Latin America has it all, whether you're meandering through the bustling, colourful markets of the world's highest capital city, La Paz, reclining with a robust malbec in Mendoza, or soaking up the sun on the picture perfect beaches of Brazil. It's a region that has enthralled Original Travel clients for years with its heady mix of colourful culture, fascinating history, dramatic landscapes, delectable cuisine and some of the best boutique hotels in the world. And never has this region been more accessible, with more and more direct flight routes having been added by major airlines in recent years, including Bogota, Santiago (starting January 2017), Lima and San Jose (goodbye to the horror that is a stopover in Miami airport). So with 2017 on the horizon, here are six of our favourite Latin American experiences...
Colombia's Coffee Plantations
Lovers of the bean, step this way. Colombia is a country of vibrant cities (Cartagena in particular), beautiful national parks (the beaches of Tayrona are especially scenic) and a UNESCO Heritage Coffee Triangle. The best way to explore the coffee region is by staying in a traditional hacienda where you will learn all about the coffee-making process and from which you can explore nearby villages. Hiking through the lush rolling hills of the coffee plantations is also not to be missed.
Relaxing on a Beach in Brazil
Finally after years of World Cups, Olympics and Paralympics, Brazil is once again restored to its former glory. And whether you're sipping a caipirinha on Rio's iconic Ipanema or Copacabana beach, or enjoying the laidback vibes of the quieter southern coastline, it's fair to say the beaches in Brazil are some of the very best around. It's got winter sun getaway written all over it.
Anyone with an iota of interest in history should have Guatemala on their list. Cities like Antigua Guatemala remain steeped in colonial history with their cobbled streets, colourful buildings, Church ruins and Spanish Baroque architecture. But the real star of the Guatemalan historical show is Tikal. Completely surrounded by dense jungle, Tikal's beautiful series of temples, which once represented one of the most powerful kingdoms in the ancient Mayan Empire, loom large above the treeline, lending the site an El Dorado-esque feel.
Foodie Tours in Oaxaca, Mexico
Burritos, tacos, quesadillas, tamales - Mexico is home to some of the most drool-worthy cuisine on the planet (so much so that it's on UNESCO's list of Intangible Cultural Heritage). For a flavour of the real Mexico (see what we did there?) head to the country's epicurean epicentre, Oaxaca, where we can arrange market tours and cookery classes. While you're in the area head to San Dionisio Ocotepec, famous for its distilleries making the finest mescal, tequila's cleaner, classier cousin.
Wine Tasting at Entre Cielos, Argentina
It's not only food that Latin America has got down pat, the wine is fairly impressive too. No more so than in Mendoza in Argentina, which accounts for nearly two thirds of the country's entire wine production. Located in the foothills of the Andes, the vineyards here are some of the highest in the world, producing large quantities of malbec, cabernet sauvignon and chardonnay. Stay in one of the most unique hotel suites in the world - a floating wine loft at Entre Cielos which is suspended above the vineyard, with incredible views over the Andes.
Hot Air Ballooning in the Atacama Desert, Chile
Chile's Atacama Desert, with its unusual ecosystem, lunar landscapes, bubbling thermal springs and dazzling salt flats provides some of the most spectacular views on the planet. And there is no better way to see it than from above, in a hot air balloon. Watching dawn peek over this most fragile of landscapes, from a completely new perspective, is a truly life-affirming experience and one which should be atop many a bucket list.