The Essential Backpackers Guide to South America Part 6

Published: 04/03/2014

Following on from the previous articles in this series which outlined the safety and common sense tips that every backpacker should adhere to aswell as a general overview of South America, with more detail on Argentina, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay and Peru.  We now conclude this series with our focus on Suriname, Uruguay and Venezuela.

Suriname is the smallest sovereign state in South America. With a population of approximately 566,000.  The majority of the population live on the north coast, which has been cultivated, where the capital, Paramaribo, is located.  The southern region consists mostly of tropical rainforest and sparsely inhabited savanna along Brazil’s border.  It is the only independent entity in the Americas where Dutch is spoken, and spoken as the sole official language.   The climate is very hot and tropical and temperatures do not vary much throughout the year.  The average temperature ranges from 29 to 34 degrees Celsis.  Due ot the humidity, the actual temperatures are distorted and feel hotter.

There is a rich historical tradition of same-sex relationships and a distinctive culture has developed around them.   As diverse as the country’s population is the cuisine.  It has a very rich and interesting range of foods which are quite different from the rest of South America.  The Dutch, Indonesian and East Indian influences have been blended with the native and European dishes (there is even Chinese influence) to make Suriname food.  Exotic fruits and seafood, root vegetables and spices are the main ingredients that make up most of the traditional dishes.

As a toursit in Suriname, it is important that you see some of the top sites listed here:  The Central Market; Onafhankelijkheidsplein (Independence Square) in town; Numismatic Museum – on Paramaribo Street, which is lined with colonial buidlings; Neveh Shalom Synagogue – a few blocks from the Roman Catholic Kathedraal; Maroon Market; Fort Zeelandia; Stichting Surinaams Museum; Palmentuin and Mosque Keizerstraat.

Uruguay borders the South Atlantic Ocean between Argentina and Brazil.  On the west it shares a boundary with Argentina and on the north, Brazil.  The climate is entirely temperate, making the weather relatively mild and uniform nationwide.  The seasons are distinct but temperatures rarely reach extremes.  Its abundance of water creates high humidity and fog and the absence of mountains, which act as weather barriers, makes all locations vulnerable to high winds and rapid weather changes.

The cuisine in Uruguay has a heavy presence of red meat (mostly beef).  In fact, the country is one of the world’s top consumers of red meat per capita.  Asado is a kind of bbq’d beef, and is the national dish of Uruguay.  Chivito are steak sandwiches, which are very popular, along with pasta, barbecued kidneys and sausages. 

Top five sites to visit in Uruguay: Colonia del Sacramento; Montevideo – the capital of Uruguay; Punta del Este – located 130km from Montevideo, it is the Argentine’s favourite smmer destination; The Rocha Coast – famous for its natural beaches and Piriapolis – a beach resort which is a wonderful destination if you are looking for a tranquil weekend away.

Venezuela is located in the north of South America and shaped roughly like a triangle with numerous islands in the Caribbean Sea.  The climate varies from humid low plains where temperatures can reach quite high averages (as much as 35 degrees Celsius) to glaciers and highlands which averages temperatures of only around 8 degrees Celsius.  The majority of the population live in the Cordillera de la Costa which is a mountain range crossing the country from east to west.

The culture of Venezuela is referred to as a ‘melting pot’ because it includes the indigenous, African and Spanish cultures.  This is similar, in many respects, to the rest of Latin America.  The cuisine draws on its indigenous and European ancestry which includes Italian Spanish, Portuguese and French.  Food staples include corn, rice, yams, plaintain, beans and a variation of meats.  Potatoes, tomatoe, onions, eggplans, squashes and zucchini are also common.

Some top sites to visit in Venezuela include Merida and Pico Bolivar – the gateway to the Andes; Margarita Island; The Capital City of Caracas; Angel Falls and the Amazon; the sand dunes at Los Medanos de Coro National Park. 

Posted in: Travel Advice
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