Hey Roger. My girlfriend and I are planning to go during Christmas for 13 days from San Diego, CA to South America mainly on the west side. We are not up for beaches but rather historical, adventurous, and scenic places. We are keen on Cusco (Peru) (Inca Trail), Quito (Ecuador), Costa Rica (Rain Forest), Bogota (Columbia). Please can you help us with your expert advice on which cities are a must for first timers to South America. We are not picky and simply want to have a fun time. Thank you for your time.
Yes I travelled a bit by train in southern India, I got lucky on my first few journeys with lack of people, then I hit some Indian holidays and it was hellish. I remember the trains being booked up for all the upgraded a/c and upper class carriages. One time even the Indians were fainting on the over packed carriage so you can imagine the heat for little old gringo me!
Heat your winter up and pack your backs to explore Australia. Celebrate New Year’s Eve at The Opera Gala in Sydney. Eat your way through the Taste Festival in Tasmania. And if music is your thing, we recommend checking out the Life’s a Beach Music Festival in Rockingham (30 minutes south of Perth) or experience the Woodford Folk Festival in Queensland, one of Australia’s biggest cultural festivals.
As for the hurricane, it’s true that it did go through that area a few days ago, but I think that was the first one in almost 10 years to do so. In other words, it’s an extremely rare event, and even when it does happen, they know about it long in advance so everyone is evacuated or safely sheltered. Also, the “Hurricane Season” technically goes through the end of November, but November hurricanes are actually far rarer than the earlier months. Personally, I love to book into places like Punta Cana during that season because the weather is the same about 95% of the day, and prices can be half as much as December or January.
It would help to know your starting location, but I’ll assume it’s the US or Canada because you didn’t say. My first thought for this is Argentina, which of course is in mid spring in late October. Buenos Aires is a wonderful city with great food and culture. You could also visit Mendoza, which is the lovely wine region, and Bariloche, which is a mountain resort area with year-round activities and such. Then there is always the amazing Iguazu Falls on the border with Brazil and Paraguay. It’s by far the most amazing waterfalls and area I’ve seen. Things are pretty cheap in Argentina these days for outsiders because of their weak currency. It’s also got very good outdoor activities in many different areas that should have nice weather in late October. It’s easier if you know Spanish, but still doable if you don’t. I don’t speak Spanish and I enjoyed it so much I stayed for a month. Let me know if you have something else in mind and I can try again. -Roger
Thanks. I’ve been to other places in Egypt, but have yet to make it to Sharm el-Shiek. It’s hard to find places that are that inexpensive these days. Most of my best suggestions are in the article above. If your main priorities are beaches, sunshine, and nightlife, my favorites are Goa, India; Boracay Island, Philippines; and almost any of the Thai islands. Goa has many family-oriented beach towns, although some others are not so family oriented so you have to choose carefully there.
Otherwise the big draws are the Great Barrier Reef, which is obviously focused on diving, snorkeling, and water activities, so it may not be too interesting, and Uluru, which is the big rock in the center of the country (and not near anything else of interest). There is also wine regions in the south near Sydney, and of course nature parks to see kangaroos and the other indigenous animals.
Weirdly enough, Central America and South America aren’t really known as top “culture” destinations, as the colonial history has mostly wiped out the indigenous history in the larger places. There are Aztec, Maya, and Inca ruins and sights, but not really enough to build a whole trip around. I’d say the most interest of those would be the Inca culture of Peru, specifically around Machu Picchu and the valley around Cusco. Alternatively, visiting Argentina is pretty much like visiting Europe from a culture standpoint. It’s quite nice there and prices are low if you know about the blue market for currency, but otherwise it may not be what you are looking for.
The easiest meal of the day to eat out is by far breakfast. Many places offer eggs, omelets, sausage, bacon, or other type of high-fat foods that are easy to order without too much effort. Dive bars or café’s will usually be quick to serve and have some great tasting food. We had the pleasure of eating breakfast at a great place called The 5 Point Café, which featured a fantastic omelet with smoked salmon (pictured below) and hollandaise sauce.
Tamarindo and Smara are two of the most popular beach areas, but there are other good choices in the area as well. This part of Costa Rica is known for large chain resorts on the beach, and the 4-star resorts can be pricey, while the more traditional 3-star hotels are still very reasonable. Costa Rica is obviously one of the hot countries in December in both temperature and popularity, so book early.
Oh no. I don’t mind rain but that would be a little disheartening. I come from a tropical place and it wasn’t until I moved to Canada that I realized that “rainy seasons” don’t really mean much. More so, I went to Punta Cana last October during the cold period and it was gorgeous every day, and what little rain fell was usually overnight or little drops that you could stay on the beach unbothered.
Aside from Indonesia you might also consider Thailand, which has great infrastructure so it’s much easier to travel with young children. Phuket has by far the most options, and its rainy season usually ends in early November. For families I recommend Kata Beach and Karon Beach, which are both just south of the main shopping and nightlife town of Patong Beach.
Traveling around India is a shock to the system, but it’s not as bad as it looks. If you pay a bit more for the AC3 class on trains (air-conditioned, 3 bunks per side of the compartment), or AC2, it’s pretty comfortable and civilized. Mumbai is worth a couple days before you’ll be desperate to get out, but many parts of Rajasthan are much nicer and fascinating.
Since you’ve been to several of the top places in Asia already, and you love it, I think Bali might be your best bet. As I’ve written many times recently, I feel that the main tourist area of Kuta/Legian/Seminyak is just too crowded and overdeveloped to recommend, although it is interesting for a couple days and some nightlife. The arts and crafts town of Ubud is still nice, although also a bit crowded, but it’s not anything like a city so I still think you’d enjoy it.
November is the time to catch the last days of spring’s moderate weather and prices in New Zealand. Temperatures vary during the month, but average in the high 60s with relatively dry weather in most areas. New Zealand's spectacular scenery invites outdoor activities, and November is the perfect time for hiking, biking, river rafting, and exploring the national parks, forests, lakes, mountains, beaches, and thermal reserves. Fresh seafood including green-lipped mussels, crayfish, oysters, and finfish, as well as lamb and award-winning cheeses are served in local restaurants.
There are snack stands everywhere at the theme park, and I can tell you from the experience of at least yearly visits that most choices at the stands are decidedly NOT keto-friendly. In recent years they’ve added what I’m sure they consider “healthy” choices, but most of those consist of yogurt and fruit with dip. You may, upon occasion, come across some carrots and celery with dip, but it’s very hard to find.