7 first-time trips to Latin America

Latin America spans an entire continent and more, which leaves a challenge when planning your first trip. Where to begin? These tours will introduce you to one of the world's unmissable regions
The National Park Torres del Paine, Patagonia. Photo: Shutterstock
The National Park Torres del Paine, Patagonia. Photo: Shutterstock

The Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia. Photo: Shutterstock

Insight Guides has inspired travellers around-the-world with guidebooks, maps and more for over 40 years. Now we're taking travellers to the world's most unique destinations too. Below we've picked our favourite ways to see Latin America for the first time

1. An intro to the Incas

What? A whirlwind tour including the capital city Lima, Cusco and the Sacred Valley
Where? Peru
Which tour? Peru Express

Peru is a country of ancient wonders, this tour will no doubt introduce you to the best of them. First-time visitors should begin in Lima, where you'll start with a shot of Peruvian culture, visiting the city's best museums, architecture and more. Next, travelling to the magnificent city of Cusco, located high-up in the Andes Mountains, you'll learn about the history this country is home to. Using this as your base, you'll visit tiny hill-towns in the Sacred Valley, discovering the local, traditional way of life. Saving the best until last, the final full day is used to explore the mighty Machu Picchu, the world-famous Incan Empire. 

2. Explore the great outdoors 

What? Take in Patagonia's wilderness
Where? Patagonia
Which tour? Wild Patagonia

Where to start with this holiday? If you're keen to get outside when you travel, this trip is for you. Patagonia provides some of Latin America's greatest landscapes and opportunities for outdoor adventures. Spending two days hiking in Torres del Paine, you can choose from classic, easy hikes to more demanding routes, depending on your fitness level. Alternatively, you can explore the majestic mountains by horseback or from the comfort of a car. This trip also takes in the awe-inspiring Perito Moreno Glacier and some of the region's most beautiful lakes too.

Sloth in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica.

Sloth in Puerto Viejo, Costa Rica. Photo: Shutterstock

3. Tour an entire country

What? Journey across Costa Rica, from the Pacific Coast to the Atlantic
Where? Costa Rica
Which tour? Coast to Coast

Travel from one side of the country to the other, taking in wild beaches, lush jungles and spotting wildlife as you go. This is an intro to Latin America like no other. After exploring the capital city San José and the volcano-dotted landscapes of the Central Valley, you'll travel in search of turtles in Tortuguero National Park, off the Caribbean coast. Next, head back across the country to the beautiful coastal area of Pacific Tamarindo, with stops in classic destinations Arenal and Monteverde along the way. Visit coffee and sugar plantations, go on volcano treks and experience the jungle and its wildlife inhabitants at night. Whether you prefer lazy days on the beach or an adrenalin-packed adventure, both are never far from reach.

4. Take to the water

What? Discover one of the world's most famous archipelagos 
Where? The Galapagos Islands
Which tour? Cruising the Galapagos (Western Islands on M/Y Beluga)

If you're looking to spot some of the best wildlife in the world on your first-time trip to Latin America, plan your trip to the Galapagos Islands. This luxury cruise onboard the Beluga motor yacht takes in the central and western outlying islands of the Galápagos. From Santa Cruz to Floreana and up to Elizabeth Bay, you’ll be greeted by sea turtles and stunning scenery before looping round to Santiago to visit popular Puerto Egas on its west coast with its marine iguanas and fur seals. Another highlight is the small island of Bartolomé, home to spectacular crater views, equatorial penguins and great snorkelling opportunities. Don't forget your binoculars and camera!

Pyramid of the Sun, Teotihuacan, Mexico. Photo: Shutterstock

5. A riot of culture and history 

What? A journey through fascinating Mexico
Where? Mexico
Which tour? Mexico City to the Yucatan 

This Central American destination offers a trip to Latin America like no other. Beginning in Mexico City, you'll explore world-famous artworks, museums and more, before discovering the capital best restaurants and places to party like the locals. It also makes for an ideal base to journey further afield on day trips: the pre-Hispanic ruins at Teotihuacán are unmissable. Your next stop is the Yucatán Peninsula. Stay in Mérida with its whitewashed houses and colonial charm and visit the wonderful Maya ruins at Uxmal. From here, Playa del Carmen's beaches beckon, with their warm Carribean waters and soft sand shores... What are you waiting for?  

6. A local tipple or two

What? Taste Chilean wines, try out a little tango and explore historic cities
Where? Argentina and Chile
Which tour? Wine Country Explored

We're partial to a glass or two of wine, and where better to sample it than the world's greatest producers in Chile and Argentina? This journey begins in Buenos Aires, where you'll not just get a taste of wine but tango too. Travelling to the north-west, you'll enjoy lush landscapes and high-altitude towns like Humahuaca and its colourful gorge that was once part of the Camino Inca. Shop for keepsakes at traditional craft markets, visit old plazas and churches and sample different grape varieties in Mendoza and the Uco Valley. Then head into Chile to stay in the capital Santiago. Surrounded by the spectacular snow-caped Andes, you'll get to visit the city's plazas, museums, and finest historic buildings before your tour of a local winery and a chance to taste some great Chilean wines.

Argentinian Mendoza annual grape harvest festival, with 40,000 visitors come to celebrate and enjoy the local nectar. Photo: Shutterstock

7. Coffee, culture and cracking coastlines

What? A tour of Colombia's highlights
South America's most northern country: Colombia
Which tour? 
Discover Colombia

Intensely beautiful and seductive, and beset with colourful colonial cities, Colombia's allure is strong: experience the best of the country on this itinerary with Insight Guides. Travel from Bogotá in the backdrop of the misty Andes and back up to Cartagena with its old-world charm, stopping off for horseback rides, coffee plantation tours and hikes along the way.

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