Latin America has a reputation of colorful landscapes and people. It is the place you go to “find yourself” when you are on a boho-free spirit phase as you practice the broken Spanish you learned in high school. Latin America offers tourists museums, history, archaeology, and natural wonder, but there are some things you just have to do when you visit.
10 Things You HAVE To Do In Latin America
Each Latin American country has its special something. But there is a universal aspect to the landmass. From bright colors to good music and dancing in the streets, Latin America is a place of happiness, history, and rich culture. Here are 10 things you have to do in Latin America.
1. Watch A Soccer Game with Locals
Soccer is a force to be reckoned with! More trusted than the government and more loved than the church, soccer in Latin America means the country usually stops to watch. And if it is a big enough game (rivalry or international stage) you can almost guarantee that that the city will come to a complete stop. I don’t think you can find anything like it, anywhere else in the world.
2. Go to an Open Air Market
Markets are one of the best places to go people watching. But the best part about them is how many new things you will see. Latin America has one of the most amazing and varied selections of fruits and vegetables, many of which you can’t find anywhere else. The colors and flavors of Latin America come alive in an open air mark and dance with your senses in a way you’ve never before experienced. In my experience, too, many vendors are more than happy to let you try fruits. Even more so when they realize you aren’t a local.
3. Have a Conversation with a Stranger
Easier said than done if you don’t speak the language, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try! Remember that talking with your hands, body language, and just giving it a shot goes a long way. And I promise you will come out feeling a little better as a traveler knowing you did so! Depending on where you are, you might be the only foreigner that person ever speaks to. And 9 times out of 10 you will completely make someones day. One of my proudest travel moments was in Paris while on a bus. An older woman sat next to me and in very broken and slightly incomprehensible French I said “Hello, my name is Stephanie. How are you?” Her expression changed and while I couldn’t tell you what exactly we talked about it think it involved: her grand daughter who had been to Miami, a good bakery to check out, and there might have been something about the color pink, stars at night, and geese (most of which were due to my bad French!)
4. Go to a Grocery Store
As an American, nothing really puts consumerism or privileged into perspective quite like visit a grocery store abroad. Aside from the cultural exchange, you get to see people in their everyday life doing everyday people things which is pretty cool. Grocery stores are a glimpse into the culture as you see: Who is doing most of the shopping? What do they sell? Who works there? What does the meat department look like? Do they even have a meat department? Is it a one stop shop?
5. Try a Typical Dish
You can go all out on this one or you can play it safe. Either way you need to do it! Like many of the other things on the list, it gives you a deeperer understanding of the people and the place. Food is an integral part of who we are and sharing that is a pretty personal experience.
6. Go Into an Old Church
Latin America is old and full of history! As the Spanish colonized the continent they left parts of their culture behind, much of which can still be seen today. Because of how old many churches are, you can easily find amazing antique stained glass windows, historic sites, and gorgeous cathedrals and basilicas that will take your breath away!
7. Have a Traditional Cafecito Break
Cafecito is a full on Latin America must! Even if you don’t drink coffee you need to experience the phenomena. In some places like Colombia or Cuba, the world stops as everyone takes a moment to drink their coffee. Where culture meets food and everyone looses their sense of time…It is nothing like the long drive-thru line at Starbucks, that I promise you!
8. Visit a National Park or Wildlife Refuge
Latin America is one of the most biodiverse areas in the world. With fauna and flora that can only be found in one place, so you need to experience nature! Ecotourism has been on the rise and it is easy to see why when you step into the natural wonders that await you. Places are full of animals you’ve never seen before, flowers you can’t even imagine, and an outstanding amount of unique species.
9. Experience the Culture
Sure, you’re thinking “I’m going, I’m already experiencing the culture.” Right? And yes you are, but do it deeper. Really look at where you are, talk to people, try the food, dance in the streets and experience the culture and love that is Latin America.
10. Take a Step Back and Look
There are lessons to be learned all over Latin America be it political, cultural, or even on a more fundamental life in general sense. Don’t forget to take a moment and take in everything the continent has to offer! Relish in the sights and sounds of a busy Caribbean city, let the smell of fried street food transport you, and welcome the smile of a stranger. No matter what the reason for your trip might be, Latin America changes you and you always come out a better person than you did going in.
Bonus tip! Enlist the help of others
Planning an itinerary can be stressful and we all know that high-stress levels take their toll on our health and wellbeing. One way to minimize stress and ensure you look forward to a well-earned break is to enlist the help of others. Take advantage of agencies or companies that specialize in organizing itineraries, research online to get handy travel tips and share the load when it comes to making bookings and looking for deals. If you’re embarking upon the trip of a lifetime and crossing off bucket list destinations, for example, it’s natural to want to be on your best form. If you need some help in preparing for your Inca Trail trek, check out this helpful guide by The Explorer’s Passage. Making lists, seeking advice and using professional agencies and tour operators can all help to save time and stress. It’s also a great idea to get others in your party involved so that you can plan a trip that everyone will enjoy.