Going below the equator for a mere three days sounds crazy at first. But easy overnight flights and jet-lag-free stays (not to mention weaker currencies and better weather) make a very convincing case. Here, four surprisingly accessible Latin jaunts.
1. Bogotá, Colombia
Eat like a king, take in art like a jet-setter, party like a Colombian.
A lot more like Buenos Aires than Clear and Present Danger, Bogotá offers great art, excellent food, and world-class nightlife. Take advantage of the safety-perception gap now, before it’s discovered.
How to do it: Take a Friday-morning Avianca flight from JFK, getting in at lunchtime. Stay at the Casa Medina. Hit the Botero Museum, the Banco de la Republica collection, and the Planetarium galleries, where contemporary artists show edgier work. Eat 21-day-old lamb at Astrid y Gastón, haute cuisine Caribbean fusion at Leo Cocina y Cava, and fancified regional Colombian cuisines at Club Colombia. Party at the newest hipster joint, Bar Socorro, and the sophisticated Cha Cha Bar. On Sunday, catch the red-eye flight home.
2. Bariloche, Argentina
Hike a volcano, ride a horse, and boat on emerald lakes.
Bariloche, often called “the Switzerland of South America,” offers an intense intake of natural beauty. For everything from horseback riding to paragliding, the best time to go is now, when their autumn’s in full swing.
How to do it: Take United’s Thursday red-eye from La Guardia to Buenos Aires, and from there, catch a two-hour flight to Bariloche. Book a driver (it’s affordable, and, given the mediocre road signage, worthwhile). Stay at Llao Llao Golf and Resort, with its eighteen-hole golf course. Book all your activities through your hotel; plan a leisurely drive around the Circuito Chico—a scenic route that winds by woods and lakes—and to the north shore of Nahuel Huapi. Get back to Buenos Aires by 6 p.m. Sunday to catch the overnight flight back.
3. Los Roques, Venezuela
Snorkel off desert- island coasts, windsurf, and sunbathe in the nude.
Of all the yet-to-be-discovered parts of Venezuela’s coast, Los Roques is the most exciting. The archipelago of 300 “islands,” only 40 of which are large enough to be named, boasts no new construction, no cruise-ship docking, no Jet Skis. In other words: paradise.
How to do it: Take Continental’s Thursday red-eye from La Guardia to Caracas, then a puddle jumper to the two-mile-long main island of Gran Roque, 45 minutes away. Check in at a posada—a fisherman’s hut converted into a small guesthouse (Piano y Papaya is best). Hit the beach before lunchtime for some of the Caribbean’s best diving, snorkeling, fishing, and nude sunbathing. Should you want more luxury and privacy, charter a sailboat and crew and sleep at sea—during the day you’ll reach islands and cays not explored by the scheduled day trips out of the posadas. Local fishermen haul in fresh lobster, grouper, and shellfish daily, and the consommé de chipi chipi (a kind of clam stew) is said to be an aphrodisiac. Three days later, board a plane back to Caracas and catch an overnight flight back to New York.
4. Valle Nevado, Chile
Ski, snowboard, and jump from a helicopter into the Andes.
For para-skiing, heli-skiing, hang-glider-skiing, and everything else, hit Valle Nevado, the newest and one of the largest resorts in Chile. It’s only 40 miles from Santiago, and it boasts 22,000 acres of trails and off-piste terrain powdered by “Champagne snow” blown over by Antarctic storms.
How to do it: Go during “value season” (June 15 through 28); avoid July, when hotels enforce seven-night minimums. Take Lan Airlines’ overnight flight from La Guardia to Santiago (connecting in Miami), prearrange a car to take you from the airport to Valle Nevado, and you’ll hit the slopes as soon as they open at 9 a.m. Book the Suite Premium double room at the 53-room Valle Nevado for beautiful mountain views. The resort doesn’t have much of a downtown but manages to attract a good restaurant-and-nightlife following (make reservations at Mediterranean, Mesón Chileno, and La Trattoria). For a low-key late night of pool, Austral beer drinking, and karaoke, stop into the pub at the Tres Puntas hotel. Sunday night, catch the red-eye back to New York.