"Hidden & Deep Bays" by Andrew Moore via Flickr Creative Commons

Latin America attracts long term and RTW travelers like nowhere else in the world. Many will travel until they find a place they like and never leave. Others firmly stick to the Gringo Trail and hit as many of these fabulous places as they can. Beaches, colonial hideaways, mountain towns, ancient ruins, and even salt flats are found here. Although in some locations you’ll need a second mortgage on your house to get a once in a lifetime hotel room, the prices on average are fairly low.

  1. Cusco, Peru The Incas called Cusco the navel of the world. If they were referring to it as the world’s traveler epicenter they couldn’t have been more right. Visitors come to see the lost city of Machu Picchu, but become enchanted by the Inca walls, cobblestone streets, language schools, hiking trails, indigenous markets, Pre-Colombian ruins, lively bar and restaurant scene, great museums, Spanish churches, and a growing number of world class hotels.
  2. Antigua, Guatemala With more language schools per capita than anywhere else in the world, it’s no wonder Antigua is a favorite stop on the gringo trail. When not studying, the international crowd is climbing volcanoes, hiking, clubbing, and visiting with the remnants of the Mayan culture.
  3. Buenos Aires, Argentina Although the Peso is up once again and the prices no longer so cheap, Buenos Aires has not lost its appeal. Considered more European than anywhere in Europe.
  4. Cartagena, Colombia Pirates attacked this Spanish stronghold dozens of times, but Cartagena lives on. Centered by one of the most charming cobblestone centers and flanked by great beaches, fantastic dining, and chic hotels.
  5. San Pedro de Atacama, Chile A new age buzz has infiltrated this whitewashed, unusually Indian Chilean city. The nearby Valley of the Moon, Salt Flats, and steaming geysers are all favorite stops on any South American itinerary.
  6. Quito, Ecuador Quito’s New Town is a buzz with language students and those on an extended vacation looking to get down with the international crowd. Trendy bars, cafes, shops, and restaurants line expat heavy streets.
  7. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia Lured by ultra cheap three day jeep tours, the world’s largest salt flats are attracting a flurry of visitors. They’ll find basic accommodations, pink lakes, Dali-esque rock formations, cactus islands, and the occasional pizzeria.
  8. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil Carnaval or not, Ipanema, Copacabana and Rio’s other beaches are Brazil’s party central. The vibrant city and lush green mountains paired with tiny bikinis, free flowing Cachaça, dancing, and perfect sands make this one of the world’s legendary beach cities.
  9. Puerto Viejo de Talamanca, Costa Rica Rasta attitudes fill the air at this funky backpacker and nature lover’s hamlet on Costa Rica’s coast near the Panama border. Surf the vicious waves and mingle with indigenous tribes while searching for sloths and the lush national parks found in every direction.
  10. Montañita, Ecuador Just below the equator is this long time South American party town and surf hangout. Desert and mangrove forests line these lively white sand beaches.

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