Looking back on our time in Central and South America I started to think of the best places we visited for value, beauty, experiences etc. So I thought I should compile a short list of the best countries we visited for some of the essentials:
1 – Value and experiences
For me I think Guatemala is top of the list for this. Not only is the country by far one of the cheapest that we visited, but it also seems to have an endless supply of places to see and things to experience. From the must-ride colourful chicken buses of “Guate,” as the locals call it, to the beautiful old city of Antigua surrounded by towering volcanos, to the endless Mayan temples buried deep within the northern jungles. Plus, let’s not forget the colourful markets where bartering with locals is definitely a fun game for both side, and where you can still walk away with amazing bargains.
2 – Relaxation and beaches
This category is harder as there are definitely 2 contenders for this spot, Belize and Costa Rica. However, for a slow relaxation pace you can’t beat Belize. As they say in Caye Caulker, “Go Slow”. From sandy white beaches stretching out into clear waters, coconut trees dotting the horizon and endless snorkelling along the barrier reef, Belize wins hands down. And if the empty country with less than 400,000 inhabitants still feels too crowded, you can always disappear to a small secluded Caye off the shore of the mainland.
3 – Adventure
Costa Rica should again definitely be considered for this, with cloud forests, sandy beaches and volcanos there is something for everyone. However, next door and working very hard to catch up is the underdog, Nicaragua. Although, the country does not yet have the same infrastructure in place that Costa Rica offers, it more than makes up for it in the variety of tours and experiences you can choose from. Whether you want to trek an active volcano, go rafting in the rivers, take a boat ride on a steaming lake or go boarding down the side of a volcano, Nicaragua offers it, and best of all at probably half the price.
4 – Diversity
Although we did not get to explore this country as extensively as we would have liked to, we could already see that Argentina deserves to win this category. In one country you can experience, salt plains, deserts, multi-coloured mountains, immense waterfalls, bustling cities, vineyards and glaciers. Now I know Chile also offers much of the same, and having travelled from north to south of it back in 2010 I do feel that it is a very close contender, but somehow I feel Argentina just pegs the lead on this category.
5 – Living history
Having now been to Peru twice, I still believe that it offers visitors a unique chance to glimpse history in modern times. With a large range of amazingly well-preserved sites and artefacts it allows you to experience both the Pre-Inca and Inca civilisations almost first-hand. Apart from the well-known sites of Machu Picchu and Cusco, there are numerous sites dotted throughout the country, from the museum of Sipan with the incredibly well-preserved mummies and their clothing to the relaxing Tipon complex. For me it still remains a truly memorable country to visit.
Of course if we had to do it all again we would visit every country, but these for us really stood out the most.