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Trip List by PatsFan584

Ten things for young people (and the young at heart) to do in Latin America

Mar 28, 2006  Studied abroad in Chile
4.0 of 5 stars based on 14 votes

Whether you’re a student, backpacker or adventurer or all of the above, these are ten things you really ought to experience if you're in Latin America.

  • 1. Torres del Paine
    Torres del Paine, Puerto Natales, Magallanes Region

    "Majestic" is the only word that can be used to describe this gem. After taking the bus ride from Punta Arenas (roughly 4 hours), you arrive to the site of jaw-dropping peaks. As you make your way into the park, you will find yourself abounded by picturesque turquoise lakes resting at the foot of the mountains, surrounded by exotic plant life and met by the intermittent waterfalls. End each day at a different "refugio" (lodge) where you can share stories from the trail and a good meal with the other lucky travelers partaking in the experience. Camping is available at all the refugios. Your trek comes to its conclusion at the foot of the massive Grey Glacier. If the once-in-a-lifetime view isn't enough and you've got some funds to spare, there is a company at the refugio that offers hikes atop the glacier. Just a word of caution: Be prepared for unpredictable weather! Patagonia's reputation isn't just talk.

  • 2. Lodge and dine with a Quechua family on Isla Amantani on the shore of Lake Titicaca, Peru
    Amantani Island (Isla Amantani), Peru, South America

    This one's a little more touch and go and requires that you or at least your travel partner speaks Spanish. Make sure to have alternative lodging plans just in case things don't work out as planned, but this is the way to go if you are looking for a unique cultural experience. Here's how you go about doing it: Take the boat ride from Puno to Isla Amantani (quick sidenote: En route to the "isla", you will stop at the floating islands and be able to purchase assorted crafts from the locals....quite the experience being on an island consisting of floating reeds). While en route, strike up a conversation with a local dweller (Here's where the Spanish is essential). After things get friendly between the two of you, imply that you are planning to stay at a hostel but do not really know which one. At this point, if he or she likes you, the local will most likely invite you to stay with his or her family on the island. It is a good way for them to make extra cash (I paid my family the equivalent of roughly $3.00 for one night). The worst that happens is that the local doesn't say anything and you stay at a hostel. It's still worth the trip: there are some magnificent Inca ruins on the top of the hill on the island that are worth seeing, and not to mention, there's that breathtaking lake to admire. But if you have the opportunity, definitely stay with the local and his or her family. It's like stepping inside your anthropology textbook. And aside from that, you'll make a friend.

  • 3. Learn Spanish from former revolutionaries in Xela, Guatemala
    Quetzaltenango, Quetzaltenango Department

    My older brother and I made this trip the summer after my Freshman year of college. He wanted to learn Spanish to become a union organizer and I thought I'd like to take the opportunity to travel with him and brush up on my Spanish at the same time. We enrolled at El Proyecto Linguistico in Xela (searh for it under its alternative name, Quetzaltenango). While we came there to learn Spanish, what we got was a first hand (albeit very slanted) tutorial in Guatemalan politics. You see, many of teachers were revolutionaries who fought against the military rule. Once our Spanish got good enough, we really got a lot out of their stories. While not in class, be sure to take advantage of the trips that the school runs to various attractions in the surrounding area. Our tour guide was a former guerilla. He brought us up to the very mountains where he and his "companeros" fought off the military. There were of course many lighthearted expereinces to be had there as well. At the end of every week the school has a graduation ceremony featuring beer and music. Fun times! Also, traveling within Guatemala is extremely fun. It's very cheap and very easy to get around (especially with Xela as your base). My brother and I traveled almost every weekend. Our favorite weekend trip: Lago Atitlan. It's about a two hour bus ride.

  • 4. Eat fillet mignon for $5.00 in Buenos Aires
    Buenos Aires, Capital Federal District

    If you're a steak lover, this is a must. But seriously, Buenos Aires is a place where both vegetarians and meat enthusiasts alike can thrive. I went for a few days while I was studying abroad in Chile and had one of the most fun weekends of my life. My friend and I arrived on a Thursday and started out the evening by dining at a five star steak house. I'm sure that comes off as an incredibly snobby thing for a college kid to say, unless you read onto the next sentence. Our bill, with beer and all, totaled to less than $10.00! Budget travelers dine in style here! After our meal, we headed to a club. I'm not really the clubbing type, but for some reason (could it have been all the famously beautiful Argentinian women that were present?), I really enjoyed myself. The next thing I knew, the sun was up! We spent the next day strolling the wide boulevards and taking in the obligatory tango scene. I also remember there being a big market somewhere on Saturday. I wish I could tell you where exactly, but it won't come to me. Oh well, it's somewhere in Buenos Aires. If you're looking for cheap and good lodging, check out The Chill House. At the risk of sounding trite, it is indeed very chill.

  • 5. Go to Carnaval in Brazil
    Rio de Janeiro, State of Rio de Janeiro

    Never been, but I hear it's Mardi Gras X10 I'll tell you to go to Rio Di Janero just because I don't know anywhere else, but I hear it's wilder in less populated areas up the coast. The festivities occur during the same time as Mardi Gras.

  • 6. Climb Mount Villarica in Pucon, Chile
    Mount Villarica, Pucon, Araucania Region

    My friends and I took the 10-hour bustrip south from Santiago to Pucon one weekend and this experience made the long ride well worth it. We started our ascent bright and early with the sun shining bright off the snow. We marched up this active volcano equipped with ice axes and accompanied by two guides. With breaks, it took us about four hours to get to the top. It's definitely exerting, but the view into the bubbling volcano and out onto the Argentinian border and Lake Villarica make it all worth it. And you may be wondering how you get down: Slide!

  • 7. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Cuzco, Peru
    Inca Trail, Cusco, Cusco Region

    Travel the trail the Inca messengers took to deliver news to and from the Inca capital. It follows along the Urubamba River. Arrive at the mysterious and magnificent ruins of Machu Picchu Most people take about four days to complete it.

  • 8. Visit the Galapagos Islands
    Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

    Just in case you're tired of hearing about inteligent design, take off to this evolutionist mecca. I've never had the privilige to go, but from what I hear, it features some of the most diverse and exotic species known to man, including those big tortoises that everyone talks about. Look out for the yellow warblers, too.

  • 9. Venture to the Iguacu Waterfalls
    Cataratas Do Iguacu, Foz do Iguacu, State of Parana

    These spectacular falls border on Argentina and Brazil. Among other things, the park offers kayak trips and hikes. I've never been but it makes the list just based on what friends and fellow travelers have told me. Everyone says it's a must see.

  • 10. Ride the Death Road in Bolivia
    Death Road, La Paz, La Paz Department

    This is for the extreme adventurer (or extreme idiot, depending on how you look at it). Aptly named, it is considered to be one of the most dangerous roads in the world with it's treacherously narrow turns and extremely steep inclines. Those who make it all the way down say it is a mountain biker must. Ha! See ya there.