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Sometimes, an international vacation is actually more affordable than a domestic one. With plane tickets cheaper than ever and budget airlines adding new routes by the day, it’s time to explore beyond America’s awe-inspiring—but often pricey and crowded—natural wonders and culture-packed cities. Many gorgeous, affordable options can be found south of the border, in Latin America. For example, did you know Mexico has its own Napa Valley equivalent a short drive south from San Diego, or that Lima, Peru has a food scene rivaling many major U.S. cities? To help get the travel inspiration flowing, we’ve rounded up 7 Latin American alternative to pricier U.S. destinations.

RELATED: 5 next-level Mexican hot spots to visit before the tourists rush in

Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico v. Napa Valley

Valle de Guadelupe, Mexico

Valle de Guadelupe

Rolling Hillsides blanketed with vineyards, world-class restaurants, and the Pacific Ocean just a stone’s throw away: While it may sound like we’re describing Napa Valley, we’re not. Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico, a wine and foodie lover’s paradise just a 90-minute drive south of San Diego, is Baja’s relaxed wine country, featuring architecturally impressive wineries and charming boutique hotels galore. It’s hard not to fall in love with the scenery—and its prices, too. While tastings generally run around $10, the real value lies with the food. Acclaimed chefs like Javier Plascencia at Finca Altozana and David Castro at Fauna, serve mind-blowingly delicious local cuisines for half the price of equally delicious Napa restaurants. Start your day tasting smooth organic Tempranillo and Syrah at Finca La Carodilla then take a horseback ride through the vineyards at Adobe Guadalupe Winery.

Lima, Peru v. Chicago

ceviche, Peru, Lima

Peruvian cuisine

Looking for a foodie weekend getaway? Chicago probably jumps to mind with its deep-dish pizza, fancy tasting-menu restaurants and upscale Mexican cuisine. But it can also come with a mile-long bill, especially when you wrap in the price of cocktails, a plane ticket and an expensive downtown hotel room. Instead, consider swapping Italian beef for lomo saltado (beef marinated in vinegar and soy sauce then sautéed with chilies and onions) in Peru’s capital. Lima’s dynamic cuisine has influences from around the globe including Europe and Asia (particularly China), so there’s no shortage of flavors. Head to Ámaz for avant-garde dishes driven by ingredients from the Amazon, or enjoy some of the best ceviche of your life by world-renowned Peruvian-Chinese chef Javier Wong at Chez Wong. Once you’ve had ceviche in Lima, you won’t be able to stop, so add restaurant Cala to your list; this foodie hot spot helped drive the Peruvian food craze in the U.S. In Peru, you’ll really only find inflated tourist pricing around Machu Picchu; just about everything else in this beautiful county is incredibly affordable.

Cartagena, Colombia v. Cape Cod

Colorful streets of Cartagena

If charming flower-draped sidewalks and amazing seafood are what you’re looking for, there’s no need to spend a fortune in the New England town of Cape Cod. Sure, the beaches are beautiful and the weather in summer is lovely, but the prices are high and the snootiness is palpable. Instead, grab your passport and head south to Cartagena where bougainvillea grows from colorful, colonial-style balconies, vendors dole out cheap, mouth-watering street food like arepas and fresh fruit juices, and the nightlife is legit. Here, you’ll enjoy a top-shelf rum punch for about $6 at Café Havana, then salsa the night away to live music until dawn. During the day, explore the charming Old City, take a tour of Convento de la Popa, or venture on boat to the Rosario Islands. For your last night, book a table at La Cevicheria for flavorful ceviche, then catch a killer sunset Cafe Del Mar atop the Old City walls. As the sun melts into the Caribbean horizon, we bet you’ll already be planning your next trip back.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina v. Niagara Falls

Iguazu falls

Iguazu Falls

These two falls have something in common besides being magnificent displays of Mother Nature: They both lie on the border of two countries. Straddling Canada and the United States, Niagara Falls is an incredibly popular (and populated) destination. Think huge throngs of tourists with cameras and iPhones in hand. Consider, instead, Iguazu Falls in South America. Equally impressive in statue and scope, Iguazu straddles Brazil and Argentina and is generally less crowded, cheaper and more rugged than Niagara. On the Brazilian side, a nice hotel in the Foz do Iguaçu area runs around $50/night, and tickets tickets into the park cost around $50, including transportation once inside. From Puerto Iguazu on the Argentinian side, entry to the park is around $40. From either side, though, you’ll have a stunning view as billions of gallons of water rush over the side of lush, green cliffs in the middle of a jungle.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia  v. White Sands, NM

Bolivia Salt Flats

Salar de Uyuni

Visiting the largest gypsum dune field in the world will require planes, trains and automobiles. The 275 square miles of sandy desert in New Mexico is truly a stunning sight to behold, but no doubt getting there can cost an arm and a leg. El Peso, which isn’t the cheapest place to fly into and will almost certainly entail two plane flights, is the closet airport. Then, you’ll have to rent a car and make your way 1.5 hours north into New Mexico. Instead, opt for the more Instagrammable salt flats in Bolivia. Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world, covering more than 4,000 square feet and the photo scenes you can create there are epic (seriously, Google “salt flats Bolivia” and you’ll see some wildly creative shots). If you go during the rainier winter season, you’ll be amazed by the stunning mirror effect given off by the flooded white ground. By summer, the water has dried and the ground has hardened and cracked, delivering equally scenic, salty views that stretch for miles. You can book 3-day/2-night tours from the town of Uyuni for less than $200 (including transportation and accommodation!), so then only thing you’ll need to worry about is getting that killer shot.

Baja California v. Southern California


Beaches! Tacos! Surf boards! Hello California dreaming—Baja California, that is. We love hanging ten in Santa Monica, goofing around with Mickey in Orange County and cooling off poolside in Palm Springs, but a SoCal vacation is not without a hefty price tag. Instead, make a run for the border and check out the tip of Baja California, Mexico’s long and lanky peninsula which stretches nearly 800 miles south of San Diego and offers a treasure trove of worthy destinations at a fraction of Southern California prices. Do this: Book a resort in Cabo San Lucas for as little as $60 nightly, and take advantage of highlights including a kayak to El Arco for the requisite selfie, a dip at Lover’s Beach, plus flea market shopping and nightclub imbibing. After you’re bored of Cabo (like that will ever happen), rent a car and try idling for an afternoon in artsy Todos Santos, exploring the reef at Cabo Pulmo National Park and swimming with enormous whale sharks in Baja capital La Paz.

Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile v. Yellowstone National Park

Torres Del Paine National Park

Torres Del Paine National Park

Sure, entry to Yellowstone National Park only costs about $25, but its remote location in Wyoming will certainly cost you a pretty penny travel-wise. Plus, most hotels cost at least $200/night, and that’s after you plan flight and rental car. The park also sees more than 4 million annual visitors, so you won’t exactly have all that nature to yourself. Instead, consider a more exotic park like Torres Del Paine in Chile’s southern Patagonia region. The extraordinary Chilean national park has ice fields, jagged mountain formations, cerulean lakes and gigantic glaciers. Venture out on a hike, like the park’s famous W Circuit, and spot incredible wildlife, like Andean condors soaring above. Arguably South America’s most picturesque corner, Torres del Paine is one of Mother Nature’s greatest masterpieces.

Tagged: California, City, Destinations, International, Mexico, Types of Travel

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