Archive for October, 2010

Latin America’s Best Kept Secret

Posted in Latin America on October 18th, 2010 by admin – Comments Off

Easily, one of the best things about Cartagena is that it is one of Latin America’s best kept secrets. Headlines about Colombias problems with drug production and political unrest have done little to support Colombias struggling tourist industry in years gone by. But thanks to the efforts of President Alvaro Uribe, who when elected in 2002 declared his devotion to bring peace to Colombia, the countrys economy and security situation is fast improving.

Slowly but surely, more visitors are venturing into the Amazon to discover Cartagena and what it has to offer: some of the finest examples of architectural and cultural achievement in the region, breathtaking beaches, a buzzing nightlife and a warm tropical climate.

With old colonial mansions, churches, plazas and brightly painted colonial style buildings, Cartagena is a city of colour with a colourful past.

It was first founded as a city by Spanish explorers in 1533 when it was conquered by Don Pedro de Heredia. He set about establishing it as a port town, for traders of gold, emeralds, coffee, and later for slaves. In 1564, the first slave ship arrived from Africa. It was the beginning of a dark era of slave trade that would see thousands bought, sold and abused as they were put to work in mines, cultivating the land and serving the rich as personal attendants.

San Pedro Claver, a Jesuit Priest, who lived in Cartagena between 1580 and 1684, made it his lifes mission to protect and comfort the slaves who came to Cartagena. He provided them with food, medicine and religious solace from a life of hard labour and mistreatment. During his life he baptised thousands of them in the well inside the monastery where he lived. His compassion earned him the title of The Slave of the Slaves and he is celebrated today by African descendants all over the world.

The Chruch of San Pedro Claver and its monastery was the home of San Pedro and the other Jesuit monks who lived in Cartagena. Today, as well as the Church and Monastery, there is a museum with art and artifacts from Sant Pedros time which is open to visitors. An alter dedicated to San Pedro, containing his remains is inside the church which visitors can also view.

Being a centre of economic activity in the region, Cartagena was a prime target for pirates and foreign invasion. In 1586, Sir Frances Drake from England successfully took control of the town, and everything in it, looting many of its riches and setting fire to anything in sight.

Cartagena came under attack several times from French, British and Dutch forces, and during the 17th Century, the Spanish ordered the construction of the city walls, a barrier of defence that stretched for more than 10kms, surrounding the entirety of the old city in solid stone. Sections of the wall remains today, and are in part responsible for the preservation of the beautiful buildings within the old city.

As well as the walls, several fortresses were constructed around Cartagena as a second line of defence. El Castillo de San Filipe was the biggest fort that the Spanish constructed in the Americas, and is definitely the most impressive of the handful or so of the old forts left in Cartagena today. It was built by African slaves with concrete and red bricks and was finally completed in 1789.

Inside El Castillo there is an elaborate system of underground tunnels that were built to transport supplies and as an emergency escape route. English speaking guides can be hired for a small fee at the entrance. They can show you the best places within this huge structure and explain some of the interesting historical facts of its past.

In 1610, the Spanish also established the Spanish Inquisition of the Holy Court in Cartagena in an effort to force religious and political unity and to profit from the confiscated valuables of those that were found guilty.

The Palace of the Inquisition was where those accused of witchcraft or religious beliefs other than those of the Catholic Church, were persecuted, tortured and executed if found guilty. Completed in 1770, the palace today is a museum of torture instruments, and written records of the torture methods used and of those that died. There is also a small collection of local artifacts that you can browse amongst.

There are plenty of things to see and do within Cartagena but there are also many sights and attractions within a short distance form the city that make for some excellent day trips, allowing you to enjoy the natural beauty of Colombia, as well as its historical sights.

For a taste of real Carribean paradise, plan a trip to las Islas Rosarios. An archipelago of small islands about 2 hours boat ride from Cartagena, which will cost you about $12 USD to reach. The area is a National Park and offers deserted beaches and coral reefs with amazing snorkeling, SCUBA diving and sea kayaking opportunities.

There is a variety of accommodation available on the islands ranging from hotels to small beach huts. A visit to the Oceanario Islas del Rosario is highly recommended where you can visit the Museum of Marine Life and take a guided tour along a purpose built walking platform.

Playa Blanca or White Beach in English, is situated about 2 hours journey south of Cartagena. Its worth the trip to enjoy a peaceful retreat with crystal clear waters and fine white sand. You can travel there by bus, taxi or boat. There are no hotels at Playa Blanca but you can rent a hammock for the night and enjoy sleeping out under the stars.

El Volcan de Totumo is located about 60 kms north of Cartagena and can be reached by booking on with a local tour company. Decaying organic matter deep below the earths surface is heated by the earths core, producing a gas which forces the mud up towards the surface of the earth. A small volcano is formed, about 20 meters in height as the mud reaches the top of the crater and spills over the side.

There are stairs built into the side of the volcano, allowing visitors to walk to the top and enter the crater to enjoy a thermal mud bath. The mud is said to be warm, relaxing and therapeutic for the skin. You can also enjoy a massage from the locals for a small price before rinsing off in a nearby lagoon.

The best time to visit Colombia is during the dry season. It will still be hot and humid, but a little less humid during the months December- April. You can fly in to Cartagena. The airport is located just 2 kms outside the city, or you can cruise there from many destinations in the Caribbean.

You will find a range of accommodation in Cartagena. Everything from luxury hotel resorts to backpacker hostels, but the best way to enjoy the city is to rent an apartment. This way you can enjoy your privacy and some peace and quiet, as well as see what life is really like for the Colombian people in a well located residential area. Its the most affordable and hassle free option.

There is no need to be paranoid about your personal safety, but it’s wise to exercise the same common sense and awareness of your surroundings as you would in any foreign city. Don’t wander around with large amounts of cash, and keep your valuables well hidden.

You’ll find the people of Cartagena friendly and welcoming. They will be glad that you are supporting the Colombian people by visiting their country and they will be keen for you to enjoy your visit and the many sights and sounds the city has to offer.

The secret wont stay quiet for long, so get out there and experience Colombia. You’ll be glad you did!

Gaizka Pujana is the co-owner of Barcelona Homes, S.L. which is a company specialized in providing short term tenancy solutions in Seville and Barcelona through its web pages Bogota apartamentos turisticos cartagena apartments Apartment rental cartagena de indias

Article Source: Latin America's Best Kept Secret

Volunteer In Peru: Latin America’s Cultural Treasure

Posted in Latin America on October 17th, 2010 by admin – Comments Off

A country with am amazing array of bio-diversity, Peru is considered as one big habitat for humans, flora and fauna. It is situated in South America and has the South Pacific Ocean on one side and the mighty Andes Mountains on the other. As a result of being close to the sea as well as the mountains, Peru enjoys several micro-climates like no other. Some of the main attractions apart from the famous Inca Trail and Machu Picchu include the pre-Columbian cultures, the cuisine, the natural resources and the exquisite colonial architecture.

Why Volunteer In Peru

Volunteering in Peru is like being the closest you can be to nature and civilization, both of which has supported each other well through millions of years. As a volunteer in Peru, you will not only get an insight into the lives of the Peruvian people but also get to enjoy the many colors of their culture and tradition. It is a unique experience that you will be able to re-live time and time again and the warmth of the people of Peru will not remain just as a moment in time – it will become a timeless treasure.

Types Of Projects Available

As a part of volunteering in Peru, you will get to choose the kind of project you are interested in. The different types if projects available include:

• Conservation Project: When in Peru, you will be able to spend a lot of time trekking through the beautiful and captivating landscape as a volunteer in a conservation project. Peru has a wealth of natural resources and the variety of flora and fauna is probably more than anywhere else in the world and hence there is a huge responsibility of preserving the natural habitats. As a volunteer in Peru, you will play a definitive role in conservation of Amazon rainforests as well as the higher and lower regions of the Andes, the varied wildlife, and the historical sites. This is one of the most interesting volunteer programs.

• Internship: There are different types of programs available under volunteering in Peru. You can volunteer for a program for 2 weeks or work as an intern for 1 year. Under the internship program, you will be working with the local people and get to understand and experience their culture from up-close. You will get to understand their problems and find meaningful solutions that can be applied practically.

• Volunteer with Orphanages: There are several orphanages in Peru and as a volunteer in Peru, you can choose to work with any one of them. You will have to care of the children whose age can vary from 1year to 10 years or more. You will have to teach them languages, take care of their educational and health requirements, teach them sports and get involved in extra-curricular activities.

• Health Care: Most of the health care volunteer programs in Peru deal with curing preventable diseases. The medical or health infrastructure in the rural areas is understaffed and not well equipped. As a medical volunteer in Peru, you will be able to make contribution towards strengthening the Peru’s medical infrastructure in the rural areas. Health care can vary from technical areas like nursing and surgery to taking care of mentally ill or HIV patients.

• Sustainable Development Projects: These are specialized projects where some areas might require you to have prior experience and knowledge while in other areas, you don’t require any prior experience. Most of the sustainable development projects deal with four important sectors and they are Environment, Education, Health Care, and Business.

Volunteer Requirements

Age: The minimum age for volunteering in Peru should be 18 or older.

Some of the volunteer programs will require a 2-4 week training program before you start working on the project. The training will be provided by the volunteer organization.

Fee and Other details

There is a fee attached to each of the projects that you volunteer for. The fee is charged in advance and is charged for the following:

1. Accommodation: There are different types of accommodation available in Peru. This includes Host family normal, Host family plus, Host family matrimonial and apartments. Of course the type of accommodation varies from organization to organization.

2. Food/meals

3. Travel insurance

4. Transportation within the region

5. Emergency support


Volunteering in Peru has its own benefits as it will open your world to some of the most beautiful aspects of nature that you have probably seen before only in the National Geographic magazines. Projects can vary from 7 days to 4 weeks and depending on the type of volunteering work you are interested in, you can submit your resume with the respective organization and begin the journey.

Volunteer in Peru expert Alex Landin is a project manager and contributes to Volunteering in peru destinations programs at

Article Source: Volunteer In Peru: Latin America's Cultural Treasure

Volunteer In Chile- Latin America’s Best Kept Secret

Posted in Latin America on October 9th, 2010 by admin – Comments Off

Volunteering in Chile can be an amazing learning experience, one that you are unlikely to forget. Pretty much isolated from the rest of the world, Chile’s natural barriers such as the most arid desert in the world, the Andes Mountain range, the Pacific Ocean, and the ice fields in Southern Patagonia, offers such a tremendous amount of diversity to this extended and thin country that it’s considered as the jewel of South American continent. Much loved and popular, it is said that in Chile you are never too far from the sea, the mountains, or the desert. Currently, on a economic fast track, Chile is now experiencing a newer and improved socioeconomic stability as compared to the other South American countries. However, this capitalistic approach has ended up widening the gap between the economically richer and poorer sections of the society. As a volunteer to Chile, you will have many opportunities to do something really worthwhile as you travel from one city to another, helping people to gaining emotional, financial, and physical independence.

Why Volunteer In Chile

With 5,000 kms of South Pacific coastline, Chile is a wonderfully blessed with pristine beaches, and plenty of tourist activity. Furthermore, Chile can also lay claim to some portion of Antarctica and if these reasons are not enough for you for volunteering in Chile then consider this. Across the nation, there are several NGOs that are willing to accept you as volunteer to help them in their attempts to improve housing for the poor, provide assistance for academic development, work with drug addicts, offer expertise at medical health centers, and show compassion towards the homeless and much more. Why not take a year’s gap to volunteer in Chile as well as travel this country, which is a contradiction and reflection of global landscapes?

Types Of Projects Available

For those of you who find volunteering in Chile a challenge as well as an opportunity to contribute to the society in a solid way, Chile volunteering projects come in varied types demanding different levels of skills. Whether you enjoy working with drug abusers, for have a passion for languages, or want to teach children and make them better adults, or work to improve the position of women in the society, or perhaps, you are a die-hard animal lover and want to do your bit to improve the apathetical outlook of people towards them; you will most certainly find volunteering in Chile personally satisfying.

• Community Welfare programs: Volunteering in Chile for community welfare programs include delivering food for homeless people, doing social work in poor communities, teaching at various education centers, taking care of children at day care centers, assisting the homeless and terminally ill patients, etc.

• Education programs: Assisting as a teacher in rural schools will offer you the opportunities to teach the locals various subjects such as Math, Science, geography, history, even crafts, arts, knitting, etc.

• Teach English programs: If you can also teach conversational English to children, women, and adults thus, helping them to make the best of global opportunities, which demand knowledge in English language. As a volunteer in Chile on this project, you will work with teenaged children who are currently in youth shelters due to sexual abuse, neglect, or abandoned by their family. These shelters give children a safe place to study, live, and develop.

• Building Homes programs: As a volunteer in Chile for building and repairing homes/buildings project, you get the opportunity to leave an indelible mark of your contribution. You can help build homes or help repair existing homes, build educational set-ups for underprivileged families and orphans. Such kind of volunteering in Chile programs help you build lasting relationships at the personal level with the locals. Of course, if you have similar knowledge that a huge plus!

• Conservation program: A broad term, conservation is applicable to environmental conservation as well as architecture and natural heritage conservation. While most volunteering in Chile conservation projects includes animal conservation such as animal rehabilitation centers, or reserves, you can also participate in breeding and rehabilitation of specific spices of animals.

Volunteering in Chile Requirements

1. No experience or qualifications required
2. Must be 18 or over 18 years of age
3. Should be free from all health problems

Fee and Other details

Every project has a fee attached, which is taken in advance and used for providing food, accommodation, comprehensive travel insurance, in-country travel, fund raising ideas etc.


Leave a never to be forgotten mark on the world map by volunteering in Chile!

Volunteer in Chile expert Alex Landin is a project manager and contributes to Volunteering in Chile destinations programs at

Article Source: Volunteer In Chile- Latin America's Best Kept Secret