Paraguayan Restaurantshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Paraguay,

Recommendations for Partying in Paraguay

Top Ten Guyanese Attractions

    Top Ten Guyanese Attractions

       Guyana is a sovereign state on the northern coast of South America and also borders the end most of the Caribbean Sea. The nation is culturally part of the Anglophone Caribbean. Guyana was a former colony of the Dutch and (for over 200 years) of the British. It is the only state of the Commonwealth of Nations on mainland South America, and the only one on that continent where English is an official language. It is also a member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which has its secretariat headquarters in Guyana’s capital, Georgetown. Guyana is one of the very few Caribbean nations that is not an island. Guyana achieved independence from the UK on May 26, 1966, and became a republic on February 23, 1970. Historically, the region known as “Guiana” or “Guayana” comprised the large shield landmass north of the Amazon River and east of the Orinoco River known as the “Land of many waters.” Historical Guyana is made up of three Dutch colonies: Essequibo, Demerara and Berbice. Modern Guyana is bordered by Suriname, Brazil, Venezuela, as well as the Atlantic Ocean. At 215,000 square km, Guyana is the 3rd smallest independent state on the mainland of South America (after Uruguay and Suriname). Its population is approximately 770,000 (2002) of which the majority are of East Indian descent (43.5%) and African descent (30.2%).

  1. Georgetown

           Georgetown, estimated population 239,227 (2002), is the capital and largest city of Guyana, located in the Demerara-Mahaica region. It is situated on the Atlantic Ocean coast at the mouth of the Demerara River and it was nicknamed ‘Garden City of the Caribbean.’ The city serves primarily as a retail and administrative center, as well as a financial services center.
    Links: Top Ten Clock Towers, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Georgetown,_Guyana,
  2. Kaieteur Falls

           Kaieteur Falls is a high-volume waterfall on the Potaro River in central Guyana, Potaro-Siparuni region. It is located in Kaieteur National Park. It is 226 m (741 ft.) high when measured from its plunge over a sandstone and conglomerate cliff to the first break. It then flows over a series of steep cascades that, when included in the measurements, bring the total height to 251 m (822 ft.). While many falls have greater height, few have the combination of height and water volume. This has given Kaieteur Falls the misleading label of “largest single drop” waterfall in the world which is often misinterpreted as “tallest single drop.” However, it is likely one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world. Kaieteur Falls is about five times higher than the more well known Niagara Falls, located on the border between Canada and the United States and about two times the height of the Victoria Falls located on the border of Zambia and Zimbabwe in Africa. It is a single drop waterfall which is the 123rd tallest (single and multi-drop waterfall) in the world, according to the World Waterfalls Database. The same web site lists it as 19th largest waterfall in terms of volume, and in their estimation, Kaieteur is the 26th most scenic waterfall in the world. Its distinction lies in the unique combination of great height and large volume, averaging 663 cubic meters per second (23,400 cubic ft./sec). Thus it is one of the most powerful waterfalls in the world, rivaling even the Jog Falls of India’s Karnataka state during the monsoon season. Up river from the falls, the Potaro Plateau stretches out to the distant escarpment of the Pakaraima Mountains. The Potaro river empties in to the Essequibo River which is one the longest and widest rivers in South America.
    Links: Top Ten Waterfalls, Top Ten Rivers, Top Ten South American Rivers,
  3. Links: Top 100 Birds, Top Ten Frogs/Toads, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guyana,

Top Ten Ecuadoran Attractions

Top Ten Ecuadoran Attractions

       Ecuador is a representative democratic republic in South America, bordered by Colombia on the north, Peru on the east and south, and by the Pacific Ocean to the west. The country also includes the Galápagos Islands in the Pacific, about 1,000 km (620 mi) west of the mainland. Ecuador straddles the equator, from which it takes its name, and has an area of 272,046 square km (109,483 sq mi). Its capital city is Quito, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in the 1970’s for having the best preserved and least altered historic center in Latin America. The country’s largest city is Guayaquil. The historic center of Cuenca, the 3rd largest city in the country, was also declared a World Heritage Site in 1999, for being an outstanding example of a planned inland Spanish style colonial city in the Americas. Ecuador is also home, despite its size, to a great variety of species, many of them endemic, like those of the Galápagos Islands. This species diversity makes Ecuador one of the 17 megadiverse countries in the world. The new constitution of 2008 is the first in the world to recognize legally enforceable Rights of Nature, or ecosystem rights. Ecuador is a presidential republic and became independent in 1830, after having been part of the Spanish colonial empire and the republic of Gran Colombia.

  1. Historic Centre of San Francisco de Quito


           San Francisco de Quito, most often called Quito, is the capital city of Ecuador in northwestern South America. It is located in north-central Ecuador in the Guayllabamba river basin, on the eastern slopes of Pichincha, an active stratovolcano in the Andes mountains. With a population of  approximately 2,504,991 in 2005, Quito is the second most populous city in Ecuador, after Guayaquil. It is also the capital of the Pichincha province and the seat of Metropolitan District of Quito. In 2008, the city was designated as the headquarters of the Union of South American Nations. The elevation of the city’s central square (Plaza de La Independencia) is 2,800 m (9,200 ft), making Quito the 2nd highest administrative capital city in the world after La Paz, Bolivia, and the highest legal capital (ahead of Sucre, also in Bolivia, and Bogotá, Colombia). The central square of Quito is located about 25 kilometers (16 mi) south of the equator; the city itself extends to within about 1 kilometer (0.62 mi) of zero latitude. A monument and museum marking the general location of the equator is known locally as la mitad del mundo (the middle of the world), to avoid confusion, as the word ecuador is Spanish for equator.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten South American Cities, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quito,
  2. Galápagos Islands National Park

           The Galapagos Islands are an archipelago of volcanic islands distributed around the equator in the Pacific Ocean, 972 km (525 mi) west of continental Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands and its surrounding waters form an Ecuadorian province, a national park, and a biological marine reserve. The islands are geologically young and famed for their vast number of endemic species, which were studied by Charles Darwin during the voyage of the Beagle. His observations and collections contributed to the inception of Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. The first crude navigation chart of the islands was done by the buccaneer Ambrose Cowley in 1684. He named the individual islands after some of his fellow pirates or after the English noblemen who helped the privateer’s cause. More recently, the Ecuadorian government gave most of the islands Spanish names. While the Spanish names are official, many users (especially ecological researchers) continue to use the older English names, particularly as those were the names used when Charles Darwin visited.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, Top Ten Islands, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gal%C3%A1pagos_Islands,
  3. Historic Centre of Santa Ana de los Ríos de Cuenca

           Cuenca is the 3rd largest city in Ecuador by population, which totals 467,000. It is the capital of the Azuay Province and is located in the highlands of Ecuador at about 2500 m above sea level.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten South American Cities, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Ana_de_los_R%C3%ADos_de_Cuenca,
  4. Santa Cruz Island, Galapagos Islands
    Santa Cruz IslandSanta Cruz Island1Santa Cruz Island2Santa Cruz Island3Santa Cruz Island4Santa Cruz Island5Santa Cruz Island6Santa Cruz Island7Santa Cruz Island8
    Santa Cruz Island is one of the Galápagos Islands with an area of 986 square km (381 square mi) and a maximum altitude of 864 m (2,835 ft.). Situated in the center of the archipelago, Santa Cruz is the 2nd largest island after Isabela. Its capital is Puerto Ayora, the most populated urban center in the islands. On Santa Cruz there are some small villages, whose inhabitants work in agriculture and raising cattle. This island is a large dormant volcano. It is estimated that the last eruptions occurred around a million and a half years ago. As a testimony to its volcanic history there are two big holes formed by the collapse of a magma chamber: Los Gemelos, or “The Twins.” Named after the Holy Cross, its English name (Indefatigable) was given after a British vessel HMS Indefatigable. Santa Cruz hosts the largest human population in the archipelago at the town of Puerto Ayora.
    Links: Islands, Top Ten Islands, Top Ten Lizards, Top Ten Volcanoes,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Cruz_Island_(Gal%C3%A1pagos),
  5. Sangay National Park

           Sangay National Park is a national park located in the Morona Santiago, Chimborazo and Tungurahua provinces of Ecuador. The park contains two active volcanoes (Tungurahua and Sangay) and ecosystems ranging from tropical rainforests to glaciers. The National Park is an important refuge for rare species of the Andes, like mountain tapirs and spectacled bears. Typical species of the alpine and subalpine areas are mountain tapirs, pumas and Andean foxes. In the forests below live spectacled bears, giant otters, jaguars, ozelots, margays, Brazilian tapirs, white-tailed deer, little red brocket deer and Northern Pudus. About 300-400 bird species also inhabit the Park
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, Top 100 Flowers, Top Ten Cats, Top 100 Birds, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Northern_Pudu,
  6. Links: Top Ten South American Attractions, Top Ten Ecuadoran Hotels, Top Ten Ecuadoran Restaurants,  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ecuador,

Recommendations for Excursions in Ecuador

Top Ten Colombian Attractions

Top Ten Colombian Attractions

       Colombia is a constitutional republic in northwestern South America. Colombia is bordered to the east by Venezuela and Brazil; to the south by Ecuador and Peru; to the north by the Caribbean Sea; to the northwest by Panama; and to the west by the Pacific Ocean. With a population of over 46 million people, Colombia has the 29th largest population in the world and the 2nd largest in South America, after Brazil. The territory of what is now “Colombia” was originally inhabited by indigenous people including the Muisca, Quimbaya and Tairona. The Spanish arrived in 1499 and initiated a period of conquest and colonization creating the Viceroyalty of Peru. Then in 1717 to create a better management of tax, the Viceroyalty of New Granada (comprising modern-day Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, the northwest region of Brazil and Panama) was created with its capital in Bogotá. Independence from Spain was won in 1819 by Simón Bolívar, but by 1830 “Gran Colombia” had collapsed with the secession of Venezuela and Ecuador. What is now Colombia and Panama emerged as the Republic of New Granada. The new nation experimented with federalism as the Granadine Confederation (1858), and then the United States of Colombia (1863), before the Republic of Colombia was finally declared in 1886. Panama seceded in 1903 under pressure to fulfill financial responsibilities towards the US government to build the Panama Canal. Colombia was the first constitutional government of South America, which was declared in 1811 and is the only South American country that has never had a coup. The Liberal and Conservative parties, founded in 1848 and 1849 respectively, are two of the oldest surviving political parties in the Americas. However, tensions between the two have frequently erupted into violence, most notably in the Thousand Days War (1899–1902) and La Violencia, beginning in 1948. Since the 1960’s, government forces, left-wing insurgents and right-wing paramilitaries have been engaged in the continent’s longest-running armed conflict. Fuelled by the cocaine trade, this escalated dramatically in the 1980’s. Nevertheless, in the recent decade (2000’s) the violence has decreased significantly. Many paramilitary groups have demobilized as part of a controversial peace process with the government, and the guerrillas have lost control in many areas where they once dominated. Meanwhile Colombia’s homicide rate, for many years one of the highest in the world, almost halved between 2002 and 2006. 2009 and 2010 saw an increase in the urban homicide rate, particularly in the city of Medellín, attributed to gang warfare and paramilitary successor groups. Colombia is a standing middle power with the 4th largest economy in Latin America. Inequality and unequal distribution of wealth are widespread. In 1990, the ratio of income between the poorest and richest 10% was 40 to one. Following a decade of economic restructuring and a recession, this ratio had climbed to 80-to-one in the year 2000. According to the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, “there has been a decrease in the poverty rate in recent years, but around half of the population continues to live under the poverty line” as of 2008–2009. Colombia is very ethnically diverse, and the interaction between descendants of the original native inhabitants, Spanish colonists, Africans brought as slaves and 20th century immigrants from Europe and the Middle East has produced a rich cultural heritage. This has also been influenced by Colombia’s varied geography. The majority of the urban centers are located in the highlands of the Andes mountains, but Colombian territory also encompasses Amazon rainforest, tropical grassland and both Caribbean and Pacific coastlines. Ecologically,Colombia is one of the world’s 17 megadiverse countries and is considered the most megadiverse per square km.

  1. Bogotá
    56 - Bogota - Décembre 2008.jpg
           Bogotá, Distrito Capital, from 1991 to 2000 called Santa Fé de Bogotá, is the capital city of Colombia. It is also designated by the national constitution as the capital of the department of Cundinamarca, even though the city of Bogotá now comprises an independent Capital district and no longer belongs administratively to that department. Bogotá is the most populous city in the country, with an estimated 7,304,384 inhabitants (2009). Bogotá and its metropolitan area, which includes municipalities such as Chía, Cota, Soacha, Cajicá and La Calera, had an estimated population of 8,566,926 in 2009. In terms of land area, Bogotá is the largest city in Colombia, and one of the biggest of Latin America. It figures amongst the 30 largest cities of the world and it is the 3rd highest capital city in South America (after La Paz and Quito) at 2,625 m (8,612 ft) above sea level. With its many universities and libraries, Bogotá has become known as “The Athens of South America.” Bogotá owns the largest moorland of the world, which is located in the Sumapaz Locality.
    Links: Cities, Top Ten South American Cities, Top 100 Gold Artifacts, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bogot%C3%A1,
  2. Port, Fortresses and Group of Monuments, Cartagena

           Cartagena de Indias is a large Caribbean beach resort city on the northern coast of Colombia in the Caribbean Coast Region and capital of Bolívar Department. The city had a population of 892,545 (2005), making it the 5th largest city in Colombia. Cartagena is a centre of economic activity in the Caribbean, as well a popular tourist destination. Activity and development of the Cartagena region is dated back to 4000 BC around Cartagena Bay by varying cultures of indigenous peoples. The Spanish colonial city was founded on June 1, 1533 and named after Cartagena, Spain. Cartagena served a key role in the development of the region during the Spanish eras; it was a center of political and economic activity due to the presence of royalty and wealthy viceroys.
    Links: Top Ten Resorts, Sculptures, Top 100 South American Sculptures, Top 100 Beacheshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cartagena_de_Indias,
  3. Tayrona National Natural Park

    The Tayrona National Natural Park is a protected area in the Colombian northern Caribbean region and within the jurisdiction of the Department of Magdalena and some 34 km from the city of Santa Marta. The park presents a biodiversity endemic to the area of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountain range presenting a variety of climates (mountain climate) and geography that ranges from arid sea level to 900 meters above sea level. The park covers some 30 square km of maritime area in the Caribbean Sea and some 150 km² of land. It was the second most visited national park in Colombia in 2009, with 211.833 visitors. The most visited park was the Rosario and San Bernardo Corals National Natural Park.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tayrona_National_Natural_Park,
  4. LosKatíos National Park

           Los Katíos National Park is a national park located in northwest Colombia which covers 278 square miles (around 720 km², or 72,000 hectares). It is a part of the Darién Gap, shared by Panama and Colombia and is contiguous to Darién National Park in Panama. The Pan-American Highway when completed as proposed will pass near or through Los Katíos National Park. The park was declared a World Heritage Site in 1994 due to the extraordinary diversity of plant and animal species represented. The park contains over 25% of the bird species reported for Colombia in an area less than 1% of the total Colombian territory.
    Links: National Parks, Top Ten South American National Parks, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Los_Kat%C3%ADos_National_Park,
  5. Las Lajas Sanctuary, Nariño

    Las Lajas Sanctuary is a basilica church located in the southern Colombian Department of Nariño, municipality of Ipiales and built inside the canyon of the Guáitara River. The church is of Gothic revival architecture and was built from January 1, 1916 to August 20, 1949, with donations from local churchgoers, replacing an old 19th century chapel. The name Laja comes from the name of a type of flat sedimentary rock similar to floor tiles found in the Andes Mountains. There was a claim that an apparition of the Virgin Mary was seen. The miraculous image on the stone is still visible today. The inspiration for the church’s creation was a result of a miraculous event in 1754 when an Amerindian named Maria Mueces and her deaf-mute daughter, Rosa, were caught in a very strong storm. The two sought refuge between the gigantic Lajas, when to Maria Mueces’s surprise, her mute daughter, Rosa exclaimed “the mestiza is calling me…” and pointed to the lightning-illuminated ‘painting’ over the laja. The oldest miraculous event was recorded in the accounts of Fray Juan de Santa Gertrudis’s journey through the southern region of the New Kingdom of Granada between 1756 and 1764. Without the benefit of sight, Fray Juan traveled through cities, fields and villages blind and on foot from Ecuador to Narino, Colombia begging people for money to build the Las Lajas chapel. At the completion of the chapel, Fray Juan miraculously regained his vision, he believed, as a result of his deep faith in the Virgin Mary of Las Lajas. In 1951 the Roman Catholic Church authorized the Nuestra Señora de Las Lajas Virgin and it declared the sanctuary a minor basilica in 1954.
    Links: Top Ten Churches, Top Ten Sanctuaries, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Las_Lajas_Sanctuary,
  6. MalpeloIsland Fauna and Flora Sanctuary

           Malpelo Island is an island located 235 miles (378 km) from Colombia’s Pacific coast, and approximately 225 miles (362 km) from Panama’s coast. It has a land area of 0.35 square kilometers (86 acres). It is uninhabited except for a small military post manned by the Colombian Army, which was established in 1986. Visitors need a written permit from the Colombian Ministry of Ecology. The island is part of Cauca Department. The island consists of a sheer and barren rock with three high peaks, the highest being Cerro de la Mona with a height of 300 meters (980 ft). The island is surrounded by a number of offshore rocks. Off the northeast corner are the Tres Mosqueteros. Off the southwest corner are Salomon, Saul, La Gringa, and Escuba. Malpelo Nature Reserve, a plant and wildlife sanctuary, is defined as a circular area of radius 9.656 kilometers (6.000 mi). Malpelo is home of a unique shark population; swarms of 500 hammerhead sharks and hundreds of silky sharks are frequently seen by diving expeditions, making it a very popular shark diving location. Malpelo is one of the few places where the Smalltooth sand tiger has been seen alive, in the dive site “El bajo del Monstruo” it is frequently seen. Malpelo has been interpreted as a portion of oceanic crust, probably a local manifestation of a “hot spot.” It is composed mainly of pillow lavas, volcanic breccias and Tertiary basaltic dikes.
    Links: Top Ten Sharks, Top 100 Fish, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Malpelo_Island,
  7. NationalArchaeological Park of Tierradentro

           Tierradentro is a National archeological park in the jurisdiction of the municipality of Inza, Department of Cauca. The park is located 100 km away from the capital of the Department, Popayán. The area is very well known for its pre-Columbian hypogea, which were found in several excavations, and are divided in many archeological places. They include: Alto del Aguacate (Avocado Hill), Alto de San Andrés, Alto de Segovia, Alto del Duende and El Tablón. The typical hypogeum has an entry oriented towards the west, a spiral staircase and a main chamber, usually 5 to 8 meters below the surface, with several lesser chambers around, each one containing a corpse. The walls are painted with geometric, anthropomorphic and zoomorphic patterns in red, black and white. Some statues and remains of pottery and fabrics can be seen scarcely due to grave robbery before the hypogea were constituted as protected areas. The pre-Columbian culture that created this funeral complex inhabited this area during the first millennium AD. Tierradentro Archaeological Park features hypogea dating from 6th to 9th centuries AD. The details in the sculptures and pictoric patterns are similar to the San Agustín culture.
    Links: Top 100 Masks, Top Ten Tombshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tierradentro,
  8. San Agustín Archaeological Park

           San Agustín is a town and municipality in the southern Colombian Department of Huila. The town is located 227 km away from the capital of the Department, Neiva. Population is around 30,000. The village was originally founded in 1752 by Alejo Astudillo but attacks by indigenous people destroyed it. The present village was founded in 1790 by Lucas de Herazo y Mendigaña. The area is very well known for its pre-Columbian archaeological sites, which generates significant revenue to the economy due to the high volume of tourists, both Colombian and foreigners.
    Links: Sculptures, Top 100 South American Sculptures, Artifacts, Top 100 South American Artifacts, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/San_Agust%C3%ADn_Archaeological_Park,
  9. The Coffee Cultural Landscape

           Colombian Coffee-Growers Axis is a part of the Colombian Paisa region which is famous for growing and production of a majority of the Colombian coffee, considered by some as the best coffee in the world. There are three departments in the area: Caldas, Quindío and Risaralda. These departments are among the smallest departments in Colombia with a total combined area of 13873 km² (5356 mi²), about 1.2% of the Colombian territory. The combined population is 2,291,195 (2005 census).
    Links: Top Ten Coffee Brands, Top Ten Coffee Regionshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colombian_Coffee-Growers_Axis,
  10. Historic Centre of Santa Cruz de Mompox

           Mompox or Mompós, officially Santa Cruz de Mompox, is a town and municipality in northern Colombia, in the Bolívar Department, which has preserved its colonial character. Located on an island in the Magdalena River where it joins the Cauca River, 249 km from Cartagena. Mompox depends upon tourism, fishing and some commerce generated by the local cattle raising. It has about 30,000 inhabitants, and is adjacent to the municipalities of Pinillos and San Fernando. Simón Bolívar, liberator of much of Spanish South America, said “If to Caracas I owe my life, then to Mompox I owe my glory.” Simón Bolívar arrived in Mompox in 1812 and recruited nearly all of the able bodied men, some 400, who formed the basis of the army for his victory in Caracas.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santa_Cruz_de_Mompox,
  11. Links: Top Ten South American Attractions, Top Ten Colombian Hotels, Top Ten Colombian Restaurantshttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colombia,

Top Ten Chilean Attractions

Top Ten Chilean Attractions

       Chile is a country in South America occupying a long, narrow coastal strip between the Andes mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. It borders Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, Argentina to the east, and the Drake Passage in the far south. Along with Ecuador, it is one of two countries in South America that do not border Brazil. The Pacific coastline of Chile is 6,435 km (4000 mi). Chilean territory includes the Pacific islands of Juan Fernández, Salas y Gómez, Desventuradas and Easter Island. Chile also claims about 1,250,000 square km (480,000 square mi) of Antarctica, although all claims are suspended under the Antarctic Treaty. The shape of Chile is a distinctive ribbon of land 4,300 kilometers (2,700 mi) long and on average 175 kilometers (109 mi) wide. Its climate varies, ranging from the world’s driest desert, the Atacama, in the north, through a Mediterranean climate in the center  to a rainy temperate climate in the south. The northern desert contains great mineral wealth, principally copper. The relatively small central area dominates in terms of population and agricultural resources, and is the cultural and political center from which Chile expanded in the late 19th century, when it incorporated its northern and southern regions. Southern Chile is rich in forests and grazing lands and features a string of volcanoes and lakes. The southern coast is a labyrinth of fjords, inlets, canals, twisting peninsulas and islands. Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, northern Chile was under Inca rule while the indigenous Mapuche inhabited central and southern Chile. Chile declared its independence from Spain on February 12th, 1818. In the War of the Pacific (1879–83),Chile defeated Peru and Bolivia and won its current northern territory. It was not until the 1880’s that the Mapuche were completely subjugated. Although relatively free of the coups and arbitrary governments that blighted South America,Chile endured the 17 year long military dictatorship (1973–1990) of Augusto Pinochet that left more than 3,000 people dead or missing. Today,Chile is one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations and a recognized middle power. It leads Latin American nations in human development, competitiveness, income per capita, globalization, economic freedom, low perception of corruption and state of peace. It also ranks high regionally in freedom of the press and democratic development. However, it has a high economic inequality, as measured by the Gini index.

  1. Easter Island

    Moai, or mo‘ai, are monolithic human figures carved from rock on the Polynesian island of Easter Island between the years 1250 and 1500. Nearly half are still at Rano Raraku, the main moai quarry, but hundreds were transported from there and set on stone platforms called ahu around the island’s perimeter. Almost all moai have overly large heads three-fifths the size of their bodies. The moai are chiefly the living faces (aringa ora) of deified ancestors (aringa ora ata tepuna). The statues still gazed inland across their clan lands when Europeans first visited the island, but most would be cast down during later conflicts between clans. The 887 statues’ production and transportation is considered a remarkable creative and physical feat. The tallest moai erected, called Paro, was almost 10 meters (33 ft) high and weighed 82 tons; the heaviest erected was a shorter but squatter moai at Ahu Tongariki, weighing 86 tons; and one unfinished sculpture, if completed, would have been approximately 21 meters (69 ft) tall with a weight of about 270 tons.
    Links: Top Ten Easter Island Attractions, Top Ten Oceanic Attractions, Top 100 Monuments, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Easter_Island,
  2. Santiago

    Santiago is the capital and largest city of Chile. It is located in the country’s central valley, at an elevation of 520 m (1,706.04 ft) above mean sea level. Although Santiago is the capital, legislative bodies meet in the coastal town of Valparaíso, a one-hour drive to the west. Chile’s steady economic growth has transformed Santiago into one of Latin America’s most modern metropolitan areas, with extensive suburban development, dozens of shopping centers, and impressive high-rise architecture. It has a very modern transport infrastructure, including the steadily growing underground Santiago Metro, an effort at modernizing public bus transport and a free flow toll-based ring road and inner city highway system, part of which is tunneled underneath a large section of the city’s main river, Mapocho, connecting the Eastern and Western extremes of the city in a 25-minute drive. Santiago has a diverse, cosmopolitan culture, is the regional headquarters to many multinationals and a financial center.
    Links: Top Ten Explorershttp://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Santiago,_Chile,
  3. Historic Quarter of the Seaport City of Valparaíso

    Valparaíso is a city in Chile, center of its 3rd largest conurbation (Greater Valparaíso) and one of the country’s most important seaports and an increasing cultural center in the Southwest Pacific hemisphere. The city is the capital of the Valparaíso Province and the Valparaíso Region. Although Santiago is Chile’s official capital, the National Congress of Chile was established in Valparaíso in 1990. Valparaíso played an important geopolitical role in the second half of the 19th century, when the city served as a major stopover for ships traveling between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans by crossing the Straits of Magellan. Always a magnet for European immigrants, Valparaíso mushroomed during its golden age, when the city was known by international sailors as “Little San Francisco” and “The Jewel of the Pacific.” Examples of Valparaíso’s former glory include Latin America’s oldest stock exchange, the continent’s first volunteer fire department, Chile’s first public library, and the oldest Spanish language newspaper in continuous publication in the world. The opening of the Panama Canal and reduction in ship traffic dealt a staggering blow to Valparaíso, though the city has staged an impressive renaissance in recent years. Though nearby San Antonio has taken the reins as the country’s most commercially important seaport, the City of Valparaíso remains a vibrant center of Chilean culture, and the Greater Valparaíso metropolitan area (which includes Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, Quilpué and Villa Alemana) has the 3rd largest concentration of population in the country after Greater Santiago and Greater Concepción.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Valpara%C3%ADso,
  4. Chilean Wine Country

    Chile has a long viticultural history for a New World wine region dating to the 16th century when the Spanish conquistadors brought Vitis vinifera vines with them as they colonized the region. In the mid-19th century, French wine varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot were introduced. In the early 1980’s, a renaissance began with the introduction of stainless steel fermentation tanks and the use of oak barrels for aging. Wine exports grew very quickly as quality wine production increased. The number of wineries has grown from 12 in 1995 to over 70 in 2005. Chile is now the 5th largest exporter of wines in the world, and the 9th largest producer. The climate has been described as midway between that of California and France. The most common grapes are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère.
    Links: Wine, Top 100 Wines, Top Ten Chilean Wines, Top Ten Wine Regions, Ten 100 Wineries, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chile_%28wine%29,
  5. Churches of Chiloé

    The Churches of Chiloé in Chile’s Chiloé Archipelago are a unique architectural phenomenon in the Americas and one of the most prominent buildings of Chilota architecture. Unlike classical Spanish colonial architecture the churches of Chiloé are made entirely in native timber with extensive use of wooden roof shingles. The churches were made to resist Chiloé Archipelago’s humid and rainy oceanic climate. Built in the 18th and 19th centuries when Chiloé Archipelago was still a part of the Spanish Crown possessions, the churches represent the fusion of European Jesuit culture and local native peoples skill and traditions: an excellent example of mestizo culture.
    Links: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Churches_of_Chilo%C3%A9,
  6. Links: Top Ten South American Attractions, Top Ten Chilean Hotels, Top Ten Chilean Restaurants,

Recommendations for Chillin’ Out in Chile