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Far from the Equator and the humid jungles of northern Brazil lies Parana Province. While many tourists only venture this far south to take in a single, monolithic site – the towering Iguazu Falls – there’s more to see in this hilly, forest-covered province that borders the Atlantic Ocean to the east, and Argentina and Paraguay to the west.
And while Sao Paulo and Rio de Janeiro can make for breathtaking, if spendy, South American retreats, Parana’s capital city, Curitiba, and the surrounding areas, are easy on both the eyes and the wallet. After you see the famous waterfall (It only takes a day), head back east for a less touristy look at Parana with its charming colonial towns, blazing sunsets, and one death-defying train ride.
Sao Paulo isn’t for everybody. With a teeming population of 19 million, a sprawling, helter-skelter skyline that takes no regular shape, dozens of neighborhoods, and endless snarls of traffic, it’s easy to understand why tourists – especially first-timers to Brazil – head straight for the beaches of Rio de Janeiro.
But for those willing to look beyond the chaos, and behind its gritty surface, Sao Paulo can be a sophisticated traveler’s paradise filled with chic little shops, innovative restaurants, and some mind-blowing hotels. Rio may have the beaches and the views – and the 2016 Olympics – but this stylish financial and business hub has plenty to boast about, including its status as a host city in next year’s World Cup.
If you’re thinking of visiting, focus on South America’s winter months – June through August – when hotel bargains abound and weather hovers comfortably in the 60s and 70s. The occasional cold snap can send temperatures plunging into the 40s, so check the forecast, and be prepared to compete with the locals’ fashion-forward winter garb. Here are some of our favorite finds in this complicated, but incredibly rewarding city. Read more
At 1.8 billion years old, this UNESCO World Heritage Site in the Brazilian Highlands is the oldest rock formation on earth. The washed out grey rocks in the Vale da Lua, or Valley of the Moon, have been smoothed and shaped by the clear waters of the San Miguel River, which runs across it. Over the years, the water has drawn sand particles across the rock surface, creating friction and digging craters. Read more
The 2014 FIFA World Cup is still a year away, but when it comes to booking travel plans for Brazil, it’s never too early to start planning. Today, millions of soccer fans all over the world tuned in as FIFA made it official announcement about ticket prices (the projected on-sale date is still August 20). If you’re considering whether or not to attend the festivities next June, here are a few important questions you should be asking: Read more
Oasis Collections, an American-run, South American-based short-term apartment rental agency – and self-dubbed “curators of stylish pads” – has recently launched a series of budget-friendly upscale vacation rentals, spanning some of South America’s hottest destinations, for under $250/night. Read more
Who said desert oases don’t exist? Lençois Maranhenses National Park is the only desert in the world with thousands of crystal clear freshwater lagoons. During the first half of the year, the sand dunes fill with water from the extensive rainy season. Then, during the dry season many of them disappear. Covering over 383,000 acres in the Maranhão State of Brazil, sand from riverbeds has contributed to the formation of the park over the past several thousand years. Read more
It’s simple supply and demand. You don’t need to be an economist to understand that concept. And when it comes to hotel rooms in Brazil, tourists may soon find themselves on the right side of the equation. With the country playing host to the 2014 FIFA World Cup (that’s soccer, folks) and Rio de Janeiro welcoming the Parade of Nations in 2016 for the Summer Olympics, 259 new hotels and 43,827 rooms will be available to visitors in the next two years. While occupancy rates will be high during the two major, international events on the horizon, that’s a lot of rooms to fill after the crowds have left (and before they arrive, for that matter). That glut of accommodations stands to create fare sales that surely will benefit those looking to visit South America in the coming years. Read more
Nothing staves off those post-holiday, cold-weather blahs quite like planning a beach vacation. Breezes Resorts and Spas is offering savings of up to 55 percent off at six of its properties in the Bahamas (Breezes Bahamas), Jamaica (Breezes Runaway Bay, Breezes Grand Negril, or Breezes Trelawny), Curaçao (Breezes Curaçao), and Brazil (Breezes Búzios) for travelers who book by February 15 for travel between May 1 and October 31. The chain’s all-inclusive rates include accommodations, all meals at multiple dining venues, unlimited premium-brand drinks, numerous land and water sports offerings, entertainment, and more.
THE VALUE: Savings range from 25 to 55 percent off of rack rates, working out to as low as $68 per person, per night. You’ll secure the most highly discounted rates by booking ahead for travel in August or September.
THE CATCH: A minimum 3-night stay is required.
THE DETAILS: To book, visit www.breezes.com or call 877-273-3937.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to find the lowest rates on hotels, flights, vacation packages, and more travel deals.
While we at ShermansTravel obviously advocate actually going to the destinations we write about, we know sometimes armchair travel can be just as fun (and much easier on the wallet!). From 3D models of notable cities around the world to amazing new video technology in Brazil to an insider’s look at a tiny village in France, here are the coolest new spots to visit – without ever leaving home.
Launched this past weekend, the website 3rd Planet aims to bring users to far-flung destinations to explore 3D dioramas highlighted with notable facts and travel information. You can virtually spin the globe to pick out countries you’d like to visit then zoom in to click on individual cities to explore. The 3D models resemble a video game, but instead of hunting down opponents you’ll be mentally racking up trivia on the city’s landmarks and monuments.
Though votes are still being counted and the results are provisional, the New7Wonders Foundation announced a new list of wonders on Friday. In alphabetical order, the winners are: the Amazon, Halong Bay, Iguazu Falls, Jeju Island, Komodo, Puerto Princesa Underground River, and Table Mountain (pictured). 440 locations were in the running, narrowed down to 28 prior to the final vote.
The poll has created a bit of a stir, however, when, following paying a registration fee of $199, the Maldives and Indonesia were asked for $500,000 and $57 million, respectively. The New7Wonders Foundation allegedly asked Indonesia for $10 million in licensing fees and $47 million to host the closing ceremony. The Maldives and the Indonesian government did not pony up the cash, but did remain in the running. The foundation has denied these claims.
Alas, my stint as the Romantic Getaways blogger has come to an end: After 90-plus blogs, I am giving up this weekly freelance assignment to take a full-time job. But I want the romance to live on, so I thought I’d list a handful of my Ultimate Romantic Getaways must-dos – each with two suggestions, one a splurge and the other a steal. I hope you’ll find the time to get away soon and enjoy some of the places I’ve loved writing about.
Enjoy a Private Jacuzzi Rendezvous
Splurge: If you want to feel like you are the only two people in Venice, stay at the Bauer Il Palazzo, and book the private rooftop Jacuzzi (shown above at left) for one hour just before sunset. You’ll get champagne, strawberries, and 60 amazing minutes to soak in the sexiness of La Serenissima – and each other. Rates start at $853/night (private Jacuzzi bookable at an extra charge).
Steal: Every suite at Excellence Playa Mujeres, an adults-only all-inclusive located on a white-sand beach just outside Cancun, Mexico, has a private Jacuzzi with both indoor and outdoor access. Plus, the décor is contemporary chic, with polished marble floors and a dramatic four-poster bed. The beach and the meandering freeform pool may beckon, but the top spot to relax à deux is just steps from your bed. Rates start at $375/night, all-inclusive.
Considering all the brands of extra-soft, ultra-cushioned toilet paper on supermarket shelves and junk mail stuffed in mailboxes these days, and it’s no surprise the world’s forests are shrinking at alarming rates. Every year, according to the United Nations, the world loses 13 million hectares of forest. So, in order to raise awareness on sustainable management and conservation of these leafy (and pine-y and jungle-y) paradises – which are beloved destinations for adventure travelers – the UN has designated 2011 as International Year of the Forest.
And with spring in full bloom and Earth Day 2011 (Friday, April 22) on the horizon, this is an ideal time to visit one of the world’s most majestic forests. Even if you arrive by car or plane, try to explore them with minimal impact by walking, hiking, or biking.
In 2011, follow through with your New Year’s resolution to travel more by making that elusive South America vacation a reality. LAN Airlines has announced a fare sale to South America that includes Chile, Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador, Peru, and Uruguay, with round-trip rates starting from $399! Best of all, these fares from select U.S. cities are valid between January 1 and December 31, 2011, so whether you’re trying to exchange the winter blues for a dose of summertime in the Southern Hemisphere, or you’re planning a vacation well into next year, these rates will be your best friend. Flights must be booked by December 15, 2010.
Sample Round-Trip Fares to South America (Excluding Taxes):
• Miami?Quito, Ecuador: $399
• New York?Guayaquil, Ecuador: $429
• Los Angeles?Lima, Peru: $599
• New York?Lima, Peru: $599
• San Francisco?Sao Paolo, Brazil: $799
• Miami?Buenos Aires, Argentina: $899
• And more!
THE VALUE: These fares are an average of $150 off competitor’s rates!
THE CATCH: Blackout dates apply during portions of July, August, and December. Taxes and fees not included.
THE DETAILS: To book your flight, visit www.LAN.com.
WE’VE GOT MORE: Use our Travel Search price comparison tool to help find a hotel to complete your vacation!
Use our South America Travel Guide to find the perfect destination.
Two cruise ships couldn’t possibly be more different than Seabourn Sojourn (www.seabourn.com; shown at left; courtesy of the Yachts of Seabourn) and Royal Caribbean’s Allure of the Seas (www.royalcaribbean.com). I was recently onboard preview sailings of both as they arrived in Fort Lauderdale, FL, and I can tell you they only have two things in common: They are the newest vessels in their fleets (both debuted in 2010) and they are truly fantastic ships. Come to think of it, comparing them is kind of like comparing a Yorkshire Terrier and a Great Dane. Both are best in show, but for very different reasons!
Here’s a rundown of what to expect, beginning with an aft-to-stern comparison:
When it comes to navigating big foreign cities, it’s sometimes best to leave the what, where, and when to the pros. And if you are planning a romantic visit to South America – say, several nights in either Rio de Janeiro (shown at left, courtesy of Orient-Express Hotels) or Buenos Aires, paired with a beach escape or an Amazon/Iguassu Falls adventure – and you have a splurge-worthy budget, then consider putting your enjoyment in the hands of Blue Parallel (www.blueparallel.com). Plus, summer is about to bloom in the southern hemisphere, so the timing is ideal.
Founded in 2002 by Emmanuel Burgio, this award-winning bespoke travel company is based in the U.S. with an operations center in Buenos Aires. Burgio and his team craft custom itineraries featuring South America’s most luxurious accommodations and must-see sights – some of them, such as a private concert by a group of musicians from Buenos Aires’ famous Teatro Colon or a candlelit visit to the magnificent Compañía de Jesús church in Quito, Ecuador, not widely accessible to the general public. Add knowledgeable local guides, who are there when you want them (helping you circumvent traffic jams or expedite lines) and not there when you don’t (when dining à deux) and the effect is a seamless voyage, tailor-made to your needs and budget. Although with rates starting at $1,000 per person per day (all-inclusive, with the exception of international airfare and certain meals), nothing about the Blue Parallel experience is budget.
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