South America & Latin America
Often within the same time zone as the USA, direct flights, but so rich and different in culture, who could ask for more?
Argentina remains among the most expensive countries on the continent and Buenos Aires one of the most expensive cities in the world. Argentina has long had a fascination with the high life, and its prices reflect this. Hotel and restaurant prices at the luxury end of the scale have continued to rise as occupancy rates fall.
Argentina's main attractions are Buenos Aires, Iguazu Falls, Patagonia, cattle ranches, the Andes, desert canyons, historical sites, wineries, whale-watching at the Valdes Peninsula, skiing, nightlife, spectacular scenery, the Pampas, wildlife, fishing and casinos. Beaches are merely adequate compared to those in Uruguay and Brazil. Argentina has something for just about everyone. The only people who will not enjoy the country are those who require five-star accommodations everywhere they go—although there are more first-class properties in small cities and rural areas than in most of South America. Even in remote, scarcely populated Patagonia, travelers will encounter luxury ranches.
The country's main attractions include Maya ruins, scuba diving, a cheerful cultural melting pot, relaxed island life, nature reserves, kayaking, snorkeling, deep-sea and fly fishing, caving and cave tubing, canoeing, beaches and bird-watching. Most travelers divide their time between the coast and the rain forests.
If you are interested in water-related activities, nature and Maya culture, or if you want nothing more than to laze about, you'll enjoy Belize. If you want massive white-sand beaches, extensive nightlife and staged entertainment, look elsewhere.
Brazil's foremost attractions include Carnival, beaches, Rio de Janeiro, Iguacu Falls, the Amazon, Bahia, the Pantanal, art, gems, colonial towns and exciting nightlife. Brazil is large and varied. Everyone will love something about it, but the opposite is also true—everyone will hate something about it. To minimize problems, try to stick to the areas and activities that truly match your interests (for example, if you're not really interested in seeing jungle wildlife, you probably won't want to put up with the heat, insects, dirt and high humidity that are part of an excursion into the Amazon forest).
Chile's chief attractions are historical places such as the UNESCO World Heritage sites of Valparaiso and Chiloe, the vineyards of the central valley, geoglyphs and ghost towns in the Atacama Desert, Easter Island, and the national parks of the lakes district and Patagonia. Activities include skiing, hiking, river rafting and kayaking, surfing and fly-fishing. Nearly everyone will find something of interest in Chile. The quality of accommodations everywhere is among the best in the continent; only in a few areas is it still marginal.
Ecuador's chief attractions include the Galapagos Islands, colonial architecture, cathedrals, museums, rain-forest trips, Inca treasures, birding, thermal springs, the Andes, volcanoes, handicraft and food markets, local gastronomy, colorful festivals and parades, traditional folk music, hiking, mountain climbing, mountain biking, rafting and other adventure sports, and beaches. Ecuador is a wonderful destination for travelers who are interested in the outdoors and nature-related activities. (For many nature lovers, a trip to the Galapagos is a pilgrimage.) Those who wish to visit the coast, the high mountains and the rain forest will find them very near one another. The country is not for those who expect a wide range of deluxe conveniences or who are upset by delays and last-minute schedule changes. Travelers who have trouble with high altitudes should be careful when traveling through the Andes (or avoid them altogether), and those with respiratory problems may have problems with air pollution in Quito.
The chief attractions of Peru are Cusco and Machu Picchu, ecotourism jungle adventures, the Nazca Lines, Lake Titicaca, vast coastal archaeological sites, bird-watching, world-class cuisine and friendly people. Almost everyone will be impressed by what Peru has to offer. Outside of the few major cities and increasing amount of tourist areas, do not expect deluxe accommodations, high standards of service or high levels of sanitation. Nevertheless, simple but comfortable hotels and surprisingly good restaurants are found throughout the country.