April 25, 2022
South America is a vast continent full of secrets and incredible hidden gems that are yet to be discovered. With many tourists keeping to the main attractions, some of the more off the beaten path destinations remain untouched. Moving away from the more popular hotspots allows you to experience a more authentic way to travel where you can connect with local communities and learn about the culture of a place. This compilation of attractions will be sure to make your holidays to South America worthwhile.
1. Choquequirao, Peru
An Incan site located in southern Peru, Choquequirao’s ruins are often compared to those of Machu Picchu. Located on the hilltop of Sunch’u Pata, its remote location is the reason it receives so little visitors every year. To reach the ruins of Choquequirao you have to trek across canyons and rivers to reach your destination.
This glorious former Inca city is said to be bigger than Machu Picchu however, only parts of it have been excavated and there is still much more to be found here. For those you are brave enough to trek to the site, they will be richly rewarded with the incredible architecture and history of the place.
2. Marble Caves, Chile
Located in the heart of Patagonia, in the General Carrera Lake, the Marble Caves are one of the rarest and most beautiful sights in the world. Made up of three different cave formations, this is one of the most spectacular natural sights you will ever see. Years of erosion have left wavy curves into the marble columns, creating black and white striations.
The water from the lake comes from the surrounding glaciers that melt down during the warmer months. This pure and untouched water is bright turquoise in colour and when the sun it just right turns the walls of the caves a matching blue. The perfect spot to go to if you are a keen photographer as this phenomenon is one to absolutely catch on camera.
3. Purmamarca, Argentina
Purmamarca is well known in the region for being the home of the Cerro de los Siete Colores also known as the Hill of Seven Colours. It is said that the children of the village snuck out one night and painted the hilltop a different colour every night creating the now famous hill.
The seven colours now represented are ochre, yellow, orange, green, brown, lilac and violet. However, if we are looking at this scientifically, the change in colours are due to the different types of claystone and limestones that have been layered here over time.
4. Jujuy, Argentina
One of the most underrated regions in Argentina, Jujuy is located in the north-west of the country and is thought to be the most picturesque place to visit. It is home to the above Purmamarca as well as Humahuaca, the 14-coloured mountain. The villages and towns here are feel like they’ve been pulled out from an old history book with their cobbled lined streets and colourful houses. As so little people and tourists venture so far out in the country, the region remains incredibly untouched with the local wildlife thriving. It is not unusual to see condors flying overhead.
The food here is also completely different to anything you will find in Argentina. Stews made out of lamb are infamous here and are truly a must-have.
5. Cordillera Real, Bolivia
For those who like to take part in outdoor and climbing activities look no further than the Cordillera Real. Located near Lake Titicaca, this mountain range is a hidden gem in South America. Spanning 125 kilometres, Cordillera Real is the ideal place to go to for a challenge combined with awe-inspiring views. You can either organise for day treks from La Paz or if you are feeling bold you can opt for a 17 day trek across the full breath of the mountain range.
For a truly memorable experience opt for a sunrise climb where you start your climb at night and reach the top just in time to see the mountain face turn golden.
6. Las Lajas, Colombia
In 1754, a mother and her deaf-mute daughter sought refuge in between two large rocks called ‘Lajas’ in Spanish. At one point during the storm, a bolt of lighting hit the rock and the daughter said that an image of the Virgin Mary appeared there. The story of what happened spread and a small chapel was built on the location and acted as a final step for a pilgrimage to see the image of the Virgin Mary. However, the chapel was then taken down to make way for the current sanctuary, a Gothic Revival masterpiece.
The sanctuary is beautifully located between a canyon and offers fantastic views of the verdant surrounding landscape.
7. Vilcabamba, Ecuador
You will find Vilcabamba on the southern coast of Ecuador. A small village that is surrounded by mountains on all sides, it is often referred to as the Valley of Longevity as the inhabitants of the tiny village tend to live over the age of 100. If you are looking for a place to disconnect then this is the place to head to. Very few tourists venture this far and you will only meet the local inhabitants in this remote part of the country. It is also the ideal place to go to for those who enjoy being outdoors as the Podocarpus National Park is located not far from the village and is a haven for wildlife and flora. Animals such as the spectacled bear and the pudu live here as well as some 600 different bird species.
8. Jesus de Tavarrange, Paraguay
The most well persevered and important Jesuit Missions ruins are found in Paraguay and the department of Itapua. Had the church of Reduccion de Jesus at the site of Jesus de Tavarrangue been completed it is said that it would have been the largest church in South America. The ruins still remain one of the largest in the country and were solely built by local indigenous Guarani and Jesuit priests. A testament of the work and time of the time period.
9. Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay
One of the oldest towns in Uruguay, Colonia del Sacramento was built in 1680 by Portuguese settlers. The centre of the town has been named a UNESCO World Heritage Site and showcases the incredible architectural work of the 18th and 19th century. The town is a popular weekend destination for Argentinians who live across the Rio de la Plata river. Visiting this quaint little town is like taking a trip back in time.
10. Angel Falls, Venezuela
The journey to the Angel Falls in Venezuela is not an easy one. The trek up to the waterfall takes place over a variety of different modes of transportation but it is well worth your while. First by plane, then by canoe and finally a hike up the mountain side will take you to the foot of the waterfall. From there you will be able to admire one of the tallest waterfall unobstructed and undisturbed.
During the dry season, you can even swim until right under the fall to experience a unique type of shower. It is truly a once in a lifetime experience to swim in the middle of the jungle surrounding only by wildlife and the wonders of nature.
11. Jericoacoara, Brazil
If you are looking for a beach holiday buy want to avoid the crowds of Rio de Janeiro, head on to Jericoacoara , a small beach town in Northern Brazil. Sugar white beaches, calm blue water and soft sand it had everything you could every wish for. And if you still enjoy a touch of adrenaline with your relaxing holiday then rent a 4x4 and head to the nearby sand dunes for an exhilarating driving experience.
12. Salento, Colombia
If you are looking to experience the coffee region away from the crowds then Salento is for you. An up and coming coffee destination, Salento is a small town surrounded by palms and wines and is an attraction by itself thanks to its quaint streets and charming buildings. You will find here plenty of family-run coffee plantations whose owners are always happy to take you around and teach you all about coffee growing and making.
Salento is also located nearby the Valle de Cocora, a verdant mountainside home to wax palms that grow up to 60 metres tall.
13. Samaipata, Bolivia
Meaning ‘Rest in the Highlands’, Samaipata is known for housing the ruins of El Fuerte, a granite monolith that saw three different civilisations use it as a ceremonial area and fort. Now a UNESCO World Heritage Site, El Fuerte is a testimonial to the traditions and beliefs of the Hispanic civilisations.
14. Lamas Castle, Peru
There are not many castles to be found in South America but head on to the San Martin in Peru and you will find just that. Built in 2005 by an Italian expat, the Castillo de Lamas is a surprising and impressive sight in this small town in northern Peru. The castle is intricately built with beautiful sculptures and carvings dotted across the interior and exterior of the building. Lamas also has rich history with the incas defeating the Pocras and Hanan Chancas people here. The Spanish conquistadors also made their way here alongside missionaries who occupied the hill side town for a couple of years.
15. Valle del Elqui, Chile
Pisco known world round as being the national drink of Chile however very few people actually venture out to the region where the spirit is made. Valle del Elqui is the birthplace of this famous brandy and there are many guided distillery tours that you can go on when you come here complete with a tasting session. Elqui is also a popular hiking spot with its many valleys and hills to climb. If you enjoy star-gazing then Elqui will be perfect for you as the town is so secluded that the stars really stand out here
16. Bosque Petrificado Puyango, Ecuador
The Puyango Petrified Forest is a moving place to visit as there are over a dozen fossilised tress and plants dotted across the reserved. Dating back to some 120 millions years, these plants have been kept frozen in time. The best way to visit this forest is with a guide who will be able to point out to you all the fossils and explain to you to history to each of them. The reserve is also full of animals with 130 different species of birds. A bird watchers paradise.
17. Coyhaique, Chile
If you like fishing but don’t enjoy jostling for space along the beach or river then Coyhaique will no doubt be for you. It is considered the country’s best place for trout fishing. Not only are there a large number of rivers such as the Rio Simpson and Rio Huemules there are also a large number of creeks and lakes where you will find some more fresh water fish. It is a typical rural area with only 45,000 residents in the whole region.
18. Monte Roraima, Brazil
One of the oldest landmarks in Brazil, Monte Roraima dates back to two billion years ago. This tabletop shaped mountain rises above the surrounding landscape and creates a stunning visual setting. During the rainy season, several cascades are created from the overflowing water and the landscapes turns into a completely different sight. The park where the the mountain is located is full of hiking trails that remain empty year round. You will be left alone with nature when you come here. The perfect escape from a busy city life.
19. Itaipu Dam, Paraguay
When you think of Paraguay, a hydroelectric dam is not the first thing that comes to mind. However, Itaipu Dam is considered to be the world’s second largest hydroelectric dam in the world and one of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the World. Opened in 1984, it provides Paraguay with 80% of its energy supply. There are bus tours that take you along the top of the wall and lets you admire the water that sits to one side of the dam while also appreciating the immensity of the construction.
20. Geysers el de Tatio, Chile
The third largest geysers in the world, the Geysers el de tattoo is a natural phenomenon that is always a surprising sight to witness. These geysers are best witnessed in the early morning when the air is still cool and you can see the mist form above the openings in the ground. It is well worth the early waking call to see the sunrise above this strange lunar landscape. One of the least visited spots in Chile, you will be part of just a few people admiring this natural phenomenon during your trip to Chile.
We hope you enjoyed this list of unique and off the beaten path location and experiences to discover in South America. The continent is truly a one of a kind place with so much to offer. If any of these places have caught your attention please do get in touch with us as we would be happy to include them in any of our tours.