Medellin Christmas Lights

We have talked about traveling to Medellin and things to do there.  Hopefully I have mentioned the best times to visit Medellín but if I have somehow up to now neglected such information, let me take this time to offer up a glimpse of what Medellín Christmas lights experience is.

As winter is now in full swing and I am filled with the Christmas spirit, it brings to mind the stunning Christmas lights of Medellín.  You can probably see where I am going with this now but let me spell it out in plain English just in case: one of the best times you can visit Medellín, Colombia is during the month of December if only to experience the Medellín Christmas lights

That’s right I said experience, not see.  Medellín Christmas lights are an experience as the whole city is adorned in brilliant light and breathtaking designs.  If you are in Medellín during the holiday you must visit the Medellin River.  Millions of dollars are spent each year for Medellin Alumbrados (Medellin Christmas lighting) and the river decorations are the focal point of the effort.

The designs are amazing.  There are the traditional images you think of when you think of Christmas like candy canes and Santa Claus and then there are unique and artistic lighting designs.  For example you will probably see huge fish composed of light and wire framing along the river as well as lily pads lit up in green hovering above the water.

Medellín goes big too.  The sizes of the lighting installments are enormous.  Entire buildings are blanketed in light.  Major thoroughfares are lined top to bottom, end to end with stellar points of illumination.  You will likely see giant flowers, birds, Christmas presents and even elves represented in glorious light.

Medellin Christmas Lights

Medellin Christmas Lights

Medellín Christmas Lights Are a Serious Tradition

You may have thought that Christmas lights were a big deal here in the States but Colombians take their X-mas lights very seriously.  The tradition was born in 1851 when the Plaza Mayor was the locale for the very first public Alumbrados in Medellin.  It was revamped in 1955 when the Empresas Publicas de Medellin was formed.  The EPM is essentially a utility company and they took it upon themselves to revive the tradition and are now major players of the Alumbrados every year.

The Medellin Alumbrados exemplify the Christmas themes of unity and peace quite well because the whole ordeal is very much a community effort.

The EPM organizes most of the lighting but the community is called upon for help and ideas for concepts.  The whole thing really is an experience.  For example in 2014 there was not only a theme to the lighting but a story to go along with the installments as well.  The story was about a girl named Paloma who traveled down the Medellin River to learn about important human values.

Each year has a different theme that reflects the traditions of Colombia and the Christmas spirit as well.  The EPM and volunteers spend the whole month of November preparing for the Alumbrado and the lights are usually switched on and presented on December 7th the day before celebrating the feast of the Immaculate Conception or el día de las velitas.  Thousands of tourists descend on Medellin every holiday season just to see these world famous lights.

A Site that Words Fail

To put it simply, words cannot convey the beauty of the Alumbrado Navideño.  The installments are wondrous, enchanting, inspiring and oddly humbling.  The behemoths of light make you feel small somehow and their beauty make one appreciate the grander aesthetics of the world.

The Medellín Christmas lights can take you to another world and make you see our world in a new way.  You can spend hours wandering around the city and taking in the lights which would be worth the trip alone.

So, if you were to ask me about the best times to visit Medellin, December would definitely be one of them. For more about Colombian culture, read visiting Medellín during Feria de Las Flores.

24 Hours in Santiago Chile

Your travel itinerary for South America is probably jam packed but if you are going to pass through Santiago, Chile you should really take some time to see the sites. But what if you only have 24 hours in Santiago Chile? A lot of people simply pass through Santiago on their way to other locales and that is fine because below is the ultimate guide for making the most of 24 hours in Santiago Chile.

Eating  While Enjoying 24 Hours in Santiago Chile

Let’s go in chronological order. Let’s assume that you arrive in Santiago sometime in the morning and what is the first thing you are going to want to do in the A.M. hours in Santiago? What else? Eat! Santiago is home to some of the most unique cuisine in the world so start your24 hours in Santiago Chile the right way by fueling yourself for the rest of the day with authentic Chilean cuisine.

A Completo may make you feel more at home because it is essentially a burger or hotdog Chilean style. Topped with avocado and mayonnaise a Completo is sure to get you ready for your big day out. You can also go more authentic with a Pastel de Choclo which is a hearty dish of meat and vegetables covered with something similar to the crust of a pot pie.

Enjoy the Weather

Now that you are all fueled up, segue into the afternoon by enjoying the amazing Santiago weather and visiting the Santiago Sculpture Park. This is an open air exhibit located in a beautiful stretch along the Mapocho River featuring many unique and inspiring sculptures from renowned Chilean artists. While you are strolling in the sunshine, try some Chilean Helado (ice cream) to refresh you.

24 Hours In Santiago Chile

24 Hours In Santiago Chile

While the gorgeous Chilean sun is waning you may want to check out one of Santiago’s world famous wineries. Taste some wine and toast your day in Santiago as the warm twilight showers you and heralds in the night.

Party

If you have been following this blog you probably know 2 things to be true: we love food and we love night life. No 24 hours in Santiago Chile is complete without a taste of its nightlife. You can kick off the night with a trip to The Black Rock Pub where you can try some home-brewed Chilean beers like Kross and Prima.

Once you are feeling loose you may want to hit up one of Santiago’s Salsa clubs where you can see professionals exhibit their flavorful art form and get in on the fun for yourself. There are tons of live salsa bands playing on any given night in Santiago so just follow your ears through the night streets. Again for the music lovers, you will be happy to know that Santiago has a great Jazz scene so that means plenty of hip clubs to choose from. One of the most famous is Club de Jazz but if you are looking for a more low key night of music check out The Jazz Corner or Bar Grez.

Finally, if its not to late one of the best places to go in Santiago Chile is near the coast. Santiago is not far from the Pacific and that means super-fresh seafood. Cap off your day in Santiago with some great sushi or a classic Chilean seafood stew which prominently features crab legs and tasty vegetables.

There is really so much more to do in Santiago that it really warrants a good long visit so for more information on what to do in Santiago, check out Easter Island Chile.

Retiring in Ecuador

Why retiring in Ecuador?  Because when one thinks of the phrase “golden years” I believe it would be safe to assume that no one conjures up the image of being huddled under a thick blanket, shivering in the cold. Not that anyone spends the twilight years of their life intentionally staving off freezing temperatures but I think that the “golden years” of one’s life should be spent in a golden climate.

For those who agree with me, they should know about retiring in Ecuador and the many benefits it holds for senior Americans. Ecuador retirement living for Americans can be pretty cushy but there are some important things to keep in mind.  It is not all cheap living and sunshine.

Retiring in Ecuador Pros and Cons

Since I am the kind of person who prefers to be hit with bad news first and good news (if there is any) later to act as a salve, I will begin with a few of the cons that go a long with retiring in Ecuador.

First of all do not be fooled into thinking Ecuador is like Cancun where almost everybody speaks English and there are a lot of familiar sites to remind you of America.

If you are thinking of retiring or living in Ecuador, always bear in mind that you are moving to a truly South American country. English is not the first language and while it is a beautiful, culturally rich and fast developing country, there will be very little to see on a daily basis that reminds you of home.

Secondly, not everywhere in Ecuador is a great place to retire.  If you plan to retreat to Cuenca which many people do, diligently search out a place congenial to your lifestyle.  Some areas of Cuenca can be very congested with traffic, noisy and “urban-smelling.”

Retiring in Ecuador

Retiring in Ecuador

Now that we have the bad stuff out of the way here are a bunch of reasons to retire in Ecuador:

It’s cheap!  All of the rumors you have heard about living comfortably in Ecuador on a retiree’s budget is true.

It’s gorgeous.  Not far from Ecuador is the Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos islands which boasts some of the most breathtaking natural sceneries in the world.

It has a great culture.  It is easy for even an expat to get assimilated in Ecuador because the locals are friendly and there is much music, food and culture to immerse one’s self in.

The weather is great.  Did you know that the average temperature near inland Ecuador is about 77 degrees Fahrenheit?  We’re talking about year round too, not just the summer and spring months.

Cuenca Ecuador is bog but it’s not too big.  In other words, if you opt for Cuenca, Ecuador as your retirement destination you will not be bored in a year or two because there is enough to explore in a long-term sense.  On the other hand it is compact enough that you can see and do everything without much of a transportation hassle.

Stylish Retirement Living

Retiring in Ecuador has become such an attractive notion for Americans because almost every detail of it seems tailor-made for us.  They use the American dollar, there is an established expat community there and there are easy real-estate options available for retirees.

From the popular images of walking on the beach drenched in warm sunlight to the lesser considered aspects that the transition to Ecuador is easy, there are few foreign countries that present a better argument as a retirement destination.  For more info on South American countries and travel, check out the section of Travel to South America.

Punta Del Este Uruguay Beaches

South America boasts a bevy of beautiful beaches and there are many countries you can visit to spend a relaxing time in the warm sun but few have the concentration of stunning beaches that Uruguay does.

Furthermore, few South American countries blend so perfectly the natural draw of sun-soaked playas and the man-made draw of nightlife than Uruguay does. If you are looking to enjoy warm waves and sun rays during the day but replace them with strobe lights and thumping beats by night, Punta Del Este Uruguay may be the perfect South American locale for you.

Punta Del Este Uruguay beaches draw people from all over the globe every summer.  While the rest of the year, the population of this city is pretty modest, when the temperature turns up in the summer months Punta Del Este becomes one of the liveliest regions in Uruguay.

It is a hot spot for rich celebrities and modest travelers looking to play amongst the waves and take in the exciting night life in Punta Del Este.  There 13 main beaches in Punta Del Este and they are divided into 2 regions: the Mansa and the Brava or the tame and the fierce referring to the nature of the waves.

Punta Del Este Uruguay Beaches

The great thing about the beaches of Punta Del Este is that they offer something for everyone.  If you are a surfer you are going to want to head over to either Playa Chileno or El Emir or both.  The intensity of the wind on these beaches is perfect for those looking for some “tasty waves” to use the vernacular of noted fictional surfer and burnout Jeff Spicoli.

If you are feeling adventurous or simply want to get an “all-around” tan you can head over to Chihuahua beach which is the destination for sun-loving nudists.

Many celebrities vacation in Punta Del Este and you can see them lounging at Playa Manantiales.  Just make sure you don’t get too start struck and you should blend in just fine.

With great beaches there is usually great salt water fishing and Punta Del Este is no exception.  You can cast your line right off the Punta del Este port or you can join a sea fishing charter.

Punta del Este Paraguay Beaches

Punta del Este Paraguay Beaches

Nightlife in Punta del Este

There are many things to do in Punta del Este that have nothing to do with the breathtaking beaches.  La Barra is a stretch of bars and nightclubs and offer familiar cocktails and local favorites.  Sioux and Splendido are two clubs on La Barra each offering their own unique flavor: the former a more modern dance club and the former a great place to mellow out and hear some cool jazz.

The Buddha Bar is one of the new restaurant-nightclub combinations and serves delicious sushi and has an Asian décor motif. There is a bar or a club for the mood of every different traveler in Punta Del Este but be warned: some clubs are very exclusive and difficult to gain access to.

Culture

It’s not all about nightlife and beaches in Punta del Este however.  If you want to take in some culture you should check out the Catedral de San Fernando which is one of Uruguay’s most celebrated churches.  It was built 1895 and took an astounding 94 years to construct.

Punta del Este is also one of the fashion capitals of the world and the most popular fashion show is held at the Conrad Hotel in January. For more information about Uruguayan culture, take a look at La luz Mala Legend in Uruguay.

Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina

Have you heard of the Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina?  Argentina plays host to some of the most exciting and eclectic festivals in the world.

The German influence in Argentina has spawned the Oktoberfest Argentinians celebrate every year. People come from all over the world to take part in the festivities that Argentina has become so well-known for.   One of the biggest, brashest and most raucous is the Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina.

Background of the Grape Harvest Festival en Mendoza Argentina

The Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina is essentially a wine grape harvest and has its roots in more religious rites of the past.

Wine was mainly used in religious sacraments in olden days so it was very important for Argentines of old to bless the wine and offer fruit to the patron saint of Mendoza’s vineyards. Even then however, when the work was done, it was time to celebrate.

The Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina is as much a reward for the hard work that is put in all year long into cultivating these prized wine grapes, as it is a cultural manifestation as important as any to the nation.

If you are planning on Visiting Mendoza Argentina and want to catch the Mendoza wine harvest festival, you will want to aim for early to mid-March.  While preparations for the both the harvest and the festival begin as early as January, Early to mid-March is when things are kicked into high gear.

Mendoza itself is a Northern town in Argentina and is generally pretty quiet for the rest of the year. The Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina however is when the town is shook wide awake and brought to life.  Wine lovers, industry authorities and merry-makers from all over the world swamp the town during the festival which has much to offer even if you don’t particularly like wine.

Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina

Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina

The Queen of Vendimia

If you are not an appreciator of fine wine, maybe you will be more enticed by the Argentinian beauties that compete from the 18 provinces of Mendoza for the title of Queen of Vendimia.  This annual beauty pageant is held in the Frank Romero Day Amphitheater which gives the whole ordeal a vintage, Greek vibe.

The Argentine sirens parade through the downtown streets in the days leading up to the pageant and local vintners are eager to offer visitors and locals alike free samples of their wine.

Even if you are not a wine person, if you are in Mendoza during the grape harvest festival, keep in mind that Argentina produces some of the finest and most coveted wines in the world.

The 2016 Harvest

The Grape Harvest Festival is entering its 80th year and there is much on the agenda in 2016.  Absorb some Argentine culture by seeing the Carousel of Vendimia; a parade that features Gauchos in traditional outfits.

The central act is not to be missed as it is essentially the culmination of the entire celebration. It is a recitation of authentic Argentinian folklore tales by over 1,000 players. Finally, the Queen of Vendimia is crowned and the ceremony is lively, exciting and climaxes with an amazing fireworks display.

Of course, the streets flow with wine during the festival and there is no shortage of music, great cuisine and of course, delicious reds and whites to sample. There are only three rules when attending the Grape Harvest Festival in Mendoza Argentina: eat, drink and be merry.

Visiting the Amazon Rainforest in Bolivia

The Amazon rain forest in Bolivia has much to offer for those looking to see a corner of the world that is unlike any other.

The tropical rain forest will surely enthrall you and you will see Bolivian rain forest animals that you cannot see in any other section of the globe. Still, your enjoyment of the Amazon rain forest in Bolivia will greatly depend on what kind of experience you are looking to have.

Bolivia or Peru or Brazil

To put it grossly understated, the Amazon is a big ol’ river. It spans many different South American countries so the first step in planning your visit to the Amazon rain forest is to figure out which country you wish to include in your excursion.

If you are looking for a more touristy and comfortable look at the Amazon, you will want to head to the Peruvian Amazon.  But if you are prepared for a more rustic, stripped down and natural view of the Amazon in all its glory, the Amazon basin in Bolivia is going to be your destination of choice.

If Brazil is the first country you think of when you think about the Amazon, you are going to want to curb that bias right now. Especially if you are a budget-conscious explorer because while the Bolivian Amazon is just as naturally diverse as the Brazilian Amazon, visiting and touring in Bolivia is much cheaper.

When to Visit the Amazon Rainforest in Bolivia

If you don’t want to get eaten alive by mosquitoes, visit the Bolivian Amazon between the months of May and October. This is the period known as the dry season and it brings out many different kinds of animals to the river without the presence of torturous mosquitoes.

Visiting the Amazon Rain Forest

Visiting the Amazon Rain Forest

Locales of Note in the Bolivian Amazon

Rurrenbaque should always be your first stop when venturing into the Amazon. It is a small town where you can easily book tours and find lodging for cheap. From Rurrenbaque, the trip gets a bit trickier and a lot more personal.  This is when you have to ask yourself what kind of experience you wish to have.

“Pampas” is a word that you will hear a lot when booking your Amazon tour and it refers to a tour of the Amazon basin.  While this may be a good choice for those traveling frugally, it does not actually take you deep into the jungle.

If you had something more like an Indiana Jones adventure in mind, jungle tours are the way to go.  Be advised however that these tours will take you deep into the jungle which means long hikes in a very humid and steamy jungle terrain.  Also, due to the dense tree life, it may be harder for you to spot the animals you came to see.

Other than the guided Pampas basin and jungle tours you should check out Laguna Isirere which is a beautiful lake thick with bird and fish life, Totaizal which is home to the Chimane tribe and offers a fascinating insight into the lives of the indigenous people there and Laguna Normandia where you can see one of the rarest species in the Alligator and Crocodile family, the Caiman.

The Amazon rainforest in Bolivia will not disappoint, period.  It provides tons of options so you don’t have to feel encumbered by budget or experience.  If you are looking for a quite different adventure in Bolivia don’t miss the Diablada a The Oruro Carnival Oruro.

Traveling to Medellin Colombia

Thinking of traveling to Medellin Colombia?  Don’t think twice!  Once a city where foreigners rarely dared to venture, Medellin, Colombia is now one of the most valued gems in Latin America as far as travel and culture goes.

Without getting into some of the sordid details of its past (mainly because such details are irrelevant in this humble corner of the internet) what you should know about Medellin is that it is a fast developing city in Colombia that has much to offer to the adventurer, the site-seer and even the retiree looking for warm and pleasant weather to ride out their golden years.

Medellin tourism has picked up by a huge amount in the last decade or so but why is this? Here for you know the ultimate guide to things to do in Medellin Colombia (top 7)

What to See and Do When traveling To Medellin Colombia

Immerse Yourself in the Nightlife

I’m sorry but the first thing I have to mention will speak more to a younger and young at heart crowd. I promise I will get into more family friendly and relaxing activities in the next few entries but, taking part in the vibrant and colorful nightlife of Medellin is something you would be remiss to exclude from your trip if you love a good time.

For a good party, head over to Parque Lleras where there is no shortage of bars, clubs and happening restaurants with great music and local spirits. The Medellin Flower Festival, which you can find out more about in this article, is also a popular tourist draw that has gained worldwide notoriety and is definitely worth inclusion in the itinerary.

Escobar Tours

The most fascinating aspect of the man, the myth and sometimes the monster Pablo Escobar is how polarizing the opinions are of him to the locals in Medellin. This is what makes the Pablo Escobar tours so intriguing. Take a trip through a significant period of Colombian history and decide for yourself.

Sporting Events

Who are we kidding? The only sport one needs to experience in Colombia is futbol (soccer). If you are a fan, you will be intoxicated by the zealous passion of the locals for their two home teams, Atletico Nacional and Independiente Medellin. Take in a match and get ready to lose your voice.

Pueblos

Alright, let’s calm things down for a bit. Want to see some beautiful countryside and possibly even scope out a spot for retirement? Take a tour of some of the nearby Pueblos around Medellin like El Penol to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Stuff Your Face

Did you really think we were going to compose a list about travelling to Medellin Colombia without talking about food? We Latinos love our food and you have to try local dishes like Ajiaco and Bandeja Paisa in order for you to even consider your pilgrimage to Medellin complete.

Take to the Skies

Many people, when thinking about South American countries like Colombia and Brazil, immediately conjure up images of people hanging from oversized kites and soaring against a beautiful skyline, and for good reason. One of the most popular things to do for visitors to Medallin is paragliding. For a handful of pesos, you can take to the skies and see the rich geography that Medellin has to offer from a bird’s eye view.

Stroll Through the Park

For those looking to take it easy, take advantage of the many parks and plazas in Medellin like the Parquet Explora, Pueblito Paisa, Parque Arvi and the Plaza Botero.

Enjoy Yourself

Travelling to Medellin Colombia will surely be one of the more enriching experiences of your life and the best thing to do while you are there is make it your own. Explore (safely), keep your mind open to new experiences and get lost in a culture that has more to offer than can fit in this humble corner of the internet.

Traveling to Medellin Colombia

Thinking about traveling to Medellin Colombia? Once a city where foreigners rarely dared to venture, Medellin, Colombia is now one of the most valued gems in Latin America as far as travel and culture goes.

Without getting into some of the sordid details of its past (mainly because such details are irrelevant in this humble corner of the internet) what you should know about Medellin is that it is a fast developing city in Colombia that has much to offer to the adventurer, the site-seer and even the retiree looking for warm and pleasant weather to ride out their golden years.

Medellin tourism has picked up by a huge amount in the last decade or so but why is this?  Here for you know the ultimate guide to things to do in Medellin Colombia (top 7)

While Traveling to Medellin Colombia Immerse Yourself in the Nightlife

I’m sorry but the first thing I have to mention will speak more to a younger and young at heart crowd. I promise I will get into more family friendly and relaxing activities in the next few entries but, taking part in the vibrant and colorful nightlife of Medellin is something you would be remiss to exclude from your trip if you love a good time.

For a good party, head over to Parque Lleras where there is no shortage of bars, clubs and happening restaurants with great music and local spirits. The Medellin Flower Festival is also a popular tourist draw that has gained worldwide notoriety and is definitely worth inclusion in the itinerary.

Traveling to Medellin Colombia

Traveling to Medellin Colombia

Escobar Tours

The most fascinating aspect of the man, the myth and sometimes the monster Pablo Escobar is how polarizing the opinions are of him to the locals in Medellin.  This is what makes the Pablo Escobar tours so intriguing. Take a trip through a significant period of Colombian history and decide for yourself.

Sporting Events

Who are we kidding?  The only sport one needs to experience in Colombia is futbol (soccer).  If you are a fan, you will be intoxicated by the zealous passion of the locals for their two home teams, Atletico Nacional and Independiente Medellin.  Take in a match and get ready to lose your voice.

Pueblos

Alright, let’s calm things down for a bit.  Want to see some beautiful countryside and possibly even scope out a spot for retirement?  Take a tour of some of the nearby Pueblos around Medellin like El Peñol, Guatapé, Rionegro, Llanogrande, San Pedro, El Carmen de Viboral, Belmira, Jericó, Santa Fe de Antioquia and many more to get away from the hustle and bustle of the city.

Stuff Your Face

Did you really think we were going to compose a list about traveling to Medellin Colombia without talking about food?  We Latinos love our food and you have to try local dishes like Ajiaco and Bandeja Paisa in order for you to even consider your pilgrimage to Medellin complete.

Take to the Skies

Many people, when thinking about South American countries like Colombia and Brazil, immediately conjure up images of people hanging from over sized kites and soaring against a beautiful skyline, and for good reason.  One of the most popular things to do for visitors to Medallín is paragliding. For a handful of pesos, you can take to the skies and see the rich geography that Medellin has to offer from a bird’s eye view.

Stroll Through the Park

For those looking to take it easy, take advantage of the many parks and plazas in Medellin like the Parquet Explora, Pueblito Paisa, Parque Arví and the Plaza Botero.

Enjoy Yourself

Traveling to Medellin Colombia will surely be one of the more enriching experiences of your life and the best thing to do while you are there is make it your own. Explore (safely), keep your mind open to new experiences and get lost in a culture that has more to offer than can fit in this humble corner of the internet.