Features // South America

The view from Caracas as a nation mourns Chávez
The view from Caracas as a nation mourns Chávez

As Venezuela mourns its lost leader Huge Chávez, Alasdair Baverstock describes the mood in Caracas and reflects on the country’s reputation abroad. Twelve hours after President Hugo Chávez died, the central square of Caracas was still occupied by his red-clad supporters. Through the television lens, broadcasting into homes around the world, the scene looked terrifying.…

Experience Tapati festival on Easter Island, Chile
Experience Tapati festival on Easter Island, Chile

Rapa Nui – Easter Island – is shrouded in mystery. How did its people get there? Where did they come from? How did they move those gigantic statues? Some of that enigma comes to life during January’s fortnight-long Tapati, a festival that combines ancient customs, such as carving and canoeing, with modern sports, such as…

Hunting for the world’s best chocolate in Venezuela
Hunting for the world’s best chocolate in Venezuela

As we walked along the beach road towards Chuao, a coastal Venezuelan town, a local was approaching from the other direction, swinging a machete in time with his steps. On either side of the concrete surface, the dense jungle towered above: enormous mango trees, banana groves, bamboo thickets and the shorter cocoa (or cacao) plants…

Visiting the last panama hat wearers, Ecuador
Visiting the last panama hat wearers, Ecuador

Panama hats, as any Ecuadorian worth their salt will tell you, don’t come from Panama. Authentic Panamas – or sombreros de paja toquilla, as they call them locally – are only woven in the Andean country, from the straw of the toquilla plant, which grows in the swamps near Ecuador’s central coast. The origin of the misnomer comes from…

Swinging sticks at the Argentine Polo Open
Swinging sticks at the Argentine Polo Open

It’s the most prestigious polo club tournament in the world. But unlike similar sporting events elsewhere, there’s no snobbery involved in the invitations. Turn up at the ground in Buenos Aires’ leafy Palermo district, hand over less cash than you’d spend on a beer in an upmarket London pub, and you’ll find a seat in…

Five top shopping holidays
Five top shopping holidays

If you’re the kind of traveller who saves extra space for holiday purchases – or even dumps old clothes and toiletries to make room for impulse buys – you’ll want to check out some of these unique shopping experiences from around the world. From carpets in Turkmenistan to jewelry in Dubai, we’ve rounded up some of the…

Exploring Quichua culture in Ecuador’s highlands
Exploring Quichua culture in Ecuador’s highlands

You’re at an altitude of 3900m, shivering in the cold as the sun rises behind you. Below, a saw-edge precipice encircles a still, emerald-green lake 3km in diameter. Lower still, fertile plateaus creased with deep, shadowed valleys are picked out by the golden dawn light and, beyond, snow-capped peaks fringe the horizon. This is the…

Brave the devil’s throat at Iguazú Falls
Brave the devil’s throat at Iguazú Falls

Upon first seeing Iguazú Falls, all Eleanor Roosevelt could manage was “Poor Niagara”. Every year, tens of thousands of visitors from around the world try to evaluate the sheer dimension of this natural miracle – a collection of more than two hundred cascades thundering over an 80m cliff – and usually fail. However you spell it – Iguazú, Iguaçu…

Five top isolated retreats
Five top isolated retreats

Whether we dwell in city centre or suburb, we nearly all dream of escaping the humdrum and finding somewhere truly off the grid. As the world shrinks, more and more places that promise isolation find their offerings increasingly crowded. Here’s five destinations, drawn from Rough Guides’ Make The Most Of Your Time On Earth, that…

The spirit world – top five places to get a glimpse of the other side
The spirit world – top five places to get a glimpse of the other side

Communing with an Amazon Shaman, Peru Psychedelic tourism isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but there is nowhere on Earth where so many shaman serve such magical brews as they do in Peru. The typical setting for a session with an ayahuasquero or jungle shaman, is to meet him at a rainforest lodge on the edge…

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