It is the time of year where votes are cast and negotiations are made on who performed best in the film industry. The Academy Awards not only bring a sense of excitement in the entertainment business, but also a realm of events, celebrations, and important decisions (you know, like what designer dress would put me on the cover of Vogue…). Travellers also join this abyss of decision-making of choosing destination favourites when planning where they want to go next. They seek inspiration and advice from experts, locals, and of course, editorials. In continuing our Traveller Oscar Party and celebration, here are the nominees for the most popular cities in Central & South America as chosen by some of my BFFs in the travel industry.

Alpaca, South America
Alpaca, South America

Mexico City, Mexico

Nominated by Patrick of German Backpacker, Instagram

I lived in Mexico City for four months in 2017 and fell immediately in love with this huge, diverse and bustling city! If you like history, culture and good food, Mexico City is definitely the right place for you to visit. Walk around the historical city center to see the biggest cathedral in Latin America right in front of the huge Zocalo, visit the Palacio de Bellas Artes – probably the most beautiful building of the city, and get to the top of the Torre Latino Americana for a great panorama of the skyline. If you enjoy history, you can’t miss out on the Anthropological Museum to learn more about the Aztecs, the Mayas and much more. If you need some relaxation after sightseeing, go for a stroll at the huge Chapultepec park (you won’t realize that you’re in the middle of one of the biggest capitals of the world anymore!), and visit the Chapultepec Castle with a nice view on the business district called Reforma.

Mexico City
Mexico City – popular cities in Central & South America
Credit: German Backpacker

But that’s not all – Mexico City is the perfect base for some great day trips! Make sure to visit the impressive pyramids of Teotihuacan, just outside of Mexico City. It’s also worth spending an afternoon in Xochimilco in the south of the city, to explore the vast river system on a traditional Trajinera.

Mexico City Credit: German Backpacker
Mexico City – popular cities in Central & South America
Credit: German Backpacker

Mexico City might not have the best reputation when it comes to safety; however, I lived there for several months and nothing ever happened to me. Make sure to watch your pockets when you walk through the crowds and avoid walking around the city in the middle of the night (Uber is super cheap and safe) – you’ll be fine! Mexico City is a great place and a you should certainly visit soon!

La Fortuna, Costa Rica

Nominated by Elizabeth of Temporary Provisions, Instagram

If you’re looking for a place to go that has a little bit of everything, Costa Rica is definitely near the top of the list. From mountains and volcanoes to lush green rainforests to stunning tropical beaches, the country is filled with fun activities and natural beauty. La Fortuna and the Arenal area is one of the best places to experience it all. You’ve got the majestic Arenal Volcano towering over the town, and you’re surrounded by some of the most pristine primary rainforest in the world, so you’re sure to spot wildlife. Look out for toucans, monkeys, and sloths while you zipline through or hike up to waterfalls!

La Fortuna Costa Rica
La Fortuna Costa Rica – popular cities in Central & South America
Credit: Temporary Provisions

You’ve also got Lake Arenal right there, with opportunities for kayaking, swimming, kite surfing, and more. The rivers that run through La Fortuna are natural hot springs heated by volcanic soil, and they’re perfect for relaxing after a long day of adventure. On top of all that, Costa Rica has repeatedly been ranked as one of the happiest and friendliest countries in the world. It’s environmentally friendly (they’ve been powering themselves on renewable energy for a whole year now!) and peaceful (the government abolished the military 70 years ago). What are you waiting for?

Volcano el Castillo Costa Rica
Volcano el Castillo Costa Rica – popular cities in Central & South America
Credit: Temporary Provisions

 

Guanajuato Mexico

Nominated by Sixtina of Six Miles Away, Instagram
I hereby nominate Guanajuato (Mexico) as the best travel destination for the following reasons: 
1) First of all the city’s colorful architecture spreads positive vibes, at all times, when visiting. 
2) Guanajuato hosts unique events, such as Cervantino, where you can attend tunnel parties, Mariachi shows and other unique street as well as theater events.
Guanajuato Mexico
Guanajuato Mexico
Credit: Six Miles Away
3) Moreover, Guanajuato is home to one of the friendliest locals regardless of language barriers. They will help you in any way they can, even though you might not speak the same language. 
4) Since Guanajuato is very hilly, you will find many mountains to climb up and get the best views over the city, like no other. Plus, you will explore unique places such as „La Bufa“ (mountain) where you can hear your echo come back or visit the Mummy museum that is located next to a cemetery. Isn’t that creepy?
Guanajuato, Mexico Views
Guanajuato, Mexico Views – popular cities in Central & South America
Credit: Six Miles Away
5) Finally, there is this saying that love goes through ones’ stomach. In this case, you will fall in love head over toe with Guanajuato as it is known for unique and delicious food. Examples are tamales, gorditas or enchiladas, plus the freshly made pastries in the Mexican bakeries. Not to mention unique drinks like Mezcal (a shot where you find a worm inside you need to eat as well) and Burra’s (beer with a Tequila shot and Grenadine). 

 

Ajijic, Jalisco, Mexico

Nominated by: Robin of LETgo: Grab Opportunity,  Instagram

Ajijic in Jalisco, Mexico is one of the best travel destinations because of the mild weather, breathtaking sunsets, almost constant cultural events, and welcoming locals. Nearly everyone you pass will greet you with a smile and “Hola.” The variety of birds and flowers you experience in a single day also makes Ajijic a special place. Walking along the cobblestone streets near the plaza, you encounter spectacular artists skillfully working on their next masterpiece. If you are still not convinced to visit, perhaps you love the idea of eating delicious food on the lake shore while watching pelicans and herons search for their meal? For travelers with dietary restrictions, several restaurants offer vegetarian, vegan, and even gluten-free options.

Ajijic Mexico Sunset
Ajijic Mexico Sunset – Popular cities in Central & South America
Credit: Stan Reed at LETgo: Grab Opportunity

Additionally, there are farmer’s markets several times a week including one that features organic produce, meat, and baked goods. Great day trips from Ajijic include two islands within Lake Chapala (Isla de Mezcala and Isla de los Alacranes) and the gorgeous alpine town of Mazamitla. After a few days strolling along the malecón, down cobblestone streets, and exploring nearby villages or islands you deserve a day of relaxation. Balneario Spa & Thermal Bath is our favorite place to unwind and feel pampered. A series of thermal mineral water hot tubs provide a variety of hydrotherapies (e.g., flowers, apple cider vinegar, salt, coffee, or even wine). You can also enjoy the steam room, heated pools, or a massage. Ajijic is becoming a hot spot for foreign visitors, so get there soon to avoid the crowds!

Mezcala Ruins, Ajijic Mexico Credit: Stan Reed at LETgo: Grab Opportunity
Mezcala Ruins, Ajijic Mexico – popular cities in Central & South America
Credit: Stan Reed at LETgo: Grab Opportunity

More Nominations for Popular cities in Central & South America

Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Nominated by Claire of Tales of a Backpacker, Instagram

Parque Tayrona is a National Park on Colombia’s Caribbean coast.  The protected area spans 150 km2 of land, and 30km2 of ocean, providing lush forest, glorious coastline and pre-Hispanic history to explore.  The beaches are stunning, and just getting to them requires a challenging hike or a horse ride.  The path leads through the forest, mangroves and along the coast until you reach beautiful coves with white sand and turquoise water.  Some of the beaches aren’t suitable for swimming due to strong currents, but hike further to find La Piscina which is a sheltered bay perfect for snorkelling.  Camp at the picturesque Cabo San Juan for the chance to sleep in a hammock in a hut over the water and take a dip in the cool ocean.

Tayrona National Park Colombia
Tayrona National Park Colombia – Popular cities in Central & South America
Credit: Tales of a Backpacker

Tayrona is more than beaches though, and in the forest you can hear howler monkeys, and if you’re lucky, spot the endangered cotton-top tamarins who make their home here.  The park has a cultural side too, and is still inhabited by the Kogi people, who are descendants of the Tayrona, the indigenous inhabitants of the area.  Hike through the forest to reach El Pueblito, the remains of a Kogi village, where you can see remains of some circular houses and terraces from the old Tayrona settlement, and some Kogi houses too.

El Pueblito - Tayrona National Park Colombia Credit: Tales of a Backpacker
El Pueblito – Tayrona National Park Colombia – Popular cities in Central & South America Credit: Tales of a Backpacker

Iguazu Falls, On the border of Brazil and Argentina

Nominated by Sara of In Africa and Beyond, Instagram

Nature is powerful, breath-taking…and humbling. Coming face-to-face with the Iguazu Falls is sure to make one realise the extent of nature’s power. Unlike any other waterfalls on earth, they consist of an awe-inspiring collection of 275 cascading waterfalls. The falls are spread over a three-kilometre long horseshoe shape, along the Brazil – Argentina border, within a UNESCO Heritage Site. One of the most magnificent natural sights in the world, they attract over a million visitors a year. It is no surprise that they have been voted one of the world’s New 7 Wonders of Nature too.

Iguazu Falls Brazil
Iguazu Falls Brazil – Popular cities in Central & South America
Credit: In Africa and Beyond

They can, and should be, experienced from both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides, which are very different from each other. The Argentinian side will take you along trails which weave between the tropical Atlantic rainforest and allow you to experience the full might of the rushing waters. The Brazilian side offers more panoramic views while facing the waterfalls. Picturesque rainbows adorns the falls on both sides. The walking trails will take you very close to the falls and get you wet too. When former US First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt first saw the Iguazu Falls, she is reported to have said “Poor Niagara”. The forest is also home to exotic wildlife and bird life including jaguars, pumas, toucans and the ubiquitous coatis, members of the raccoon family. The more adventurous can go hiking, do eco-safaris in the jungle and ride boats right under the waterfalls. Either way, the Iguazu Falls should be on every traveller’s bucket list.

Iguazu Falls Brazil Credit: In Africa and Beyond
Iguazu Falls Brazil – Popular cities in Central & South America
Credit: In Africa and Beyond

Mount Roraima

Nominated by Owen of My Turn to Travel

Mount Roraima is a table top mountain that is shared between 3 countries: Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana in South America.

This flat top mountain – also called Tepuy in the native language – is one of the oldest mountain formations on Earth and dates back over 2.3 billion years old.

Remember the Disney animation Up? That magical world in the movie is inspired by Mount Roraima, and the summit is as otherworldly as it is portrayed in the film.

Mount Roraima
Mount Roraima
Credit: My Turn to Travel

Travelers usually do a 6 or 8 days’ trek across the Gran Sabana in Venezuela and spend 2 days exploring the top. You’ll see strange rocks formations, carnivorous plants, black frogs with yellow bodies, waterfalls and giant pit-holes – as if there is a different world up there.

No wonder it inspired Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to create The Lost World in 1912.

In fact, Mount Roraima (and her neighboring table top mountains) has a micro-climate of her own. Clouds come and go unpredictably, presenting a small window of opportunity for hikers to take a photo of her in fully glory.

To get to the summit, you’ll have to start the trek in Venezuela. The border town of Santa Elena has many tour agencies and is a good base to stock up on supplies.

Get prepared to trek through incredible landscape, bathe in rivers and stay in caves as you make your way to The Lost World!

Antarctica

Nominated by Matilda of The Travel Sisters, Facebook

My nomination for best destination goes to Antarctica.   If you enjoy natural beauty, wildlife, adventure, photography or all of the above, then you will absolutely love Antarctica. The White Continent shows up on almost every travel bucket or wish list and rightfully so. I dreamt about traveling to Antarctica for many years and when it finally happened it was even better than what I expected. With a landscape full of icebergs, snow and icy waters, Antarctica is one of the most untouched places in the world and it is beautiful, amazing, magnificent and breathtaking beyond what any words can describe. Although it is remote and not easy to reach, there is no shortage of incredible things to do in Antarctica.  The best way to visit Antarctica is with an expedition cruise which offers landings but you will have to brave the infamous and seasickness inducing Drake Passage.

Antarctica
Antarctica
Credit: The Travel Sisters

Once you reach Antarctica you will have numerous opportunities to view the spectacular scenery and the diverse wildlife including penguins, whales, seals and seabirds both on and off the boat. Active travelers can hike, kayak and even participate in a polar plunge.  Unless working at a research station, visits are possible only during the austral summer months from November through March when temperatures are typically right below freezing.  With close to 24 hours of daylight in the summer, there is plenty of opportunity to take in the surroundings.  Antarctica is often described as a once-in-a-lifetime destination, but if you visit you will definitely want to return.

Antarctica
Antarctica
Credit: The Travel Sisters

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So there you have our eight nominated popular cities in Central & South America along with another remarkable and remote continent. Seriously consider any of these on your next big trip! Which jumps out at you?

popular cities in Central & South America
popular cities in Central & South America

 

popular cities in Central & South America
popular cities in Central & South America

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Fill My Passport collaborated with other travel writers on this post. All opinions are our own and none was influenced by Fill My Passport.

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