Posted by: RasmaSandra | December 6, 2017

The City of Eternal Spring


We have arrived in Columbia which is a country at the northern tip of South America. It is an amazing country with rainforests, the Andes Mountains and coffee plantations.

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Medellin is the capital of the mountainous Antioquia province. It has been nicknamed the “City of Eternal Spring”. The city has a temperate climate.

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Comuna 13 is one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in Medellin. This is because it clings to the mountainside above the San Javier metro station.

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It has gone many transformations and at present is safe to visit. There are outdoor escalators, providing access to the homes in marginalized barrios.

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There are six sets of escalators with murals and graffiti.

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At the top you’ll find a lookout and a boardwalk that offers fantastic views of the city. You can get a local guide to show you around.

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Cerro Nutibara is an 80m-tall hill upon which perches Pueblito Paisa, a miniature version of a typical Antioquian township.

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Nutibara Sculpture Park

The views from the adjacent platform are amazing.

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Nest to the lookout is the Museo de la Ciudad, a small museum that is dedicated to the history of Medellin with old photos of the city.

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Museo Casa de la Memoria is a museum that is dedicated to the urban conflict in Medellin. There are fascinating displays on the geopolitical origins of the conflict. Survivors recount their experiences on life-size video screens and the dark room out in back pays homage to local residents who were killed in the violence.

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Casa Museo Pedro Nel Gomez this museum is set-up in the house where local artist Pedro Nel Gomez lived. There is an extensive collection of his artwork. The museum also organizes painting workshops for visitors and classes are held in the artist’s studio which is decorated with a wonderful mural. Some of the houses that line the road heading up to the museum from the neighborhood of Moravia have had reproductions of Gomez’s artwork painted on their facades.

fotos aereas MAMM. foto: Federico Rios

Museo de Arte Moderno de Medellin is located in an industrial building in Ciudad del Rio. El MAMM has changing exhibits of contemporary art. The large new wing has artwork from the permanent collection that includes work by local artists Debora Arango. There is a cinema that shows independent films.

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Monumento a la Raza is an impressive monument designed by Rodrigo Arenas Betancur.

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It stands in front of the municipal building and tells the story of Antioquia.

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Museo de Antioquia makes its home in the grand art-deco Palacio Municipal. This is Columbia’s second-oldest museum. It is dedicated to fine art. The collection consists of pre-Columbian, colonial and modern art work. The highlight is the third floor where you can see lots of artwork by Columbian Fernando Botero and other artists’ artwork from Botero’s personal collection. Around the building are impressive murals by Pedro Nel Gomez.

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Plazoleta de las Esculturas is a public space in front of the Museo de Antioquia. Here you can see 23 large curvaceous bronze sculptures by renowned local artist Fernando Botero.

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El Cerro de Moravia is a densely populated neighborhood which was once the place for the city’s municipal rubbish dump. Then it was transformed into a model urban center and a mound of trash was transformed into a foliage-covered hillside. You can have a guided tour of the neighborhood. What is amazing is even though the hill looks green the pile of rubbish beneath it is still smoldering and some say that it is a few degrees hotter here than anywhere else in the city.

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Around Parque Arvi are many houses, paved roads and development all alongside tracts of forest. This is a 17.61sq,km. reserve with hiking trails, canopy lines, lakes and a lovely mariposario or butterfly enclosure. You can get a guided walk and there is also a cable car.

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Palacio de la Cultura Rafael Uribe Uribe stands next to the Berrio metro station. This is an impressive black-and-white Gothic Revival building. It is the city’s most interesting landmark that was designed by Belgian architect Agustin Goovaerts. Visitors can walk along the corridors and through the ornately decorated rooms. In some of the rooms are rotating art exhibitions. In the majestic dome you can see free international films on Tuesday or Thursday afternoons. Downstairs you can get access to the beautiful central courtyard, featuring a fountain with azaleas.

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One of Medellin’s loveliest green spaces is the Jardin Botanico. Here you can see 600 species of trees and plants among them is a lake, a herbarium and a butterfly enclosure.

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Monumento a la Vida is an amazing 14m high, 975-ton, concrete and bronze sculpture by Rodrigo Arenas Betancur. This symbolizes the circle of life.

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Cerro Volador is a hilly municipal nature reserve which is popular with both locals and visitors. It is home to birdlife like owls and there are foxes, rabbits and several species of bats. Organized trips can be arranged with guides.

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Ermita de la Veracruz is a fine church that was inaugurated in 1803. It is the only colonial-style temple in the city with a stone facade and a white-and-gold interior.

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Basilica de la Candelaria is the city’s most important church. It stands over Parque Berrio. It was constructed in the 1770s on the site of the earlier wooden structure. Inside you can see a German-made pipe organ.

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Parque Explora is an expansive science museum, featuring an aquarium that is full

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of species from Columbian waterways as well as a reptile enclosure.

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Catedral Metropolitana overlooks the Parque de Bolivar. This is a neo-Romanesque cathedral that was completed in 1931. The interior is lit by Spanish stained-glass windows.

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Museo El Castillo is housed in a mock-Gothic castle that was built in 1930. It was once a home to a wealthy Antioquian landowner. Inside you can see the original furnishings and artwork from all over the world. On the outside are French-style formal gardens.

Iglesia San José

Iglesia de San Jose is a landmark church with immense stained-glass panels.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | December 3, 2017

Exploring Chile

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Our armchair travels took us through the capital of Chili, Santiago. Now we will explore the rest of Chile which is a fascinating country. There are impressive mountains, glaciers and many lakes and rivers. There are national parks that offer wonderful scenery and hiking adventures.

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Valle de la Luna means Moon Valley and is located 13 kilometers west of San Pedro de Atacama in the north of Chile close to the border with Bolivia.

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Here you can find a most rugged landscape right in the very heart of the Atacama Desert. It is amazing how much this area resembles the surface of the moon which is an effect created by sand erosion and stone features as wind and water has gone over it over countless millennia.

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Among the most interesting features here are the dry lake beds, white from deposited salt and creating natural saline outcrops. The desert has many caverns some which have pictographs once made by early man. Here some of the world’s oldest mummies have been found known as the Chinchorro mummies, now on display at the archaeological museum in San Miguel de Azapa.

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The fantastic but remote Easter Island was first visited by Europeans in 1722. It has been inhabited for lots of years by Polynesians. It is located over 3,500 kilometers from the mainland of Chile. Visitors enjoy seeing the unusual stone sculptures. Altogether there are 887 statues which are known as Moal. These were created by the early Rapa Nui population. They are now protected by Rapa Nui National Park. The island has been declared as a UNESCO World Heritage site.

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The most amazing collection is at Ahu Tongariki where 15 statues have been re-erected on the island’s largest Moai platform.

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Other highlights here include the Father Sebastian Englert Anthropological Museum in Hanga Roa which is the island’s main community.

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Chile’s Lake District stretches for over 330 kilometers from Temuco to Puerto Montt. The area here resembles the alpine regions of Europe. Here in the Andean foothills is rich farmland with snowcapped volcanoes rising above.

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There are think forests and deep lakes. The farmers who settled here came from Austria, Germany and Switzerland.

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Their influence can be seen in towns such as Osorno

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and Valdivia. Visitors here can enjoy hiking and biking as well as climbing volcanoes, whitewater rafting, kayaking, canoeing, horseback riding and in the wintertime skiing.

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Valparaiso is Chile’s third largest city in a lovely location between the sea and the coastal mountain range. It is popular for its beautiful harbor and beaches.

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Among the highlights here are Lord Cochrane’s Museum offering a look into the country’s maritime history

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and the excellent Naval and Maritime Museum that displays item associated with the War of the Pacific of 1870 between Chile and allied Peru and Bolivia.

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Lauca National Park stretches for 1,300 square kilometers in the far north of Chile. Among the highlights here are pristine mountain lakes like Cotacotani and Chungara, reflecting the surrounding scenery. The park also has some important archaeological sites.

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This is a wonderful place for birdwatchers and is home to more than 140 species among them Andean geese, crested ducks, Chilean flamingos

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and the huge Andean condor.

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Pumalin Park was established as a nature sanctuary in 2005. Today it is one of Chile’s most important and popular conservation areas. It is a vast territory of about 715,000 acres that stretches from the Andes to the Pacific. Here you can find pristine coastline and thick forests.

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The world’s oldest tree species is there the Alerce. For visitors there are trails, campgrounds and visitor facilities.

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Los Pinguinos Natural Monument is located 35 kilometers northeast of the city of Punta Arenas at the southern tip of the island.

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It includes the lovely Magdalena

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and Marta Islands. Pinguinos is Spanish for penguins. This monument is home to one of Chile’s largest penguin colonies. There are some 60,000 breeding pairs of Magellanic penguins. This can be accessed only by guided boat tours. There are also seals and sea lions.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | November 30, 2017

Santiago Chile


In our armchair travels we’ve left Brazil and now have arrived in Chile. Chile is a long, narrow country that stretches along the western edge of South America. It has over 6,000 km of Pacific Ocean coastline.

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Santiago is Chile’s capital and largest city. It sits in a valley that is surrounded by the snow-capped Ande Mountains and the Chilean Coast Range.

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The best way to get a good look at Santiago is from the Parque Metropolitano also known as Cerro San Cristobal. This park is the city’s largest green space. The park is located on the east of the Bohemian Bellavista neighborhood. To reach the park there is the historical funicular railway.

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The summit of Mount San Cristobal has a giant statue of the Virgen de la Inmaculada Conception, weighing in at 37,000 kilos and rising up 15 meters in height from the base of the hill. Here visitors come to pray, meditate or gaze at the spectacular views from the terrace balcony.

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The funicular railway takes visitors through the park. They can get off at any of the stations along the way offering attractions and tourist sites. Among the highlights is the Victoria Fortified Tower, the Botanical Garden and the Winery Museum.

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During the summertime there is the Tupahue swimming pool where you can swim and sunbathe.

This is one of the most visited parks in the city. It is a great place to jog, mountain bike, watch birds or just go walking.

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The Museo de la Moda is a privately run fashion museum offering a large permanent collection of Western clothing most from 20th century designers. Among the highlights are John Lennon’s jacket from 1966, the “cone bar” that Jean Paul Gaultier designed for Madonna and an evening gown worn by Lady Diana in 1981. The collection has 10,000 items and only some of them are on display at a time. There are also temporary exhibits such as a tribute to Michael Jackson and a “Back to the 80s” show. There is an onsite cafe.
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Poet Pablo Neruda built himself a hideaway La Chascona which loosely translates to “messy hair”. The name was inspired by the unruly curls sported by his mistress. Since Neruda loved the sea the dining room is fashioned after a ship’s cabin and the living room after a lighthouse.

There are audio tours available  in English, French, German, Portuguese and Spanish. They will inform you of the history of the house and the collection of colored glass, shells, furniture and artwork all done by famous friends. There is a cafe and gift shop.
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Centro Gabriela Mistral is an impressive cultural and performing arts center. It was named after Chilean poet Gabriela Mistral who was the first Latin American woman to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. You can hear concerts and watch performances.

On the bottom floor are large exhibition spaces and rotating art exhibits. There are free tours of the center.

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NAVE is an experimental cultural center that found its home in a 20th century mansion. Here artists can showcase their work whether it be  in dance, performance, music or theater..

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Biblioteca Nacional de Chile is Chile’s impressive national library with high ceilings, stained glass domes, checkered floors and antique furnishings. It is one of the largest and oldest libraries in Latin America. It hosts gallery exhibitions and has free Internet and a cafe.

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Sky Costanera is the tallest building in Latin America. Up on top you can get a 160-degree view of Santiago and the surrounding mountains.

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Palacio Cousino was built between 1870 and 1878 by the Cousino-Goyeneschea family. Their fortune came from winemaking and coal and silver mining. Here you can see how Chile’s elite lived in the 19th century.

There are Carrara marble columns, a half-ton Bohemian crystal chandelier, Chinese cherry wood furniture, gold cutlery and the first electrical fittings in Chile.


Palacio de la Moneda is an ornate neo-Classical building that is home to the presidential offices. It was designed by Italian architect Joaquin Toesca in the late 18th century and was originally the official mint. The inner courtyards are open to the public. You can schedule  guided tours.

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Parque Bicentenario this lovely park has over 4000 trees and features chaise lounges and sun umbrellas. There is a state-of-the-art playground for children.

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The Plaza de Armas is a beautiful plaza with a fountain in the center built in honor of Liberator Simon Bolivar. It’s shaded by over a hundred Chilean palm trees. On weekday afternoons and weekends you can find entertainers here and snack stands.

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Catedral Metropolitana overlooks the Plaza de Armas. It was built in the neo-Classical style between 1748 and 1800.

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Cerro Santa Lucia is a lovely manicured park.

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There are many trails and stone steps leading through terraces to the Torre Mirador at the top. If you prefer you can take an elevator up.

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Iglesia de San Franciso had the first stone laid in 1586 and is Santiago’s oldest surviving colonial buildings. There is a clock tower finished in 1857. Attached to it is a colonial art museum. On the main altar is a carving of the Virgen del Socorro or Our Lady of Perpetual Help.

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Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes is a fine art museum that has made its home in the neo-Classical Palacio de Bellas Artes. It features a fine permanent collection of Chilean art. There are free guided tours on Saturdays and Sundays.

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Museo Historico Nacional displays colonial furniture, weapons, paintings, historical objects and models offer a look into Chile’s colonial and republican history.

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Barrio Paris-Londres is a tiny neighborhood that was created on the grounds of the Franciscan convent of Iglesia de San Francisco. It consists of two intersecting cobblestone street, Paris and Londres. Both are lined by European-style townhouses that were built in the 1920s.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | November 27, 2017

Manaus on the Negro River


Manaus is the capital of the vast state of Amazonas in northwestern Brazil. The city sits on the banks of the Negro River. This is the major departure point for the surrounding Amazon Rainforest. East of the city the Negro River merges with the Solimoes River creating an amazing visual phenomenon known as the “Meeting of the Water”. The combined tributaries form the Amazon River.

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Teatro Amazonas is an Italian Renaissance-style Opera House. This is the city’s most famous building opened in 1896 and today is protected as a national monument. This is an impressive cultural palace right in the heart of the primeval forest. Most of the material for building the theater came from Europe like the Italian marble doorways, English wrought-iron staircase, chandeliers of Murano glass from Venice and other material imported from France. The dome of the building was completed at the beginning of the 20th century and is faced with 36,000 tiles imported from Germany. The building was restored in the 1980s.


20 kilometers from the city is one of the world’s natural wonders Encontro das Aguas. This is the point where the Rio Negro joins with the waters of the Rio Solimoes to form the Amazon. From the air you can see that the two river run together side-by-side for about six kilometers. Tourists enjoy taking boat trips upon the rivers. The best season to take it all in is between September and November whrn the water levels are low.

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Anavilhanas Islands this is an archipelago of 400 islands and islets between Manaus and Novo Airao with hundreds of lakes, watercourses and igapos or flooded forests that all extend for some 90 kilometers.

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The Anavilhanas Nature Reserve extends for 350,000 hectares, offering a complete cross-section of the Amazonian ecosystem. This area gets flooded when the river rises between November and April.

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During the high water period you can see squirrel monkeys, night monkeys, sloths, different birds among them parrots, toucans, woodpeckers and herons.

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There are also caimans, turtles and other reptiles. Once the water have receded and the island reemerge  the larger animals return.

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The Mercado, on the bank of the Rio Negro, is protected as a national monument. It was modeled after the Old Halles in Paris, France. It features stained glass windows as well as iron framework which was made in a workshop in Paris.

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This market is one of the city’s highlights and visitors can find stalls full of everything from fresh fish to clothing to local crafts.

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Janauarit Ecological Park stretches for the 688 hectares and is found 45 minutes by boat from Manaus. It features a variety of ecosystems, solid land, varzeas or alluvial plains and igapos or swampy woodland. Motorboats take visitors through the narrow waterways that are surrounded by lush vegetation that ranges from grasses to giant kapok trees.

Giant Water Lily, leaves, Pantanal, Mato Grosso, Brazil / (Victoria amazonica) / Amazon Water Lily

One of the principal sights in the park is a lake covered with Victoria Amazonica. This is a large water lily, found only in the Amazon region with floating leaves up to two meters in diameter. The flowers of the plant have a short life they’re originally white, then turn purple and in three days wither to dark red. The park is full of birdlife.

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Palacio Rio Negro is a lovely and impressive palace that was built in 1903 as the residence of German rubber merchant Waldemar Scholz and later became the seat of the State Government of Amazonas. It was converted into a cultural center in 1997. Visitors can tour the main house and the adjoining art gallery of Brazilian artwork. The grounds are beautiful with shrubs, trees and flowers that are native to the Amazon rainforest.

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The Museu fo Homem do Norte or Museum of Northern Man is an ethnographic museum of northern Brazil. Here you can see archaeological finds, indigenous art  and everyday items. You can see displays of mining, fishing, flour milling, folklore, religion, festivals, art and handicrafts. There is a shop that sells local handicraft made by indigenous people.

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The Museu do Indio or Museum of the Indian has a collection of over 3,000 objects that illustrate the culture and way of life of the indigenous people who live or lived along the upper Rio Negro. There are displays showing local customs relating to children, agriculture, food and hunting. This is also a great place to buy crafts.

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The Jau National Forest is the largest forest reserve in South America and the largest protected tropical rainforest area in the world. It cover 2,272,000 hectares stretching along the Rio Negro around Novo Airao, about 250 kilometers northwest of Manaus. The national forest has amazingly rich fauna including such rare and endangered species as the manatee and the Brazilian otter.

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Here you can also find jaguars and Amazon River dolphins. There is a diverse ecosystem with plains, hills, flooded forests, channels and land forests. The best way to see it all along with the wildlife is to canoe through the waterways. Accommodations offered are jungle lodges.

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Alfandega (Customs House) and Floating Dock even though not open to the public the Customs House and lighthouse are worth taking a look at. The ornate building was imported from Britain in prefabricated form and erected in Manaus in 1902. It stands on the banks of the Rio Negro, near a floating dock. The dock is one of the busiest places in the city since nearly all transport in this area is by water.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | November 22, 2017

Exploring Brasilia

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Brasilia succeeded Rio de Janeiro as the capital of Brazil in 1960. The city was built in less than three years and is located in the center of Brazil to help open up the western part of the country to tourism. The creative city planning was the work of Lucio Costa and Oscar Niemeyer with avant-garde architecture.

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Praca dos Tras Poderes or Square of the Three Powers is surrounded by many government buildings.

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The Palacio do Planalto – the official residence of the President.

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The Supremo Tribuanl Federal – the Supreme Court.

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The Congresso Nacional or National Congress is another landmark of modern architecture. These are a pair of buildings that house the Chamber of Deputies of Brazil (lower house) and the Senate. There is a broad lawn with a reflecting pool. Inside are exhibits among them a Tunnel of Time. You can get English-speaking guides.

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Also around this square you’ll find the Historical Museum of Brasilia and the

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Panteao da Liberdade or Pantheon of Freedom which honors the rebels of the Inconfidancia Mineira of 1789 and President Tancredo Neves, who died in 1985.

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On the south side is the Palacio dos Arcos. The Mastro da Bandeira is a 91-meter flagpole from which flies a 73 meter Brazilian flag.

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The Palacio dos Arcos is also known as the Palacio Itamaraty houses the Foreign Ministry. It is an impressive building with a long line of symmetrical arches that rise above a reflecting pool. All around are lovely gardens. The interior is spaciously decorated and surrounds a semi-roofed courtyard with a garden. The building is open to the public.

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Catedral Metropolitana Nossa Senhora Aparecida is the city’s most famous landmark. This is a unique circular cathedral completed in 1970. It has 16 curved concrete columns that rise-up, creating a crown that surrounds a glass roof. Outside are four large statues that represent the Four Evangelists.

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The Museum of Indigenous People offers an amazing collection of native Brazilian art and artifacts that lets visitors look into the pre-colonial native culture and also the living traditions of Brazil’s indigenous people today. You can see artwork created especially for the museum in a collection that is considered to be one of the best in South America. This unusual round building was patterned after a traditional Yanomamo round house. The museum shop has wonderful handmade native crafts.

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The church of Sao Joao Bosco is dedicated to the 19th century Italian priest canonized in 1934, whose vision of the foundation of a Utopian capital city in the New World near the 15th parallel is considered to be the inspiration for Brasilia.

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The church is a square building with 40 tall pointed arches, framing tall stained glass windows in various shades of blue. The windows make up most of the walls and a huge chandelier is made up of over 7,000 pieces of Murano glass. Over the altar is a large cedar Crucifix which Gotfredo Tralli carved from a single tree.

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The Brasilia TV Tower rises up 224 meters into the sky. From the observation deck at 74 meters you can get fantastic views of the city. It is open to the public free every day and at its base on Sundays is a craft market.

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On Praca do Cruzeiro is a dramatic monument as a memorial to the founder of Brasilia, President Juscelino Kubitschek. Here is also Kubitscheks tomb and a museum devoted to him. The monument includes interesting exhibits on the city, construction photography and other material, illustrating Brasilia’s history. You can find artwork by contemporary sculptors around the monument.

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The Brasilia National Park stretches for 28,000 hectares in the northwest part of the city. It protects many different environments.

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The area streams form Lake Santa Maria, supplying Brasilia with drinking water. Its mineral springs are one of the park’s biggest attractions. The park also protects varied flora and fauna among them many different species of birds, rheas, wild pigs, giant armadillos, capybaras, pampas deer, rare manned wolves, jaguars, caimans, anacondas and other snakes.

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There are two main walking trails that take you through lush forests. You can also choose to soak in one of the two mineral pools.

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On the east side of the city, the Rio Paranoa has been dammed to from a large lake, Lago do Paranoa. The shore is lined with embassies and consulates, sports clubs, restaurants, the University, the Olympic Center and the Palacio da Alvorada.

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The Ponte Juscelino Kubitschek better known as Ponte JK is a concrete and steel bridge stretching across the lake, supported by three crisscrossing arches, towering over 60 meters above the water. Since completion in 2002 the bridge has received several architectural awards.

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At night it is accented by floodlights.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | November 20, 2017

Beautiful Belo Horizonte


Bela Horizonte is the capital of the state of Minas Gerais in South America. Bela Horizonte was carved out of the forest surrounding a settlement for gold-diggers known as Curral del Rei, founded in 1701. It was a new city modeled after Washington D.C. the capital of the U.S. The city has a wonderful background of mountains. It’s skyline is a mix of old and new. In the 1940s Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer designed several of his first buildings here and gave Bela Horizonte some of his best-known works and top tourist attractions.

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Freedom Square in the city center is a large park-like plaza which was designed to be the hub of the state administration and power. Here you can see the Palacio de Governo or Government Building. The Art Deco style Palacio Cristo Rio, built in the 1940s is an impressive building

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and towering above the square is Edificio Niemeyer, a curved apartment building which is one of Niemeyer’s most famous early architectural works.

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Sao Francisco de Assis is the first of architect Niemeyer’s major works, standing by a lake in the park-like suburb of Pampulha. The church has interesting parabolic curves on the roof. The exterior is covered in azulejo tile panels by Candido Portinari. You can see more of his work in the interior. The surrounding gardens were designed by landscape architect Roberto Burle Marx. Walking about the lake you can see how lovely the church looks silhouetted in the water.

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There is also the curved Casa do Baile, where fashionable parties and dances were held in the 1940s.

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Palacio das Artes sits on the south-western edge of the municipal park. It is an impressive low white building designed by Niemeyer to house the Fundacao Clovis Salgado, one of Latin America’s most inclusive and active centers for the arts.

There are studios and practice rooms for artists and musicians. Three galleries host a variety of art shows and its three theaters host concerts of classical and popular music, dance performances, theater and operas.

The Minas Gerais Craft Center offers the highest quality artwork by contemporary craftsmen including pottery, wood carving, fiber and needle arts and much more.

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The Minerology Museum has found its home in a post-modern building known by the local nickname of “Rainha da Sucata” or Queen of Scrap Iron. The museum has an impressive collection of nearly 3,000 minerals from the mines of Minas Gerais and from places around the world. About 800 of them are on display including gold and other precious metals, diamonds, emeralds, sapphires, aquamarines, topazes, and amethysts.

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The Central Market is one of the most vibrant and lively places in the city. Inside the huge market building you can find everything from food to canaries in some 400-odd stalls. You’ll see vendors selling fruits and vegetables, cheese, sausages, religious items, herbal medicines, candy, drinks, meats, flowers, nuts, household utensils, prepared foods, pets, and handicrafts. Stop to watch as the fruit sellers peel and slice whole pineapples with a machete, and wait your turn for a seat in one of the tiny lunch stands to sample local dishes. The market is open daily, although only until 1 pm on Sundays and holidays.

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The Arts and Crafts Museum has found its home in the spacious Praca da Estacao. It is a venue for outdoor concerts and festivals. At the museum you can see all kinds of craft tools. It is bounded on one side of the former rail station which has become an important landmark through which came all the material used to build this city.

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Parque Mangabeiras is the large park at the edge of the city. It stretches across the steep slope of the Serra do Curral. where the source streams of the Rio das Velhas come together. In the park is a primeval forest, a lake, several springs, walking and jogging paths, playing fields, children’s rides, an open-air theater and an amphitheater.

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At the entrance you can find buses that loop through the park stopping at different attractions among them Mirante da Mata, offering a sweeping view of Belo Horizonte.

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Also offering great views is Praca do Papa which was named for Pope John Paul II.

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Guides point our Rua do Amendoim where an optical illusion makes it seem the cars defy gravity by rolling uphill.

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Parque Municipal/City Park is a large green space found on the north side of the city center. There are many century-old shade trees here, a lake for boating, several gardens, playgrounds for children, tennis courts, aviaries and a theater.

An Orchidarium has greenhouses full of rare orchid varieties.

From May through September, the Orchestra of Minas Gerais performs a concert in the park every Sunday morning. This is a great park for strolling or picnicking.

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The extensive Botanic Garden is located in the Santa Inas district where you’ll also find the Natural History Museum. The garden stretches for over 6,000 square meters, with indigenous trees and plants.

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In the museum you can see botanical exhibits as well as minerals and archaeology. There are interactive stations. You’ll also find the Presepio do Pipiripau a nativity scene designed by Raimundo Machado de Azavedo. It shows 45 scenes from the life of Jesus with over 580 figures. In the gardens is the former country house of the governor of Minas Gerais.

belo Minas-Gerais

Minas Gerais is Brazil’s gold and diamond mining area. It was really active in the 17th and 18th centuries. The former capital of Ouro Preto was in the richest part of the region. Gold was so plentiful that church walls were coated in it.

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You can see the wealth by viewing the 17th century Baroque and Rococo churches Sao Francisco de Assis and Matriz de Nossa Senhora do Pilar. The city has been declared a UNESCO World Heritage site. Today Ouro Preto is one of Brazil’s most charming towns with steep streets that are lined with lovely mansions and hills topped by Baroque churches with sacred art.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | November 13, 2017

Impressive Rio de Janeiro


Rio de Janeiro is an amazing and exciting city in Brazil. It has a spectacular setting between the mountains and the sea. It has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Rio is the second major city in Brazil and was the capital from 1763 to 1960. It was founded by Portuguese colonists in the mid 1500s. The city has a lovely harbor over which towers Sugar Loaf.

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Sugar Loaf is Rio de Janeiro’s best-known landmark and rises 394 meters above the harbor. It sits on a piece of land that projects out into the bay and is connected to the city by a low strip of land.

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A cable car can take you from Praca General Tiburcio to the top of the Morro da Urca which is a lower peak and from there a second cableway runs to the summit of Sugar Loaf.

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Below is the 100 meter Praia da Urca beach. On Cara de Cao are three forts. The 16th century star-shaped Fort Sao Joao is open to the public.

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Up on top of the 709-meter summit of Corcovado stands the giant statue of Christ, overlooking the city. The statue is a widely recognized symbol of Rio. This world-famous landmark was erected between 1922 and 1931.

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This Art Deco statue is the creation of Polish-French sculptor Paul Landowski. It was built by Brazilian engineer Heitor da Silva Costa, collaborating with French engineer Albert Caquot. It is made of reinforced concrete and soapstone. The figure of Christ stands 30 meters tall with arms stretching 28 meters and weighs 635 metric tons. Inside its eight meter high base is a chapel which has become a popular place for weddings and baptisms.

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To reach this spot the Corcovado rack railway runs from Rua do Cosme Velho up the 3.5 kilometer track to the statue, through the Tijuca National Park.

Tourists enjoy a waterfall and scenery of the Tijuca National Park in Rio with a slow shutter speed to blur the water.. Image shot 02/2007. Exact date unknown.

Tijuca National Park protects the Tijuca Forest. It surrounds Cristo Redentor, the giant statue of Christ on Corcovado. To explore the park just follow the road leading through it. This is one of the world’s largest forests within a city.


The park was planted in the late 1850s to safeguard the springs supplying water to the city.

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Most of the trees are native and provide habitat for Capuchin monkeys, quatis (Brazilian raccoon), colorful toucans, hawks, brilliant blue butterflies and lots of other wildlife.

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Largo do Boticario is located near the station of the Corcovado railway and is one of the city’s most picturesque squares. The square is surrounded by colonial-style houses.

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From the pagoda-style pavilion at Morro da Vista Chinesa, 380 meters above the shore from which you can get views of the Municipal Park, the Botanic Garden and the south coast.

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From Mirante Dona Marta sitting on a spur of rock above Botafogo Bay you can

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get great viewpoints of several waterfalls dropping from the forest springs including the 30 meter Cascatinha Taunay.

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Set in the extensive gardens near the park is the Museu do Acude which displays valuable porcelain collections of the West India Company, old views of Rio de Janeiro by Brazilian and foreign artists and azulejos traditional Portuguese tiles from the 17th through the 19th centuries.

rio carnaval

Head to Rio de Janeiro during Carnaval one of the world’s most famous pre-Lenten celebrations. It begins shortly after the New Year and reaches its climax in the four days before Ash Wednesday. This is the time that hundreds of thousands of people enjoy the street parades, samba parties and shows. Other Brazilian cities that also celebrate Carnaval are Bahia and Recife.

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One of the top spectacular events are the parades of the samba schools held in the popular Sambodromo designed by renowned Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer. Everyone loves the long parade route which draws up to 30,000 spectators.

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Copacabana is a lovely sand beach right in the heart of Rio, stretching for four kilometers along one side of downtown. From the beach you can find smaller streets with impressive old buildings, fine hotels, restaurants and cafes.

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The most popular here is the Copacabana Palace, built in the 1920s and today protected as a national monument. It was featured in the 1933 movie “Flying Down to Rio” and plays host to royalty and movie stars.

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At the far end of the beach you’ll find Copacabana Fort dating from 1914. It was the place of the 1922 revolt of officers, who took over the fort and turned artillery on the city. The revolt ended the next day when the government had battleships bombard the fort.

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You can learn about the military history at the Museu Historico de Exercito or Museum of the History of the Army. On the fort grounds you can see artillery pieces from the late 19th century and early 20th century.

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Escadaria Selaron is one of Rio’s newest tourist attractions. It was begun in 1990 by Chilean-born artist Jorge Selaron as his gift to the Brazilian people. He covered a long flight of steps in front of his house with mosaics that were made of tiles, pottery and mirrors. Many of them in blue, green and yellow which are the colors of the Brazilian flag. These step have become a popular movie location.

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Ilha de Paqueta this island lies in the Guanabara bay, an hour’s boat trip from Praca 15 de Novembro. In the early 1800s it became a fashionable resort when Portuguese Emperor Dom Joao VI spent his summers here.

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Solar del Rey is an impressive palace in which Dom Joao VI frequently stayed. It also includes the 1698 Sao Roqueand Chapel.

No cars are allowed on the island but you can explore it by foot, by rented bike or in a horse-drawn carriage. The beaches are lined with palms and have food stands.

rio publico

Passeio Publico is an attractive park that was designed in 1779 by a group of artists. It is Brazil’s oldest public park and one of the oldest in the Americas. It has many sculptures by Mestre Valentim and pavilions with paintings by Leandro Joaquim.

The Baroque entrance, a stone staircase, fountains and statues of figures from mythology are the highlights in this green space.

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To the east along the bay is Parque do Flamengo.

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Monumento aos Mortos is a memorial to those who lost their lives in WW II.

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At the north end of the Flamenco Park you’ll find the Museum of Modern Art.

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The shore of Lagoa Rodrigo de Freitas is lined by parks and sports clubs. The water is popular for water sports and regattas.

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On the west side of the lagoon is the Jardin Botanico or Botanic Garden with over 5,000 species of plants from all over the world among them water lilies and other plants from the Amazon region.

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Santa Tereza is Rio’s most atmospheric neighborhood. It has quiet streets and hundred-year-old houses. It has cafes and restaurants with Bohemian atmosphere. It is a charming area for strolling.

Among the highlights is the church and convent of Santa Tereza, dating from 1720.

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The Museu Chacara do Ceu offers an art collection of modern art works and Chinese sculpture from the 17th through 19th centuries.

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The adjacent Parque das Ruinas is the ruins of a socialite’s mansion which fell into disrepair and has since become an art, music and performance venue.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | November 9, 2017

Spectacular Sao Paulo

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Our armchair travels have taken us to Brazil, a vast country in South America. It stretches from the Amazon Basin in the north to vineyards and the massive Iguacu Falls in the south. Our first stop will be the city of Sao Paulo.

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Sao Paulo is a vibrant financial center and is one of the world’s most populous cities. It is the largest city in South America situated on the Piratininga Plateau surrounded by rivers that flow out into the interior. The city was founded in 1554 and became the gateway to the backcountry of Brazil.

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Before you begin exploring the city you can get a spectacular view from the Italia Building, rising 46 floors into the sky. You can relax at the observation bar or have a meal at the restaurant on the 41st floor. The best time is in the late afternoon when the sun is setting and you can listen to live jazz while watching the sunset.

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The Sao Paulo Museum of Art or MASP opened in 1968 and offers an impressive collection of western art. Here you can see artwork by Impressionists and modern masters such as Renoir and Van Gogh among many others. There are 73 bronze sculptures by Degas. This is one of the first art museums on the continent to focus on mid-20th century artists. On display are also artworks by Brazilian contemporary artists. The museum building was designed by Brazilain-Italian architect Lina Bo Bardi. The plaza beneath this structure hosts a Sunday antiques market and concerts are held at different times.

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Teatro Municiple/City Theater was designed by architect Ramos de Azevedo who used the Paris Opera as inspiration. It is a mix of Art Nouveau and Italian Renaissance. The theater was completed in 1911. It is a major center for the performing arts in South America and has hosted performances by many famous artists. It is home to the Sao Paulo Symphony Orchestra, the Choral Lirico or Lyric Choir and the City Ballet of Sao Paulo.

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Ibirapuera Park was laid out by landscape architect Robert Burle Marx. The buildings within the park were designed by Oscar Niemeyer. The park is a vast green space with monuments, museums, playgrounds, gardens, trails, lakes and performance spaces.

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In the park the Bandeiras Monument commemorates the Sao Paulo pioneers who opened up Brazil’s interior. It was sculpted by Brazilian sculptor Victor Brecheret with impressive heroic figures.

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An obelisk commemorates those who died in 1932 in the struggle for a new constitution.

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Auditorio Ibirapuera is an ultra-modern music hall that was designed by Oscar Niemeyer.

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It is considered to be one of the city’s best concert venues.

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The Aeronautics and Folk Art Museum displays aircraft models and flight equipment on the ground floor. There are almost 20,000 exhibits displaying folk art and traditions from all over Brazil.

bra contemporary art museum

Within Parque Ibirapuera, the Pavilhao da Bienal de Artes was designed by Oscar Niemeyer. It was completed in 1957 and is now home to the Museum of Contemporary Art, offering special exhibits and shows. The museum has over 8,000 pieces representing a wide range of artwork like Picasso, Modigliani and Leger as well as leading Brazilian artists. Among Latin America’s largest collection of 20th century Western art, displaying the artwork of Chagall, Kandinsky and Miro. The Sculpture Garden was designed by Roberto Burle Marx and displays 30 large sculptures.

bra ipiranga

The Ipiranga District you’ll find Independence Park. You can see formal gardens with roses, topiaries and fountains which were inspired by those at Versailles in Paris, France.

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Here you can find the Museu Paulista or Museu do Ipiranga designed by Italian architect Tommaso Gaudenzio Bezzi. It was modeled on Italian neo-Classicism. You can find displays of  costumes, decorative arts, paintings and furniture of the Imperial Period.

bra cathedral

Se (Cathedral) is a neo-Gothic cathedral was built on the site of an earlier cathedral and building the cathedral took from 1913 to 1967. It was consecrated in 1954 on the 400th anniversary of Sao Paulo’s foundation.

On the facade are statues of prophets from the Old Testament and Christ’s disciples. On top is a Renaissance-style dome. Inside are many interesting features among them the 10,000 pipe organ and stained glass windows depicting the history of Catholicism in Brazil.

The capitals on the columns were carves to represent Brazilian flora like coffee and pineapples and fauna like armadillos. Down below is a crypt with impressive marble sculptures and tombs.

bra PatioColegio

Patio do Colegio is a square north of the cathedral and is the original nucleus of Sao Paulo. It is here that Manuel de Nobrega and Jose de Anchieta founded the College of the Society of Jesus, a residence and center of study for Jesuits. The first mass in the settlement was celebrated on January 25, 1554.

This is an attractive plaza which also includes the Historical Museum, a museum of sacred art and the Capela de Anchieta. Today all that remains of the 16th century building are the doors and a clay wall. In the gardens of the museum you can find a nice cafe.

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Parque Estadual da Cantareira is one of the world’s biggest urban forests located to the north of Sao Paulo. Here you can see many monkeys and birds as well as native species of flora. Climb the slopes of the Serra Cantareira.

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Here visitors enjoy walking and hiking on the many trails. People also enjoy having picnics. If you like you can also do some biking.

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An interesting place is Parque Aqua Branca where you can see animals like chickens, roosters and horses. If you like you can take riding lessons. In the arboretum are some amazing trees including the tree Brazil is named after, the Pau Brasil. On weekends musicians play here.

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Take the time to explore Japantown. Sao Paulo is home to the biggest population of Japanese people outside of Japan. The district is known as Liberdade. It is full of shops and bars and restaurants with a Japanese atmosphere. At weekends there are special food fairs and the markets always offer special treats.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | November 5, 2017



Our armchair travels about South America have taken us to Bolivia which is in the central part. The country has a varied terrain spanning the Andes Mountains, the Atacama Desert and the Amazon Basin rain forest.

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Copacabana is a quaint little town that sits

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on the shores of Lake Titicaca which is one of Bolivia’s most lovely and treasured landmarks. It is also the highest navigable lake in the world. Tourist come here for the fantastic views and to explore the area that the Inca’s believed to be the birthplace of their empire.

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The best way to enjoy Lake Titicaca is to take a boat trip from Copacabana to Isla del Sol. You can see ancient Inca ruins about the island and the Aymara villagers farming their land and tending to the sacred sites. It is a wonderful experience walking from one side of the island to the other.

bol copa Stations-of-the-cross

In Copacabana you can enjoy exploring the shops, restaurants and bars. The best place to get spectacular views is the summit of the “Stations of the Cross”.

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Tiwanaku a pre-Columbian archaeological site has been listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is supposedly named after one of the most important civilizations prior to the Inca Empire. It is also one of the oldest and highest urban cities ever built.

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The ruins consist of impressive architectural structures.

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La Paz sits at a height of 4058 meters above sea level and against an impressive backdrop of snow-capped mountains and is Bolivia’s third most populous city and the world’s highest seat of government. Here you can see the colorful lifestyle and traditions of the Aymara people.

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La Paz Tiwanaku Square

The city has many modern cafes, clubs, bars and restaurants as well as traditional markets, historic plazas and colonial structures.

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Madidi National Park stretches for 7000 square miles from the Andes deep into the Amazon. It is one of the most bio-diverse places in the world. Visitors enjoy the wide variety of flora and fauna. There is rugged terrain along with winding rivers, rolling grasslands, lakes, steep slopes and the indigenous people of the tropical rain forest.

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The best way to explore the park is by taking one of the many ecological and cultural tours. You’ll learn about medicinal plants, hear the sounds of over 1000 species of birds and spot wildlife like jaguars.

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A great place to have an adventure is backpacking along the trails in the Chiquitania Region. Here you’ll find tropical savanna climate, Jesuit Missions, amazing wildlife and unusual natural history.

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Among the highlights here are the mysterious rock formations of the Santiago de Chiquitos Mirador

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and the hot thermal springs of Aquas Calientes.

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You can do some jaguar watching at Kas Iya National Park

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and sand boarding in Lomas de Arena.

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The Oruro Carnival is one of the most famous festivals in all of South America and occurs in the arid region of Altiplano in a mining town. Each year on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday the little town of Oruro hosts the carnival. The highlights include folk dances, extravagant costumes, lovely crafts, lively music and twenty straight hours of continuous partying.

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It has become a well-known tourist attraction and draws crowds up to 400,000 people. The festival is celebrated throughout the country of Bolivia but the most popular place is Oruro.

 bol sucre

Sucre is the fifth largest city in Bolivia. It was founded by the Spanish in the 16th century. It has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site. It offers visitors many fascinating things to see, free events and enjoyable things to do.

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Take the time to explore Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. This endless white desert offers the most amazing and impressive scenery. You can see flamingos on a high altitude lagoon and islands covered in cacti.

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When the rains come the water sits on top of the cemented salts, reflecting the sky above, making these salt flats into the world’s largest mirror. The wildlife here includes llamas, flamingos and vizcachas, a kind of squirrel/rabbit animal at times known as a “scrabbit”.

Both tourists and photographers enjoy the scenery here. There are also natural hot springs.

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Samaipata is a beautiful town located in the foothills of Santa Cruz. It has also become a popular weekend retreat for the wealthier residents of Bolivia.

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The main attraction here is the World Heritage, pre-Inca archaeological site of El Fuerte, home to the largest carved stone in the world.

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The town is also the gateway to Bolivia’s natural treasure, Parque Nacional Amboro. This is a nature reserve with more than 912 bird species and over 177 mammalian species among them the puma and the rare spectacles bear.

It is often referred to as “The Little Switzerland of Bolivia”.

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Posted by: RasmaSandra | November 2, 2017

Beautiful Buenos Aires


Beautiful Buenos Aires is the big, cosmopolitan capital city of Argentina. It is an amazing city with lots of impressive architecture, fascinating art galleries and much to please the eye.

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Plaza de Mayo

This is an amazing two-block long plaza that was established in the 16th century. Many important events have taken place here like the uprising against Spain in 1810. Much of the area has been created just for pedestrians including two popular streets Florida and Lavalle. You’ll discover many important landmarks here.

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Casa Rosada is the pale pink Presidential Palace from which Eva Peron addressed enormous crowds.

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Take a stroll along Avenida de Mayo which is famous for its impressive buildings with their attractive facades and domes. There are such landmark buildings as the famous Cafe Tortoni and the National Tango Academy.

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 Cafe Tortoni opened its doors in 1858. It is a great place to stop and have a snack. It is famous for being the hangout of the great tango dancer Carlos Gardei and it’s been a meeting place for famous scholars and artists. It had impressive Tiffany glass ceilings.

buenos plaza dorrego

The city of Buenos Aires is the birthplace of the tango. It is just the place to step out and do some dancing or to learn the tango. A “milonga” is a place where people go to dance the tango and there are many such places all over the city. On a Sunday night at a milonga in San Telmo’s Plaza Dorrego you can see people dancing in the street.

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At Salon Canning you’ll find traditional milongas that also offer classes and shows.

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La Glorieta is an open-air milonga in Belgrano that holds free milongas on the weekends.

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The Recoleta Cemetery takes its name from the Franciscan convent that stood here around 1716. Today it is best known for its amazing burial ground. Here you’ll see many elaborate mausoleums which are the final resting places of many famous Argentines such as Eva Peron, in the Duarte family tomb.

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Afterwards you can take a look at the rest of the Recoleta neighborhood which has lovely public gardens, cafes and craft shops.

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Take time to look at the Museo de Arte Hispanoamericano Isaac Fernandez Blanco which offers an extensive collection of colonial silver, wood carvings, paintings and costumes.

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The National Library where literary great Jorge Luis Borges served as director in the 1950s.

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La Boca is the most colorful neighborhood in Buenos Aires. It is a favorite of artistic and creative people. They take their art onto the streets, decorate balconies and patios with amusing sculptures.

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Visitors enjoy taking a look at the Caminito Street Museum which is a colorful pedestrian friendly zone, functioning as an open-air museum and art market since 1959. You’ll see brightly colored buildings. There are open-air tango demonstrations and the area is named after a tango.

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The Museum of Decorative Arts of Quinquela Martin has an excellent collection of artwork by notable 20th century Argentinian artists.

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San Telmo is another colorful district with narrow cobblestone streets and old colonial style buildings. There are many art studios and galleries. The area is also known for its cafes, tango parlors and boutiques.

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There is the San Telmo Sunday Fair which is an antiques fair.

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Visitors enjoy the National Historical Museum which offers displays relating to the history of Argentina. Altogether the museum has over 50,000 artifacts among them the most important is the collection of paintings by Candido Lopez.

buenos science museum

Stop by the Bernardino Rivadavia Natural Science Museum which opened in 1826 and has thirteen exhibition halls with displays of Argentinian flora and fauna. There is also an on-site aquarium.

buenos metropolitan cathedral

The Metropolitan Cathedral dates back to 1822 and has a neo-Classical facade. It overlooks the Plaza de Mayo and can trace back its roots to the early 16th century. It has a beautiful neo-Renaissance and neo-Baroque interior. Some of the highlights here are the 18th century altarpieces and statues and the Walcker organ dating from 1871 with 3,500 pipes. Visitors can also see the tomb of one of Argentina’s most revered revolutionary heroes, General Jose de San Martin.

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Take the time to see the Block of Enlightenment, a city block traditionally looked at as the historical center of learning and high culture. Here you can find the Colegio Nacional de Buenos Aires

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and the San Ignacio Church, the city’s oldest surviving church famous for its tunnels and artwork.

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The Colon Theater opened in 1908 and is a venue for world-class opera, ballet and classical music. It has played host to such great as Callas, Toscanini, Caruso and Pavarotti. Visitors can get guided tours of the theater.

buenos palermo

Palermo is a major recreational area where you can find many of the city’s largest and most popular parks.

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Among them is the Jardin Botanico an excellent botanic garden with many lakes, bridges and sculptures spread out over 20 acres. It was established in 1898 and has some 5,000 flower species from around the world as well as from Argentina. Highlights here include the French and Italian Gardens, along with an herb museum and horticultural school.

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The Buenos Aires Japanese Gardens is the largest such garden in South America and is popular for its bonsai collection.


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Puerto Madero is a modern cosmopolitan neighborhood situated along the water. It is a great place for a stroll. Here you will find the iconic Puente de la Mujer or Bridge of the Woman. There are two ships that are now naval museums worth exploring the Sarmiento and the Uruguay.

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At the Reserva Ecologica you can catch a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. Here you will find footpaths to wander along or ride a bike along one of the bike trails.

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