2018 Destinations to Watch in Central and South America

Iguazu Falls // Photo by mnunes/iStock/Getty Images Plus/Getty Images

As part of our Destinations to Watch series, all week we’ll be profiling noteworthy destinations to keep on your radar this year. Whether it’s a hot emerging destination or an established location that’s been given new life, keep your eye on these places this year. Monday we took a look at cruise ports to keep in mind; today, we turn our eyes to Central and South America.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina: While Argentina has been hot for decades, Iguazu Falls has been somewhat neglected by mainstream tourists for years, something Megan Mosto of Smart & Savvy Travel says is changing rapidly.

“I have seen lots of interest in Argentina lately, specifically Patagonia and Iguazu,” says Mosto. “I’d hardly call Patagonia ‘emerging,’ but Iguazu has flown under the radar for a while.”

Clark Kotula, of Clark Kotula Representation and Sales Support, which represents hotels throughout Latin America, tells Travel Agent the most buzzed about hotel in the area is the soon-to-open Awasi Iguazu, a 13-villa property on the Argentine side of the falls slated to open February 5. Each villa comes with its private guide and vehicle for included customized excursions in the area.

“Awasi is bringing a new level of luxury and a new model for tourism to Iguazu Falls, a destination most people go to just to see the falls for a day, but leave wishing they had spent more time due to the diversity of flora and fauna and the cultural history of the area,” says Kotula.

Other Colombia (Bogota and Medellin): It was Cartagena and its wealth of art, culture, entertainment, boutique hotels, cathedrals and friendly locals that first changed most Americans’ unfair perception of Colombia when the port city first became a trendy place to visit roughly a decade ago.

And now that most travelers realize Colombia has evolved since its murderous ‘80s led by notorious drug lord, Pablo Escobar, vacationers are ready to explore the rest of the country, even Escobar’s hometown of Medellin.

“Education is always key for us,” says Scott Wiseman, president of Travel Impressions, when asked if the public perception of Colombia is still negative during an interview in November. “I think most people know that Colombia is safe now and it’s not the 'Narcos' (a popular Netflix television show) that some people think it is.”

And it was during our coverage of Travel Impressions’ “Best of the Best” conference, where we learned of the operator’s eventual plans to move into Bogota and Medellin.

Bogota, the nation’s capital and home to the country’s largest airport, is partially becoming more popular because of its easy access, but its rising culinary scene is the main reason it is gaining popularity among foodies.

Medellin, on the other hand, is one of Travel Agent's favorite night life destinations in all of Latin America. There is about a five-block radius cluttered with outdoor bars, restaurants, live music and dancing.

Hint: The best time to visit Medellin is during the city’s annual flower fair, or Feria de las Flores, which usually takes place around the first or second week of August and is considered a Bucket List item by many savvy travelers.

“[Colombia] offers so many different types of areas, from Amazon to Caribbean to colonial cities, big cities, mountain regions, every activity under the sun and amazing biodiversity,” says Caroline Fridley of Protravel International.

Peru, Outside of Machu Picchu: Ok, so what experienced Latin America traveler hasn’t taken a selfie at the top of Machhu Picchu by now?

Now that it is no longer the hot Instagram pic to post from a Peru getaway, most Millennials are now exploring the rest of the country for that next spot to brag about.

Macchu Picchu continues to be a great starting point for first-time visitors to the county, but Vanessa McGovern, CEO of Gifted Travel Network, tells Travel Agent travelers are beginning to uncover some hidden gems in Peru as well.

“I think everything outside of Machu Picchu in Peru is emerging,” says McGovern. “Peru is one of the most biodiverse countries of the world and most of the visitors to Peru only go to Lima (for a very short amount of time) and then on to Machu Picchu.

We were told Puno, where Lake Titicaca, the highest lake in the world, is located, worth checking out. Puno is the city on the shores of Lake Titicaca. Arequipa, another hot destinations, is west of there. Clients can fly from Arequipa to Juliaca to get to Puno, or they can take a long overland drive.

“The Peruvian tourism board is only now just spotlighting places to visit in Peru outside of Machu Picchu,” says McGovern. “Plus, Peru is a really hot culinary destination as well."

Stay tuned to www.travelagentcentral.com for more Destinations to Watch in Asia, the Caribbean and Europe

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