Stunning sights of our native lands

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We thought Hispanic Heritage Month might inspire some of us to look back to our homelands as we plan — or dream — about our next vacation. It is easy to forget the astonishing diversity of landscapes in the Caribbean and Latin America.

NBC News Latino asked some of our friends to share their special places when they visit their families’ home countries. We have recovered beautiful photos and unique places.

Mexico

Choosing where to travel in Mexico is difficult because it has so many diverse beauties in its more than 30 states. Cancún and Tulum, which both reside on the Yucatan Peninsula in the state of Quintana Roo, continue to gain beach destinations year after year. The capital, Mexico City, is one of the largest metropolitan areas in the world, with 16 boroughs and over 300 neighborhoods. In addition to being a leading city in the field of the arts, it is also home to the Aztec archaeological ruins of Teotihuacan.

Jaime Davila’s family originated from General Terán in Nuevo León. Also known as the “Breakaway Backpacker”, Davila is currently on his second trip around the world and happens to be in Mexico. He said it was his favorite gem so far:

Guanajuato, Mexico.Jaime Davila

“Get lost in one of the many callejones, ‘alleys’, that make up this colonial city set on hills,” Davila said. “Walking through its cobbled streets, you encounter an array of colors. You can’t help but smile with delight and wonder how it has retained its charm for so long. Although it is packed with many attractions, the best thing to do, when visiting, is to get lost and soak it all up.”

Chile

With incredible stargazing in the Atacama Desert, ancient moai statues on Easter Island, and beautiful ski slopes during (our) summer, Chile ranked second on the “Top 10 Countries in the World”. World” from Yahoo Travel this year.

Andrea Farah, originally from the capital, Santiago, visited this gorgeous spot in southern Chile in 2011 and has loved it ever since:

Image: Geometric Termas.
Termas Geometricas, Chile.Andrea C. Farah

“Termas Geometricas was one of the most breathtaking sites I have visited – there is so much peace and beauty there,” Farah said. “I literally felt full of energy visiting the Termas. I would definitely recommend anyone visiting Chile to go there. There are hot springs in the middle of the forest! It can’t get any better than this,” she shared.

Loreto Riveros Fraser, also from Santiago, loves visiting the city of Valparaíso about an hour’s drive from his hometown.

Image: A trolley bus and the Turri clock tower behind it in the financial district of Valparaiso, Chile.
A trolley bus and the Turri clock tower behind it in the financial district of Valparaiso, Chile.Lorette RiverosFraser

“I took this photo in February while visiting my family after two years,” Riveros Fraser said. “It’s special, because it’s a family tradition to go on the trolley bus, and I haven’t done that for a long time,” she shared.

Bolivia

Bolivia, like Peru, was part of the Inca Empire before Spanish colonization. The landlocked country has many beautiful places to visit, such as Lake Titicaca and Madidi National Park.

Ingrid Matias, whose family is from Bolivia, recommended this unique place:

Image: Salar de Uyuni, salt flats in southwestern Bolivia.
Salar de Uyuni, saltwater flats in southwestern Bolivia.Ingrid Matias

“If you’ve ever wanted to walk on clouds, Uyuni is the place to visit,” she said, adding that anyone visiting the Salar should join a tour group. “The whole tour lasts three days.”

Image: Hotel-Museo del Sal in Salar de Uyuni.
Hotel-Museo del Sal in Salar de Uyuni.Ingrid Matias

“We didn’t stay at the Hotel-Museo del Sal, because it’s a museum now, but we stayed at a salt hotel in a nearby town,” she told us. “The bed frames were salty. The walls were salty.

Porto Rico

The island of Puerto Rico is just a gem in itself. Wandering around the colonial town of San Juan and climbing El Morro takes you back to the 16th century. You can also take a ferry to visit some of the best beaches in the world off the islands of Culebra and Vieques.

Jessica Caban, who is from the northwestern city of Aguadilla, said she’s been to the El Yunque rainforest twice already and she can’t get enough:

Image: El Yunque National Forest in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.
El Yunque National Forest in Rio Grande, Puerto Rico.Jessica Cabin

“There’s a little rocky ledge you could stand on — on your way to the highest peak — where you can see a lot of the forest and feel the clouds on your skin,” Caban said of of El Yunque, a rainforest that is part of the US National Park Service (Puerto Rico is an American Commonwealth). “It’s actually a breathtaking sight, but quite scary, – the ledge is small and there are no guardrails for you to fall off!” she says.

Caban also liked to hear the coquis (small tree frogs native only to Puerto Rico), butterflies and parrots, as well as the waterfalls and rivers in which one can bathe.

Priscilla Rivera de Luquillo loves this hidden Puerto Rican treasure she recently visited:

Image: Rio Camuy Caves in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.
Rio Camuy Caves in Arecibo, Puerto Rico.Priscilla Rivera

“You basically have to walk through someone’s backyard to get to this particular system of caves and waterfalls,” Rivera said. “On the way, you walk along a very steep mountain, almost on your tiptoes, then once you reach the cave, you have to jump into freezing water to get inside.”

Visiting the cave itself takes about two hours, she said, and requires peak physical fitness — as well as not being afraid of cave spiders and bats.

“I thought I wouldn’t pass all the different entrances to the cave due to claustrophobia, but the gear they give you and a well-trained guide helped a lot,” Rivera said. “Once you come out of the cave you go through this tunnel waterfall system on your back – rafting.”

Peru

Recently named the top cultural and culinary destination by the World Travel Awards, Peru is home to the majestic 15th century Inca site, Machu Picchu, the mysterious Nazca Lines, located in the Nazca Desert in southern Peru, and some of the finest world websites. genetically diverse crops.

Jonathan Siu, originally from Lima, Peru, shared some of his favorite, lesser-known places in his native country:

Image: Paracas, a desert reserve located near Las Islas Ballestas.
Paracas, a desert reserve located near Las Islas Ballestas.Jonathan Siu

“The first thing that comes to mind is the tranquility of the area,” Siu said. “Although Paracas is becoming a resort town, it still conveys a local, almost familiar vibe. I took this photo while going to the Ballestas Islands.

Image: Village of Huacachina, five hours south of Lima.
Village of Huacachina, five hours south of Lima.Jonathan Siu

“Huacachina is a small village that surrounds a natural oasis in the Ica desert,” he said. “We got there after doing a buggy ride and sandboarding through the desert dunes. It really is a magical place. That day, the weather was not on our side, hence the contrast between the dark sky and the white sand.

Dominican Republic

From its 16th century castles and monasteries to its tropical green hills and turquoise beaches, the Dominican Republic is a favorite destination for many. Catherine Cuello, co-founder of the Greenhopping app, says these two places in her native Dominican Republic make her feel peaceful, calm and serene.

Image: Puerto Bahia in Samana, Dominican Republic.
Puerto Bahia in Samana, Dominican Republic.Courtesy of Catherine Cuello

“It’s my place to relax and recharge so I can handle New York,” Cuello says. “It’s my haven of peace and my piece of happiness.”

Image: A view of Barahona Beach, Dominican Republic.
A view of Barahona Beach, Dominican Republic.Courtesy of Catherine Cuello

Brazil

There doesn’t seem to be a single person who doesn’t have Brazil on their bucket list of places to visit, and for good reason.

Rio de Janeiro is home to the iconic Ipanema Beach, the world’s largest art statue – Christ the Redeemer – and of course the annual Rio Carnival which is held from Friday to Tuesday before Ash Wednesday.

Denise Oliveira, from Rio de Janeiro, shared with us her family’s favorite place:

Image: Marau Peninsula, city of Barra Grande, state of Bahia in Brazil.
Marau Peninsula, city of Barra Grande, state of Bahia in Brazil.Nestor Maciel

“Barra Grande Beach in Bahia has become my family’s favorite vacation destination in Brazil,” Oliveira said, “…it has the most beautiful scenery in the country and the food is amazing.”

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