Latin America: City highlights

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Latin America: City highlights

LIMA: A burgeoning gastronomic scene

Peru's Macchu Picchu will always be its major tourism drawcard, but visitors who use Lima as purely a gateway into the country are missing out, especially when it comes to the city's culinary scene, which is gathering worldwide culinary acclaim. Travel guide brand Frommers has even named Peru its Top Food and Drink Destination for 2012.

The dish that's the star of the show is Peruvian specialty ceviche - a mouth-watering meal of raw fish or prawns, chilli peppers and onion marinated in lemon juice. You'll find many of the city's top cevicherias on the Avenida La Mar in the upscale district of Miraflores, which also serve plenty of other succulent seafood dishes.

One of these is La Mar, the creation of Gaston Acurio, the Paris-trained chef who's leading the culinary revolution in Peru and taking ceviche international, with other La Mar chains opening elsewhere in Latin America and North America. Acurio's current project is the $2 million development of the new Astrid & Gaston culinary centre in the old Casa Hacienda Moreyra.

Among the notable Lima dining options is Restaurant Huaca Pucllana, which is located within the ruins of the archaeological compound of this name in Miraflores, with chef Marilú Madueño's cuisine reinterpretating the Peruvian Criollo tradition. Also wowing diners is Malabar, a restaurant in Lima's affluent San Isidro, where Pedro Miguel Schiaffino's Amazonian-inspired menu featuring delicacies like Amazonian river snails bathed in a sauce made with spicy chorizo.

BRASILIA: Futuristic and fabulous architecture

Brazil has no shortage of drawcards - Rio de Janeiro, the Amazon and Iguacu Falls to name a few - however it's in the city of Brasilia where you'll see the country's futuristic vision for its capital - a centuries-old national dream that finally came true. Brasilia was in fact a landmark in the history of town planning, being created out of nothing by world renowned architect Oscar Niemeyer and urban planner Lucio Costa, and inaugurated in 1960.

In their designing of the new city, the pair intended that every element should be in harmony with its overall design. It remains the only city in the world constructed in the 20th century to achieve World Cultural Heritage listing.

Among the impressive buildings is the Santuário Dom Bosco - a church like you've never seen - with its illuminated Murano glass walls symbolizing a starry sky, casting a blue and purple glow over the pews. Also worth seeing is the Palacio de Planato (the president's office), with its lustrous columns and sweeping curved ramp inside, and the circular masterpiece Catedral Metropolitana, with its 16 white columns representing two hands moving upwards to heaven.

SANTIAGO: Barrio Yunga and Barrio Brazil

The Chilean capital is already gathering momentum among travellers as more than just a gateway into this scenically diverse country, but the focus is often on the city's modern face - its glittering skyscrapers and top notch restaurants. There's a traditional side to Santiago that simply begs to be explored - and you'll find it in the historic Barrios Yungay and Brazil.

Here, you'll take in some of the city's most colourful and fascinating architecture, including the mini-Barrio Concha y Toro, which are a pair of Santiago's most romantic streets. The area is also a melting pot of Santiago's young bohemian artists and musicians. Stop in for lunch at one of Yungay's many cafes and restaurants, and in the evening take in some live music of the folk song variety at local favourite Café Brazil.

Barrio Yungay is one of the oldest areas of Santiago and still looks much like it did 100 years ago, giving visitors the chance to experience the destination as it used to be.