Over the course of the past 18 months I have seen many beautiful places in Latin America. I’ve found, however, that for many of the destinations – although incredible – I have no particular urge to ever return. However, there have been a few stand-out places that I cannot shake from my memory. Many of these stayed with me not just for their beauty, but for the feeling I got from the place.
The following list describes my twelve favourite destinations in Latin America. I hope you enjoy!
1. Bacalar, Mexico
I was such a fan of Bacalar that I went back there five times. This lake is unlike any I’ve seen before, and its startlingly turquoise surface will trick you into thinking you are on a Caribbean beach – until you dive in and taste the sweet freshness of the water.
2. Bocas del Toro, Panama
This Panamanian archipelago looks exactly the way Central America should, if all the brochures were telling the truth. The calm water between islands is great for water sports like paddle-boarding and kayaking, while the beaches are a hotspot for surfers.
3. El Calafate, Argentina
If you have a longing to see Patagonia, but are short on time, I highly recommend El Calafate. Snow-capped mountains frame the vast grassy plains that surround this small Argentinean town, and the drive from the airport is enough to take your breath away.
And that’s before you see the glacier!
4. Easter Island, Chile
Many people don’t realize that Easter Island (or Rapa Nui) is a part of Chile and forms the southern-most tip of the Polynesian triangle. It has a definite tropical feel, with the giant Moai scattered across the island creating an air of mystery.
This tiny island is one of my favorite places in Latin America and is well worth the effort to get there.
5. Rurrenabaque, Bolivia
If you’re looking to dip a toe into the Amazon without launching yourself fully into the jungle, Rurrenabaque is the place for you. The Amazonian Pampas that surrounds this small town is teeming with wildlife and it is practically guaranteed that you will have many animal encounters. Most people only spend a night in Rurrenabaque itself before heading off on Pampas tours, but I recommend staying longer to enjoy the gentle pace of the town (and vast array of juicy fruits on offer).
6. San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
San Pedro is the Wild West of South America. Think dusty clay streets, swinging wooden doors, burning hot days and chilly nights. There are tourists everywhere, unfortunately, but it is a magical little town nonetheless and the surrounding desert is spectacular.
7. Laguna Apoyo, Nicaragua
Situated only 20 minutes from Granada, Laguna Apoyo is the perfect place to escape the chaos of the city’s hawkers, vendors and catcalling men for a few days. It is just a lake, really, but there is a such a sense of peace hanging over the water that you will never want to leave.
8. Salento, Colombia
I love cute, colonial villages, and Salento was no exception. Add the backpacker vibe, with hipster cafes and an epic hike to see the tallest palm trees in the world, and you have a winning combination.
9. Caye Caulker, Belize
Caye Caulker is a well-known traveler destination, and for good reason. The Caribbean feel of the colorfully painted clapboard houses, the chilled-out locals, the abundance of cheap lobster and the epic cocktails make for winning tropical vacation experience.
The fact that English is the official language in Belize is a bonus!
10. San Blas, Panama
The San Blas Islands are one of those postcard-perfect places that you won’t quite believe are real, and I remember sitting on the beach, feeling like someone had dropped me into a Microsoft screensaver.
The islands are still relatively unknown, and you can expect to see few other people (apart from the local tribe) during your time there.
11. Mongui, Colombia
If you’re looking for the Colombia of old – far from the modern sleekness of Bogota and from before the country’s name was tainted by Pablo Escobar and drug trafficking – Mongui is your best bet.
Unexpectedly, this little village is famous for manufacturing footballs!
12. Iguazu Falls
The falls lie on the border between Argentina and Brazil, and can be reached from both countries. Personally, I enjoyed the Argentinean side more, but I recommend heading to both sides if possible. The Devil’s Throat is one of the most powerful spectacles of nature I have ever witnessed. You won’t be disappointed!