What if you could combine two of South America’s major attractions into one tropical paradise? Then you’d be in Alter do Chão, a small village in the state of Pará, in the northern part of Brazil. Located on the Tapajós river, just a few miles upstream from where it merges with the Amazon, it has access to some of the most beautiful and secluded beaches on the continent. The weather is mild and tropical the year round, making it a good destination for the whole year (though between April and December, the river rises and the beaches are significantly smaller).
Up on the top right corner of South America (northwest for those cartographly inclined) are three sections of land: two countries and a territory that seem curiously out of place. Not geographically, as they clearly are part of the continent, but that only makes it more odd that they typically are associated with the Caribbean. These would be the Guianas, or Guyanas, depending on your spell checker.
Who hasn’t heard of the romantic tales surrounding the Spanish Main? And the Pirates that plied the waters of the Caribbean, swashbuckling and riding the high seas? Of course part of the mysticism of pirate lore is that the Caribbean is a tropical paradise. Sparkling crystal water of soft white sands, warm tranquil weather and nature just a few steps away. Who wouldn’t be entranced?
Nowadays, Venezuela is becoming most known because of its eccentric and news-generating President, Hugo Chavez. But there is much more to this Caribbean nation than one man, of course. On the crossroads between the romanticized Spanish Main and the impenetrable vastness of the Amazon, there is a feast of activities and sites to see throughout Venezuela.
There are several well-known romantic vacation spots, such as Maracaibo and Curaçao (the latter being the namesake of a special spirit that is popular throughout South America). Most of the Venezuelan attractions are along the Atlantic coast, which is part of the Caribbean, and they are almost all stunning white beaches with palms waving in the breeze, hammocks swaying lazily with a travel snoozing under a straw hat. Across a small stretch of water are the Carabbean islands, with Trinidad and Tobago being the closest.
Surinam is one of the “top three”, three countries in the extreme north of South America, previously known as the Guianas, and somewhat separated from the rest of the continent in history. Unlike the rest of South America which was colonized by the Iberian countries, and provided something of a shared heritage among them, Surinam was colonized by Dutch settlers. There is a broad mix of languages among its people, but Dutch is the most common, and as a consequence, Surinam is not part of Latin America.
Guyana has managed to stay out of the well-beaten South America travel trail, and it’s hard to see why. There is a wonderful array of attractions and reasons to visit this country, yet it has slipped the mind of most tourists. This makes it ideal for anyone looking to have a pristine look at one of the undiscovered treasures of Latin America. But hurry! After this article, it might be too late…
Colombia has two things that have made it famous, and both of them are actually not deserved: coffee and drug cartels. Yes, Colombia produces a lot of coffee, but Brazil produces a lot more, and frankly, a lot better. And while Colombia has been struggling with a virtual civil war financed by the drug trade, the conflict has stayed mostly on the fringes of society, and the country has blossomed despite it. Now its pretty much coming to an end, and Colombia is as safe to visit as any other Latin American country.