Latin America, where Spanish, French and Portuguese jostle in a hubbub of vibrant cultures, landscapes and peoples.
This sprawling mass includes only twelve sovereign countries (including Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and Uruguay), alongside French Guiana (technically part of France), and the disputed British Overseas Territory of the Falkland Islands. That’s despite covering an awe-inspiring area of almost 7 million square miles.
Its countries are mostly large, but the diversity contained within them - and even within one city in one country - illustrate the fact that South America is bold, diverse, and unique.
Most of the continent’s population gather near the coasts at the east and west, whilst vast swathes of the interior remain untouched; glorious pristine wilderness.
Brazil is South America’s largest country. It’s where more than half of the population of the whole continent live. Alongside amazing wilderness in the Amazon interior, Brazil contains bustling cities like Rio de Janeiro (with its famous Ipanema and Copacabana beaches, sitting beneath the outstretched arms of the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue) and Sao Paolo, offering up diverse arts and cultural experiences, as well as the constant backdrop of music (especially if you visit Rio at Carnival time), and a passion for food.
In Salvador, African-Brazilian heritage intertwines, offering delicious food, the amazing dance-come-martial arts spectacle which is capoeira, and a party atmosphere. It’s truly when gliding through the Amazon’s tributaries, weaving through green and lush forests in a canoe, keeping silent watch for the elusive jaguar, though, that you understand the true richness of this enormous country.
The wonders of Peru keep on coming. Its capital, Lima, is a true South American foodie must-see (it’s the only city in the world to host two of the world’s top ten restaurants, from the top 50 list). There is also Cusco, which is perched up in the Peruvian Andes, and positively overflowing with Spanish and Incan influences. Many travellers know Peru for its ancient seat of empire, of course - Machu Picchu. Cusco is a great starting point from which to tackle the hike to this 15th century Incan citadel, perched almost 2500 metres above sea level.
Amazing Bolivia nestles between Peru and Brazil. With its landscape of salt flats, ancient forests and lakes, all set against the backdrop of the Andes, it offers potentially some of South America’s most implausibly photogenic scenes - though it’s a hard-fought contest in this fabulous continent.
Stretching down from the bottom of Peru through the whole length of South America, Chile offers 4000 miles of rugged coastline. A thin 200 miles wide at maximum, it is cut off from the rest of the continent by those snow-capped Andes to the east, and 1000 kilometres of beautiful, barren Atacama desert to the north, separating it from Peru.
It takes in all sorts of climates as it stretches south, with the geographical extremes of its landscape reflected in the diverse lives of its population, from the altiplano’s alpaca herders to Patagonia’s cowboy gauchos to the high business of the capital, Santiago. Transfer from Chile to Easter Island, to face the ancient wonder of the Moai statues.
Even further south, of course, lies Antarctica. Most Antarctica trips start from the most southerly city in the world - the Argentine city of Ushuaia, in the southern reaches of Patagonia. Head from here out around the world-famous Cape Horn, across the Drake Passage and into the ice-cold, glacial waters of the Antarctic Peninsula.
This wonderous continent has so much richness to offer. Get in touch today to get advice on making the most of your Latin America tour.