Destination: South America
Adventurers are drawn to Latin America by its many records: it is home to the largest river by volume, the Amazon River; the highest waterfall, Angel Falls; the largest rainforest, the Amazon Rainforest; the longest mountain range, the Andes; and, the highest capital city, La Paz.
Visitors are also drawn in by Latin America’s rich history and political independence. But, despite significant progress, corruption is still rife. In most countries, the rich, natural resources are controlled by a small percentage of the population. This leaves the majority of Latin Americans suffering below the poverty line.
Spanish is spoken widely throughout the region, with Portuguese, French, English and Dutch common in areas that were once colonised. Other native languages like Quecha, Guarani and Aymara are spoken in smaller numbers.
Latin American culture is heavily influenced by Spain, Portugal and the United States, creating unique varieties of music, dance and cuisine. Football is by far the most popular sport, with nine World Cups won over the years, and is these days somewhat of an institution. Dance is also a way of life with daily classes in alleyways and shows in side streets.
There’s always so much to see, but so little time. Here are a few must-see cities to add to your next itinerary.
The cultural capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires, is a great hub for short and long stays. With developed infrastructure and cheap living costs, those previously living a nomadic lifestyle often want to stay indefinitely.
Make sure to learn some Spanish before you arrive; it will help to uncover the true BA. And if you make this extra effort, the locals will go out of their way to welcome you. You can’t leave Buenos Aires without having the best steak of your life, for the price of milk, and dancing up a storm at a tango club.
The Andes mountain range forms a towering and intimidating backdrop to the modern cityscape of Santiago. And the close proximity of mountain vs. metro means you can ski in the morning and surf in the afternoon.
Whatever you do, don’t miss the quirky wrought-iron market, Mercado Central or Parque Metropolitano. And if you’re lucky enough to be there in September, learn the Cueca, Chile’s national dance, and try some Chicha, a delicious drink only sold in September to mark the country’s independence from Spain.
When you visit Havana, you step back in time. The vintage cars and aroma of cigars, take you back to years gone by. Close your eyes are you’ll wake up on the production stage of a ’50s film, or in the ’50s themselves. The scene is really that vivid.
Fifty years of socialist rule has had an impact and locals are somewhat cautious around outsiders. But they still know how to enjoy themselves with great nightlife, cabaret shows, and the main highlight for any traveller, a refreshing Mojito.
Latin America – Don’t miss these!
The road less travelled is rarely in plain sight. But these must-do activities are sure to get you on the right track.
The tango originated in Buenos Aires and Montevideo, but it has since spread throughout the world in many forms and styles. Nonetheless, it’s criminal to visit Latin America without giving it a try, even if you have two left feet.
The first thing you’ll notice when visiting, is that dance is very much a part of everyday life in Latin America. This is especially true in Buenos Aires. There are countless clubs and restaurants dedicated to classes, professional shows and public shindigs.
Camp in the Amazon
The Amazon is a vast region that spans eight countries. It is inhabited by so many exotic plants and animals, that you’ll think you’re on another planet. Most notably, the jungle is home to numerous unnamed and unwelcoming creepy crawlies.
But if you keep your tent zipped, skin protected and boots covered, you should come out in one piece. A large part of the adventure is living in the unliveable and surviving in one of the most inhospitable places on the planet.
A combination of high altitude and amazing ancient ruins makes trekking an exciting prospect in Latin America. From Mexico all the way down to Patigonia, the region is littered with remains from ancient civilisations.
The most famous treks include the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, the Polish Glacier route up Cerro Aconcagua, and following Mayan footsteps to Tulum and Tikal. Local guides will give you the best prices and educate you along the way.
Argentine steak is shipped all of the world, but you’ve got to imagine they keep the good stuff for themselves. And that’s why pundits report that Argentine steak is much more flavoursome and tender when consumed in Argentina.
Apparently, the goodness of Argentine steak is the result of happy bovines. They don’t feed them beer, like they do in Japan, they just let them roam free. This is also why beef isn’t hung or dried, like it is elsewhere. It’s already tender enough because the cattle are supposedly always at peace.
Taking a bite into an animal that you consider domesticated is a rite of passage for global travellers. You don’t know what you’re missing out on, so how can you pass it up?
Whether it’s a guinea pig, a cat, or a three-toed sloth, what’s the worse that can happen? Just think of your happy place and go for it. Plus, there’s nothing like recounting these culinary tales at home over dinner and watching faces squirm.
Sharing maté with friends in Latin America is the equivalent of having coffee with friends in the Western world. It brings people together to share stories and enjoy each others’ company.
Yerba maté is served with a silver straw and tastes like grass, making it hard to confuse with anything else. It is usually passed around a group where each person drinks from the same gourda (cup) and bombilla (straw). Join in, put your feet up, and relax only like Latin Americans do.