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5 PLACES TO GET WINTER SUN IN LATIN AMERICA

The nights are long, cold grey skies loom and the scarves and hats are been pulled out. Winter is here. But the cold weather in the northern hemisphere, means warmth in the south. It’s summer in Latin America and one of the best times to discover the continent’s mountains, beaches, culture and food. Here’s our 7 picks for the best spots to get some winter sun in Latin America

BAHIA, BRAZIL

The northern state of Bahia in Brazil is blessed with some of the best weather in Latin America. Year-round temperatures between 25°C and 30°C and over 250 hours of sunshine every month create the perfect winter getaway. But it’s not just the weather that makes this region such a great place to travel. Wild national parks, hundreds of miles of white sandy beaches fringed with palms trees, sleepy fishing villages, beautiful pastel-coloured colony architecture and UNESCO World Heritage sites and tasty cuisine that perfectly blends the Afro-Brazilian culture. Try visiting Salvador, the capital of Bahia, in February for a unique alternative to Rio de Janeiro’s Carnival. Flying time 12 hrs via Lisbon.

CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

The colourful city of Cartagena lies on the northern coast of Colombia overlooking the clear blue waters of the Caribbean Sea. Between December and March, the city sees almost no rain and bright sunny days. There’s a wealth of boutique hotels. Many are within old colonial palaces. The city has its fair share of museums, galleries, music venues and restaurants to keep your entertained. For those who prefer to spend their holidays away from cities, there are miles and miles of coastline. Off the beaten track is the Tayrona National Park. Hikers can head inland to walk the challenging trails to the Lost City. The sun-drenched islands of Baru and Rosario are only a short boat trip from the city.

JOSÉ IGNACIO, URUGUAY

Bahia Vik, Jose Ignacio (copyright David Horwell)

Uruguay doesn’t spring to mind for your typical summer holiday. Yet the country is less crowded and has better beaches than neighbouring Argentina. On the coast lies the small fishing village of Jose Ignacio. The town grew around a 19th century lighthouse. Now favoured by jet-setters, the area has become an escape for the super-rich and celebrities. Ultra-modern hotels abound. During the summer months the area booms with pop up bars, concerts and parties. Spend lazy days sunbathing on the beach and swimming in the refreshing Atlantic. At night dine in one of the restaurants or beach-shack bars. Further down the coast there are some even less developed spots. At Cabo Polonio isolated wooden cabins fringe the edge of deserted beaches, the only sound being the crashing of waves.

TULUM, MEXICO

Cliffside Mayan Ruins at Tulum ca. 2002 Tulum, Mexico

Tulum lies along the Riviera Maya on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula south of Cancun. Comfortable temperatures hover around 28°C and enjoy a light sea breeze during December to February. An excellent choice for a winter getaway. The area is best known for its Mayan temple overlooking the ocean. This idyllic region has vast stretches of white sandy ocean and boutique accommodation. Snorkellers and scuba divers can enjoy exotic marine life. Nearby waters offer swimming with whale sharks, the big gentle giants.

BOCAS DEL TORO, PANAMA

Copyright David Horwell

Bocas del Toro is an archipelago of lush islands. They lie off the northern coast of Panama, near Costa Rica. Winter is the sunniest time. The islands have a distinct laid-back Caribbean vibe. Secluded wooden over-the-water bungalows sit off the coast from the tiny islands. The islands are excellent for hiking and bird-watching. The turquoise waters are great for diving, snorkelling, kayaking, surfing and swimming. Dolphins often jump above the sea and huge shoals of exotic fish inhabit the underwater world. Chill-out on a hammock, relax on one of the deserted beaches and gorge on fresh lobsters.

Brazilian acarajé recipe

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Flickr: ManoelNetto

These fried pea balls are commonly found on the streets of Brazil’s northern Bahia state. They are also used in religious offerings to the gods in the Candomblé religion. Though these are now thought of as typically Brazilian, they dish was brought by the slaves of West Africa. Still to these day, similar snacks are found in Nigeria, Ghana, Mali, Gambia, Togo and Sierra Leone.

Serves: 20 acarajé
Time: 1 hour
Ingredients

Acarajé balls

½ kg onions
½ kg black eyed peas, drained from can
Vegetable oil for frying
Seasoning

Filling

100g cashews
100g peanuts
1 large onion, finely chopped
250g dried prawns
½ kg bread, day old stale bread works best
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 thumb of ginger, finely chopped
1 ltr coconut milk
1 tomato, chopped
1 handful of coriander, finely chopped
Vegetable oil
Seasoning

Method

Take the dried shrimps and soak them in water.

Add the peas, onions and seasoning and blend into a rough paste. Remove and set aside.

Add the shrimps to the blender along with the nuts and bread and wizz for a minute or so.

Heat a little oil in a saucepan and cook off the ginger, garlic, onions until soft, usually around five minutes or so. Add the rest of the ingredient except the coriander and cook for about half an hour, seasoning to taste. At the end, mix in the chopped coriander.

Take a very large saucepan (or turn on a fryer if you have one) and heat oil. Take the pea and onion mix and form into balls. Drop these into the hot oil in batches, cooking for about 5 minutes. Once they are golden brown, remove from the oil and lay on kitchen towel to soak up excess grease and cool a little.

Cut across the centre of each cooked ball and fill with the vatapá mix, some extra chopped tomatoes, some spicy sauce if you have it and coriander. Serve immediately.

RELATED: Argentine empanada recipe

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