Fallís chilly days are here, and soon enough the trees will be bare
and gray, the wind icy and the days short.
But itís all happening in reverse in the Southern Hemisphere. Those who
miss spring in November can find warmer days and blossoming trees in
places like Chile, Argentina and Brazil. Spectacularly varied landscapes,
lively cities and rich Jewish heritage await American travelers, and the
cheap currencies allow a far more lavish vacation than anywhere on the
Several Jewish tour groups offer excellent value and capitalize on the
regionís return to relative calm after a series of economic and
political crises a few years back.
Offering departures for its 12-day ďSouth America DiscoveryĒ tour on
several dates in November and December.
Isnít it fun to spend Shabbat one week in a Santiago shul, the next week
at a temple in Rio?
It begins in Santiago with a stroll through the main plazas and the
Pre-Columbian Museum. An optional side trip to Valparaiso, Chileís
lovely, hilly, bohemian coastal gem, is well worth the effort.
In Buenos Aires, travelers explore the upscale Recoleta district, with its
Italianate buildings and legendary cemetery that is like a small city in
itself; dodge across Avenida 9 de Julioís 26 lanes of traffic and shop
for antiques amid the narrow, cobblestone streets of San Telmo. A tour of
Buenos Airesí oldest and grandest synagogue is followed by a tango show
Next up: Iguazu Falls. There is a reason that tourists from around the
world fly to this spot in the middle of nowhere on the Argentine-Brazilian
border: It really is that amazing. A stunning melange of 275 separate
waterfalls, Iguazuís cascades splash down from the depths of a lush,
green rainforest dotted with colorful butterflies and exotic birds.
In Rio, take the pulse of local beaches, travel to the top of Sugar Loaf
Mountain for that iconic coastal view and enjoy a samba show one night,
Shabbat services the next.
Sao Paulo, Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires and Iguazu Falls are the
In Rio, guests view the private art collection on the walls of a Jewish TV
network and publisher, shop at a folklore market and learn about gemstones
and jewelers at the headquarters of H. Stern Jewelers in Ipanema.
This tour includes Sao Paulo, home to a majority of Brazilís Jews and
the countryís largest congregation, Congregacao Israelita Paulista, with
more than 2,000 members. Prices vary depending on tour size and
For those who want a bit more flexibility, Buenos Aires-based Jewish
Tours Argentina specializes in custom city tours and Jewish heritage
tours of that city, as well as Santiago, Chile and Rio de Janeiro and Sao
Paulo, Brazil. The personalized tours are led by bilingual Argentines who
are members of the local Jewish community.
Tours range in length from a three-hour
stroll through the cityís major sights to a four-day Buenos Aires
package, which includes hotel arrangements, transportation to and from
the airport, kosher restaurant meals and tickets to attractions like a
tango show and a river cruise.
Note to readers: After a column last year about Sao Paulo, a reader wrote
in to complain that I failed to emphasize the dangerous crime rates in
Brazilian cities. I assume my readers are sophisticated enough to be aware
that many large South American cities are less safe than their European
counterparts, and in fact violent crime rates have been stubbornly rising
in places like Rio de Janeiro, despite new government initiatives aimed at
controlling the problem. But many areas feel safe, and the average
travelerís statistical risk of being victimized is low.
South Americaís cities suffer variously from extremes of economic
inequality, a heritage of political instability, a violent drug trade and
a low-grade but persistent anti-Semitism that can be unsettling.
Nonetheless, in a decade that has seen violent acts of terrorism in such
traditionally low-crime destinations as Madrid, London and New York, Latin
Americaís day-to-day issues should be put in perspective.
All travelers should take common-sense urban precautions, make an effort
to blend in visually, assume a certain healthy cynicism when approached by
strangers and use their best judgments about what sort of neighborhoods
seem safe to walk around at different times of day. Leave a photocopy of
your passport with a friend at home and another in your luggage. Donít
travel with large amounts of cash. Above all, do plenty of research on
each destination before you go, so you know what to expect, what to avoid
and what to savor during your fabulous voyage south. n
Jewish Tours Argentina: www.jewish-tours.com.ar