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Better known as the “Train of the End of the World,” this gauge steam railway is considered the southernmost railway in the world. Although it once provided a less happy service of connecting Ushuaia’s penal colony with nearby cities, today it offers a beautiful tourist ride into the Tierra del Fuego National Park. The train departs on new tracks (the original ones can still be seen nearby) from the End of the World station, riding alongside a thickly forested gorge and beautiful peaks all around. In winter, everything is covered in snow here; in other seasons, you’ll appreciate the greens and reds that take over the valley throughout the season. The train makes one stop, so travelers can snap some photos at a local waterfall before continuing on into the national park. First-class passengers will get a chance to taste some local specialties while onboard, including alfajores, biscuits filled with thick caramel, and empanadas, a fried or baked pastry filled with cheese or meat.
Most visitors to Colombia will inevitably begin their trip in the nation’s largest city-and beating heart-Bogotá. It’s a city that often divides opinion, with some complaining of its gridlocked streets and dreary weather, and others falling head over heals for its unique combination of colonial charm and urban sophistication. Either way, this city of eight million tends to grow on people who give it enough time. Begin your sightseeing in the historic center of La Candelaria, where you’ll find the impressive buildings lining Plaza de Bolívar and can’t-miss cultural attractions like the blindingly bright Museum of Gold. Then, head over to the wealthier neighborhoods of North Bogotá for some of the nation’s best boutique shops and chef-driven restaurants.
One of the highlights of eastern Cuba is beautiful Baracoa, the oldest city in the country. It was founded in 1511 in the province of Guantanamo, and construction began on the first church here around that time. Cut off from much of the outside world until the 1960s, when the La Farola highway was built, the city still has a remote feel. Today, visitors come here for the charming colonial architecture and lush countryside, where waterfalls and pretty beaches provide a cool counterpoint to the steamy jungle. The flat-topped peak of El Yunque presides over all this tropical beauty, beckoning hikers to take the guided ascent to its 589-meter summit. The hillside is a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve where rare birds and plants thrive. To really appreciate the spectacular scenery, take a drive down the winding La Farola highway, a 49-kilometer stretch from Baracoa over the mountains to Cajobabo. The Museo Municipal is also worth a look. Housed in the Fuerte Matachin military fortress, it provides a glimpse of Baracoa’s fascinating history, and the fort itself offers great views over the bay.
You’ll find some of the best beaches in Colombia within the protected Tayrona National Natural Park, which is known for its palm-shaded coves and crystal-clear coastal lagoons. Most beaches are set against the dramatic mountains of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, whose rainforested hills make for a great side trip on any beach vacation. Tayrona is also a fantastic place for snorkeling at protected areas near La Piscina beach and Cabo San Juan. Though remote, these secluded beaches aren’t exactly a secret, so it’s best to visit in low season (February to November) to avoid the massive crowds. Also, unless you’re paying for the lavish Ecohabs Tayrona, be prepared to sleep in a tent (or hammock) at one of the many beachside campgrounds.
In Cuba I had a friend I’d studied International Affairs with at the ANU in Canberra. And Cuba was looking a lot warmer than Europe by that point. With that visa I bid Jimmy farewell during another all night drinking session and over far too many pints. And I hoped a train to Frankfurt where I thought I could get a flight to Cuba. Buying the first available ticket I hopped a plane to Havana in mid 2021. And landed straight into Cuban Hotel Quarantine. After 2 weeks of locking me in a hotel room, feeding me something vaguely resembling food, shaking me down for cash everyday and randomly appearing at odd hours to shove a stick so far up my nose it tickled my brain, the Cubans finally let me out into the big wide world of their tiny little island. See extra details at https://inlovelyblue.com/.
The city of Puerto Madryn lies on the shores of Golfo Nuevo in one of the most sheltered places on the Patagonian coast. Founded by Welsh settlers in 1886, the city’s deep-water port and abundant nature reserves make it one of the most popular cruise destinations in Argentina. Its rugged coastline attracts water sports enthusiasts, particularly windsurfers who enjoy defying the strong Patagonian winds. Nature lovers find plenty of things to do on the Valdez Peninsula, an important nature reserve listed as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for its diverse wildlife. Guided tours of the reserve are a must, and visitors normally leave having seen everything from right whales (here to mate and calve), along with elephant seals, sea lions, and orcas. It’s also an important breeding ground for migratory shorebirds, in particular Magellanic penguins. Learn more about the environment of this beautiful coast at the Natural Science and Oceanographic Museum, set in a beautiful heritage building overlooking the harbor. The museum features displays of Patagonian flora and fauna, including a whale skeleton and a fascinating exhibit about giant squids.
Varadero is one of Cuba’s most famous beach destinations, and home to one of the best beaches in the Caribbean. It stretches along the Peninsula de Hicacos, which juts into the sea off the north coast; a drawbridge connects it to the mainland. More than 50 hotels line this popular palm-fringed strip, and its magnificent white-sand beaches draw visitors from around the world. Varadero highlights include Parque Ecológico Varahicacos (Varadero Ecological Park), and its two caves, Cueva de Ambrosio and Cueva de Musulmanes. Also in Varadero, the peaceful Parque Josone is home to lush flower gardens, a restaurant, swimming pool, and a small lake where visitors can paddle about in rowboats. Other popular things to do, besides diving and snorkeling, are deep-sea fishing, golf, skydiving, and day trips to cultural attractions.