While South America was once the region that only experienced, Spanish-speaking travelers visited, it is now becoming one of the most popular places to visit. It was not surprising that Travelzoo recently listed Colombia as one of the best values in travel for the upcoming year and now many other of the leading travel authorities are pointing to South American countries for the ultimate vacation in 2013.
CNN's 2013 travel wish list
CNN recently asked well-travelled correspondents for their thoughts on dream vacations for the upcoming year. Of the five locations that were highlighted, two of them were from South America along with Mongolia, Jordan and South Africa.
It is not surprising that the Galapagos in Ecuador were on the list as it is in our Top 10 South America Destinations. Both the tour companies and government have taken great care to preserve what is considered to be one of the last untouched places on earth as wild animals continue to frolic in nature without fear from man. These 19 islands inspired Charles Darwin's theory of evolution by natural selection and are now a protected UNESCO World Heritage Site.
CNN's second pick in South America was The Pantanal in Brazil, picked by a correspondent living in São Paulo. This area is not easy to get to as only small planes fly into the area and four-wheel-drive vehicles are needed to travel around. However, The Pantanal is considered one of the most wild regions in the world and has the greatest density of animals in South America.
This area is also one of the world's largest freshwater wetlands, with a number of birds, monkeys and other animals making it perfect for a photographic safari.
Condé Nast Traveller Destinations to Watch in 2013
This travel publication predicts the hottest new travel destinations for 2013 and recommended Brazil out of the gate. With the impending Olympics in 2016 and the upcoming FIFA World Cup in 2014 it is not surprising that many travel journalists have been writing about Brazil, most notably Michael Palin's recent series has shone light on the country.
To get there before the crowds, try Carnaval in Rio. In addition to Rio Condé Nast recommends checking out popular Bahia and São Paulo.
Yet again, Ecuador's Galapagos Islands were included in top picks praising the archipelago for maintaining the ecosystem despite the influx of tourism. The pick also included the sad news that the Galápagos's most famous resident and the world's last known Pinta tortoise, Lonesome George died over the summer.
Lonely Planet Best in Travel 2013
Lonely Planet included Ecuador in its round-up of the ten countries to watch in 2013. While the Galapagos Islands usually takes most of the spotlight in annual travel picks, Lonely Planet takes it one step farther to share details that the average traveler may not know.
For example, while Ecuador has a reliable and inexpensive bus system (costs are generally $1 per one hour of travel), the railway network is being revitalized with a new line that will link Quito to port of Guayaquil - the Galapagos departure point. Ecuador's mountains are popular with climbers and tracks will also connect Cotopaxi and the Nariz del Diablo (Devil’s Nose) which will be the steepest railway tracks in the Americas and certainly something worthy of seeing.
Lonely Planet also points out the country's colonial centers with cobblestone streets and Spanish architecture, Kichwa villages, and birdwatching in the Amazonian rainforest as reasons to visit. For those that do not want to climb through volcanoes and snow-capped mountains, Lonely Planet reassures that hiking through villages in the Andes is just as enjoyable.