From culture to history, nature, wildlife, cuisine and even the unforgettable adrenaline rush!
It’s the perennial challenge of anyone who tries to plan a whirlwind three-week journey through South America, one of the most varied travel destinations in the world. How many exceptional experiences could one possibly fit in, whilst still leaving plenty of time to soak it all up and spare days to go with the flow? Not many, you say? Well, we say au contraire, dear intrepid traveller, au contraire. Enchanting South America is a small group tour including some of the most unmissable experiences in the whole continent, all the while leaving plenty of unplanned time to absorb the essence of the places visited.
From the mighty roar of Iguazu Falls to the breathtaking spectacle of Machu Picchu, the unforgettable passion of Buenos Aires, awe-inspiring beauty of Lake Titicaca, the natural splendour of the Amazon and much, much more. This incredible journey won’t just give you a taste of South America: it’ll allow you to take a colossally satisfying bite out of it instead.
Top 10 South American experiences not to be missed
- Discover Incan culture in Peru
- Helicopter flight above the Iguazu Falls
- Come face to face with a toucan
- Explore the Amazon Rainforest
- Enjoy the ultimate thrill in Rio de Janeiro
- Watch a tango show in Buenos Aires
- Get lost in Lima's historic catacombs
- Float on the reed islands of Lake Titicaca
- Sample the best vino in the world
- Try local food
Think you have what it takes to accept our challenge? Then roll up your sleeves, put your game-face on and join us, as we guide you through 10 of the best experiences no traveller should ever miss. Enchanting South America at its best – for the traveller who wants to see, hear, feel and experience it all.
1. Follow in the footsteps of the mighty Incas
South America’s most powerful and revered ancient empire suffered a less-than-noble demise at the hands of Spanish conquistadores, yet their phenomenal legacy still lives on in the high Andean Altiplano of modern-day Peru. From picturesque Cusco, once the head of this formidable empire, to the array of splendid archaeological and ancient agricultural treasures in the Sacred Valley of the Incas, and world-renowned Machu Picchu, the holy grail for all history lovers, following in the footsteps of the ancient Incas is arguably the most sought after highlight for anyone visiting South America, whether for the first or tenth time.
2. Soak up a bird’s eye-view of Iguazu Falls
From the brilliance of man to the splendours of nature: an Enchanting South America journey offers an eclectic sensory overload. Iguazu Falls, the most powerful cascades in the world, straddle the border of two countries offering you not just one but two points of view. But there’s even a third! After spending a few hours walking around the stellar trails in the Argentinian and Brazilian sides, choose to add-on a helicopter ride for the ultimate bird’s eye view. There’s simply no better way to take in the 2.7km curtain of powerful cascades than from a helicopter and on a sunny and cloudless day no more unforgettable experience.
3. Come face to face with a toucan
Few animals scream ‘exotic South America’ the way a toucan can, and often very, very loudly. The curious bird with a colourful beak that’s longer than its body is one of the continent’s most iconic creatures; one that manages to captivate even the most bird-apathetic traveller. So take advantage of your visit to Iguazu to pop into the bird park next door (on the Brazilian side) to come face to face, or nose to beak, with this amazing creature. There are over 40 species of toucans in South America and in the Parque das Aves you can have your fill of bird-watching, seeing spectacularly colourful flamingos and a host of vibrantly-feathered parrots as well.
4. Tackle an anaconda in the Amazon rainforest
Just kidding! You don’t really need to tackle an anaconda to feel at one with nature in the Amazon. The world’s most important rainforest is a wildlife haven, believed to hide a cache of unparalleled medicinal benefits. A multi-day experience in the Amazon is, for many, a truly life-changing experience, one that isn’t in the least marred by sticky humidity. The best way to experience the Amazon is to base yourself in one of the many ecolodges set deep within the Amazon basin, and take daily excursions by boat and on foot, catching glimpses of macaws, toucans, caiman, otters and an infinite array of other unique creatures. In this ancient rainforest, Mother Nature reigns supreme, and an Amazon experience is not only about the wildlife but also – and perhaps primarily – about the flora. Many of our modern medicines are derived from here, and plenty more are believed to still be undiscovered. Local tribespeople rely on the Amazon for their livelihood and medicinal benefits, and learning about this aspect is immensely rewarding. And OK, if you want to go all anaconda-dundee on us, you could always fish for piranhas. Ever had one grilled? Delicious! Just mind the bones.
5. Enjoy the ultimate thrill in Rio de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro is the most visited city in all of South America and not only because it is such a genius springboard for trips to the Amazon and Iguazu Falls. The cidade maravilhosa - or marvellous city – boasts a seaside location and landscape that’s simply breathtaking. With imposing Corcovado Mountain, Sugarloaf and a gargantuan statue of Christ with outstretched arms overlooking one of the most famous stretches of beach in the world, this city doesn’t do anything in half-measures. And neither should you. Want an unforgettable adrenalin injection and to soak up the best views of all? Then why not fight your own natural instincts and catapult yourself off the face of a perfectly good mountain? Paragliding in Rio is one of the most insanely fun things you could do in all of South America and an exceptional way to blow out of your comfort zone and give the kids something to envy. Best tackled on an empty stomach.
6. Be swept off your feet by the tango
Take the least romantic person you know, sit them down in front of a tango show in exhilarating Buenos Aires, and watch them melt. The illustrious dance with the humble beginnings is now an intrinsic part of the essence of Argentina, and there really isn’t much else that can conjure up such intense passion, romanticism and delight. Watching locals dance the tango is one of the most captivating spectacles you could experience in Buenos Aires, and although you’ll come across endless impromptu displays across the city, at any time of day, spending an evening entranced in a perfectly-choreographed and authentic tango show can be utterly soul-reviving.
7. Get totally lost (and found again) In Lima’s historic catacombs
The Peruvian capital is one of the most popular entry points into South America, particularly for Australians, and offers a comprehensive collection of highlights, including gorgeous architecture, delectable food and far-too-many excellent shopping options. One of the most fascinating attractions are the catacombs of the Convent of St Francis. In the heart of the city’s UNESCO-listed historic centre, these skulls-and bones-filled crypts are believed to be the final resting place of between 25,000 and 75,000 people. Only discovered in the early 1940s, the catacombs of Lima have been attracting spellbound visitors ever since. A visit is much more WOW than EEWW, and walking through a part of Lima’s history – during a time when underground cemeteries were built a little too literally – is immensely entrancing.
8. Float on the reed islands of Lake Titicaca
The sunsets alone are worth a trip to Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable lake and a crazy-beautiful body of water that straddles both Peru and Bolivia. The water is of an iridescent shade of blue that’s without compare and the backdrop of the Andes Mountains making the whole spectacle even more surreal. On Lake Titicaca is where you can meet the bona fide ancestors of the ancient Incas, the people of the Uros islands who still believe the gods rose from the bottom of this lake to spawn one of the most formidable ancient empires known to man. And here they still live, surviving on floating island made of reed which they must continually add to. The image is insanely beautiful and also very contrasting. In our modern and hectic 21st century world, it’s hard to believe there are people who still live as they have done, for hundreds and hundreds of years. But modernity is slowly creeping here. The odd solar panel here and there now powering up small TV sets and other whitegoods. So get here pronto, before this old world changes forever.
9. Sample the best vino in the world
Santiago is arguably one of South America’s quietest achievers, as far as cities are concerned, at the very least. If you know a little bit about the Chilean capital, you’ll know that this young and vibrant city is a hub of exceptionally good food, outstanding museums and drop-dead-gorgeous architecture and that the surrounding wine-growing valleys are rated among the best in the world. So yes, sampling some of the world’s best drops should definitely be on the top of your must-do list whilst here, but don’t underestimate the sheer enjoyment of being in a sparkling modern city that’s framed by some of the most picturesque Andean peaks you’ll ever see. Snow-capped mountains peek between skyscrapers in Santiago and they vie for your attention at every turn. There’s just no escaping them. So although Santiago may not boast the awe-inspiring bays of Rio, or anyone specific world-renowned attraction, the entire city is an absolute gem. After your no-doubt deep and meaningful journey through Santiago’s best wineries, do yourself a favour: take your beloved’s hand, a bottle of your favourite red, borrow two glasses from your hotel restaurant (promise they won’t mind), pick up two piping hot empanadas from Zunino in town centre and head up to San Cristobal Hill to soak up one of the most unforgettable sunsets you’ll ever see.
10. Eat your body weight in local delicacies
Because as you may have deduced by now, an Enchanting South America adventure tour is not for the faint-hearted. From ceviche to churrasca, asado, feijoada, empanadas, dulce de leche, tamales, and Argentinian steaks that’ll bring carnivores to tears….a journey through South America is nothing, if not an unparalleled gastronomic experience. So think of all the energy you’ll need to tackle the above-mentioned challenges and dig right in.
Itching to experience all these incredible highlights? Then check out our Enchanting South America tour and let us guide you, for 23 unforgettable days, on a once-in-a-lifetime journey of discovery. Contact us for more info.
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