Skip to main content

The road less travelled: 5 best hidden gems in South America

Lake Titicaca

South America is much more than just the city of Rio or Buenos Aires. It’s one extraordinary continent.

And if you’re particularly fond of going off course in this vast land of epic landmarks and majestic sights – you’ve come to the right place. Here are the best kept-secrets in South America that’ll leave you desperate for your next escapade. Promise.

#1: The Historical town of Colonia del Sacramento – Uruguay

Colonia was founded in 1680 by the Portuguese governor of Rio de Janeiro and regularly draws in visitors looking to escape the crowds. It’s roughly 50 km from Buenos Aires via ferry and a UNESCO World Heritage site, stemmed from the fact it’s one of the oldest towns in Uruguay. The streets are cobbled, the buildings exude a historical charm, and the sunsets on the river front glisten beautifully. It’s a cultural treasure and a unique point of interest for those who love historical sights.

What to do? Explore the Historic quarter and visit one of the eight museums, or make your way to the top of the lighthouse for the best views of the city and river. Drink Yerba Mate, pronounced (yer-bah-may-tay) derived from the leaves of the rainforest holly tree, which has the strength of coffee and health benefits of tea, all in one!

#2: The extraordinary desert town of Huacachina – Peru

Welcome to one of South America’s most remarkable oasis, just five hours south of Lima, Peru. This desert town is no ordinary destination, with a population of 150 residents and plenty of adventure to keep you on your toes. The ancient mountain of sand that stretches far and wide feels like an alternate desert universe.

What to do? Embrace the Peruvian desert in this adrenaline filled sanctuary by going sandboarding or riding in a four-wheel buggy that cruises its way around the dunes. The sunset from the highest point of the dune is an enchanting sight over the desert. 

#3: The UNESCO World Heritage site of Perito Moreno Glacier – Argentina

Have you ever seen a glacier, let alone walked on one? This is Argentina’s best-kept secret, sitting literally on the edge of Earth. The Perito Moreno glacier is an hour bus ride from El Calafate, Patagonia and the world’s third largest freshwater reserve. Scientists believe this natural wonder increases by at least 2 metres per day. It’s approximately 74 metres in height outside the water, and 140 metres in depth underneath the water.

What to do? Experience the sheer beauty of the glaciers at Los Glaciares National park and stop at numerous viewpoints. They are scattered throughout the park, giving you different vantage points from which to oggle the glacier. Jump on a boat ride to witness 74-metre tall glaciers which feel like living, breathing beings. Take note when entering the park there is a small fee of 100 pesos. 

#4: The largest lake in South America – Lake Titicaca, on the border of Bolivia and Peru

Fascinating, sacred and shimmering shades of blue, this is the world’s highest lake, approximately 3,810 metres above sea level in the Andes mountains of South America. Located on the border of Bolivia and southern Peru, Lake Titicaca is a sacred place to the Inca civilisation, and according to their mythology, is the place the world was created from. 

What to do? Take a boat ride along the lake and visit the floating islands of the Uros people. There are two sides of the lake; on the Bolivian side, you can check out the Isla del Sol – Island of the sun – or visit the town of Copacabana. And on the Peruvian side, the town of Puno is great to see traditional Peru folklore involving colourful street parades, live brass bands and masked dancers. But take note, this only occurs on Sundays.

#5: The treehouse in Banos – Ecuador

Ecuador is a country with plenty of diverse landscapes and high adrenalin activities. But one that particularly caught our attention is the treehouse swing in Banos, Ecuador. It could easily be the best swing in the world with the view of the Tungurahua volcano straight ahead.

What to do? If swinging your life away isn’t enough, check out the powerful waterfalls of Pailon del diablo – (Devil’s cauldron), a mere 30 minutes away from Banos.