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Annabel Kemp


Annabel Kemp

I fell in love with the idea of travelling to Latin America as a child, after reading Isabel Allende’s wonderful book ‘City of the Beasts’ which is set in the Amazon Rainforest. Studying Spanish at university brought about the chance to move to Colombia aged 20, where I worked as an English teacher in Bogotá. It was an extraordinary experience for so many reasons, from the extremely warm and welcoming locals to the incredible diversity of landscapes. I spent weeks in the rainforest, spotting pink river dolphins at sunrise in Puerto Nariño, a small eco village in the Colombian Amazon. After spending a year in Vietnam, I’m now based in Oaxaca, Mexico, which won my heart with impossibly colourful streets and some of the best food I’ve ever tasted.


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Hey, Annabel. Which was the first country you visited in Latin America? What were your impressions?

Colombia blew me away from the moment I arrived. Despite being a huge city, Bogotá had some of the friendliest people I’d ever met, who always have time for a catch up over coffee. As one of the most biodiverse countries in the world, the landscapes were phenomenal. I particularly loved the otherworldly deserts of Tatacoa, Lago de Tota (a serene lake high up in the mountains of Boyocá) and the dreamlike high-altitude páramo.


Tell us about a recent adventure of yours. What did a typical day look like?

Since the beginning of 2022, I’ve been living and working in Mexico. As well as travel writing, I work as a tattoo artist and have been dropping into studios across the country as a guest artist. In Mérida I had the chance to work in a women’s tattoo collective called La Cueva, while in Mexico City I was welcomed into the beautiful studio of Alacrania, a safe space run by incredibly talented drag queens. Days in my current home of Oaxaca are centred around food; popping to a local market for fresh tropical fruits, grabbing a quesadilla filled with Oaxacan cheese and pumpkin flowers, seeking out the best spots for mole (a typical chocolate and chile sauce).


What’s your favourite dish from Latin America?

There are far too many to choose from really, but my current favourite is a Mexican dish from Puebla. Chile relleno con quesillo consists of roasted peppers stuffed with a typical Oaxacan cheese, coated in a light crispy batter.


In your opinion, what is an unmissable experience for visitors to Latin America?

The cenotes (natural freshwater sinkholes) dotted across Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula are a must-see. There are over 6,000 of them across this region, ranging from pitch-black caves to more open, airy spaces dripping in vines and mosses. Looking down while swimming in the natural pools feels like an optical illusion, as the water is so crystal clear that you can see the cavernous depths beneath you for miles.


From delicious wines to handicrafts, Latin America offers incredible creations- what is the best souvenir you’ve ever taken home?

Teotitlan del Valle in Oaxaca is famous for its wool tapestries. I’ve collected a rather ridiculous number of small colourful rugs.


Where will your next Latin American adventure be?

I’ve yet to explore Patagonia, a region of jagged mountains, luminous turquoise lakes and abundant wildlife which I’m dying to see for myself.


Favourite book to read while travelling Latin America?

My favourite book of all time is Isabel Allende’s first novel, The House of the Spirits. It’s essential reading if you plan on visiting Chile and want to get a feel for the tumultuous changes the country has experienced.


Have you had many wildlife sightings on your travels?

I’ve been very lucky on this front! Wildlife highlights from Mexico include humpback whales, howler monkeys, agoutis and enormous crocodiles, while in Colombia I spotted tiny squirrel monkeys and pink river dolphins.


Favourite Latin American musician or band?

For mesmerising acoustic guitar, Brazilian musician Fabiano do Nascimento is hard to beat. Colombian duo Bomba Estéreo have an upbeat tropical sound that I love, and I also have a soft spot for the fun, over-the-top Venezuelan group Los Amigos Invisibles.

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