Culture

Drop Everything You’re Doing And Take A Look At This Ridiculous National Park

Today’s agenda: the rugged, beautiful Torres Del Paine. Or, according to one early visitor, “one of the most spectacular sights that human imagination can conceive“. 

And it’s a solid flex. This UNESCO world biosphere reserve is, in fact, one of the most uncontaminated places on the planet. Every casual shot of it deserves to be slapped on a bottle of fancy mineral water. 

Everyone from backpackers, adventure junkies and Pinterest users seem to fall in love with its otherworldly mountains, lakes and glaciers at first sight. So here’s everything you NEED to know about this slice of heaven. 

Torres del Paine National Park sits in Chile’s Región de Magallanes.

Credit: Google Maps

This 1810-sq-km park is for sure one of South America’s best.  

The closest major town to it is Puerto Natales – about a four hour ride away. If you’re coming from Chile’s capital, Santiago, just hop on a plane to Punta Arenas and bus on over. 

And its landscape is to DIE for.

Credit: WilliamPatino.com

Landscape? More like dreamscape.  

The lay of the land is some of the most unique and diverse you’ll ever lay eyes on. Just imagine snow-capped horned peaks and mirror lakes. Waterfalls, emerald forests, rivers and gleaming glaciers. Are you keeping up? 

All thanks to earth movements from over 12 million years ago that shaped these unusual landforms. The resulting jaw-dropping scenery has us all eating humble pie.

Their massive granite towers – or torres – will take your breath away.

Credit: AdventureWomen.com

A definite highlight of this park is to see the torres (or towers), themselves. It’s named after them after all (Torres del Paine = Towers of Paine). 

These three granite peaks loom over the Patagonian terrain in true tower fashion; imposing and impressive. Even on a misty afternoon, the clouds swirling around the highest peak of Paine Grande (3,050m), are a sight to behold.

It’s full of majestic glaciers that you can WALK on top of. 

Credit: Corey Rich

Oh yes, and Torres Del Paine park is chock-filled with glaciers. 

Like the one in that photo, called Grey Glacier. We’d argue its more of an unreal icy blue, with jagged bumps and crevices that paint a surreal shape against the mountainside. You can ice trek your way across it, because that’s apparently, totally a thing. 

And there are plenty of glaciers to go around. 

There’s also Torre Glacier at the foot of Cerro Torre. 

Credit: Dreamstime.com

This white and turquoise masterpiece is full of ice caves and deep holes that were carved out by water. Climbing it will earn you one heck of a view of Cerro Torre, Torre Egger and other wintery wonders.

Fun fact, because glacier ice is so dense, it absorbs every other color of the spectrum except blue. Hence glaciers often seem to almost glow with an ethereal blueness. 

Speaking of blue – the park is full of lakes and waterfalls in EVERY shade of it.

From ghostly greyish blue to a vivid aquamarine – this park seems to be making its way through the colour wheel. 

It’s also full of the most beautiful lakes, lagoons and rivers, all formed from glacier melt from the nearby Southern Patagonian Ice Field. The most important river is the Paine, which crosses from lake to lake, crashing spectacularly into three stunning waterfalls along the way (like Salto Grande, shown above). 

And guys. You can literally kayak right up to these giant glaciers.

Credit: ecocamp / Instagram

This isn’t your average family kayak trip. Here, you can paddle your way right up close to some of these silent icy giants floating in the lakes. Lakes that are at more than five hundred meters of depth! Phwoar. 

And, we bet you’ve never seen a sunrise like this.

Credit: Thousandwonders.net

Sunrise in this park is probably as good as it gets. Just imagine, the horns of the torres glowing purple and fiery red at early morning as first sunlight catches on the rocks. 

Plus, the park is teeming with life, from owls to armadillos.

What’s more, this park is home to a mindblowing variety of plants and animals. Andean condors wheel through the skies whilst guanacos (a close cousin of the llama) graze in the open steppe. 

Keep an eye out for foxes, Andean deer and even ARMADILLOS. Lucky visitors might even spot a puma or three. The flora is also rich in everything from desert plants to orchids. And birds are plentiful – from woodpeckers, to the great horned owl. 

And it’s a hiker’s paradise.

Credit: IntrepidAdventures / Instagram

Most unsurprisingly, the park is a huge hit with hikers. And there are loads of trail options. There’s the famous W trail that runs through the main tourist attractions, and there’s the lesser-trod O Trail that circles the mountain on a 93.2 km trail.  

Most of the hikes in Torres Del Paine are doable for anyone who comes equipped. So bring your wife, bring your kids. Hike, fish, climb, ice trek, whitewater kayak. Or just gawp at your surroundings. 

You don’t even need to rough it (unless you want to).

Credit: IntrepidAdventures / Instagram

Turns out you can actually hike its most popular trail in relative luxury. By that we mean sleeping in beds, taking actual showers and eating hot meals. Rumour has it you can even get pisco sours en route,  (supposedly served up with a tiny chunk of glacial ice).  

Happy campers just need to book their place in advance, but there’s no shortage of camping grounds. There’s even a ranger station that sells food! 

And good news is you can head there year-round.

Credit: Tom Alves

The usual peak period for travellers is from October into April when it’s warmest. There’s more sunshine, less rain, and the days are longer. 

In autumn and winter, sure temperatures drop and it’s more prone to rain. However you’d be likely to spot more wildlife and soak up a whole other level of peace and quiet (and cheaper entry!) 

Now excuse us as we book flights. 

Read: Here Are Some Hikers Of Color Who Will Inspire You To Travel The World And Explore Nature

These Tourists Thought It Would Be Funny To Poop Inside A Temple In Machu Picchu: They’re Facing Prison Time

Things That Matter

These Tourists Thought It Would Be Funny To Poop Inside A Temple In Machu Picchu: They’re Facing Prison Time

ThatGayGringo / Instagram

Picture this: You’ve made the long, difficult journey to Machu Picchu, taking a variety of planes and trains and buses to get there, and now finally, you’re inside the grounds. You begin to explore the more than 500-year-old site, marveling at its ancient structures, its surreal terraces and ramps. Life is sweet; the world is wonderful and mysterious. But at some point —and for some unknown reason— you sneak into a sacred temple constructed half a millennium ago, drop your pants, and POOP one of the greatest marvels this world has to offer. This actually happened.

Six tourists emptied their bowels inside the hallowed grounds of an Incan worshipping room: There’s something deeply wrong with some people.

For some inexplicable reason, that’s exactly what a group of tourists allegedly did over the weekend, France 24 reports. Six people in their twenties and early thirties were arrested on Sunday after Peruvian authorities caught them in a restricted area of Machu Picchu’s Temple of the Sun, a revered part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site.

Park rangers and police found feces inside of the temple.

The Temple of the Sun had also been damaged after a piece of stone had “broken off a wall and caused a crack in the floor,” regional police chief Wilbert Leyva told Andina, a local news agency. “The six tourists are being detained and investigated by the public ministry for the alleged crime against cultural heritage,” Leyva said.

The group was made up of one French, two Brazilians, two Argentines and a Chilean, according to police.

They face at least four years in prison if found guilty of damaging Peru’s heritage. Several parts of the semicircular Temple of the Sun are off limits to tourists for preservation reasons.

Worshipers at the temple would make offerings to the sun.

The sun was considered the most important deity in the Inca empire as well as other pre-Inca civilizations in the Andean region. The Machu Picchu estate—which includes three distinct areas for agriculture, housing and religious ceremonies—is the most iconic site from the Inca empire that ruled a large swathe of western South America for 100 years before the Spanish conquest in the 16th century.

Three Argentines, a Brazilian, a Chilean and a French woman make up the group.

Local media reported that all the tourists were aged between 20 and 32. In 2014, authorities denounced a trend that saw tourists getting naked at the sacred location. Four American tourists were detained in March of that year forremoving their clothes and posing for photos at the site. In a pair of separate incidents earlier in the same week, two Canadians and two Australians were detained for stripping down for pictures there.

Machu Picchu, means “old mountain” in the Quechua language indigenous to the area.

The historic site is at the top of a lush mountain and was built during the reign of the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438-1471). It lies around 100 kilometers (60 miles) from the Andean city of Cusco, the old Inca capital in southeastern Peru. The site was rediscovered in 1911 by the American explorer Hiram Bingham. UNESCO declared it a World Heritage Site in 1983.

Travel Restrictions Limit Americans To Only Flying Into Havana But Sube Let’s Americans Explore The Island

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Travel Restrictions Limit Americans To Only Flying Into Havana But Sube Let’s Americans Explore The Island

subecuba / Instagram

The progression of Cuba’s modern world has been a slow one, but it’s also been eager to thrive thanks to the younger generation. The integration of the internet didn’t arrive on the island until the late aughts. Back then, when U.S. relations with Cuba became friendlier under the Obama Administration, it looked as if Cuba was ready to get online. However, it wasn’t until 2007 that Cuba decided to team up with Venezuela in order for the country to help them venture into the digital age. Now, under the Trump Administration, who is putting the breaks on the Cuba/U.S. relationship, the Cuban people have something more to aspire to. 

A Cuban startup has launched a cab service that will help tourists get around the island now that the Trump Administration has blocked airline travel to all areas of Cuba except Havana.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

The company is called Sube (which translations to “get on” or “hop on”), and it’s basically a ride-share service like Uber and Lyft, although their intention is to seek out tourists who wish to visit the areas outside of Havana. 

Late last year, the Trump Administration issued a travel ban throughout the island, which meant that American airlines could only fly into Havana. All other airports in Cuba were forbidden. The announcement didn’t automatically erase flights that were already booked. U.S. travelers can only arrive in Havana, so if they have plans outside of the capital, getting there is trickier and expensive. The solution is Sube. 

Sube wants tourists to know that their service is safe and that they can provide an exciting and fun way to get around the island.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“Sube is a ridesharing app founded in Cuba,” their About section states. “Our drivers will help you move around safely and fast while sharing their knowledge of our customs and culture.”

One of the most popular attractions in Cuba is their vintage cars. So how can these old cars keep up with this new motive of transportation? Sube owners say all cars, vintage ones as well, are in perfect condition and can drive long distances. All drivers have verified licenses as well. 

The app launched in 2018, and since then, the app has been downloaded at least 10,000 times and so far has 6,000 registered users.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“We knew the trouble people go through in Cuba to get to work every day, to get home, or if they just want to go out,” Claudia Cuevas Alarcón told NBC News. Aside from Cuevas Alarcón, a 27-year-old, Sube’s creators include 26-year-old Damián Martín, 26, and 27-year-old Darién González. 

What makes this company even more fascinating is that these young entrepreneurs have found a way to work the system to their benefit. For example, U.S. credit cards are prohibited on the island, which means travelers can only use cash. 

Sube creators registered their company in the U.S., so this makes it possible for travelers to download the app before they leave their home country, upload their credit card information. Once they arrive on the island, they have already reserved their car service, and the exchange of payment is not needed. 

It’s not just tourists who use the app, locals are using Sube to get around the island as well.

Credit: subecuba / Instagram

“If you are visiting Cuba this December, move with SUBE and pay from abroad,” one of their beautiful Instagram posts says. “We have 70 registered and available taxis, which will make your trips more enjoyable and safe. You can book them before your arrival at the airport, until departure. Do not hesitate.”

Other ways to use Sube is pretty straightforward. You can use Whatsapp or Facebook to reserve a cab. Travel experts also suggest that if you’re traveling to Cuba, you should also download apps that will help not only with travel information but translation, money exchange, and texting capabilities. Here are some useful apps that extremely useful: Maps.me, XE currency, Google Translate, Pocket, Havanatrans, Zapya, AlaMesa, CubaMessenger, and ProtonVPN. And, of course, Whatsapp and Airbnb. 

It’s very exciting to see young Cubans not allowing connectivity or travel regulations (or any sort of limitation) stop them from progressing into a new frontier of digital capabilities.

READ: The Trump Administration Took Another Swipe At Cuba By Banning Almost All Flights To The Island