10 Incredible Cities in Latin America You Have to See Before You Die
With the warm weather comes the itch to book a trip. But if you’re looking to skip tourist traps — or just want to try somewhere less expected than Miami or Rio de Janeiro — we’ve got 10 rising Latin American locales you’ve got to book a trip to ASAP. Keep scrolling to see the list of places you must visit in your lifetime.
(feature image by @volunteering_nomad)
1. Cartagena, Colombia
This gorgeous fishing village on the Caribbean coast has long been in the shadow of its sister city, Bogota — but it’s a must see in its own right. Visit the historic port city for its cobblestone streets and colorful architecture, delicious food (indulgent pastries and, of course, that Colombian coffee!), and sparkling turquoise-and-white-sand beaches, which are just a quick boat ride away from the metropolis.
2. Ambergris Caye, Belize
Sure, the trendy Central American country of Costa Rica has a lot to offer — but if you’re looking for a similar combination of adventure, beaches, and jungles with less tourists and even more hidden treasures, Belize is the place for you. Plus, the Belize Barrier Reef rivals Australia’s and is perfect for the deep-sea adventurer ready to dive into snorkeling and scuba.
3. Havana, Cuba
Now that Americans can finally legally travel to Cuba (albeit as part of an approved travel organization licensed by the US State Department, like Intrepid Travel or Insight Cuba), Cuba is a 1950s time warp begging to be discovered. Between the vintage cars and colonial palaces, you’ll find endless authentic food, cigars, salsa, and mambo. And no matter where you are on the island, paradisiac beaches are just a walk or drive away.
4. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Calling all nature-lovers: If you prefer exploring with animals to sipping Mai Tais (these islands are the only place you can find marine iguanas and Galapagos tortoises — which can live up to 150 years!), book a trip here. The archipelago is surrounded by a marine reserve and whale sanctuary. Stay in any of the island’s hotels, adventure lodges, or villas, and sign up for day tours, outdoor excursions, and a visit to the national park.
5. La Paz, Bolivia
Book a trip here with high expectations — literally. At an altitude of 3,660 meters, the quirky, hilly urban oasis offers breathtaking panoramas and canyon-side hotels and hostels — plus views of the snowy Mount Illimani. Make sure to leave time for a day trip to the Uyuni Salt Flats, the largest in the world — the effect of the sky reflecting on the salt flats makes for a gorgeous Instagram shot.
6. Salvador, Brazil
Nicknamed the Capital of Joy, this city brims with life. Seafood, sun, samba, and West African influences give Salvador a unique twist on Brazilian culture (many visitors call it the New Orleans of South America). Spend your days basking in the tropical climate while indulging in street food, browsing art galleries, and dancing the night away.
7. Bocas del Toro, Panama
When you think of the Caribbean, you think of islands like Puerto Rico and the Bahamas. But while Bocas del Toro is purely Central American, it’s also as Caribbean as it gets, complete with bright clapboard houses and stunning aqua waters. There’s something for everyone on Bocas del Toro’s seven islands: off-the-beaten-path hiking, underwater adventures, and nightlife that lasts until the sun comes up. And if you’re a real adventurista, there are bat cave tours!
8. Cusco, Peru
For all the history buffs: Book a ticket and hop on a plane to Cusco, which is a melting pot of Incan and Andean culture, home to churches, archaeological must-sees, and textile shopping. It’s so historic, in fact, that it’s been nicknamed the birthplace of the world. Make sure to check out the Qoriacancha Palace and the church of Santo Domingo, but what you can’t leave without seeing is the World Heritage Site of Machu Picchu.
9. San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina
If warm weather makes you miss the cold, jet down to the Andes of Argentina. Bariloche is the largest ski area in South America, but the adventurous activities don’t end just there. This is the vacation for you if you’re an explorer ready for everything from boating and paragliding to skiing and rock climbing. Bariloche is also known as Argentina’s chocolate capital, so nibble away.
10. Montevideo, Uruguay
Uruguay’s capital is an energetic city with a popular downtown district full of delicious restaurants, vibrant nightlife, and a nearby beachside suburb. A South American gem with European flair, fans of cities like New York, Barcelona, and Buenos Aires will enjoy this city’s ambiance. Party in a beachfront disco or learn traditional Argentinian tango at a bar (the two countries share a border), and shop until you drop at the flea markets, where you’ll find hidden (and affordable) gems.