South America | Destination Guides

5 experiences you can't ignore in Latin America

Just the words ‘Latin America’ are enough to conjure up butterflies of excitement for many travellers. The fourth largest continent in the world is home to just about every climate imaginable, from the tropics of the Amazon rainforest, to the arid Atacama Desert. Salt flats, the world’s highest lake, carving glaciers, Caribbean coastlines and everything in between can be found on this cultural, intoxicating continent, so it’s little wonder most people’s Latin America bucket list reads more like an adventure novel.

Want to know which experiences you absolutely cannot afford to miss? There are our top 5 magic moments…

1. Walk in the footsteps of the Incas at Machu Picchu, Peru

Nothing says ‘Latin America bucket list’ quite like watching the mist rise to reveal the mysteries of Machu Picchu. Standing 2,430 metres above sea-level, Machu Picchu was built by the Incas in the 15th century but later abandoned, only to be re-discovered by the outside world in 1911.

Visiting Machu Picchu with Trafalgar, you’ll join a Local Specialist to explore the most significant ruins including the Temple of the Sun, the House of the Priest and the Sacred Plaza. Those with extra energy (remember those Incan steps are steep!) can also hike the short distance to the Gate of the Sun, for iconic views over the fortress.

EXPERIENCE THIS ON: Highlights of Peru

machu picchu peru

2. Trek through the vast wilderness of Patagonia

Travel to the end of the earth and you’ll be rewarded with all the treasures of Patagonia. Wild, windy and impossibly beautiful, this region of natural beauty that spans both Argentina and Chile, is truly like nowhere else on earth. The softer landscapes of Northern Patagonia feature snow topped mountain ranges, lush forests and tranquil lakes, while in Southern Patagonia the harsher weather is perfectly complimented by carving glaciers, arid steppe and jagged peaks that strike a powerful profile against the ever changing sky.

With Trafalgar, your Patagonia journey will take you from Ushuaia, the city at the very end of the earth, to all of the region’s most significant locations. You’ll spot condors in Tierra del Fuego National Park, come face to face with a sea of ice at Perito Moreno Glacier, and enjoy mother nature at her very best at Torres del Paine National park. Oh, and all of this washed down with a few healthy glasses of Argentinian Malbec, coupled with Patagonia’s famous lamb, of course.

EXPERIENCE THIS ON: Wonders of Patagonia

RELATED CONTENT: Your questions answered: Is Patagonia better in Chile or Argentina?

perito moreno glacier

3. Experience the life of a Gaucho in Argentina

As synonymous with Argentina as Messi or Evita, gauchos are often romanticised figures deeply connected to the country’s famously sprawling Pampas (Argentina’s rich grasslands). They were traditionally nomadic people and are skilled horsemen, often to be found wearing bombachas (baggy trousers), ponchos in colder weather, and either a wide brimmed hat or large beret. A cup of maté will also never be far from their side. Today, many gauchos are also excellent entertainers, bringing to life their culture and heritage for visitors through music, cooking, guided horseback rides and more.

Visiting Argentina with Trafalgar, you’ll have the option to join an authentic gaucho experience as we head into the Pampas to visit a 3,000-acre working estancia (Argentinian ranch). Here, you’ll tuck into a BBQ lunch, then watch as the gauchos bring their culture to life through song, dance, a folklore show, carriage rides and horse demonstrations. A true Latin America bucket list experience.

EXPERIENCE THIS ON: Icons of South America

RELATED CONTENT: What makes Argentinian steak the best in the world?

Argentinian gauchos

4. Witness a true force of nature at Iguassu Falls

Spanning an area of 2.7 kilometres wide and comprising a system of 275 waterfalls, the sight (and sound) of Iguassu Falls is something that can only be truly appreciated in real life. A sheer force of nature and a vision that takes your breath away, it was the late US first lady Eleanor Roosevelt, who captured the magnificence of Iguassu most eloquently when she exclaimed ‘poor Niagara’ upon seeing the falls. In fact, Iguassu is nearly three times as wide as Niagara and significantly more impressive. The falls also create a border between Brazil and Argentina, meaning you can enjoy views from both countries.

And with Trafalgar, you’ll do just that. On the Argentinian side (the side that allows you to get up close and personal with the falls), you’ll visit the UNESCO listed Iguassu National park and take a ride on the open-air ecological train to the main attraction – the Devil’s Throat. On the Brazilian side (the side that is best for incredible views of the falls), you can enjoy Iguassu from a different angle, or opt to take a boat ride to the base of the falls for a wet and wild experience. On either side of the falls, you’ll also have the chance to spot wildlife aplenty.

EXPERIENCE THIS ON: Impressions of South America

Iguassu Falls

5. Stand in the shadow of Christ the Redeemer

Standing at 98 feet (30 metres) tall atop Mount Corcovado, his arms outstretched as he overlooks the city below, Christ the Redeemer has become an iconic symbol for both the city of Rio de Janeiro, and the nation of Brazil. Completed in 1931, Christ the Redeemer is the largest Art Deco style sculpture in the world and fourth largest statue of Jesus Christ anywhere on earth. Annually, around 2 million people make the pilgrimage up the mountain to visit this true icon, making this an unmissable Latin America bucket list experience.

So of course, we couldn’t miss a visit on our Trafalgar Latin America tours. In between sunning yourself on Copacabana Beach and rising the cable car to Sugarloaf Mountain, we’ll ride the tram up Mount Corcovado to visit Christo himself. Standing in the shadow of his outstretched arms as you survey the city from on high, this is a truly unmissable pinch me moment you won’t want to miss.

EXPERIENCE THIS ON: South America Landscapes

Christ the Redeemer

Which of these Latin America bucket list experiences would you like to tick off first, or which experiences have we missed that you think should make the top 5? Let us know in the comments.

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