When people think of the best places to visit in South America, they think of a destination in rawness, vast wilderness, and spectacular scenery.
The amount of outdoor adventure available on this continent could keep a traveler busy for months on end and still leave you begging for more in the cultural and historical adventure.
It’s a continent we’re ready to explore more of during our travels and every time we start looking at photos, realize we may end up spending months there once we set foot on land.
Of course, not everyone travels that way, but adding a little adventure to your travels will encourage you to be more active and get out to explore more of this fantastic world that we live in.
To define what is the very best is a matter of perspective and passion, so we’ve asked our fellow travel bloggers to share their favorite South America adventure experiences with us.
While this article could go on for days with all the unique and cool experiences to be had on the continent, these are the places and adventures you absolutely shouldn’t miss.
Don’t leave home without: Lonely Planet South America (Travel Guide)
Best Places to Visit in South America
1. Ice Trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier (Argentina)
The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the largest and most accessible glaciers in Patagonia. Recognized as one of the only growing glaciers in the world, Perito Moreno is an extensive ice sheet that stretches more than 30km and rises 80 meters above Lago Argentino.
My boyfriend and I visited the glacier in January when the weather was pleasant and mild. Due to its location in southern Argentina, Perito Moreno is best visited during South American summers, from November to March. Even during the summer months, however, the weather can be volatile and unpredictable.
In order to best explore the glacier, we joined a three-hour glacier trekking tour and set out to discover the cracks and crevices of the massive ice sheet.
Initially, debris and rocks made the edges of the glacier dirty and brown. But the farther we trekked into the center of the ice field, the cleaner the glacier became and the bluest blues imaginable started to sparkle all around us.
At some points, the glacier’s spires rose sharply skyward. In other places, the ice stretched out smoothly, interrupted by cobalt pools and streams of meltwater.
While viewing the Perito Moreno Glacier from the park’s network of boardwalks is incredible, there is no better way of experiencing the sheer size of the glacier, than by trekking across its rough and slippery surface with crampons and a harness. The expedition is incredible and the views, unforgettable.
Contributed by Erika, Erika Travels
2. Kayaking in Mocona (Argentina)
Misiones province in Northeast Argentina is not only home to the Iguazú falls, but also to the lush Yabotí biosphere, a 250,000 hectares protected reserve created by UNESCO in 1995.
It is made of untouched pristine rainforests – in short, this is the Argentinian jungle. Moconá is also where you can see one of the most fascinating and unique natural phenomenons: the Saltos de Moconá, or The Mocona Falls.
The Don Moconá Virgin Lodge offers a wide variety of adventure options such as jungle treks, kayaking, tubing, rappelling, and ziplining.
Our favorite experience was kayaking on the Yaboti river all the way to the larger Uruguay River, which forms the natural border between Argentina and Brazil.
There’s something quite spectacular about kayaking in between 2 countries, in the middle of the Argentinian jungle.
The Yaboti Biosphere is the area surrounding the Moconá Falls with a rich sub-tropical forest ecosystem, a large diversity of fauna and many endangered species of reptiles, birds, and mammals.
Mokona has a subtropical climate with changing landscapes, so the jungle flora and fauna you can see at different times of the year.
This makes it a year-round destination. But remember to bring mosquito repellent – they’re particularly fierce out here.
Contributed by Stefan, Nomadic Boys
3. Hiking to Laguna de Los Tres (Argentina)
Hiking to Laguna de Los Tres is one of the most picturesque hikes in Patagonia, Argentina. The hike starts in the village called El Chalten and ends at the closest point of the famous Fitz Roy mountain.
It is not considered a very difficult hike, but the last stretch is very steep and the temperature drops significantly, so it takes a lot of effort to reach the top.
The wind was very strong and it was very cold on the top and the road leading up there was slippery. It took us about 5 hours to reach the lagoon.
On the bottom of the mountain, the surrounding nature is green and there are a few rivers to cross. The temperature is warm and the view is beautiful.
For about four hours it is a very pleasant, easy hike. The last hour of the hike becomes very difficult because the weather gets cold and windy.
Once I reached the top, I couldn’t spend too much time up there because of the wind, but the view was spectacular. Seeing the peak of the Fitz Roy mountain reflecting in the turquoise blue lagoon was worth all the effort.
It is best to do this hike in December-February when it is Summer in Argentina because even in the Summer this region is cold. It often snows during this time of the year. This hike is recommended to advanced and amateur hikers.
Contributed by Barbara, Jet-Settera
4. Hiking in Los Glaciares National Park (Argentina)
Glaciers around the world are mostly shrinking. The ones in Patagonia, on the other hand, are still growing. A place to see them is Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
With trails suited for families with kids as well as hard-core hikers and climbers, this park offers opportunities for everybody who enjoys the outdoors. Go for a short walk to enjoy a good view of Fitz Roy’s pinnacles.
Hoist your rucksack and set out for a multiple-day hike to Cerro Azul and tent at designated campgrounds in beech forests. Do you like a technically challenging mountain? Climb the Fitz Roy or Cerro Torre.
Add a predawn hike to Laguna de Los Tres for the ultimate sunrise, and bring a thermos to Lagune Torre to sip your coffee while watching how chunks of ice break off the glacier.
The town of El Chaltén is the perfect hiking hub for this area. Here you can stock up on food, or buy hiking gear and camping equipment.
Go in November-April, when it’s summer in the Southern Hemisphere but note that it can get very busy in January and February.
Contributed by Karin-Marijke, Landcruising Adventure
5. Whitewater Rafting Rio Juramento (Argentina)
If there is one thing I am happy I tried, despite being terrified at the time, that is rafting on the Rio Juramento, in the Salta region of Northwest Argentina.
I had to travel for about 2 and a half hours from Salta to reach the base camp. There, we met with the guides, who after giving us all the gear we needed such as the wetsuit, trained us into all of the necessary safety measures.
Minutes later, we started rafting – 4 groups of 6 passengers each, plus a guide per boat, and a dog, Remo, on our boat. The dog was incredibly chilled, even on the worst of rafts.
We went on level IV rafts, so not too bad, but not exactly a piece of cake either. Whenever I sat in the front, as the raft would come, I could literally see a wall of water in front of me.
Our boat never flipped, though others did and we had to “rescue” the passengers.
The organization was excellent: two extra guides went in front of the group to take pictures. I have great memories of the experience, and it started my addiction to rafting which I now do whenever possible.
Contributed by Claudia, My Adventures Across the World
6. Hiking the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (Peru)
As one of the most famous hikes in South America, the classic 4-day Inca Trail trek is an experience that should not be missed on a trip to Peru.
It’s a challenging journey where hikers face thin air due to high elevation, steep ascents and descents on stone steps and a narrow path that hugs the edge of a mountain on one side and overlooks a steep valley on the other. Definitely heart-pumping!
As tough as the hike can be, the incredible Inca ruins along the trail, and the reward of Machu Picchu on the final day will make you forget about the difficulties along the way (or at least make you appreciate them).
The most popular time to hike the Inca Trail is from June-August, but May and September generally bring dry, sunny weather and fewer crowds.
The Inca Trail can only be hiked with a licensed tour operator and most companies supply porters to carry the sleeping tents, cooking equipment, and food. All you need to worry about is enjoying the scenery and making it to camp each night.
Trail permits are limited to 500 each day so treks sell out many months, even up to a year in advance, especially during high-season.
Contributed by Rhonda, Travel Yes Please
7. Ausangate Trek (Peru)
Without a doubt, the Ausangate trail offers some of the most wonderful scenery in the whole of the Cusco area.
It features birds, wildlife, glaciers, high alpine lakes, and the infamous rainbow mountains. It is also one of the most challenging in the region with three high passes over 5,000 meters/16,000 feet.
On a clear day, standing at 6,380 meters, Apu Ausangate dominates Cusco’s southern skyline. It is not hard to understand why the ancient Incas held this spectacular mountain in such high regard.
During the whole Ausangate trek circuit you’ll pass local villages where you can meet and observe people that live in the mountain area.
The trek takes at least 5 days with some people opting to do the trek over 5 days and add in a visit to Sibinacocha. Due to the height of the passes that are encountered on this trek, acclimatization can be a problem for some people.
It is recommended that you arrive in Cusco several days early to adjust to the altitude and prepare for the trek.
8. Canoeing in the Amazon (Peru)
Adventurers headed to Peru absolutely can’t miss the opportunity to explore the wonders of the famous Amazon River. Even getting to the Amazon River is an expedition in itself, but when you finally do, the real adventure begins.
Docking the Amazon riverboat at a little riverside town called Lagunas, the next part of the journey requires you to drive out to the smaller river, where you’ll then canoe upstream for the next few hours.
Along the canoeing trip, there are opportunities to jump out and go for a swim, only to find out half an hour later that there are piranhas in the water! You’ll also get the chance to go fishing for the very same piranhas, as well as other Amazon fish, to prepare for dinner that night.
After canoeing throughout the afternoon you’ll make it to your camping spot for the night, where, if you’re lucky, wild boar will be sniffing around the site and you can chase them through the jungle with a crazy guide called Wilfred.
At around 2 or 3 in the morning, in the absolute pitch black of night, jump back in the canoe and go for a slow paddle down the river. This is when all the animals come out to play.
Cayman, with their small red eyes, can be seen glistening in the distance from light of the torch. As the canoe approaches them slowly they retreat below the water, giving you the uncertain reassurance that under your tiny wooden canoe is a rather large Cayman. Sloths, anacondas and exotic birds are some of the other highlights if you’re lucky.
Contributed by Jules, Don’t Forget to Move
9. Hiking Laguna Churup (Peru)
When I came across Laguna Churup in Huaraz, I had never heard of it and really had no idea where it was but I wanted one more party in the mountains before I headed back to the coastline for some much-needed surf and ocean time.
Once I arrived, the town itself was small and quiet. I was there in November and there was almost zero tourists in town. I didn’t actually see a single one until I went to the bus stop again to leave town.
I asked at reception the best way to get to the base of the mountain and set off the next morning in a taxi. The taxi driver knew exactly where to go once I said the name and it took maximum 20-30 minutes from the center of the town.
It is possible to do without a guide and at the time I did it no one seemed to require a pass. It was not an overly tough hike but the altitude, its highest point was about 4500 meters, made the air thin and I found myself a little short of breath at times.
After about 5-6 hours at a pretty good pace, I reached the lagoon. I could not believe what I was seeing. I had seen similar things before but never so completely isolated from others.
There was no one, anywhere. I was not sure if it was the time of year or if I had just randomly stumbled upon some magical land that no one knew about. Either way, I could not have been happier about it.
It started to hail at the top and I began my descent, it is not overly difficult going either way but after the hail, it became covered in ice and climbing down the steep faces holding onto the chains became a little precarious. As long as you have a credible level of fitness and multi-day hikes are not a problem, then you should not have any problems here either.
Overall, I think that being so isolated in such an amazing place was a very special experience and after 6 weeks in Peru, it was one of the most memorable moments of my trip.
Contributed by Dane, Holiday From Where
10. Macaw Research Expedition (Peru)
Set deep in the Peruvian Amazon is an opportunity to commune with nature, become with the Amazon rainforest and help devoted scientists with the research and data gathering of the endangered Macaw.
Access to the research center can be gained from the sleepy Amazon town of Puerto Maldonado on the Madre de Dios River.
The adventure begins from the moment you step into the small boat on the river and begin the 6-hour journey up the river into the Tambopata tributary.
You’ll find almost immediately that you are in a very remote area, in the middle of the Amazon. After the boat trip, you will arrive at the center where you climb up the river bank and are introduced to your home for the duration of your stay.
The days are spent collecting data and in the Amazon jungle. Outings also include early morning trips to the various clay licks in the area to observe a large variety of parrots and Macaws that come in to hang on the clay cliffs and bend your ears with loud noises.
It’s a South America adventure not to be missed.
11. Santa Cruz Trek (Peru)
One of the best options for multi-day hikes in Peru is the Santa Cruz trek. This scenic 50 km (31 miles) hike takes you through lush green valleys, along a river and lagoons, and over a 4760 meters high mountain pass.
The views on the Cordillera Blanca are simply stunning. The trek takes about 4 – 5 days to complete, depending on your pace and how much time you are willing to spend there.
Doing the Santa Cruz trek without a guide is the best option, in our opinion, because you are free to enjoy the beautiful scenic landscapes without being hassled by the demands of a guided trek.
The trail is well-trodden in most parts, so getting lost is not really an issue and finding nice spots to camp is not hard.
According to some guides, the best time to go is between May to September, but we did it in November and had gorgeous weather with most blue skies. Also, if you don’t have camping gear, you can rent most of what you need in Huaraz.
Contributed by Bianca, Nomad Biba
12. 2 Day Colca Canyon Trek (Peru)
Easily one of the best hikes in Peru, the trek to Colca Canyon features treacherous descents, lung burning climbs, and amazing scenery.
Famous not only for its natural landscape but also for its magnificent condors, Colca Canyon is a great place for a challenging hike in South America.
The first day takes you down into one of the world’s deepest canyons and eventually ending at Oasis Sangalle, a surreal oasis village full of guesthouses with swimming pools.
What goes down must go up, and the three-hour continuous climb out of Colca Canyon is extremely hard. It’s so hard that the guides often suggest people ride a mule to the top.
The ascent starts from 2200masl (Oasis Sangalle) to about 3200masl (Cabanaconde) — this is challenging!
The Colca Canyon trek is a high altitude hike so you’ll want to acclimatize before attempting it. Arequipa, a colonial city towered over by volcanoes, is the best place to organize the trek to Colca Canyon.
From there you can arrange for a tour or travel by public transport — there’s not a huge difference in price though. The best time to visit Colca Canyon is the dry season (May to September).
Contributed by Gia, Mismatched Passports
13. Sandboarding in Huacachina (Peru)
If zipping headfirst down a 300-foot sand dune doesn’t frighten you, plan for a visit to Huacachina, Peru. Located just three miles west of Ica, Huacachina is a charming small desert town, famous for being home to the world’s highest sand dunes.
Known as “Everest of the Desert”, sand buggy and sandboarding tours are the adventure of choice for tourists here.
Tours ranging from $12 – $75 USD, you’ll be strapped into a sand buggy and flown through the dunes at high speeds. clutching your seatbelt until your knuckles turn white.
We gripped the seats in front of us for dear life as our driver floored the gas and took dunes 90-degree angles. We whizzed through the desert, screaming at the top of our lungs as we blew through the most spectacular desert scenery you could ever hope to see in your life.
You’ll spend an hour or two in the dunes, boarding down in between dune bashing, and being picked up at the bottom before being taken to an even bigger dune.
You lie flat on your stomach and zip down the sand dunes headfirst with your forearms on the board and your legs spread wide behind you. The fastest downhill speed is rumored to be 60 mph. Fight the urge to scream unless you enjoy the taste of sand.
Booking an afternoon tour (4 pm) means you will have the opportunity to watch the sunset over the desert which is spectacular (and avoid the heat of the day). Tours are available all year round however temperatures are milder from May through November. The rest of the year is quite hot.
We had heard it was dangerous, but honestly, the biggest danger you’re likely to experience is the sun. Make sure you pack plenty of water, plenty of suntan lotion, a hat, sunglasses, and clothes you can easily shake the sand out of.
I wore long sleeves and yoga pants to avoid sand rash – unless you’re experienced you will sandboard down the dunes on your stomach, and tearing down the dunes at high speeds will tear the skin off your arms and legs if you let them drag.
Oh and pack toilet paper. It seems to be a rare commodity in Peru
Contributed by Megan, Mapping Megan
14. Salkantay Trek (Peru)
Trek for 3, 4, or 5 days along the Salkantay Trail through remote mountain passes and verdant tropical forest landscapes in the Andes. The high altitude trails are steep, so add a baggie of coca leaves for chewing along the way to your first aid kit. (Approximately $1 at any local market.)
On the final day, hike or ride the bus up the mountain to the fantastic Machu Picchu ruins, a fantastic place for photography. This UNESCO Historic Sanctuary is huge, making it easy to escape other tourists!
Also, most tourists depart the mountain by 4 pm, so you’ll have the place to yourself until closing time—perfect for photography.
How To: This route requires a reservation a day or two in advance, and can easily be set up upon arrival in Cusco. Meanwhile, an Inca Trail trek must be reserved months in advance.
Cost: Approximately $200 USD for a backpacker 5-day trek, including Machu Picchu entry fees, most food, and transportation to/from Cusco—you only carry a daypack.
Alternatively, take all the time you want and do it yourself (DIY). Optional activities along the Salkantay trek include hot springs, zip-lining, and horseback riding.
Recommendation: if you have any knee issues, ensure your tour includes walking poles.
Contributed by Jess, Longest Bus Rides
15. Hiking in Caraca Nature Reserve (Brazil)
The Caraca Nature Reserve in Brazil is a great way to explore the natural beauty of the country’s interior. You stay in a converted monastery which provides simple rooms and meals in the old monastic buildings.
The monks have trained the maned wolf which lives in the forest to come at night and eat at the monastery. Like any wild animal though, the maned wolf’s appearances at the Caraca Nature Reserve are unpredictable.
The Nature Reserve is over 30,000 acres and so there are plenty of opportunities for hiking and spotting wildlife. Most of the other guests were Brazilian as this Nature Reserve is a bit off the beaten path for foreigners. We went in the summer and the temperature was perfect.
Warm days in the mountains meant you could jump into the waterfalls after a long hike. Long cold evenings allowed you to sleep comfortably after a day of exploring the reserve. Do not expect extra comforts like air conditioning while staying in the reserve.
There are various levels of difficulty in the hiking involved which makes this place ideal for a group with mixed-ability or ages.
The most difficult hikes involve taking a guide who knows the way so that you don’t get horribly lost. We did easy and medium hikes because we were traveling with our children.
Contributed by Shobha, Just Go Places
16. Abismo Anhumas Caving (Brazil)
Brazil’s most unforgettable activity by a landslide is Abismo de Anhumas, 20km west of Bonito, it’s a 72m abyss culminating in an underground lake, home to incredible stalactite formations.
Bonito itself is a very small town and has only one main street but the natural resources of the surrounding area, the 76-sq-km Serra da Bodoquena national park, are spectacular.
The Abismo Anhumas adventure involves rappelling down to the bottom of the cave and snorkeling or diving in the lake below. You will float among formations of more than 10 meters high, giving the impression that you’re floating through a submerged city. It’s a surreal experience.
The climb back up is hard as it’s 72m back up the same rope you came down on. But the cave, the silence, the light falling on the lake and the beauty of the dive make this adventure unique and unforgettable.
I suggest wearing long sleeves, trousers and tennis shoes with long socks (I know, it’s not a fashionable look but it helps to protect your legs from the ropes while climbing up).
Because the temperature inside the caves stays roughly the same all year long, you can do this whenever you like. It’s cold inside the cavern, but you get a wetsuit for the snorkeling.
Contributed by Geert, Inspiring Travellers
17. Hiking on Fernando de Noronha (Brazil)
Fernando de Noronha, located some 350km off the coast of Brazil, is an archipelago of 21 islands and islets. The destination is probably one of the few places in Brazil that are not teeming with tourists and that isn’t going to change anytime soon either.
Thanks to its UNESCO Natural World Heritage Site designation, the island is limited to only 400 visitors per day, making it feel like one of the most exclusive destinations in the world.
The environmental preservation fee onto the island is steep but as soon as you lay your eyes on the raw beauty of this incredible archipelago, you’ll won’t mind forking out that $40/day.
There is no shortage of adventurous activities to do on the island, from diving to mountain biking, but one of the best ways to explore all Fernando’s nooks and crannies is by hitting one (or more) of its 5 designated hiking trails that are opened from August until February.
The trails vary in length (from 2 – 5 km) and difficulty (from easy to difficult), but each one provides access to a unique part of the island that’s not accessible by bus/buggy.
Combine a few of these trails, like the Farol trail that ascends up to the Ponta de Sapata lighthouse inside the National Park and the Capim Açu trail, that runs along the rocky beach towards Praia do Leão, and you are in for a challenging day hike that will get your heart pumping and leave you breathless from the untouched nature surrounding you.
If you don’t get hit by a storm halfway through (like we did) and if you are not attempting this hike just 5 months after a serious broken leg injury (like Oksana was), you’ll love the experience!
Contributed by Oksana, Drink Tea & Travel
18. Lençóis Maranhenses Desert Expedition (Brazil)
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park in Brazil is probably the most amazing natural landscape we have seen traveling around South America.
We have been to different sand deserts during our travels, but none of them compares to this one. In Lençóis Maranheses the rainwater accumulated between the sand dunes forms lagoons of different colors, which results in a really unique and almost surreal landscape.
The best moment of the year to visit is between May and August when the lagoons get filled in the rainy season.
The access to Lençóis Maranhenses is very complicated. From the coastal village of Jericoacoara, it takes a couple of days to get to Bairerrinhas, the nearest town to the park with road access.
From there you can take a 4WD tour to the desert or you can do as we did and catch a local boat to Atins, a barely populated village on the edge of the park. In Atins you can then get a guide, who will take you on a memorable adventure to the desert.
We walked in the desert for two days and spent a night in an oasis, where only 5 families live, totally isolated from civilization.
Every morning we started walking at 4 AM, since being close to the Equator the Sun is already over your head at 8 AM, and you don’t find any shadow between the sand dunes.
The only way to freshen yourself up is to jump in the lagoons and have a nice swim in the crystal clear water. It was very exhaustive to walk for 10 hours each day in the desert, but the fantastic landscape compensated us for the effort.
Contributed by Gabor, Surfing the Planet
19. Hang Gliding in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Hang gliding is one of the most popular wind sports practiced in Rio de Janeiro. It is a recreational sport that uses a craft often consisting of a metal-framed fabric wing, with the pilot mounted on a harness hanging from the wing frame.
He exercises control by shifting his body weight against a triangular bar, also attached to the frame. Hang gliding is very popular worldwide.
Imagine leaping from the mountains that surround the bustling city for an experience of flying. Hang Gliding happens at Pedra Bonita, a beautiful mountain situated in São Conrado neighborhood.
Jumping involves a tandem set up with an experienced hang glider. No experience is necessary but you do need an adventurous spirit and the courage to run off the side of a mountain.
20. Camping with Gauchos (Uraguay)
You absolutely HAVE to stay with gauchos (cowboys) in Uruguay. It is a gaucho country, after all, and the gauchos are a national symbol of both Uruguay and Argentina.
Whilst traveling South America, I spent 3 days living with real-life cowboy Pedro, his wife Nahir and Grandson, Bautista. These days became some of the most memorable days of the entire 3 months I spent in South America.
We were up early to ride horses, round up cows, find skunks and armadillos and play with puppies all whilst eating some authentic gaucho food cooked for us by Nahir.
When we weren’t out adventuring and pretending to be cowboys, we snuggled up by the fire with a good book. Estancia Yvytu Italy was the perfect mixture of adventure and relaxation and absolute must-have adventure in Uruguay.
You can enjoy your own cowboy adventure in Uruguay at any time of year, although be aware that it can get pretty hot in summer, and very cold in the winter.
Contributed by Hannah, That Adventurer
21. Climb Villarrica Volcano (Chile)
One of the best adventures in South America is the icy climb up the very active Villarrica Volcano. Located just outside of Pucon, Chile, it’s an intense summit that requires the use of crampons and an ice pick to hoist yourself up the ice sheet covering the top of this treacherous volcano.
To stay safe, it’s important to pursue this adventure under good weather conditions and with an experienced guide.
While it may sound a bit scary, under good conditions the climb is a lot of fun and can be accomplished in a half-day. The views from atop Volcan Villarrica are spectacular, as you can gaze down for miles to see picturesque lakes and other volcanoes on the horizon.
For those who accomplish the summit, it’s also an interesting sight to peer down into the smoldering cone.
Yet the biggest thrill of this entire excursion is sledding down the side of the volcano. To get down, you jump on a sled to fly down what felt like makeshift luge tracks. It’s such a rush and the sledding lasts for nearly an hour.
We recommend pursuing the Villarrica Volcano climb in early-to-mid summer (late November to early January). During this time, there’s still plenty of solid ice and snow-packed onto the volcano but you’ll hopefully avoid major snowstorms that sometimes plague the winter months.
But most importantly, go when Volcan Villarrica is not erupting, as it’s been very active for the past couple of years. In fact, it was only recently that this trek was reopened to climbers. So go now, before the next eruption.
Contributed by John, Roaming Around the World
22. The W Trek (Chile)
This is the most epic trek I’ve ever undertaken, a 5-day onslaught through incredible landscapes across one of the world’s most Southern national parks.
After jumping off the ferry, the first day is spent hiking up to the magnificent glacier grey, 6km wide and over 30 meters high. On a clear day, this thing just seems to go on forever, it is quite breathtaking.
The trek then continues over 85km in total, stopping at checkpoints along the way and constantly pushing your body up and down the mountainous terrain.
It is possible to stay at overpriced lodges but the more adventurous choose to camp, in gear you carry yourself across the whole journey.
If you time everything right on the final day you can hike up to the viewpoint of the famous Torres Del Paine for sunrise and watch the mountain peaks glow as they bathe in the morning light.
The park is technically open all year round, but try to visit between October and April as it gets a little cold out of season. All camping gear can be hired from the town of Puerto Natales, so book a few days here before and after your trek.
Contributed by Jon, Adventure in You
23. Diving with Moai on Easter Island (Chile)
It was one of my dreams to visit the Easter Island off Chile’s coast – well it’s more than simply off the coast, actually, it’s a 6 hours flight from Santiago de Chile, but worth every second and peso.
As a passionate diver, I knew I had to see more than the island itself and to take a day and spend it exploring the water.
Diving on Easter Island is good at any time of the year when the ocean is calm. I visited late August and stayed for five days. The dives are rather easy, but there are some sites where more experience is necessary to conduct a safe dive.
There are some dive shops on the island, I chose to go with Mike Rapu Diving Center. Email them or visit them at the shop to know about the dives and requirements.
My favorite dive was the one where they sunk the Moai statue – and I have to disappoint you: the statue is not one of the original ones, but was made to remember someone and was then sunk there.
Still, it’s a great dive, a bit chilly, but you’ll appreciate the hood and hot showers afterward.
Contributed by Viktoria, Chronic Wanderlust
24. Camping in the Bolivian Amazon (Bolivia)
As humans, we live a relatively safe existence, so the only place I have ever felt vulnerable within my environment was while camping in Bolivia’s Amazon Rainforest.
As a slowly disappearing and iconic region, no visit to South America would ever be complete without a morning dip in a river teeming with caiman or fishing for piranha in an unstable boat for that evening’s meal, followed a hike at night eerily watched by glowing eyes while a guide hacks at the scrub with a machete.
Then finish the day rudimentary tenting – otherwise known as a plastic sheet thrown over a tree branch.
But a trip to the Amazon isn’t all peril and risk, we also spent afternoons making jewelry with various seeds and alligator scales while listening to the deep yowls of howler monkeys, created temporary tattoos with jagua fruit and learned uses for Amazonian flora and fauna.
The Amazon can be accessed through nine South American countries, but Bolivia is arguably the cheapest and a two-night all-inclusive camping trip costs just B$900/US$130.
These trips can be extended up to a month if you wanted to become completely immersed in the Amazon way of life and learn to live entirely off the jungle.
The best time to visit the Bolivian Amazon is during the dry season (May to October) and can be reached via Rurrenabaque, the frontier town access the Rainforest and the easiest place to book a camping tour.
Contributed by Emma, The Travel Natural
25. Mountain Bike Down Death Road (Bolivia)
One of the most exciting activities in Bolivia is riding a bicycle down Death Road. The road in question is Yungas Road which for many years was the main thoroughfare to La Paz from many small mountain villages.
The road itself is barely one lane, with only a few wider turnouts for passing. However, it is operated as a two-lane road with massive commercial trucks and buses going to and fro.
Throughout the years, hundreds of motorists have lost their lives on this small stretch of road, earning it’s named as the World’s Most Dangerous Road.
These days, you will not encounter as much traffic as you would have 15 years ago, but it’s still an adventurous 60 km ride barreling down bumpy mountain roads.
The ride starts out on a fairly decent paved road before arriving at the beginning of Death Road (El Camino de la Muerte). Quickly, the road becomes more of a gravel path than the smooth asphalt, which can make for scary stops!
This ride is not to be taken lightly, there are some very extreme drop-offs of at least 1,800 feet. In sections, it is very steep, which means your back brake is constantly in use to control your speed around the many hairpin curves.
As a bicycle rider going down the hill, you will be on the cliffside with oncoming traffic against the mountainside. Be aware, there are very few guard rails to protect you from flying over the edge!
The thrill of hurtling down the mountainside on a bike is indescribable. Even with the adrenaline rush and fear, you can’t help but notice how amazing the scenery is.
You will be greeted with fantastic views of the valley and surrounding mountains. Riders can stop as they wish to take photos, but there are also safer sections where guides will stop riders for a chat, to tell more about the area and to provide breaks for photos.
Riding down the World’s Most Dangerous Road can be conquered by beginners and experienced riders alike and everyone else in between. You need to see it for yourself, as photos do not do it justice.
Tip: Do your due diligence in researching tour companies in La Paz. Some focus more on safety gear and expensive bicycles, while others focus on providing experience at budget prices.
Contributed by Karilyn, No Back Home
26. Overland Through Uyuni to the Atacama (Bolivia)
You’ve probably seen a thousand photos from travelers on the Uyuni Salt Flat of Bolivia. Where did they go after that? Most head back to town, but a few keep going.
They cross the huge salt flat and stay on the other side. They visit islands and villages on the rim. Then they venture into an area with almost no other vehicles or people: the southern desert of Bolivia.
If you’ve ever dreamed of truly getting away from it all, being in a land so quiet you can hear your own heartbeat, this overland trip will do nicely.
You see the whole galaxy at night, see clear daytime skies that look just as they did a thousand years ago, without the plumes of jets passing overhead. No cell signal. No internet for days. No garbage trucks or traffic horns.
Most of the time, no people except your companions. Light is supplied by solar and gas lanterns at night since everything is off the grid.
This is far from a lifeless zone, however. Colorful birds land on the strange rock formations and long-tailed rabbits hop around outside where you’re sleeping at night.
At the gorgeous lagoons dotting the landscape, it’s common to see hundreds of pink flamingos. Compact moss that can grow and expand for centuries adds a bright green touch to the brown rocks and blue sky.
We explore a crystal cave, boiling mud springs, and lakes of many colors while leisurely making our way toward the tourist draw of San Pedro de Atacama in Chile.
There, as in Uyuni, there will be touts and tour agencies, bars and babes, restaurants and rum, friends on Facebook.
Between the two, however, there’s a land where you can still feel like an explorer rather than customer number 23 on the day’s excursion list.
Several companies run this tour out of Uyuni and San Pedro, but the best bet is a Travesia by explora. That company has its own permanent camps set up with private sleeping rooms and real bathroom facilities.
Contributed by Timothy, Luxury Latin America online travel magazine
27. Trekking the Quilotoa Loop (Ecuador)
Why waste your time trekking to a lousy summit when you could finish your hike at a 3km wide, brilliant green crater lake? The network of some 200km of Andean trails south of Quito makes up the Quilotoa Loop.
The route is more of a choose-your-own-adventure than a regular trail, as the Quilotoa Loop trek can take anywhere between two days and two weeks.
Along the way, you’ll sleep in tiny Ecuadorian villages like Insinliví, Chugchilan, and Sigchos and enjoy some of the coziest nights of your life.
You’ll see vast expanses of agricultural land, hike into jagged valleys, and get lost more than you really know the way. And just when you’re sunburned and exhausted from too many days of trekking, all trails eventually lead to the spectacular Laguna de Quilotoa.
You’ll climb over the volcanic rim upon one of nature’s greatest wonders, and it will be worth all the energy you put into getting there.
Contributed by Taylor & Daniel, Travel Outlandish
27. Cotopaxi Horse Trek (Ecuador)
When we planned our trip to Ecuador, horseback riding wasn’t something we were really looking forward to. It was mainly a means to an end for us – a chance to see and photograph the legendary Cotopaxi volcano from a unique vantage point.
Both of us had been on horses when we were younger and didn’t enjoy the experience.
Cotopaxi is the world’s highest active volcano. It’s notorious for being unpredictable: strong winds and sudden storms are common. Not long after we left Ecuador, the volcano had an eruption.
One of the best ways to experience Cotopaxi is actually horseback riding up the grassy Pasochoa or rocky Rumiñahui volcanoes nearby and viewing Cotopaxi from across the valley. We chose Rumiñahui.
High up on Rumiñahui, we had an unexpected surprise. No, it wasn’t views of Cotopaxi. Overhead, we were joined by an Andean Condor – the largest bird on Earth. It soared above us. And then there was another. And another.
Soon the sky was filled with these majestic endangered birds. They would dip down to only 40 feet above our heads. It was an incredible moment. Looking back, horseback riding the volcanoes of Ecuador was the highlight of our trip.
Most of the horseback trips leave from Hacienda El Porvenir at the edge of Cotopaxi National Park. Trips range from ½ day excursions to multi-day rides and are possible throughout the year (except when there is a volcanic eruption).
Contributed by Lance & Laura, Travel Addicts
28. Galapagos Kayaking Expedition (Ecuador)
The Galapagos is all about wildlife. An incredibly diverse menagerie of remarkable animals thrives on these remote islands, scattered nearly 700 miles off the coast of Ecuador.
The seclusion of this archipelago honed the development of unique animals, untouched and unafraid of human civilization. Though the Galapagos now allows a limited number of visitors to its enchanted shores, careful habitat-management preserves this special ecosystem.
The beauty of a sea kayak as a vessel for wildlife viewing lies in its non-intrusive, eco-friendly presence with all the makings of a true adventure experience.
The best itinerary available operates with small group sizes on an 8-day kayaking and camping trip around the Galapagos Islands. 5 of the nights are spent beach camping, while your days are spent paddling and meeting the many inhabitants of these islands.
Prepare to meet giant tortoises, iguanas, blue-footed-boobies, penguins, sea lions, and an endless variety of underwater life during the whole duration of the expedition.
29. Hiking Cocora Valley (Colombia)
Hiking the Cocora Valley in Colombia is an incredible experience through one of the most stunning valleys I have ever seen.
Following the trail around the valley, you’ll find yourself scrambling through streams, clambering over rocks and traversing rickety bridges, to finally be rewarded with phenomenal views.
Beginning with a flat trail through lush green fields and following a gentle river, you will soon start to climb through the forest, to a hummingbird sanctuary where you can take a rest & watch several species of these tiny birds whizzing around.
Continue the hike to finally emerge on the mountainside for mind-blowing views of the valley below. Eerie Quindío wax palms tower above the skyline as you descend into the valley.
The tallest palm trees in the world peer through the mist, some reaching heights of 200 feet, and you can’t help but gaze in awe at the landscape!
The hike can take anywhere from 4 to 7 hours, depending on your speed, and how many photographs you take! It’s best during the dry season from March to July, as it can get VERY muddy after rainfall.
Comfortable, waterproof boots are a good idea any time of year, as is a rain jacket, sun cream, snacks and plenty of water. And be aware that the only place to stop for the bathroom is in the hummingbird reserve, or in the fresh air!
Contributed by Claire, Tales of a Backpacker
30. Trek to the Lost City- Ciudad Perdida (Colombia)
Thick jungle, high humidity, natural river pools, dazzling waterfalls, native tribes and the camaraderie of our wonderful group and guide is what made hiking to the Lost City (also known as Ciudad Perdida) one of the best hikes of my life.
The trek is certainly not for the faint-hearted. Days are long and the humid heat can drain you. However, the long days were much easier to manage thanks to the various natural freshwater swimming pools along the way.
It was a great feeling to pull off my sweaty t-shirt and jump into a cold river. At night, we’d sleep in hammocks or bunk beds with nothing but a roof over our heads.
Occasionally, we’d have to ask our guide to get rid of the odd scorpion in the bathroom. He would then take out his machete and kill it. I guess he didn’t want to take any chances.
Then, after 3 long days, we made it. After climbing up hundreds of stone stairs, we were standing on the foundation of an ancient stone city, discovered only in 1972.
With distant views of the lush jungle valley, I sat down at the edge of the stonewall and marveled at the natural beauty surrounding me and reminisced over what was easily one of the best hikes in the world.
The dry season runs from December to March and is a better time to go if you don’t want to be hiking through mud, crossing chest-high rivers, or getting poured on by rain.
However, if you’re okay with added adventure, tours are done throughout the year. You will need a guide. The name of our guide is Omar. He was fabulous and if you can find him, I highly recommend it.
At the time, we went with Turcol Tourism but Omar might have started his own tour company by now and there are many in the area.
Expect high heat and humidity. Guides provide food and lodging but you’ll need to bring anything else. I recommend bringing just one set of clothes for hiking and another DRY set of clean clothes for the evening.
Contributed by Matt, Live Limitless
31. Laguna de Guatavita Hike- Legend of El Dorado (Colombia)
Few places in the world have been shrouded in as much mystery, speculation and research as the quiet waters of a small crater lake outside of Bogota, Colombia.
It is rumored that the depths of Laguna Guatavita was where the Muisca Cacique would come and offer gifts to the Goddess of water by launching their golden treasure into the muddy depths of the lake.
Is there a better way to experience the history and mystique of a country than by following in the footsteps of the most historic stories? The hike up to Laguna de Guatavita offers so much more than just mystery.
Surrounded by the beautiful Colombian jungle, and offering sweeping views of the countryside, this adventure will transport you back in history. You can almost picture the Inca floating on the lake offering prayers and sacrifices to the gods as you stand at the precipice of the steep caldera.
Laguna de Guatavita is a little over an hour drive from central Bogota, and getting there involves a fascinating drive through the blue-collar barrios on the outskirts of the city, and along beautiful Lake Guatavita.
The hike to the top is a long and steep one, but the steepest sections have well-built stairs and platforms to help you along the way. Just don’t get too tempted to dive into the waters and search for the gold yourself.
Entrance into the waters of Laguna de Guatavita is now banned after centuries of intrepid treasure hunters had failed to pull but a few items from the water.
Contributed by Kevin, Wandering Wagars
32. Kaieteur Falls Trek (Guyana)
Kaieteur National Park is Guyana’s first legally protected area. It is known for the majestic Kaieteur Falls, considered to be one of the highest single-drop (741 ft) waterfalls in the world.
In addition to Kaieteur Falls, the rich biodiversity, some of which are endemic to Kaieteur National Park, ensures a highly educational, adventurous and challenging experience while traversing through its pristine Amazonian rainforest.
The overland trek entails traveling by land, water and foot (hiking approximately 1,800 ft above sea level) to the Kaieteur Plateau and takes between 3-5 days depending on the itinerary and interest.
Categorized as a hard adventure hike, prices start at $795usd per person including transportation, meals, light refreshments, entrance fees, and guides. Kaieteur Falls holds a place on the Top 100 Travel Adventures in the world.
33. Trek to Mount Roraima & Angel Falls (Venezuela)
Angel Falls is the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. It has a height of 979 meters and drops over the edge of the Auyantepui mountain in the Canaima National Park.
The waterfall is located in the middle of a thick jungle, which makes accessing it a great adventure that takes days and involves a variety of transport.
Just to visit Angel Falls, you need around 7 days to make the journey into the jungle before hiking to the falls.
Many people aim to combine the Mount Roraima trekking expedition with Angel Falls for a full-on adventure experience.
Be sure you have 14 days or more to tackle this combo and bring a sense of humor. It’s a beautiful part of the world but not easy to access. This is one of the best things to do in Venezuela.
South America is a diverse continent with so many different things to offer a traveler.
We hope we have inspired you to consider a journey outside your comfort zone and give you some ideas to bring out the adventurer in you as well.
More on South America:
- Two Week Trip to Brazil Itinerary for Any Traveler
- Ilha Grande, Brazil Planning Guide: Paradise Found
- 5 Days of Hiking in Patagonia: The Basecamps Trek
- 11 Cool Things to Do in Peru + Planning Tips
- How to Visit the Amazon in Peru
- 16 Amazing Things to do in Brazil
- 16 Epic Things to do in Bogota
- Unique Galapagos Islands Animals You Must See
- Galapagos Luxury Cruise on the Sea Star Journey
- 7 Exciting Things to Do in Venezuela (If You Dare to Go)
7 thoughts on “33 Best Places to Visit in South America for an Epic Adventure”
Ohh wow! lots of wonderful places in South America, I can’t decide which I would go first.
I’m excited to go to the next one!
South America is indeed full of breath-taking sceneries. Hopefully, I could visit them soon.
I’m excited to visit south Am soon!!
Lots of great adventures there! Safe travels.
Excellent post – delighted to be a part of it! Have pinned and sharing to all our friends. Aiming to replicate that final Machu Picchu picture next month 🙂
So many incredible adventures here! South America is an amazing continent, and so diverse with it’s landscapes and opportunity for adventure … I’ve only really touched the surface and would love to get back for more!
Thanks for including our experience at Peru 🙂