Cities and Towns in South America
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.
© Luke Kenyon
Sitting in a school bus turned coach with straight back seats for 6 hours on a bumpy, dirt road in the middle of Paraguay, may sound like the stereotypical South American bus ride. However when all the road signs start to appear in German you may get the feeling you've been on the bus for too long. There is a small German population in central Paraguay, living along side the indigenous Guarani since the end of WWII. Primarily located in Filadelfia, some call the small town of Concepcion on the Paraguay River, home. River barges meander their way up from Asuncion stopping at the Concepcion docks to unload and reload and continue there journey all the way up to Bahia Negra, a national park close to the Brazilian border. Bahia Negra is only accessible by river barge that leaves once a week and can take anywhere from 3 days to 2 weeks to arrive depending on the weather.
Arequipa is a great place to chill for a few days after or before trekking to the Colca Canyon. The lower altitude and pleasant climate make it a very enjoyable place.
The city’s scenery is dominated by the beautiful perfectly conical shape of volcano El Misti, which is quite a challenge to climb.
The center and especially the Plaza de Armas has plenty of colonial buildings but the main attraction of the city is the Santa Catalina Monastery with its brightly colored walls and quite atmosphere.
Also an attraction for some is Juanita, also known as the ice maiden. This girl died in the 15th century and was discovered well preserved on a glacier in the 90s.
Most people rush the overland trip from Paramaribo to Georgetown by going with a shuttle service. But you can split up the journey by taking a public minibus to Nieuw Nickerie, stay a night and then cross the border the next day. Of course there aren’t a lot to see, but the local market is nice and there are a few traditional Dutch churches.
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).
Colonia del Sacramento is a bustling and popular weekend getaway for Porteñas (people from Buenos Aires) but quiet and relaxed during the week. From Buenos Aires, it takes just a one hour boat ride across the Rio de la Plata to get there. The old centre of Colonia del Sacramento is small and filled with colonial buildings, from both the Spanish and Portuguese reign. In the first centuries of its existence, it regularly changed ownership between Spain and Portugal until finally becoming a part of Brazil and ultimately Uruguay.
You can stroll the cobblestone streets, go up the lighthouse and dine well at one of the riverside restaurants.
Modern Montevideo is a pleasant place with leafy boulevards and plazas. The old town has pretty colonial buildings, but the end part of town, at the peninsula, is unfortunately a bit decayed and is home to drug addicts and street bums, making it a less appealing place to stroll. The Mercado del Puerto is a haven in this part of town. This market building has been transformed into a collection of restaurants that are a very popular lunch place, especially on the weekends. Also on weekends, there are several markets to explore and you can head to one of the river beaches or go people watching at one of the Ramblas, the (river) beach side promenades. As far as tourist attractions go, the Teatro Solis stands out being one of the oldest theatre buildings in South America and is definitely worth a visit.
The old saying goes, "When in Rome, do as the Romans". So does that mean, "When in Venezuela, do as the Germans"? Well actually, it kind of does. Founded in 1843 by German immigrants, the tiny village of Colonia Tovar is a slice of Bavaria. The entire town follows the same architectural style, so much so, you could swear you're in Germany. A place to get your fill of sauerkraut, sausages and arguably the best beer in the country, the village is one of the more popular weekend getaways for Caracas families (being much cooler at 2,000+ meters above sea level doesn't hurt either) With some of the best tourist infrastructure in the country, with countless hotels and restaurants, strap on your lederhosen and join in the crowds.
Located at a pleasant altitude of 1620 m and surrounded by the Andes mountains, including Venezuela's highest peaks, Merida stands out from the otherwise hot country. Tour operators offer an impressive range of adventure activities spanning from canyoning, rafting and paragliding to multi-days trekking and mountaineering, which will keep any outdoor freak busy for several days. For the calm days, there is also, of course, less adrenalin pumping stuff like day trips to nearby hill villages, mountain lakes and hot springs. If you want some adventure for your taste buds, drop by the world's biggest ice cream shop where 900 flavours (including cheese, beer and garlic) can be mixed. Cool, eh?