Central & South America
South America’s largest country is as dazzlingly exotic as it is geographically diverse, and with a year-round sub-tropical climate, there’s plenty of appeal. You have to travel by plane to experience different regions, and for the adventurous, a journey into the Amazon rainforest should be top of the list. Encounters with indigenous tribes, endemic wildlife, or even tranquil boat trips along the second-longest river on the planet await you. For wildlife lovers, the Pantanal area holds the most allure. Often overlooked, its beautiful and remote wetlands are home to abundant birdlife, exotic flora and fauna. You’ll experience nature at its most beautiful on a visit to the immense Iguazu Falls – witnessing their power first hand is spectacular. Equally captivating, Brazil’s history is best discovered in the cobble-stoned towns of Minas Gerais state. Dramatic tales of the 18th-century gold rush, opulent colonial architecture and stunning mountain scenery combine to make this an enchanting region. Up the coast, Salvador runs to its own rhythm. Historically influenced by the African slave trade, the Unesco World Heritage Site is celebrated for its music, dance, fabulous carnival and beautiful cathedral. But a stay wouldn’t be complete without sampling the delicious local seafood – another true highlight. Brazil’s coastline is one of its most attractive assets with swathes of glistening white sand beaches broken up only by tranquil little fishing villages that epitomise laid-back living. The bays of Bahia state are particularly romantic and promise the ultimate barefoot escape. The main entry and exit points of the country are Rio and Sao Paulo, but exploring these cities is far from a chore – in fact, it’s a must. Oozing Latin flavour, their streets are filled with colour, sultry samba sounds, incredible art, gastronomy and gorgeous architecture. But the most wonderful asset in Brazil is its people. Uncompromisingly sensual, vivacious and expressive, Brazilians define ‘cool’, and their lust for life is infectious – this is likely to be what you’ll remember the most.
With miles of tropical coastline and stunning beaches which can only be compared to the golden sands of the Caribbean, Mexico is a firm favourite for a spicy, luxury beach holiday. Thanks to its rich and varied biodiversity, heritage and intriguing traditions, there are also seemingly endless opportunities for discovering ancient sites, wildlife encounters and outdoor adventures. If you are in pursuit of fantastic beaches, head to Los Cabos, lapped by the Sea of Cortez, where you can chill out in style at one of the beach clubs. Or if you’re looking for a more authentic experience, amble around towns that are replete with colonial architecture, little squares and churches. The legacies of the Aztec and Mayan civilisations live on in Mexico. Visit the impressive ruined temples at Chichén Itzá, Uxmál and Tulum, once dedicated to the worship of Mayan gods. Religious festivities have been an important part of Mexican life ever since and are often vibrant affairs, from the powder fights of the Ocozocuautla carnival to the famous ‘day of the dead’. For a softer adventure, there are lots of great golf resorts or opportunities to explore the wildlife of the Biosphere Reserve of Sian Ka’an by boat. For a real thrill, dive into the Great Mayan Reef or venture into the jungle to swim in the crystal clear cenotes. Don’t miss out on another opportunity to go local and savour mezcal, raicilla or fine tequila which, just like a good malt whisky, should always be sipped. Or, if you prefer your spirits disguised as a cocktail, order a refreshing Margarita. Meanwhile, Mexican cuisine is packed full of flavour and fresh contrasts to awaken your tastebuds: think smoky chipotle, zesty lime, guacamole and tomato chilli salsa. And, if you’d like to take a little bit of Mexico home, a piece of silver jewellery from Taxco, leather goods from Guanajuato, and handicrafts made by the Huichol Indians make great souvenirs.
If you have an adventurous spirit, a luxury adventure holiday in Peru will probably have made it onto your ‘bucket list’ already. Rightly so. Such a fascinating destination offers many cultural, sightseeing and wildlife experiences — including the number one reason people come here — Machu Picchu. If you think you need weeks to explore, think again. Internal flights and trains are efficient, and they cover incredibly breathtaking scenery to keep you entertained. Lima is where your adventure will begin. Explore the pretty plazas edged by Spanish colonial buildings and visit Casa di Aliga, a private residence lived in by the same family since 1535. Experience the changing of the guard at the presidential palace and then peruse the markets, shops, museums and galleries in town. Beaches are just a 30 minute drive away, where surfing is very popular, or head to a gourmet restaurant like Astrid and Garcon. Peruvian cuisine includes plenty of fresh fish plucked straight from the Pacific Ocean or the rivers in the highlands, so do try the excellent ceviche. For evening drinks, the bars of the bohemian Barranco district are great places to down a pisco sour. Head to the city of Cusco: you’ll need to come through here en route to Machu Picchu. It’s at an altitude of 3,400m, so take it easy. Stay a couple of days, acclimatise and learn about Inca culture at the site of Saqsaywaman. People-watching in the main square is an eventful pastime. Marvel at the colonial architecture, as women in traditional dress walk their alpacas through the cobbled streets. Travel on through the Andes passing meadows, snow-capped mountain peaks, rolling hills and villages, until you reach your train which will take you through the stunning Sacred Valley to Aguas Calientes for your adventure to Machu Picchu. As the citadel ruins appear above the clouds, it’s one of life’s most awesome moments. A guided tour, preferably in the morning before the crowds arrive, will help you fully appreciate the Inca history. If you’re hungry for more, Peru’s Nazca Lines (mysterious giant sketches located in the Nazca Desert and best viewed from the air); Lake Titicaca; cruises on the Amazon; the frozen mummies at Arequipa; and the Colca Canyon (home to the Andean Condor), will keep you mesmerised.