Covering almost 8 million square Kilometres, and holding 12 different countries, the continent of South America could fill a lifetime of adventure and intrigue.
For those lucky enough to plan a trip, the choices range from epic Andean hikes to laid back Caribbean surfing, from ancient inspiring ruins to fascinating rare wildlife. The place has it all;
and part of the fun is deciding which element you are most looking forward to!
However, no matter what your preferences are and where your passions lie, there are a few destinations that simply BEG to be visited. Here is my top five South America highlights list…
The undisputed ‘king’ of intact eco systems is surely Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands? With a diverse landscape, hundreds of rare endemic species, and a relatively undisturbed setting, these islands
are an absolute must-see for animal lovers. So many wildlife
encounters are an epic task or hit-n-miss experience all over the globe; but in the
Galapagos, the stuff comes to YOU. Where else can a person wake up to the sound of pelicans fighting over a fish, then find a lone marine iguana sun bathing on your porch? Where else can one
frolick in the waves with a playful sea-lion pup, snorkel with juvenile sharks then visit giant tortoises? All in one day?!?
The Galapagos Islands are a wonderfully inspiring success story for now, and could end up being the dream highlight of your entire South America trip. But it’s prohibitively expensive and built
up only for super rich yacht cruises right? Guess again! My helpful Galapagos on a budget blog with the accompanying video proves that you too can have your own Charles Darwin inspired
wonder-trip without being a millionaire! Check it out here.
Not a day goes by without a new selfie on Instagram of some rugged looking traveller
decked out in ‘North Face’ gear and looking the consummate adventurer; that could be YOU! But take it from me, if one had time and money for only one hike in South America, the wise choice would
be the inspiring and jaw-dropping region of Patagonia which straddles both Argentina AND Chile. Even the bus journeys through this place are on an epic scale, but to truly be at one (excuse the
cheesiness) with the outdoors, then a good long walk or several-day hike is the best way to do it.
The dramatic mountains blow the socks off even the most experienced mountaineers, and walking amongst the snowy peaks and glaciers is about as close to spiritual an atheist can get!
The Atacama Desert
Quite unlike anywhere else on earth, the Atacama holds the
title of the driest desert on the planet! It is so dry in fact, that even some of its mountain peaks reaching over 6,500 metres have no ice or glaciers on them! But enough with the facts; the
true reason the Atacama is worth a visit is due to the mind-blowing scenery and other-worldly landscapes. It is difficult to do it justice in words, but the sheer vastness of space and seemingly
endless horizon makes one’s mind spin, and if that wasn’t enough, there are also myriad opportunities for adventure. From sand-boarding to stargazing and hot springs to hiking, there is something
for everybody J
To get your own slice of desert solitude, there are numerous options; why not take a look at my Atacama blog for tips and ideas of how to visit this magical place and put your own spin on things?
Not many jungles on the planet inspire as much thrill as the Amazon. Surely, one of the biggest appeals of this vast continent is its readily accessible wilderness. Vast swathes of rainforest,
pampas, river and woodland are also now recognised as national parks. This means for a forest walk like no other. Of course, there are many entries to the wonders of the amazon, but a stand out could
be the less visited areas of the Bolivian Amazon. Suitably off the beaten track so that it doesn’t feel like Disneyworld, but built up enough for the whole thing to be relatively convenient and
affordable. The joy of the amazon comes in many forms of course, but the real thrill comes from the fact that even if you don’t see one, you know that somewhere lurking in the dark is a prowling
jaguar, a goliath snake or a tarantula poised to attack; what more rush could you need?
Okay, so as corny as it is, you simply cannot ignore the universal appeal
of the ancient Inca ruins. At the very least you should plan a trip just to see what all the fuss is about. The site itself needs very little explanation as, it is one of the most documented
places on earth…indeed, it’s one of the most photographed ancient sites on our planet; with good reason. The setting alone is breath-taking, plus, when you take in the adventure of getting there
and the surrounding area, it is a truly memorable way to pass some time.
Even worn out cynical travellers can have their own little Machu Picchu experience without feeling like ‘one of the crowd’. Check out my blog on how to have a more personal adventure whilst also being on a super tight budget.
What are you favourite places in South America, comment below or find me on Twitter.
Blog by Alex Harker – you can usually tell which ones are his rather than mine (Dante Harker), as his usually lack the dark, bigger sarcasm that usually accompanies mine.
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