Big and Bold South America. This vibrant continent does everything on a grand scale—from the soaring peaks of the Andes Mountains to the depths of the Amazon Rainforest, you’ll find the world’s highest active volcano, the highest navigable lake, the largest waterfalls, the biggest salt flats, and of course, the largest rainforest. Then there’s huge wildlife – giant river otters, giant tortoises, Andean condors, anacondas, goliath bird-eaters – the list goes on. While its biggest attractions vie for your attention, there is an abundance of hidden gems to be discovered. Look beyond the highlights and allow yourself to be charmed by the South America less travelled.
Explore legendary archaeological sites and delve into the history of the continent, from before the Incas to the Spanish conquistadors and even more recent history. Think beyond Machu Picchu and you’ll continue to be amazed. Peru, Ecuador, and Bolivia all house impressive Incan ruins, grand colonial mansions, and glittering churches. For a more comprehensive overview of the continent’s history and culture, visit indigenous Amazonian tribes and remote mountain villages in the Andes, making sure to spend time with the locals.
Wildlife lovers shouldn’t skip the Galapagos Islands, a remarkable archipelago off the coast of Ecuador. The Galapagos are defined by their haunting volcanic scenery and fearless wildlife. On land, get up-close to giant tortoises, sea lions and blue-footed boobies, or snorkel alongside sea turtles, rays, penguins and sharks for an unforgettable experience. Wildlife encounters also abound in the Amazon, which spans Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and French Guiana. Here you’ll spy sloths, monkeys, vivid birdlife, and pink river dolphins, amongst hundreds of other wonderful creatures. For the best chances of seeing the elusive jaguar, Brazil’s Pantanal wetlands are the place to be. And for something a little different, there’s Argentina’s Península Valdés, home to penguins, whales, elephant seals, and sea lions.
For epic landscapes and hiking, Patagonia is South America’s jewel. This huge region spans the south of both Argentina and Chile. Both sides are peppered with glittering lakes, huge glaciers, and dramatic granite peaks, making them a mecca for hikers and climbers. Otherworldly landscapes abound where Bolivia, Argentina, and Chile meet. Lunar desert-scapes and shimmering salt flats await and the region is a photographer’s dream.
For off-the-beaten-path experiences, it has to be the Guianas. Made up of the former Dutch, English and French colonies of Suriname, Guyana, and French Guiana, the Guianas offer an abundance of raw travel experiences. Acres of untamable rainforest, wild white-water rivers and thundering waterfalls cover a huge portion of the region, cloaking indigenous communities, exuberant plant life, tropical wildlife and seemingly endless protected nature reserves. Each of the former colonies has its own history to tell, which although sometimes chilling, provides an important insight into the events and cultures that have shaped them. Colombia also leads the way with off-the-beaten-path adventures. Coffee plantations, a jungle-fringed coastline, and impressive canyons will take your breath away and leave you wanting more.