‘Despacito‘ might have some creepy lyrics when translated into English (Luis Fonsi’s seduction technique seems to involve “breathing on your neck slowly” and “signing the walls of your labyrinth and make your whole body a manuscript”. REALLY?) but there’s no denying this breezy fusion of Spanish guitar and dembow-lite rhythm is the sound of summer 2017.
At the time of writing, the hook-up between reggaeton swagmeister Daddy Yankee, Puerto Rican crooner Luis Fonsi and Justin Bieber has notched up ten weeks at number one in the US and nine weeks in the UK. But what’s truly remarkable about ‘Despacito’s’ success is that such chart-slaying mega-hits aren’t usually sung in another language (even Biebs himself seems to have struggled with the Spanish vocab, shouting the word “Dorito” when forgetting the lyrics).
Destinations Unlocked:Let our travel expert Stefano help you find your perfect Culture trip
Looking for an expert's perspective?Uncover my top 3 recommended places from each continent on the map.
1. GuatemalaAn express adventure for those with limited time off. Prepare yourself incredible experiences. You will hike a volcano, visit mayan temples and witness a ceremony and take in beautiful colonial Antigua.
2. BelizeA quick trip not too far away for those seeking a relaxing mini break. You will have plenty of free time to relax but also some awesome activities to experience the rainforest and the caribbean sea.
3. MexicoAn exciting mini trip exploring the lesser known colonial towns of central Mexico. This is hte perfect trip for someone with limited time off and still wants to turn on explorer mode and do something different.
1. EcuadorA remarkable 8 days adventure through the Andes and the Amazon rainforest. The best choice for adventure seekers wishing to visit the 2 most iconic areas of South America, in only 1 week and no flights.
2. PeruAn alternative itinerary to classic Peru, from Cusco to Arequipa. This itinerary is great combination of highlights Cusco and Machu Picchu with the lesser known Arequipa and Colca Canyon.
1. ItalyThe ultimate Italian experience from the vibrant streets of Naples to the breathtaking sceneries of the Amalfi Coast followed by Matera and down to Puglia with its golden beaches, intense flavours and fascinating destinations.
2. ScotlandEmbark on this great adventure starting from London all the way to Scotland with a true Scottish experience made of breathtaking sceneries, whisky tasting and ..lots of fun! Ideal for train lovers and explorers.
3. PortugalA wonderful train journey around Portugal, from the romantic city of Porto to the Douro Valley, to the beautiful Aveiro all the way to Lisbon and Sintra. The perfect trip to train, culinary and culture lovers.
1. South KoreaDiscover incredible temples, mountains and modern cities on this 10 day adventure. This trip is perfect for those seeking immersion in the cuisine, culture and natural wonders of South Korea.
2. ThailandFrom Bankgok to Angkor Wat to Ho Chi Minh City and everything in between - adventure through the heart of South-East Asia. Taste the delights, see history brought to life and unwind on a Mekong River cruise.
3. Sri LankaA fantastic adventure that showcases Sri Lanka's fantastic landscapes, wildlife and flavours. With 3 epic rail journeys, 3 UNESCO heritage sites and time to relax, this trip has loads to offer at a great price
1. MoroccoAn epic journey across Morocco: from Casablanca to Marrakech, through the blue city of Chefchaouen to the wonders of the desert and deep to the High Atlas Mountains - this trip has it all! Ideal for true explorers!
2. EgyptFrom Cairo to Aswan, this trip brings the land of the pharaohs to life. You'll visit the Pyramids, Valley of the Kings and Luxor Temple and cruise down the Nile in style. This is the perfect way to explore Egypt.
Spanish language songs might make rare cameos in the charts but when they do strike, it’s often with an El Niño like force. From ‘Feliz Navidad‘ to ‘Macarena‘ (yes, we had to include it), here are some of the most momentous crossover cancións sung in Español…
1. ‘La Bamba’ – Los Lobos (1987)
Ay caramba! No Mexican holiday resort is complete without some dodgy mariachi troupe springing up to warble this mescaline-soaked traditional wedding song.
Originally a posthumous hit for teen singer Ritchie Valens (he perished in the same plane crash as Buddy Holly), it was revived three decades later by Los Angeles Chicano outfit Los Lobos for a biopic of Valens’ life. In the summer of 1987, it hit number one in both the UK and US (where it was the first all-Spanish sung record to hit the top slot).
2. ‘Begin the Beguine‘ – Julio Iglesias (1981)
Enrique’s hairy-chested padre hit number one in the UK with his take on Cole Porter’s ballroom classic in December 1981. At the time, Iglesias was regarded as pure Costa del Cheese: the aural equivalent of a Spanish lothario waiter wooing middle-aged women by softly crooning Latin lingo into their ears while plying them with cheap sangria.
To modern ears, however, ‘Begin the Beguine’ has a proto-Balearic charm, all shimmering guitar riffs, Copacabana catchiness and La Movida disco flourishes. As floaty as a billionaire’s superyacht bobbing around on the Med.
3. ‘Bamboléo‘ – The Gipsy Kings (1988)
Maybe because it’s the go-to track for TV music supervisors when they want to spice up the salsa section of Strictly Come Dancing, but ‘Bamboléo’s‘ ubiquity has slightly eroded its appeal. But back in the late 1980s, this flurry of flamenco, handclaps and waving-castanets-in-the-air-like-you-just-don’t-care was a massive global hit propelling these slightly portly band of brothers (it’s actually a reworking of a Venezuelan cowboy song made famous by Simon Diaz) into world music superstars.
The Gipsy Kings (who are actually French but with Catalan heritage) have since sold nearly 20 million records, their coffers topped up nicely when Snoopy danced to ‘Bamboléo’ in the recent The Peanuts Movie.
4. ‘Macarena‘ – Los Del Río (1996)
The pinnacle of Nineties naffness or a so-bad-it’s-good classic? Whatever your take, there’s no denying ‘Macarena’s‘ success. In the summer of 1996, it was number one in the US for a staggering 14 weeks, spawning a worldwide dance craze even stiff politicians were forced to shuffle along.
Even stranger, its stars were a pair of middle-aged Spanish entertainers who’d spent 30 years appearing on cheesy TV shows in their home country (they’re now millionaires so wealthy they probably dine on swan paella).
‘Macarena’ remains a big guilty pleasure (apparently Sia’s a fan), with the power to induce arrhythmic hip-shaking and bottom-shaking in tipsy uncles at weddings to this day. Weird fact: the hit version samples both Alison Moyet and 1990s’ Liverpudlian outfit The Farm.
5. ‘Gasolina‘ – Daddy Yankee (2005)
Twelve years before loaning his swagger to ‘Despacito‘, Daddy Yankee opened the reggaeton floodgates with this invigorating grind-a-thon. Credited with furthering the appeal of the genre beyond the barrios of Mr Yankee’s native Puerto Rico, ‘Gasolina’ was a Top 5 hit in the UK during the summer of 2005.
Its appeal still lives on today. Earlier this year, the world was fooled for around five minutes after believing this viral video supposedly showing Thom Yorke belting out the track after too many rum’n’cokes.
6. ‘La Tortura’ – Shakira (2005)
Given her penchant for madder-than-a-box-of-dart-frogs lyrics (she felt “abused like a coffee machine in an office”) in ‘She Wolf‘, while ‘Whenever, Wherever‘ saw her congratulating her breasts on being “small and humble so you don’t confuse them with mountains”), Shakira could be warbling about any old Latino cobblers in this reggaeton-with-accordions duet with Spanish singer Alejandro Sanz.
Instead, it’s a relatively straightforward song (well, apart from the bit where Shakira ponders why she “can’t ask an elm tree to bear pears”) about an emotionally torturous relationship. It became the Colombian chanteuse’s biggest Spanish-speaking hit (23 in the US, number one in Hungary) outside Latin America upon its 2005 release.
7. ‘Rico Suave‘ – Gerardo (1991)
Like Vanilla Ice if he’d ran through the Pirates of the Caribbean dressing-up box, Gerardo became Ecuador’s biggest musical export since panpipe covers bands when he scored a number seven hit in the US with this “I’m good with the ladies, I am” boast-a-thon in spring 1991.
However, the self-proclaimed “Latin Elvis” proved to be a one-hit wonder (despite Weird Al Yankovic’s reworking ‘Rico Suave‘ as ‘Taco Grande‘) and later became an A&R man who helped nudge Enrique Iglesias into the charts. Gerardo’s now a Christian youth pastor in Kansas City, recently talking about his foot fetish to Rolling Stone magazine here.
8. ‘Oye Como Va‘ – Santana (1971)
The signature tune of Cuban mambo maestro Tito Puente was given a new lease of life with this organ-drenched adaption by bristly-moustachioed Carlos Santana and his band. A top 20 US hit in 1971, it became a Latin rock staple and features more hooks than a piñata superstore.
9. ‘Feliz Navidad‘ – José Feliciano (1970)
A Christmas song that’s about as wintry as a poolside piña colada, this was only a hit in the Spanish-speaking world when Puerto Rican troubadour Feliciano first released it in 1970. However, in the digital era, ‘Feliz Navidad‘ has become a present-unwrapping playlist favourite, which is probably why it reached 44 in the US and scraped into the UK charts last Christmas.
It’s been covered by artists such as Michael Bublé (of course), The Glee cast, David Hasselhoff and Ariana Grande, who posted this a capella version with her family.
10. ‘El Watusi‘ – Ray Barretto (1963)
The song which defined New York City’s boogaloo (a fusion of R&B and mambo) craze of the early 1960s, this compulsive dance-floor number from Harlem-born bandleader Barretto became the first Latin tune to become a Top 20 Billboard hit.
Later used to create rising boiler-point suspense in Al Pacino 1990s’ gangster flick Carlito’s Way.
11. ‘Bailando‘ – Enrique Iglesias (2014)
Its street dance video has been viewed a mathematician-troubling 2.2 billion times on YouTube. Meanwhile the Spanglish version of the song (which features bellowing rent-a-dancehall-star Sean Paul) has topped the charts across the globe (it was strangely big in Eastern Europe) and became the first non-English top-10 radio hit since ‘Macarena‘ 20 years ago.
The song itself – about Enrique falling in love with some woman with nifty dance moves – is so sun-soaked, you can practically feel the sweat oozing down your back. As far removed from Enrique’s insipid ‘Hero’ balladeer days as it’s possible to be.
12. ‘Summer of Love’ – Lonyo (2000)
Sadly forgotten garage reworking of a track by Venezuelan salsa king Oscar D’León, this was a top 10 UK hit in summer 2000 (which wasn’t the summer of love, more a solstice of bland Irish boybands, Billy Bass singing fish and panic-petrol buying). With its jaunty Latin chorus, this deserves to be filed alongside Len’s ‘Steal My Sunshine‘ and Sweet Female Attitude’s ‘Flowers‘ as true fin-de-sièclepop classics.
13. ‘The Ketchup Song (Aserejé)’ – Las Ketchup (2002)
Much-ridiculed UK number one from Spanish family pop group which sold seven million copies and topped the charts in 27 countries. Sounding not unlike unlike some Spanish students mangling Sugarhill Gang’s ‘Rapper’s Delight’ at karaoke, this ditty has sadly nothing to do with tomato sauce.
Instead, it’s about a pimping, magical gypsy called Diego who prowls nightclubs at midnight hoodwinking women he’s a Rastafarian. The musical equivalent of a sorry-looking souvenir sombrero, it proved to be catchier than travellers’ diarrhoea. As for Las Ketchup themselves, they recorded one more album before splitting shortly after representing Spain in 2006’s Eurovision.
Volcanic Iceland Epic Trip
meet our Local Insider
HOW LONG HAVE YOU BEEN A GUIDE?
WHAT DO YOU LOVE ABOUT YOUR JOB?
It's the personal contact, the personal experiences. I love meeting people from all over the world... I really like getting to know everyone and feeling like I'm traveling with a group of friends.
WHAT DESTINATION IS ON YOUR TRAVEL BUCKET-LIST?
I have so many places on my list, but I would really lobe to go to Africa. I consider myself an “adventure girl” and Africa feels like the ULTIMATE adventure!
Every CULTURE TRIP Small-group adventure is led by a Local Insider just like Hanna.
KEEN TO EXPLORE THE WORLD?
Connect with like-minded people on our premium trips curated by local insiders and with care for the world
Since you are here, we would like to share our vision for the future of travel - and the direction Culture Trip is moving in.
Culture Trip launched in 2011 with a simple yet passionate mission: to inspire people to go beyond their boundaries and experience what makes a place, its people and its culture special and meaningful — and this is still in our DNA today. We are proud that, for more than a decade, millions like you have trusted our award-winning recommendations by people who deeply understand what makes certain places and communities so special.
Increasingly we believe the world needs more meaningful, real-life connections between curious travellers keen to explore the world in a more responsible way. That is why we have intensively curated a collection of premium small-group trips as an invitation to meet and connect with new, like-minded people for once-in-a-lifetime experiences in three categories: Culture Trips, Rail Trips and Private Trips. Our Trips are suitable for both solo travelers, couples and friends who want to explore the world together.
Culture Trips are deeply immersive 5 to 16 days itineraries, that combine authentic local experiences, exciting activities and 4-5* accommodation to look forward to at the end of each day. Our Rail Trips are our most planet-friendly itineraries that invite you to take the scenic route, relax whilst getting under the skin of a destination. Our Private Trips are fully tailored itineraries, curated by our Travel Experts specifically for you, your friends or your family.
We know that many of you worry about the environmental impact of travel and are looking for ways of expanding horizons in ways that do minimal harm - and may even bring benefits. We are committed to go as far as possible in curating our trips with care for the planet. That is why all of our trips are flightless in destination, fully carbon offset - and we have ambitious plans to be net zero in the very near future.