25 BEST PLACES YOU'VE NEVER HEARD OF

South America

Everyone wants to know about the "next great places." But rather than simply make up a list, we turned to the people who explore for a living--for companies such as Starbucks, W Hotels, Trader Joe's, and Lonely Planet. Get ready for a serious case of wanderlust (not to mention job envy)

Ecuador: Sarayaku Nation

In the past year, as director of Global Exchange's Reality Tours, Malia Everette met with the Naxi people and Tibetans to brainstorm a trip to Yunnan, China; inspected refugee camps on the border between Jordan and northern Iraq as part of the Global Exchange Peace Delegation; and dropped by San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, to catch up with tour operators.

But her favorite stop last year was in the pristine southwest corner of Ecuador's Amazon, a half-hour flight from Shell (which is a five-hour drive from Quito) that skims over lush forests. The Sarayaku Nation operates a modest ecolodge there. "Visiting is an amazing opportunity to learn about indigenous people and the resilience and beauty of a culture," she says. Sarayaku elders lead hikes--pointing out birds and medicinal herbs--and explain their systems for crop rotation and fishing. Sarayaku women prepare the meals and fashion pottery with geometric patterns using natural pigments and sap for polish. Everette left feeling humble and inspired. "It's food for the soul," she says. Book the lodge and flight through Papangu Tours, 011-593/32-887-684, papangu@andinanet.net, from $249 for three days.

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Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.
 

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