Marrakesh or Marrakech, meaning Land of God, is a city lying in the North-Western African nation Morocco. The city is divided into two sections called Medina and Gueliz. The city has a large number of historical sites and museums for tourists and even locals to visit. The thing about Medina is that you can reach a lot of places on foot, even though the walk is long, you do not have to worry about paying for transport. So, if you decide to spend your vacations in this beautiful city, here are some places you might want to consider visiting:
The Masjid is the symbol of Marrakech. This place is as important as the Eifel Tower is to Paris. It is right beside Djemaa El-Fna and is named after the booksellers market that was once located there. It is still used for prayers and non-Muslims are not allowed to enter but they can see it from the outside. It was built following the themes of the Almohad and topped with four copper globes.
This is the most popular market place of the Marrakech. All you just need is to name an item and you will find it at really affordable rates if you are a local. If you are a foreigner, then they will probably demand more so do not forget to bargain with them. Secondly, if you run out of local currency, then you will find merchants willing to accept the equivalent amount in dollars. Its located north of Jemaa El-Fna.
Maison Tiskiwin is a big chunk of private property under the name of a veteran Dutch anthropologist. The house is decorated by arts and crafts that have been collected from South Morocco and Sahara. The tour is basically a walk through the different countries from the Tunisia to Timbuktu. The entry is not free but it is still really cheap.
The Saadian Tombs were discovered pretty late, around the turn of 20th century. They are located near the Kasbah masjid which is extremely popular among the visitors. If you visit the tombs, then you would always find a large crowd so be prepared to stand in line for a while. You will also find tombs of Jews and Christians. There is a small entry fee here as well.
The palace offers a proper tour by providing you with a guide on your visit. Those who want to experience the life of a 19th century nobleman would definitely find this an ideal stop. The exterior is decorated with a big garden containing a large number of beautiful flowers and fruit plants. There are usually very few people gathered at the Palace so you have the freedom to roam around without bumping into people.
While Majorelle Gardens are breathtaking and consists of unique plants and vegetation, it is also a bit overpriced when you compare it with all the other great places you can visit in Marrakech. But, nonetheless, it is a great place to run off to find peace when the city becomes too overbearing. There is a café and a museum in the gardens, and there is a gift shop at the end which also contains 100 year old photographs among other things.
At the end of the day when you are too tired, you would find a lot of exquisite hotels to rest up in. Some of which include Riad El Fenn, Jnane Tamsna, Peacock Pavilions, etc. Enjoy your trip to Marrakech and do not forget to pay a visit to all the above mentioned neighborhoods while you are there.
Author Bio: Alison works at Dissertation cube where she provides dissertation writing help to students. In spare time she writes blogs for students starting their career and for those who are still in jobs. Find her on Google+.
Lima is intimidating at first glance. It’s gigantic, noisy, and crowded; understandably most travelers want to leave the second they arrive. But if you know where to go and what to see, Lima can be one of South America’s best kept secrets. Let Breaking Borders take you through our top 5 favorite neighborhoods of Lima.
#5 Pueblo Libre
Pueblo Libre is an up and coming middle class neighborhood located a few miles west of downtown. The neighborhood is centered around Plaza Bolivar, with numerous lively bars and restaurants around it. A Limeño classic is Antigua Taberna Queirolo, a 135 year old bar that’s famous for it’s pisco sour with ginger ale and it’s old world charms. This is a great neighborhood for a night out on the town with Peru’s bohemian middle class. The famous Museo Larco and the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, both featuring pre-Columbian art and artifacts, are located in the neighborhood as well.
#4 La Victoria
At first glance, La Victoria seems sketchy and run down, but give it a chance and you can find some truly authentic Limeño experiences here. La Victoria is one of the easiest places in Lima to get inexpensive ceviche. In the blocks surrounding the massive Polvos Azules market, street stands serve up some of the most delicious ceviche for as little as $3 USD. A man named Jose has upgraded his street cart to a restaurant, turning a rough corner of La Victoria into a foodie mecca. Barra Cevichera Jose y Juanita offers some of the freshest and spiciest food at bargain prices, it’s a must. Also located in La Victoria is Gamarra, a giant section of the city that has been turned into an open air market. Play it safe in La Victoria and you might find yourself returning again and again.
Miraflores is the most touristy neighborhood in Lima. It’s a nondescript, upscale shopping district. With that being said there are some great things to see and do. No lunch in Miraflores is complete until you’ve eaten at El Enano, a Miami style outdoor sandwich shop which serves up incredible toasted Chicharrón sandwiches with a jar of fresh juice. Chicharrón sandwiches are made with chunks of fried pork shoulder, red onions, and slices of sweet potato with a Peruvian salsa on a crispy french roll. La Lucha Sanguicheria right next to Plaza Kennedy also serves up a mean Chicharrón sandwich. The sweet chicha morada drink is a great compliment. Chicha morada is a traditional Peruvian drink made from blue corn with pineapple, cinnamon, clove, and sugar. Monolo’s is a Miraflores classic, where old men discuss life and politics over espressos and warm, dulce de leche filled churros. A few blocks away is El Virrey, a modern bookstore that would be right at home on Rodeo Drive, where you could easily spend an afternoon browsing over books. Ultimately, Miraflores is about the Pacific Ocean. Spend some time strolling along the cliff banks at sunset and you might begin to consider moving to Lima.
#2 Centro/Barrio Chino
Centro is the beating heart of old Lima. While many of the big businesses fled to Miraflores decades ago, Centro has an energy unmatched anywhere in the city. Plaza de Armas and Plaza San Martin anchor Centro, with the former containing government buildings, beautiful architecture and plenty of history. Be sure to poke your head inside Galería Municipal de Arte Pancho Fierro for cutting edge contemporary art and photography exhibitions highlighting local Limeño artists, great stuff. Following Lima’s main pedestrian street, Jiron de la Union, you end up in Plaza San Martin, a Parisian style plaza where political rallies usually taking place. Many say the famous pisco sour was invented at El Bolivarcito, it would be a shame to miss it.
However, the most interesting area of Centro is Quilca, a long street with old school bars, graffiti covered walls, underground punk venues and character-filled record shops and more radical bookstores than you can count. Start off your Quilca adventure with a drink and some food at Bar Queirolo, a place where college students and political activists rub shoulders and discuss the worlds problems. In a somewhat conservative city, Quillca shows Lima’s more radical and underground side. Another part of Centro worth visiting is Barrio Chino, Lima’s 170 year old Chinatown.
Ah, Barrnaco! This is one of the coolest neighborhoods not only in Peru, but in all of South America. Once home to the famous Peruvian writer Mario Vargas Llosa, Barranco is a wonderful neighborhood full of cobblestoned streets, beautiful ocean views, and sophisticated restaurants experimenting with Peru’s new gastronomic boom. Barranco is a little slice of the Mediterranean in the heart of Lima, No trip to Peru would be complete without spending a day and night here. Start off the morning at Bisettis, a cool cafe that wouldn’t be out of place in the Mission District or Williamsburg. Have lunch at El Chinito, quite possibly the best Chicharrón sandwich shop in Lima. For dinner try Burrito Bar, a British owned Mexican restaurant which serves up tasty tacos and burritos; it’s surprisingly delicious. However, if you’ve come to Peru to spend some money on food, your money would be very well spent in one of the more upscale restaurants. To finish the night off head to Ayahuasca Bar, which was once a Barranco mansion and now has been turned into a labyrinth of different bars and lounges, with each room out-styling the next. This is where Lima’s rich and fabulous come to play, and a night out here is guaranteed to be a good time. Try one of the Ayahusca sours, which contain mashed coca leaves from the high Andes mixed with tropical fruits from the Amazon.
Born and raised in San Francisco, Walker then majored in International Relations and Chinese at the New School University in NYC. He began traveling during a high school exchange to Argentina, and hasn’t stopped since. Walker has always sought out the more unusual and off the beaten path locations and is combining his love for photography and travel to kickstart a career as a journalist, striving to redefine the profession in rapidly changing world.
While in no way a comprehensive list of the continent (Venezuela, Ecuador and the Guayanas are missing), these are our favorite off the beaten path destinations for 2015. Most of these destinations are a bit rough to say the least, but whoever is willing to forgo some basic comforts will be rewarded with a lifetime of great memories.
#5 La Rinconada, Peru
La Rinconada is the highest inhabited place on planet earth. At a staggering 18,000 feet above sea level, this gold mining town shows how far people are willing to go in pursuit of money and the allure of wealth. The city of 60,000 sits perched on the edge of a cliff, with glacier covered peaks at a touching distance. You can walk with incredibly friendly locals, who will be more than happy to show you the gold they’ve extracted that day, and they may even invite you to their house to meet their family and have a cup of tea.
La Rinconada should come with a word of warning; this is rough travel. 18,000 feet above sea level is no joke and the piles of trash lining most streets will turn many people away. If you are willing to look beyond the trash and brave the extreme heights, La Rinconada may be one of the least visited and most fascinating places of this planet.
#4 Goiás, Brazil
This is cowboy country, Brazilian style. Goiás is a giant state in the interior of the country and it is marked by an arid savanna like landscape, great colonial towns, incredible traditional Brazilian food, and quite possibly the friendliest locals in South America. Many travelers make it to Brasilia (which the state of Goiás surrounds), but those looking for another side of Brazil, one far from the hoards of tourists in Rio, should go to Goiás and get lost in this amazing land of red earth and cowboys.
#3 El Alto, Bolivia
El Alto, located high above the city of La Paz, is the largest indigenous city in the Western Hemesphere, as well as the highest city in the world (13,600 feet above sea level) with over a million people. The city is a chaotic place where massive open air markets flood into the already crowded streets, where one is met with curious stares and friendly smiles. You should come to El Alto if you are interested in indigenous South American culture; this is the modern day epicenter of it all. With the indigenous Evo Morales government, Aymara natives are rapidly beginning to embrace their indigenous roots which were for so many centuries suppressed by the Spanish and Mestizo elite. This cultural renaissance has transformed El Alto into a modern, 21st century indigenous metropolis.
Paraguay is lost in a bygone era. It’s a flat, hot, landlocked country in the middle of South America, whose charms come less from cobblestoned streets and old churches, but more from its people and their hospitality. There may not be many sights to check off, but that doesn’t matter when you are warmly invited to a restaurant opening complete with a fantastic blues band, taken to photography exhibitions or hosted by a family for four days for free. Most travelers skip Paraguay completely, but that’s their loss. Let them have the hordes of tourists and high prices, I’ll take my Paraguay the way it is.
#1 São Paulo, Brazil
São Paulo is in the midst of a renaissance. Forget Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires, this is where you need to come if you want to see a true South American metropolis. With 32 million people in the metro area, there is no denying that São Paulo is somewhat intimidating. Yes, its expensive, the public transportation is crowded, and it doesn’t win many points in the architecture department, but get beyond the initial shock, and you surely will begin to fall for its dynamic energy.
São Paulo is about diversity; it has the largest concentration of Japanese people outside of Japan, there are millions of Arabs and Italians inhabitants, as well as neighborhoods where orthodox Jews rub shoulders with recent Korean and Bolivian immigrants. São Paulo’s diversity is best experienced through the gastronomic boom that is currently happening in the city. Burritos, shawarmas, curries and sushi can all be found within 5 minutes of each other.
São Paulo also has an incredibly vibrant underground culture and some of the best nightlife in all of South America. Brazilians play Mexican mariachi, jazz, blues, reggae and rock, the alternative art scene pops up everywhere across the city, old alleyways are transformed into canvases for artists, old factories are becoming galleries, and museums are constantly highlighting local Paulista artists. After a day of feasting on delicious food from around the planet and enjoying alternative art, you can finish off the night in an underground bar, where people perform improv theater, a faint scent of weed lingers in the air, and locals sip on dark Brazilian microbrews. São Paulo is hot, and you’d be crazy to miss it.
With 31.5 million people in the combined metropolitan area, São Paulo is an impossible city to describe in only a few short words. To call it the New York of Latin America wouldn’t do this megalopolis justice. Three times the size of Paris, this city would take several lifetimes to get to know. São Paulo is expensive and crowded, but any city this large will naturally have its negative aspects, but if one is prepared to look beyond these, the positives far outweigh the negatives. São Paulo is a city of distinct neighborhoods and diverse lifestyles intermingling everyday on the subway and in the crowded streets, at the numerous bookstores, bars, nightclubs and restaurants. Economically, Brazil is one the most unequal countries in the world, yet it is this exact inequality that makes São Paulo so complicated, yet so intriguing. The poorest and the richest of Brazil interact in close quarters, creating a complicated fabric from which emerges Brazil at its most creative and most intellectual. On par with New York and Paris, this is truly one of the world’s greatest and most captivating cities. Many people overlook São Paulo for the beaches of Rio, or the jungles of the Amazon, but they are missing out on a city that has the ability to humble even the most seasoned traveler.
#5 Barra Funda
Barra Funda is an up and coming industrialized area northwest of downtown, characterized by art galleries and music venues of all types. The slightly rundown streets exude a type of Williamsburg-before-it-was-cool vibe. In 5 minutes, you can walk from D-Edge, one of São Paulo’s trendiest night clubs to Boteco Pratododia, where an alternative crowd dances to Caribbean salsa and other Latin beats late into the night . Not only is Barra Funda filled with an insane array of nightlife options, it is also a center for up and coming artists. Many of the industrialized warehouses are becoming independent studios such as Galeria Fortes Vilaça, which recently hosted an exhibition on the world famous São Paulo graffiti duo, Os Gemeos. Make sure to see what’s on display and check it out.
São Paulo is a city of immigrants and that diversity can best be seen in Liberdade, a densely packed neighborhood of Japanese restaurants, Chinese markets, and narrow, hilly streets that light up beautifully at night. Brazil has the largest concentration of Japanese people outside of Japan, and the majority live in this neighborhood. The best way to discover Liberdade is to attend the wonderful Sunday street market, where you can buy the Japanese delicacy, takoyaki, a ball of octopus, shrimp, tempura flakes, green onion and ginger fried in fresh cream. No one should leave São Paulo without having a meal at Aska, a cozy, Japanese ramen joint, that has super cheap prices (extremely unusual in this city), delicious food, as well as a long wait. A São Paulo must!
Centro is the historic heart of the city. Most Paulistas dismiss the the neighborhood as dirty and crime ridden, but if you are able to see beyond its decay, it is a fascinating area full of pedestrianized streets, 400 year old churches, steep hills with narrow, bustling streets, open-air markets, neoclassical and art deco architecture, and enough energy to impress even a hardened New Yorker. One of the most interesting aspects of Centro is its alternative edge. Most downtowns in North America are strictly about business, yet here in São Paulo, there are numerous alternative art galleries, and underground bars where skateboarders, weed smokers and anarchists rub shoulders with businessmen getting off of work. Be sure to check out Galeria do Rock, a five story mini mall dedicated to punk and skater shops, tattoo parlors and musky record stores.
The area around 25 de Março is considered the largest commercial center in all of Latin America, and is one of the best places in the city to see São Paulo’s diversity. Chinese and Korean merchants sell electronic goods to Bolivians and Paraguayans, while Syrians, Iraqis, Palestinians and Lebanese folks sell clothes and produce to every other race under the sun. One location that perfectly encapsulates the alternative-meets-business feel of Centro is a bar called Papo, Pinga e Petisco, a bohemian joint that wouldn’t be out of place in the most intellectual corner of Greenwich Village. Take a seat in the back behind the pool table, where the smell of African incense and marijuana mix with the aroma of dusty vinyls, books and dark Paulistânia beer.
#2 Vila Madalena/Pinheiros
Vila Madalena and Pinheiros are two trendy, residential neighborhoods adjacent to each other, located southwest of Avenida Paulista. While there aren’t many specific sights to see, its the best place in all of São Paulo to eat and drink. The coolness factor in these two hoods is unmatched anywhere in Brazil, and is on par with the the most hip neighborhoods of New York, Paris and London. Take a stroll down Beco do Batman, an old alleyway that has been converted into a space highlighting local graffiti artists. You won’t go wrong pulling up a chair at any bar in Vila Madalena/Pinheiros, but be sure to start with Mercearia São Pedro, which is part bar, part restaurant, part bookstore and part video store; definitely one of the coolest places in this city. Another great bar is Empório Sagarana, a perfect place to sample every type of cachaça imaginable.
For food, be sure to eat at Meats, an American style diner serving incredible burgers such as the Big Apple, a juicy patty topped with crisp green apples and a honey-wasabi glaze. Wash down your meal with a Guinness and Jack Daniels milkshake. For a slightly lighter meal, check out Kebab Paris, one of the best kebab places this side of the Atlantic. You also won’t go wrong at Feed Food, a stylish organic restaurant serving all types of world food in a greenhouse setting. For coffee, check out Coffee Lab, where baristas in lab coats serve aeropressed coffee for maximum flavor and kick.
#1 Bela Vista/Paulista
Avenida Paulista is the beating heart of São Paulo. While some might disregard the area because of its endless sea of skyscrapers, you only need to pause for a moment to observe the chaotic energy unmatched anywhere else in Brazil. As the sun sets and rush hour begins, artists line the street to sell their work, while musicians of all ages play for the teeming masses of businessmen. In one minute I witnessed a band play Creedence Clearwater while a separate group of Anarchists and Feminists blocked traffic while marching down the middle of the street. Along Avenida Paulista, relax in a bean bag at Livraria Cultura, the largest bookstore in Brazil.
Adjacent to Avenida Paulista is Bela Vista, whose main thoroughfare, Avenida Augusta, is full of bars, restaurants, movie theaters, comedy clubs and music venues. The neighborhood was once inhabited by punks, skinheads, lesbians, gays and hippies, but today vestiges of the old neighborhood are mingling with business folks who trickle off Ave Paulista in search of drinks, dinner, and more. The contrast between the alternative original nature of Augusta and the recent wave of gentrification is a fascinating. When in Bela Vista/Augusta, be sure to check out Chicano Taqueria, a new California style taqueria serving up mean burritos, tacos, quesadillas and San Francisco’s finest, Anchor Steam beer. Afterwards, hit up Caos Bar, an eclectic biker bar sporting Americana kitsch and serving up great drinks while you lounge on antique couches.
There is not other way of putting it, Rio de Janeiro is one of the world’s best cities. It’s equal parts first world and third world, part European, part Latin, and part African. It flows to the beat of Samba and Funky, and enjoys hands down the greatest setting of any city in the world. It is far from perfect, the crime rate is high, the poor are mistreated by the military and police, and the economic disparities are some of the most extreme on the planet, but it is those exact tensions and contrasts that make Rio endlessly fascinating. At the end of the day, Cariocas (a resident of Rio) seem to put these differences aside in favor of white sand beaches, the warm Atlantic water and the vibrant nightlife.
The upper middle class neighborhood of Urca is an unexpected delight. It has beautiful treelined streets with local neighborhood restaurants and bars (make sure to check out Bar Urca where you can sit on the sea wall overlooking of Rio and the Christ the Redeemer statue). But what makes this neighborhood great is its setting. It is situated on the end of a narrow peninsula between the iconic Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf mountain and the bay.
Things to see:
Pista Cláudio Coutinho
Pão de Açúcar/Sugarloaf mountain
This is the most typical of neighborhoods on this list, but it must be mentioned. This is what Rio de Janeiro is famous for; if you’ve seen this city in a movie or on a postcard, it was probably from Copacabana. Here lies one of the greatest stretches of urban beach anywhere in the world. One minute you are underground, packed like a sardine at rush hour on a crowded subway car, and the next minute you are riding waves in clear, warm water with white sands, palm trees and blue skies. An added bonus is that the people are beautiful, the juices are plentiful and otherworldly and the setting is spectacular. This is why people come to Rio, and I can understand why.
For a city of 12.5 million, the downtown of Rio may seem disappointing at first (the skyline could be compared to a mid sized American city such as Cincinnati or Denver), but what it lacks in soulless skyscrapers, it makes up for with history and old world charm. This is the historical heart of Rio de Janeiro, and some might argue all of Brazil, but this isn’t like the tacky tourist joints of the North End in Boston, or Midtown Manhattan where teeshirt shops outnumber locals, these streets are rough, with homeless men smoking crack, people shuffling through garbage and the walls are covered in graffiti. But pause for a second and you will find over 400 years of Portuguese and Brazilian history all around you.
Things to see:
Mosteiro de São Bento
Centro Cultural Banco Do Brasil
Travessa do Comércio
If there is a crazier party strip in Latin America I’d like to see it. Lapa is where Cariocas of all walks of life come to party and be merry. The sounds of Samba flood into the street, strangers meet and begin dancing, people sip caipirinhas while chewing on grilled meat from migrants from Brazil’s Northeast, transsexuals sell themselves on street corners in skimpy dresses, and in the shadows crack dealers sell their goods. It’s a crazy mix that must be experienced, preferably with a sweet caipirinha in your hand.
#1 Santa Teresa
This bohemian hood of narrow, 100 year old cobble stone streets is Rio’s crowned jewel. This is a neighborhood of poets, writers, artists, and those who inhabit crumbling, turn of the century mansions. This neighborhood would certainly take the cake as one of the worlds great neighborhoods. Make sure to check out Largo do Guimarães and Largo das Neves, two old squares with bohemian bars (Bar do Gomez) and restaurants (Bar do Mineiro). Our personal favorite is Largo das Letras, a wonderful place where music dances through a library like setting and caipirinhas flow freely.
Stay tuned for our neighborhood review of Sao Paulo.