The lesser known adventures of Latin America

Written by Sinead Somers
In March 2012 armed with a backpack, a Lonely planet guide book and not a whole lot else I embarked on what would turn out to be the trip of my lifetime.  Beginning in Mexico City and ending in Rio de Janeiro over the course of 8 months I traveled over 5000 miles through 14 countries along coastlines, over mountains through jungles with ‘gringos’ (as foreigners are referred to) and locals alike.  I watched the sunrise over Tikal, cooked fish over a campfire on uninhabited islands in the San Blas islands and hiked in ice boots up a 6088m mountain in La Paz.  Most people are familiar with Machu Picchu, The Galapagos and Salar de Uyuni which isn’t to say they shouldn’t be visited because they are spectacular however I’d like to highlight some other places and experiences which I think more than deserve a mention, that may well become the highlights of your trips like they did mine.

1. Antigua during Semana Santa
2. Volcano Boarding in Leon
3. Huacachina Desert Oasis Peru

Antigua during Semana Santa

The week before Easter also known as Semana Santa in Spanish, Antigua emerges as the epicentre for religious festivities. The streets are aligned with processions and parades, often with the participants dressed in elaborate religious wear or outfits recreating scenes from the New Testament. Locals can spend up to 12 hours creating intricate patterns on the cobbles streets out of pine needles, sawdust and flowers all to be passed over by the procession then cleared away. This is such a beautiful time to visit colonial Antigua, where thousands of people descend upon the usually sparsely populated city to experience the festival and soak up the joyous atmosphere all in celebration of the birth of Christ. Spectators are invited to participate so using the Spanish I’d learned that week in one of the local schools I sat down with a local nino and together we lay the flowers for the next days’ procession. Imagine Latin America would recommend staying at Meson de Maria in Antigua.



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Volcano Boarding in Leon

Our main reason for visiting Leon was to do the infamous Volcano boarding which sounded far too exciting to pass by. It began with us pilling onto a truck and driving an hour into the country towards the active volcano named Cerro Negro. Once at the bottom of the very large and intimidating looking volcano we were given our board and kit and began the hike. This was a pretty strenuous trek in the midday sun but the views of the surrounding scenery more than made up for it. By the time we reached the top we’d forgotten the reason for being there, until we looked down. At 675 meters we were very high up.

We were shown how to ride the board which was nothing more than a piece of wood with rope attached to it. Instructions were simple. Sit back, lift your legs up and go. As you were pushed off nothing more than hair raising fear choked your throat as you sped down, small rocks flicking up into your goggles, the board swaying from side to side, your white knuckle grip trying to keep it straight. This was one of the highlights of my trip and I know there is nothing else like it anywhere else in the world. This combined with a stay in beautiful Colonial Leon is not to be missed, Imagine Latin America recommends El Convento Hotel for your luxury stay in Leon.

Volcano boarding

See our Highlights of Nicaragua itinerary from £2,020 / $3,131 per person to get an idea of what we can arrange for you. Call 020 7622 1116 for a tailor-made holiday

Huacachina Desert Oasis Peru

Arriving late at night in Huacachina the silhouettes of the sand dunes stood imposingly all around the small oasis that sits a few kilometres outside the city of Ica. We woke up to the most breath taking scenery, giant mountains of sand with the unforgiving sun already high in the sky. The days’ activities consisted of sand boarding which I was keen to try being an avid snowboarder. Setting off at 2pm about 15 of us were strapped into a giant sand buggie and up the dunes we drove. This alone was a thrilling experience, the buggies designed to cruise effortlessly over the sand however emerging at the crest only to plunge steeply over the sheer drop on the other side. The sand boarding itself wasn’t as easy as I thought, sand isn’t as smooth and a mouth full of sand is much less pleasant than snow but overall it was a brilliant experience. Topped off with watching the sun set in the distance, casting oranges and pinks over the dunes and another tantalizing ride back to town, altogether an incredible day.

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