Places with photo galleries in South America
Ancient stone statues that were erected to guard the graves of tribal leaders. They portrait animals and spirits, and were made by a pre-Colombian culture that flourished between the 6th and the 14th century. Even though it is the largest collection of such religious monuments in South America, not much is known about them or the culture and that just makes it even more intriguing. They were originally spread over a wide area around Rio Magdalene, but have mostly been relocated to a handful of sites, where Parque Arqueologico in San Agustin and Alto de los Idolos are the biggest. Similar statues have also been found at Tierradentro, which just adds to the mystery. If you get stoned out while trying to see all 500 statues, the beautiful landscape offers great trails (trekking or horse riding) to viewpoints and waterfalls.
This national park is famed for its beautiful beaches. Stretches of sand that slopes into turquoise water and surrounded by soft boulders and dense jungle. There are no roads, only trails leading you from one bay to the next. Small eateries and simple accommodation (hammocks and cabanas) make out the development on this stretch of else wild coast. Tayrona Indians are still inhabiting the forest and you might catch a glance of them while looking for birds and howler monkeys. The park is understandably very popular with locals, but it is not hard to find your own patch of Caribbean paradise under the palms.
In the weekend this little mountain town (1800m) turns into a funtown for local tourists, who pour in to fill up the concrete hot springs and karaoke bars. In the rest of the week it is a bit more quiet, where adventure seeking backpackers can get an adrenalin fix. Anything from whitewater rafting to horseback riding, jungle trips and downhill mountain biking all the way down to the Amazon are being offered. Adding to the thrill is the town's location, which is on the lower slope of one of Ecuador's most active volcanoes, the Tungurhua volcano (5,023 m). A big erupted in 1999 forced an evacuation of Baños. Today Tungurahue is still active and is occasional belching smoke and lava out of it's cavity. It can be quite a terrifying experience to see (and hear) one, but cloudy weather will often obstruct the view.
This piece of road is the hidden gem of road trips in Ecuador. From the soft rolling hills surrounding Riobamba, it will lead you up into the mountains, through patched farmland and rugged villages. When the peaks turn hard and pointy, the road will cling to the mountainside, while winding its way to the pristine alpine lakes of Atillo at 3,500 m. From here it rolls down to the Amazon basin through the lush Sangay National Park, with spectacular views over the forest canopy and with waterfalls in the distance. This is the "real shit", so if you thought the touristy trip from Baños to Puyo was pretty, this rough journey will knock your socks off.
Galapagos Islands are famous for their unique wildlife, which was the inspiration source for Darwin. But what will strike you the most are not the differences between the species on each island, but the fearless attitude the animals have. Due to the lack of serious predators the animals will hardly lift an eyebrow when visitors go ashore. You will get really close to iguanas, sea lions, tortoises and birds, though the crabs seem a bit shy. If not careful, you can easily end up stepping on the wildlife. All the islands offer different wildlife experiences, but a visit to islands like Santa Cruz (main island), Espanola, Floreana (both part of the southern loop) and North Seymour (part of the northern loop) will give you a good taste of this truly unique place. Though any visit to the Galapagos Islands will be pricey, it will be totally worth it.
Every Thursday the town of Saquisilí turn into one giant market. Actually it is several markets that are spread over the town. Indigenous people from remote villages in the surrounding hills come in to sell their goods, whether it is a goat, old shoes or a bag full of guinea pigs... and they are not sold as pets. The people are covered under colorful ponchos and felt hats sporting a fashionable peacock feather. It is a wonderful messy and rowdy affair, that starts early and phase out around midday. While Otavalo market is for tourists, this is the real deal.
It might be a surprise to find Hmong villages in French Guiana since they originate from the mountain regions of Laos, Vietnam, China and Thailand. When many Hmong people became refugees after the Vietnam war, several thousands of Hmong people were relocated to French Guiana where they were given land. There are two main Hmong villages in French Guiana: Cacao and Javouhey. They feel very much like Laos.
The Cacao Sunday market attracts many day-trippers from Cayenne. Most people just come to eat the fantastic Laotian food, but you can also shop for Hmong souvenirs such as hats and embroidered cloths.
There are also great walks in the Cacao region, the most known and important one being the Molokai trail that takes you through the jungle in one very long day or in two regular hiking days.
Another popular thing to do in Cacao is to go to the Saut Bief, a pretty river with rapids that make a great place for a refreshing swim after hiking or just to go digest the lovely Laotian food.
Such beautiful palm tree-filled islands bear such a sad history. These islands were named Îles du Salut (Salvation islands) after the missionaries came to escape the diseases on the main land. There wasn’t much salvation on these islands, but prison camps for the French. It wasn’t the worst place of all the French prison camps in Guiana but still life was tough, escape nearly impossible and many people didn’t survive this place. The islands are owned by the space centre and are being renovated. During a rocket launch they get completely evacuated.
The main island, Île Royale, is where you can stay overnight in either guard houses or in a hammock in a prison quarter. There are trails all over the island with beautiful views to the other islands, monkeys, parrots and plenty of agoutis, a rodent somewhere between a rat and a hamster. Île St Joseph is smaller and is also worth a visit. The prison buildings here are decayed and overgrown by trees which gives it an even more spooky feeling. The third island, Île du Diable, is closed for visitors.
Arriving into Guyana you feel right away a different vibe than in the neighbouring countries. All off a sudden, you have arrived in the Caribbean, just without the beautiful beaches. Most Guyanese are from either African or Indian descent and from cars and shop windows you'll hear Soca, Chutney, Bollywood or Reggae music. A strange worldly mix. The colonial history of Guyana is still very evident on signs, with streets and areas bearing Dutch or English names. Some colonial buildings and houses are well maintained or renovated with the St. George's Cathedral, Town Hall and Parliament buildings as the masterpieces. It's a pretty laid-back city but a lot more active and with a lot more hustle and bustle than the capitals of the neighbouring Guianas. A great day in Georgetown could be sightseeing the colonial buildings in the morning, eating a curry for lunch, watching a Bollywood movie in the afternoon and party at night with rum and Soca music.
Pretty Paramaribo is a colonial jewel. The old town is full of well-kept colonial houses with front porches, steps leading up to the front door and white-washed wooden walls. No wonder it is now protected by UNESCO. The Dutch colonial history is very present in all the names you see. The Palmentuin (Palm garden) is a pleasant place for a stroll and the St. Petrus en Paulus Cathedral is supposedly the tallest wooden building in the world. Fort Zeelandia is a great place for a lunch unless you feel more like an Indian Roti or some Indonesian food at the colourful market. Paramaribo is furthermore one of the few places in the world where you can see a mosque and a synagogue peacefully next to each other. Hopefully, Paramaribo will be able to keep its charm after the big plans they have for changing over the Waterkant (water front).