Machu Picchu and Iguazu. Now here are eight slightly less well-known gems along the Gringo trail of South America:
" /> Machu Picchu and Iguazu. Now here are eight slightly less well-known gems along the Gringo trail of South America:
Ecuador – Cycle Banos to Puyo
It started out for me as a 22 kilometre cycle to Rio Verde on a rental bike. But as I ventured along the Ecuadorian mountain roads, it turned out that Rio Verde was just one of many spectacular sights on the road to Puyo, so I just kept on going for the entire 60 kilometres. The sights are incredible, the local people and places that you meet are intriguing and buses back to Banos frequent the road, so anytime you feel too tired to keep going just stand on the road ready to flag one down.
Peru – Sandboarding in Huacachina
The little town of Huacachina, built around the oasis featured on Peru’s 50 soles bill, is spectacular in itself. But add in a reasonably priced sandboarding tour in the surrounding desert, and this town of 200 people can leave a huge impression on your trip. Just make sure you’re strapped in, because the drivers like to test the sand-buggies to the limit. Boarding down the huge dunes, you’ll see the desert in a light you won’t have seen before. Spectacular scenery, and oh so much fun...but not one for the faint of heart.
Colombia – Scuba diving in Taganga
Escape the big city by coming to this little fishing village on Colombia’s Caribbean coast, just a short taxi from Santa Marta. Get fresh fruit smoothies from locals who’ll shimmy up trees on request to fetch coconuts. Enjoy a variety of cuisines and locally run restaurants and cafes. Be sure to visit the spectacularly popular Playa Grande, about 20-minutes walk out of town. But most importantly, whether beginner or expert, be sure to take advantage of the worlds cheapest scuba diving. It’s spectacular down there and you won’t be disappointed.
Peru – Surfing in Huanchaco
Surfing or not, there are few more relaxing places in the world than the locals holiday destination of Huanchaco. The town market offers only the freshest local produce. So start your day with a fresh fruit salad before lazing on the beach with a beer, taking a surfboard out or indulging in one of the local restaurants. Be prepared to meet people, as the locals prove to be almost uncomfortably friendly. But relaxing in this town just west of Trujillo, you’ll forget about real life for a while.
Bolivia – Hiking around Samaipata
A couple of hours from Santa Cruz hides the little Bolivian town of Samaipata. A beautiful and tranquil place, enhanced by the incredible national park scenery that surrounds it. Whether standing under the nearby Cuevas waterfalls or undertaking the bella vista (beautiful view) hike, everyone can find their paradise nearby. And when looking for a place to stay, be sure to check out the architecturally unique Hostal Jardin, where you’re free to pick and juice fresh oranges from the orchard every morning.
Bolivia – Isla del Sol
No place from my trip ignites more passion than when I think back to my three-day visit to Isla del Sol, on the Bolivian side of Lake Titicaca. Reached by boat from Copacabana, this island is the epitome of a local paradise. You’re greeted on the island by the short but gruelling hike up the Inca Stairway. Unavoidable, as donkeys are the most advanced vehicle on the island. But what this hike means is that once you’re at the top… wow. Without leaving our hostel the sunrise view over the lake was special. But get out hiking into the depths of this island and meet the locals, and it provides some of the best photography and most memorable views I have ever seen. This is Bolivian culture with an oil-painting backdrop.
Argentina – Cafayate
Come for the wine, stay for the scenery. Cafayate is best known as a wine producing town. But stay sober enough to make the slightly drab walk out of the town and you’ll be greeted by wilderness hikes where the over-sized cacti will inspire you, and the wild goats will amuse you. And even if the hiking doesn’t catch your fancy, the bus journey into town is a spectacular enough compensation. The local restaurants are a treat. And I highly recommend the Hospedaje Familiar on Camila Quintana de Nino. Although be careful, because in this small town two hostels operate under that same name.
Peru – Laguna 69
A couple of cramped “collectivo” rides from Huaraz, and you’ll find yourself at the Laguna 69 trailhead, where the ever-changing climate will bemuse you, the altitude will nauseate you, and the terrain will exhaust you. But once you’re half-way through this six-hour round-trip hike, none of that will matter. Because this navigationally tricky hike through the Peruvian Andes is as spectacular a journey as it’s possible to take. Be warned that it’s not easy. But everything great has to be earned. And you won’t regret putting the work in for this.
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Check out all our trips to South America, and go discover it for yourself!