Why take the road less travelled?
In today’s increasingly globalised world, there may no longer be such a thing as a truly undiscovered destination – and Latin America is certainly not the little-explored land that it was when we arrived in 1980.
That said, we know from experience that there are still many places where a foreign visitor is still a rarity, and where, if you want to, you’ll be able to marvel at jaw-dropping natural sights without a single other traveller to spoil the view.
As the UK's first specialist in travel to Latin America, we are used to blazing new trails. So head with us down the road less travelled (and possibly out of your comfort zone) to a world of thrilling adventure and wide, enticing horizons.
Escape the crowds
Even in popular destinations, getting away from the tourist trail is not as hard as you might think. Often it is simply a case of distance – to give an extreme example, Cancún is overrun with package holidaymakers, but look even 100 miles south or northwest and you will find the same idyllic beaches but without the crowds and high-rises. Similarly, these days Peru is a big tourist draw, but head away from the star attractions by venturing north or along less-travelled Andean routes and you’re still likely to find places where foreign visitors are quite the novelty. As a rule remote regions, particularly if they take a bit of work to reach, reward the comparatively few travellers who make the effort to get there.
However, if you really want to tread your own path, consider destinations that are completely off the mainstream radar. In Latin America, this could mean Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Uruguay, Honduras, Nicaragua or El Salvador, or to a lesser extent Venezuela or Bolivia.
Another option is to use travel misconceptions to your advantage. For example Colombia has a staggering wealth of attractions, but receives relatively few visitors due to an out-of-date reputation (don’t dawdle though as the word is starting to get out!).
Go your own way
If you like to do things your own way it could be a great idea to hire a car – your very own getaway vehicle from the tourist crowds! The freedom of a car can give you unrivalled access to hidden gems and unexplored regions: see our self-drive holidays for more information and ideas.
Of course, you could also uncover hidden corners on a bike, on horseback or simply using your own two feet. No matter what your preferred means of transportation, when you set off into the splendour of the great outdoors under your own steam you are bound to feel a world away from the tour bus experience.
Get closer to the local culture
For a more authentic experience of the country you are visiting, seek out local haunts and shun the big, foreign-owned establishments. This way not only are you seeing a truer picture of the regional culture, cuisine and lifestyle, but also ensuring that your money benefits local people and businesses.
Look for small local markets where you can get an inexpensive lunch or buy unique souvenirs. By night, avoid the bars listed in guidebooks and look for places that are popular with locals. We also love stumbling upon a local fiesta – full of vibrant colour and tradition, and a great place to really throw yourself into the swing of things.
Back to basics
If you intend to leave the tourist crowds far behind, you’ll almost certainly need to be prepared for a lower standard of infrastructure and comfort.
However we find the simple pleasures can be amongst the finest: who needs a fancy restaurant when you have freshly-caught fish and seafood, seared on a grill and drizzled in lime juice to the backdrop of ocean waves?
We personally inspect all the hotels and excursions we use, so we know that when you travel with us, even if the facilities are basic, you will always be in clean and welcoming accommodation.
Even a basic grasp of the lingo can really open doors when travelling, particularly in little-visited areas where the locals are less likely to speak any English. There’s no better way to immerse yourself in a new culture than through speaking to people, sharing your experiences and viewpoints and making new friends – all of which can sometimes only be possible through a foreign language. And one huge bonus of travelling in Latin America is that you only need to equip yourself with one – Spanish – and the majority of the continent is your oyster (exceptions are Portuguese-speaking Brazil, Dutch-speaking Suriname, and French Guiana).
A language course on location is a great option if you have the time – we can arrange them in a wide variety of places across Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Mexico and Central America. We also have these language-learning tips to help make the most of the opportunities both before and during your holiday.
Look for the alternatives
Just because you want to skip the crowds doesn’t mean you have to go without the unique sights and attractions of Latin America. We can either help you find a quieter time to visit or suggest alternatives to the famous highlights to suit the more independently-minded traveller. For example, always dreamt of trekking to a lost Inca city but fancy somewhere less well-trodden than Machu Picchu? Try Choquequirao – a more recently uncovered ruin that still lies deep in virgin territory, reached only via a trek reminiscent of the Inca Trail in former times. Want an undiscovered Iguazú? Consider Guyana’s Kaieteur Falls, crashing hundreds of metres into near-uncharted jungle.
Every one of our expert travel consultants has explored Latin America extensively and will be able to make recommendations based on your specific interests and requirements, so get in touch for more suggestions.