Ready for an adventure (or just a relaxing vacation)? We’ve got you covered. Here are the top Latin American destinations for 2012. Get inspired then get booking!
Next Slideshow: The 7 Most Romantic Hotels in Latin America!
Located on the western part of South America, near Ecuador, Bolivia, and Chile, there are so many things to indulge in in this country. One of the best ways to experience it all? Making your trek through the country. The most popular route is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu, while other routes include Cordillera Blanca, and Colca Canyon, among others. Peru has an amazing wildlife in its Amazon basin, and it also has vast deserts, giant sand dunes, and ancient ruins. (And let’s not forget the breathtaking snow-capped mountains in the Andes!) The country is rich with tradition that includes festivals, dance, music and museums. Take it all in.
Located on the southeastern part of South America, Uruguay used to be a hidden gem from tourists, until the area became more affordable, bringing in hordes of people looking to explore (like us!). Uruguay is so eclectic in its offerings, ranging from bohemian lodging, to seaside villages, and even luxury hotels – this country has it all. Popular destinations include Colonia del Sacramento, Punta del Este, and Montevideo, along with Punta del Diablo and Maldonado. The toughest choice you’ll be faced with here is figuring out what type of vacation you want: camping, resort escape, or local living.
Although travel advisories are constantly in flux, one thing is certain: tourist spots, for the most part, are clear of the ongoing violence in Mexico. And Puerto Vallarta fits the bill. This bright and colorful city is one of the most popular vacation spots in the world, but have no fear, it’s super-inviting! Puerto Vallarta has stunning views of the Pacific Coast and the Banderas Bay (located at the mouth of the Bay), one of the largest and deepest bays in the world. Other things to do – aside from eating the savory Mexican food in Puerto Vallarta – include visiting the Vallarta Botanical Gardens, going whale watching, parasailing, scuba diving, and a ton more.
If you find yourself deciding between travelling to Europe or South America, Buenos Aires might be your best bet. Buenos Aires is the largest city and capital of Argentina that features everything you would expect in a cosmopolitan metropolis, with the historical grandeur to boot. One of the most magical parts of Buenos Aires is visiting the dozens of historical sites dedicated to Evita Perón, from the Casa Rosada (where she often addressed the people from the balcony gathered in the Plaza de Mayo and up Avenida de Mayo) and Museo Evita (the mansion and once a shelter for single mothers) which houses Evita’s wardrobe and items from the Eva Perón Historical Foundation, and films.
The “rich coast” is bordered by Nicaragua, Panama, and the Pacific Ocean, and the Caribbean Sea to the east and is one of the world's most popular destinations for eco-tourists because of its biodiversity. We definitely recommend Costa Rica for the adventuresome and active travelers – there’s so much to do! From the wildlife observatories (birds!) to zipping through canopy lines hundreds of meters long to riding the rough surf of the Pacific, there’s no reason to be bored while visiting. (This is also one of the destinations were we recommend opting for an all-inclusive vacation package,)
San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Only an hour north of Queretaro is San Miguel de Allende. Like Queretaro, this quaint town, part of the state of Guanajuato, also has an amazing history. In between the slew of churches and cobblestone streets you can find time to enjoy people watching, eating at the plazas and enjoying the spirit of this town. The shopping here is like no other, especially the Mercado de Artesanias. It’s no wonder so many Americans come and retire here. When visiting San Miguel we suggest living as a local and checking out vbro.com or airbnb.com, sites that rent out homes for vacationers.
Want to get lost in the history of old Mexico, while being able to indulge in all of the luxuries of a metropolitan city? Queretaro, the largest city and the capital of the state of Queretaro, is a mere two-hour car (or bus) ride north of Mexico City, and encompasses the very best of Mexico. The historic district of Queretaro features the most picturesque old world architecture, from the Museo de Arte (built in the 18th century), which is considered one of the major Baroque works of art in Mexico, to the enormous aqueduct (consisting of seventy five arches, each twenty meters wide built between 1726 and 1738), and the colonial era homes like La Casa de la Zacatecana and La Casa de la Marquesa (which is now a hotel). On top of this rich history and beautiful architecture, Queretaro also features upscale hotels, and lots (and lots) of cool dance clubs.
With Peru to the north, Bolivia to the northeast, and Argentina to the east, Chile is an amazing place to visit. There’s a burgeoning art scene in affluent neighborhoods like Vitacura, and on the nearby Avenida Nueva Costanera you’ll be able to feast on some of the most delicious (and innovative!) food in the world. Visit Santiago to get a real sense of what life in Chile is all about – life and color! If an escape from city life is what you dream of, Chile also boasts spectacular beaches, volcanoes, massive glacial fields, and the driest desert in the world (the Atacama desert).
Punta Cana, Dominican Republic
This bit of heaven is on the easternmost province of the Dominican Republic. The area is notable for its beaches and seaside resorts, which face both the Caribbean and Atlantic. Just a small bit of time here and you’ll feel completely at ease. With its clear blue sky, warm sparkling waters, and amazing hospitality, it’s really the ideal escape. We highly recommend booking airfare and hotel together as there are incredible all-inclusive deals.
Located on the northeastern coast of Central America, and snuggled between Mexico and Guatemala, Belize is also the only country in the area where English is the official language, which means traveling around here will be effortless for those who are a little rusty on their espanol. So what can you do in Belize? The options are (seemingly) limitless: you can kayak, snorkel, swim, view the array of coral, fish and turtles, and hike throughout their national parks among the wildlife sanctuaries. Seriously, this vacation is what you make of it.