Janine Kelso goes in search of Latin American thrills, from learning to tango in Argentina to hang-gliding over Rio de Janeiro
Latin America is bursting with memorable experiences. Once you’ve trekked up Machu Picchu and taken a cable car to the top of Sugar Loaf Mountain, you’ll be eager for the next thrill.
We’ve come up with some ideas to drag you out of your comfort zone…
Peru: surf the world’s longest wave
Become lord of the board on Peru’s Pacific north coast, a haven for surfers. Chicama is home to the world’s longest wave, which measures over a mile long, meaning surfers can enjoy an exhilarating three-minute ride.
Chicama and Malabrigo have the longest tubes in the world, varying from 0.5 to three metres, while Pacasmayo has a long and fast tube ranging from one to four metres. Head to these beaches from May to November for optimum surf conditions.
The major resort of Mancora makes an excellent base for surfers spending time on the north coast as it is teeming with hotels, restaurants and clubs. Its long waves of up to three metres are a big draw too. Surfing lessons can be arranged locally.
Lima’s beaches are popular with surfers, especially La Herradura, which boasts waves of up to four metres, ideal for experienced board fanatics.
The coarse sandy beaches of El Silencio, Señoritas and Caballeros are also recommended, while Pico Alto’s point break offers towering waves from four to 10 metres – making them the biggest in Peru. The waves here are similar to those in Hawaii but the beaches are quieter.
Two hours south of Lima is Cerro Azul beach, which gets a mention in The Beach Boys’ song Surfing Safari.
Sample product: Journey Latin America (020 8747 8315, journeylatinamerica.co.uk) offers a nine-day Coastal Peru tour for £1,243 in October 2008, including flights, four nights’ bed and breakfast in Lima and three nights’ full-board in Mancora, including all transfers.
Argentina: learn to tango
Argentina’s capital Buenos Aires is the birthplace of tango, a sensual and dramatic dance that originated in the city’s working class slums in the 1890s.
These days, tango displays can be seen all over the city, particularly in the streets and clubs of hip artists’ district San Telmo. Check out a dinner and tango show at the intimate back room of Café Tortoni, on Avenida de Mayo, the world’s oldest coffee shop, which opened in 1858.
Grab a partner and have a go at learning the dance yourself – classes are available all over Buenos Aires. Many operators offer holidays dedicated to learning tango.
Sample product: Travel 4 (0800 0224 304) offers a four-day Learn to Tango course for £257 per person until March 31 2009, including three nights’ accommodation, some meals, and transfers. Also included are a city tour, lessons on the development of tango, plus tuition with an expert dancer, as well as nights out at the city’s famous tango clubs.
Mexico: cook up a burrito in
Mexico is Latin America’s food capital. In fact, it is probably the only country in the region worth visiting for its cuisine alone. Munch on grasshoppers or chicken in chocolate chilli sauce and then knock it all back with the inevitable shot of tequila or two.
Tacos and burritos may taste different from those at home, but they are arguably tastier when eaten in their country of origin.
The region of Oaxaca is particularly renowned for its cuisine, thanks to its abundance of exotic ingredients coupled with delicious recipes. Tuck into local delicacy chapulines (toasted grasshoppers) flavoured with garlic, salt and lemon and try top tipple mezcal.
Sample product: Cathy Matos Mexican Tours (0870 890 0040) offers a seven-night Taste of Yucatan tour for £2,330 per person departing August 21, featuring two nights at Hacienda Xcanatún, which includes a cookery class, an overview of Yucatan culinary history and ingredients, and a market tour.
Price includes flights, transfers and hotel accommodation.
Brazil: hang-gliding over Rio
Rio de Janeiro is an edgy and exciting city with a dramatic and varied skyline, with beaches sitting alongside mountains, and sprawling slum districts just a stone’s throw from luxury apartment blocks.
View this fascinating landscape from above by taking a tandem hang-gliding ride. Not for the faint-hearted, the flight begins with participants running off a sloping platform at the top of a mountain.
The experience lasts for about 10 minutes and gliders are met with sweeping panoramic views of the forests, mountains, coastline and mansion houses. Hang-gliders touch down on the beach at the end of the ride.
Other must-do activities in Rio include watching a Brazilian football game at the Maracana Stadium, taking the cable car up Sugar Loaf Mountain and experience another side to Rio as seen in the hit film City of God by taking a favela tour.
Sample product: Kuoni (01306 747 008) offers seven nights’ bed and breakfast at the Copacabana Mar Rio de Janeiro for £937 per person in 2008, including flights and transfers.
Chile and Argentina: wine tasting
Some of the world’s finest wines come from Chile, which lies alongside Argentina and also borders Bolivia and Peru.
Hailed ‘The next Napa,’ the wine-growing region of Colchagua is where a number of top-notch red wines are made.
Merlot and cabernet sauvignon grapes thrive, thanks to the region’s balmy climate. Visitors can explore its numerous vineyards while enjoying a few tasting sessions along the way.
The Museum of Colchagua is worth a visit to discover more about the history of Chile, cowboy culture and wine tasting.
Argentina’s Mendoza region is also famed for its wineries, best explored by spending the day cycling from one to the next along peaceful and shady tree-lined tracks.
If you get bored with wine, it’s also worth stopping at the chocolate and liquor-producing factory as well as an olive farm. There are plenty of top wines being sold at bargain prices so make sure you make room in your suitcase for a few bottles.
The beautiful student town of Mendoza is a great place to hang out as it’s full of shops, bars, restaurants and cafes.
Sample product: Abercrombie and Kent offers the 13-day Signature Chile tour for £4,905 per person, departing September 19 to November 30, featuring two days in Colchagua, including flights, bed-and-breakfast accommodation and some meals.
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