It’s easy to forgot just how diverse Colombia is. From the Caribbean vibes and colonial treasures of Cartagena to the misty forests of the Corcora Valley, to the barrios of urban capital Bogotá, there’s so much variety here. Abercrombie & Kent’s Classic Colombia tour ticks off one favourite after another, but also spares time for some interesting detours as you stroll the peaceful streets of Guatapé, its old houses marked by intricate bas reliefs, or snorkel the coral-fringed waters of the Rosario Islands. Added to this are visits to giant coffee plantations, delicious street food tours and a trip to a remarkable underground cathedral in a salt mine.
More information: Abercrombie & Kent. Year-round (best Dec–Apr); 10 nights from £4,450pp, including international flights.
What often gets overlooked in the mad rush to see the endemic wildlife of the Galápagos Islands is just how much there is to enjoy on mainland Ecuador. On Adventure Journeys’ Galápagos & Ecuador Wildlife Adventure tour, you’ll first visit the famed archipelago, taking every opportunity to see its unique species, whether snorkelling lava tunnels to spy the world’s northernmost penguins, swimming with sea turtles or spotting giant tortoises in the highlands of Santa Cruz. Thereafter, the mainland takes over as you scour the trees for kinkajus in the Bellavista cloud forest, visit a project supporting local women in an Andean village, and keep an eye out for the rare spectacled bears that still roam high in the páramos of the Andes.
More information: Adventure Journeys. Year round; 17 days from $9,561pp (£7,562), excluding international flights.
As far as epic journeys go, taking in Uruguay, Paraguay and Argentina in just two weeks is an impressive feat. Journey Latin America’s Jabirú: Wildlife, Wine and Jesuit Missions tour finds its mark by taking in the capitals of each country first before going off-piste. A visit to Uruguay’s wine-growing region around Carmelo as well as the UNESCO-listed historic quarter of Colonia del Sacramento on the Río de la Plata sets a cultured tone. Thereafter, an avalanche of history and experiences await, from exploring Paraguay’s 17th-century Jesuit missions (built to convert the Indigenous Guaraní people) to searching for wild jaguars and stately jabiru storks in the marshy Iberá wetlands of northern Argentina.
More information: Journey Latin America. 15 Apr & 30 Sep 2024; 14 days from £4,788pp, excluding international flights.
The Reserva do Ibitipoca was established in 1981 with the idea of reforesting a biodiverse corner of the Mantiqueira Mountains by buying up old ranches. Some 16,000 hectares were set aside to create a wildlife corridor to Ibitipoca State Park, while social projects invited in the wider community. The reserve only opened to visitors in 2009; now Cazenove+Loyd’s tailor-made Ibiti Project: Travessia tour offers up its latest relaxing itinerary, where guests can expect to wake up to the sounds of the birds outside their windows before heading out on treks to find waterfalls, learning how the wildlife and environment are being preserved, and spotting a wide variety of local flora, including orchids and bromeliads – the symbol of this truly remarkable reserve.
More information: Cazenove+Loyd. Year-round; 5–7 days from £2,900pp, excluding international flights.
Two big hitters in one trip! Grandiose sights abound on Llama Travel’s Natural Wonders of Chile & Easter Island tour, as you whet your appetite for adventure by trekking and horse-riding amid the ripped peaks and rocky valleys of Torres del Paine National Park, fly over the creaking glaciers of the 13,000 sq km Southern Ice Field and find your way to the Germanic villages of the Chilean Lake District, where the giant cones of Osorno and Calbuco loom over the serene waters. Afterwards, you will fly to Easter Island, one of the most isolated inhabited places on Earth, where you can explore the mysteries of its 900 Moai statues (or ‘heads’), decipher petroglyphs carved into the walls and learn about the island’s ancient Birdman cult.
More information: Llama Travel. Oct–Nov 2023; Jan–Mar 2024; 16 days from £4,999pp, including international flights.
Costa Rica’s forests are some of the greenest places on Earth and ripe for adventure, but what about its waters? Exodus Travels’ Costa Rica Active Escape takes full advantage of the country’s bountiful coastline as you take to the sea on a private boat from Carrillo Beach in search of the Pacific spotted dolphins that live here year-round. Afterwards, anchor at Isla Chora, where you can search for iguanas and hermit crabs on the powder-white sands or snorkel offshore. There are also wild rafting adventures on the Balsa River as well as waterfall walks where you can cool off by diving into an emerald plunge pool. At night, wind down with a nocturnal safari as you scour the trees for sloths and coatis in the Monteverde cloud forest. It’s the best of both worlds.
More information: Exodus Travels. 25 Nov & 2 Dec 2023; eight days from £2,699pp, including all flights.
Who hasn’t wanted to live the life of a gaucho (cowboy) at some point: staying on a working estancia (ranch), eating your fill of fresh steaks at an asado (barbecue), exploring the grasslands of the Pampas on horseback? Latin Routes’ Argentina’s Heartlands tour turns this idea into a reality as you saddle up for an adventure in central Argentina before exploring the vineyards of Mendoza, where you can meet the growers and sample wines ripened on the Andean foothills. Between urban pit stops in Cordoba and Buenos Aires, the trip culminates in a visit to the second-largest wetland in the world as you venture up to Iberá, with the chance to explore its waterways in search of capybara, black caiman and maned wolves. Even a gaucho would be impressed
More information: Latin Routes. Year-round; 15 days from £7,399pp, including international flights.
The Galápagos archipelago is spread far and wide, spanning some 220km from north to south. Most cruise-tours (which are typically limited to just a handful of islands) only glimpse a fraction of it, so why not take it slow instead on Audley Travel’s tailor-made land-based trip, The Galápagos Islands. Making your base on San Cristóbal and Santa Cruz islands is no booby prize (bird pun not intended), and nights in luxury accommodation at the Hotel Indigo certainly beat a cramped cabin. Boat trips to nearby islands and excursions in search of beaches swamped with sea lions, highlands where giant tortoises still roam and clear waters where you can snorkel alongside endemic marine iguanas as they flit between the volcanic rocks fill your days nicely.
More information: Audley Travel. Year-round; 11 days from £5,965pp, including international flights.
It pays to take it easy in Nicaragua, where the pace rarely rises above a gentle trot at the best of times. It also allows you to slip into the local rhythm and see more than you would otherwise. That’s certainly the spirit of Select Latin America’s new Tranquil Nicaragua tour, where visitors begin by rattling the historic streets of Granada in a horse-drawn carriage, before exploring the isles (Las Isletas) of the largest lake in Central America, Lake Nicaragua. A couple of nights on the little-visited volcanic island of Ometepe, where a grand cone looms over the forests and the petroglyphs left behind by its Pre-Columbian ancestors, precedes a visit to the secluded white-sand beaches and hidden bays of the Tola region. It makes for the perfect slow finale.
More information: Select Latin America. Year-round; 10 days from £3,548pp, excluding international flights.
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