The extreme variety and beauty of Latin America’s landscapes and the extraordinary vitality of its people
have always attracted travellers looking for experiences that will enrich and even change their lives. And the sheer
diversity of the region is such that it has something to offer almost every taste, whether you’re looking for a short
relaxing break to get away from it all, or a long adventure full of exciting challenges and new encounters. You may
ﬁnd yourself sipping caipirinhas with the beautiful people on Copacabana beach; salsa-dancing the night away in the
steamy nightclubs of Cali; or searching for leatherback turtles by moonlight on the shores of the Caribbean. If it’s
adventure you’re after, you could be trekking through the high Andes to the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu; searching
for rare wildlife in the immense rainforests of the Amazon;or riding on a cattle drive with the gauchos of Argentina.
Nearly all these activities are afordable even for travellers on a tight budget, because most of Latin
America is inexpensive compared to Europe or the United States (though generally a more expen-
sive place to travel than Africa or Asia). Managed carefully, your money will go much further than
it does back home.Unsurprisingly,a growing number of adventurers from all over the world are
visiting the region, and there’s now a well-established “Gringo Trail” linking the main attractions
in each country, with many cities and towns home to a lively travellers’ scene.
This is nowhere near as intense as on the backpackers’trail in Asia, however,
and one of the joys of travel in Latin America is that it’s refreshingly easy to get of the beaten
track and visit places that as yet see few or no tourists. This becomes even easier if you learn a
little Spanish – the one language that links the overwhelming majority of the region (pick up
some Portuguese if you’re travelling in Brazil). You’ll be able to speak to and understand almost
everyone you meet, making it possible to engage the local culture and people in a way that
(unless you are a brilliant linguist) you just can’t do on a trip to other continents.
Preparing for your big adventure
His book is intended to prepare you for your trip, whether it’s a couple of weeks on the beach in
Cancún or a twelve-month journey from Mexico down to Tierra del Fuego. It’s a book to
read before you Tgo rather than an on-the-road guide, a planning handbook to help you decide on the
kind of trip you’d like to make and prepare you for that journey. The opening section of the book, The big
adventure, gives all the practical information you need to turn your dream of travel in Latin America
into a reality. You’ll ind chapters on what to take, when to go and how to cope when you arrive, as well as
detailed advice on choosing the right ticket, sorting out visas and insurance, and keeping in touch with home.
The irst thing you’ll need to decide is which countries and regions in Latin America you want to visit
and which places to skip. The middle section of the book, Where to go, outlines the possibilities with a proile
on each country in Central and South America plus Mexico, including a roundup of the main highlights, as well as
a selection of personal recom- mendations. Finally, the Directory is packed with useful addresses, websites and phonenumbers for further information on everything from discount light agents and specialist tour operators to jungle equipmentsuppliers and volunteer work opportunities.
Reasons to go
Latin America embraces such a range of cultures, climates and landscapes that the very diversity that makes it so appealing
can also make it seem a daunting place to visit. The trick is to decide on what kinds of experiences you hope to have, rather than
setting up a whirlwind tour of the major sights. What follows is a selective taste of things you could do on your adventure.
-Celebrate Carnaval The world’s wildest and most extravagant party is held in Rio de Janeiro every year, and carnaval is celebrated
throughout Brazil and the rest of Latin America.
-Explore a lost city From Chichén Itzá in Mexico to Machu Picchu in Peru the great stone cities built by civilizations like the Maya
and Inca long before Europeans conquered Latin America are among the most beautiful and mysterious sites the region has to offer.
-Ride with the gauchos on an estancia By staying on a working cattle ranch or estancia you sample the free-roaming lifestyle of
South America’s cowboys.
-Ride a train America’s few remaining railway lines allow you to travel in style through some of the most rugged and remote landscapes in
-Spot wildlife in the rainforest The tropical rainforests of Latin America are the most biodiverse environments on earth, home to
an astonishing variety of wildlife including monkeys, toucans, dolphins and jaguars.
-Ride the rapids The mighty rivers that plunge down from the Andes in Peru, Chile and Ecuador offer some of the most exhilarating whitewater
rafting anywhere in the world.
-Listen to Andean music With their panpipes, drums and twelve-stringed charangos, musicians in the Andes are liable to strike up a lively
tune at any social
gathering, with haunting tunes that seem inseparable from the mighty mountains they inhabit.
-Shop in an indigenous market The unique cultural heritage of Latin America’s many indigenous peoples is often on display at markets like this
one in Ecuador, where farmers sell and trade crops, livestock,weavings and other handicrafts.
-Explore the colonial past The legacy of Portugal and Spain is most evident in the elaborate colonial architecture that graces towns and
cities such as Quito and Antigua.
-Go whale watching From the Paciﬁc Ocean off Baja California in Mexico to Peninsula Valdés in Argentina, excellent opportunities abound
to spot majestic whales and other marine mammals.
-Hang loose in a hammock Arguably Latin America’s greatest gift to the world, the hammock is a perfect place to adjust to the local
pace of life and chill out on the idyllic beaches of Brazil or the Caribbean.
-Learn to dance dance Master the sensuous,melancholy moves of the tango and you’re halfway to you’re halfway to you’re halfway to
you don’t fancy the tango, there’s always salsa, cumbia or merengue.
-Get wet in a waterfall Whether you take a dip at the foot of one of Central America’s countless cascades or just feel the spray of mighty
Iguazú Falls, Latin America’s waterfalls are eminently refreshing after a long day in the sun.
-Climb a volcano From Mexico to Chile, lava-spewing volcanoes 14offer a dramatic encounter with nature’s most powerful forces.
-Take a slow boat down the Amazon A boat trip down the 15world’s mightiest river is a quintessential Latin American experience – even though
it’s so big that at times you can’t see either bank.
-Scuba dive in the 17Caribbean The world’s second largest barrier reef and a string of coral atolls make the Caribbean
coast and islands of Mexico and Central America world-class scuba-diving and snorkelling destinations.
-See icebergs up close 16 In the wild, austral region of Patagonia – a land much closer to Antarctica than the Amazon – some of the
world’s mightiest glaciers can be seen (and heard).
-Experience a football game In most of Latin America football is closer to a religion than a game, and the atmosphere for big matches
in stadiums like the Maracanã in Brazil is electrifying.