In honour of Valentine's Day last week, we thought we'd celebrate that most passionate of regions: Latin America. In the immortal words of Led Zeppelin we've got a whole lotta love for this romantic place that's sure to get the pulse racing with fabulous food and wine, wonderful wildlife, majestic mountains and beautiful beaches. But where to begin? A Google search of 'Latin America travel' conjures up quite literally hundreds of millions of results, and how do you know what is Gap Yah backpacker fantastic and what is best for the more discerning, suitcase-toting luxury traveller? Fortunately we, and our amazing (Latin) Americas team, have the answers...
Jose Ignacio, Uruguay
Jose Ignacio is where the beautiful people of Latin America head for their summer holidays. Simultaneously bohemian and ultra-glam, the village's vibe is low-key, personal and intimate, ideal for a few days beach-side to cap off a Latin American adventure.
Top-to-toe, Brazil's coastline is over 7,500 miles long, meaning over 7,500 miles of beautiful beaches. Our favourite is Trancoso, a former hippy town in the jungle-covered state of Bahia, which has managed to retain its free-spirited charm.
Latin America's comeback kid - Colombia's Caribbean coast-side city Cartagena - is the jewel in the country's newly-polished crown. Colourful streets are perfect for strolling hand-in-hand (and snapping pictures for Instagram) and the restaurant scene is burgeoning with new openings serving everything from traditional Colombian cuisine to more modern fare.
Firmly back on the travel map after decades out in the cold (metaphorically speaking), the Cuban capital - one of Latin America's sultriest cities - is back on the map in a big way. Spend a few days getting up close and personal with the city as part of a wider Cuban trip, or even flit between the communist state and ultra-capitalist, ever-romantic New York City.
Patagonia, Chile & Argentina
At the ends of the earth (or at least, the very bottom of Latin America) lies Patagonia. Straddling Chile and Argentina, it is ripe and ready for pulse-racing adventures to one of Mother Nature's most spectacular backdrops: the towering peaks and wild pampas of the Torres del Paine National Park.
The Sacred Valley, Peru
Not just for Gap Year students, Peru's Sacred Valley is a favourite spot for a Latin American adventure among the team at Original Travel HQ. Follow in the footsteps of the ancients and take the alternative Lares Trek up to Machu Picchu, staying in lovely lodges along the way, with not a backpacker in sight.
The Amazon, Ecuador
Although more compact than its Brazilian, or even Peruvian and Colombian, counterparts, the Ecuadorian Amazon packs a wildlife-spotting punch considerably larger than its diminutive size. Home to over 600 species of bird and 250 different amphibians and reptiles - including caimans - it is a wildlife lover's dream.
Potentially the world's most iconic destination, Antarctica is also home to some of its most iconic wildlife. Barely a year goes by without Sir David Attenborough toying with our emotions as he narrates the love lives of penguins, seals or colossal squid. Head south and experience the unique landscape for yourself.
Peru's capital is at the epicentre of a wonderful resurgence in the country's passionate cuisine scene. Miraflores, our favourite Peruvian neighbourhood, is home to scrumptious seafood restaurants serving up traditional ceviche with punchy Pisco sours, making for a memorable evening foodie tour.
Mendoza's pure mountain spring water and consistent climate are responsible for what is, possibly, one of the most underrated wine regions in the world. Deeply romantic visits to local wineries - getting drunk on more than just love - are a must. As is staying in a vineyard hotel, complete with divine wine spa tub for two.
Thinking about a Latin American adventure? Get in touch with the team today.