Travelling to South America at any time of year is a fascinating experience. From Venezuela down to Bolivia including Brazil, the region is really a 'year round' destination, with certain rainy periods in Peru around January-February which can cause heavy mudslides (Explore don't run trips during this time), and in Brazil from December to March, where the Pantanal and the Amazon are particularly wet. July and August are often peak times for people visiting the Galapagos Islands or planning to hike the Inca Trail, due to the Summer holidays, and Easter Celebrations can also be very busy times to visit most countries, but often worthwhile to see the colourful festivities. However, travel from March to November is very rewarding throughout.
The only exception would be in Patagonia, where they enjoy summer during our winter months, and to make the most of its rugged scenery it would be essential to book a holiday to Patagonia between November and March.
Latin America's colonial roots have brought about a blend of Spanish Catholicism and indigenous beliefs, resulting in many vibrant, colourful festivals throughout the continent. Visiting South America at certain times of year can guarantee that you get to join in and experience some of the action.
Without a doubt, the biggest party in Latin America is Brazil's annual carnival, falling over the beginning of Lent each year and continuing for a week. The most famous is, of course, in Rio de Janeiro, where over 50,000 samba dancers compete at the Sambadrone for the title of 'Best Samba School'. Their dancing lasts through the night, making the Brazil Carnival one of the most hedonistic and exciting experiences in Latin America. What many travellers don't know though, is that there are many more Carnivals taking place throughout Brazil. One of the most interesting is in the northern coastal towns of Recife and Olinda. Visiting Brazil with Explore over the Carnival period you'll get to visit Rio as well as the more traditional parades in the north. There is a huge black population in this area due to the history of slavery, and one of the more famous processions is the 'Night of the Silent Drums'. Here, 20,000 drummers pay tribute to the many slaves who suffered, and just as midnight approaches, the drums reach a fevered pitch only to fall silent for several minutes in honour of those slaves who died.
Festival of the Sun in Peru
Experience Peru's Festival of the Sun, also known as Inti Raymi, held on the 24th June each year. This old Inca festival is held only once a year during the Southern Hemisphere winter solstice. On Explore's Inti Raymi tour we celebrate the festival at the Sacsayhuaman Fortress, where the locals perform rites and rituals in honour of the Sun God. People from all over Peru come to take part in the festival, and it is celebrated in indigenous cultures throughout the Andes
What many people don't know about Latin America is that it is a paradise for food lovers. Traditional South American dishes such as Andean ceviche found in Peru, Ecuador and even up into Central America, are becoming much more well-known in the UK. Ceviche is a delicious dish typically made from seafood cured in citrus juices and spiced with chilli, and served with the most traditional Andean staples of 'choclo', or corn, potatoes or plantain. Perhaps the most famous dish found in Peru and Ecuador is the guinea pig - it might not be for everyone, but the meat is surprisingly tasty! The downside to this delicacy is that you frequently drive past roadside shacks with a huge guinea pig spit-roasting over a fire - not so great if you've ever had one as a pet!
Travelling down the Andes towards Argentina, we get into beef country. Argentinian wines and steak are a perfect combination, and on Explore tours through Patagonia and Argentina's northwest, we get the chance to sample some of the best beef in the world. They have typical 'parrillas', or open barbeques, where the best cuts of meat are cooked along with blood sausage, intestines, brains and just about every other part of the cow!
All of this is washed down with a wide array of good local beer and regional spirits – cachaça from Brazil, pisco sours in Chile and Peru, chuflay from Bolivia or Argentina’s famous Malbec wine.
Food is a hugely important part of the culture of any place, and a trip to Latin America with Explore gives us a great chance to learn about their traditions while also sampling some of the local delicacies.