3 Latin American Countries You Need to Visit

Latin America is probably my favorite place on the globe at the moment. I’m loving the peoples, cultures, foods, music, dances, all of it! Of course the richness of history and culture mean it would take you a million years to fully explore and appreciate even one small area of Latin America, but all we can do is try. Travel to these great places is unique, authentic and usually inexpensive. I want to give you my top picks for Latin American countries picking just one, my top choice, in each of three main regions:

  • North America
  • Central America
  • South America

Here are three (3) of the places in Latin America I like most.

Peru

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With my Mom in The Sacred Valley of Peru

This country is in a league of its own when it comes to the clear, easily experienced quality of travel in Peru. The many different Peruvian peoples namely the native Quechuan (Incan) in my experiences, are kind and honest, they’re gentle, interesting and fun spirited. Guided travel in Peru could not be more organized and fairly priced. It is pretty amazing how little it could cost when you consider the sheer vastness of this country and all the endless travel opportunities it provides. I cannot think of a single nation in the world that could offer anything more than Peru when it comes to encounters with authentic cultural, historical, and natural experiences. The rain forests, Machu Picchu, Cusco, the deserts, Lima, the Pacific coast, Peru is simply incredible!

Guided Tours

I hired Peru Trip Advisors to guide my tour and they blew me away with the seamless experience they provided me. My mother went with me on her first international trip and had such an amazing experience that she is now traveling internationally whenever possible.

Update: I recently learned that readers of this blog have also hired Peru Trip Advisors to guide their tours and have found that they live up to the reputation expressed in my blog. My recommendation is unsolicited and I am in no way professionally associated with this company.

Do not hire a tour company that has not been recommended by someone whose opinion you trust. There will always be times when things do not go as planned, but my experience with Peru Trip Advisors leads me to recommend them exclusively when it comes to guided travel in Peru.

The Food

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One of endless ceviche options

Unbelievable! Ceviche is the way to go. Don’t go cheap, go nice and go local. Food in Peru is affordable so go to restaurants recommended by people who live there and other travelers you meet on the road. Peruvian cuisine is one of the most sophisticated in the world and it will blow you away if you ensure you are frequenting decent restaurants. With the great prices of authentic Peruvian food in that country, there is no reason to dine at a hole-in-the-wall establishment. Bottled water only.

Article: The Sacred Valley of Peru

Essential Gear

Must See Places – Rank Ordered (Best top to bottom)

  1. Cusco & The Sacred Valley
  2. Machu Picchu
  3. Lima
  4. Lake Titicaca & Puno
  5. Puerto Maldonado (Amazon Jungle)
  6. Iquitos
  7. Arequipa
  8. Trujillo
  9. Paracas
  10. Colca Canyon

Final Thoughts

I could go on-and-on but other blogs provide good resources for the little things. I’m more interested in giving you very specific recommendations on the things that I consider essentials to visiting Peru. The specifics mentioned above can be taken as outright recommendations that I provide you from personal experiences and from the experiences of experienced travelers given first hand to me. All together it is my opinion and hope that you will be blown away by the incredible Peruvian experience you have if you take this advice.

Mexico

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With friends in Mexico City, Mexico

Mexico is more than Cancun and Mexico City although both are amazing! The Yucatan peninsula is probably the most familiar part of Mexico for many of us from the United States, but the coastline resort areas, while incredible and offering fascinating nearby destinations, don’t even scratch the surface of what Mexico has to offer. At the heart of the Aztec and Mayan civilizations, Mexico’s history and its preserved parks and historical sites are not only easily accessible, but are also top notch experiences. Every area of Mexico has something incredible to offer the traveler and each state is as unique and special as the next. Mexico is a must see destination globally but definitely on the list of the must visit countries of Latin America.

Guided Tours

I don’t recommend these throughout the entire country of Mexico. The area of Mexico south of Mexico City is considered by most to be very safe and easy to travel. Car rentals are the norm and guided tours can be expensive if you plan on moving long distances. The airports in Mexico are quite good and there are a lot of them, making every corner of Mexico easy to reach. I would recommend local guided tours in certain places of historical or natural interest so you can get the full benefit and understanding of what you are experiencing, but hiring a tour company to tour the entire nation of Mexico is not necessary in my opinion. I recommend you either pick a general area to visit and explore or you simply airport hop if you are wanting to see a number of areas all in one trip. AirBnB and Uber are great options to use for lodging and taxis services in larger cities while taxis and hotels are relatively inexpensive throughout all of Mexico. In general, the northern part of Mexico can be considered dangerous so visit those areas with with tour guides simply for your personal well being if at all possible. Given this, I am including only one, very rural northern Mexico destination in my list of recommendations. No matter how you explore Mexico, by all means, do it!

Article: Top 4 Areas to Stay When you Visit Mexico City, Mexico

The Food

IMG_20150410_145911_387Tacos, tacos, tacos! Try the tacos. The food ranges from world class to simply awful and remember – bottled water only. Avoid street vendors and hole-in-the-wall diners and you’ll be fine. There are plenty of ways to get recommendations in any area of Mexico and high quality food is readily available, and it’s usually cheap too. Mexico City offers a wide range of eating options. After all, it is a massive city with a tremendously vibrant international culture. Whether you are in Mexico City (I recommend it) or elsewhere, simply find a decent looking restaurant and more than likely the food will be great! In the rural areas of Mexico you have to rely on locals and traveler recommendations and they tend to be pretty solid. And, since you have nothing better to go on, roll the dice and give it a try.

Essential Gear

Must See Places – Rank Ordered (Best top to bottom)

  1. Mexico City & Teotihuacan
  2. Oaxaca
  3. San Miguel de Allende
  4. Riviera Maya (resorts)
  5. Chichen Itza & Cenote Yokdzonot
  6. Cenote Saluma
  7. Grutas de LoltĂșn
  8. Santiago de Queretaro
  9. Copper Canyon (rugged hiking)
  10. Valladolid

Final Thoughts

The richness of experiences that are available in the country of Mexico are mind blowing. For the purpose of giving you real and accurate direction that can help inform your future travel plans, I’ve done my best to quickly and clearly outline the places and things I recommend you do and see while in Mexico. Enjoy!

Nicaragua

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With Tours Nicaragua in San Rafael Del Norte

This country is real, unique and dynamic! There is no Machu Picchu and the Inca did not build mega highways and cities here hundreds of years ago, but Nicaragua is awesome, and I mean awesome! The people have a modern mindset but know their roots. The country is modernizing but is firmly rooted in its past. The people are passionate about nature, culture and the environment. More than anything, Nicaragua is easy to travel in, the landscapes vary widely in a short distance and you find everything from cloud forests and rain forests to desert, beaches and volcanic planes all within a rather small area making Nicaragua an ideal traveling destination.

Guided Tours

This one is up to you, but I recommend you do a guided tour, at least in specific areas of interest. Most of the tour agencies are pretty good. I went with Tours Nicaragua and they rocked from start to finish! Their payment plan was easy, their guides were legitimate experts who spoke great English and loved to share their country with others. I do recommend this company as my first hand experience was much better than I could have asked for. However, Nicaragua is an easy country to get around in for the most part. Most of the sites and cities are in the western area of the country because dense jungle covers all of the interior of the country and spans all the way to the Caribbean side which is dotted by small fishing communities and picturesque islands. In the end, it’s up to you. I loved my tour guides and the company they worked with so that is my preference, but I cannot tell you that this is a necessity in Nicaragua as the country is generally very safe for travelers and is easy to get around in with or without a guide.

Article: An Introduction to Travel in Nicaragua

The Food

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Typical sampler plate in Esteli, Nicaragua

Steak! It’s all about the steak. Think North American meets Latin American, meets Caribbean, meets South American with a bottled water only mandate. There is a little of everything in Nicaragua and the food is generally affordable and of good quality. I recommend sticking with legitimate Nicaraguan restaurants for the best experience, but if you’re looking for sushi, burgers or pizza, those are easily had in most cities as well. I will say you should not go to Nicaragua for the food, that’s not the draw here. The draw to Nicaragua are the landscapes, the picturesque colonial cities and the people. I will add that Nicaraguan beer and rum are first rate!

Essential Gear

Must See Places – Rank Ordered (Best top to bottom)

  1. Leon & Historic Leon
  2. Selva Negra & Matagalpa
  3. Ometepe (volcanic island)
  4. Granada
  5. Managua
  6. San Juan del Sur
  7. Corn Island
  8. Jinotega & San Rafael Del Norte
  9. Esteli
  10. Pueblos Blancos (White Towns)

Final Thoughts

Nicaragua is a cool, cool place! It’s free spirited and fun and you will fall in love with the natural landscapes that have active volcanoes, craters, forests and massive lakes around every turn. The world class pottery, cigars, rum, these are a few of the things that you’ll find all across the country in the small, humble villages that give Nicaragua it’s festive spirit. I recommend you visit soon, before it becomes a major tourist destination!

Wrapping It All Up

Latin America is incredible and as you may imagine, one place is as unique, beautiful and culturally significant as the next. Of course every single inch of Latin America has a richness that could never be explained by some guy writing a blog, you have to experience it for yourself. Mexico, Nicaragua, Peru, these are my favorite Latin American nations at this point in history, but who knows what the future holds? The key, for me, and I hope for you is to travel there, explore, be open minded and take it all in without judging any one place against another. Simply take it for what it is and appreciate it as its own unique corner of our amazing Earth.

Cheers!

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