One of the most common questions we’re asked by customers is “We’ve always wanted to go to Brazil (or Argentina or Guatemala) and when is the best time to visit?” For others who are constrained by a set time it’s more a question of “Where do you think we should go in March (or June or November)?”. So we thought a monthly guide on where to go and when in South and Central America would be helpful. Do let us know what you think.
Mexico’s Caribbean coast
Why not escape the British winter and celebrate New Year basking in the sunshine of Mexico’s Caribbean coast – the Mayan Riviera. With hundreds of miles of perfect, white-sand beaches with clear turquoise waters, hotels to suit every budget and some great flight deals available it’s a great choice.
Nicaragua is an undiscovered gem. It’s what Costa Rica was like years ago – untouched and with little infrastructure. The Corn Islands off the Eastern coast have pristine white beaches and a typically Caribbean atmosphere. If you’re looking for a bit more luxury, you’ll find it on the Western Pacific coast at Morgan’s Rock (probably one of the best beach lodges in the America’s) and Punta Teonoste, which is a perfect place to get away from it all. The colonial towns of Leon and Granada are a must see and those with an adventurous spirit will like the Rio Indio lodge at the end of the Rio San juan.
No doubt, the carnival parade in Rio is maybe the most visually beautiful spectacle in the world, but if you are looking for real fun, the Salvador Carnival is the place to go. It’s no coincidence that thousands of Brazilians come to Salvador every carnival. In Rio you are a spectator of the parade, whereas in the Salvador Carnival you are the show. This is by far the biggest street party in the world with around 2 million people participating in the parades over six consecutive days.
It’s the dry season in Costa Rica so it’s the perfect time to visit most areas. Nature lovers can explore the country’s volcanoes and rainforests to see beautiful poison dart frogs, cloud forests, macaws, hummingbirds and the elusive quetzal. Costa Rica is a heaven for adventurers with rafting, hiking, mountain biking, horse-riding, surfing and zip-lining through the forest canopy.
Panama is frequently described as “Central America’s best-kept secret” due to its rich history, incredible natural beauty and an astounding degree of biodiversity. If you’re passionate about birding this really is the place to be with over nine hundred bird species – more than in Costa Rica or in the whole of North America. Soberania is a world famous destination among birdwatchers – and March is one of the best times to come as it’s mostly dry.
This is the last month of the season in Chilean Patagonia as from April through to September Patagonia can become inaccessible. People looking to get off the beaten track will find Patagonia blissful as this is one of the most remote and beautiful areas of the world. It has lush forests, deep fjords, spectacular shaped mountains and awe inspiring glaciers. Expect to see an abundance of wildlife including llama, guanaco, rhea, condors and Magellan penguins.
The Cayes, Belize
These tiny Caribbean islands are good value for money at this time of year, as prices begin to drop. And if you’re looking to get away from high-rise hotels, over the top resorts and crowded dive and snorkelling sites, then this is the right spot for you! The Cayes have two stunning atolls and miles of barrier reef, much of which is totally unexplored and all of it is easily accessible by boat. Why not snorkel off the Turneffe islands or dive the infamous Blue Hole made famous by Jacques Cousteau in 1972 – it’s almost 1000 feet in diameter and over 450 feet deep!
Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu, the ‘lost city of the Incas’ is a world famous destination so it can get very crowded. We recommend going either at the beginning or the end of the dry season (April to October) when there are fewer travellers. For us April is a truly special month with the orchids along the Inca trail in full bloom and the rivers ideal for white water rafting.
A trip to the Galapagos Island is the journey of a lifetime; offering you a magical opportunity to view animals in their natural habitat who are completely unafraid of man. There are two seasons – the warm season is January to June and the dry Season July to December. May is a wonderful month with sunny clear skies and warm seas. You can snorkel with penguins and sea-lions and get close to penguins and flamingos. You’ll see waved albatrosses laying their eggs as well as green sea turtles hatching and marine iguana eggs.
Costa Rica Pacific
The sun drenches the land from November until the end of May; and the remote, pristine beaches lined with lush tropical jungle make this an idyllic place to relax and re-charge your batteries. You’ll find some of Costa Rica’s most exclusive beach retreats here on the Nicoya Peninsula. If you’re feeling more energetic why not learn to surf – the Pacific coast presents one of the best stretches of surfing coastline in the world.
The Inca festival of the Sun ‘Inti Raymi’ is held in Cuzco every June. Tens of thousands of people come here from other parts of Peru and South America for the celebrations that last an entire week. There are parades, dancing, street fairs, music and there is even a re-enactment of a llama sacrifice (just in case any of you are faint-hearted, it’s fake). After this you can take the short drive to the Sacred Valley with its fertile valleys, white water rivers, colourful markets and hiking trails.
In June the weather in Brazil is perfect. You can expect temperatures in the mid-twenties on the coast in the south and low thirties further north and all without the rain. This is also the best time to see the mighty Iguazu Falls as with less water coming over the canyons there are actually more individual waterfalls!
Ecuador is a diverse country offering everything from colourful markets to colonial towns and snow-capped volcanoes to Amazonia jungle. July’s dry, warm weather is perfect for trekking, climbing or horseriding holidays here and the tropical vegetation is still lush and green. One of the most authentic and off the beaten track expeditions we offer is to the Huaorani Lodge on the edge of the Amazon where you can meet the people of this unique Indian settlement that still maintains all of their original ways of life.
This is a relatively unknown region of Argentina – explore the multi-coloured valleys and canyons of Calchaques, visit the ancient pre-Inca ruins of Quilmes, walk through narrow canyons to hidden waterfalls, or sample wine from the many vineyards. Take the famous ‘Train to the clouds’, the highest in the world built in 1932 which begins in Salta and ends in La Polvarilla – the highest point at 4220m. The trip takes approximately 15 hours and passes through some incredibly striking scenery.
The Amazon maybe better known but the Pantanal is a superior place to see wildlife. In the Amazon, the animals hide in the dense foliage so you will always hear more than you can see, but in the open spaces of the Pantanal, wildlife is highly visible. From May to October, the world’s biggest wetland area drains into the Amazon River to the north and through the River Plate to the south, and as the month’s progress the wet lands subside. This leaves behind small pockets of water, trapping the fish, which in turn attracts large numbers of migratory birds and resident mammals.
Bolivia’s population is 90% indigenous and travelling around this fascinating country is an adventure. You don’t find the high levels of luxury found elsewhere on the continent, but you will find an array of spectacular scenery. The Bolivian Amazon (or the Yunga’s as they are known) is where the Andes meet the Amazon – you’ll find small mountains draped in jungle and a wide variety of wildlife. The Uyuni salt flats are the largest in the world and are difficult to reach, but worth the journey. Most people visit Bolivia during their Winter (May-October) because of the dry, clear days.
Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Fernando de Noronha’s weather is tropical with heat and sun all through the year – however September is a great month with average temperatures of 30 oC. Honeymooners will adore Brazil’s best and most exclusive hideaway, its 22 beaches have been fabled as an eco-wonderland. It offers a range of attractions that include snorkelling, diving, walking as well as wildlife and its beaches are regularly voted as the best in Brazil. Being a national park island it limits the amount of people on the island at any one time, which will hopefully preserve this pocket of paradise.
North East Brazil
The North East coast of Brazil is still hot at this time of year and there is no better place to get away from it all than the Marau Peninsula. To get to this remote paradise hotel, you take a private plane from Salvador landing just 100 meters from the reception, after a 35-minute scenic flight. The eco-luxury resort of Kiaroa is situated on an endless deserted beach with crystalline water and natural pools which are ideal for swimming in – you can walk for miles and you won’t see a soul.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
It is early spring in Buenos Aires right now and the city is warming up. Known as the ‘Paris of South America’ it’s a fascinating, colourful city with a European feel. What’s more eating out is really affordable – so you can indulge yourself dining al fresco in the rejuvenated and hip Palermo Soho with all the new boutique hotels and bars. Then dance the night away in San Telmo!
The Atacama Desert, Chile
The Atacama Desert is a haven for adventure and in the past few years some superb hotels have been built in and around the adobe town of San Pedro de Atacama. The landscape is positively lunar and when the sun sets and rises in the Valley de la Luna the hues of colours are amazing. The area also has salt flats, geysers, pre-Inca ruins and is surrounded by numerous 5,000 and 6,000 metre volcanoes.
November is an ideal month to explore Guatemala – the heartland of the ancient world of the Mayans – as it’s fairly dry. Unlike most of Latin America, the majority of the local people are still indigenous Indian and many still wear their colourful, traditional costume. The beautiful colonial city of Antigua is located close to the capital making it an ideal first point of call. Then head on to see Tikal probably the most impressive of the ancient Mayan cities, set deep in the rainforest and an absolute must.
Uruguay has year round good weather, but from November onwards the temperatures steadily increase making it a perfect beach destination after a visit to Argentina or Chile. The new Playa VIK hotel has set a gold standard, but the Posada del Faro and the Casa Suaya are both excellent alternatives. Around the small fishing village of Jose Ignacio are numerous activities from horse riding and surfing to beach combing and watching the fisherman bring in their catch – a time when the local restaurants vie for the best fish for your dinner!
The Bay Islands, Honduras
Located in amongst the second longest barrier reef in the world the Bay Islands spectacular coral-reef systems are home to some 96% of all species of marine life known to inhabit the Caribbean! Prices remain remarkably low, making the Bay Islands a great place to learn, and in turn love, scuba diving. December is a great month to visit because hurricane season (June to November) has ended plus its lobster season so you can indulge yourself in a fantastically fresh, incredibly cheap, sustainably fished lobster dinner.
Join an exclusive group of intrepid travellers and take an Antarctic voyage past Cape Horn, across the Drake Passage to the peninsula. It’s Summer in the White Continent and being unimaginably rich in fauna the southern ocean is a constant drama. Get close to penguins, seals, sea lions, whales, dolphins and albatrosses. With each boat limited to about 50 passengers there is an intimate, friendly atmosphere and there are educational lectures on board.