There are currently 121 UNESCO World Heritage sites across Latin America. Here, are some thoughts on 5 which really stand out.
A favourite of the Sunvil Team, the Iguaçu National Park is a realm of subtropical forest on the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay where wildlife and nature flourishes under the spray of the spectacular Iguaçu Falls. Its primary attraction is the waterfall itself – which is, in fact, a series of 275 cascades extending over 3 kilometres and plunging over an 80 metre precipice. There are wooden boardwalks within the park that enable you to get close to the fast-flowing waters and provide access to some exquisite viewpoints.
The Iguaçu Falls are impressive all year round (although avoid Easter when there are throngs of Argentine and Brazilian tourists), as is their natural setting. Butterflies, toucans, orchids, palms and birds are all abound.
Easter Island lies in the Pacific Ocean and is one of the world’s remotest places. It was the first Pacific island nation to be registered by UNESCO on its World Heritage list.
Almost the entire perimeter of Easter Island and all of the archaeological sites are within the Rapa Nui National Park.
The famous and much-photographed ‘maoi’ stone statues have become symbolic of the island and should not be missed. The island also has a rich cultural heritage and has preserved the indigenous songs and dances of the Rapa Nui people, whose ancestors created the 600+ huge, enigmatic stones statues. The local communities are very hospitable and offer a cultural experience like no other.
Snorkelling is a popular activity within the National Park, with Anakena and Ovahe beaches being our preferred locations.
Our director, Lloyd feels that Palenque is the most magical and evocative of all of the ancient Mayan cities. Enshrouded by jungle, the 4400 acre site is a complex of well-maintained, graceful pyramids; temples, excavated ruins, small rivers and marked trails. Ruins once reclaimed by the nature have been cut back for visitors to appreciate and admire.
We would recommend that you visit Palenque early in the morning, when the temperature is cooler and when the morning mist adds to the aura. You should also take time to explore the surrounding forests – a National Park – which is home to howler monkeys, snakes, lizards, toucans and ocelots.
An interesting fact: Palenque was largely abandoned after AD900 and remained unknown to the Western World until 1746.
In 1978, Quito was the first city in the world to be declared a UNESCO World Heritage site and it is easy to see why. The city’s historic quarter contains some of the continent’s best-preserved and most beautiful Spanish colonial architecture. It is easy to spend many-an-hour strolling along the narrow streets and cobbled plazas, discovering ornate churches, monasteries, mansions and pastel coloured balconied houses on your way.
Although Quito enjoys a spring-like climate year-round, its altitude – it is Latin America’s second highest city – means that the evenings can be quite chilly. We recommend that you visit in July and August when the warmth of the sun remains until late in the day.
The Incas believed Cusco to be a dwelling place of the Gods and it is certainly one of the most interesting cities in the Peruvian Andes. It was the ancient capital of the Inca empire. Highlights include the mix of Inca and Colonial architecture at Qoricancha, the huge Inca ceremonial site of Sacsayhuaman, the painting of the Last supper and the 1650 earthquake in the cathedral and the main altar of La Compania de Jesus. There is also a wealth of archaeological and historic sites on the outskirts of Cusco.