It’s no secret that Latin America houses many of this planet’s most jaw-dropping destinations. From Rio de Janeiro in Brazil to Machu Pichu in Peru, each of these countries will make you realise things when you’re there that you wouldn’t realise otherwise. They say to travel is to live. If you’re one of those looking for a crazy, thrilling adventure, look no further because Latin America should be your next destination.
Here are a few reasons (Travel destinations included. You’re welcome.) that you should choose Latin America for your Global Volunteer exchange experience next summer:
You can wander through the streets of Old Town Cartagena. Cartagena – even the name itself sounds kind of steamy and exotic. Located on the Caribbean Sea, Cartagena is Colombia’s second-oldest city and was for centuries an important Spanish colonial trading center. Most importantly, this is where Spanish colonialists stockpiled their spoils – gold, in particular – before shipping it all home to Mother Spain. As a result, the core of the old town remains a labyrinth of streets flush with old colonial homes punctuated by churches and grand plazas.
Cartagena is one of those cities where it’s best to just put away the map for a few hours and allow yourself get lost. As it is a walled city, you can’t go too far… or get too lost.
Imagine mud bathing on top of a Volcano!
Does floating atop a “mud volcano” that is 2,300m (7,546 ft) deep sound like fun? It ought to.
At the Totumo mud volcano near Cartagena, you climb down a ladder only to be engulfed in buoyant mud (you float, so it’s not in the least bit strenuous), get a mud massage for USD1.50, and then hang out suspended in the mud as your skin takes in over 55 different minerals. Once you’ve soaked in all the mud you can handle, stagger down to the nearby lake where a group of women will scrub you down to make sure you’re clean (for another USD1.50). An unusual experience, but one that will make you laugh and break more than a few smiles for time to come. You’ll thank us for later for the recommendation when your skin feels so soft, too.
Mexico is home to one of the planet’s great urban travel destinations — a city with unmatched cultural attractions and a world-renowned gastronomy scene. We’re talking about Mexico City, and it’s likely that most of what you think you know about it is wrong. For travelers, this makes a visit to Mexico City that much easier as examples of the city’s Aztec origins and its Spanish colonization can all be enjoyed on foot. Walking through the ancient ruins of the Aztecs.
Despite the widespread destruction after the defeat of the Aztecs, a number of their important historic sites have been unearthed and put on display in recent years. The most important site is Templo Mayor, home to remains of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlán, including the first relic discovered in 1978, a finely sculpted round disc more than three meters in diameter and weighing eight-and-a-half tons.
Another of Mexico City’s important historic squares is The Square of the Three Cultures (Plaza de las Tres Culturas). Occupying the site of the main square of the Pre-Columbian town of Tlatelolco and the scene of the last desperate stand by the Aztecs in 1521 – an event remembered by a memorial tablet – the square takes its name from its interesting mix of buildings from three different periods: Aztec pyramids and temples, a Spanish church, and modern tower blocks. In addition to the principal pyramid, other Aztec remains include a number of smaller pyramids, platforms, staircases, walls, and altars, as well as a “tzompantli,” a wall of skulls and fine reliefs of Aztec calendar signs.
The largest country in South America, Brazil occupies almost half the continent. Nearly all of it is in the Southern Hemisphere and much of it is tropical, with vast stretches of rainforest filled with exotic plants and wildlife. Its 7,400-kilometer Atlantic coast is lined with golden sand beaches, and its interior is filled with mineral resources.
With arms outstretched 28 meters, as if to encompass all of humanity, the colossal Art Deco statue of Christ, called Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer), gazes out over Rio and the bay from the summit of Corcovado. The eight-meter base encloses a chapel that is popular for weddings. What better location can be there to get hitched at?
Few shows match Rio’s pre-Lenten Carnaval (Carnival) extravaganza for color, sound, action, and exuberance. Make no mistake, this is not just another rowdy street party, but a carefully staged showpiece, where spectators can watch the parades of competing samba dancers from a purpose-built stadium designed by none other than Brazil’s best-known architect, Oscar Niemeyer. Called the Sambódromo, this long series of grandstand boxes provides ringside seats to a 700-meter parade route where dancers and musicians from the competing samba schools strut their stuff in a dazzling explosion of brilliant costumes.
Machu Picchu stands apart in Peruvian history as the one Inca city that the advancing Spaniards never found as they captured and colonized the rest of the Empire. Brought to world attention in 1911 by Hiram Bingham through a dramatic series of articles in the newly popular National Geographic magazine, Machu Picchu is now considered one of the Seven Wonders of the World and unfathomable in its beauty. Some tips for getting the most out of your visit: first of all, get your tickets in advance.
Tourism is increasing by the month, and you may face restrictions on entry otherwise. Get up at 5:30a.m., take the first bus (around 7a.m.) with your passport to the top of the mountain, and as soon as you enter the site, climb the stairs to your left (just follow the early birds) for the “money shot” overview of this fairytale compound.
Learn about the intricacies of Incan textile designs and what each motif represented while watching a dozen women (some with babies swaddled on their backs) working complicated looms. Outside, dozens of other women spin raw alpaca wool via a top-like spindle as toddlers and puppies amuse themselves underfoot. You’ll discover the fascinating ways that shorn fleece is washed and dyed naturally, using only plants, minerals and insects to create vivid colors.
Whatever your bucket list contains and where will it take you, there is one thing that we recommend putting on top: travel with a purpose. Don’t just see a country, a community, but help uplift is little by little. Teach children in rural Colombia or Brazil, help empower women and reduce geneder inequality in Peru, or contribute to makeing schools in Mexico more environmentally conscious.
Explore our projets available in Latin America here!