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
Credit: travelgalapagosnow / Instagram

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

Credit: omgitsjustintime / Instagram

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

Credit: whaleyandcompany / Instagram

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

Credit: cusco.expedition / Instagram

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

Credit: danieloliveira516 / Instagram

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

Credit: omrikicohen / Instagram

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

Credit: julifph / Instagram

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

Credit: fincatikalnatural / Instagram

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

Credit: ninouf_ / Instagram

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!

Indigenous People In Guatemala Marched On Their Capitol In Support Of Evo Morales

Things That Matter

Indigenous People In Guatemala Marched On Their Capitol In Support Of Evo Morales

evoespueblo / Twitter

South America’s poorest country, Bolivia, is in the midst of a political crisis, and Guatemala’s indigenous people are marching in solidarity with ousted Bolivian President Evo Morales. After the Guatemalan government joined the United States in recognizing extreme right self-appointed Jeanine Anez as the interim president of Bolivia, Guatemala’s indigenous people expressed their outrage in an organized protest. Hundreds of indigenous people marched in Guatemala’s capital Thursday to protest the change of government, which they view as a coup d’etat of Bolivia’s first indigenous president. With a “Brother Evo, Guatemala is with you” banner in hand, the protesters marched toward a heavily guarded US embassy. The next day, Morales announced that he won’t be “taking part in new elections.”

Before Morales rose to the presidency, he was a campesino activist, representing indigenous traditions and customs under attack by the US government. “We are repudiating the discriminatory and racist coup d’etat that took place in Bolivia,” said Mauro Vay, march organizer and head of Guatemala’s Rural Development Committee. 

Protesters proudly waved the wiphala flags, an indigenous symbol of solidarity.

CREDIT: @UKREDREVOLUTION / TWITTER

This man held an image that told the story of a thousand words. As a child, Evo Morales’ family were subsistence farmers, which allowed him to enjoy a basic education. He later moved to grow coca, the raw plant used to make cocaine. During the U.S.’ “War on Drugs,” coca farmers were under attack. Morales rose to defend the campesinos from what he called an imperialist violation of indigenous culture. His protests may have led to several arrests, but his notoriety grew to elect him to Congress as the leader of the Movement for Socialism (MAS) party. 

In Paraguay, Bolivian ex-patriates went up against the police to rehang the wiphala flag at the Bolivian embassy.

CREDIT: @WILL_J_COSTA / TWITTER

Several indigenous residents of Paraguay arrived at the Bolivian embassy to hang the Wiphala flag, which was reportedly taken down. They faced police resistance but eventually succeeded. The next day, the flag was removed. 

In 2005, Morales ran against former President Carlos Mesa and won, becoming the first indigenous president of Bolivia. 

CREDIT: @BRETGUSTAFSON / TWITTER

Then, it gets murky. By the time his first term was over, MAS rewrote their constitution to lift the one-term limit on presidents. Morales ran for a second term and won. Even though he claimed he wouldn’t run for a third term, Morales claimed the first term didn’t count because it was completed under the old constitution.  So he ran again and won for the third time. In October 2019, Morales ran for his fourth term, and won by a small margin, prompting a recount.

Just 24 hours into the recount, Morales ordered the recount to an end and declared himself president over his opponent, former president Mesa. the Organization of American States (OAS) conducted an audit that flagged the election as possibly fraudulent.

The OAS is not in the service of the people of Latin America, less so the social movements. The OAS is at the service of the North American empire,” Morales later said. Still, protests erupted across the country.

In a quickly developing government coup, military chiefs removed Morales.

CREDIT: @FAFASCHMITT / TWITTER

On Nov. 10, General Williams Kaliman, the commander of Bolivia’s armed forces, decided, along with other military chiefs, that Morales should step down. Morales tweeted, “I denounce to the world and the Bolivian people that a police officer publicly announced that he is instructed to execute an illegal arrest warrant against me; likewise, violent groups assaulted my home. A coup destroys the rule of law.” He added, “After looting and trying to set fire to my house in Villa Victoria, vandalism groups of the Mesa and Camacho coup docked my home in the Magisterio neighborhood of Cochabamba. I am very grateful to my neighbors, who stopped those raids. A coup destroys peace.”

Mexico offered him asylum and sent a plane to escort Morales to Mexico City.

CREDIT: @EVOESPUEBLO / TWITTER

“This was my first night after leaving the presidency, forced by the coup of Mesa and Camacho with the help of the Police. There I remembered my times as a leader. Very grateful to my brothers from the federations of the Tropic of Cochabamba for providing security and care,” Morales tweeted. Right-wing Christian opponent, Luis Fernando Camacho, also called “Bolivia’s Bolsonaro,” led violent protests against Morales and his Indigenous supporters, burning Bolivia’s Indigenous Wiphala flag. 

Mexico, Cuba, Uruguay, Nicaragua, Venezuela, and Argentina have maintained that his removal from office was a coup. The United States, led by a right-wing president, has recognized Bolivia’s interim right-wing president as valid.

Morales announced Friday that he won’t run for president in the reelection “for the sake of democracy.”

CREDIT: @VERSOBOOKS / TWITTER

Morales resigned Sunday after protests left four people dead. “For the sake of democracy, if they don’t want me to take part, I have no problem not taking part in new elections,” Morales told Reuters while remaining in asylum. “I just wonder why there is so much fear of Evo,” he offered.

READ: A US-Backed Opposition Leader Has Declared Herself President Of Bolivia Amid Outrage At Her Comments About Indigenous Bolivians

The Trump Administration Took Another Swipe At Cuba By Banning Almost All Flights To The Island

Things That Matter

The Trump Administration Took Another Swipe At Cuba By Banning Almost All Flights To The Island

Joe Raedle / Getty Images

From Day One the Trump Administration made it clear that they wouldn’t be continuing the same diplomatic efforts with Cuba that the Obama Administration had started. Trump has indicated he is not a fan of the current Cuban regime nor Obama’s rapprochement and there were plenty of right-leaning Cuban-Americans who have supported his plans.

However, Trump’s latest move against the island risks not only angering American tourists who wish to visit the Communist island nation but also those same Cuban-Americans who wish to visit their family members still living on the island.

A new rule bans all flights to Cuba outside of the capital of Havana.

The Trump administration is banning U.S. flights to all Cuban cities but Havana in the latest move to roll back the Obama-era easing of relations.

The State Department said JetBlue flights to Santa Clara in central Cuba and the eastern cities of Holguin, Camaguey would be banned starting in December. American Airlines flights to Camaguey, Holguin and Santa Clara, the beach resort of Varadero and the eastern city of Santiago are also being banned.

Flights to Havana, which account for the great majority of U.S. flights to Cuba, will remain legal.

The stated reason for the move is to prevent tourism to Cuba, which is banned by U.S. law. But it is not clear how many people take the flights for tourism purposes. Many are used by Cuban-Americans visiting relatives in cities far from Havana by road.

“This action will prevent the Castro regime from profiting from U.S. air travel and using the revenues to repress the Cuban people,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said on Twitter. Raul Castro stepped down as president last year but remains head of the Communist Party, the country’s highest authority. 

The ban, which goes into effect on Dec. 10, was announced Friday by the Department of Transportation.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a letter to Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao that the flights are being suspended indefinitely because of Cuba’s repression of its people and support for Venezuela’s President Nicolás Maduro.

An excerpt of the letter said the move was to “further the administration’s policy of strengthening the economic consequences to the Cuban regime for its ongoing repression of the Cuban people and its support” for Maduro.

Two major US-based airlines and travelers with tickets already purchased with them will be affected by this latest crackdown.

American Airlines and JetBlue both fly routes to cities in Cuba other than Havana and will have to end those routes in accordance with the new regulations.

JetBlue said in a statement Friday that it plans to operate in full compliance with the new policy.

“We are beginning to work with our various government and commercial partners to understand the full impact of this change on our customers and operations in Camagüey, Holguín and Santa Clara,” the airline said.

American Airlines said it was also working to comply. American said it currently operates 11 daily flights in Cuba, six of which are in Havana.

“We are reviewing today’s announcement regarding service to non-Havana airports in Cuba,” the airline said in a statement. “We will continue to comply with federal law, work with the administration, and update our policies and procedures regarding travel to Cuba as necessary.”

The White House’s restrictions are yet another roll back of the friendlier relationship President Obama began with Cuba before the end of his administration.

In June the Department of the Treasury and the State Departmentsaid group educational or cultural trips to Cuba, or “people-to-people” travel, would no longer be permitted.

“Veiled tourism has served to line the pockets of the Cuban military, the very same people supporting Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela and repressing the Cuban people on the island,” the Department of State said in a statement at the time.

Last year the State Department added 26 tourist attractions to a long list of restricted sites Americans are barred from visiting in Cuba, including hotels, marinas and shops.

It is still legal for Americans to visit Cuba, though the increased sanctions and restrictions on travel have dampened interest and reduced tourism dramatically.