South America Off The Beaten Path Tips by darthmilmo
South America Off The Beaten Path: 26 reviews and 43 photos
Chile boast a wide range of off-the-beaten path attractions. On the top of my wish least is the Torres del Paine circuit, the Carreterra Austral, and Chiloe. The only off-the-beaten path place I visited in Chile (besides the Parque Nacional Lauca near Arica) was San Pedro de Atacama, which is a lovely town in the Atacama Desert. From San Pedro de Atacama you can take several interesting day trips, including a trip to the Valle de la Luna (try going there during a full moon for a magical experience). San Pedro de Atacama is also the perfect destination or departure point of a trip across the Salar de Uyuni and lagunas.
Just visiting Bolivia is considered off-the-beaten path for some, however, there is more than just the cities. The crown jewel of Bolivia, and perhaps South America, must be the Salar de Uyuni and Lagunas. Just head to Uyuni and hire a 4x4 truck to take you into this region on Southern Bolivia. If you're staying a while in Uyuni, then don't miss the nearby Patio Sur, which is a train cemetery. For those wanting more than just a 4x4 experience, then head to Sorata where a handful of treks can be organized either to the Andes or downhill to the Yungaz. Bolivia even boasts one of the best jungle towns, Rurrenbaque, which is set for ideal exploration of the jungle or the Pampas. Last, but not least, if you do make it to Santa Cruz then you may want to take part of the nearby animal shelter where they take care of Animals (you can volunteer for at least 2 weeks or spend a few nights paying for accommodation & food). Another attraction near Santa Cruz is the Jesuit Mission Circuit, a group of half a dozen missions, many of which have recently been renovated.
Step off the Gringo trail and explore the true treasures of Peru. If you love trekking then head to the Andes and spend a few days exploring Huaraz and its environs. There are some fine trekking and climbing to be done in this area, including the Santa Cruz Trek (3-4 days) and the longer Huayhuash Trek (8-15 days). For a jungle adventure, then head down the lower Urubamba River onto Sepahua, a small frontier type town in the Peruvian Amazon. OR, you can head into the jungle from the north, perhaps by Lagunas, which lies en route to Inquitos. If you want a real-life fossil hunt experience than ask for the Desert Man of Ica, Roberto Penny Cabrera in the guesthouses at Huacachina. The Desert Man can take you in an unforgettable trip deep into the Ocucaje desert for a day or two. If you are looking for deep Gorges or Canyons, then head to either the Colca Canyon or the Cotopaxi canyon, the latter one being the largest of its kind on Earth! For those searching for an ancient civilization, then trek the full blown 4 day Inca Trail to Machu Picchu or explore the Vilcabamba valley nearby.
Besides the obvious trip to the Galapagos Islands, which can ran in the hundred or thousands of dollars, Ecuador does offer several other more affordable hidden treasures in the mainland. The Quilotoa Circuit ranks among the best cultural immersion side-trips I did in South America. The circuit starts at Latacunga and takes in the market of Zumbahua, the beautiful Quilotoa crater lagoon, the interesting countryside near Chugchilan, and an interesting ride in a milk-man truck back to civilization. Read more about it in the Quilotoa Page or my Ecuador page.
For those with the time and energy, Colombia offers a wide variety of off-the-beaten path destinations. Among the favorites on my book is the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) Trek near Santa Marta, Colombia. The trek was amazing! As a fellow backpacker put it, the six day trek is a childhood fantasy turn true... you go through rivers, waterfalls, Indiana Jones type cliffs, tropical vegetation, ruins, more ruins, and more. Another good trip from Santa Marta is a short visit to the nearby Parque Tayrona where one can hike a not too arduous circuit around amazing tropical rainforest vegetation and through pristine beaches. For those with a deeper archeological interest, then may I suggest a visit to San Agustin, home of the San Agustin civilization. In recent history, archeologists have uncovered a wide range of statues and objects from this ancient culture. The scenery found in this region makes a trip there worthwhile in and on itself.
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