RealTravel Reveals Top Ten Ways to Love Latin America

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Tips include ways to learn Spanish and sites for breathtaking landscapes

This city is brimming with students who make it their mission to party all night every night. I was taken to what can only be described as a refugee shelter where the young and beautiful come to dance to live Quarteto music. I have never seen so many people dance!

RealTravel (http://realtravel.com ), a travel blogging and travel guide site that helps more than half a million people plan trips with advice from other travelers every month, today announces top 10 ways to love Latin America, according to RealTravel editors and blogger Ciccia.

1) Learn to speak Spanish.

One fantastic ability that people have is the gift of communication. Though it’s not necessary for a trip to South or Central America, it can certainly enhance your travels. And you don’t need to be fluent before you arrive, either, as language courses are offered in plenty. Ciccia writes in her travel blog: “Some of my most amazing experiences have been simply speaking to normal people on the bus, in isolated villages or shady plazas. If you want to really discover something amazing, try to get past language barriers and embrace a way of thinking and a culture that is so far removed from what you know. I had a few lessons at the Academia Latinoamericana de Espanol in Sucre, Bolivia. I would recommend this school for its professionalism, its price ($5 to $10 US depending on group size) and the variety of other cultural activities they have such as salsa and cookery.”

2) Immerse yourself in culture.

A great way to experience another person’s way of life is to become involved in cultural exchanges. “I visited Isla Amantani on the Peruvian side of Lake Titicaca,” Ciccia shares, “and I stayed with a family who had not changed their lives to fit in with modern ways. Their farming techniques, their dress, and their customs have not changed for centuries. The family treated me as a daughter and talked about how difficult life can be on this splash of land in the world’s highest inland sea. I would also encourage staying in a Casa Particolar in Cuba if possible, as you will meet the most sincere people around.”

3) Dance!

A trip to any country in Central or South American will be lacking unless you put your dancing shoes on and partake in the dancing culture. Learn how to salsa in Cuba, to tango on the streets of Buenos Aires, or to samba in Rio de Janeiro. Dancing can feel infectious throughout the continent. Ciccia shares a story about a night out in Cordoba, Argentina: “This city is brimming with students who make it their mission to party all night every night. I was taken to what can only be described as a refugee shelter where the young and beautiful come to dance to live Quarteto music. I have never seen so many people dance!”

4) Taste the food.

If travel is about discovery, then why not send your taste buds on their own adventure along the way? Food and drink are an essential part of Latin American culture. “While visiting Venezuela I have become addicted to fried yucca and green plantain,” writes Ciccia. “I have also never quite been able to get over how good the meat is in Argentina and how fabulous Chilean wine is. Peru has some delights too; anything Creole is delicious! Eating and drinking are to be enjoyed with new-found friends so why not accept that invitation to drink with a mate in Argentina to the strumming of a guitar in the park? If you go to Lima visit Baranco, the artisan’s neighbourhood, to sample national Peruvian dishes at a daily food market. The desserts will actually make you think you have died and gone to heaven’s kitchen.” Check your South American travel guide to get some great dining ideas.

5) Learn to love nature.

South and Central America have some of the most diverse landscapes in the world. One example of a unique terrain is the Salt Flats of Uyuni. Ciccia describes her experience visiting Uyuni in her travel blog: “This vast terrain of nothingness tricks you into thinking that you have stepped into a hall of mirrors and leaves you feeling that this land full of contradictions has changed every notion you had of the Earth. Green, yellow, red, white and turquoise lakes and moon-like rocks will inspire you. Prepare yourself for the mythical flight of the condor, heights that will leave you literally breathless and apparently bottomless canyons.”

6) Be adventurous.

Traveling is the perfect opportunity to try activities that you would never do at home. When creating your trip planner, leave room for the unexpected. Ciccia had her fair share of adventures: “Though I felt as though my heart was going to leap out of my chest at any moment, sand buggying in the desert of Ica was one of the most thrilling activities ever. After a wild ride over what used to be a vast sea millions of years ago, we stopped and watched a perfect sunset before going home. Diving in Utila, Honduras is not only the cheapest place in the world to do this but also so much fun and stunningly beautiful. What I loved about diving was learning something so new and different to anything I could experience in my country.”

7) Understand a region’s history.

Learning about a country’s history yields a better understanding of its current state. Seek out museums, guided tours, or read books on the places you are visiting to enrich your experiences. “The highlight of my trip was the Inca Trail in Peru,” Ciccia shares. “Not only is it a scenic hike but it is fundamental to Peru’s Incan past. Full of mystery and spirituality, Macchu Picchu was the home to the Incan intellectual elite. This fascinating walk left me in awe of a culture which apparently escaped to another dimension. Potosi in Bolivia is another interesting city if you are interested in colonial development, and Tikal in Guatamala is a breathtaking long lost Mayan city which peaks above the jungle canopy. To get a good idea of Incan history then I would highly recommend visiting the Museo de la Alta Montana in Salta, Argentina and the Museo del Inka in Cusco, Peru.”

8) Be pro-active about poverty.

To add meaning to your travels, seek out volunteer opportunities. Ciccia writes: “I chose to volunteer for Project Peru (http://www.projectperu.org.uk), an organization which has provided a home for a number of children born into extreme poverty and it organizes other social projects which directly benefit Peru’s most vulnerable sectors of society. If you are considering doing the Inca trail, why not get a few friends to sponsor you and use it to say thank you to a country which will offer you so much hospitality and warmth? I also visited Project Peru’s refuge in the shanty towns around Lima and I spent a few days entertaining (and being entertained by) the children there. Volunteering is a fantastic way to get yourself involved with local culture and to do something really productive with your time.”

9) Accept things as they are.

Some travelers will find Latin America to move at a slower pace than what they’re accustomed to in their fast-paced lifestyles. Remind yourself that every culture has a different sense of time, and etiquette around schedules varies not only between areas of the world, but also from country to country within South and Central America. Understanding is key: find a travel guide for the country you are visiting and read about what to expect in terms of transportation, customs, and attitudes around time.

10) Find the time to take a break from the chaos of travel.

Travel can be tiring. Relaxation is the perfect antidote, and there is nowhere better than the Caribbean coast of Central America for that. Ciccia advises: “My ultimate favourite spot for doing just that is Bocas del Toro in Panama. This group of islands gives you the option to party on Isla Colon or to mix exclusively with the locals on Isla Bastimento. There is not much to do there but sunbathe, visit paradise desert islands and snooze in a hammock as you watch the sun go down over the warm Caribbean ocean.”

RealTraveler Ciccia, an England native, shares her travel stories in her blog, South and Central America in 5ish months.

About RealTravel

Named "Best of the Web" by Forbes and BusinessWeek in 2006 and Best Online Travel Community of the Year in 2007 by the Association of Travel Marketing Executives, RealTravel is a travel blogging and travel guide site that helps more than half a million people plan trips with advice from other travelers every month. Visit us at http://realtravel.com.

Media Contacts:

Christina Brzica
RealTravel.com
christina @ realtravel.com
650-694-4970

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