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Latin America closer than ever.


Fly from London Gatwick to Cancun, Havana, Punta Cana, San Juan de Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, San Pedro Sula, Guayaquil, Quito, Bogota, Lima, Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Salvador de Bahia, Sao Paulo, Recife, Montevideo, Asunciรณn, Cordoba, Buenos Aires and Caracas.

All flights are via Madrid. For more information, call: 08714230717 or visit:

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Proudly published by BMI Publishing Ltd 2018 © 2018. Suffolk House, George St, Croydon, Surrey, CR9 1SR, UK T 020 8649 7233 | F 020 8649 7234 Publisher: Steve Thompson Editorial Director: Steve Hartridge Group Editor: Andy Hoskins Creative Director: Matt Bonner Designer: Zoë Tarrant Production Manager: Clare Hunter Managing Director: Martin Steady We are members of the Caribbean Tourism Organization, Visit USA Association, LATA, PATA, MENATA, SATOA, the Foreign Airlines Association and the Institute of Travel & Tourism.


elcome to Latin America! In this guide – our eighth annual edition – you’ll discover what makes this colourful corner of the world such a beguiling destination as well as the practical information you need to know when planning a trip. So whether you’re in need of inspiration or some further details to fine-tune a dream trip, these pages will help you do just that. There’s no other continent quite like Latin America, a vast region that encompasses all environments – desert, rainforest, mountains – and all aspects of civilisation, from ancient empires and traditional indigenous communities to cosmopolitan cities. And as access to the region has improved in recent years with more flights and enhanced infrastructure, it’s not surprising that more UK visitors are discovering its delights for themselves. While a handful of countries with iconic attractions once welcomed the majority, other nations have now joined the fray, with each country presenting its own experiences and attractions. Learn about them all in these pages, for your journey to Latin America starts right here.


Opening shots ...................... Latin America’s iconic destinations in pictures


Introducing Latin America Discover the region’s rich and wide-ranging appeal


Itinerary inspiration ......... Classic journeys, themed trips and special interests

Highlights ............................... A selection of top destinations and experiences Map .......................................... Get your bearings and start planning your trip Country profiles ................... Destinations in profile, from Argentina to Venezuela

Whilst every effort is made to ensure accuracy, BMI Publishing cannot be held responsible for any errors or omissions. ISSN: 2056-9319. Cover images:;

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Essential information ....... Find out about flights, red tape, health & safety, and more


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the lunar-liKe atacama desert colourful la boca, buenos aires

in Prime Position at machu Picchu classic cars still on the road in havana



rio de Janeiro’s christ the redeemer statue

the dazzling salar de uYuni, bolivia

colonial cuzco, Peru imPressive Perito moreno

latin america travel guide 2018

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hanging out in central america

the tranquil caribbean coast

clouds linger over arenal volcano, costa RICA

colourful cartagena, colombia

bird watching in brazil


howcased on these pages is only a small sample of Latin America’s most iconic sights and experiences, for this is a land bursting with unforgettable sights, activities and cultural experiences. The landscapes of this sprawling region range from Caribbean coves and steamy volcanoes in the north to windswept and rugged Patagonia in the south, and from the towering Andes mountains in the west to the verdant Amazon rainforest in the east. The lands inbetween are home to cosmopolitan cities, thriving indigenous communities, the remnants of ancient empires, diverse carnivals and celebrations, and a whole host of adventure activities. And then there are its natural wonders such as Angel Falls in Venezuela, the Galapagos Islands, the Atacama desert, striking Patagonia and the Iguazu Falls, to name just a few. Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, Chile and Argentina are among the most frequently visited countries of Latin America, but each nation has its own selling points – enjoy discovering them for yourself! •

latin america travel guide 2018

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atin America is a land of ancient monuments, cosmopolitan cities, pretty colonial towns, gorgeous beaches and dazzling wildlife. It claims the world’s most extensive rainforest, the largest river basin, the driest desert and the longest mountain range on earth. And the diverse and welcoming peoples who inhabit its more than 20 nations speak over 1,000 languages and dialects. It is no wonder that increasingly more UK travellers are falling for Latin America’s charms. The region has grown rapidly in popularity in recent years with growing numbers of UK tour operators offering travel to Latin America – and not just the ‘big’ destinations. Former no-go countries like Colombia are now considered mainstream and, crucially, the number of nonstop flights between the UK and Latin America has grown in the last few years.



For many potential visitors, Latin America represents a once-in-a-lifetime trip that is likely to incorporate iconic destinations such as Rio de Janeiro or Machu Picchu, while soaking up local culture along the way. For others it might simply mean an all-inclusive beach break on the shores of the Caribbean, while still others will be returning in search of an off-the-beaten-track experience or an exotic species of wildlife that previously eluded them. And the good news is that all budgets are catered for: from top-class hotels, all-inclusive resorts, luxury estancias and rainforest lodges, to colonial conversions, backpacker hostels and shabby chic beachside shacks, there is no lack of accommodation choice. And from Michelin-star cuisine and fine wines to authentic street food – the full spectrum of spend is served.


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Latin America’s appeal is equally diverse. Ancient archaeological wonders such as Machu Picchu in Peru, Chichen Itza in Mexico and Tikal in Guatemala vie for attention with modern and flamboyant Rio de Janeiro and sophisticated Buenos Aires and the altogether more peaceful wildlife experiences on offer in the Amazon Rainforest or Galapagos Islands. Browsing the handicraft markets of indigenous cultures or admiring the colonial architecture and churches built by the Spanish empire will tick the right boxes for some, while scuba diving off Central America’s Caribbean coast or trekking the Inca Trail will do it for others. And then there are the many niche pursuits which can be enjoyed too, such as bird-watching, wine tourism, diving, horse-riding, surfing and even astronomy.


Visitors short on time are spoiled for choice when it comes to classic itineraries of the region’s top destinations – Peru, Brazil, Mexico, Ecuador, Argentina and Chile – and some are often paired together in fortnight-long itineraries. Meanwhile destinations once considered emerging, like Colombia, Bolivia and the Central American nations, now occupy their fair share of pages in tour operators’ brochures too, such is the demand to discover every corner of this beguiling region. Even the little-known Guianas and enigmatic Paraguay are now sold by several UK-based tour operators. Each nation contributes to the cultural melting pot that makes Latin America such an enticing destination, a land known for its flamboyant music and dance, rich cuisine, colourful handicrafts, bewildering sights and hospitable people – welcome to Latin America! •

"Each nation contributes to the cultural melting pot that makes Latin America such an enticing destination"


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INSPIRATION consider the Pacific beaches of Peru, Ecuador and YOUR GUIDE THE GRAND TOUR Costa Rica, while snorkellers and divers should Tick off some of South America’s highlights in a TO CLASSIC two to three-week trip across Peru, Bolivia, head to the Galapagos Islands, Central America or Argentina and Brazil. Fly into Lima, Peru, and then ITINERARIES, on to Cuzco, the Sacred Valley, Machu Picchu and the Caribbean coastline. Titicaca, before crossing the border to lofty WINED AND DINED THEMED TRIPS AND Lake La Paz, the Bolivian capital. Hop onboard a flight If fine dining and great wines are the order of the to Buenos Aires and stay a couple of nights in day then look no further than Argentina. Tuck into SPECIAL INTEREST Argentina’s capital city, and then catch another to succulent steaks and explore the markets of TRAVEL ACROSS Iguazu Falls before one last internal flight to Rio Buenos Aires then fly north to Salta or west to Mendoza to experience some of the country’s LATIN AMERICA de Janeiro and the end of an epic tour. finest vineyards and wineries.


Set out on iconic treks such as the famed Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru – or one of several alternatives in the region – or perhaps the iconic W Trek in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park. The Andes also offer up excellent rafting, kayaking and cycling opportunities. Keen surfers should


Get away from it all and visit one of the region’s most isolated island destinations: Easter Island, way out in the Pacific Ocean and famous for its ‘moai’ stone statues; or over in the South Atlantic, the Falkland Islands and their wonderful wildlife.


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"The likes of Peru, Guatemala and Mexico are blessed with impressive historic monuments"



Compact Central America is the ideal multi-centre destination. In a 16 to 18-night itinerary it’s possible to fly into Panama City and on to Costa Rica, travel through Nicaragua and San Salvador, continue to Honduras and the Mayan ruins of Copan, and wind up in Guatemala, visiting Tikal, Flores and Antigua!


The longest established tour operator in the Falklands

Tailor-made itineraries Wildlife, Walking, Photography, Fishing, Battlefield and General Interest. Individual and group travel Internal flights, transfers, accommodation, guided tours and excursions.


The Amazon rainforest, Brazil’s Pantanal, the Galapagos Islands? It’s a tough decision, but if wildlife is the focus then there really is no place on earth like Ecuador’s Galapagos. Fly into the capital city, Quito, on the mainland for a day or two and then on to this isolated archipelago. Embark on either a land-based tour or cruise ship itinerary around the islands, getting up close and personal with the remarkable wildlife which includes giant tortoises, iguanas, dolphins, whales, sea lions,

Offering a wealth of local knowledge of the Falkland Islands along with a personal, professional and friendly service, every step of the journey. For more information T: (00500) 22622 - F: (00500) 22623 E: W: Photographs by Allan White and Joe Lange


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penguins and over 50 bird species, more than half of which are endemic to the islands. Fly back to Guayaquil for the return flight home.


Rio de Janeiro ticks both boxes here. Visitors can enjoy the ‘Marvellous city’s’ famous Copacabana or Ipanema beaches by day and sample the nightlife once the sun sets – or tour the country’s Atlantic coast by hopping between Paraty, Salvador, Praia do Forte and Recife. Elsewhere, Cancun and the Riviera Maya in Mexico offer a more ‘mainstream’ alternative for less adventurous beach lovers. TUNING IN TO LOCAL TRADITIONS


Your Best Way to See the

Falkland Islands!

If horse-riding is the ideal escape, then seek out trips in Uruguay and Argentina. The ‘gaucho’ lifestyle still thrives in the expansive pampas regions and many ranches and estancias offer good accommodation in beautiful settings that can be enjoyed from the comfort of the saddle.


The likes of Peru, Guatemala and Mexico are blessed with impressive archaeological sites and monuments, and the temples and cities of these civilisations remain among Latin America’s biggest tourist attractions today – none more so than the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru and the Mayan city complex of Chichen Itza in Mexico.


Latin America’s extensive Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific coastlines means cruising is big business – among popular ports of call are Buenos Aires, Montevideo, Cartagena, Panama, Falkland Islands and Puerto Montt. And don’t forget the Amazon, where smaller vessels ply the tropical waterways.


There’s no shortage of luxury accommodation in Latin America – even in some of the more remote areas. International hotel brands and resorts are present in all the major cities, but designer hotels, luxury rainforest lodges and beautiful rural refuges are also plentiful. Look out for hotel brands such as Belmond, Explora, Inkaterra, Coppola Hideaways, Rosewood and Casa Andina. •


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Visit the Falkland Islands

Imagine a place that is so far off the beaten track you have miles of stunning landscape, beaches and magnificent bird life all to yourself. Imagine a silence that is only broken by the call of the birds, and your own footsteps as you explore these beautiful islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. This is the Falkland Islands, one of the last great wilderness destinations where your trip becomes an adventure. Four wheel drives are our mode of transport, and our little planes will take you to islands abundant with penguins, albatrosses and petrels that are there for you alone to discover and enjoy. At the end of each day you can look forward to traditional cosy Falkland Islands hospitality in the hotels, lodges and guesthouses scattered around the islands.

Escape on a holiday like no other.

@FITB Tourism @FITB Tourism ilovethefalklands

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Wildlife destinations Galapagos Islands: Ecuador’s unique wildlife haven (pictured) • Baja California, Mexico: for seasonal whale-watching • Amazon Rainforest: the most biodiverse region on earth • Belize Barrier Reef: second only to Australia’s Great Barrier Reef • The Pantanal, Brazil: the world’s largest wetlands • Costa Rica’s National Parks: from Tortuguero to Corcovado • Valdes Peninsula, Argentina: a wealth of marine life • Falkland Islands: penguins and bird species aplenty • Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary: discover the home of the jaguar in Belize

Iconic destinations Machu Picchu: Peru’s iconic Inca fortress • Iguazu Falls: thundering waterfalls on the Brazil/Argentina border • Torres del Paine National Park: majestic scenery in southern Chile (pictured) • Christ the Redeemer: gazing out over Rio de Janeiro • Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia: the world’s largest salt flats • Easter Island, Chile: striking stone statues • Cartagena: Colombia’s jewel in the crown • Chichen Itza, Mexico: a Mayan marvel

Highlights of Latin America

take inspiration from our selection of popular destinations and experiences in Latin America

Beach destinations

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Tayrona National Park, Colombia: palm-fringed coves in a protected park • Fernando de Noronha, Brazil: for top snorkelling and scuba diving • Los Roques, Venezuela: a Caribbean island archipelago • The Mayan Riviera, Mexico: take your pick from beachside all-inclusive hotels • Copacabana & Ipanema, Rio de Janeiro: Brazil’s legendary beaches • The Nicoya Peninsula, Costa Rica: surfing and ecotourism meet on the shoreline • San Blas Islands, Panama: get away from it all – but don’t expect too many frills (pictured) • Jose Ignacio & Punta del Diablo, Uruguay: give Punta del Este a swerve and make for these more relaxing alternatives

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Festivals & events Carnival, Rio de Janeiro and cities elsewhere (February) • Day of the Dead, Mexico (November) • International Tango Festival, Buenos Aires (August) • Barranquilla Carnival, Colombia (March) • Oruro Carnival, Bolivia (February) • Semana Santa, Holy Week (April) • Flower Festival, Medellin, Colombia (August) • Inti Raymi, Cusco, Peru (June) • Mendoza Wine Harvest Festival (March) • Panama Jazz Festival, Panama City (January)

Cultural experiences Sample Argentina’s finest wines and best cuts of meat • Meet with Panama’s San Blas people • Stay on a working ranch in Uruguay • Admire colonial architecture across the continent • Visit an indigenous community in the Amazon Rainforest (pictured) • Enrol in a language school and learn the lingo • Dance the tango in Argentina or learn to samba in Brazil • Stock up on souvenirs at local handicrafts markets • Tuck into fiery Mexican food or hearty Andean fare

Adventure activities

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Trekking in Peru and Chile: hit the Inca trail or visit a national park • Horse-riding in Argentina: travel like a gaucho • Diving in the Bay Islands, Honduras: a wide variety of experiences • Ride Bolivia’s ‘Death Road’: take to two wheels for a thrilling descent • Surfing in Peru and Ecuador: plenty of renowned Pacific surf spots • White-water rafting: head to the Andean foothills and hold on tight • Volcano climbing in Central America: climb up and then ‘surf’ back down!

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welcome to the

latin quarter Your country-by-country guide to Latin America

El Paso








Cancun Tulum Belmopan


San Salvador







Guatemala Mexico City City




San Jose


Panama City








Georgetown Paramaribo Cayenne

Bogotá Cali
























La Paz


Machu Picchu



San Pedro de Atacama

Salar de Uyuni


Rio de Janeiro




São Paulo


Iguazu Falls

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Picture Currency

Capital City Language Visa Requirements Time Zone

Buenos Aires



French Guiana............................ 23 Guatemala................................... 23 Guyana......................................... 24 Honduras..................................... 24 Mexico.......................................... 25 Nicaragua..................................... 25 Panama........................................ 26 Paraguay...................................... 26 Peru................................................27 Suriname......................................27 Uruguay........................................ 28 Venezuela.................................... 28




Argentina...................................... 16 Belize............................................. 16 Bolivia.............................................17 Brazil...............................................17 Chile............................................... 18 Colombia....................................... 18 Costa Rica..................................... 19 Cuba............................................... 19 Dominican Republic.................. 20 Ecuador........................................ 20 El Salvador................................... 22 Falkland Islands.......................... 22



country profiles






Torres del Paine National Park Cape Horn

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Rugged Patagonia Buenos Aires Peso Visa not required GMT -3hrs


Visitors touching down in Argentina will discover perhaps Latin America’s most westernised culture, with fine-dining, luxury accommodation such as rural ranches, haciendas and urban design hotels, and stunning natural features like Iguazu Falls, Patagonia, the Lake District and the Valdes Peninsula. Aires s And with its high standard of living, direct o n • Bue azu Falls ries flights from the UK and a distinct European u e g n I i • ia • W lture flavour running through it, Argentina is the agon • Pat aucho cu go perfect introduction to Latin America for first• G he Tan •T time visitors to the region. Buenos Aires is often likened to Paris such is its aesthetic appeal, but while urban life will appeal to some, the country’s gaucho culture will hold sway with others, with horse-riding and trekking expeditions proving popular in the central Pampas region. In the far south of the country spectacular Patagonia features in the itineraries of many UK visitors, as does its picturesque Lake District. The country’s excellent vineyards and wineries – and their accommodation – are a big draw too, with Cordoba and Mendoza key gateways to these regions.

Caye Caulker Belmopan Spanish, English, Indigenous Belize Dollar Visa not required GMT -6hrs

Sandwiched between Mexico, Guatemala and the Caribbean sea, Belize is remarkably diverse for its small size. The wildlife-rich steamy jungle of the west gives way to a Caribbean coast, offshore cayes and the second longest barrier reef in the world, and the country is also littered with Mayan ruins. Among these is Caracol, a site believed to be one of the ancient Mayan empire’s main settlements. For birdwatchers, there is Crooked Tree Wildlife Sanctuary, while Cockscomb Basin Wildlife Sanctuary is the world’s only dedicated jaguar reserve. Inland Belmopan is the official capital city but Belize City is its main hub. Even so, many visitors will transit on elsewhere, to Ambergris Caye or Caye Caulker in the north of the country, perhaps, where white-sand beaches make for an idyllic setting. Both offer access to the Lighthouse Reef and famous Blue Hole, an enormous sinkhole in the ocean floor. • Belize is unusual among Latin American • Am Caracol berg nations for its mix of British and Spanish • Cay ris Cay heritage, shades of the Mayan empire and • The e Caulke e r Blu laid-back Caribbean feel. • W e Hole



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Lake Titicaca Boliviano

La Paz/Sucre Spanish, Indigenous Visa not required GMT -4hrs


Landlocked Bolivia is one of Latin America’s lesser-known stars but it has worked its way into the programmes of mainstream tour operators over recent years, and rightly so. The country’s varied natural wonders and the warmth of its people more than make up for its developing infrastructure. Bolivia’s capital city, La Paz, is the highest in the world and is set amid a formidable ring of 6,000-metre-high mountain peaks. In the west, straddling the border with Peru, is the giant Lake Titicaca and the pretty town of Copacabana where boat trips depart for visits to the Isla del Sol, a sacred Inca site. In the southwest of Bolivia lies the colonial city of Potosi whose rich silver resources helped fund the • La Paz • La Spanish empire’s occupation of the region. Many • Sal ke Titicaca ar de visitors will pass through it on their way to the • Jes Uy Salar de Uyuni, where the dazzling white salt flats • Cyc uit missi uni o ling t he ‘d ns – the world’s largest – stretch for mile upon mile. road eath ’ The east of Bolivia drops steeply away from the Andes, merging seamlessly into the Amazon basin, with steamy Santa Cruz – the country’s second city – located in the Andean foothills.

Carnival time! Brasilia Visa not required

Portuguese GMT -5hrs


Known for its extravagant annual carnivals, the majestically-set city of Rio de Janeiro, the sprawling wildlife-rich Amazon rainforest and a diverse, fun-loving and football-mad population, Brazil is top of the list for many visitors to Latin America. Most first-time arrivals will spend a few days in Rio, lured by the iconic Christ the Redeemer nival Statue and Copacabana and Ipanema • Car Janeiro de est beaches. However, city-slickers should also • Rio n rainfor o z s l a l consider a trip to trendy São Paulo where a • Am Iguazu F l • working and playing hard is the name of the tana • Pan game, or Brasilia the purpose-built capital city admired for its striking architecture and fashion scene. Then again, coastal Brazil and cities such as Salvador show off the nation’s African roots and offer access to sun-kissed beaches. The charming archipelago of Fernando de Noronha and the Atol das Rocas are popular with divers and snorkellers, while wildlife enthusiasts can choose from the Amazon Rainforest – which covers almost a third of the country – or the Pantanal wetlands. And don’t forget the thundering Iguazu Falls!


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CHILE opposites attract

Chilean vineyards Santiago Chilean Peso Visa not required

Spanish GMT -4hrs

COLOMBIA rising star

Shaped like no other country on earth, Chile lies between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, and is over 2,600 miles long but just 100 miles wide, producing an unusual cocktail of landscapes. The country is home to four distinct locations: the arid northern Atacama region; Santiago and the cama Central Valleys; the Lakes District; and Patagonia • Ata ert Des aiso in the far south of the country. r a p • Val del Paine Capital city Santiago is the key arrival and s e d r • Tor ster Islan departure point and the Andes mountain range • Ea neyards i that looms over the city is home to a number of V • good ski resorts just a short ride away. Some of Chile’s finest vineyards can also be explored within easy reach of the capital and so too coastal Valparaiso. Meanwhile, the Atacama Desert’s rugged and surreal landscapes make its main settlement, San Pedro de Atacama, a hub for adventure activities and sightseeing trips. Torres del Paine National Park, in Chilean Patagonia, features on many itineraries while remote Easter Island – some 2,000 miles west of mainland Chile, out in the Pacific Ocean – is famous for its mysterious ‘moai’ stone statues.

Caribbean flavours Bogota Colombian Peso Visa not required

Spanish GMT -5hrs

What once was something of a no-go destination, transformed Colombia is now one of Latin America’s fastest-growing regions in terms of overseas visitors. The remarkable rise in popularity is testament to its beguiling colonial cities, Andean towns and cities, widespread coffee plantations, lush rainforest and both a Caribbean and a Pacific coastline. Capital city Bogota is a bustling metropolis with shimmering skyscrapers, top hotels and the biggest network of parks in Latin America. In contrast, it is also home to an attractive old town, La Candelaria, and a wealth of museums that include what is regarded as one of the best gold museums in the world. Colombia’s jewel in the crown, however, is Cartagena on the country’s Caribbean coast. Founded in 1533, the city’s old quarter is today a UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site. Cartagena also provides access to Tayrona National Park and its pretty beaches. • • Th Cartage Further south, on the western slopes of the • Tay e Coffee na rona Trian Andes, is the Coffee Triangle whose principal • San National gle towns – Armenia, Pereira and Manizales – and P A Provi ndres & ark parks and plantations also warrant a visit. den

• Bog cia ota

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COSTA RICA Natural highs

Guanacaste Province San José Spanish Colon Visa not required GMT -6hrs

CUBA Caribbean charm

Mother Nature was clearly in a good mood when she dealt Costa Rica’s hand, for it is a land of simmering volcanoes, thermal waters, lush rainforest with abundant wildlife and golden beaches. The country is a shining example of responsible tourism, with many hotels promoting their environmentally friendly credentials, and there are nearly 30 national parks, biological reserves and protected areas. Centrally located capital city San José welcomes the majority of flights from Europe and North America but Liberia is an alternative option, offering access to the country’s Pacific coast. Tortuguero is among Costa Rica’s best-loved national parks, its turtle-breeding grounds and • Are n diverse wildlife drawing visitors from afar. In vol al • Tor cano the northern highlands to the west, the Arenal t u g uer N • The ational Pa o volcano is a ‘must’ for many visitors, while the Osa P rk e nearby Monteverde Cloudforest and the surf • Pac n ific co insula beaches of the Nicoya Peninsula are also popular. ast On the southern Pacific coast, Manuel Antonio is one of the country’s most popular national parks, but a more remote option is the less-visited Osa Peninsula.

Downtown Havana Havana Spanish Cuban Peso Tourist cards required GMT -5hrs

With one foot in the past and the other firmly in the 21st century, Cuba’s charms are many. It offers a mixture of cities and scenic natural landscapes, a heady mix of sensual dances and music, a coastline lapped by the tranquil waters of the Caribbean – and picturepostcard scenes of classic cars and cigar-toting locals perched on street corners. ana With its colonial-style towns and cities • Hav ightlife ly n ad like Havana, Trinidad and Santiago – full of • Live ial Trinid n ts r o l o parks and architectural interest – and its • Co ach res • Be Cigars magnificent countryside, attractive coastline, • varied culture and its charming people, Cuba reveals itself to visitors with pride in its multifaceted charms and diverse attractions. The Caribbean island is home to several UNESCO biosphere reserves, parks and ecological reserves, each keenly focused on conservation and sustainable tourism. Cuba also has a wealth of popular beach destinations – including the renowned Varadero, Cayo Santa Maria and Holguin – meaning it attracts both those who want to simply ‘fly and flop’ and visitors looking for a more cultural experience.

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DOMINICAN REPUBLIC tropical cocktail

Punta Cana sunset Santo Domingo Spanish Dominican Peso Tourist card included in air fare GMT -4hrs

The Dominican Republic is a nation of diversity, encapsulated by its diverse people, culture, cuisine and music, all projected onto one of the most to varied and biodiverse landscapes in the n a S • ingo Caribbean region. Dom resorts s ch The country offers visitors more than 400 • Bea inican Alp s e m v r o kilometres of tropical shoreline, the Caribbean’s e • D ks/res highest peak in the Dominican Alps, cactus• Par studded deserts and the colonial streets of the capital city, Santo Domingo. Flights between the UK and the Dominican Republic are plentiful thanks to the proliferation of both scheduled and charter airline services and its many beach-based all-inclusive hotel packages. Those who like to savour the taste of local produce, dance to the country’s distinct Latin sounds or experience the warmth of the Dominican people, are likely to become repeat clients in search of further Latin American experiences.

ECUADOR high and mighty

Cuyabeno National Park Quito US Dollar Visa not required

Spanish GMT -5hrs

If there’s one country in Latin America that is a microcosm of all the region’s wonderful assets – soaring mountains, weird and wonderful wildlife, impressive historic sites, distinct gastronomy and swathes of beaches – then it’s probably Ecuador. Only slightly larger than the UK, it is neatly divided into four very different regions: the Amazon rainforest, the central highland and Andes, the Pacific coast and the unique Galapagos Islands. The country’s capital city, Quito, is both a gateway to the delights of the Andes and to Ecuador’s share of the Amazon rainforest. Thanks to its historical buildings and cobbled streets, the city enjoys UNESCO World Heritage status. Guayaquil is a modern, bustling destination that has been subject to major government investment, helping it become more than just a departure point for trips to the Galapagos Islands. Cruises are still the most popular way of experiencing the Galapagos archipelago but can be expensive. • • The Quito Gala Wildlife enthusiasts will be in their element pa • Am Islands gos in the islands, where the teeming wildlife is azon • Col rainfo undaunted by the presence of humans. r o

e owns st

nial t

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EL SALVADOR off the beaten track

Playa El Zonte San Salvador US Dollar Visa not required

In search of a truly ‘off-the-beaten-track’ destination? Well El Salvador might be just what you’re looking for. The tiny Central American nation has a Pacific coastline and rugged interior landscapes of mountains, volcanoes, cloud forest, coffee plantations and colonial towns that give way to a coastline of sandy beaches and o de some top surfing spots. • Lag eque p Coate posible Capital city San Salvador can be frenetic, but m • El I nal Park also cosmopolitan, with trendy night spots, o r i Nat Salvado colourful markets and a vibrant arts scene. • San urfing The country’s Parque Nacional El Imposible is •S so named because of the dramatic gorge through which coffee growers once had to transport their crops – endangered species such as pumas and eagles are native to the area. Between the park and San Salvador is Lago de Coatepeque, a lake formed in the crater of an ancient volcano, complete with hot springs. Tazumal and Joya de Ceren are among the country’s most impressive Mayan ruins, the latter having been described as the ‘Pompeii of the Americas’ after being buried under volcanic ash some 1,400 years ago and only rediscovered in the 1970s.

Spanish GMT -6hrs


Resident King Penguins Stanley English Falkland Island Pound Visa not required GMT -3hrs

Nature’s home

The 740-island archipelago that is the Falklands is a home away from home for British visitors, with its distictive hallmarks including incongruous red telephone boxes and Union Flags. Often referred to as ‘The Galapagos of the South’, the Falklands Islands’ natural history and wildlife is the main draw for many, though the islands are not the most accessible of destinations. Traditionally the islands have thrived from the large number of cruise ships that visit the archipelago on multi-country sailings, with the landbased market being limited in capacity. Nevertheless, Carcass, Bleaker and Sea Lion Islands are home to huge king penguin colonies and elephant seals, while bird life also includes the inquisitive striated caracara, the endemic Cobb’s wren • Pen and the Falklands steamer duck. g • Wil uins Four-wheel-drive vehicles are the transport of • Bir dlife • Ou d watch choice across the islands’ rugged landscapes, a tdoo ing r true wilderness destination. • S activit




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a taste of france

Amazonian wildlife Cayenne French, French Guianese, Creole Euro Visa not required GMT -3hrs

GUATEMALA mayan kingdom

French Guiana has the unique distinction among Latin American countries of being part of the European Union, by virtue of its status as an overseas territory of France. Indeed, there remains a strong colonial influence although the environment could hardly be more different to its motherland. The south of the country is covered by Amazonian rainforest while capital city, Cayenne, is a veritable melting pot of cultures from across South America, the Caribbean and Europe. Not far to the south of Cayenne, the Kaw and • Tresor nature reserves are two of the most • The Saul Treso popular and accessible destinations for ecor Na Kaw and • Isle ture Rese tourism in the destination, with bountiful birdlife s du r v e • Kou Salut s and a large reptilian population too. rou Along the coast northwest of Cayenne is French Guiana’s second-biggest city, Kourou, home to a major space centre operated in collaboration with the European Space Agency.

Semuc Champey Guatemala City Spanish Quetzal Visa not required GMT -6hrs

Guatemala bills itself as the heart of the Mayan world and while the spectacular ruins of this ancient empire can be found across the country, there are also beautiful colonial towns, colourful markets and magnificent landscapes all waiting to be discovered. The country’s capital, Guatemala City, lies in the more densely populated south of the ikal country. Big and brash, visitors tend to either yan T • Ma e Atitlan fall for its raffish charm or swiftly move on to • Lak tigua • An ala City the highlands or colonial Antigua. Cobbled atem streets and pretty churches and plazas combine • Gu ighlands •H with a backdrop of three volcanoes to make Antigua a ‘must’ for visitors to Guatemala. Not far from Antigua is the volcano-flanked Lake Atitlan which serves as the country’s activity centre, while popular highland towns include Quetzaltenango and Chichicastenango, the latter home to the largest, oldest and probably most colourful market in Central America. The majority of Guatemala’s impressive Mayan heritage is to be found in the north of the country – in a region known as El Petén – including the UNESCO-listed World Heritage Site, Tikal.

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GUYANA wonderful wilderness


The two-toed sloth Guyanese Dollar

Georgetown English, Hindu, Visa not required GMT -4hrs

HONDURAS back to nature

Set between the Atlantic coast and the Amazon rainforest, exotic Guyana presents an intriguing mix of cultures and a staggeringly varied topography. Inland are rugged mountains, tumbling waterfalls and vast swathes of wild jungle that are home to giant otters, black caiman and the elusive jaguar. Falls r Meanwhile, Guyana’s coastline is dotted with u e t e • Kai orgetown unspoilt beaches, wildlife reserves, mangroves e h c G • ll Bea and sugar plantations. • She upununi R e h The capital city Georgetown presents an h T • nna Sava unusual cultural cocktail, where British colonial architecture and Hindu temples co-exist. Eco-tourism is popular and visitors can travel into the jungle by boat on Guyana’s many rivers, in order to spot wildlife and visit the Kaieteur Falls, a single-drop waterfall five times the height of Niagara Falls. Other natural highlights include the grass-covered Pakaraima Mountains that stretch towards Venezuela and Brazil and include the cloud-covered plateau of Mount Roraima. And at lower levels, the African-like Rupununi Savannah, home to Amerindian villages, giant water lillies and termite mounds.

Copan ruins Lempira

Tegucigalpa Spanish, English Visa not required GMT -6hrs

It might be Central America’s second largest country, but Honduras is so sparsely populated that it’s also one of the region’s wildest destinations. A long Caribbean coasline of ivory beaches contrasts with inland cloud forests and high altitude towns bursting with colonial character and colour. Back on the coast, tourism is concentrated in the Bay Islands, where Utila and Roatan are visited for their excellent diving as well as beaches and nightlife. Chaotic capital city Tegucigalpa pulses with traffic and is a maze of markets, plazas and cathedrals, but the pace is slower in the heartlands. The interior is mountainous and trekking is popular in the Central Highlands, while culture lovers should make for the Mayan ruins at Copan and towns like Gracias, where colonial churches sit in an incongruous cloud forest setting. Pico Bonito National Park is often featured by tour operators thanks to its cloud forest, • Bay rich biodiversity and activities like white-water • Cop Islands rafting. In the east, untamed La Mosquitia is • Pic an ruins o Honduras’ own ‘Amazon’, with pristine jungle Natio Bonito n • La al Park and indigenous tribes. M



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MEXICO A cultural fiesta

•M • Chi erida • Riv chen Itza • Cop iera May a per • Pue Canyon bla

Day of the Dead celebrations Mexico City Spanish Mexican Peso Visa not required GMT -6hrs

At the northern extreme of Latin America, Mexico is perhaps more familiar to UK travellers than other countries in the region due to its well-established beach destinations and good air connections – not to mention its wealth of historical ruins, intriguing cities, cultural intrigue and diverse landscapes. It is archaeologically rich, with monuments from the Olmec, Mayan and Aztec empires found across the country. The Mayan pyramid of Chichen Itza, the best known of all Mexico’s historic sites, is easily reached from the beach resorts of the Yucatan Peninsula. The country’s beach resorts range from the bright lights and lively nightlife of Cancun and the Riviera Maya to classic resorts like Acapulco or celebrity haunts such as Cabo San Lucas. In contrast, the landscapes of the Sierra Madre in the north are popular with bikers, trekkers and climbers, while the Copper Canyon railway offers a more relaxed view. Those seeking colonial culture will love towns like Puebla, Merida and Oaxaca or, towards the border with Guatemala, the Chipas Highlands present a greener side to Mexico.

NICARAGUA coast to coast

Momotombo volcano Managua Cordoba Visa not required

Spanish GMT -6hrs

Straddling the breadth of Central America, from the Caribbean Sea in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, Nicaragua has plenty of natural, cultural and historical highlights to offer the adventurous visitor, and for great value too. Central America’s oldest colonial city, Granada, lies at the bottom of Mombacho es cano volcano on the shores of Lake Nicaragua. • Vol da & León na The lake is Central America’s largest body of ine • Gra ific coastl ng i c i a water and has over 300 islands, including • P fing & d v Isla Zapatera and Ometepe island, both popular • Sur metepe •O day trips, with the latter formed from the cones of two volcanoes. Capital city Managua is primarily the starting point for many tours but bohemian second city León is a UNESCO World Heritage Site located in Nicaragua’s most volcanic region. Visitors can try ‘volcano surfing’ on the slopes of nearby Cerro Negro. On Nicaragua’s Pacific coast are lively towns like San Juan del Sur with great surfing. Popular with UK tour operators are the Caribbean Corn Islands for their undeveloped beaches and excellent diving.

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Bocas del Toro archipelago Panama City Balboa Visa not required

Panama is something of a Latin American crossroads, located at the southern extreme of the Central American isthmus, with great beaches, indigenous culture, pristine wilderness and the eponymous canal. Cosmopolitan capital Panama City is where pretty colonial buildings sit alongside towering o el Tor y skyscrapers. It’s also home to the Museum of d s a • Boc nama Cit Biodiversity, designed by renowned architect a l P • ana s Frank Gehry. Nearby is the famous Panama and C Highland ui elo q i r Canal, a marvel of engineering that connects the i • Ch Portob • Atlantic and Pacific oceans. Visitors can watch ships pass through the Miraflores Lock or venture further into Gatun lake for wildlife watching. Close to the canal’s Caribbean side is fortified Portobelo, a UNESCO site where the Spanish hid their bounty. Off the Caribbean coast lies the San Blas Archipelago, where stunning white-sand islands and the culture of the indigenous Kuna people draw numerous visitors. Beach lovers can also head to Bocas del Toro which boasts both eco-retreats and great nightlife. And in western Spanish, English GMT -5hrs Panama the villages and coffee plantations of the Chiriqui Highlands are a popular retreat with hikers.


Palacio de Lopez Asuncion Spanish, Guarani Guarani Visa not required GMT -3hrs

Land-locked Paraguay is bordered by two of the continent’s biggest destinations – Brazil and Argentina, as well as Bolivia – yet it is rarely featured by UK tour operators and general awareness of the destination and its assets is low. That very fact will be an incentive for some travellers to visit this low-key country, where extremes of wealth range from the designer malls and slick sports cars found in European-style capital city Asuncion, on the banks of the River Paraguay, to the indigenous tribes that still live as they did long before the conquistadors swept in from Europe. The country is a crossroads for overland travel, despite much of Paraguay’s northwest presenting a tough test for regular road vehicles. Rather, Southern Paraguay is the most densely populated area of the country and is home to historic sites such as the ruins of Jesuit settlements La Santisima Trinidad de • Gra Paraná and Jesús de Tavarangue. n Cha • c Among Paraguay’s popular national parks • Jes Cerro Cor o uit se a is Cerro Cora with its ancient petroglyphs • Itai ttlemen p ts inscribed in rock shelters. • A u Dam




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Plaza de Armas, Cuzco Lima Spanish, Quechua Nuevo Sol Visa not required GMT -5hrs


Peru is perhaps the most quintessential of Latin American destinations, with its thriving Quechua heritage, colonial towns, abundant wildlife, towering mountains, steamy rainforest and the iconic Inca fortress of Machu Picchu. Few people travel to Peru without visiting the revered Inca citadel. It can be reached via the four-day Inca Trail – permits must be secured well in advance – or by train from the scenic colonial city of Cuzco, with the service winding through the pretty Sacred Valley. Sites along the way include historic Ollantaytambo and Pisac’s bustling Sunday market, and there’s a smattering of boutique and luxury hotels – both in Cuzco and the Sacred Valley – at which to base yourself. • In southern Peru lies vast Lake Titicaca, the • Ma Cuzco chu P • Sac enormous Colca Canyon and, closer to the i c c h u r • Lak ed valley coast, the mysterious Nazca lines. To the north e • Na Titicaca east is the wildlife of the Amazon, with Puerto zca L ines Maldonado and Iquitos acting as gateways for rainforest visits. The capital of Lima is not just the international gateway – it has one of the region’s best gastronomy scenes and great shopping too.

The elusive jaguar Suriname Dollar

Paramaribo Visa required

Dutch, Sranan GMT -3hrs

This former Dutch colony, the smallest country in South America, is a wonderful mishmash of Caribbean, European, South American and Asian influences. The historic centre of capital city Paramaribo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and visitors will marvel at the mix of colourful Dutch-style houses, wooden churches, mosque minarets and even dlife a synagogue. Its many markets may be small • Wil aribo e am erv but they are very diverse. • Par ture Res a N n i a i On Suriname’s coast, the 4,000-hectare b li • Ga • Amerind ties Galibi Nature Reserve is home to endangered uni comm turtles, while heading inland leads to dense Amazon rainforest. For more wildlife, visitors should head to the Central Suriname Nature Reserve which supports giant sloth, tapir and armadillos. Although the majority of Suriname’s population live along the coast around Paramaribo, deep in the Amazon – which covers much of the country – are a number of Amerindian villages where visitors can discover ancient ways of life. Remote Kwamalasamutu is home to nine indigenous communities as well as offering the chance to discover ancient petroglyphs hidden in the rainforest.


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Punta del Este Montevideo Uruguay Peso Visa not required

Glamorous beach resorts, sophisticated cities and rustic gaucho towns are all part of the experience that visitors can look forward to in Uruguay. A fascinating history and great value food – with succulent steaks and good wines strong on the menu – combine with a warm welcome. The capital, Montevideo, features exclusive ideo v suburbs, high-rise beach communities and art e t n e • Mo a del Est ento deco and neoclassical buildings. Entertainment t n m a u • P del Sacr varies from vibrant carnivals to classical theatre, o a i i c n a o • Col • Jose Ign Plata and night owls can tango the night away in de la classy cafés or dance into the early hours at a • Rio beach disco. The country has 400 miles of coastline, with Punta del Este, nicknamed the ‘St. Tropez of the south’, located just east of Montevideo. However visitors can also head to more low-key resorts like Punta del Diablo and José Ignacio, a former fishing village. To experience the ‘real’ Uruguay, make plans to travel up the Rio de la Plata, to the likes of Colonia del Sacramento – with its cobbled streets, cottages and lowkey nightlife – or the rolling hills and plains of Cuchilla Grande for a taste of the gaucho lifestyle.

Spanish GMT -3hrs


Mount Roraima Caracas Bolivar Visa not required

Spanish GMT -4.5hrs

As home to the world’s highest waterfalls, the region’s largest lake, a Caribbean coastline and the Andes mountains too, Venezuela is an explorer’s dream. Its capital city, Caracas, can be daunting for the firsttime visitor, although few fail to be impressed by the dramatic mountain vistas. From the attractive western city of Merida, with its parks and squares, visitors can head into the Andes for soft adventure activities, or to the biodiverse Los Llanos, an area high in biodiversity around the watershed of the Orinoco river. Canaima National Park, in the south east, is also popular. Venezuela’s headline attraction, however, is the towering Angel Falls, usually visited by light aircraft or a combination of motorised canoe and trekking through the Gran Sabana in Venezuela’s south-east. On the country’s Caribbean coast, the island of Margarita is the number one beach destination. The Los Roques archipelago is an idyllic • Ang alternative – a collection of over 300 small • Me el Falls islands, coral reefs and pristine waters, which rid the A a and makes it ideal for beach lovers as well as • Los ndes snorkellers and divers. • Lo Roques

s Llan



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Machu Picchu, Peru

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whether you’re booking with a tour operator or tailor-making a trip, be sure you’re familiar with this essential information when planning travel to latin america

Health & safety Certain inoculations are advised when travelling to some countries in Latin America. Visit or for further advice. For the latest travel and safety advice, visit the FCO (Foreign & Commonwealth Office) website:


Visas British passport holders do not require visas for entry to most – but not all – countries in Latin America, but always check with your tour operator or the relevant embassy.

Latin American Travel Association The Latin American Travel Association (LATA) is a UK-based membership association that aims to promote Latin America as a tourist destination and stimulate growth of travel to the region. The association comprises over 340 companies including tourism boards, airlines, hotels, tour operators, representation companies and travel media. LATA operates a Safety Scheme with the aim of improving safety standards in accommodation and transport across Latin America. The LATA Foundation, the organisation’s charitable arm, works to support social and environmental projects throughout Latin America. LATA’s website is a rich source of information and travel operators for anyone planning a trip to Latin America.

Beach Life


6 Miles North of San Pedro Ambergris Caye, Belize +501-226-5096 US: 800-813-7880 Essential 30 Untitled-1 Info_v2.indd 1

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Getting there


The number of non-stop services from the UK to destinations across Latin America has improved immensely in recent years. British Airways currently flies from London to Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Lima, Mexico City, Cancun, San Jose and Punta Cana, while Virgin Atlantic operates flights to Cancun and Havana. Further non-stop options include Avianca services from London to Bogota; Norwegian’s flights from London Gatwick to Buenos Aires; AeroMexico from London to Mexico City; and LATAM from London to Sao Paulo. Iberia, Air Europa and TAP Portugal open up a far wider range of destinations across Latin America with connecting flights via their respective Iberian hubs. Air France and KLM provide further one-stop options from the UK, as do Delta Air Lines, American Airlines and United Airlines via their US hubs. LATAM, GOL, Copa, Avianca and Aerolineas Argentinas operate comprehensive networks across Latin America.

An understanding of Spanish will get visitors a long way in Latin America – it is the main language in the vast majority of countries. Portuguese is the official language of Brazil; English is spoken in Belize and Guyana; French in French Guiana; and Dutch is spoken in Suriname. A wide variety of indigenous languages are also spoken across the region.

AUTHENTIC MEMORIES & MEANINGFUL EXPERIENCES Deep in the Peruvian Amazon, Delfin Amazon Cruises will take you into one of the world’s largest protected flooded forests, the Pacaya Samiria National Reserve. Visit us online for more information:

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Together, further.

Connecting the UK to more than 120 destinations across Latin America.

Daily direct flights from London Heathrow to São Paulo Guarulhos. The most extensive flight network in Latin America.

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Latin America Guide 2-18  

Welcome to Latin America! In this guide – our eighth annual edition – you’ll discover what makes this colourful corner of the world such a b...

Latin America Guide 2-18  

Welcome to Latin America! In this guide – our eighth annual edition – you’ll discover what makes this colourful corner of the world such a b...