In our opinion, overlanding is one of the best ways to pursue some of the best adventures in the world, including off-the-beaten-path adventures. But historically, we as a culture haven’t had the time to overland. And we recognize that many people don’t, or won’t have the time to overland during their next adventure.
I thought I’d highlight some of the places we have been to during our journey that we’d recommend going to for those that have 2 to 3 weeks to travel, including travel time. For the purpose of this blog, I’ll assume that the majority will only have access to public transportation. But renting a car, or even a small overland vehicle, e.g., a SUV, or a truck with a rooftop tent, will enable you to see more and give you more flexibility. In a future blog post, I’ll outline some of the online resources people can use to plan their trip. See our trip reports on each of the following countries for some more info (and pics) on most of the places recommended below.
One of our favorite states in Mexico is Oaxaca. In two weeks you could fly to Oaxaca, spend a week exploring Oaxaca City and the surrounding indigenous communities and then take a bus, drive or fly to the Oaxaca coast where you could visit the beautiful beach community of Zipolite. For those that have extra time, you could also head east on the Oaxaca coast to visit the remote, but beautiful Parque Nacional Lagunas de Chacahua. Those who aren’t quite as adventurous may want to head to Playa del Carmen, which is a great base from which to scuba dive or snorkel in the cenotes and coral reefs and visit some of the Mayan ruins on the Yucatan Peninsula.
Belize is an easy place to visit for a variety of reasons including the fact that most of its people speak English and are extremely welcoming. Many tourists visit Ambergis Caye and/or the northern atolls which are nice. But we’d recommend getting a bit more adventurous and flying from Belize City to Placencia, which you can use as a base to go diving and snorkeling on the southern Belize Barrier Reef and cayes and to explore the Garifuna communities on the southern coast, the Maya communities in Southern Belize and the numerous national parks in the region including the Cockscomb Basin Forest Reserve where you may spot a jaguar. If you choose this itinerary, don’t miss the Hummingbird Highway, a beautiful stretch of road full of adventurous opportunities including caving and swimming in cenotes (as well as Mayan communities).
Guatemala City does have a high murder rate per capita. But don’t let that scare you away from Guatemala which overall is relatively safe. Fly directly into Antigua (or drive from Guatemala City to Antigua), which is one of our favorite colonial cities in the world, and then choose from a wide range of amazing opportunities near Antigua including exploring the indigenous communities on Lago Atitlan, scaling Acatenango to get a up and close view of the super active Fuego volcano, or if you have more time, traveling west to hike through indigenous communities in Todos Santos.
Like Guatemala, Colombia has a bad reputation. And travelers do have to be a bit careful there. But we have had great experiences and think it’s a country that everyone should experience. Two good itineraries include flying into and exploring Bogota before heading north to the Cathedral de Sal and the beautiful colonial towns of Barichara and Villa de Leyva where you can go hiking in the Paramo de Iguaque. A second itinerary could include flying into Medellin to visit the barrios that Pablo Escobar used to control before heading south to the coffee region where you can take side trips to the amazing hot springs to the east of San Vicente and, if you are interested by super tall wax palms, to hike in Valle de Cocoro. Yet another cool itinerary in Colombia is the north where you can spend some time partying in Cartagena before heading east to the beautiful beaches in the national park to the east of Santa Marta (skip Barranquilla unless you are there during Carnival).
I’ll wrap up this blog post with a few itineraries in Ecuador. Ecuador has so much to offer. Most people spend a week exploring the Galapagos Islands (including the travel time to and from Quito) and then do something nearby. If you choose this itinerary, make sure to go to the Galapagos Islands with a good company. The difference between a good company and a bad one could literally mean getting to the islands safely or being rescued when your boat starts to sink (an unwelcome adventure that our friends from Chile experienced firsthand). Alternative itineraries include flying into and exploring Quito where you can hike to the top of nearby volcanoes (see our trip report) before heading north to climb more volcanoes and visit indigenous communities in Quito, east to soak in the Papallacta hot springs and make a quick trip to the Amazon basin using Puerto Misahualli as a base, south to explore Cotapaxi and Chimborazo national parks/volcanoes and/or west to do some birding in Mindo.
Anyway, I hope this is helpful for those of you who are planning or thinking about your next adventure and are interested in Latin America. We’ll update this later with recommendations on Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina! In the meantime, feel free to eMail us for more recommendations and specific advice!