Olie Lever, Lightfoot Travel’s new Head of the Americas and Antarctica, has travelled to the region multiple times and brings you his Latin America bucket list. From colourful culture to incredible run-ins with nature and wildlife, there’s something for all. Time to start ticking off some of these amazing sites!
Rio de Janeiro
One of the world’s greatest cities, Rio has it all: vibrant nightlife, iconic sights, beaches and, of course, Carnival. Head up to Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado’s Christ the Redeemer for magnificent views of Guanabara Bay and the famous beaches of Ipanema and Copacabana below.
There are few places on earth that rival the wildlife of the Galapagos Islands. Snorkel with playful sea lions, watch the amusing mating dance of the blue-footed booby and see wild giant tortoises in the Highlands. The Galapagos works fantastically well for couples and families alike, especially from the comfort of a luxury yacht!
Chichen Itza Mayan Ruins, Mexico
Discover your inner Indiana Jones by exploring Chichen Itza, one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. This ancient Mayan capital is the most famous in Mexico; temples such as the imposing El Castillo are aligned to astronomical events such as the spring and autumn equinoxes.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil
Taller and wider than Niagara, the thunderous Iguazu Falls is one of the most spectacular sights in South America. The 275 individual waterfalls are spread across more than three kilometres and should be seen from numerous vantage points: the Argentine and Brazilian sides for contrasting vistas, and by boat from the choppy waters below.
Torres del Paine, Chile
The Torres del Paine National Park in Chilean Patagonia is a stunning area of snow-capped granite peaks, glaciers and wildlife, easily explored from our favourite luxury lodges. For the more adventurous, world-class trekking and horse riding across the Pampas are not to be missed.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
As you travel by 4×4 across the vast and shimmering Uyuni salt flats, the landscape of brilliant white contrasts beautifully with the deep blue sky above. The Salar, nearby volcanoes, desert and multi-coloured lagoons teeming with flamingos make this region the ultimate off-the-beaten-track destination.
The largest wetlands area in the world and the top wildlife destination in Latin America, the Pantanal’s grasslands, swamps, forests, lakes and rivers offer incredible diversity. Spot hundreds of bird species, reptiles and rare mammals such as giant anteaters, giant otters and tapirs, not forgetting the elusive jaguar.
Havana, capital of one of the last remaining communist regimes, has to be one of the most evocative of cities. It oozes character with crumbling colonial architecture, brightly coloured classic American cars and old ladies puffing away on homemade cigars. Chilling out in the lively bars and sipping ice-cold mojitos isn’t a bad way to spend an afternoon, either!
The world’s largest rainforest, the Amazon covers a huge area of Brazil as well as Peru and Ecuador. Cruise up little-explored tributaries of the mighty Amazon River or stay at a boutique eco-lodge to explore with an expert Indian guide, fish for piranhas and look out for birds, monkeys and caiman crocodiles.
Machu Picchu, Peru
Explore the temples and palaces of this magnificent Incan citadel, perched atop a jungle-covered mountain in the heart of the Andes. Our clients consistently say that despite having thought they’d be underwhelmed by the well-known site, it was simply astounding to see it in person.