Estado de Salvador de Bahía, Brazil
Text Mari Campos
Natural Splendor: The Parque Metropolitano de Pitaçu is the largest green area in the city of Salvador. At its center, you’ll find a beautiful lagoon (covering nearly 50 acres) that you can explore by boat. An 11-mile cycle path circles the park.
Outdoor Activities: Go diving off the Península de Maraú, just 30 minutes from Salvador by air taxi or two and a half hours by boat. The scenery is incredible, the water crystalline and warm, and the beaches dotted with palm trees. You can spot a variety of fish and coral in Taipú de Fora’s beautiful natural pools.
Archaeological Heritage: Pelourinho – Salvador’s Old Quarter and a World Heritage Site – is filled with colorful baroque houses. It’s a great place to enjoy music, art and delicious traditional cuisine, as well as performances of capoeira, the region’s trademark dance/martial art.
Museum Going: Don’t miss the Museu de Arte Moderna (MAM), founded in 1960 to house works by notable Brazilian artists like Tarsila do Amaral, Portinari, Di Cavlacanti and Pancetti. The terrace offers one of the most beautiful sunset views in the city.Av. do Contorno, s/n / no address number, Solar do Unhão, Salvador www.mam.ba.gov.br
Souvenir Shopping: Without a doubt, the Mercado Modelo is the best place to find traditional folk art and gifts from Salvador. Located near the port, the market is a former prison that was converted into a shopping center.www.portalmercadomodelo.com.br
Tips from a Local: Writer Janaína Calaça suggests the restaurant Sertão Bom. “I love it! They have reasonable prices and terrific traditional northeastern cuisine. Also, the décor is lovely, and it’s always filled with locals who come to enjoy live forró, music typical of the region.”Avenida Otávio Mangabeira, 321 Tel. 55-71- 334-67449
Departamento del Huila, Colombia
Text Sara Gallardo M.
Natural Splendor: The Desierto de la Tatacoa is a 127,400-square-mile dry tropical forest closely – and improbably – bordered by the Cabrera and Magdalena rivers. This arid land is the location of the Observatorio Astronómico de la Tatacoa, which keeps watch over the night sky.
Outdoor Activities: Visit the 22,200-acre Parque Nacional Natural Cueva de los Guácharos, located in the south of the department, a five-hour drive from the departmental capital of Neiva. The park features one of the last bits of Andean forest in Huila. Take a hike and explore the caves, shaped by the waters of the Río Suaza, or try to spot a rather unusual guácharo bird.Ruta Neiva – Pitalito – Palestina – La Mensura www.parquesnacionales.gov.co
Archaeological Heritage: The Parque Arqueológico de San Agustín preserves vestiges of the pre-Columbian cultures that once inhabited the country. The 500 carved stone statues will surely grab your attention. The park was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995.www.sanagustin.travel.com
Museum Going: In the departmental capital of Neiva, the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo del Huila (MACH) offers permanent and traveling exhibits featuring work by local, national and international artists.Carrera 5 No. 21-81, Neiva http://artemach.blogspot.com
Souvenir Shopping: From the models of chivas (open-roofed public buses) to reproductions of traditional market squares, the regional folk art is lovely. Municipalities like Pitalito, San Agustín, La Jagua, Altamira and Neiva offer tourists the chance to treat themselves to a taste of local life, history and folklore.
Tips from a Local: Max Duque Rengifo, director of the Diario del Huila newspaper, says that no tourist should leave the department without buying folk art from Vargas, a brand founded by Aura Muñoz de Vargas (with its headquarters in Pitalito). Also, don’t miss the variety of dishes made with river fish at the restaurant Avenida, in Neiva.Restaurante Avenida, Carrera 5 No. 25-20, tel. 57-8-875-6372
Comunidad de Madrid, Spain
Text Igor Galo
Natural Splendor: Don’t miss a chance to go trekking through the Parque Natural de la Pedriza. Less than 30 miles from downtown Madrid, the spectacular granite massif of La Pedriza offers a range of well-mapped routes for daylong excursions ascending 5,577 feet to a spectacular view of the Castile plateau. Declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve in 1992.
Outdoor Activities: Parque Amazonia in Cerdecilla – a town in the Madrid sierra, just 37 miles from the capital – features treetop zip-line circuits, with varying levels of difficulty for the whole family, in a lush natural setting. In summer, you can cool off in the natural swimming pools.www.aventura-amazonia.com
Archaeological Heritage: Chinchón, a town just 40-minutes drive from Madrid, has been inhabited since the Neolithic Age and still preserves the characteristics of a medieval Castilian village. Visit the main square, where you’ll find restaurants serving top-notch traditional cuisine, and the Iglesia de la Asunción, which houses a Goya painting of the Virgin.www.ciudad-chinchon.com
Museum Going: In Alcalá de Henares, a 30-minute drive from Madrid, the Casa Natal Cervantes offers the chance to learn about the author of Don Quixote and Castilian homes of the era. On special occasions, the museum organizes Cervantes-related activities.Calle Mayor 48, Alcalá de Henares www.museo-casa-natal-cervantes.org
Souvenir Shopping: Handmade Spanish fans make great décor objects and useful gifts. Casa Diego, in downtown Madrid, has been making these works of art for 150 years. They also offer canes and Manila shawls.Puerta del Sol 12, Madrid www.casadediego.com
Tips from a Local: Félix Valdivieso suggests enjoying an appetizer of fried cod, croquettes and beer at Casa Labra. This historic bar dates back over a hundred years and was the site of the founding of the Spanish socialist party. It’s located right next to the large stores of El Corte Inglés in Madrid’s Plaza del Sol.Calle Tetuán 12, Madrid www.casalabra.es