If you know you’ll be staying in the States for a while either as working visa or student, this is your best chance…
to make a quick trip to any number of Latin destinations combining amazing weather with beautiful geography, friendly people and a rich and vibrant sense of history and culture. Here are some superb places that you’ll definitely want to visit and experience for yourself.
AREQUIPA – The second largest city in Peru, Arequipa is a bustling center of commerce and industry, with a rich history as a focus for rebellions as Peru developed into republic. The center of the city is a World Heritage Site that occupies over 300 hectares of land and contains over 5,500 buildings,richly decorated in a style called ‘School Arequipa’. These are complemented by several important churches and cathedrals and a wealth of gardens in the city. About 100 miles outside, you will find Colca Canyon. At over 13,000 feet deep, the canyon is over twice the depth of the Grand Canyon in the US and is a perfect place for walking and hiking.
Machu Picchu – Regarded as one of the most famous and important archaeological sites in the world, Machu Picchu is a 15th century Inca site located nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. The site has become the most important tourist attraction in Peru and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year. Theories about the use of the site include it being a temple for ‘The Virgins of the Sun’, that it was the last Incan city, that it was built to respect the landscape around it or that it was a retreat for Incan royalty.
There are of course beaches to recover on for a few days after your Incan mission and the north of Peru is where you’ll find Organos, a sleepy fishing village where the beach is wide, sandy and well sheltered from the crashing Pacific making it the ideal place for sharing a bungalow with friends which is also possible at Punta Hermosa, capital of Peru’s rich surfing tradition with a marine reserve teeming with sea life. A short boat ride will allow you to vast colonies of sea lions, penguins and the many other seabirds
Quito – Quito is the highest capital city in the world, located at nearly 10,000 feet up in the mountains. You can see absolutely breathtaking views across the city and the mountains, especially from the spectacular cable car ride from the city up to Cruz Loma at 13,500 feet. Other great places to visit in the city include the incredibly well-preserved historic city-center, the Carondelet Palace, which is the main government building, the Basilica del Voto Nacional, the Cathedral of Quito, several renowned museums and many art galleries.
But then if you have had enough of mountains, the modest fishing village of Mompiche has become a backpacker hub of late due to perfect surfing conditions and an impressive setting with thickly forested hills dropping down to a wide beach backed by palm trees with hiking and horseriding common. Mompiche offers one of the biggest left point breaks in South America and attracts surfers from around the world in high season (December to April).
Cartagena – A port city on the north coast of Columbia, founded in the early 16th century, Cartagena contains a beautiful walled city and fortress that can be explored over two or three days. You can also visit the Cartagena Gold Museum, the Palace of the Inquisition and many other historic sites, several of which were heavily influenced by piracy in the Caribbean area. The Islas de Rosario islands can be easily reached by ferry and boast some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.
BogotA- with the unstable period of the 90’s long behind it, Bogotá is in the midst of a Latin renaissance and is now doing what it does best: making artistic ventures work by combining them with other activities. La Peluquería, for example is certainly not a conventional hairdressers.Its graffitied walls and reclaimed mannequins insist on
experimentation and the stylists are all visual artists
rather than trained hairdressers (on Wednesdays haircuts are free, provided you let them do as they please (lapeluqueriabogota.com). The city’s culinary scene has also come on hugely in recent years and there are some great, middle-ground places which combine tradition and innovation at good-value prices.
Medellín – The second largest city in Columbia, founded in the early 17th century, Medellín is now a major center of education, science, commerce, technology, culture and festivals. It is a very easy place to travel around and one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of South America. Located in the Andes mountains, the weather is very good throughout the year and the locals are very welcoming of travellers. Places worth visiting there include Arví Ecotourism Park, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Palacio de la Cultura.
Buenos Aires – As the wealthiest city on the continent, Buenos Aires has an incredible mix of architectural styles, cuisine, tourist attractions, history, culture and much more. As one of the world’s largest and most important cities, Buenos Aires has been nicknamed ‘The Paris of South America.’ The city boasts the highest concentration of theaters anywhere and is a vibrant center of art, history and culture. The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, went on to become Pope Francis.
Iguazu Falls – An utterly spectacular group of waterfalls that need to be seen to be believed, Iguazu Falls are a set of waterfalls almost two miles wide, featuring nearly 300 individual waterfalls that fall between 200 and 300 feet. The falls can be reached from the city of Puerto Iguazú in Argentina and they are a third again as high as Niagara falls in North America. Not to be missed.
Valparaiso – A friendly, relaxed and artistic city commune on Chile’s coast, Valparaiso is one of Chile’s major cities and seaports. Officially declared the cultural capital of Chile, the historic quarter is also a World Heritage Site. The combination of beautiful architecture and cobbled streets has made Valparaiso a popular destination with varied culture ensure that it’s a friendly, diverse place to visit.
Rio de Janeiro – One of the most beautiful places on the continent, Rio is a very popular destination in South America and one of the largest cities in the world, with over 6 million inhabitants. The city celebrates a diverse range of people, cultures, cuisines and outlooks, and this, combined with Brazil’s love of the outdoor lifestyle, sports and passionate living makes for an amazing place to visit. There are dozens of ‘must see’ sights in Rio including Maracanã Stadium, Christ the Redeemer, many miles of beaches, cable cars, the Theatro Municipal and much more.
Salvador da Bahia – Situated on the north east coast of Brazil, Salvador celebrates a very rich African-Brazilian heritage replete with great history, culture and a welcoming atmosphere. The city is known as Brazil’s ‘Capital of Happiness’, due to the large number of parties and outdoor events that take place there. This includes the Salvador Carnival, reputedly the best carnival in Brazil. Additionally, Porto da Barra Beach was voted one of the best beaches in the world.