The vast region of Latin America covers everything from Mexico to the tip of Patagonia. Many of its countries are big names in the world of travel, but a few are known to only the most intrepid travelers. The islands of the Caribbean are included, offering a gambit ranging from tropical beaches to snowcapped volcanoes.
It’s the shared language and cultural heritage that binds much of Latin America together. This is a land of ancient civilizations such as the Aztecs, the Maya and the Inca. It is a place where the soaring Andes mountains flow into the vast canopy of the Amazon rainforest. And it’s where Argentine cowboys still ride the pampas herding some of the best beef around, and football reigns supreme.
Latin America is known for its passion. Whether it is Brazil’s Carnival, a football match or Catholic religious festival, this region has got serious flair. Mexico has become a quick getaway for Americans and Canadians, but still boasts the world’s largest and dirtiest capital city as well as magnificent Mayan ruins in the Yucatan.
Central America is a cluster of small countries that connects North and South America. It has a long tradition of guerilla civil wars, but Costa Rica is setting the global trend in eco-tourism. Panama is another up and coming hotspot, and the ancient ruins in Belize and Guatemala are worth exploring. Still, places like El Salvador and Nicaragua can be a bit risky.
Colombia opens the gates to South America. Once the cocaine and kidnapping capital of the world, tourism is slowly opening up its amazing sites. Venezuela’s capital Caracas is best avoided for its impending threat of crime, but this is true of nearly every major city in Latin America. There are indigenous Indians in Ecuador, Peru and Brazil’s Amazon regions, as well as in the highlands of the Andes.
Peru’s Inca sites like Machu Picchu only suggest there are still other sites hidden in the dense jungles. Head down the length of the Chile until it tapers out into Patagonia, one of the planet’s last truly magical frontiers. Just across the strait is Antarctica.