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The Best Places to Go in Central & South America in 2024

For a region so marked by its ancient cultures—the Mayans, the Olmecs, the Aztecs, the Incas, the Moche, the Wari, spanning 5,000 years of human history—it’s a real shift of perspective to look at a map, considering places to go in Central and South America, tilt your head, and ask: “So—what’s new?”

After all, superlatives are usually part of the draw in these parts. The oldest known civilization in the Americas flourished around 3,000 BC in Caral, Peru, with today’s travelers regularly driving three hours from Lima to walk its grounds. Tikal, the Mayan citadel in Guatemala, is described by UNESCO as “one of the most important archaeological complexes left by the Maya civilization,” and cars, buses, and helicopters bring visitors to it daily.

Yet around these gobsmacking, still-standing vestiges of cultures past, there is so much newness. There are museums of a staggering scale, like the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP)—Brazil’s first modern art museum when it opened in 1947—that’s soon to become even bigger with a 14-story extension; just blocks away, a brand-new Soho House will be the club’s first outpost in South America. On the Magdalena River in Colombia, the charming city of Mompox (founded in 1540) that Gabriel García Márquez anointed in his novel The General in his Labyrinth, will become more accessible than ever thanks to new river cruises aboard the glossy AmaWaterways. (Expect to hear more brands hitting these waters in years to come.) As for Tikal, in Guatemala? It’ll be easier to reach in 2024 thanks to new direct flights from the US to Guatemala City (where you’ll want to stop to try food from the country’s rising chefs). There’s also glampingritzy resorts, and the makings of a few epic road trips.

Chacarita in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires has long banked on grass-fed beef to propel its food scene, but that’s hardly all that’s on the menu these days—and Michelin’s first guide to Argentina, unveiled in November 2023, is proof. Porteños embrace a spontaneous approach to eating and drinking, and the Chacarita neighborhood—right near ever-cool Palermo—is the Argentine capital’s current casual-dining darling with a diverse collection of recently opened spots.

Wine bars are all the rage: At Naranjo, enjoy higher-welfare porchetta and skin-contact vintages under the orange tree for which it’s named; Anchoíta Cava’s wine, cheese, and charcuterie lists are notable, while small plates, such as cacio e pepe, and a generous pick-your-own bottle selection are paired with charming floral arrangements at Lardito. Southeast Asian tapas such as chicken pao are on the menu at Apu Nena, while dishes are for sharing at Picaron and Condarco: When they appear on the changing menus, order the razor clams in salsa verde at the former and griddled oyster mushrooms at the latter. The 25-year-old chef, Nicolas Tykocki, at the opened-this-year Ácido, meanwhile, intrigues diners by making a daily off-menu dish. Chacarita’s drinks scene, spearheaded by vermouth specialist La Fuerza, also punches above its weight: Whiskey aficionados can sip from 110-plus cask-aged malts to a vinyl soundtrack at Sede; find signature beverages from bartending legend Mona Gallosi at Punto Mona; and try up-and-coming Agostina Elena’s cocktails at just-opened Sofá. If you’re traveling to eat and drink in the year ahead, Chacarita should be your first stop. Sorrel Moseley-Williams

Colca Canyon, Peru

Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, Colca is a dramatic gash in Southern Peru where Inca-built agricultural terraces line the hillsides, and shadows of Andean condors—with all nine feet of their wingspans—ripple across the landscape. It’s long been worth the journey required to reach this hiking destination, which is about three hours by car from the colonial city of Arequipa (itself a 90-minute flight from Lima or Cusco). But with Peru’s first-ever tented camp, open as of September 2023, the Colca Canyon is set to climb even higher on visitors’ bucket lists.

Puqio—from the same team behind chic Cirqa in Arequipa, boutique Atemporal in Lima, and the lakeside lodge of Titilaka on Lake Titicaca—has all the makings of another destination-worthy stay. Safari-style tents and adobe huts are on offer, with all meals and drinks included—expect local dishes cooked in clay ovens, or over an open flame, and the zing of pisco in cocktails. Outdoor bath tubs and wood-burning stoves make it tempting to turn in early, but Puqio-organized excursions will keep you busy, whether you’re looking to learn from Andean herbalists, go horseback riding, embark on sweat-inducing treks, or dip into natural hot springs. It’s much of what already draws travelers to Colca, wrapped in a bow—go while it’s still easy to nab one of only eight accommodations available. 


When National Geographic and Lindblad Expeditions launch their new Belize to Tikal itinerary in January 2024, travelers may be tempted to tack on a few days ashore Belize’s white-sand beaches and palm-dotted islands. But Guatemala, home to the jungle-shrouded Mayan ruins of Tikal, is the extension not to skip. The country’s mix of rich Indigenous and colonial history, staggering natural beauty, and now expanding infrastructure for tourism in the form of restaurants, hotels, and tours makes 2024 the year to explore Guatemala in earnest. In the charming city of Antigua, the world class MUNAG (National Museum of Art Guatemala), which covers 3,000 years of heritage through a contemporary lens, is now open, and a second-phase unveiling is expected imminently. Nearby, the team behind Luna Zorro studio—known for merging traditional craftsmanship with modern textile design and crafting boutique trips throughout Guatemala in collaboration with El Camino Travel—is renovating a historic property into La Valiente: It will house a Luna Zorro boutique and a coffee-and-wine bar in the front, with a two-bedroom casita for rent in the back, all set to open in October 2024. Café No Sé, meanwhile, an anchor of the old city that’s touted as the first mezcal bar outside of Mexico, will continue to honor “20-ish” years of being in business with events and live music. A flush of new art spaces, like Aura Galerías, and innovative restaurants continue to characterize the capital of Guatemala City.

Air carriers have taken notice of the increasing interest in this destination—in December 2023, Alaska will begin daily service from Los Angeles to Guatemala City, marking a new year-round route for the airline. Delta is bumping up access to Latin America in general and upping the frequency of winter flights from its Atlanta hub to Guatemala

Inhotim, Brazil

Nestled within Brazil’s Atlantic ForestInhotim is Latin America’s largest open-air art museum—and one that begs for slow, thoughtful exploration. Here, one of the most diverse collections of contemporary art in the world, with pieces ranging from large-scale sculptures to paintings and photographs, stretches over thousands of acres of botanical gardens. An art center of this magnitude begs for a multi-day visit, yet the lack of nearby accommodation has long made that difficult. This will all change next year.

Come September 2024, there will be 45 bungalows on-site, the first phase of a project spearheaded by Clara Resorts, a São Paulo–based hotel group focused on sustainable luxury. Each night, hotel guests will be able to retreat to luxurious rooms outfitted with balconies, fireplaces, and soapstone bath tubs; amenities like a 25-meter heated pool, sauna, massage room, gym, and events space are also planned. Plus, there will be a food hall with an emphasis on fresh, local ingredients. In an effort to create a welcoming and comfortable space for families, each bungalow will accommodate four to five people—and, once the bungalows are complete, 60 additional rooms and a spa will follow, and a larger resort with at least 150 rooms is expected to open by 2029.

The project will incorporate designs by architect Freusa Zechmeister, a native of the state of Minas Gerais, and overflow with stones from the state—nodding to the area’s prosperous mining history and inviting visitors to explore Brazil’s most destination-worthy museum, less than a two-hour drive from the city of Belo Horizonte.

Magdalena River, Colombia

Immortalized in Gabriel García Márquez’s classic Love in the Time of Cholera, the Magdalena River is Colombia’s largest and most important waterway. Running 930 miles from the snowcapped Andes through fertile valleys and into the turquoise waters of the Caribbean, it’s the economic and cultural heart of the country. However, for many travelers, the mighty Magdalena has been off the radar.

But courtesy of luxe river-cruise company AmaWaterways, two different ships will kick off voyages in the future: AmaMagdalena, in November 2024, and AmaMelodia, in January 2025. Both ships will sail the Magic of Colombia itinerary, from Barranquilla to Cartagena, and the Wonders of Colombia itinerary, from Cartagena to Barranquilla—each taking passengers upriver to the UNESCO-designated city of Mompox, founded in 1540, where riverfront plazas and ornate churches await in this lost-in-time pueblo magico.

Along the way, the three-story ships, which come with rooftop sun decks and balconies, stop for birdwatching and hiking. What really sets this river sailing apart from those in the Amazon River, though, is its focus on culture: From musical explorations in the town of Palenque, the first “free” town founded by formerly enslaved people in the Americas, to jazz concerts in Mompox and a special Colombian Carnaval celebration in Barranquilla, this is a journey into the exuberant heart of Colombian life.

Fly via Cartagena, with its world-class beaches, dining, and nightlife—not to mention the new Casa Pestagua hotel, situated in a lavishly restored 17th-century palace—for a soft landing before or after the cruise. There are a number of existing nonstop flights from the US, including an increase in weekly flights from Atlanta via Delta as of October 2023.

Panama City, Panama

Once a mere stopover destination, Panama City is giving us new reasons to stay awhile. Go beyond the eponymous canal—arguably the most significant trade route of all time—to a city punctuated with mind-bending skyscrapers (like the F&F Tower), uniquely steeped in both American influence and Central American culture, and wrapped around its own rainforest (the 573-acre Metropolitan Natural Park).

In the old quarter, UNESCO-designated Casco Viejo, the Sofitel Legend Casco Viejo, Panama opened last year in a former social club founded in 1917. Breeze through its immaculate French-colonial-inspired lobby with fringed palms and tiled floors to Arcano, a speakeasy with tarot card readings and aged Panamanian rum. The new Kaandela restaurant, inside the adults-only Amarla boutique hotel, opened in 2022 and showcases open-fire cooking just behind the bar. Fan out from the old quarter on Truly Panama’s new epicurean Flavors of Panama tour to score chicheme (a traditional, creamy spiced drink), ceviche at the fish market, tropical fruit at stands in sprawling Park Omar, and lunch at Afro-Panamanian La Tapa del Coco. Further north along the coast, stay at the sprawling Santa Maria, a Luxury Collection Hotel & Golf Resort, for a round at its 72-par Jack Nicklaus golf course, backed by the Panama City skyline—or time your visit for January to catch the first-ever 2024 Latin American Amateur Golf Championships.

The city remains a perfect launching point for wide-ranging Panamanian adventures, too. Dive deep into nature with a quick flight to the rarely explored Gulf of Chiriqúi, plotting a new nighttime jungle hike and mod beachfront bungalow stay at Isla Palenque. Or stop over on a cruise that lands you at port at the new Fuerte Amador cruise terminal, with ideal access to the Panama Canal. Following a new multimillion-dollar refurbishment, the Crystal Serenity offers glam suites with Italian marble and custom-made Jesurum 1870 linens and will stop in this tropical metropolis on 2024’s World Cruise.

Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica

You wouldn’t be alone in thinking Costa Rica was all barefoot backpackers, surf seekers, and adrenaline-fueled adventurers. But on a tiny Pacific peninsula in Guanacaste, beach lovers with deeper pockets can find sleek resorts from beloved hospitality brands like Four SeasonsAndaz, Hyatt-owned Secrets, and Marriott’s El Mangroove, Autograph Collection. This all-star resort destination will get even better in 2024 when it welcomes Nekajui, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve: an ultra-lavish playground with 107 rooms and 36 private residences overlooking Pochote’s horseshoe-shaped bay. Nekajui, which means “garden” in Chorotega (one of the region’s native languages), nods to the open-air experiences, from a showstopping infinity pool and a beach club reachable by funicular to a treehouse spa accessed via suspension bridge. Plus, the beloved, 20-year-old Four Seasons Resort Peninsula Papagayo just completed a major renovation as of November 1. There’s now a Mediterranean-inspired beach club on Playa Virador, improved sustainability on the 18-hole Arnold Palmer–designed golf course, and new wellness offerings for those seeking out Costa Rica’s Blue Zone benefits. With the much-anticipated arrival of Waldorf Astoria Residences Guanacaste on the other side of Culebra Bay coming in 2025, consider this your chance to get in on the exclusive enclave’s five-star service and unparalleled privacy while making the most of the Liberia airport’s new purpose-built terminal for private jets and Peninsula Papagayo’s 180-berth private marina, which can accommodate yachts up to 250 feet. Short-term renters can register their interest with Martha Dayton Design and U+B Architecture & Design’s latest project, Villa Eram, a biophilic retreat (opened in 2022) inspired by the rainforest, while brand loyalists should keep their eyes peeled: It’s rumored that Six Senses, One & Only, and Rosewood are all in talks with developers here too. 

Patagonia Azul, Argentina

Despite the challenges of taming Argentina’s vast and unmeasurable region of Patagonia, Fundación Rewilding’s Patagonia Azul Project park conservation effort has scaled up over the past two years with several gateways for visitors. And the adventures are rich: Navigations to Islas Blancas and the abandoned Isla Leones lighthouse with local tour operator Viento Azul, for example, put you in the company of petrels, cormorants, and Commerson’s dolphins as well as four species of whale—you can go even deeper into the blue with snorkeling and diving in Camarones. When calm, the Bustamante Bay’s waters are perfect for kayaking and stand-up paddling, while surfers come to Cabo Raso for the testing tubes.

Flights to Patagonia Azul arrive via the El Tehuelche Airport in Puerto Madryn or Trelew International Airport in the north and Comodoro Rivadavia in the south, then it’s a drive to the entry point of your choice. Plan on three hours to reach the portal near Camarones, where hardy travelers can bed down for free with no previous reservations a stone’s throw from the Argentine Sea’s winds and waves at the 10-spot Cañadón del Sauce and nine-spot Bahía Arredondo (the latter houses a simple kitchen and dining room for use). For those seeking greater creature comforts, Portal Isla Leones will assemble six new ocean-front huts in mid-December for the Southern Hemisphere’s 2023–2024 summer. At Bahía Bustamante, an hour’s drive from Camarones, the eponymous eco lodge has also just opened four new marine lofts in addition to eleven existing cabins not far from a 100,000-strong colony of Magellanic penguins.

Quito, Ecuador

Quito is finally getting its due. The city’s mile-high skyline got a lot higher thanks to the work of architects like Bjarke Ingels Group, whose 32-story IQON tower (completed in 2022) is now the city’s tallest. It’s just one of several projects to come from Ecuadorian development firm Uribe Schwarzkopf, in its ongoing effort to mature the ancient Andean city into an unlikely new hub of contemporary architecture. That’s no small feat considering that Quito stands atop both the ruins of a pre-Columbian settlement and an earthquake-prone high plateau and is anchored by an untouchable colonial center with UNESCO status. But a new generation of Ecuadorian and international creatives are pushing the city toward the future—and not just for the sake of visitors.

Moving things along in that direction, an all-new metro system will be inaugurated in late 2023, with 15 stations spanning from Quitumbe in the southern part of the city to El Labrador in the north. New hotels have been slower to arrive, but one standout is the affordable 151-room Go Quito Hotel, which opened in June 2023 with a rooftop bar-restaurant, spa, sauna, pool, and airy rooms offering unbeatable views of the city. Meanwhile, Quito’s dining scene is finally catching up to culinary neighbor Lima. Buzzy new restaurants include Cardó, where Chef Adrián Escardó makes octopus bacon and suckling pig with naranjilla sauce; Aura, which leans into native Ecuadorian ingredients like Mashua honey and Manaba cheese from the coast; and Nuema, where chef and co-owner Pia Salazar’s sweet-salty hybrid desserts—think pastries with leek with lemon verbena and tonka bean, and white seaweed with black garlic—won her World’s Best Pastry Chef 2022, a first for Quito and Ecuador, and 2023. 

San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

With its bronzed, dusty roadways and handcrafted adobe dwellings, Chile’s oldest village has captivated adventurous visitors for decades. But now, the soulful oasis of San Pedro de Atacama is securing the spotlight as Chile’s northern star, with a variety of travelers eager to experience its rugged-chic vibe. After all, this celestial city is a hotbed of geographical wonders, with snowcapped volcanic mountains in the world’s driest nonpolar region, high-altitude lagoons dotting the Andean desert, and dazzling salt flats.

Wildlife lovers flock to Los Flamencos National Reserve for up-close encounters with the world’s rarest flamingos and native vicuñas. And the surreal, dramatic scenery of the steaming El Tatio Geysers at sunrise can only be rivaled by the fiery palette of the Valle de Catarpe canyons at dusk. In 2024, El Niño is likely to spark an extraordinary Atacama superbloom inside Chile’s new national park, Desierto Florido.

Under the clearest skies on the planet, backyard astronomers can explore the cosmos on ethereal stargazing tours. The ALMA Observatory, poised at an atmosphere-topping 16,000 feet, promises expert-led interstellar experiences. But the most otherworldly excursion might be traversing the Valle de la Luna’s inhospitable yet magically serene moonscape environment. Earthly travelers can seek solace in the area’s newest luxe property, Habitas Atacama. Opened in September 2023, the elite outdoorsy design guarantees a memorable stay before you jet off to glimpse Easter Island’s annular solar eclipse in October.

São Paulo, Brazil

Home to more than 12 million people, São Paulo is one of Latin America’s most diverse metropolises—the New York City of the Southern Hemisphere, if you will. In 2024, travelers have even more compelling reasons to visit, starting with the long-anticipated expansion of Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP). Connected via underpass to MASP’s original Lina Bo Bardi–designed modernist building, the 14-story LEED-certified addition will house five exhibition galleries, two multipurpose spaces, a restaurant, a shop, classrooms, and a restoration lab. Nearby Cidade Matarazzo, one of São Paulo’s biggest and most ambitious redevelopment projects, is busy transforming a warren of 20th-century buildings into an arts center, a retail village, restaurants, and a green space. Its anchor tenant, the 160-room Rosewood São Paulo hotel, opened in 2022 and features Philippe Starck interiors and 450 site-specific works by 57 Brazilian artists. Also coming to Cidade Matarazzo in 2024 is Soho House São Paulo, the club’s first foray into South America. Once complete, the 36-bedroom property will include a rooftop pool, a spa, a gym, members-only dining spaces, and interiors showcasing Brazilian designers. It’s a good thing reaching São Paulo just got easier, thanks to new direct flights from Los Angeles and London via Delta-LATAM and Virgin Atlantic, respectively. 

Source: Conde Nast Traveler