Travel

Travel Writers’ Top Tips: The Must See Destinations in Latin America

December 13, 2017

 

At the time of writing, 2018 is just around the corner. For many of us, it’s time to start planning the next travel adventure. With this in mind, Unlatinoverde.com has teamed up with a wide range of Latin American travel experts. From the writer of the forthcoming Moon Guide to Chile to family travel experts and adventure travellers, everyone’s contributed their top destination picks in Latin America. 

Chill out and meditate on Lake Atitlan in Guatemala.

Discover architecture and nature in Mexico. 

Climb Bolivian mountains. 

Relax on the best beaches in Central America and the Caribbean. 

See nature at its wildest in South America 

There’s a Latin American travel destination for you in 2018 and beyond…


La Carretera Austral, Chile

Steph Dyson, Worldlyadventurer.com

Dog on road in southern Chile

Discover the wild roads of Chile

Careering 1,240km past verdant national parks, ice-tipped volcanoes and cobalt blue hanging glaciers, the Carretera Austral in Chilean Patagonia is like no other road. Not only is it full of hiking trails, rare wildlife, and picturesque villages, it’s a world away from the well-beaten-path of Torres del Paine National Park further south and the Argentine cities of El Calafate and El Chaltén across the Andes.

For an adventure like no other, hire a car, ride the bus or hitch a ride “a dedo”, the latter being an incomparable way of getting to know the Chileans who work here. It’s truly Patagonia’s wildest corner and one that is ever increasing in popularity making now the ideal time to visit.

Discover La Carretera Austral on Steph’s website: Worldlyadventurer.com 

Steph Dyson, originally from the UK, now lives Santiago, Chile. Currently, she is working on producing the forthcoming edition of the Moon Chile guidebook. She believes in combining adventure and slow travel in order to inspire others to travel in a meaningful way. Learn more about Steph on her website (see link above) or connect with her on Facebook


Tikal, Guatemala

Patrick Horsfield, Adventographer.com

Pyramids and green jungle at Tikal, Guatemala

Climb the Mayan ruins at Tikal, Guatemala

One of the must-visit ruins of the Mayan empire, Tikal was, at its height, the capital of one of the most powerful kingdoms the ancient world had ever known. Spread out over 125 square kilometres, only a small fraction has been uncovered and restored for travellers to explore.

Waking up to the sounds of the jungle, wandering through the impressively ornate ruins unimpeded, and climbing to the top of the temple to watch the sunrise over the jungle canopy, ranks among the top travel experiences of my life. It’s something shouldn’t be missed by any traveller with an appreciation for history, great photo ops and off-the-beaten- track destinations!

When you go arrive early and stay late you’ll get sunrise and sunset to yourself before and after the tour buses arrive. Wear sturdy footwear and pay attention to where you’re stepping, there are few guardrails and it’s a long way down from the temple tops! Camping in the park was an experience all its own, just don’t get eaten by a panther or robbed by the baboons!

Discover the world with Patrick on his website: adventographer.com

Patrick Horsfield is a 30 something, ‘unadmitted millennial’ from Canada. He believes in travel as a catalyst for change. His website, adventographer.com, combines writing, photography, and video to immerse readers in the culture of the places he visits. See the world through Patrick’s eyes by connecting with him on Instagram.


Puerto Madryn, Argentina

Kevin Wagar, Wandering Wagars

Child in front of penguin at Punta Tombo Penguin Colony

Follow the Wagars to Puerto Madryn, Argentina

The harsh landscapes of Patagonian Argentina belie the truly outstanding wildlife that calls this part of the world home. Puerto Madryn, Argentina is the home base for most visitors to the region. And with a few hours drive in any direction, you can be swimming with sea lions, watching whales breach, chasing guanacos or walking amidst one of the world’s largest continental penguin colonies. Although the often-chilly waters of the South Atlantic don’t make this the world’s best beach destination, the sheer amount of local wildlife and raw, natural beauty of the region make it a popular spot for adventure travellers. And for something extra special, the region may have also been the home of the world’s largest dinosaur. You can see the leg bone of this massive beast at the dinosaur museum in nearby Trulo, Argentina.

Explore the rugged beauty of Argentina with the Wagars here:  Wandering Wagars

The Wagars believe that travel is the best education for their children. Therefore, they travel whenever possible. Indeed, they have already visited an incredible range of destinations across Europe and the Americas. Why not find out more on their website? Alternatively, connect with them on Facebook.


Cayo Paraiso, Dominican Republic

Naddya, NTripping.com

Tropical fish in the Dominican Republic

Dive into the watery world of the Dominican Republic 

With 800 mi/1288 km of coastline, the Dominican Republic offers many excellent snorkelling opportunities.

One of the most beautiful places you can visit is a small coral reef off the shore near the beach Punta Rucia in the north part of the country. The little atoll island Cayo Paraiso (Paradise Island), just a few minutes away from the coast, is a real gem.

Rent a boat, which will take you in just a couple of minutes to the atoll. A few huts offer shade, drinks, and snacks, which are included in the tour price. You’ll be provided with snorkelling equipment and a guide who’ll show you the best spots on the reef.

On the way back, you’ll ride through the mangroves. Remember, that the area is a protected national park so behave responsibly.

Plan your trip to the beaches of the Dominican Republic here:  NTripping

Naddya lived in Germany for 12 years before returning to her home country Bulgaria. Learn more about the best spots to visit in the Dominican Republic, as well as other destinations she has visited, on her blog NTripping | Trips & Stuff. You can also connect with Naddya on Facebook


The Mayan Riviera, Mexico

Jamie Italiane, thedailyadventuresofme.com

Cenote, Copyright Mr. Theklan from Flickr

The area around Cancun and the Mayan Riviera in Mexico is a magical place. Think jungles, white sand beaches, clear turquoise waters and ancient Mayan ruins. Visitors can swim with the abundant sea life, including the giant sea turtles that the government is working to protect. Then, there are also the otherworldly geographical formations called cenotes. The ground in the area is made of limestone, which creates these sinkholes that expose groundwater. The result is gorgeous swimming holes and caves to SCUBA dive and swim in or just enjoy.

Click here to join Jamie in the crystalline waters of the Yucatan in Mexico.

Jamie believes in ‘savoring the adventures in each day’. She runs a dental practice, is a mom to three young boys, and she somehow finds the time to document her travels on her blog, thedailyadventuresofme.com. Her aim is to inspire her readers to experience their best adventures. Connect with Jamie on Instagram.

To see more of Mr.Theklan’s photos, follow the link to his Flickr photo feed.


Torres del Paine, Chile 

Miguel, Travelsauro.com

Peaks at Torres del Paine, Chile

Chile is the top Lonely Planet destination for 2018

Patagonia is one of the most remote and wild destinations in South America. If you love hiking, you can’t miss a hike to Torres del Paine. The landscapes are truly impressive, with trees that change colour, large glaciers, turquoise lagoons and disproportionate rock walls. Several routes are available, from day hikes to challenging multi-day adventures. However, the park is well managed and has a great infrastructure, offering many options like free campsites, budget “refugios” and even top-class hotels.

The most popular options are the “W trek” and the “O circuit”, both considered among the best hikes in the world! Keep in mind that most shelters and services are closed from April to September when the area is windy, cold and covered by snow. If you want to visit the park during those dates, it’s still possible, though you’ll need to arrange for private transportation to get there, and probably a reliable guide, too. On the other hand, you’ll have the entire park almost to yourself!

Join Miguel in the wilds of southern Chile: Travelsauro.com

Crisis can sometimes spell opportunity. In this case, losing his job in Spain in the crash meant a world of new travel opportunities for Miguel. Discover his adventures on his website or connect with him on Facebook


San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala 

Nathalie McNabb, Marquestra.com

View across the waters of Lake Atitlan

Find yourself in San Marcos La Laguna, Guatemala

Looking for an affordable and rejuvenating place, away from the hustle and bustle? Lake Atitlan in Guatemala is the ideal setting to do exactly that. Situated about 50 km outside of Antigua, this fresh-water lake, world-renowned for its beauty and its gorgeous volcano views, will over-deliver in the “unwind” department. Numbering some 12 pueblos around it, the settings offer party hostel hubs to simple indigenous villages. San Marcos La Laguna is the place to be if you’re looking for a true yoga retreat, relaxation treatments, and all-around soul searching. Known to attract somewhat of a hippie crowd, San Marcos is a serene place filled with extreme beauty. Local organic permaculture, yoga studios, meditation or even some volcano trekking, it’s a winter getaway destination that’s not to be missed.

Join Nathalie in Guatemala on her website: Marquestra.com

Nathalie and her husband got tired of corporate life, so they set off on an overland trip to South and Central America. However, their journey didn’t end there. They continue to travel the world and have now visited 45 countries. Link with her on her Facebook site


La Paz, Bolivia

Tom Grond, Traveltomtom.net 

Trekking and mountain climbing near La Paz, Bolivia

Could 2018 be the year for climbing Bolivian peaks?

One of the most underestimated destinations in Latin America is Bolivia. While a lot of people hate La Paz, I am a big fan of this crazy city. There is never a dull moment on the streets in the highest capital in the world. Go to the Witches’ Market and see the most incredible things like ‘witches’ performing their thing on the streets or get lost souvenir shopping in the steep narrow streets. If you have the chance, visit a football match in one of the highest stadiums in the world and for the curious travellers, I would surely recommend trying to get into San Pedro Prison. Yes, it sounds crazy but this is no ordinary prison. San Pedro Prison is like a little village behind closed doors. Getting in is illegal, but everything is possible in La Paz! And then for the brave and adventurous people, close to La Paz, there is Huayna Potosi, one of the easiest mountains in the world to climb just over 6,000 meters. Make your first steps into mountaineering and I guarantee you that it will not only be the most challenging thing in your life but the most rewarding thing as well.

Tom has been travelling the world non-stop for the last five years. Originally, he hails from Holland, but he hates the cold weather back in Europe. Having travelled in 83 countries, there should be plenty to pique your curiosity on his website. Otherwise, you might also check out his Facebook account.


Bocas del Toro, Panama

Sarah Rothrie, TripGourmets.com

Bocas del Toro beach photo, Panama

Fancy a Caribbean beach on your next vacation?

The Caribbean archipelago of Bocas del Toro in Panama is a veritable tropical paradise. Consisting of 50+ islands and islets, many of which are uninhabited by humans, it manages to keep a lively yet laid-back vibe. Despite being one of the most popular tourist spots in Panama, it retains a feel of being primitive and untouched.

Colourful Bocas Town on the biggest island, Isla Colón, is the centre, with numerous restaurants, hotels, hostels and the popular Starfish Beach and Playa Bluff. If you are looking for a more peaceful stay, then you can take a water taxi over to Isla Bastimentos. Party-loving hostellers will adore the Aqua Lounge, a bar/hostel on Isla Caranero with its very own mini waterpark built over the ocean, and regular happy hours.

For a desert-island experience, find a day tour to the Cayos Zapatillas, two tiny islands that are uninhabited except for park rangers. We did deep-boarding. Being dragged behind a speedboat in the shallow coastal waters, ogling shoals of fish through our goggles remains one of the most exhilarating experiences of our lives. Bocas del Toro is a travellers dream – get there before everyone else does.

Sarah and Tom have been exploring the sights and flavours of the world for the last five years. Find out more about their travels on their website or view the world through their eyes on Instagram


Oaxaca, Mexico 

Cristal Dyer, TofuTraveller

Temples and pyramids under a blue sky in Oaxaca

See the panoramas at Monte Alban, Oaxaca, Mexico

Oaxaca City is the perfect combination of colonial Mexican culture and modern amenities. Although small, it packs in a lot. It is known as the culinary capital of Mexico and is the home of mezcal. Once you’ve eaten your way around the city, you can start to explore the nearby attractions where you can find a good mix of historical and archaeological sites.

Some highlights include the petrified waterfalls and natural infinity pools at Hierve El Agua, and Monte Alban, a large complex of pyramids, tombs, temples and ancient plazas. Monte Alban is located 400 m above the floor of Oaxaca valley offering some amazing panoramic views of the valley below.

Join Cristal in Oaxaca right here: Tofu Traveller

A Caribbean-born Australian, Cristal travelled in Latin America where she volunteered and learned diving and Spanish. She hopes to inspire others through her travels. Find out about her on her website or connect with her Instagram account.


Baracoa, Cuba

 Crystal Egan, Castaway with Crystal

View of water and vegetation at Baracoa, Cuba

Join Crystal in lush Baracoa, Cuba

Nestled on the far-eastern tip of the island of Cuba, sits unassuming Baracoa. Semi-remote and expensive (and kind of difficult) to get to in relation to the rest of the island, Baracoa is a little less busy than the rest of the Cuban tourist hotspots. But Baracoa should be on the top of your Caribbean checklist. Here’s why!

I was first drawn to Baracoa while backpacking Cuba because I’d heard of its lush rainforest and gorgeous beaches. Due to extensive sugar cane farming, Cuba lacks in the rainforest department. Baracoa is also gifted with an incredible Tabletop Mountain that I wanted to climb. 

Once there, I found that the small town of Baracoa became my favourite places. Famous Playa Blanca can also be found inside a national park, gifted with pretty white sands and clear blue water, and surrounded by volcanic rock cliffs. Nearby is also a cave with a natural freshwater swimming pool inside. 

The people are friendly, always wanting to ensure you had a good time. There’s pumping local nightlife and Baracoa boasts some of the most delicious sunsets I’ve ever seen, complete with cheap mojitos to help you take it all in!

Passionate baby goat cuddler and part-time adventurer, Crystal can often be found doing headstands on the edges of cliffs, taking photos of abandoned buildings or sleeping on deserted islands with dangerous criminals. She has too many awesome stories and helpful tips to keep them all to herself so follow along with her blog Castaway with Crystal, and in return, she will bring you inspiring pictures, travel videos and a whole load of fun! You can also view the world through her eyes on Instagram.


Chichicastenango, Guatemala

Amy Sue, The Gypsy Mamas

Colourful masks at Chichicastenango market, Guatemala

The colours of the market at Chichicastenango

Visiting Chichicastenango in Guatemala is an immersion for the senses.  Every Thursday and Sunday, the cobblestone streets flood with thousands of crafters, food vendors and highland Maya who come to do their weekly shopping.  Side streets branching out from the central hub are lined with carts and woven baskets overflowing with fresh produce and the occasional chicken.  Here you’ll find finely woven blankets and traditional huipiles (shirts) in a riot of colour, along with hand carved wooden jaguar or tapir masks.  The aroma of blue corn tortillas frying over a bed of coals draws visitors down aisles laden with avocados, bananas and papayas picked that morning.  As you admire the beaded jewelry or clay pottery, listen to the rhythm of the K’iche Maya language as townspeople go about their day.

While Chichicastenango holds the title of the largest handicrafts market in Central America, don’t miss out on Santo Tomas, a 400-year old church combining Catholic and Mayan values.  Its 18 steps (one for each Mayan calendar month) are often lined with flowers and incense.  The Chichicastenango cemetery, just a short walk from town, is home to vivid blue, orange and red above-ground graves. Chichicastenango is a cultural wonderland for travelers.

Plan your trip to Guatemala with Amy: The Gypsy Mamas

Amy is the mother of two wild and wily children, surviving parenthood with a steady diet of road trips, passport stamps, random turns down rutted dirt roads and joyful exploration for the sake of discovering the loudest birds, wildest waterfalls and weirdest foods people fry.  Follow her journey at thegypsymamas.com. Alternatively, experience their travels on Instagram.


Ilha Grande, Brazil

Alya Akmetgareeva, Stingy Nomads

View of deserted beach on Ilha Grande, Stingy Nomads

Uncover the best of Ilha Grande in 2018

Brazil is well known for its beautiful beaches and lush jungles we found a perfect place where you can get best of both – Ilha Grande, an island just 2 hours travelling from Rio de Janeiro. Ilha Grande is a real paradise island with stunning beaches, crystal clear water and dense jungle and unlike Rio or other bigger places is safe.  We spent a week on the island and being big hiking lovers instead of just chilling on the beach decided to do a hike around the island. There is a marked trail that goes through jungles and beaches to some of them you can get only walking, you need between 5-7 days to complete it. This hike is very different from any other we’ve done you walk in you flipflops and shorts stop here and there for a swim or snorkel, spoil yourself with delicious and refreshing açaí (local dessert) that you can buy in one of the fishermen villages. It’s easy to find a place for camping or you can pitch your tent on the beach just remember about changing tides. 

Campbell and Alya, the Stingy Nomads, aim to inspire their readers through a mix of story, photography and video. Find out more on their website or connect with them on Facebook.


Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica

Hannah and Adam, Getting Stamped

Puerto Viejo, Copyright d Wang from Flickr

There is something about the cute Caribbean beach town of Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica that keeps drawing us back. We just returned from our third visit. We love renting beach cruisers and riding down the road “beach hopping.” Our favourite beach is Punta Uva, where we always have the beach almost always to ourselves. The beaches are great for surfing and just chilling. The town has that chill fun vibe, we always love heading to Tasty Waves. They have great tacos and nightly drink specials. There is something for everyone, from luxury resorts and backpack hostels. If you stay on the jungle side, you’ll probably hear howler monkeys, which we think is really cool to hear from your bungalow. We know we’ll be back!

Plan the practicalities of your trip: Getting Stamped

Hannah and Adam quit their day jobs to explore the world. They aim to bring the best photography and unheard of destinations to their followers. Connect with them on Getting Stamped or on their Instagram account.

To see more of d Wang’s photos, follow the link to his Flickr photo feed.


Cordillera Blanca, Peru 

Maya Steininger, travelwiththesmile.com

Mountain peak trek at Huascaran National Park, Peru

Trek in Huascaran National Park

I love to have a base from which you can do as many trips as you want. Huaraz in Cordillera Blanca mountain range is South American outdoor capital! As beautiful as Machu Picchu is, Peru offers much more.

Cordillera Blanca region is an outdoor paradise if you like hiking, trekking, mountain biking, mountaineering or climbing. The best thing is that you don’t need to be experienced. They even have a mountaineering climb for beginners, which I would highly recommend. It was a tough day climbing Nevado Mateo to 5150m but an experience I’ll remember for the rest of my life. I believe these are the kind of experiences we all are looking for – challenge our limits and achieve more than we thought we could.

During rest days, you can stroll through the local markets, visit ancient sites, relax in hot springs or observe the culture of Quechua people living in the Peruvian Andes. If you’d like to visit Peruvian Andes and see the highest mountain of Peru, Huascaran (6768m), check out our comprehensive guide to Huaraz.

Maya and her husband, Michal, left their native Slovakia to move to Canada. Since 2016, they have been exploring the world. They aim to inspire others to lie adventurously through their blog Travelwiththesmile.com. You can also get a flavour of the places that they have visited by checking out their Instagram.


Leon, Nicaragua 

Claudia Tavani, My Adventures Across the Globe 

View of the cathedral in Leon, Nicaragua

Find culture in colonial Leon, Nicaragua

Crumbling Leon is one of the coolest cities in Central America. Though not as picture perfect pretty as Granada, Leon is an incredible place to spend a few days and those who decide to remain will discover a city that has a lot more to offer than meets the eyes. There are some very good museums: the Revolution Museum provides insights into the difficult past of the country; the Museo de Leyendas, though seemingly a bit tacky, gives a good understanding of the culture of the country; and the  Ortiz Foundation Art Centre has one of the best art exhibits of the continent. Leon provides easy access to some amazing beaches such as Poneloya and Las Penitas; and to many volcanoes which are great to hike. The city is packed with restaurants: for a local feel, try Asados Pelibuey. 

 

Make sure to check out Claudia’s guide to Nicaragua: Myadventuresacrosstheworld

 

Claudia got a taste for travel at an early age. She likes to meet the locals and get an experience of their everyday lives. Her blog started after a trip to Cuba and it’s now a full-time project. Follow her travels on Instagram or take a look at her website.

Salamina, Colombia 

Gearoid McSweeney, Unlatinoverde.com 

View of Salamina, Caldas from nearby coffee plantation

Salamina perched on its mountaintop

Colombia is hot! Lonely Planet listed the country as one of the top destinations to visit in 2017. The word is out and tourists are quickly discovering the country. 

Synonymous with coffee, some of the most rewarding visits are to the off-the-beaten-track destinations in its coffee triangle. Salamina is one such town. One of the country’s National Heritage towns, it combines typical local architecture, coffee, and a verdant setting. Only a distance away is San Felix and the wax palm valley of Samaria. Wax palms are a symbol of the country and the forest here is far more extensive than the more touristy Cocora Valley. 

Only two to three hours from Manizales by bus, Salamina is a highlight of Colombia. Discover it before the crowds arrive…

Start planning your journey to Salamina: Unlatinoverde.com

Despite learning French at an early age, it was never my intention to fall in love with the Latin world. In fact, when a Puerto Rican once tried to persuade me to learn Spanish, my reply went something like this: ‘Enrique, pourquoi j’apprendrais la langue des pays pauvres?’ Moving to Italy in 2010 proved to be a turning point. Not only did I end up learning both Italian and Spanish, but I also discovered the Americas. This blog started as a mere project, but it has grown continuously since my summer in Argentina and Bolivia in 2015. Follow Unlatinoverde.com to experience more of the Latin world or join me on Pinterest.

 


Have you any other tips for travel in Latin America? Share your experiences here! Leave a comment below or send your story to me by email at Unlatinoverde@gmail.com

Next Post: Monday, December 18th, 2017

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  • thebonfiredream December 14, 2017 at 06:51

    I also loved Huacachina in Peru. Have you been?

    • Unlatinoverde December 14, 2017 at 08:06

      No, my time in Peru was spent in Lima, the Arequipa region, and the Sacred Valley. What was it that you really enjoyed about Huacachina?

  • Julie Cao December 16, 2017 at 14:51

    i just traveled through Carretera Austral for two weeks and I still miss it. It is really a world-away from the rest of Patagonia and I was in a shock when I entered Argentina from Carretera Austral, I miss there and wish I’ve spent more time there. Thanks for putting up this great post!

    • Unlatinoverde December 16, 2017 at 15:22

      I’m glad you enjoyed the post and thanks for taking the time to leave a comment. It sounds like Chile and the Carretera Austral are really hot destinations at the moment.

  • Hannah Lukaszewicz December 17, 2017 at 01:13

    So many more amazing place we are yet to visit in Latin America! We could spend several years exploring.

    • Unlatinoverde December 20, 2017 at 20:30

      It’s my plan, in fact!

  • Agness of a Tuk Tuk December 18, 2017 at 13:19

    Wow! Such an enlightening post. I really hope to cross Latin America off my bucket list. These destinations are a must visit!

    • Unlatinoverde December 20, 2017 at 20:31

      Thanks! I hope our team of writers have given you some real travel inspiration!

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