For a region so marked by its ancient cultures – the Mayans, the Olmecs, the Aztecs, the Incas, the Moche, the Wari, spanning 5,000 years of human history – it’s a real shift of perspective to look at a map of places to go in Central and South America, tilt your head, and ask: “So – what’s new?”
After all, superlatives are usually part of the draw in these parts. The oldest known civilisation in the Americas flourished around 3,000 BC in Caral, Peru, with today’s travellers regularly driving three hours from Lima to walk its grounds. Tikal, the Mayan citadel in Guatemala, is described by UNESCO as “one of the most important archaeological complexes left by the Maya civilisation,” and cars, buses, and helicopters bring visitors to it daily.
Yet around these gobsmacking, still-standing vestiges of cultures past, there is so much newness. There are museums of a staggering scale, like the Museu de Arte de São Paulo (MASP) – Brazil’s first modern art museum when it opened in 1947 – that’s soon to become even bigger with a 14-story extension; just blocks away, a brand-new Soho House will be the club’s first outpost in South America. On the Magdalena River in Colombia, the charming city of Mompox (founded in 1540) that Gabriel García Márquez anointed in his novel The General in his Labyrinth, will become more accessible than ever thanks to new river cruises aboard the glossy AmaWaterways. (Expect to hear more brands hitting these waters in years to come.) As for Tikal, in Guatemala? It’ll be easier to reach in 2024 thanks to new direct flights from the US to Guatemala City (where you’ll want to stop to try food from the country’s rising chefs). There’s also glamping, ritzy resorts, and the makings of a few epic road trips.
These are the best places to go in Central and South America in 2024 – where new meets the very, very old. – Megan Spurrell
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The Best Places to Go in Central and South America in 2024
Papagayo Peninsula, Costa Rica
Go for: glitzy resort openings from beloved brands