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Highlights of Latin America

Highlights of Latin America

Highlights of Latin America

Latin America (Central and South America) is huge and there are endless options to include in a holiday, or extended trip. Here we look at just four of the destinations you could choose…

Mexico 

Mexico has a wonderfully varied climate to accommodate any traveller’s desires. From volcanoes to beaches, this colourful, vibrant country is a great place to holiday.

Mexico’s ruins are a true indicator of its history; they present evidence of the remains of Meso-American’s early Stone Age civilisation, dating back to 21,000 BC. Following the widespread Aztec rule, the Spanish began their conquest of Mexico in 1519 and finally gained ruling power in 1521. After many modern-day disputes with Spain, the US and France, Mexico became an independent country in 1867.

If you decide to travel to Mexico, you should definitely visit some of the ancient ruins. At Teotihuacan and Cholula travellers can see the altars of the Aztec temples where human sacrifice was practised. Alternatively, head to Cancuén and Chichén Itzá to marvel at the towering stone walls of the Mayan palaces and pyramids.

For nature lovers, the Yucatan Peninsula in south eastern Mexico is ideal. Visit the Xel ha Riviera Maya for an afternoon of exploring cenotes (sink hole lakes), underground rivers and caverns. There is plenty of hiking to be done or alternatively, relaxing on beaches – Playa del Carmen has stunning stretches of sand.

When you’re done adventuring, head over to Tlaquepague in Jalisco for a hearty shopping experience. With more than 300 speciality stores, you can indulge in buying fine crystals, clothing, accessories and textiles, all with traditional Mexican music playing in the background.

Peru

Although it sits only one kilometre below the equator, Peru presents a wonderfully varied playground for travellers. Travel to Peru to experience snow-peaked mountain ranges, the Amazon Rainforest, and the awe-inspiring Atacama Desert.

Peru was home to the ancient Norte Chico civilization, as well as the Inca Empire, which is famous for worshipping the Sun God Inti and being a powerful empire in the 15th century. The Spanish arrived in the 16th century and their influence percolates deep into Peru’s traditions, culture and language. 

Machu Picchu means ‘old peak’ and is a 15th century Incan site in the Cusco region, high above sea level. Many tours to Machu Picchu will take you across the famous Inca Trail to view the incredible plazas, ancient earthquake-proof temples and vast, natural parks of Machu Picchu. One of the new seven wonders of the world, Machu Picchu should not be missed!

Those who enjoy the great outdoors have plenty of options in Peru, and top of the list should be a trip to the longest mountain range in the world, the Andes. If you love hiking and mountain climbing, a trip to Cordillera Blanca, the highest range in the Andes, is a must. If you love water, a boat journey through the heart of the Amazon rainforest, a cruise along the Peruvian coastline or a floating island tour of Lake Titicaca in the country’s south should also be on the travel list. 

Maybe it’s beaches you love. Well, Peru has dozens and it’s easy to turn your travel to Peru into a beachside holiday. Although great beaches can be found along the entire coastline, the best ones are generally located in the north. Popular beaches include Trujillo, Playa Tortugas, Chicama, Tumbes, Mancora and Paita. The Ballestas Islands are known as Peru's Galapagos Islands, and visitors can see seals, dolphins and penguins in their natural habitats.

Brazil

Brazil is an incredibly vibrant and diverse country and many South American holidays will often revolve around Brazil. The second largest city in Brazil, Rio de Janeiro is a particular hotspot for tourists and has come to symbolise exquisite beaches and the annual ‘Carnaval’. If you want to attend Carnaval, make sure you plan well in advance, as the festivities draw in thousands of tourists and locals every year and transport and accommodation can book out fast.

In Rio, must-see attractions include Sugar Loaf Mountain, the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, and the Christ the Redeemer statue.  Colourful favelas also make for some great photo opportunities. Of course, there are also dozens of churches, cathedrals and museums to explore and visiting the Botanic Gardens and the renowned Floresta da Tijuca should also be on your to-do list.

Away from Rio, Brazil offers up a great mix of larger cities and smaller towns to discover, each with its own unique colour, character and charm. Check out Salvador, Brasilia and San Paulo, or the smaller towns of Paraty, Porto de Galinhas, Ouro Preto. 

Further out from the towns and cities, there are breathtaking natural wonders like Iguassu Falls, the Blue Lake Caves, Ilha Grande, Chapada National Park and, obviously, the Amazon. Enjoy hiking, river rafting, abseiling, surfing and jungle trekking – all perfect for those looking for some adventure.

Brazil is a huge country and getting around requires some planning. Inter-city flights are common, as are bus and coach journeys. Brazil does not have a very extensive train network and most people avoid train travel. Driving is also a great way to explore various destinations and there is a strong, road network across much of the country. However, some regional roads can be difficult to drive and can be closed down during adverse weather. 

Argentina

Argentina has something for every traveller. Whether you want to visit vibrant cities, climb mountains, cross deserts, or explore glaciers, this South American country is for you!

Here you can indulge in regional delicacies such as chorizo, empanadas and arguably the Southern Hemisphere’s most sumptuous steaks. The wine to enjoy is Malbec, Argentina’s signature red wine which comes from the foothills of the Andes, and if you have a sweet tooth, make sure to get your hands on dulce de leche, a sweet, cooked milk spread typically eaten on bread for breakfast.

The capital and largest city of Argentina is Buenos Aires. The city is a charming clash of Spanish and Latin American culture, and wandering the streets is the best way to take in the captivating historic architecture. Visit the grand cemetery in Recoleta, a beautiful, affluent residential suburb, and see the tombs of some of the most famous figures in Argentine history including Eva Peron. 

If shopping is your thing, visit the suburb of San Telmo on a Sunday for one of the world’s largest and best antique markets. Football buffs will want to visit the suburb of La Boca, which gave birth to the country’s greatest football team, Boca Juniors. The suburb is also the birthplace of one of Argentina’s most important cultural exports: tango. A visit to Buenos Aires isn’t complete without tango – whether you try it or just watch - this passionate dance cannot be missed!

The south of the country is where you’ll find the region of Patagonia. Visit the penguin colonies of Ushuaia, or head off on an expedition to the Antarctic.  Alternatively, head to the Andes and embark on a trek, or explore the Los Glaciares National Park. This national park is home to many glaciers, lakes and icefalls. Keep your eyes peeled and you may spot birds of prey such as condors and eagles.


Where will your South American adventure take you? Talk to a Travellers Choice agent for help planning your trip.
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