As winter takes its hold, with winter woollies regular attire and lights on by 4pm, far-flung destinations where the sun shines all day and you can enjoy being outdoors without piling on the layers become increasingly inviting!
The Southern Hemisphere is the perfect destination at this time of year, and here’s our pick of the top 5 getaways in Latin America:
1. Colombia – Cartagena
At nearly 500 years old, Cartagena is a real jewel of the Caribbean. Steeped in colonial history, its old walled city, a UNESCO heritage site, is a charming trove of narrow streets, shaded courtyards and balconies spilling out bright flowers. The infectious beat of salsa and the sweet smell of fruit vendors’ carts fill the streets, just enough to tempt you before the warm waters lapping at its shores lure you away from the city and towards the beautiful beaches of the northern Caribbean coast.
2. Colombia – Medellin
Medellin may have built a reputation for the wrong reasons, but the press has neglected to sing the virtues of its renovation. Out with the cocaine cartels and in with a safe and energetic downtown, this ‘City of Eternal Spring’ has been reborn and can finally be enjoyed for what it really is. Today’s visitor will be treated to stunning mountain views, an enviable climate, bustling streets, an impressive nightlife and a city of fun-loving, generous Colombians who know how to embrace you with their warmth and make sure you’re having as good a time as they are.
3. Rio de Janeiro – Brazil
Rio is a place of dreams: it’s intriguing, exotic and fun. The picture postcard views from Sugar Loaf, the colour and chaos of Carnaval, the swinging of samba hips, the beautiful bodies on Ipanema, the tiny fio dental bikinis…there’s seemingly no end of iconic images for this captivating city on Brazil’s sparkling Atlantic coast. Time your trip with Carnaval in February and you’ll be treated to the cidade maravilhosa, as the locals proudly call it, in all its glory. You may not get much sleep, but this is one experience in life not to miss.
4. Costa Rica – Jaco Beach
Jaco Beach is an old favourite with Cactus and for good reason. This laid-back town on Costa Rica’s Pacific coast is the place to go for the perfect combo of long golden beaches with a backdrop of lush, natural jungle. Unsurprisingly Jaco attracts surfers from afar, and even away from the beach you’re surrounded by rows of surf shops and surfers discussing the perfect wave over a cerveza as the sun goes down. It’s not just about the water though; nature lovers can surround themselves with wildlife in the nearby forest and those who simply want to chill out have ample opportunity.
5. Mexico – Playa del Carmen
Sun, sea, sand and more sand…don’t look further than Playa if this is your idea of paradise. It’s no surprise that over recent years tourists have begun to flock here, but beach life is still nothing but relaxed and the old Latin philosophy of mañana lives on. Indulge in some superb diving or snorkelling in the clear Caribbean waters, browse the local shops selling Mexican crafts or take a trip to the wonderful Mayan ruins at Tulum or Chichen Itza. Or simply grab a beer in one of the many seafront bars, hang out and just soak it all up.