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When to Visit Latin America

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High summer

This is Peak season throughout South and Central America (with the exception of Peru & Bolivia). This is the main holiday season for Latinos, so beach resorts are bustling and lively everywhere. It’s high summer in the far south and perfect for trekking in Patagonia in Argentina and Chile.

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Central America’s Highlands

This is the peak of the drier season in Central America, so a good time to be visiting the highlands and Mayan sites of Guatemala and Belize. The highlands will offer warm sunny days, which are perfect for exploring local markets or hiking around volcanoes and lakes. The tropical zone further north, which hides a plethora of Mayan treasures, is dry but reasonably cool.

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The Hay Festival

The beautiful colonial walled city of Cartagena on the Caribbean coast of Colombia plays host to the largest literary festival on the continent – the Hay Festival.

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The Dakar Rally

For petrol-heads, the Dakar Rally crosses through South America this month, taking in the deserts and Andean high roads through Chile's Atacama Desert, northern Argentina and in 2014, for the first time, the salt flats of Bolivia also.

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Mexico Wildlife

A brilliant time to experience some of Mexico’s finest wildlife phenomena, such as the monarch butterfly migration in Michoacan State, west of Mexico City. There is also superb whale-watching off the coast of Baja California, which plays host to large numbers of grey whales, who stay in these waters until early March and are friendly and curious, often swimming right up to boats.

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Brazil Mardi Gras or Carnival

Mardi Gras or Carnival is celebrated all over Brazil, not just in Rio de Janeiro, where the most famous parades take place at the Sambadrome; it also takes to the streets in more local fashion in northern cities such as Salvador and Recife.

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Oruro Carnival in Bolivia

Oruro Carnival in Bolivia is also a famous and colourful spectacle, as is the Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria, the ‘Dark Lady of the Lake’ at Lake Titicaca at the beginning of February.

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Argentina’s Atlantic Coast

Argentina’s wild rugged Atlantic Coast is home to a unique nature phenomenon where orcas, or killer whales, come to the beaches of Peninsula Valdes, virtually beaching themselves to catch their prey, baby seals, which are at their most numerous during this month.

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Harvesting vines

The beginning of Autumn is the time for harvesting vines, from the Malbec reds of Mendoza in Argentina, to the Sauvignon Blanc grapes of Chile's Central Valleys – and even in Peru, where they make pisco, which is celebrated with numerous Fiestas de la Vendimia.

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Whale encounters

For those who want the best chance of close encounters with whales, especially humpback and killer whales, both of which travel in large pods, this is a good time to go to Antarctica, as it nears the end of its short summer season.

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Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha

Head to the Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha in Tacuarembo in Uruguay in March to celebrate all things related to gaucho culture. Watch rodeos, parades and folk music in the heart of a fiercely traditional region of ranches where men eat giant steaks and sip maté when not riding their horse on the range.

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Easter Holy Week or Semana Santa

Easter Holy Week or Semana Santa is widely celebrated in Latin America with elaborate religious processions, none more so that in Antigua Guatemala – streets are lined with ‘alfombras’, temporary carpets of coloured sawdust painstakingly laid out in beautiful intricate patterns.

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Vibrant colours of Autumn

Start to see the vibrant colours of Autumn in southern Patagonia either in Torres del Paine National Park in Chile or in the Glaciers National Park in Argentina. It is also coming out of peak season so offers less visitors and better value.

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Galápagos Islands

Although a great destination with so much to see almost year-round, wildlife in the Galápagos Islands reaches a peak of activity, with huge numbers of waved albatross on Española, iguanas and giant tortoises hatching, and the famous blue-footed boobies starting their comical mating dances.

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Peru trekking

The start of Peru’s trekking season in the Andes, taking in spectacular Inca sites, such as Machu Picchu or Choquequirao. Walk through remote valleys and inaccessible villages, then unwind in wilderness lodges, luxuriating in a hot tub after a long day’s hike.

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Cacao growing in Belize

The remote southern jungle region of Toledo in Belize provides perfect conditions for growing cacao. Organic farmers produce some of the world’s finest cacao beans, and its delicious product, chocolate, is celebrated in the annual Cacao Festival.

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Inti Raymi

Inti Raymi – Festival of the Sun God, celebrated not only in Cusco in Peru with huge festivities, but also the northern highlands of Ecuador. This is also the best time to visit the high Andes in winter, with dry sunny days and cool nights until October.

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The Amazon

This is the start of the low water season in the Amazon Basin, from Brazil to Peru and Ecuador. The rains are lighter and the mosquitoes less troublesome; the walking trails through the jungle now become accessible, and fishing for piranha is easier, although the larger mammals, such as monkey and sloth, are harder to see than at high water.

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Folklore Festival or Boi Bumba

Head to Parintins (accessed via Manaus) in Brazil at the heart of the Amazon for the Folklore Festival or Boi Bumba, a dance steeped in folklore – and now a fiercely fought competition between two teams who attempt to outdo each other with flamboyant dances, singing and floats.

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Turtle nesting in Costa Rica

This is the height of the season for turtles nesting in Costa Rica, both on the Caribbean and Pacific coasts; Tortuguero National Park is best known for its sites where you can observe green, loggerhead and hawksbill turtles nesting at night. This is also a perfect destination for families.

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The blue skies of Bolivia

Head to the high plains of Bolivia for the clearest blue skies and spectacular views of the salt flats surrounded by Andean peaks. Enjoy sundowners on the white expanse of the salt flats near Uyuni from your luxurious Airstream caravan.

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Galápagos for families

The Galápagos Islands become a little cooler and morning sea mists give you a reprieve from the powerful Equatorial sun – making it a great time to travel as a family. This is the best possible time for whales (mainly humpback and blue) on the northern coasts around Isabela and Fernandina.

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Dance Festival in Oaxaca

Oaxaca in Mexico is a gem of a colonial town that offers fabulous shopping for textiles and crafts in traditional markets, as well as some delicious local specialities in its capacity as one of the country’s gourmet centres. In July the town also comes to life with music and dance during the Guelaguetza Festival, also celebrated in nearby traditional villages.

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Jaguar spotting in Pantanal

For the best time to spot the elusive and revered jaguar and maybe, if lady luck is truly on your side, the puma, head to Brazil’s northern Pantanal during the dry season, where they may be spotted along the Piquiri River.

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World Tango Festival

The streets of Buenos Aires in Argentina are this month filled with the largest milonga in the country, as the sensual Argentine tango takes over the city during the World Tango Festival.

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Skiing in Chile

Chile is such a long, thin country with varying climates, which means there are places to visit year-round, even in winter. Combine Atacama, Easter Island and the central valley wineries during the best skiing season in the Andes, while elsewhere in the country, this is one of the quietest and best value months – although hotels in Patagonia are mostly shut.

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Swim with whale sharks

Swim with whale sharks from the sleepy and relaxed Isla Holbox off the coast of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Mexico's Riviera Maya, a world away from the crowded resorts of Cancun.

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Northern Brazil’s beaches

Beach lovers should head to one of Brazil’s many glorious stretches of northern coastline at this time of year. The tropical climate means temperatures are always warm, and the weather is drier from now until January/February or April, depending on location. Hundreds of miles of beaches and hideaways in Bahia and Pernambuco beckon when the rest of the continent’s beaches are either too cold or are within the hurricane belt.

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Argentina’s Atlantic Coast (1)

A great time to head to Argentina’s rugged Atlantic coast – a haven for Magellanic penguins, sea lions, elephant seals, and – especially – for chances to see southern right whales and even, if you’re lucky, orca or killer whales beaching themselves to feed on seal pubs from Punta Delgada or Caleta Valdes.

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Costa Rica’s Caribbean Coast

The southern Caribbean Coast of Costa Rica is much less visited than the Pacific and offers a wonderful, colourful Caribbean-style vibe, as well as a respite from the normally very wet weather. Take part in the exuberant week-long Puerto Limón Festival, a colourful display of extravagant street celebrations celebrating Columbus Day.

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Day of the Dead Festival in Mexico

Day of the Dead Festival on 1st November is Mexico’s most famous festival with its most fascinating celebrations taking place in Patzcuaro in the colonial heartlands, where townspeople take boats over to the cemetery on Janitzio Island to sit by the graves of their loved ones, bringing them ofrendas of toys, food and drink, depending on what they enjoyed in life.

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Kite Festival in Guatemala

In Guatemala, in the small village of Santiago Sacatepequez in the Central Highlands, the same day (also known as All Saints Day) is celebrated with an enormous Kite Festival, a vivid display of vast elaborate kites that take months to complete.

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Cattle round-up in Ecuador

The chagras (Andean cowboys) round-up the cattle this month (also in late January) from the high mountains of Ecuador down to the corrals. Join them on a fast and furious multi-day ride, staying in a traditional hacienda or ranch – for experienced equestrians only!

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Penguin chicks in Antarctica

A great time to head to Antarctica. Although the short austral polar season runs from December to early March, the penguin chicks are just hatching in the colonies, and seals, such as Weddell and leopard, are active. For the best time for whale sightings, head out in late season, from the end of February to early March.

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Polo season in Argentina

This month is the culmination of the month-long polo season in Argentina, when the Polo Open Tournament reaches its climax at the final in mid-December.

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New Year on Copacabana beach

The most famous New Year celebrations include fireworks on Copacabana Beach in Rio, Brazil, and the best all-night beach party in the world! Given that Brazilians love a celebration, most towns and cities you find yourself in will have an exuberant party to celebrate the beginning of a new year.