Culture

These 9 South American Trip Ideas Will Have You On The Next Plane South In No Time

South America has something everyone can enjoy. The fourth largest continent in the world is home to a vibrant blend of Latin American and Indigenous cultures, fantastic food, fierce football, chocolate, coffee, rainforests, music, romance, and passion. Most of it comes at affordable prices, and most of us already speak the language — so really, what are you waiting for?

The continent is also home to majestic levels of ecological diversity, attracting millions of tourists each year to traverse its jungles, climb its towering peaks, and swim in its crystalline seas.

From the world’s highest waterfall and largest river to the longest mountain range and largest rainforest, a vacation to any one of South America’s 12 countries is a totally unforgettable experience from start to finish.

Island-hop in Ecuador’s Galapagos  

Snorkeling with Galapagos green sea turtle, Santiago Island, Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
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It’s a challenge to uncover a more bucket list-worthy trip in South America than the jaw-droppingly spectacular Galapagos Islands. A chain of 19 islands and dozens of islets formed after a series of volcanic eruptions millions of years ago, it’s a magical place that will linger in your mind long after leaving. But be sure to visit with a trusted tour operator as they’ll provide a knowledgeable guide and you won’t want to miss out on any of the fascinating information.

Do you have the ganas to snorkel in turquoise waters with hammerhead sharks, graceful manta rays, playful sea lions, and turtles? Yeah, thought so. You’ll also see giant tortoises in their natural habitat, hike an active volcano, and spotting wildlife is easy. If you’re more the adventurous type, go kayaking in deep blue lagunas.

Backpacking along Colombia’s Caribbean Coast and Coffee Regions

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There’s a reason Colombia is consistently voted among the happiest countries in the world; it offers a spectacular combination of breathtaking biodiversity, Instagram-worthy beaches, and friendly people. Just a few hours’ flight from the US lies Colombia’s Caribbean coast and coffee region. It’s an easy trip that can be tackled in two to three weeks on your own, via the affordable and safe buses that ferry tourists and locals around.

Fly into Cartagena, the sparkling colonial jewel of the country which is comprised of pastel-painted buildings and lively nightlife. From there, catch a bus along to Santa Marta where you can arrange trips to the isolated town of Minca. Nestled in the Colombian Sierra Nevada mountains, Minca offers amazing views overlooking the Caribbean seas and unique backpacker hostels.

Then, head back down the hills to uncover some pristine coastal rainforest at Parque de Tayrona, a protected national park filled with monkeys, lizards, and parrots where you can camp or spend the day. The beach-bum town of Palomino on the coast is also worth a trip — tubing down a river and sunning yourself in a hammock are the main attractions, along with hikes to nearby indigenous communities in the mountains. Next, it’s on to the coffee country in Salento, a rural town that offers serene mountain views, amazing architecture, and paisa hospitality with a smile.

Cruise the Amazon River Through Brazil’s Rainforest

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Exploring the Amazon jungle sounds like a difficult task right? But if you opt for an eco-friendly river cruise, you can uncover the areas’ mysterious wildlife from the comfort of a chill boat. You’ll have the chance to see the magical meeting of the waters, where the sediment-filled River Negro mixes with the black, nutrient-rich Amazon River. Wake up early to watch the sky turn from pink to orange. Go on adventures to spot multi-colored macaws, blue butterflies and Amazon kingfishers. The Brazilian Amazon is also the only place on Earth you can see pink dolphins!

From your boat, you can hop on kayaks or canoes to explore further into the flooded forests to see monkeys hanging from trees or giant sloths lounging on branches.

Get Cultural in Paraguay

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Lesser-known and understated in its beauty, Paraguay is perfect for the explorer keen to find a road less traveled. You won’t see tourists at every landmark here, and it’s not a country for those in search of lively bars and pumping adventure, but you will find exotic lakes, thriving nightlife, artisan workshops, and impressive colonial towns. The terrain is varied and exciting with the subtropical Atlantic Forest in the east and the dry wildlife of Chaco on the other side of the country.

Visit Patagonia

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Few places on the planet are as magical as Patagonia, which as long tempted travelers after pure adventure. Situated at the southernmost tip of South America, Patagonia is dotted with dramatic glaciers, towering forests and pristine lakes. But even though it’s 400,000 square miles of breathtakingly barren land, with a bit of forward planning you can cover a fair amount of ground and see a lot. For organized trekking and established tourism, head to the national parks in the northern lake districts of Argentina (Los Glaciares) and Chile (Torres del Paine)

Spot Jaguar in Guyana

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This lesser-traveled South American country with a strong Caribbean culture borders Brazil and Venezuela and is working hard to shed its reputation as turbulent and hard-to-navigate after years of political strife. Today it’s much safer and is rich in dense forests and colorful ranches, meaning that travelers who don’t mind the rustic edge can enjoy one of the continent’s best-kept ecotourism secrets. Take the pressure off organizing something yourself and head to the area with Steppes Travel who’ll take you to search for jaguars in the Iwokrama Rainforest, paddling in the world’s highest free-falling waterfall, Kaieteur Falls, and visiting the colonial capital city, Georgetown.

Get Wet and Wild in Brazil’s Iguazu Falls

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The Iguazu Falls are world-famous waterfalls of the Iguazu River which flow through Brazil and Argentina, situated in lush and protected land that’s teeming with incredible wildlife. Do the falls yourself, as part of a long expedition through Brazil, or on a flying visit to the area from Sao Paulo or Rio. Feel the spray of the falls on your face before heading into the steamy Amazon for excursions into the jungle as well as piranha fishing and pink dolphin-spotting.

Drink All The Wines in Chile and Argentina

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If you’re up for seeing a lot in a little amount of time, and its style, culture and cuisine you crave, head to Argentina and Chile. Wine-lovers start off in the artistic region of Santiago, with its snow-capped mountains and vibrant markets. Later it’s onto Casablanca Valley, Chile’s fastest growing wine region, and the ambient World Heritage port city of Valparaiso, before a visit to magnificent Mendoza, where the famous Malbec wine is produced. After a stop-off in the relaxing area of Estancias, you’ll finish up in Argentina’s energetic capital of Buenos Aires, where you’ll be able to immerse yourself in its enchanting streets and mix of European and Latin culture, with a dance at a tango bar or rich meal of steak and red wine. Heaven.

Uncover the Best of Bolivia and Argentina

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Immerse yourself in some Latin American culture with an adventure through Bolivia and Argentina. Tick the Bolivian Uyuni salt flats off your bucket list before taking in the incredible Atacama Desert, the driest place on earth which boasts flamingos bathing in mineral lakes and an everlasting supply of cacti. If you’re into colonial architecture and eclectic cities, this trip also takes you to Buenos Aires in Argentina, where you’ll dine on great food and explore some incredible neighborhoods as well as La Paz, a city renowned for its incredible markets.

So what are you waiting for? Book your trip to South America!

The U.S. Passport Was Once The World’s Strongest, It’s Fallen To 25th Place Thanks To Failed Leadership Amid Coronavirus

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The U.S. Passport Was Once The World’s Strongest, It’s Fallen To 25th Place Thanks To Failed Leadership Amid Coronavirus

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Not that we should be traveling right now, as the country’s Coronavirus pandemic continues to spiral out of control – but it’s worth noting that our international options are fewer than they were just months ago.

Historically, the U.S. passport has been seen as the golden ticket to travel with ease across the international community as it was once regarded as one of the strongest passports in the world. But that’s changing.

You can blame the drop in standing of the U.S. passport on our elected leaders who have massively failed to gain an upper hand on this health crisis. As other countries have demonstrated an ability to control Coronavirus within their borders, the U.S. has failed miserably. And that failure – in addition to more than 3 million infections and 130,000 deaths – has resulted in Americans simply being turned away from international destinations.

The U.S. passport dropped in visa-free access from 7th to 25th place as a result of our Coronavirus failures.

In what is a double whammy for the United States, the country recently crossed the three-million mark in terms of the number of registered COVID-19 cases, and more than 132,000 people have died from the disease. Now, its handling of the pandemic has drastically diminished power of its passport. 

Before the pandemic, the U.S. was regularly listed in the Top 10 on the Henley Passport Index, an annual ranking of the number of countries a passport gets you into without a visa. The ranking is based on data from the International Air Transport Association. The US usually comes in sixth or seventh and topped the list as recently as 2014. Before the coronavirus pandemic, a US passport would get you into 185 destinations around the world without the need for a visa at all or a visa on arrival.

According to the latest Henley Passport Index, U.S. passports now have access to only 158 countries, putting it on par with a Mexican passport, a significant decline from its previous top 10 ranking in 2014.

“We see an emergence of a new global hierarchy in terms of mobility, with countries that have effectively managed the pandemic taking the lead, and countries that have handled it poorly falling behind,” says Christian Kaelin, chairman of Henley & Partners, according to Forbes.

The biggest drop came as a result of the European Union banning entry to U.S. citizens.

Many countries across the globe are beginning to open back up as they get their Coronavirus outbreaks under control, and they are limiting or banning travel with countries where the virus is running rampant — including the United States. 

In fact, as Europe has slowly started to reopen its borders to international tourists, it’s specifically left off the U.S. Europe’s decision is responsible for the largest drop in the power of the U.S. passport.

Recently, five Americans who flew to Sardinia on a private jet were turned away and governors in Mexico are advocating for tighter border measures to prevent Americans from going into the country and spreading the virus. 

The U.S. passport is now equal in strength to that of Mexico and Uruguay.

It’s no secret that citizenship is the main factor behind preserving global inequalities today and that simply holding a U.S. passport can grant you access to so many more destinations. But now, Americans are getting to swee just how your government’s actions – or failures – can result in you being treated differently on the global level.

Thanks to America’s failure at combating the virus, U.S. citizens now hold passports that have around the same level of travel freedom as citizens of Mexico (#25 on Henley Passport Index, with a score of 159) and Uruguay (#28, with a score of 153).

Coronavirus continues to rage out of control across the U.S., so it should go without saying that an international trip is not a good idea right now.

Countries are closing their doors to Americans, as the outbreak in the US — the worst in the world — nears 3 million infections with over 131,000 deaths.

The US last week surpassed 50,000 new daily coronavirus cases, and that trend has been maintained this week with multiple states and cities recording record-high new infections, hospitalizations, or deaths. 

Another factor playing into travel restrictions – beyond the surging of cases in the U.S., is that America’s health care system is decentralized, unpredictable and unequal.

Tourism is essential for the economies of many destinations—and the livelihoods of individuals and families—and plays a role in reducing poverty. But right now is not the time for Americans to be traveling.

Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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Mexico Plans To Reopen Cancun To International Tourists But It’s Not At All Prepared For Visitors

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There are millions of people just itching for a vacation right now, and Cancun wants to welcome visitors with open arms. However, there’s a huge problem with their plan. Most of the country is still in a severe phase of the pandemic – with all 32 states reporting daily increases in confirmed Covid-19 cases.

In cities such as Guadalajara and Mexico City, even locals aren’t allowed to venture far from their homes and restrictions on shopping, dining, and exercising are still in full force.

However, the country’s president, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO), has resumed his cross-country travels and is trying to portray a ‘new normal’ – the problem is little has changed to prevent further outbreaks.

Cancun is aiming to open its doors to tourists from June 10 – but it makes zero sense given the actual situation on the ground.

Quintana Roo, home to the famed beaches of Cancun and Tulum, will resume activities next week – according to the governor, Carlos Joaquin Gonzalez. The state, which depends heavily on tourism, has lost over 83,000 jobs in the last few months due to the pandemic, and with reopening the state could see an economic rebound. However, that entirely depends on the success and implementation of safety measures.

In a press conference, the governor said that tourists could start arriving in the Caribbean destination as soon as June 8th. He added that tourism is an essential activity and that there is no other of greater importance in Quintana Roo “and we are going to fight for it to be considered that way.”

He stressed during the public address that for the opening to happen by June 10th, protocols and hygiene measures must be followed to protect workers and tourists from Covid-19.

And he has good reason to reopen. According to a new survey by Expedia, ‘Cancun flights’ is one of the top 5 searches on the platform. In the same survey, Playa del Carmen, Cancun and Isla Mujeres (all located in Quintana Roo) were announced as three of the most internationally sought after destinations.

Meanwhile, AMLO has launched a cross-country tour touting the lifting of Coronavirus restrictions.

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President AMLO also held his daily press conference from the state of Quintana Roo to mark the beginning of Mexico’s economic reopening and resume his tours across the country.

But this too makes zero sense. Yes, the government has mandated that states can begin lifting restrictions – if they’re no longer declared ‘red zones.’ However, every state in the country is still in the red, with many seeing peak infection numbers.

It’s just the most recent example of confusing messaging from the president.

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While AMLO is eager to get the country reopened and put Mexicans back to work, Coronavirus cases continue to rise across the country. Mexico has now recorded the seventh-highest number of Covid-19 deaths in the world, according to the Johns Hopkins tracker, with nearly 10,000 virus-related fatalities and almost 100,000 confirmed cases. Testing in the country is low and health officials acknowledge that the numbers are likely much higher.

The federal government unveiled a red-light/green-light system to implement reopening procedures state by state. But currently every state is still in ‘red-light’ phase – meaning stay-at-home orders are still in full effect – making AMLO’s messaging extremely confusing.

Time and time again, the president has downplayed the virus outbreak and has criticized stay-at-home orders for harming the economy.

Keep in mind, however, that non-essential travel between the U.S. and Mexico is still largely banned.

Since March, all non-essential travel has been banned between the U.S. and Mexico. However, that ban is currently set to expire on June 22. It’s possible both sides could extend the travel ban, but given AMLO’s rhetoric it isn’t likely he’ll keep the country closed to tourists for much longer.

However, it’s important to point that out even if you technically can travel – right now you really shouldn’t. In much of Mexico, confirmed Covid-19 cases are on the rise with many cities across the country just now entering it’s worst phase.