Laying claim to the world's biggest rainforest, driest desert, largest salt pan, along with a string of exceptional archaeological sites and stunning natural wonders, Latin America is not short on enthralling and unusual destinations. Here's a clutch of our favourites.
THE GALAPAGOS, ECUADOR
For many a visit to the breathtaking Galbpagos archipelago is a dream realised. Formed frorh volcanic eruptions and an uplifted seabed, their isolation has led to landscapes and wildlife both weird and wonderful. Wander over ancient lava flows and prickly pear cactus fields to red-sand beaches, and marvel at everything from salt spitting marine iguanas to colossai tortoises over 100 years old.
MACHU PICCHU, PERU
The legendary lost city of the Incas is a rarity in that both the story and the scenery are equally impressive. Lost to the jungle for hundreds of years,it was only rediscovered a little over a century ago and, after extensive clearing, the true glory of the site was revealed. Whether you trek the lnca trail or simply take the bus to the top, it is a site worth planning a holiday around.
IGUAZU FALLS, ARGENTINA and BRAZIL
Colleaively, lguazu's many hundreds of cataracts earn it the title of the world's largest waterfall. So large in fact that it's worth staying a couple of nights to fully appreciate both sides of the falls - the pure visceral power, noise and spray of the Devil's Throat in Argentina versus the stunning panoramas offered from the boardwalks on the Brazilian side.
UYUNI SALT FLATS, BOLIVIA
High on the Bolivian Altiplano, the world's largest salt pan forms a seemingly endless, blindingly white sheet in the dry season and a vast mirror in the wet season. Salt aside though, a visit here will also introduce you to a marooned island of prehistoric cacti and the incredibIe Tunupa Volcano which rises beautifully above the salt flats.
ARENAL VOLCANO, COSTA RICA
As you might expect for a country named the 'Rich Coast',. Costa Rica is chock full of attractions. One crucial stop though is this picture perfect dormant voicano. The scenery is stunning but it's the range of activities on offer that make this a real holiday highlight. Hike, bike or ride a horse in the surrounding forests, paddleboard on the lake or simply relax in one of many geothermal pools.
TORRES DEL PAINE NATIONAL PARK, CHILE
Forming part of Chilean Patagonia, the country's most popular national park is renowned for its imposing mountain scenery, azure lakes and striking glaciers. The pinup for the region though, has to be the Paine massif - three almost vertical, snow-capoed horns, that snare tumbling clouds at the end of the earth. Visit early to see them glow with the sunrise and keep your eyes peeled for foxes, Andean deer, guanacos and maybe even a puma.
The ancient Mayan city of Tikal is one of the world's greatest archaeological sites, yet it is relatively unknown. Larger and better preserved than Machu Rcchu, the giant steep temples - once the tallest buildings in the new world - rise majestically through the tree canopy. Set in dense Jungle, there are many pathways which wind among the ancient monuments, echoing with the roar of howler monkeys and screech of parrots.