I’d always dreamed of visiting Latin America and seeing the famous sites such as Machu Picchu and Iguassu, after seeing them on the covers of the National Geographic magazines. I finally made it out there in my third year of university when I spent a year in Ecuador, studying, working and travelling around the country and through all of Central America. I’ve been back to the continent nearly every year since, volunteering as an interpreter, tour leading, backpacking and more recently taking my two young children to see their family in Colombia.
I love the culture, the diversity, the history and the incredible scenery of Latin America and no matter how many times I’ve been there I still want to go back and explore more.
Favourite places I’ve been
Cuba – vibrant, passionate, crumbling splendour
Galapagos – remote, teeming with wildlife, dramatic scenery
Antarctica – haunting beauty, amazing wildlife, far removed from civilisation
Peru - colonial splendour, colourful culture, stunning scenery, impressive ruins and amazing cuisine
Chile – diverse, skiing, lakes, dramatic deserts, wines
Brazil – some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, energetic, soulful, diverse, Samba
Guatemala – full of colour, life, ancient history and lush scenery
Mexico – beautiful beaches, gorgeous properties, colourful culture
Argentina – peaks, glaciers, deserts, riding, fine wines, delicious steaks, fiery Tango
Costa Rica – family friendly, wild, lush, volcanoes
Colombia is the next up and coming place to visit. The people are so friendly, there is beautiful colonial architecture in Bogota, Cartagena and Villa de Leyva, and the country is still largely undiscovered by tourists.
Try to visit Machu Picchu as the site opens first thing in the morning. It’s a struggle to get up early and an uphill hike if staying in Aguas Calientes but well worth the effort. I arrived there once with just two others and apart from a solitary gardener we were the only ones in the whole complex, arriving even before those doing Inca Trail. We had the site to ourselves, it was incredible and so peaceful.
Plan a visit to Guatemala at Easter, it’s one of the main festivals in their calendar. The towns are a riot of colour and alive with celebrations.
My hot picks
Lapa Rios in Costa Rica. There are stunning views over the forest and across the ocean and you’re surrounded by native wildlife. The first time I was there we spotted a puma whilst hiking one of the trails. She just stood there and peered at us through a forest clearing whist we took photographs.
The Starwood haciendas in Mexico. Gorgeous properties dotted around the Yucatana Peninsula, that have been beautifully resorted whilst retaining their original character. Each has an amazing pool, each is unique. They’re perfect for relaxing and as a base for exploring the historical Mayan sites.
Explora Salto Chico, Torres del Paine, Chile. The setting is sublime, the accommodation first class and the guiding excellent. Spend the day trekking in the park and return to a jacuzzi, a gourmet dinner and an incredibly comfortable bed.
What my guests have said
"We had a really great holiday - thank you Karen for arranging it for us"
“Karen Chapman was superb - advice and arrangements fantastic. We had the best holiday of our lives-we could not have been more delighted with the arrangements”
“Karen was super to deal with. We were very impressed with Scott Dunn!”
“Many thanks to Karen for excellent advice and attention to detail”
“Thanks for all your hard work to make our honeymoon so memorable.”
“The service we received from initial contact, various phonecalls to final receipt of travel documents was faultless”