The eyes of the world are on South America at the moment, and despite a few challenges, it seems to be putting on quite a show. So, we’ve asked a few of our favourite bloggers from around the world to give us their must-sees in this magical continent. Did they go for the natural wonderlands or the trendy urban centres? Brazil and Chile seem to have done pretty well, but there were a few surprises too.
Macca Sherifi – Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
As a photographer/videographer it’s hard to look past the Galapagos Islands. It is by far one of the most naturally beautiful places I’ve ever travelled. No matter where you look the place is teeming with wildlife. The thing about the Galapagos Islands is it’s difficult to get around, but travelling from island to island by boat or plane is an amazing way to get a different perspective. You never know what you’re going to see. On the boat from Isla Isabela to Isla Santa Cruz not only did we see the largest pod of dolphins I’ve ever come across but we also saw huge Devil Rays flipping out water doing summersault after summersault. It was a spectacular show just for us, and you really can’t get that anywhere else.
You can follow Macca’s travels at abritandabroad.com
Annika Ziehen – Paraty, Brazil
The best thing in Brazil? Drinking Jorge Amados in Paraty, a heritage town that gives the term cobblestones a whole new meaning. It’s the home of gold diggers, pirates, and cachaça which makes it the perfect place for an adventure. Start by exploring the old streets of the city centre, but be careful not to get caught during high tide: the alleys closest to the shore turn into canals, formerly used to transport wares from the port to the warehouses.
Later, set out to hike the old Caminho do Ouro that was used to bring gold from Minas Gerais to the docks. Don’t forget to take a dip in the natural pools on the way and test your inner daredevil on the rock slides. Afterward you can stop for a well-deserved break at one of the local cachaça distilleries to sample the local version of Caipirinha: Jorge Amado. Named after the famed Brazilian writer, it uses Gabriela, a clove-spiced cachaça, and passion fruit. Only in Paraty!
Follow more of Annika’s adventures at midnightblueelephant.com
Katy Colins – Valparaiso, Chile
Chile is a spindly-looking country with arid deserts and glacial icecaps at either end, but it somehow manages to maintain a constant warm heart. Perfect for adrenalin junkies and cultured foodies, you’re guaranteed a friendly welcome from the locals (llamas included!)
My favourite place? That’s easy. Just over an hour away from the bustling cosmopolitan capital of Santiago lies the UNESCO port town and street-art haven of Valparaiso. For years, painters, poets and philosophers have headed to this bohemian mecca inspired by its relaxed attitude and faded charm. Where everything is a canvas and everyone’s inner photographer comes to life, snapping away the riot of colours, graffiti tags and pretty pastel coloured houses lining the steep streets. I was no exception.
Follow Katy’s adventures at notwedordead.com
Amanda Williams – Baños, Ecuador
My favourite South American destination so far is Baños de Agua Santa (or simply Baños) in Ecuador. This laid-back mountain town is named for its natural hot springs and known for the amount of activities on offer for the outdoor/adventure enthusiast. Whether it’s zip lining, canyoning, or hiking that you’re interested in, you’re spoiled for choice in Baños. Even this non-hiker was inspired enough by the setting to tackle more than 800 stairs in order to get a better view at a statue of the Virgin Mary that overlooks the town and surrounding mountains. There’s plenty to do, too. You can go hiking, visit waterfalls, and even have a go on a giant swing that, on a clear day, has views of the nearby Tungurahua volcano.
Follow Amanda’s adventures at dangerous-business.com
Chloe Gunning – Atacama Desert, Chile
It would be hard to find landscapes more awe-inspiring than those in the Atacama region of Northern Chile. I had an amazing trip there in February this year. To make the most of the region, I based myself in San Pedro de Atacama – an adorable desert town full of hippie restaurants, bars and ice cream shops. From there I booked onto special tours to visit the bubbling geysers, incredible lagoons, salt flats, gigantic sand dunes and the lunar valley. For me, the trip to see the lunar valley at sunset was one of my top travel moments of my entire time in South America. The light was magical and although there were lots of people there, it was strangely peaceful! It’s definitely one of the most photogenic places on the planet.
Follow Chloe’s adventures at wanderlustchloe.com
Victoria Brewood – Rio, Brazil
My favourite destination is Rio de Janeiro. I was supposed to spend just a few days there and ended up staying three weeks because I made so many friends. I loved the laid back Carioca lifestyle – tanning on Copacabana beach, eating icy cool ‘acai’, drinking caipirinhas as the sun goes down and dancing to the rhythm of the samba. It’s the blend of city, beach, food, music and dancing that makes this city a truly special one. The views, whether from Sugar Loaf Mountain or Christ the Redeemer, are also epic.
If you want to experience Rio like a local, I would highly recommend visiting Palaphita Kitch for sunset drinks. Sit on the bamboo sofas, order a cocktail and admire the views over the lake. For brunch you shouldn’t miss Santa Satisfacao in Copacabana, and for a typical churrascaria experience you can’t beat Carretao. The waiters will carve a selection of meats in front of you and they won’t stop coming until you tell them you’re full! On a Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays the locals head on over to Lapa, where the streets are filled with food stalls and bars.
Follow Victoria’s adventures at pommietravels.com
Ready for your own South America Adventure? We’ve got a small group trip with your name on it.