South America Recommendations and Raves
If you want to go to the jungle, take the local transport down the amazon river instead of going to a jungle lodge. That's the best introduction you can possibly get to the real jungle. It's completely safe and a trip that will teach you about what it is to travel to learn.
Colombia in my experience is the easiest Spanish for beginners. I didn't learn there, but living there off an on for years.. and having lived in most of South America, knowing all the accents... I would recommend it to learn.
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There are tons of hostels and hotels in Otavalo, most located just off the main street thru town (calle sucre), but my favorite place to stay is Hostal Chasqui, set back in a residential area. The rooms are only $5-6 a night, private bathrooms, communal kitchen, roof top patio with the best view of the city, BBQ, laundry services, and a nice friendly atmosphere. It is close to everything (as everyplace is in Otavalo)- less than 5 minutes to anywhere in town. It is also a block off the main local busline, so you can jump aboard to get across town when you dont feel like walking. There is also a great sauna/spa/pool a block away that none of the gringos know about. And the owner is absolutely the best! Anything you need, you only need to ask.
There is alot to do right in the city, shopping being the top of the list. I suggest shopping in the stores on a weekday, as most of the Saturday vendors buy things from the store, set up outside, and charge you more. Also, be sure to look in all the stores, first, as there are great differences in prices from store to store. Buying more than one item also helps lower the price.
There are lots of "barrios" within Otavalo. Barrio Florida is located towards the west end of town, along the railroad tracks. It houses a church with a cave and religious figures, and a cross on a wall that constantly bleeds water into the street. Copacabana has the main terminal for the local buses, and a mini food market. It is also the only place to buy fresh fish and shrimp on Thursdays. There is the main food market, Mercado de Comida, which takes up almost two full city blocks. Here you can find prepared, and not so prepared food for sale. This is where most of the workers eat. Beware, animal lovers, you will find butchered animals all over here. There is also Plaza de Ponchos, the main hub of the market, and it is open everyday.
Just a short walk from Otavalo is Peguche Falls (just follow the railroad tracks). It features a small market, a reception office, and nicely laid out trails and hiking trails. No cost to enter, but be prepared to be asked for a donation, and begged for change by locals at the entrance. Be sure to go on both sides of the falls, one side has a short but steep trail up to a look out point, and across the falls are trails that lead up to the source of the falls, and some cool caves. Snacks and beverages are available.
My favorite place in Otavalo is finally being treated as a tourist attraction, Lachero. It is a sacred place where the otavalianos battled the incans, and gives you a breathtaking view of Imbabura, Lago San Pablo, and Cotacochi. There are lots of ways up, take the road if you want a longer, less steep walk, or follow the paths straight up for a good hike. Bring water and snacks, as there is nothing at the top but the tree. There is also another park close, El Parque Condor, anyone can point you to it.
Lago San Pablo is just past Lachero, but there is not too much going on there. Some nice places on the lake, which is freezing cold, and sometimes they have remote control boat races on the weekends. There are fish in the lake, but I have never seen anyone fishing. Take the bus back to Otavalo for a couple of dimes.
Just a 30 minute bus ride will take you to Cotacochi, a little leather town that has turned into some kind of weird, high priced "rodeo drive" of leather shops. I would skip the shops, and check out the museums and churches. Then negotiate with a cab driver ($4-5) to take you up to Cuicocha Laguna. They have a nice restaurant, some vendors, and a boat ride at the lake. It is a nice place to spend an afternoon, walking around. Then ask a vendor to drive you back to the bus terminal. Buses leave for Otavalo every 30 minutes or so.
Just before you get to Ibarra , north of Otavalo, is a wood carving town called San Antonio. Here you can watch artist work, buy items, and browse around. Across the street is a great antique place. Be sure to go past the store fronts to find the artists working.
Lago Mojando is about 30 minutes south of Otavalo. There isnt too much up there, and you will need to have the driver wait for you to bring you back (unless you want to walk 30 klm to the Pan Am). There is a trout farm, and lots of room to roam around. You will often find you are above the clouds here, and it is very hard to light a match or lighter here.
Intag (apuela), the thermal spas, is a great day trip from Otavalo. There are two buses a day leaving the Otavalo terminal (8am ish and 11:00am ish. The ride is about 2 hours, with a few stops along the way. The best way to enjoy this trip is to sit on top of the bus. Just ask the socio or driver if you can get on top when you get out of the city. Make sure you lay back (or grab the spare tire seat) so you don't get hit in the head with any branches. You can buy food from vendors along the way, they will be glad to throw the food up to you. The facility in Intag has four pools of varying temperatures, a tempid lap pool, and a MUY FRIO cold river swimming pool, complete with a tropical island in the middle. Lockers and changing rooms are available, as well as snacks, bevereages, and meals. Park entrance is less than $1, meals $2. The area also has cabanas on the river, and all the sub tropic flora and fauna you would want. The last return bus is around 1:30, then again in the morning.
If you are traveling to this area, feel free to email me with any questions you may have.
(While you're there, give the Museo de Oro a clear miss. It's an overpriced antiquities warehouse. Unless you're really into old gold baubles and obscene pottery, it's not worth seeing.)
quote:Originally posted by Uhlmann:
A quick rave about Lima. Yes, its smoggy dusty and not always friendly. But, if you have to be here give
museo de la nacionwith a guide... better than many of its euro contempories.
casa del mochileroin miroflores...the absolute nicest lady who puts u up in her house for just the right price (two of us for just 10 US in our own room)
they match you up with a native from the city (the guides are volunteers and have jobs outside of being a guide).
you basically get to do whatever you want, and itÂ´s great cause you get a tour of the city from someone who really knows it. they show you stuff other tourists donÂ´t get to see.
plus itÂ´s FREE!
i love these greeter services and i was stoked to find one in BA.
Av. de Mayo 860
This place definitely doesn't have a backpacker vibe, but it's a great cheap hotel in a nice location in the near Plaza de Mayo, Av. 9 de Julio, and the pedestrian streets. Ask for the rooms on the front of the building, which sleep up to four and have a private bathroom, tv, balcony, and breakfast included for about $25 per night. If you're traveling with a few other people, it winds up being cheaper than staying in a hostel.
Learn a little Spanish before you call because the owners, while friendly and helpful, don't speak any English.
If you need to work on your Spanish, look into Spanish classes with Espanol Andando. http://www.espanol-andando.com.ar
Classes are affordable, taught by a local, and meet in different locations around the city which makes it really fun.
places to stay (top class hostels)
hostel 41 below - bariloche
milhouse BA (crazy party party party)
limehouse BA (laid back party party)
america del sur -el calafate
lao hostel - mendoza
la chimba santiago
el refugio pucon
erratic rock puerto natales
red hostel mondevideo uruguay
also if you want a cheap flight to patagonia, I flew with www.skyairlines.cl
not a bad airline flew puerto montt to punta arenas (from where $10 bus to puerto natales/torres del paine.)
Quito: The Secret Garden, in old town, is lovely: great terrace with lovely views, good evening meals, very nice staff, both paid and volunteer. But do be prepared for the noise, which doesnÂ´t turn off until at least 11pm, and can, at times, be overwhelming. I had a private room with shared bath for $20, a private room with bath for $20 and a dorm room (5 beds) for $8. I stayed at TSG twice and would have stayed a third time but they didnÂ´t have a bed. This lead me to The Magic Bean in new town and to a much better bargain: $10 per night for a dorm room (3 or 4 people) with breakfast with great coffee. They make your bed and provide a fresh towel every day! The street noise on Friday and Saturday night can be overwhelming (ear plugs solve that problem) and the rest of the time the traffic noise dies down by 10pm. If you stay at TMB there is a great Internet cafe across the street on Juan Leon -- $0.60 per hour. DO NOT go to Papayanet. Big rip off with lousy machines and very watered down drinks.
Cuenca: Posada Todos Santos on Calle Larga is quite lovely. I had a private room with bath for $9 per night. The barebones breakfast costs $1. For breakfast, lunch and dinner I cannot say enough nice things about 4 Manos on Hermano Miguel. The owners, a Swiss woman and her Ecuadorian husband, are just lovely and the food is excellent. Actually the best food I had in Ecuador was in Cuenca.
Tulcan: It is well worth the journey to visit the cemetary. Had lunch at a broasted chicken place on the plaza near the cemetary. Weird service but good food.
PERU (exchange at this time is approximately 3 soles per dollar)
Lima: Hotel Espana, very near the Plaza de Armas. I had a dorm room for 13 soles per night with shared bath. I had the room to myself all four nights I was there. They have an okay rooftop restaurant, a good place to have a cold beer and catch up on your journal or your reading. They have fabulous art all over the place -- both paintings and sculpture. In my dorm room were several well executed 16th and 17th century paintings as well as a couple of contemporary pieces. Just next door is a nice little cafe (Acall... something). I tried to stay at Casa de Mochillos and yes Pilar is nice, but, at the time, I didnÂ´t have my own towel and as my bag was still in Ecuador, there was no way I was going to go without a shower. I stayed at Hostal Excelsior the first night (35 soles). It was okay but oddly layed out. Though I had a private bath and cable TV I only stayed the one night.
Cuzco: I stayed at Loki Hostel. The small dorms cost 26 soles per night, the large dorms are 20, inclusive of continental breakfast. They have great breakfasts for a good price. The beds are wonderful, there is daily maid service and the staff are very helpful. There are usually plenty of toilets and showers (you will need your own towel). They really like to party but the noise is not so bad as the rooms are away from the bar. GREAT dinners for reasonable prices. Other great finds: El Delicioso Pollo, down the street from Loki. Sweet owners and a real chef. Cafe Hentro, near the Plaza de Armas. Sophisticated food and staff. Moderate prices but the real coffee is worth it.
Ollantaytambo: the hostal was nothing to speak about but there is a cafe on the Plaza called Heart Cafe, where the food is EXCELLENT and even more excellent is the owner, a 76 year old English woman who came to Peru a few years ago, sight unseen, to do something useful with her retirement. After a few projects in Cuzco and the surrounds she landed in Ollanta and earlier this year she opened this lovely cafe. One hundred percent of the profits go to help the programs benefitting the local women and children. She also hires and trains local people to cook and serve. GREAT COFFEE! (Yes, there is a theme going through these recommendations )
Machu Picchu: Instead of taking the train from Cuzco it is actually much more efficient to get to Ollantaytambo by bus (and making your way through the Sacred Valley in this way is very worthwhile). From Ollanta there are many more trains than from Cuzco and the return trip will be almost two hours faster. In the Pueblo (aka Aguas Calientes) I stayed at Continental Hostal. The same owner has this, Machu Picchu Hostal and Hotel Presidente. My single room with THREE windows and a balcony cost $30 per night (they donÂ´t accept soles). For that price I got a fabulous view of the mountains and river plus buffet breakfast at the much more expensive Hotel Presidente. I had okay food at Govindas, though, like all of MPP, pretty cher. Be sure and buy your bus and entry tickets the day before. It is worth the pain to get up for the earliest buses at 5:30am.
Arequipa: second the recommendation about Cruz del Condor though I wouldnÂ´t recommend my tour or guide ($35). I didnÂ´t climb into the canyon and people I met who did said that it was an adventure but you donÂ´t get to see anymore condors than those of us slept in a nice, warm hotel. We saw at least six condors plus other birds. The only thing I didnÂ´t like were all of the tourist stops, including one where very sad-looking children had been dancing since 6am for tips. In Arequipa, I had an excellent lunch at Are Que Pay. Also, if you visit the monestary on Tuesday or Thursday night you get a very different experience and you basically have the whole place to yourself.
Puno: Not as much of a pit as some have suggested. Had fun at Positiva Rock nÂ´Reggae bar, a FABULOUS dinner at a new restaurant called Coco Kintu and a not so great lunch at La Casona. Touristy but worthwhile: the Floating Islands and Sillustani.
Which brings us to right now and my having to decide whether to return to Coco Kintu or try a different and highly recommended place.
The purpose of life is to live it, to taste experience to the utmost, to reach out eagerly and without fear for newer and richer experience. (Eleanor Roosvelt)
the only negative thing i can say about this area is that it's a bit far from the downtown zone but you have a bunch of buses and a subway nearby.
ESCUELA VIOLETA PARRA (TANDEM INTERNATIONAL)
This language school has classes, of course, but it also has a free program for language exchange regardless of whether you are a student or not.
Most Wednesdays from about 7-10pm there are group activities that encourage you to speak (1 hour in Spanish only, then 1 hour in English only). Or if you are in town for longer than 4 weeks they can match you with someone who wants to learn your native language so you can meet up in your own time as often as you want. It is a great program.
The tandem exchanges are in the school's head office on Ernesto Pinto Lagarrigue in Bellavista and you should put your name down on the list there at some point before the event.
(I am not affiliated with the school but have both studied there and attended group tandem exchanges in the last month).
A group of travellers and language students usually meet in a club in Bellavista, Santiago, every Thursday to meet, practice speaking in Spanish or English and just generally have a good time.
Details: Club 102
Ernesto Pinto Lagarrigue 102, Bellavista.
Thursday, from about 10pm (read: most people arrive at 11.30 - midnightish).
Sometimes there is a cover charge depending on who is DJing (CLP$3000 or so). If there is a cover charge, girls can usually enter for free until midnight. It is close to La Chimba Hostel, bus and metro transport to the rest of the city. The guys behind the bar can also call you a radio taxi if you want one.
I've been here about a month and have met a bunch of cool people at 102 - the guys behind the bar (Carola and Gerardo I think) are very friendly and speak a little English, but are happy to help with your Spanish. If you don't know anyone, you can always catch up with the guys behind the bar as a starting point - they'll introduce you to the regulars :-)
If you have any other questions or will be in Santiago in the next month or so, feel free to PM me - I'll probably be in the interchange groups and at Club 102 :-D
I wrote about the whole experience on my blog http://www.jamiesue.typepad.com where you can click on the category Patagonia, or here are the spots that I thought were the very best:
the 7 lakes district - http://jamiesue.typepad.com/jamiesue/2008/04/because-youre-g.html
Cablo Blanco at low tide-http://jamiesue.typepad.com/jamiesue/2008/05/love.html
Peninsula Valdes (although not as great as Cabo Blanco) - http://jamiesue.typepad.com/jamiesue/2008/05/get-in-the-bloo.html
the steppe - I drove too much of this. By the end of my trip, I was really tired of nothingness and I'm a huge fan of nothingness (I love middle of nowhere Arizona, for example). But, I think you have to experience it some...at least for 8 hours. But, I do admit that there was a lot...a lot ... a lot of nothigness. Just one of my posts on it: http://jamiesue.typepad.com/jamiesue/2008/05/dark.html there are many posts.
Puerto Deseado - I really liked this place, but really it's just a small somewhat run down fishing town. It feels very real to me, though. http://jamiesue.typepad.com/jamiesue/2008/04/the-post-i-coul.html
I'm a female traveling alone the whole time and camping many nights and I felt completely safe the whole time.
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