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South America – the top 10 highlights

We spent an amazing four months in South America and we did some truly incredible things… tangoed in Argentina, made chocolate in Colombia, spotted Whales off the Ecuador coast, flew over the mysterious Nasca lines in Peru… and that’s just to name a few!

For those that are thinking about visiting the continent, I wanted to do a Top 10 highlights of South America blog – so that you can easily see what it was about the continent we loved the most.

1. First and foremost, is our trek to Ciudad Perdida (the Lost City) in Colombia.

Ciudad Perdida

This five-day hike had everything – beautiful jungle scenery, swimming in refreshingly cool lagoons surrounded by waterfalls and the chance to observe and learn about an indigenous culture that is alive and well in the depths of the rainforest.

2. Kayaking inside the crater of a volcano on the beautiful Laguna Quilatoa in Ecuador with no one else in sight was an amazing experience. But what made this trip stand out for us is the people – the family we stayed with had next to nothing in terms of home comforts, it was a real eye-opener. Even though they didn’t even have running water, they made us feel so welcome… and the grog they gave us was extremely potent!

Quilatoa

If we’d had time, we would have loved to do the entire Quilotoa Loop to explore Zumbahua or Chugchilan and see some more of how these amazing Quechua people live.

3. For a view that will make your head spin, you have to visit the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia.

Saltflats

The strangely beautiful effect of seeing everything around you reflected on the ground is incredible, and you can get some really good perspective pictures too!

4. Any highlights of South America list has to include Machu Picchu – but it’s the four-day Inca Trail hike that was the best part of our visit.

This trek is steeped in history and everywhere you look there is a stunning view that gradually changes from cloud forest to alpine tundra and snow-capped peaks. The icing on the cake is getting to the great ruins themselves, which are incredibly impressive.

This trek is steeped in history and everywhere you look there is a stunning view that gradually changes from cloud forest to alpine tundra and snow-capped peaks. The icing on the cake is getting to the great ruins themselves, which are incredibly impressive.

5. In terms of South American city’s, Brazil’s Rio de Janerio has something for everybody. There’s great hikes through the Tijuca National Forest, viewpoints over the city from Christ the Redeemer (one of the seven wonders of the world) and favelas to explore.

If that's not enough, you can spend your days on beautiful beaches, dance the night away in Lapa or visit a Samba school and appreciate Rio's status as carnival capital of the world.

If that’s not enough, you can spend your days on beautiful beaches, dance the night away in Lapa or visit a Samba school and appreciate Rio’s status as carnival capital of the world.

6. To see some of the best scenery Patagonia has to offer, I would whole-heartedly recommend Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Even if you don't like camping or walking, it's worth a look just to see the clouds swirling around snow-capped mountain tops and twisted, gnarled trees with branches that seemingly reach out to you...

Even if you don’t like camping or walking, it’s worth a look just to see the clouds swirling around snow-capped mountain tops and twisted, gnarled trees with branches that seemingly reach out to you…

7. You just can’t visit South America without venturing into the Amazon, and our trip to Rurrenabaque in Bolivia is one of the best adventures we’ve had so far.

We saw loads of monkeys and flocks of multi-coloured macaws, built our own raft and learnt so much about how important and delicate this ecosystem is.

We saw loads of monkeys and flocks of multi-coloured macaws, built our own raft and learnt so much about how important and delicate this ecosystem is.

8. Another highlight is the fantastic Iguacu Falls. They have to be some of the most spectacular waterfalls in the world and seeing them means that you’ll be comparing every other waterfall you see to these for the rest of your life.

We ended up preferring the stunning views of the Brazilian side and we just couldn’t get over the power of the water as it thundered down around us (and soaked us in the process!)

We ended up preferring the stunning views of the Brazilian side and we just couldn’t get over the power of the water as it thundered down around us (and soaked us in the process!)

9. Donning our crampons and climbing over the Perito Moreno glacier was a spectacular experience that I would really recommend. We’ll never forget the sound of the ice rumbling like thunder as gigantic chunks broke off into the water with a huge splash.

Walking on the glacier itself was like being in some sort of Winter Wonderland with weird but beautiful ice formations and pools of vivid blue water all around.

Walking on the glacier itself was like being in some sort of Winter Wonderland with weird but beautiful ice formations and pools of vivid blue water all around.

10. Lastly, climbing an active volcano in Pucon, Chile, was incredible. It was one of the toughest things we’ve ever done – you definitely must have a certain level of fitness for this – but you get to finish it all off by sliding down the snow on your bum.

Definitely something you won't ever forget!

Definitely something you won’t ever forget!

There’s much more of South America still left to explore, but we’re pleased with everything we managed to do in our short four months. Maybe one day we’ll come back and do some of the bits we missed, but for now it’s time to move on to the next chapter in our journey – New Zealand!

Comments

  1. Great tips and article. How easy is it to go to these places? Would you suggest booking these from the internet in your home country or organise all when in country?

    • Hi Ali, glad you liked it! It’s real easy to get to many of these places and with most of the organised tours we didn’t need to book in advance. The only one you need to book way ahead is the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. The Peruvian Government only allows 500 people on this trail per day (which works out at about 200 tourists and 300 trekking staff) – so generally you need to book this one at least six months in advance! There are other hikes to Machu Picchu that don’t have such a long waiting list though, and I think you can book those when you’re in Peru. Hope that helps!

    • Thanks! Climbing Villarrica was an amazing (and exhausting) experience, but we were really lucky and had perfect weather. The guide told us that the day before we trekked, the wind was blowing towards the climbing groups the whole time which made it harder and a lot more stinky! I hope you get the chance to do it again in future!

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