The best of South America – right now

The best of South America – right now

As summer fades into autumn across the northern hemisphere, our search for sunshine shifts from Mediterranean beaches to South America, where spring will soon be on its way. To find out which destinations are hot right now, we asked tour operator Exsus’ South American expert, Sue Lyall – just back from a long research-and-inspiration trip throughout continent – for all her top tips…

Which is the hottest country in South America right now?
Argentina – the country has it all. It’s got to be the best place to whale-watch on the planet, and for the adventurous there’s everything from trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier in Patagonia (check out the Explore Patagonia itinerary, which also takes in Chile’s incredible Torres del Paine National Park) to trekking with llamas on Salt Flats in the arid north. There are also some amazing gourmet experiences in Mendoza and the Northeast, and Buenos Aires has so much to offer – wonderful architecture, nightlife and galleries. The Argentines have impeccable taste, so throughout the country you have a huge choice of wonderful boutique hotels to suit all budgets – one of our favourites is Legado Mitico in Buenos Aires, which offers a really authentic taste of Argentina.

Which is the South American city to visit in 2011-12?
Cartagena in Colombia – one of the most beautiful cities in South America. There are plenty of great boutique hotels there, and it also has some of the best nightlife Latin America with great Cuban bars like Cafe Habana giving you a truly authentic Latino experience. During the day, you can stroll around the beautiful and historic walled city, or take a trip to a nearby volcano for a mud-bath.

Which is the most happening neighbourhood right now?
Recoleta in Buenos Aires is claiming the edge back over Palermo with the new openings of Mio Buenos Aires and Algodon Mansion.

Which hotels would you recommend – and which would you avoid?
Getting off the beaten track to get the real experience is so important in South America. I recently went to Pousada do Toque in Alagoas in Brazil, where there are incredible deserted beaches, mouthwatering lobster and a chance to get up close to manatees. I personally would avoid any hotel with more than 200 rooms.

What’s the one thing we shouldn’t miss when travelling in South America right now?
The Uyuni Salt Flats is one of the great natural wonders of the world, and our adventurous Sugar Loaf and Salt Flats itinerary takes in these blindingly white salt flats dotted with multi-coloured lakes, giant cacti and black granite rocks. Get there before the planned airport arrives in late 2012. There’s also the awesome Atacama Desert, and Rio de Janeiro – another fantastically vibrant and energetic city – and a new route on the Navimag Cruceros that will be taking in the Chilean fjords, while in the Galapagos the new Grand Odyssey is the swankiest new small boat. The Reserva Ibitipoca is a stunning property in the interior of Brazil, and for the more adventurous we have a kayaking trip in the Valdes Peninsula during the whale season – stay at Estancia Rincon Chico for a unique and unforgettable experience.

Exsus, which specialises in bespoke itineraries to spectacular parts of the world, has a special passion for South America where it first began sharing first-hand knowledge with travellers a decade ago. To find out more about Exsus itineraries – in South America or elsewhere – visit

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