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13 Don’t-Miss Bucket List Experiences in Latin America

Prepare to lap this continent from top to bottom—here’s a bucketful of Latin America’s best.

Day of the Dead offering in Oaxaca
Hi, I'm Jade!

Jade is a writer with a passion for travel, drag queens, and baked goods. Her happy place is South America, but when she's not exploring the world, she enjoys cooking and reading Gothic novels in her London flat.

Infused with Latin flair and home to some of the most biodiverse landscapes on the planet, Latin America is the perfect blend of culture and nature. Deserts, glaciers, rainforests, mountains, oceans, and beaches all magically coexist on the continent, while cities and towns are flush with ancient archeological sites, world-class gastronomy, and atmospheres that infuse you with energy and excitement. While the number of bucket list activities in Latin America could reach triple figures, we've narrowed it down to these top 13.

1. Trek the wonders of Patagonia in Chile

Well worth the long journey down to get to this far-flung destination, Torres del Paine National Park in southern Chile boasts a massive selection of lakes, snow-capped mountains, forests, and rock formations. The most immersive way to explore is by embarking on a 4-day guided trek, complete with camping in remote lodges, admiring stunning glaciers, and traversing steep inclines.

2. Experience Day of the Dead in Mexico

Head to Mexico to celebrate the annual Day of the Dead (Día de Muertos) each November. Although you can partake in processions and parades, it can be hard to experience the festivities as a visitor without the help of an insider. This Day of the Dead tour in Mexico City guides you through an after-dark cemetery experience, takes you along the Xochimilco canals, and more so you can enjoy this special day alongside locals.

3. Island hop in the Galápagos Islands in Ecuador

Formed by lava thousands of years ago, the Galápagos Islands are one of the most biodiverse places on the planet, home to many species you can’t find anywhere else in the world. It can be challenging and expensive to explore the destination on your own, but this 5-day guided adventure takes you from island to island to swim beside sea lions and seals, watch blue-footed boobies perform their epic mating dance, scuba dive with hammerhead sharks, and hike to the top of a volcano for stunning views of the nature-rich archipelago.

6. Surf the waves in Costa Rica

Hemmed in by the Pacific and Caribbean oceans, Costa Rica benefits from constant swells on both sides. The country is home to numerous surf towns characterized by laid-back vibes, stunning beaches, and perfect breaks. If you’re a beginner, you’ll find gentle waves ideal for learning in Tamarindo. Tailor this surf lesson experience to your personal surf abilities. It can help you master the art of paddling, popping up, and riding the swell.

8. Follow the Inca trail to Machu Picchu in Peru

Deemed one of the world's best hiking routes, the Inca Trail gives you the chance to walk on roads carved out by the Incas hundreds of years ago. As a reward for completing this challenging 4-day trek, you’ll watch the sunrise over the UNESCO–listed archeological site Machu Picchu. Plus, this experience includes a well-deserved rest post-hike on the panoramic train back to Cusco. Permits are limited, so make sure you book well in advance to secure your spot.

9. Feast on steak and dance tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina

While each of Buenos Aires' neighborhoods has its own distinctive charm, San Telmo—the capital's oldest barrio—delivers the Argentinian trifecta. This multifaceted experience lets you feast on prime cuts, sip a glass of smooth Malbec, and watch passionate dancers glide to traditional tango music in a candlelit venue. Plus, it includes a tango lesson so you can master your moves.

10. Feel the spray of Iguazu Falls in Brazil and Argentina

Spanning the border between Argentina and Brazil and surrounded by lush jungle, Iguazu Falls is a collection of 275 separate waterfalls. The Brazilian side of the UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts the most dramatic views, while the Argentinian side offers endless hiking trails and the opportunity to take a boat into the cascade. This dual-country tour lets you cover both sides over two days without having to arrange multiple activities yourself.

11. Look into the world’s largest mirror at the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia

Holding the record for the world's largest salt flat, Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni is a bright white wonderland. During the rainy season, the flats create a mirror effect that reflects the entire sky. But even if they're dry, you can always pose for epic photos that distort your perception of distance—think: people running from a toy dinosaur or walking into each other's mouths. This epic journey through the Atacama Desert to the salt flats reveals spurting geysers, lava red lakes, and other otherworldly rock formations. Ready, salt, go!

13. Explore the Caribbean coast in Cartagena, Colombia

It's easy to see why poets and authors flock to Cartagena for inspiration—it's bright, beautiful, and bursting with bougainvillea-clad balconies. The UNESCO–listed center is awash with colorful buildings, cobbled streets, and vestiges of the 18th century. This boat cruise boasts views of the sunset and the Cartagena skyline, with plenty of opportunities to take photos.

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