From ziplining through cloud forests and cavorting with blue-footed boobies to marveling at a Wonder of the World and climbing glaciers, South America offers as many ways to get your adrenaline pumping as it does cultures to explore. And while visitors can spend their days as active in the great outdoors as they wish, luxury travelers appreciate the myriad five-star lodging possibilities, which are about as luxe as can be imagined. Here are four South American adventure travel that are sure to wow.
Chilean Patagonia & Atacama Desert
As long as the United States is wide, Chile encompasses seven different climate zones and offers countless adventurous opportunities. A wild but totally manageable combination is to spend five nights in Patagonia, in the country’s south, and three or four nights in the Atacama Desert, the world’s highest and driest.
- What to Do in Patagonia: hiking and mountain climbing for the advanced in Torres del Paine National Park; gazing at stunning landscapes (and keeping an eye out for pumas and the Andean condor!); kayaking in the turquoise-blue lakes; horseback riding
- Where to Stay in Patagonia: Awasi Patagonia; Tierra Patagonia; or Singular Patagonia
- What to Do in the Atacama Desert: float in the salt lagoons that dot the flats; stay up late for stargazing; explore Moon Valley by foot or bike; wander around the charming San Pedro de Atacama village
- Where to Stay in the Atacama Desert: Explora Atacama; Alto Atacama; Tierra Atacama; or Awasi Atacama
Ecuador’s Cloud Forest & Galápagos Islands
The misty and mystical cloud forest in Ecuador is a result of the rainforest meeting the Andean mountain range. A canopy of clouds sits at the treeline and creates ideal natural habitats for countless species of flora and fauna. In this way, this South American adventure region acts as the perfect appetizer for a species viewing–filled trip to the Galápagos Islands, which famously laid the foundation for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution.
- What to Do in the Cloud Forest: ziplining above the treeline; nature hikes led by evolutionary experts; bird-watching; volunteering in a local community
- Where to Stay in the Cloud Forest: Mashpi Lodge
- What to Do in the Galápagos: island hopping; snorkeling; hiking; animal viewing; boating adventures
- Where to Stay in the Galápagos: Pikaia Lodge; Galapagos Safari Camp or on various boat options
The Amazon is as famous for its incredible natural offerings as for its nearly impossible-to-navigate terrain. The best and most luxurious way to experience the region is via a small cruise ship in the Peruvian portion of the grand river. The best ships have no more than a handful of suites, all with massive floor-to-ceiling windows for ideal visibility.
- What to Do on an Amazon cruise: take in the views from the top-deck jacuzzi; enjoy exquisite gourmet Peruvian cuisine; take part in off-board excursions on the water and on land
- Where to Stay on an Amazon cruise: Aqua Aria Amazon; Delfin
Machu Picchu & Sacred Valley, Peru
The high-altitude central region of Peru retains vestiges of the ancient Incan Empire in its archaeology and culture, and Machu Picchu, which is one of the seven wonders of the world, must be seen to be believed. Nearby Sacred Valley and Cusco offer more cosmopolitan sightseeing and experiences (not to mention some great shopping), making this classic South American adventure trip ideal for families with older kids that include both nature junkies and otherwise.
- What to Do in Machu Picchu: hike to Machu Picchu for sunrise; learn about the archaeological relics and finds in the ancient citadel
- Where to Stay Near Machu Picchu: Belmond Sanctuary Lodge; Inkaterra Machu Picchu Pueblo Hotel
- What to Do in Sacred Valley: explore lesser-known Incan village ruins; white-water rafting; visit a weaving collective; see the Salinas de Maras salt ponds
- Where to Stay in Sacred Valley: Inkaterra Hacienda Urubamba; Belmond Hotel Rio Sagrado; Explora Valle Sagrado; or Tambo Del Inka Resort
- What to Do in Cusco: Explore the markets and boutique shops for handmade treasures; appreciate the Spanish architecture; feast on excellent traditional and modernized cuisine
- Where to Stay in Cusco: Belmond Hotel Monasterio or Inkaterra La Casona
Wherever your next adventure-fueled trip takes you, it’s important to do your homework well in advance of departure. This includes considering services like Global Rescue, which provides medical evacuation and crisis response should the worst happen; booking experienced guides; taking out travel insurance; and packing appropriately for your destinations and activities. The homework might feel daunting but the trip will be well worth it.
Let us know if you’ve been to any of the above destinations, and chime in to let us know which region of the world should we cover next?