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Here are our top picks to help you find exactly what you’re after in South & Central America.
BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA. BEST FOR BIG CITY LIGHTS
Since Air New Zealand began offering direct flights, we haven’t been able to get enough of the European-style elegance and energy of Argentina’s capital city.
This enchanting city offers history and culture, historic colonial architecture and world-famous steaks. You’ll find the iconic rainbow buildings of La Boca, the elaborate crypts of Recoleta Cemetery and incredibly hip artisan neighbourhoods. And then there’s the food. From wood-fired empanadas to Alfajores (Argentinian Dulce de Leche sandwich biscuits), you’re in foodie heaven.
TORRES DEL PAINE, CHILE. BEST FOR THE GREAT OUTDOORS
Home to electric-blue glaciers to emerald forests and soaring granite peaks, South America’s most beautiful national park is also its most vibrant. Even the wildlife is dazzling — keep an eye out for bright pink flamingos and the revered Andean Condor. Day hikes will enchant the casual outdoorsperson, while multi-day treks like the famed W will challenge experienced trampers. And everyonewill love the warm welcome of the Chilean locals.
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL. BEST FOR THE PARTY
In a city where the party never stops, Rio seems to run on a different timeline. Mornings aren’t for breakfast, they’re for hailing cabs and going home; and when most people are slipping into bed, Rio is getting ready for a night out. Days are spent between iconic beaches and chilled coffee shops. A quick espresso here, another siesta there — trust us, it’s an addictive combination. By nightfall, the churrascarias open to serve you fat slices of chorizo until the meat sweats are dribbling off your forehead. Then it’s time to slap on your neon face paint, throw back a few more cocktails and hit the dance floor in your Havaianas.
GRANADA, NICARAGUA. BEST FOR FAMILY FUN IN THE SUN
Granada is a colonial beauty that borders Lake Nicaragua and shines with pretty lanes, cobbled streets and stunning preserved architecture — like a bold lemon-yellow cathedral. Bike out to the beaches at the Peninsula de Asese or kayak around Las Isletas, a smattering of picture-perfect islands just off Granada’s shoreline. A 200-century old lake, The Laguna de Apoyo is undeniably beautiful and utterly peaceful. You’ll find glorious shoreline, sporadic hotels and a tiny isolated town, that even if you find once, you probably won't ever find again.
ILHA GRANDE. BEST FOR BEACHES
We’re pretty sure the most beautiful island in Brazil is this jewel. Defined by its glorious golden shoreline and framed by the quintessential Brazilian backdrop — lush forest, jagged mountain peaks and a perennially blue sky — Ilha Grande is Latin beauty in the purest form. Its main promenade is freckled with laid-back restaurants, all of which sparkle by day but like much of Brazil, really come alive at night. The sun dips and the palm trees are illuminated by fairy lights: Dine on the beach, order a caipirinha and soak up the ambience of a moon-lit beach.
MACHU PICCHU, PERU. BEST FOR SOLO TRAVELLERS
You’ll puff, you’ll pant, but fear not — The view at the end will blow you away. Hiking the classic route to the iconic Incan ruins is no easy feat. It takes four days, covers 43km and hits an altitude of 4,200m. For an easier ascent, try the Hiram Bingham train which takes just a couple hours.
And if you’re after a middle-ground, the relatively unknown Lares Trek combines hiking with four-wheeled transport. After three days of hiking, you’ll reach Machu Picchu the morning of day four. There are still plenty of staircases to conquer, as well as local communities to visit and scenic views to stop and gawp at, but the final ascent is covered by van and then train. Hallelujah. Oh and did we mention the hot springs at Aguas Calientes? Because nothing says ‘soothe my aching limbs’ like a hot spa.
SAN MIGUEL DE ALLENDE, MEXICO. BEST FOR FOODIES
Arguably Mexico’s culinary capital, the cobbled streets of San Miguel de Allende are lined with well-established restaurants (high, low and everything in between), packed rotisserie shops, rooftop bars and street-side vendors selling all manner of stuffed tacos. The intersection between Ancha de San Antonio and Nueva is commonly referred to as Taco Corner, with vendors selling cheap eats well into the early hours. By morning the cafés erupt and sweet-smelling bakeries engulf the alleyways with the scent of fresh baguettes and Mexican sugar pastries.
MENDOZA, ARGENTINA. BEST FOR WINOS
Like us, this spectacular region is foremost about the wine. The premier wineries are all located within 40km of Mendoza city centre, so it’s easy to visit all the big players and then search out the smaller boutiques too. Let us arrange vineyard tours or a private driver so you can really, ahem, soak up the atmosphere. And if you’re really lucky, you’ll fall upon a winery selling simple vino patero (foot-pressed wine). The taste is all in the toes.
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