Dreaming About a Trip to Latin America? Follow These Tips To Get Your Dream Trip in 2019
Now that we are past the holidays and firmly into the new year, it’s that time when many of us start planning our next adventure. Is that you?
If you’ve been dreaming about taking a trip to Latin America in 2019, don’t miss these tips to make sure you get your dream trip
INSIDER’S TIPS: HOW TO EXPERIENCE UNFORGETTABLE WILDLIFE IN THE GALAPAGOS ISLANDS
Want to get up close and personal with some of the world’s most unique endemic species, from the only wild penguins living north of the equator to giant tortoises to blue footed boobies? Then the Galapagos Islands is the destination for you. The wildlife there has never learned to fear humans, and you can have incredible encounters like nowhere on the planet.
The secret to great wildlife experiences is where you go and who you go with. We’ll help you get to the best wildlife sites and get you the best guides to make sure you have a great trip. See some tips and suggestions below.
When to Go:
The Galapagos Islands are great all year round as most of the endemic wildlife species don’t migrate, and as the islands straddle the equator the weather is warm and good all year. June through December has rougher seas, but isn’t as hot, as the rest of the year, but the snorkeling and wildlife viewing is still fantastic.
Choosing a Trip:
Living aboard a small yacht cruising from island to island to then go ashore with your naturalist guide is the traditional, and best, way to see the most wildlife and to learn about the adaptations different species have made to the different landscapes and climate of each island.
Land-based adventure trips are best for those who want more activity and want to see the wildlife but don’t need to see all the variations between species on the different islands.
Galapagos trips, particularly small yacht cruises, sell out months in advance, especially over holidays and the summer tourist season. Book way in advance to get the best selection of trips. Land based trips have a bit more flexibility, but still sell out in advance.
The Galapagos Islands are 600 miles west of mainland Ecuador and you will fly to the islands on the first day of the Galapagos trip and back to Ecuador on the last day of the trip. Because these days involve a lot of travel you will want to consider 5 or more days for your Galapagos trip so you have time to relax and really see the wildlife.
Classic Galapagos Trip: Discover Wildlife on a Naturalist Led Small Yacht Cruise
The classic way to explore the islands and experience the amazing wildlife is on a small boat naturalist cruise, such as on the Angelito I Galapagos Cruise, a well-priced tourist superior yacht with top guides, caring crews, and well-crafted itineraries to see the best wildlife. The owners generally captain and staff this boat, and their pride in ownership shows as they truly want to show you the best of the Galapagos so you will love the islands like they do. There are great First Class and Luxury yachts available too!
Alternative Galapagos Trip: Paddle, Pedal, Snorkel, & Hike to View Wildlife on an Active Land-Based Adventure
If you want more action and don’t want to live on a boat, a land-based adventure trip such as the 10-day Ultimate Galapagos Adventure fits the bill. This trip starts and ends on the mainland in Quito, and you stay on all 4 inhabited islands in the Galapagos so you can see different species and different habitats. While you don’t visit as many islands as on a cruise, you will spend your days sea kayaking, biking, hiking, and snorkeling to the best wildlife sites, and then you’ll relax in a comfortable hotel on solid ground at night.
INSIDER’S TIPS: HOW TO AVOID THE CROWDS AND EXPERIENCE THE BEST OF MACHU PICCHU AND PERU
Want to explore mystifying ruins surrounded by spectacular glacier covered peaks, learn about amazing history, and encounter friendly and colorful cultures? You’ll want to go to Machu Picchu, the mind-blowing hand-carved stone Inca ruin high on a ridge above the cloud forest in southern Peru, with stops in Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas too. Of course, everyone else wants to go there too, making many sites overrun with tourists.
To have an incredible Peru experience you need to get off the tour bus and get away from the crowds. We’ll help you do this with carefully crafted itineraries to explore sites via less traveled routes, and by traveling with some of the best guides in the world who care deeply about sharing with you the best, not just the most popular, sites, history, and culture in the region.
When to Go:
The rainy season in the Machu Picchu area runs from late November until March, but the rainiest times are January and February, and these months are best avoided as there can be problems with mudslides and road closures. The Inca Trail is closed in February for refurbishment.
The Inca Trail is highly regulated and permits sell out months in advance, so you need to plan way ahead if you want to do this trek. Most other trips can be booked with only a month’s notice, especially if you don’t need to stay in a particular hotel (there are lots of great and charming hotels in Cusco and Machu Picchu!). Even when permits for the full Inca Trail are sold out you can hike the last portion of the Inca Trail to arrive to Machu Picchu on foot as the permits for the 1-Day Inca Trail rarely sell out. This region is also home to fantastic rafting, kayaking, mountain biking, and other adventures.
To enter Peru you will fly into Lima, with many flights arriving late at night. Lima is a big city with lots of traffic, but also amazing food and arts. Many people prefer to skip Lima and stay at the airport hotel so they can fly to Cusco early the next morning.
Classic Machu Picchu Trip: Trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu
The most memorable way to visit Machu Picchu is to arrive on foot via Inti Punku, the Gate of the Sun, after a 28-mile trek over three high passes and down hand carved stone steps, on the world-famous Inca Trail. Our Ultimate Inca Trail Trek is truly the ultimate trip as you start with 3 days exploring Inca ruins and Andean culture in Cusco and the Sacred Valley of the Incas, complete the trek in a more leisurely 5 days rather than 4, getting you away from the crowds all using the same camps, and visit Machu Picchu twice so you have plenty of time to soak in the otherworldly charm and sights of this amazing temple.
Alternative Machu Picchu Trip: Lodge-Based Trek to Inca Highlights
If you want to enter Machu Picchu on foot via Inti Punku, but don’t want to trek the full Inca Trail and camp along the way, or if permits for the full trek are sold out, the 6-Day Hike the Inca Highlights
is a great option for you.
You will explore the best ruins in Cusco and the Sacred Valley by hiking uncrowded trails and you will still get to arrive to Machu Picchu on foot through the Gate of the Sun on the 1-day Inca Trail trek. stay in charming, comfortable lodges
INSIDER’S TIPS: COMBINE INCREDIBLE BIODIVERSITY AND CULTURE IN THE UPPER AMAZON BASIN WITH YOUR TRIP TO PERU OR ECUADOR
While most people think of Brazil when they think of the Amazon, the Upper Amazon Basin in Peru and Ecuador has some of the highest levels of biodiversity on the planet, and it’s proximity to Cusco and Quito make it easy to visit.
Just a short fly from Cusco or Quito, Peru and Ecuador’s Amazon Basin has top quality jungle lodges, amazing forests and wildlife, and indigenous people who have lived in these areas for eons, and own many of the lodges. It would be a mistake to visit either country without adding on a visit to the Amazon Basin. You won’t forget it!
When to Go:
It rains a lot in the Amazon rainforest (thus the name!), and the rainy season just means a bit more rain than the dry season. Any time of year is great for a visit here. Just plan on getting a bit damp (rubber boots are provided by the lodges!
Although there are many lodges in different areas of the Amazon in each country, we recommend the Tambopata area in Peru and the Yasunî National Park in Ecuador for their amazing wildlife and fascinating culture.
As long as you are a little bit flexible with your dates, we generally recommend planning your Galapagos trip or Machu Picchu trip first and then focusing on the Amazon. However, if you want a particular lodge or you need particular dates, know that while many dates don’t sell out there is no guarantee of availability. Book as early as possible.
To get to the Tambopata area in Peru you will fly about 30 minutes on a commercial airplane from Cusco to Puerto Maldonado. You’ll be met at the airport by the lodge who will transport you by road and boat to your lodge.
To get to the Yasunî in Ecuador, you take a short commercial flight from Quito to Coca, where you meet lodge representatives who then will transport you by boat to the lodge.
Peru’s Amazon Basin: The Tambopata Research Center Is One of the Best Wildlife Destinations in the World
Just a short 30 minute flight from Cusco, Peru’s Tambopata River is home to some of the Amazon’s best jungle lodges. Best of all, from a wildlife standpoint, may be the Tambopata Research Center, famous for its proximity to one of the world’s largest and most active parrot and macaw clay licks. The TRC is inside the Tambopata National Reserve, and attracts professional wildlife photographers from around the world due to the easy viewing of the abundant wildlife.
Ecuador’s Amazon Basin: Culture and Wildlife at the Sani Lodge
Community owned and operated, the remote and rustic Sani Lodge offers some of the best wildlife viewing in Ecuador along with memorable cultural experiences of interacting with and learning from Sani Isla community members. This remote lodge is a bit rustic but its an exceptional jungle experience. Knowing that all the money you spend on the trip goes to the community and helps keep logging and oil companies out, adds to the visit.
INSIDER’S TIPS: SPEND 5-7 DAYS IN TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK TO SEE THE BEST SCENERY IN PATAGONIA
Patagonia is a vast region of southern Chile and Argentina, but Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park offers some of the most spectacular scenery in the region, and as it can be reached in one day from Santiago with a 3 hour flight to Punta Arenas and 5 hour drive to the Park, it is the place to go in Patagonia if you have limited time.
Even still, when traveling this far you will want to spend at least 4 or 5 days exploring the Park, making for 5-7 days total. While the scenery in Torres del Paine is spectacular, the weather doesn’t always cooperate to let you see it, so you’ll want to make sure you can hike or do other activities that allow you experience the beauty and grandeur of the area even when the peaks are hidden behind clouds.
When to Go:
Patagonia is at the southern tip of South America, so it’s seasons are reversed from the USA and Europe. It is best to travel there October to April, with the most popular times being December through March. Spaces are easier to come by in October, November, and April, although weather can sometimes limit activities early in the year.
Lodge spaces are limited in Torres del Paine, so you’ll want to start planning way in advance, especially for busy seasons like Christmas and New Years. Lock in your trip early to get the best choice of dates.
You can get to Torres del Paine either from Chile or Argentina. Most people fly to Santiago, overnight, then fly to Punta Arenas the next morning where you are met at the airport by your lodge / operator and transported to Torres del Paine the same day. At the end of your trip, you will go from the lodge to get to the airport for an afternoon flight out that same day.
Classic Patagonia Trip: Torres Del Paine “W” Trek
The 3 most spectacular valleys in Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park form the shape of a “w” as they penetrate deeply into the Paine massif. The Torres del Paine “W” Trek
links these 3 arms together for the most stunning trek in one of the most magnificent parks in the world.
This trek, which requires 7 days, takes you to the best scenery in Torres del Paine National Park.
Alternative Patagonia Trip: Lodge Based Adventures from Luxurious Patagonia Camp
The luxurious, all inclusive Patagonia Camp
is a perfect location to explore the wilds of Torres del Paine National Park. Located on the banks of a lake, secluded from the hustle and bustle of the park, Patagonia Camp offers with stunning views and it is only a short drive to all the incredible sites and hikes in Torres del Paine..
You set your own itinerary to day hike the iconic trails of Torres del Paine, kayak or SUP on the lake, explore the Grey Glacier and more, always returning to your base where your comfortable yurt has central heat, a private bathroom, private deck, and most have jacuzzis overlooking the lake and mountains.