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The best travel books for Latin America

September 29, 2020

One of the positive things about a life in lockdown is the extra time we have for reading! And for the team at Contours Travel, books which indulge our passion for Latin American travel are the ultimate escape. Both fiction and non-fiction can offer unique insights into the places we travel.  From helping us to understand the history and culture, to sparking our curiosity about previously unknown places. Maybe you are planning your next adventure? Or simply looking for an exotic escape for your imagination? Whatever the reason, our top picks for the best travel books for Latin America are sure to fire your passion for travel.

In Patagonia by Bruce Chatwin

Published in 1977, this classic account is a wonderful combination of evocative descriptions, remarkable bits of history, and unforgettable anecdotes about Patagonia. Chatwin revolutionised the genre of travel writing. And this masterpiece is every bit as relevant today as it was all those years ago.

Endurance: Shackleton’s Incredible Voyage by Alfred Lansing

An absolutely phenomenal account of Shackleton’s ill-fated expedition to cross Antarctica. In fact, this is one of the greatest adventure tales of all time. Overcoming extraordinary odds to survive and rescue his team, Shackleton redefined heroism in the modern age.

River of Darkness: Francisco Orellana’s Legendary Voyage of Death and Discovery Down the Amazon by Buddy Levy

River of Darkness tells story Orellana’s journey down the Amazon River from its headwaters to the Atlantic Ocean in the 1540’s. Interweaving eyewitness accounts of the quest with newly uncovered details, Levy reconstructs this epic survival tale and gives a fascinating account of the native populations, flora and fauna the group encountered along the way.

Among Stone Giants by Jo Anne Van Tilburg

A compelling biography of an extraordinary woman who rebelled against Victorian values! Katherine Routledge became one of the first female graduates of Oxford University and the first woman archaeologist to work in Polynesia. Without her work, Easter Island’s traditional beliefs and customs would have been forever lost. An enthralling personal story set against one of the most intriguing archaeological sites in the world.

One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

A triumph of magic realism by the Colombian master of the genre. Set in the fictional town of Macondo, the landscape, characters, politics and history will nevertheless be familiar to anyone who has spent time in this part of the world. A wonderful journey for your imagination and a must read travel book for Colombia.

The War of Don Emmanuel’s Nether Parts by Louis de Bernieres

This is the first part of a trilogy set in an imagined Latin American country. Its themes parody the dictatorships and social unrest of several Latin American nations in the 1960’s, 70’s and 80’s. The result is a modern and often hilarious take on magic realism.

A Country Under My Skin by Gioconda Belli

Gioconda Belli grew up in upper-class Nicaragua. Then, in 1970, a blossoming awareness of the social inequities in Nicaragua led her to join the Sandinistas in the struggle against the Samoza dictatorship. And this autobiography chronicles her journey from society girl to paramilitary rebel.

Open Veins of Latin America by Eduardo Galeano

From gold and silver to cacao, cotton and rubber, Latin America has been plundered for centuries for its natural resources. Galeano’s account traces the historical, political and economic factors behind this exploitation and is both analytical and passionate. A must-read for anyone who wishes to understand Latin America’s relationship to US and European power and politics.