Keith Bellows, Editor in Chief, National Geographic Travel
When I was growing up, Quebec City was something of an also-ran compared to Montreal, its brasher, more idiosyncratic sibling and my hometown. My family would often drive the 150 miles up the St. Lawrence River to Quebec City, and as a kid I recall coming away a little underwhelmed. I
t seemed so dutiful and reserved next to the “sin city,” as Montreal was known. Sure, Quebec City could lay claim to a marginally more storied history—symbolized by the star-shaped Citadelle and the once bloody Plains of Abraham, where the British and French clashed over control of what would become Canada. But next to Montreal it lacked panache.
Notre-Dame de Quebec – Photograph by Susan Seubert
No more. These days the cities have reached a comfortable détente over which has the most to offer. They are simply different. Quebec City’s warren of cobblestone streets, hulking Fairmont Le Château Frontenac, and Upper and Lower Towns are backdrop to its francophone fashion shops, chansons echoing off centuries-old cut-stone buildings, and air heavy with thick Québécois accents—a combination that’s unique in all North America. The food has gone from pedestrian to a superbly traditional force of gustatory nature (many dishes draw on local ingredients).
Raclette – Photograph by Susan Seubert
When it turned 400 years old in 2008, Quebec City also seemed to turn a corner. Now it is a truly modern city with old bones. My advice: Learn a little French, try it out on the residents, and you’ll enter a world where the locals will help you unlock the keys to street-level Old France.
About 60 km northeast of the city of Chachapoyas, in Luya Province, in Peru, lies the archaeological site of Karajia, where the funeral tombs of the “ancient wise men” are located.
Perched high on a ledge by the side of a limestone cliff, the six sarcophagi (coffins carved in stone and displayed above ground) resembling six limbless torsos with large heads and enormous jaw lines, stand proud with their chin up and facing the abyss.
Some of the headpieces are embellished with horns, imitating deer antlers, while others have encrusted human skulls, which are presumed to be trophy heads. Each sarcophagus is 2.5 meters tall.
The sarcophagi were built by the Chachapoya people to house the remains of important individuals in their culture, about 600 years ago.
Originally, there were eight sarcophagi but two were destroyed by earthquakes and other natural elements.
Their inaccessible location high above a river gorge has thankfully preserved them from destruction by looters.
Tepuis are flat table-top mountains found in the Guayana Highlands of South America, especially in Venezuela. In the language of the Pemon people who live in the Gran Sabana, Tepui means ‘House of the Gods’ due to their height.
Tepuis tend to be found as isolated entities rather than in connected ranges, which makes them host to hundreds of endemic plant and animal species, some of which are found only on one tepui.
Towering over the surrounding forest, the tepuis have almost sheer vertical flanks, and many rise as much as 1,000 meters above the surrounding jungle. The tallest of them are over 3,000 meters tall.
The nearly vertical escarpments and dense rainforest bed on which these tepuis or mesa lie make them inaccessible by foot. Only three of the Gran Sabana’s mountains can be reached by foot, among which the 2,180m-high Roraima is the most accessible.
Tepuis are the remains of a large sandstone plateau that once covered the granite basement complex between the north border of the Amazon Basin and the Orinoco, between the Atlantic coast and the Rio Negro, during the Precambrian period. Over millions of years, the plateaus were eroded and all that were left were isolated flat-headed tepuis.
Although the tepuis looks quite barren, the summit is teeming with life.
The high altitude of tepuis causes them to have a different climate from the ground forest. The top is often cooler with frequent rainfall, while the bases of the mountains have a tropical, warm and humid climate.
Many extraordinary plants have adapted to the environment to form species unique to the tepui.
Some 9,400 species of higher plants have been recorded from the Venezuelan Guayana, of which 2322 are registered from the tepuis. Approximately one-third of the species occur nowhere else in the world.
Image Credit: Photograph by Sapna Reddy – National Geographic Your Shot.
Seeking serenity a young family decides to hike the mesquite dunes of Death Valley avoiding both the heat and the crowds of the day.
The tones and the textures of the shifting sand dunes under the moonlight, a silent testimony to the beauty of the barren. Colors and complexity swept away under the blanket of darkness.
David Y. Lee Comments: This is so beautiful; it feels like a scene from a sci-fi space thriller, where stranded astronauts are exploring an uncharted alien planet light years away from Earth, hoping, searching, praying for a way home — at least that is where my imagination goes…
But I really love the lyricism of the caption — “Colors and complexity swept away under the blanket of darkness.” — and how it pairs, and elevates my enjoyment of the photo.