10 reasons to visit Latin America
Dramatic landscapes, diverse culture, fascinating history and salsa dancing until the early hours. Latin America is a bucket list destination for a reason.
Anyone who has ever visited the continent will recount their tales of exploring ancient ruins, tucking into delicious food, mingling with the friendly locals and admiring the local craft talent in the street markets.
If you’ve not yet made the journey to Latin America, here are 10 reasons why you should.
1. Two ancient world wonders
If your journey includes the beautiful countries of Brazil and Peru, you’ll have the opportunity to tick two World Wonders off your list.
Machu Picchu in Peru has been confusing and fascinating historians in equal measures for many years. Most believe it was constructed as an estate for the Inca emperor Pachacuti (1438–1472), though other theories exist. Today it is known as the most familiar icon of Inca civilization and how life was before Latin America was discovered.
Over in Rio de Janeiro, you’ll be greeted by the wide-arms of the Christ the Redeemer statue. Very hard to miss, it is located at the peak of the 2,300 foot Corcovado Mountain and is 20 metres high by 28 metres wide.
2. Ancient culture and history
Machu Picchu isn’t the only captivating ancient ruin. Mexico City now stands in the same location where Tenochititlan once did. Originally the capital of the Aztec empire and the largest city in the Pre-Columbian Americas, the pyramid of Templo Mayor is one of the best examples of this fascinating time period.
Another important ancient culture in Latin America is the Mayan culture. It is the only ancient culture to have developed its own writing system and is famous amongst historians for its calendars, art, architecture and astronomical system. Chichen Itza, found in the Yucatán State, is one of the best living examples of its existence.
3. The Amazon River and Rainforest
Covering more than 7,000,000 square kilometres that transcends the borders of nine different countries, the Amazon Basin is one of nature’s greatest achievements. It is estimated that 40,000 species of plants and more than 4,500 animal species live within its boundaries along with 200 local tribes.
It’s a great opportunity to get back to nature. If you want to stay in the Amazon Rainforest you can choose between rustic camps and luxury eco lodges.
The Amazon isn’t the only impressive rainforest in Latin America, however. Costa Rica might be a small size, but it is covered in a tropical forest and is home to five percent of the world’s flora and fauna.
4. World-famous waterfalls
The Amazon River isn’t the only mesmerising waterway in Latin America. Hugging the border of Argentina and Brazil lies the famous Iguazu Falls, which is considered one of the most impressive waterfall systems in the world.
Over in Venezuela, you’ll find the Angel Falls – the tallest waterfall in the world standing at a height of 3,212 feet. The waterfall is remotely located and the best way to see it is to fly over on a plane tour.
Kaieteur Falls in Guyana is another waterfall that attracts attention from travellers. It stands at only 700 feet but is considered to be one of the world’s most powerful waterfalls. You’ll see what we mean when you pay it a visit.
5. Beaches for all tastes
Pacific, Caribbean and Atlantic: the coastline of Latin America covers a lot of ocean.
Ipanema Beach in Rio is brilliant for beach sports such as football and volleyball. Máncora in Peru is popular with surfers, as is Tamarindo Beach in Costa Rica. Montañita in Ecuador is also popular with watersport fans. Shell Beach in Guyana is fantastic for wildlife spotting and outdoor enthusiasts. Manuel Antonio Beach in Costa Rica is great for adventure types who want a rainforest as a backdrop. Whether you’re looking for a romantic stroll with the perfect sunset or big waves for surfing, you’ll find it in Latin America.
6. The Andes
Make sure you fit a visit to the world’s longest continental mountain range into your trip. Which isn’t hard because The Andes stretch through Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina and Chile.
Many of Latin America’s largest cities are constructed on top of the Andes many plateaus. Quito, Bogotá, Arequipa, Medellín, Sucre, Mérida and La Paz can all be found up in the Andes. Also, the Altiplano plateau is the world's second-highest after the Tibetan plateau.
7. Unbeatable Wildlife
With such amazing landscapes, you can image the wildlife-spotting opportunities are second to none. The Galapagos Islands offer one of the most fascinating ecosystems on the planet. Located off the coast of Ecuador in the Pacific Ocean, their isolated location has lent a hand to the survival of many plant and animal species – including some that are found nowhere else.
Another country to visit if you’re all about the wildlife and scenery is Costa Rica. Nestled into Central America, Costa Rica has become popular with eco-tourists and boats an extensive number of national parks and protected areas. If you want to see a Big Cat in the wild, Costa Rica is one of the best places to do so. Jaguars, ocelots, pumas, jaguarundi, margays, and little spotted cats all live here. There are also over 400 bird species.
8. Modern cities
While Latin America is one of Mother Nature’s most prized possessions, city-lovers won’t be disappointed either. The famous Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires are filled with a lively atmosphere and every night you’ll find a salsa party going on until the early hours.
But if your journey won’t take you anywhere near these two power-houses, don’t fret. The Peru capital of Lima is filled with luxury hotels, nightclubs and a lovely promenade. San José in Costa Rica is also a lively hub with international restaurants. Plus, Brazil’s largest city isn’t even Rio, it’ actually Sao Paulo. The Chilean capital of Santiago is also fast rising as a cosmopolitan hot-spot.
9. Rich gastronomy
Wherever you end up in Latin America, your taste buds will thank you. Up in Mexico, you’ll love the vivid combinations of tomatoes, avocado, chilli peppers, yellow and blue corn. Mexican cuisine was even registered on the List of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity by UNESCO in 2010!
Then further down you’ll find Peru, where the capital of Lima is considered one of Latin America’s foodie hubs. If you’re a seafood lover then you’ll adore the famous ceviche: fresh seafood, marinated in lime juice and chili pepper, served with boiled corn, sweet potatoes and cured onions. You’ll have the opportunity to try exotic meats like alpaca, wild boar and Guinea pig!
Make sure you also grab a bottle of Inca Kola – a sweet and fruity fizzy drink that you’ll find everywhere.
10. The friendly people
Latin Americans are warm and welcoming people. If you’re ever stuck for directions, the locals won’t hesitate to help you and the service in local restaurants is second to none.
Whether you are relaxing on a beach in Costa Rica or hiking through the Andes of Bolivia, locals are more than happy to make sure you feel welcome in this beautiful continent.
Edited by Morag@BarrheadTravel