Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

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Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s second largest city and for me one of the world’s most beautiful. With a population of estimated 13,3 million people in the metropolitan region it belongs to the worlds Megacities. Europeans first encountered the Guanabara Bay on January 1st, 1502 and assumed mistakenly the bay was a river mouth, hence the name: January river. I guess everyone knows the most iconic places like the sugar loaf, the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado or the stairway Escaderia Selarón. However, if you have some time you can discover much more:

Rios famous nostalgic yellow tram goes to Santa Teresa, an art district in a hilly area a bit away from the beaches.
You’´ll find there beautiful old mansions, galleries, fancy shops, bars and restaurants. When I first came to Rio many years ago it was still allowed to hold on to the outside of the tram during the ride even on the bridge “Arcos da lapa” which is up to 17 m high.
While the Copacabana became pretty touristic and commercial during the last years Santa Teresa is still more authentic. We’ve been there on Saturday night and had a wonderful time in a restaurant with live music and dance and many locals.
Looking through the old pics I realized that I captured the same restaurant then and recently. It hasn’t changed much over the years…. Going by this tram you will explore a different side of the city. The station of the Carioca tram is in the centre a bit hidden behind the building of the Bank of Brazil.

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While sitting atop the sugar loaf and enjoying the view this little guy passed by.  Do you know what it is? At least I didn’´t. Later I realized that it is a marmoset, also known as zari, a primate species native to the Amazonas rain forest, usually living in the upper canopees of the forest trees. Their incisors are similar to those of rodents in order to gnaw the tree bark to get the tree sap.

Special Tip: Since a few years you can discover Rio by bike. There are bicycle lanes on many major roads and many cycle paths, including along Guanabara Bay. There is a bicycle rental in the Avenida Atlantica close to the Museum of History.


Peru

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I love Peru, its amazing natural beauty, the rich culture and the utterly friendly people. The country has incredibly diverse landscapes from coastal deserts to high mountains and tropical rainforests and impressive evidence of ancient cultures. In 2017 we crossed Latin America from the West coast to the East coast. Starting in Lima we made a road trip via Nasca to Arequipa, headed further to the Colca Valley and from there to Lake Titicaca and to Bolivia. Cusco, the Urumbamba Valley, the Sacred valley of the Inca and Machu Picchu we had visited before. Here are some of the moments I loved the most:

The city of Arequipa is one of my favourite places in the Peruvian Altiplano. We stopped there on our way from Lima to the Colca Canon and further to La Paz. The city with beautiful colonial style buildings is surrounded by 3 volcanoes. The roof-top terrace of our hotel at Plaza de Armas offered this stunning view on the 5822 m tall Misti. It was beautiful during daytime but even more during sunset. In the evening sun it looked like the top of the volcano was glowing.

4410m above sea level at Interoceanica highway in the Peruvian Altiplano on our way from Colca Valley to Lake Titicaca. There was a stunning view on the lake Lagunilla but I just had eyes for this super cute baby guanaco.
Indigenous people started domesticating guanacos around 3000 B.C. It is estimated that there have been around 50 millions of guanacos in South America before the arrival of the Europeans. Today it´s only around 600.000.
They have been hunted for their meat, skin and to gain pastures for sheeps

Aren’t they sweet ?? These fluffy cuties came across our way at the shore of Lake Titicaca.
Did you know that there are 4 different species of camelids in South America? Llamas, Alpacas, Vicunas and Guanacos.
These lovely alpacas live in the Andes at an altitude of around 3500 m. Andean people started domesticating alpacas thousands of years ago for their fine and warm fiber which is used to make various woven items.
Alpaca fibers have 52 (!) different natural colours. Some of those you can see on these pics. 🥰
Alpacas are very social, gentle and intelligent.

This is one of the most amazing sunrises I have ever seen – a bit north of Puno at Lake Titicaca at an altitude of 3800 m. We’ve been there close to the Uros Floating Island in September, it was one of the most peaceful and beautiful places I have ever been to. No mass tourism, no traffic noise – just SILENCE and an incredible landscape. Being there I REALLY understood why indigenous people worshiped the sun as the highest goodness. During daytime temperature are moderate and comfortable but when the sun is gone it gets immediately freezing cold. The Uros people live at floating islands made of reed close to the western shore of lake Titicaca. You can go there easily by boat and visit the islands.


Cuba

Havana

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The city of Havana, the capital of Cuba, is Cuba’s largest city, major port and leading commercial centre. Old Havana, the unique old town with beautiful colonial style buildings is a UNESCO World Heritage SITE. Havana is vibrant city with a young and creative population. So, it is worth discovering the city away from the major tourist spots.

Callejon de Hamel in Havana was one highlights of our Cuba trip. A few kilometers west of the old town there is this unique vibrant and colourful place to enjoy modern Afro-Cuban art. It is actually just one narrow street with all kind of street art, galleries, shops, cafes and bars, mural paintings, sculptures made of various everyday objects, such as bath tubs. Formerly being a settlement of Afro-Cuban tobacco workers the district has a strong attachment to African cultures and religions. It is a centre of Santeria, a syncretic religion with its roots in West-Africa. Every Sunday around noon you can enjoy frenetic rumba music with drums and chants to summon the Santeria spirits.

Special Tip: Cuba is a safe destination for female travellers. When planning your trip on site check the offers carefully. We felt foreign tourists often get very overprized offers. Many Taxi drivers do not speak English. If you have time visit a Show of the Original Buena Vista Social Club in Havana. Make sure, the Taxi driver takes you to the Original Club in Old Havana and not to another one he gets a commission from.