Christmas Bucket ListBarbara Zanotelli Rodrigues - Former Travel Expert
Iconic destinations, unique wildlife and intriguing history are why Latin America features in so many bucket lists. Now on the countdown to Christmas, we share our 24 must do activities and places to visit.
1. Amazon jungle
Covering around 40% of South America, the Amazon evokes a sense of adventure and true wilderness in all who visit it. Much of the region is unsullied wilderness, home only to remote or undiscovered tribes but parts are surprisingly accessible to visitors. Amazonia is not a uniform jungle, different species thrive in different areas, and a visit to the Amazon region in one country can contrast notably from the next.
2. Machu Picchu
The dramatic shot of the citadel is well recognised by all, making it one of South America’s iconic symbols. A visit to the Inca ruins never disappoints, the steep stone staircases, bridges, temples, houses and palaces are easy to explore, and beg to be photographed. Enhance the experience by completing the Inca Trail, one of the world’s most famous treks.
3. Iguazú Falls
Usually rated number one of the world’s big three waterfalls, the falls are considered to be Latin America’s most awe-inspiring natural sight. The 276 separate cascades are surrounded by sub-tropical jungle, protected by national park status. From the Brazilian side you’ll get a panoramic view of the 3km cliff edge, on the Argentine side there is a series of walkways leading you above, below and even behind the water.
4. Galápagos Islands
No bucket list is complete without Darwin’s Galápagos Islands. The islands have a phenomenal array of wildlife, with many endemic to the islands such as the blue footed booby and the marine iguana. Take a cruise to explore various different islands and fit in as many species as possible. There are also many unique experiences to get involved in if you wish to stay on the islands.
Antarctica has a dazzling display of larger-than-life landscapes, a kaleidoscope of colours and a symphony of sounds. Penguins are in their hundreds of thousands to great you as well as seals, whales and a huge variety of bird-life which breed, feed and live on the white continent. A growing range of activities adventures such as camping, hiking and kayaking give visitors an intimate experience in the snow and ice.
6. Moai – Easter Island
The mystery surrounding the famous statues continues to attract visitors to the isolated island. Take a full-day tour of Easter Island to see all the most significant Moais as well as some of the island’s most beguiling sights such as Anakena Beach.
7. Atacama Desert
Other than the poles, the Atacama Desert is the driest place on earth. Its spectacular Martian like landscape is filled with volcanoes, geysers and white salt flats which are home to vibrant pink flamingos. The Atacama is also one of the best places in the world to star gaze due to its clean air and lack of light pollution.
8. Falklands Islands
The remote archipelago is a great location to get up close to wildlife, in particular penguins. A huge variety of wildlife inhabits or visits the archipelago and the fauna outnumbers the human population by 10-1. At least five species of penguins crowd the shores of the Falklands – gentoo, macaroni, rockhopper, king and African penguin.
9. Dive in the Blue Hole in Belize
The Blue Hole, a perfectly circular cave plunging vertically into the sea bed, is immediately for divers around the world. Seen from above, the cavernous sinkhole is a dark disk in a bright aquamarine ocean seemingly swallowing the light into its underwater reaches. There are extraordinary underwater stalactites to be seen on the sheer walls, which descend to a depth of 125m, while a number of shark species roam around inside.
10. Uyuni salt flats
Occupying over 10,000km2, the seemingly endless salt lake stretches across the southern plains of Bolivia’s altiplano in a show of surreal, ethereal beauty. In the rains it is covered with mirror-like surface water perfectly reflecting the ice-blue sky and powdery clouds above. In the dry season the landscape transforms into a tapestry of embossed hexagons tessellating as far as the eye can see.
11. Perito Moreno
Rising 60m from an ice-bound arm of Lago Argentina, and covering an area so vast the eye struggles to take in, Perito Moreno is an awe-inspiring sight. It’s common to see massive hunks of ice calves break off from the glacier and crash into the lake below. Witness the spectacular show from the walkways and viewing platforms or enhance the experience by taking a cruise beneath the towering glacier, or for the more adventurous, trek right on the surface.
12. Panama Canal
Featuring on many people's bucket list, the Panama Canal combines history, nature and one of the greatest engineering feats of the 20th century. Sail the entire length of the canal or choose a partial transit to the vast jungle area that is now the Lake Gatún.
13. Jaguar spotting
Spotting the elusive jaguar requires a lot of patience but once you catch a glimpse, it can be the highlight of the entire trip. For a chance of seeing a jaguar travel to Brazil’s Pantanal, Belize or Guyana.
14. Learn Tango in Buenos Aires
The intoxicating blend of sophistication and raw, spine-tingling passion that distilled itself into the tango could also sum up the city where it was created. This famous dance form is closely tied up with the Argentine psyche and continues to be a potent symbol of Buenos Aires. Try out some moves for yourself at a traditional group class known as a milonga, or let us arrange a private tutorial for you.
15. Classic car in Cuba
It's often said that visiting Havana is like entering a time warp, so a ride in one of the capital's ubiquitous classic cars is a fitting way to experience the city in fabulous retro style. Wind back the decades as you cruise along wildly atmospheric streets in a vintage vehicle.
16. Swimming with whale sharks
You cannot help but be humbled by nature’s grandeur as you swim in the company of the magnificent whale shark, the world’s largest fish. While they may look intimidating, these underwater giants are filter feeders and pose no threat to humans.
17. Visit Lake Titicaca’s floating islands
Straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake at 3,812m. On the tranquil sapphire waters of the lake, thousands of Uros indians live on floating islands made from reeds that grow in the shallows of the lake. Set foot on the spongy surface and witness the islanders’ unique lifestyle.
18. Mayan Ruin in Mexico
Visit the Yucatán Peninsula in Mexico to see the remnants of the once supreme Mayan civilisation. Follow the footsteps of the ancient worshippers on sites replete with temples and pyramids adorned with sacred carvings. The best known sites are Chichén Itzá, Uxmal and Tulum.
19. W trek in Patagonia
Taking in most of the highlights in Torres del Paine National Park, it’s clear as to why the ‘W’ trek is the most popular multi-day hike in the park. The iconic walk visits the granite massif, glacier lakes, wild flower meadows and hanging glaciers.
20. Signature Andes: Highlights of Peru, Bolivia and Chile
Take in the natural and cultural highlights of the southern Andes of Peru, the altiplano of Bolivia and the salt flats straddling the border with Chile on our thrilling Signature Andes holiday.
21. Day of the Dead, Mexico
All of Mexico stops during the first two days of November for a nationwide communion with the dead. This is, however, a more joyful occasion than you might expect, as it’s both a remembrance of loved ones and a celebration of the eternal cycle of life and death. Elaborate costumes abound and it’s hard not to get swept up with the spirit of it all.
22. Crossing a continent
Our Hummingbird: Ocean to Ocean holiday is a coast-to-coast escorted group tour which takes in some of the continent’s most extraordinary and contrasting sites including Rio de Janeiro and Machu Picchu as well as discovering a mind-boggling range of cultures and natural landscapes.
23. Angel Falls
The world’s highest single drop waterfall offers a dramatic setting surrounded by table-top mountains. Hidden in a remote area, there are only two possible ways to visit, either by flying overhead in a light aircraft for astonishing panoramic views or on an adventurous boat journey along a river.
24. Christ the Redeemer
Looking over Rio like a watchful guardian, the statue of Christ the Redeemer is one of the most recognised and iconic sites in Latin America. Pass through the steamy Tijuca rainforest as you ascend up Corcovado Mountain for awe-inspiring views of Rio de Janeiro.