Things That Matter

These Stunning Photos Come From Actual Places In Latin America That Are Totally Easy To Visit This Summer

One of the most incredible experiences I have ever had in my life is visiting a cenote in the Riviera Maya in Mexico. I remember so vividly paddling in a little boat on top of an underground river, surrounded by the natural cave and being in awe of everything. In fact, it was one of the most surreal experiences of my life — which totally makes sense since Latin America is absolutely full of surreal, beautiful places to visit.

From Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia to the Marble Caves in Chile/Argentina to the Cave of Crystals in Mexico to the Viñales Valley in Cuba, there is incredible, natural beauty all over the Americas and the Caribbean. You’ll never believe all of the different things you can see, from deserts to glaciers to incredible valleys filled with so much greenery. And there’s even a rainbow river! If you want to travel to some of the most obscenely incredible sites in the world, then check out these 21 most surreal places in Latin America.

1. Cenote Samula, Valladolid, Mexico

CREDIT: vagando_por_mexico/Instagram

The Mexican cenote is a beautiful thing and, in case you didn’t know, it is a natural sinkhole that exposes the groundwater underneath — and has become a wonderful place to swim, particularly in the Yucatán Peninsula. This one is one of the majestic ones that you’ll definitely want to see.

2. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

CREDIT: torresdelpaine/Instagram

This gorgeous national park, located in Chile’s Patagonia region, is well-known for the beautiful soaring mountains and bright blue icebergs, plus grasslands that house wildlife such as the llama-like guanacos. There are seemingly endless places to go, and you’ll want to stay here forever.

3. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

CREDIT: dudewheresmypassport/Instagram

When you go to Bolivia, you absolutely must stop by the southwest part of the country to visit the Andes mountains and Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat. This is the result of a prehistoric lake that went dry and left us with a desert-like landscape of bright-white salt and rock formations… And it’s beautiful, no?

4. Mount Roraima, Venezuela

CREDIT: conocevenezuela/Instagram

Nestled safely in Venezuela, though also touching Brazil and Guayana, is this beautiful and unique “floating island” plateau that actually sits 1,2000 feet above the forest floor. This natural wonder is very much worth visiting on your next trip to South America. It’s surreal and will surely take your breath away to stare up at this gorgeous mount.

5. Marble Caves, General Carrera Lake, Chile-Argentina

CREDIT: passionpassport/Instagram

This lake, located in Patagonia, is deep and beautiful… and has a glacial origin since it is surrounded by the Andes mountains. Meanwhile, the Marble Caves, which are here, were actually formed by wave action over the last 6,2000 years and are one of the most wonderful parts to see at this lake… But don’t worry, there’s plenty more here, too. 

6. Cueva Ventana, Puerto Rico

CREDIT: g.sullivan97/Instagram

If you’re still heartbroken over the devastation of Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico, then you should know that so are we… But the good thing is that we can do something about it, like travel to Puerto Rico and support the country with volunteer efforts and our tourism dollars. Of course, if you’re there, you will want to head to the limestone cliff in Arecibo, where you can find this large cave that overlooks the Río Grande de Arecibo valley. Isn’t it gorgeous?

7. Perito Moreno Glacier, Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

CREDIT: lucaspereiraphoto/Instagram

Los Glaciares National Park is one of the most beautiful places you can visit in Argentina, and I highly encourage you to go there ASAP. But you’ll want to know where to go, right? Well, the Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the most impressive to see and likely one of the most important (and surreal!) tourist attractions in the country. You’ll definitely be impressed.

8. Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Brazil

CREDIT: brunoferrucio/Instagram

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is located in the northeastern area of Brazil, and a splendor to see. This area, which is roughly 580 square miles, is full of low, flat, and occasionally flooded land, along with plenty of sand dunes. And, get this: There is abundant rain but almost no vegetation! Heading there to take a dip in some of the waters might be one of the most memorable experiences of your life.

9. Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

CREDIT: elisepoiffaut/Instagram

This shallow salt lake is a wonder to see, mainly because the white color of the borax islands contrasts with the reddish color of its waters (which is caused by red sediments and pigmentation of some algae). It’s a wonder to see, and you will absolutely love your time there. The colors, the views, all of it… So surreal!

10. Valley of the Moon, Atacama Desert, Chile

CREDIT: nick.bailey360/Instagram

Located west of the Andes mountains and primarily in Chile, this desert plateau is actually the driest desert in the world and home to many beautiful views such as this one from the Valley of the Moon. Beyond that, there is plenty of stony terrain, tons of salt lakes, salad, and felsic lava that flows towards the Andes and catches my breath every single time. Wow. Just wow!

11. Rio Secreto, Riveira Maya, Mexico

CREDIT: riosecreto/Instagram

As I mentioned earlier, the Riviera Maya has a lot of beautiful, natural caves with rivers — such as the Rio Secreto that is one of the most spectacular underground rivers around. There are tons of hiking and swimming excursions, too, where you can marvel at the splendor while surrounded by stalactites and stalagmites. And the river itself, of course.

12. Colca Canyon, Peru

CREDIT: mlodzinskiphoto/Instagram

This river canyon, located in southern Peru, is one of the world’s deepest and also a well-known trekking destination. The landscape has green valleys and remote traditional villages, and you can even head down to the Colca River for rafting. Just don’t forget to be ready for R&R because you will surely be relaxed and rested after a trip here. Just look at those breathtaking views!

13. Altos de Chavón, Dominican Republic

CREDIT: 7xijosdavid/Instagram

The Altos de Chavón is actually a re-created Mediterranean-style European village that is located atop the Chavón River in the Dominican Republic, but you’ll want to head here not only to see the adorable little town but also the nature that surrounds it. Just look at this gorgeous river, and tell me you don’t want to stare at it forever… 

14. Iguazu Falls, Argentina-Brazil

CREDIT: iguazufalls/Instagram

Bordering both Argentina and Brazil, these waterfalls are known to be one of the most beautiful in the world and with good reason. The magic seen here is impossible to describe and you will feel as if you stepped into a surreal world of incredible beauty. Trust me, you’ll want to come here and breathe in all of the fresh air and just marvel in how incredibly special all of this is.

15. Cave of Crystals, Naica, Chihuahua, Mexico

CREDIT: acrisiomelo/Instagram

If you’ve ever dreamed of stepping into a crystal cave (and who hasn’t, amirite?), then your wishes can come true in the Chihuahua region of Mexico. The main cave chamber actually contains giant selenite crystals, which are some of the largest natural crystals ever found. Surprisingly, the cave is also extremely hot and is relatively unexplored because of the heat and humidity. If you go, make sure that you have proper protection… and probably only stay for about 10 minutes.

16. Caño Cristales River, Meta, Colombia

CREDIT: neotropicexpeditions/Instagram

This Colombian river is a beautiful place to go on your search for the surreal beauty that you can only find in South America. This river is often called the “River of Five Colors” or the “Liquid Rainbow” because it is, indeed, the most beautiful river in the world thanks to the variously colored plants that make the bed of the river light up with yellow, green, blue, black, and especially red from July to November. 

17. Catatumbo Lightning, Venezuela

CREDIT: earth_timeline/Instagram

Prepare to be completely amazing: The Catatumbo Lightning is an atmospheric phenomenon that happens in Venezuela, and it occurs only over the mouth of the Catatumbo River where it emboss into Lake Maracaibo. Basically, about 140-160 nights of the year, a mass of storm clouds originates over the lake and lightning strikes for up to 10 hours a day and up to 180 times per hour. Although it differs year to year, it is absolutely AH-mazing to see.

18. Semuc Champey, Guatemala

CREDIT: leelooledoux/Instagram

You will never believe how surreal this beautiful, natural moment in Alta Verapaz, Guatemala, is when you visit. Consisting of a natural limestone bridge, plenty of turquoise pools, and many more other things. You’ll be in plenty of splendor here, and with plenty of time to relax and enjoy yourself. 

19. Underwater River, Cenote Angelita, Mexico

CREDIT: msoceantw/Instagram

As I said, checking out some of Mexico’s many cenotes should definitely be on your Must Do List if you plan to visit some of the most surreal places in Latin America. But, if you want to see one of the most amazing ones, then you absolutely need to go to the underwater one in Cenote Angelita. It’s an incredible sight to behold and you won’t believe your eyes as you swim through this gorgeous place.

20. Viñales Valley, Cuba

CREDIT: abbeywel/Instagram

This valley in Cuba is definitely one of the places you’ll want to visit ASAP. It’s absolutely gorgeous, and located in a beautiful part of the island (not that there is a non-beautiful part, that is). If you’re looking for some natural beauty here, then look no further. There is a lot of hiking to be done here, so head here for a full day of beauty before taking the next day off to lay on a beach. Trust me on this one.

21. Santa Ana Volcano, El Salvador

CREDIT: noorasusann/Instagram

The highest volcano in El Salvador is also where you can find one of the most beautiful views in the country, and with good reason. You can hike this baby and is definitely made for the serious backpacker. There’s so many gorgeous things to see here, and especially the stunning turquoise lake that is at the bottom of the volcano’s crater. Talk about surreal beauty, huh?

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

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

Jess Stringer / Getty

Bolivia is unrest. Following the ultimate expulsion of former President Evo Morales, after allegations of election fraud swept the nation, and Morales’ eventual flee to Mexico, conservative opposition leader Jeanine Añez declared herself interim president. Following her announcement clashes and protests from both supporters and detractors filled the streets. 

The country has been struggling to find a successor to Morales who was forced to step down after a marginal win in Bolivia’s presidential election triggered a recount. Morales shut down the recount and declared himself the victor, but after an Organization of American States reported there were irregularities and possible fraud, he resigned. 

Jeanine Añez declares herself the president of Bolivia.

Añez claimed the position of Senate leader which would put her next in line for the presidency and make her interim president. The move came after the three people ahead of her quit.

However, at the time she did not have a quorum (the legal minimum necessary to make it official) present due to a boycott by Morales’ Movement for Socialism party. Although it is unofficial, she stood on the balcony of the presidential palace wearing a presidential sash and holding a copy of the Bible — which had been banned from the building by the Morales administration. 

“My commitment is to return democracy and tranquility to the country. They can never again steal our vote,” Añez said after declaring herself president. 

Añez quickly got to work appointing cabinet members and leaders of the armed forces. She insisted in her first address that her role is strictly “provisional.”

“This is a transitional government,” Añez told CNN. “Obviously, as soon as we can, we will call general elections so the Bolivian people can have a president elected by us in a democratic manner.”

Protests break out in protest of Añez’s declaration.

Protests broke out in La Paz, Bolivia’s main city, to oppose Añez’s presidency. The demonstrators were confronted by riot police who used tear gas while they retaliated with smoking containers and rocks. Morales, who is Bolivia’s first indigenous president, insisted those who opposed Añez were his supporters and a part of anti-colonial struggle. 

“We energetically condemn the coup d’etat in Bolivia, perpetrated by the army and oligarchs opposed to the government of our brother President Evo Morales,” said Rigoberta Menchu, an indigenous rights activist said. 

Although Morales did benefit indigenous folks by reducing poverty rates, he rewrote Bolivia’s laws to run for a second term and then did so a third time claiming his first term did not count. He would reign for 14 years the longest in Bolivia’s presidential history. Many felt he was becoming increasingly authoritarian despite some wins for indigenous peoples. 

Indigenous folks have a right to concerned about an Añez presidency.

“This coup d’etat that has triggered the death of my Bolivian brothers is a political and economic plot that came from the US,” Morales said.

Although Morales may not have been best for Bolivia, detractors of Añez have valid concerns as well. The conservative is married to the leader of a “Colombian conservative party with historic ties to paramilitary groups,” according to The Nation. 

“The potential return of a conservative government after Morales’ 14-year rule has brought with it a resurgence of a virulent strain of anti-indigenous hatred with deep roots in Bolivia, reminiscent of the country’s ‘gas wars,'” the publication notes. “The toppling of Morales’s government threatens a potential return to anti-indigenous violence.”

The United States and Bolivian officials recognize Añez.

The United States extended its support to the new government as did Bolivia’s military and courts.

“We will guarantee the security of the constitutional government,” Army General Orellana Centellas said in support of Añez. 

According to the New York Times, Añez’s presidency was backed by Bolivia’s Constitutional Court. United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo issued a statement. 

“The United States applauds Bolivian Senator Jeanine Anez for stepping up as Interim President of State to lead her nation through this democratic transition, under the constitution of Bolivia and in accordance with the principles of the Inter-American Democratic Charter,” Pompeo said. 

“We look forward to working with the Organization of American States, Bolivia’s civilian constitutional institutions, and the Bolivian people as they prepare to hold free, fair elections as soon as possible. We call on all parties to protect democracy during the coming weeks and to refrain from violent acts against fellow citizens and their property.

 Whether Añez can garner support from political allies is unclear. Bolivians, on the other hand, have engaged in violent protests to defend their addled democracy, without their support any future candidate will have to face their ire.

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

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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.