South America is arguably the most beautiful continent in the world. It offers so many off the beaten path destinations to visit. I want to share with you 4 of the places which you might not have heard but are definitely must go South America travel destinations.
My list of top 4 unknown South America Travel Destinations
These are all places I visited during my backpacking trip in South America. They involve lots of walking as South America is the land of trekking. If you don’t tire of seeing beautiful places, immersing yourself in the environment by foot, then these South America travel destinations will blow you away.
El Calafate – Argentina
El Calafate is a small town in Patagonia and the gateway to the Los Glaciares National Park. The Perito Moreno Glacier is located here, and considered to be the 8th natural wonder of the world. The glacier is only one of 3 glaciers in the world that is continuously growing every year. There are various boardways surrounding the glacier that one can follow allowing a spectacular view. You will be able to see the rupture of giant pieces of iceberg from the glaciers. Get your video camera out as you may be lucky enough to capture it on film.
In addition to this there is also the option to walk on the glaciers, by joining a tour. There are 2 tours to choose from, the big or the mini trek. I chose to do the mini trek which lasted for about an hour and required us to wear crampons in order to successfully navigate on the glacier. An experienced guide led the way where we passed several giant crevices during our walk. At the end, we each got a glass of whiskey with ice taken from the glacier right on the spot! You can see that large parts of the glacier are light blue in colour. The insufficient oxidization of the ice beneath the surface causes this effect.
Having the opportunity to walk on the 8th wonder of the world was unforgettable. You must add this to your list of South America travel destinations.
El Chalten – Argentina
El Chalten is about 3 hrs bus ride from El Calafate is the town that is well known for its unrivalled hikes. This little town is located within the Los Glaciers National Park and is surrounded by the Cerro Fitz Roy Mountain range. There are various hiking trails that differ in various levels of difficulty and length.
I spent 3 days in the town but depending on how enthusiastic you are about trekking you could easily spend a week or more. I chose to do a number of short treks combined with longer day treks. The Chorillo de Salto trek treats you to a breathtaking waterfall and is a worthwhile 4 hour roundtrip walk.
On the second day I decided to do one of the most popular treks in the park called the Laguna Torre trek which can easily be completed in a day. It takes you to the Laguna Torre Lake (a milky green coloured lagoon).
Finally, I could not leave without seeing the famous Fitz Roy mountain up close. Therefore chose to do another popular trek called The Laguna Los Tres. It offers the best views of the Fitz Roy mountain peaks. Be aware that during the winter months (May-September) most of the village residents migrate elsewhere, so most hostels and restaurants will be closed!
Sacred Valley Ollantaytambo – Peru
The Sacred Valley is on the way from Cusco to Machu Picchu, located in the Andean highlands. There is so many sophisticated Inca ruins here in the town of Ollantaytambo . These ruins are the perfect illustration of the way that the Incas respected nature and therefore built infrastructure that complemented it.
Climbing to the top of the terraces offers spectacular views of the surrounding valleys. I stayed here for 3 days and got the opportunity to trek in the surrounding mountains. I witnessed truly amazing views of the Andean mountain range. Even though Ollantaytambo does not have the same scale of tourism as nearby Machu Picchu or Cusco, there are sufficient number of restaurants to choose from in the town centre.
There are lots of small alleyways to explore in the town centre. The stone walls today still contain some of the Inca carvings. If you have the time, go to the surrounding towns of Moray and Pisac, which are also fantastic South America travel destinations. There you will see more Incan ruins.
Colca Canyon – Peru
Access the Colca Canyon from its nearest town of Arequipe. It is the seocnd largest canyon in the world and one of the top South America travel destinations. Arrange for a minivan to pick you up from one of the many agencies in town. The van can pick you up early morning on the day of the trek and drop you off at the starting point.
I decided to complete a 2 day trek with a friend without a guide. During the drive we also stopped off at a viewing point to see giant condors. It was a slightly underwhelming experience and would have been better if there were less people to contend with.
There are a few different trails that you can choose to trek. The one you choose will largely depend on which village you want to spend the night in. I recommend to stay at the popular village at the bottom of the canyon, as the other villages have fewer accommodation options. During the trek down, I could see why the Colca Canyon i said to be the world’s second deepest canyon! It was simply incredible!
After trekking for around 6 hours, we finally arrived at the oasis for the night. There were maybe just 2 or 3 other smaller groups with us. Our resting place for the night had palm trees growing tall as well as beautiful flowers. And by night, we enjoyed the starry skies. Look for shooting stars as these were firing from all angles.
The next day, we ascended back up. The 3-4 hr trek up was a struggle and I think everyone was glad when the top was in sight. This part of the trek is best to complete before the afternoon, so start early. Nevertheless, I am glad that I completed this trek. It offered amazing views of the surrounding mountains as well as a gorgeous oasis at the bottom of the canyon, which I highly recommend staying overnight in.
There are so many amazing South America Travel destinations to talk about,. I will add more posts on this topic soon. If you enjoyed reading this, please hit the share button.