The 30 Best Cities in Latin America

I love Latin America. I love Central America, South America and the Spanish speaking Caribbean. In fact, I just booked a trip for May to Cuba. So for my latest 30 best list it had to be the 30 best cities in Latin America.
Panama City, Panama
Picking favorites in such a varied area was not easy, these lists never are. However, I tried to take into account all of Latin America (Miami not included), from Mexico all the way down to Patagonia. This includes all of South America, including Portuguese speaking Brazil, Dutch speaking Suriname and French speaking French Guiana. It also includes all of Central America and the Spanish speaking Caribbean countries only.
Torres del Paine, Chile
As usual, I have to have been to each place and my experience and thoughts are what dictates this list. So I would love to hear what you think. Keep in mind, a place you love might be missing but there’s a chance I haven’t been there-although admittedly I’ve been pretty much everywhere in Latin America and I do speak Spanish.
Teotihuacan, Mexico
What do you think about the 30 best cities in Latin America?
Lee Abbamonte, Cartagena, Colombia
30 Paramaribo, Suriname
29 San Salvador, El Salvador
28 Monterrey, Mexico
27 Porlamar, Venezuela
26 Tijuana, Mexico
25 Punta Arenas, Chile
24 Sao Paulo, Brazil
23 Lima, Peru
22 Guadalajara, Mexico
21 Havana, Cuba
20 Guayaquil, Ecuador
19 Porto Alegre, Brazil
18 Cancun, Mexico
17 Recife, Brazil
16 Montevideo, Uruguay
15 San Jose, Costa Rica
14 Quito, Ecuador
13 Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic
12 Panama City, Panama
11 Santiago, Chile
10 Mendoza, Argentina
9 Bogota, Colombia
8 La Paz, Bolivia
7 Antigua, Guatemala
6 Mexico City, Mexico
5 San Juan, Puerto Rico
4 Cusco, Peru
3 Cartagena, Colombia
2 Buenos Aires, Argentina
1 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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  1. Great list Lee. Personally — Santiago should be a little higher and Florianoplis should probably be on the list.

    Nicely done.

  2. Great list as always! Where’s Medellin?

  3. I lived in Quito for a while so I am a little biased but that is such a great city. I have many more to visit on your list. You’re so lucky to travel the way you have-it’s amazing!

  4. Granada and Leon, Nicaragua. Merida, Mexico. San Pppedro Sula…just kidding :p

  5. Good list lee but you should have had more from Brazil. Belo Horizonte, Curitiba, Natal, Campo Grande, Florianopolis, Salvador etc

  6. Medellin Colombia

  7. Lauren Davis says

    I’ve traveled a lot of Latin America but I prefer the smaller towns and villages to cities.

  8. Sergio Aragon says

    Mr Lee !!
    I Like your list but i would do two separate lists !! one for actual main cities as Bogota, Sao Paulo, Etc.
    And one for main tourist destinations, Cartagena, Cuzco, Antigua, Etc.

  9. Guess you didn’t think that much of Havana… Agree with Rio being #1

  10. You misspelled # 24- it’s NOT Sao Paolo, it’s Sao Paulo. Just saying!

  11. AHHHH San Ignacio didn’t make the list!

  12. Stephanie says

    My opinions are all about Mexico: Mexico DF should be in the top 5 (definitely over San Juan!), San Cristobal de las Casas should replace Cancun, and Merida or Oaxaca City should replace Tijuana.

  13. I think Santo Domingo is way too high on that list. Havana should be in the top 15. San Juan is just about right were you placed it. From Puerto Rico i would add Cayey, a city in the mountain region of the island. From Argentina i would add the city of Bariloche, a secluded mountain region famous tourist destination.

  14. I would add:

    Monterrico, Guatemala, there are black sand
    Coban, Guatemala, search about “Grutas del Rey Marcos”, “Semuc Champey” & “Lanquin”
    Tikal, Guatemala, just type it on Google, you will be impressed.

  15. Boston Jonatas says

    I’m surprised Antigua Guatemala is so high on the list, I recently went there this year and I had a awesome time, but it’s a tiny little tourist town …..
    Anyway having gone to Buenos Aires last year, I fell in love with the barrios, architecture, steak and wine, it’s definitely the “Paris of the South”; if only it had some natural beauty. RIO is by far number 1, it’s simply the best location: you can drink Mendoza Malbec on Ipanema beach, but you can’t climb the sugar loaf in Rio de La Plata. Furthermore, all the great things that make Buenos Aires more like Europe, consequently make it less like South America! RIO is diverse, a cultural melting pot, you have African, Asian, Indigenous and European influences all fused together, it’s the most spice. Rio has sanitation, crime and infrastructure problems, it’s what keeps it behind cities like Sydney and Barcelona. But day by day that gap is narrowing, hopefully in my lifetime it will finally get its act together and be one of the top 5 cities in the world.

    Yes I am biased, I was born in RIO. But like many of you I travel, I’ve been to most of Lee’s top 30 cities in the world list.

  16. Yara Blancovich says

    I lived in Santiago Chile for 1.5 yr & totally loooooved Chile! Skiing in the Andes, Viña & Valparaíso, the wine, the people, the food! AMAZING

    Rio defenitely one of my top places! Handglidding over Forest/City/beach & Corcovado & Pan de Azúcar in the distance was one of best experiences of my life! ????????

    Love that San Juan is #5!! Im from PuertoRico & i still loooove going to old San Juan! So BEAUTIFUL

    Lee —
    Loooove Your blog! It’s awesome!
    Would have liked seeing a Pic of each of the 30 cities above but specially a blurb on Why you liked each one. Maybe on a future blog post?
    Awesome job! ????

  17. William Smith says

    San Juan is way to high. I loved Panama city and Santo Domingo.

  18. Just curious, why is Tijuana on the list? What did you like about it?

  19. hey mate im agree with youre list but in my opinion cancun shouldnt be there, im a traveler as well, and really hate people that say that they dont like it because places are too crowded and too touristic, but i think cancun has been destroyed by all the hotels, im mexican, and thats not even mexico anymore its more! All the others i think are right, btw nice experience you got going everywhere, cheers

  20. Raimon Duran says

    Missing Mérida in the list …

  21. Patricio Montecinos says

    Hi Lee
    Great page!! (Y)
    But I would like to see Valparaiso in the list, the street art, the architecture and the hills each one has its history, all part in this big amphitheater gazing the sea.
    I’m not from Valpo but I loved it :D.

  22. Great list, but I wasn’t a great fan of Lima or Quito. I believe the smaller towns have way mroe charm just as Valpariso/Chile, San Pedro de Atacama/Chile, Sucre/Bolivia, Arequipa/Peru, Otavalo/Ecuador, Ayampe/Ecuador. What do you think?

  23. Hey, I’m a young single American guy who is trying to get away from the fast paced life and into a more slower paced, settle down with a family life. I love the Latino culture; the food, the family orientation, music, soccer. Im very interested in moving to a safe place in Latin America where one can get a decent job, good healthcare, and has a decent temperature (not too hot or cold). Slow pace of life, but also fun to take future wife and kids out. I was doing a lot of research and it seems like Costa Rica, Bogota Colombia, Nicaragua or even a nice town in Mexico would be my best bets? Do you agree?

  24. Where is Mazatlán México?

  25. Eduardo gonzalez says

    I am from Mexico, and believe me Tijuana doesnt belongs in any list. Is horrible. Mexico most beautiful cities, and thousands of time better then TIJUANA, Monterrey or Guadalajara are:
    Queretaro, Morelia, Puebla, Guanajuato, San Miguel de Allende, Mérida, Taxco, Zacatecas, amontona others. Bye bye

  26. Brooke Berendsen says

    I’m traveling throughout Peru, Chile, and Easter Island for 28 days in April. I’m so happy to see some spots I’m visiting on your list! Have you been to Isle of Chiloe in Chile? If so, what’d ya think? I’m seeing Coldplay in Lima, super excited! Any tips on things to do in Santiago? I’ll be there for a week. Thanks!!!

  27. I’m traveling to Brazil in May and June– going to Porto Alegre, Bonito, Minas Gerais (for a friend’s wedding) and then Rio. I’m looking for advice on visiting canyons near Porto Alegre (or other activities) and on booking a package tour or how to get from Campo Grande to Bonito and back. Thanks so much!

  28. orlando moreno says

    you claimed Cartagena to be the number 3. are you crazy. that city is a dump!! lived there for 3 years. Poverty like I have never seen. People always asking for money. the heat, the crime. why number 3 ?

  29. Panama City? The skyline is beautiful but there is garbage everywhere. The skyscrapers look over brown ocean waves. The supposedly beautiful Balboa Avenue with potholes..filthy.. stray dogs that are starving. I Guess it is beautiful if you fly over it.

  30. I’m curious, what made you rank San Juan so high up in the list? Not trying to say it’s a bad place at all. Just a bit surprising that you found it better than a lot of these mega cities like Santiago and DF.

  31. Lee, photo of those mayan pyramids is awesome.

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