Travel is booming again, and Europe is always a popular summer destination. But what do you do when clients have journeyed across the pond several times and they are looking to explore new, exotic places? Consider sending them to Central or South America this travel season, where there is a great variety of experiences for travelers to discover ancient civilizations, dynamic music, lively festivals, spectacular nature, and incredible gastronomy.
From the Amazon to the Andes, from soft adventure to luxurious wineries, there is something for everyone in this region of the world. Some of the destinations are quite complex, such as Chile or Ecuador. And there are many world wonders to visit, including the ancient (Machu Picchu, Tikal, Rapa Nui/Easter Island) and the natural (Iguazu Falls, Torres del Paine/Patagonia). In planning and booking destinations like these, travel advisors can really shine, sharing their expertise and advice with clients, to ensure they enjoy smooth and memorable journeys.
Costa Rica’s Rich Biodiversity and Warm Welcome
“For a first-time visitor to Central or South America, I’d have to recommend Costa Rica,” says Ken Pringle, owner, of Green Thumb Travel. “The people are incredibly warm and welcoming; the plethora of wildlife and biodiversity is truly unmatched; and the compactness of the country makes it relatively easy to connect the dots logistically. It’s great for solos and couples, as well as families and groups.”
Situated in the middle of Central America, Costa Rica is one of the most biodiverse places on Earth – and the desire to be one with Nature is key for travelers who choose this destination. Along with an enormous range of wildlife and sanctuaries where visitors can get up close and personal with the country’s critters, this destination offers beautiful white-sand beaches, roaring rivers, lagoons, waterfalls, rainforests, and sweeping mountains. At the Arenal Volcano National Park, visitors can enjoy hiking, waterfall rappelling, canopying, or a hanging bridge tour. On Lake Arenal, there is canoeing, fishing, and kite surfing. But this is just a small sampling of all that Costa Rica has to offer.
As Pringle describes: “Adventures await in cloud forests, volcano treks, and jungle boat rides. Then they can relax on some of the most spectacular coastline and pristine beaches in the world, with every type of accommodation imaginable.”
Ecuador’s Galapagos, Quito, and Gastronomy
Going a bit further south into South America, Ecuador is another extraordinary all-around destination. “Of course, Galapagos is the highlight of any visit, whether doing a cruise that visits multiple islands or choosing a land-based stay on Santa Cruz,” explains Pringle. “Either way, travelers are blown away by the absolute magnificence of the natural surroundings and the unique wildlife encounters and experiences.
“However, the mainland shouldn’t be ignored. Sitting at 9,350 feet, Quito is such a gem of a city to explore. Visitors should spend a few days to take in its treasures and acclimate, before heading for an escape to one of several, lovely highland haciendas. Full of history, many of these historic working farms have been around since the 17th century. Horseback riding, cheesemaking, and shopping for local handmade crafts at Otavalo Market are just some activities that can be enjoyed in this idyllic Andean mountain paradise.”
Ryan Roman, travel advisor, at Sunset Travel and Cruise, says: “Two destinations I recommend would be Peru and Ecuador in South America. Both countries have so much to offer with nature and culture.
“In Ecuador, besides the Galapagos, people do not realize that the western part of Ecuador is covered a lot by Amazon rainforest. There is so much wildlife that people can experience there, as well. Other cities like Guayaquil and Cuenca are filled with incredible food, wine, and culture. Ecuador has some amazing chocolate that they produce along with many dishes - also ceviche and encebollado (a fish stew from Ecuador, regarded as a national dish). Ecuador has recently started hot air balloon rides over some amazing lakes - not to mention seeing volcanoes, hot springs, and the Andes.”
Peru’s Machu Picchu, Cuzco, and Ceviche
Another bucket list vacation spot: “For a must-see destination, it really must be Cuzco and Machu Picchu,” says Pringle. “After a few tough years during and after the pandemic, it’s again possible for visitors to see these Incan masterpieces. Whether trekking or doing a visit by rail from Cuzco to Aguascalientes, once you’re walking amongst the ruins in the most stunning scenery imaginable, it’s hard to not have that true wanderlust moment that this is what life is all about.”
Roman agrees: “These destinations can be once-in-a-lifetime experiences. People have always planned to go, but when COVID happened, we know all plans got put on hold. But now it seems people are wanting to fulfill their dreams and bucket list trips. So, these specific destinations are making a big comeback.”
He suggests that “some other attractions in Peru [beyond Cuzco and Machu Picchu] would be Lake Titicaca, which is the highest lake in the world and has the floating islands in which people live to this day. You can also visit parts of the Amazon rainforest, as well. Other areas in Peru that people want to see is the Nazca Lines. These lines reflect the constellations, and nobody really knows who created them. They can only be seen by plane. It can make for a wondrous sight.”
As for the cuisine in Peru, there is the most delicious ceviche. A dish consisting of fish or shellfish marinated in citrus and seasonings, ceviche originated from the region, and there are many types for foodies to taste and savor, along with other delectable regional dishes.
An on-the-rise destination in recent years is Colombia. Brimming with history and culture, Colombia blends the old and new worlds in enchanting ways that delight visitors. The country offers an intriguing mix of energetic cities, vibrant festivals, beautiful beaches, and nature and wildlife activities.
Cartagena is one of the most beautiful cities in the Americas, with its abundant colonial architecture, Caribbean flare, lively nightlife, and sophisticated culinary offerings. Not-to-be-missed experiences when visiting are learning a few moves of sensual salsa dancing; and savoring a rum-and-chocolate tasting, as well as tasting arepas (a national obsession of corn cakes filled with meat, vegetables, or eggs) or ajiaco (soup with healing properties), and Colombia’s exotic fruits.
Nearby Medellin (known as the “City of Eternal Spring”) has a wonderful temperate climate, chic shops, and is home to world-renowned artist Fernando Botero - of course, his irresistible sculptures grace the city.
Next up, only an hour’s flight from the capital city of Bogota, are the country’s lush plantations of the Coffee Triangle. Coffee tastings are a must when visiting Colombia, as the locals live and breathe their scrumptious Arabica coffee, of which they are rightfully so very proud.
In Colombia, the magnificent Amazon rainforest can also be explored through jungle treks and riverboard cruises.
Pairing Chile or Brazil with Argentina
Another enticing option to suggest is to pair either Chile or Brazil with Argentina. Roman describes: “I have been selling Central and South American for many years. It would all depend on what they are looking for. Some clients want the nature experience, instead of just lying on the beach, and they want to explore the country. I have sold Brazil with Argentina, with a stop in Iguazu Falls in between. I have always tried to give clients a combination of nature with food and wine, and if you can combine a beach to relax somewhere, I am sure they would appreciate it.”
He also suggests: “If they are big into wine, then I would recommend Chile with Argentina, and concentrate on the food and wine, and maybe with an experience of staying in the Atacama Desert in Chile to give them a more rugged feel, for a short stay.”
Whichever of these fascinating destinations travel advisors decide to recommend to their clients, Pringle reminds us that “it’s so important to stay up to date on ever-changing entry rules and requirements these days. What is required regarding visas, vaccinations, and travel insurance is constantly being updated. Having an experienced travel advisor and booking with reputable tour operators really is more important than ever.”
FROM THE SPONSOR:
Since 1981, Avanti Destinations has been selling independent travel products and custom-crafted vacations in Central and South America, Europe and the UK, North Africa, the Middle East, and Asia exclusively through travel advisors. The Portland, Oregon-based wholesale tour operator offers a wide range of vacation components including air, rail, rental cars, hotels and unique accommodations, sightseeing/attractions, transfers, and hard-to-find experiential travel options. Avanti specializes in hand-picked, locally owned hotels in both large and small cities; and in connecting all the pieces of complex, multi-destination itineraries for individuals and custom groups of 15-100 passengers. For more information: https://book.avantidestinations.com.