Latin America has twenty countries and a population that is almost twice the size of the United States. Youve probably heard of or even been in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro or Mexico City. But it leaves many other beautiful cities and places to go on this continent. Whether you are an experienced traveler looking for a new adventure or someone who wants to take a few days away from the tourist hotspot, the list is for you.
Just over Rio de la Plata from Buenos Aires, Uruguays capital, Montevideo, is an old world city of cobbled streets and shadow casting of sycamores. Founded in 1811 after an independence war against Spain, Brazil, Argentina and Portugal, Uruguay is today a liberal bastion in South America. In 2013, they legitimized a marriage of the same sex and cannabis, which certainly affects how people party in Punta del Este, a glamorous resort on the eastern edge of the country. This is where the Uruguayan glitterate stays in the summer months (winter in North America). For a more relaxing stay, the UNESCO World Heritage Site is Colonia del Sacramento at the western end of the country, just across the river from Argentina. Colonia was founded in 1680 and is one of the oldest European settlements in Uruguay, and is a beautiful and peaceful retreat from Montevideo or Buenos Aires.
Often overshadowed by its northern neighbor Costa Rica, Panama has a great metropolis, affordability and worldly culture. Panama City uses the dollar as its currency, although the locals call it balboa. Depending on who you ask, their economy is the third or fourth largest in Latin America, as well as the fastest growing. Viejo Panama, just north of the capital, was a pirate retreat in the 18th century and its ruins still stand today. Meanwhile, Panama City is a sauna of new restaurants, cafes and art galleries, where a variety of languages are spoken by expats from around the world. The latest developments have made the Panama City skyline filled with skyscrapers. Due to its unique geography it is possible to visit both the Atlantic and the Pacific on the same day. On the way, stay at Chagres National Park, home to lush rainforests, rivers, lakes and artisan aquatic waters that provide the worlds high quality Artesian waters, as well as plants and animals, some of which can only be found there.
The third largest economy in Latin America is in Colombia, home to many stereotypes and beautiful places. Cartagena is only the countrys fifth largest city, but it has a great history. This Caribbean port has been a center for human activity for at least six thousand years. Today Cartagena is a sleepy city with a beautiful walled city. On the other hand, Columbias capital, Bogota is among the worlds thirty largest cities. The citys crime rate has fallen drastically since the early 1990s, when it used to be one of the worlds most dangerous cities. The Gold Museum and the historic district are the main attractions. If its not your speed, Santa Marta is another port city, the second oldest city in South America and the oldest in Colombia.
Quito was together with the city of Krakow, the first UNESCO World Heritage Site. At 9,350 feet it is one of the worlds tallest capitals. It may take you a day or two to acclimatize, but when you do, its well worth it. The equator goes through a city a short drive away, meaning you can easily move from the northern half of the world to the south just by taking a short walk. Cuenca is another city worth visiting, with a rich colonial history and proximity to Las Cajas National Park, about 10,000 feet, with crystalline lakes reflecting the nearby Andes. The galapagos are one of the reasons that Ecuador is one of seventeen megadiversal countries in the world, which takes into account a nations biodiversity. Its about $ 250 return for a 45 minute flight from Guayaquil, the countrys largest city, and compared to a long boat trip for roughly the same price its worth it.
Home to the second largest reef in the world, Belize is in the midst of the nearly a thousand-mile Mesoamerican Barrier Reef System. A divers paradise, Belize has far fewer tourists than its southern neighbors. Its animal reserve is home to jaguars and scarlet macaws, both native to the region. Belize is also the only English-speaking nation in Latin America, so its easy for Americans to get around, although an English-Spanish creole is commonly spoken. For those interested in cultural exploration, there are Mayan ruins throughout the country, especially in the south. Caracol was one of the premier regional political centers during the classical Mayan era and its ruins are still of archaeological importance today.