It’s strange to think that South America was once a slightly fearsome proposition for some travellers. Of all the world’s continents, it has always been the source of the most mystery and intrigue.
Perhaps it was because of the mighty and still unexplored Amazon? It could even have been the other worldliness of some of the indigenous cultures.
Or maybe it was still the residual fascination of the world’s most recently discovered continent. For whatever reason, South America always had an allure but one that was tempered with caution.
In recent years, however, this view of South America has changed enormously. As more and more people began to visit and explore its countries, they discovered a continent of almost inconceivable contrast.
A place dominated by some of the most extreme yet beautiful places on earth. And perhaps most importantly, they discovered the people who lived there to be some of the friendliest, most welcoming and generous anywhere on the planet. Combined with the fact South America is finally being allowed to harness its own resources and grow as an industrial and financial power, there might not be a better time to visit.
So where do you go? In such a vast and varied continent, where do you start your journey? Here are ten suggestions for places you simply have to visit in South America.
We’ve all seen the photos of this extraordinary place. But seeing it for yourself is something completely unique. Built in the Andes of Peru, this forgotten city was rediscovered in 1911 and instantly gained worldwide recognition.
Most likely because it is so different from any other human settlement. When you’re there it is easy to sense how it worked as a living, breathing city.
Named after the American pilot whose plane crash-landed at the site, Angel Falls is another must visit adventure travel location in South America.
If Machu Picchu is one of the high points of human achievement on the continent, this must be Nature’s greatest feat.
Trek through the jungle and navigate the grasslands until you come across this simply spectacular site. It’s easy to see why Arthur Conan Doyle used the area as the basis for his eponymous Lost World.
The Galapagos Islands
Made famous by Charles Darwin during his evolutionary expeditions, the Galapagos Islands are found off the coast of Ecuador.
They are one of the last truly unspoiled natural habitats where man actually respects the boundaries of the natural world.
The animals that live here are unburdened by the instinctive fear of man, all of which makes it a truly unique place to visit.
Almost as iconic as Machu Picchu, the stone heads on Easter Island, Chile, created an image that resonated around the world. Who were these stone men and who put them here? It is a mystery that will perhaps never be solved.
The Polynesian culture that created them has long since vanished and left us no clues about their origins. All we are left is to enjoy their mystery and the stunning location in which they live.
This area of Brazil is perhaps the wildest any where on the planet. It certainly has the greatest density of animal life anywhere in South America. And in a continent as wild as this one that is really saying something.
The wetlands found here, created by seasonal flooding, are some of the largest and most diverse freshwater ecosystems to be found anywhere, creating real adventure travel opportunities. And as well as freshwater wildlife, you might also be lucky enough to catch a glimpse of the beautiful but elusive jaguar, as well as countless species of hummingbirds and parrots.
Rio de Janeiro
With the Copacabana, Ipanema and the giant statue of Christ the Redeemer on Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio is a place that has its fair share of iconic imagery. But it’s during carnival time that you should experience Rio. This might just be the biggest party in the world. And being there right in the middle of it is really extraordinary.
With the football World Cup taking place in Brazil in 2014, this is very much one of the hottest cities to visit. And we’re not just talking about the sunshine.
Tierra del Fuego
With the Amazon, Andean mountains and stunning Caribbean beaches, there is no shortage of beautiful landscapes in South America. But the most stunning is without doubt at the southernmost tip.
Tierra del Fuego (literally meaning Land of Fire) is an archipelago of islands off Argentina. With snow capped mountains and a dramatic volcanic landscape, this is a place like no other.
Los Nevados National Park
Found in the Colombian Andes this is one of the best national parks in South America. The skyline is dominated by huge volcanic peaks like the Nevado Del Ruiz. And amongst the peaks are found pristine volcanic lakes, such as Lake Otún.
It’s home to many endangered bird species, like the Andean snipe and Colombian torrent duck, and also teaming with beautiful rainbow trout. It’s a stunning place to visit
Salar de Uyuni
Located in the south-western corner of Bolivia, this place is truly unique in nature. It is the world’s largest salt flat, found at an altitude of 3,500 metres.
There are a few tourists here to see the incredible landscape, which has brought with it a few new structures and buildings.
But here in Salar de Uyuni, these are no ordinary buildings – they are all made of salt.
The whole place has a very unusual and surreal vibe that you have to experience first hand.
Covering a simply vast area, the Amazon is the largest rainforest in the planet. Still largely unexplored (and often unexplorable) just being here is a magical feeling and has to be part of any South American adventure.
The facts about the Amazon are mind-boggling and too many to list here. But we’ll leave you with one: There are an estimated 2.5 million different species of insect in the forest. Incredible!
For more adventure travel info and guides, check out: Adventure Sports Gear: Penknife or Multitool?/ Top 10 travel apps for iPhone, iPad and smartphones / The Ultimate List of Extreme Sports / Airline weight restrictions: what every traveller needs to know/ The Rise of Gastro Adventuring
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