Find Your Adventure in South America

5 December 2014
Read Time: 3.0 mins

South America is a place for travellers, not tourists.

The continent offers more diversity than any other spot on the planet with a population that radiates an incredible lust for life and a landscape that’s constantly changing between the sky-scraping peaks of the Andes and the long stretches of sand that line the coast.

Fiona Hunt, managing director of Adventure World which is a travel company committed to taking Aussies to extraordinary places, says it’s this mixture of experiences that put South America on top of many traveller’s to-do lists.

``South America has evolved from being a bucket-list destination to a place Australians are choosing to return to time and time again,’’ Fiona explains.

``The Inca Trail is perennially popular with Australians – keen to discover the incredibly rich culture while taking on the challenging yet rewarding trek – however there are also a number of emerging destinations and unique experiences attracting growing interest.

``South America also sits at the forefront of the eco-tourism boom with Patagonia and its pristine landscape a favourite for the environmentally-conscious traveller and Peru’s Amazon is one of the last frontiers on earth with a number of untouched rainforest areas making for a breathtaking cruising experience.’’

While sprawling cities like Lima, Buenos Aires, Santiago, Rio and La Paz will continue to be hot in 2015 it’s the off-the-beaten-track locations that will really tempt Australian travellers keen to appreciate the unique corners of this enchanting continent.

 Explore the reaches of the Amazon

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The Peruvian Amazon

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While the Amazon River winds 6400km through the heart of South America – from the source high in the Andes to the mouth on Brazil’s Atlantic Coast – it’s the sweeping bends that twist trough the Peruvian rainforest surrounding the settlement of Iquitos that are considered to be a true frontier in a world where not much is left unexplored.

There’s a swag of options available to those eager to experience Peru’s Amazon – cruising on a luxury boat or camping at a research station to help on a conservation project – but an insightful alternative is to join an escorted tour with a local guide leading excursions along jungle paths, on secluded tributaries, and into hidden villages.

 Easter Island's famous moai statues

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Easter Island

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Rapa Nui, or Easter Island as it was christened by the Dutch explorer that visited the Pacific Ocean plot on Easter Sunday in 1722, is one of the world’s most isolated inhabited islands with the neighbours 2000km across the sea at Pitcairn Island and the nearest commercial port 3500km away on the Chilean coast.

The Chilean island is home to hundreds of moai – the mysterious statues that resemble faces carved by the indigenous Rapa Nui people between 1250 and 1500 – as well as burial cairns with ancient bodies entombed below piles of rocks and the ancient foundations of villages the original inhabitants once occupied.


Looking for more on Colombia? How Colombia Got Its Groove Back

Want to explore South America's highlights? South America's Top 12

Interested in South American cuisine? How to Taste The Best Of Peru


 

 Bogota's colourful streets are full of history

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Colombia

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Long gone are the dark days when Colombia was the domain of drug cartels with this colourful South American country, that sits high in the continent’s tropical north-west corner, offering everything from vibrant cities and serene archaeological sites to rainforests, mountains and Caribbean beaches.

Enjoy the big-city vibe in Bogota, visit Monserrate to see the capital from above, venture off the tourist path to Cali and Medellin, linger inside Cartagena’s city walls to appreciate the colonial history before hitting the sand on a Caribbean beach, and join the locals to spend a weekend in the peaceful villages surrounding the big cities.

 Savour the spoils of Mendoza's vineyards

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Mendoza

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The idyllic Argentinean settlement of Mendoza, which sits in the shadows of the Andes a stone’s throw from the Chilean border, has blossomed into a bona fide gourmet gateway since an irrigation system was installed that let winemakers produced some of the world’s best red and white varieties including the much-celebrated malbec.

The city boasts a lazy bygone vibe that harks back to the colonial era when Spanish settlers lived on the tree-lined avenues, there are enough shops and restaurants to engage those that love an urban buzz, and the vineyards stretching from town accommodate estates that welcome visitors to sample wine and savour marvellous meals.

 Atacama is not your typical desert

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Patagonia and the Atacama Desert

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While Santiago will always be popular with Aussie travellers, who arrive in the city after the long hop across the Pacific ready to revel in a bustling metropolis, it’s the unique regions in the north and south of the country that are attracting those keen to experience something a little less accessible.

Patagonia – the territory at the southern tip of South America between the Andes and the point where the Pacific and Atlantic oceans meet – is home to a flawless landscape dotted with lakes that sparkle like jewels, fjords and channels, untouched forests, an abundance of wildlife, and towering granite peaks.

In the north a clear blue sky stretches across the endless plains of sun-baked sand that define the Atacama Desert with the destination a place to take on a little adventure surrounded by volcanic summits, hiking and biking or sand boarding and horse riding, or simply settling in for some nocturnal stargazing.

Sarah Nicholson

Sarah Nicholson has been a journalist since 1999, combining her passion for writing and travel full time for the past six years, with work adventures taking her from South Africa's Sabi Sand Game Reserve to the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic. While she has visited 57 countries on six continents, and snapped thousands of photos during her jaunts around the globe, Sarah's heart belongs to Asia with Vietnam topping her list of favourite destinations.