The Adventuresome Traveler’s Guide to Latin America
For travelers who don’t want to play it safe, Latin America offers some pretty unique opportunities.
An accelerated pulse. The feel of the wind in your face. The sensation of speed, water or feeling 10,000 times more alive than usual. Sure, you could head to the nearest amusement park and get your dose of adrenaline, or you could add some meaning to your travels and do some true adventure-seeking in Latin America. Check out just a few of the awesome experiences on offer:
The Most Thrilling Ways to Experience Latin America
Colombia: Hike Through the Jungle to Cuidad Perdida — the Lost City
Colombia’s Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta Mountains have hidden a treasure well for centuries. Teyuna, or La Cuidad Perdida, was built by the indigenous Tayrona people on the northern slopes of the mountains. The city is believed to have been founded 650 years earlier than Machu Pichu, making it one of the most ancient sites in Latin America.
Rediscovered by the outside world in the 1970s (after being abandoned during the Spanish conquest), Cuidad gives today’s intrepid tourist the chance experience its terraced roads and plazas. But first you must complete a rugged, multi-day 26-mile hike — and then climb 1,200 stairs! Be prepared to cross rivers, navigate steep hills and take on the jungle if you want to see this site— you can only arrive on foot. Then prepare to be astonished by the verdant beauty of this mysterious, memorable landscape.
Danger Level: You’ll need to be in good physical shape to make the trek, and you’ll be sharing space with the untamed jungle and all its flora and fauna. Be prepared to face heat, humidity and bugs. However, you must book a tour to go, so you won’t be navigating it alone.
Colombia Bonus! Try your hand at tejo (or turmeque), Colombia’s national sport. Players toss heavy steel discs towards a metal ring that holds a cloth bag. The twist: the bag is rigged with gunpowder, and it will explode when hit!
Chile: Sandboard the Atacama Desert
South America has its own great skiing and snowboarding, but been there, done that. What if you’re ready for something new? Try sandboarding in the driest place on earth!
The Atacama Desert is in northern Chile. Its spot between two mountain ranges means it’s incredibly dry and incredibly strange — the view is often compared to being on Mars. But it’s a great place if you’re looking for something completely different.
Sandboarding is much like snowboarding: you trek upwards (no chairlift here), you race down the slope, and you repeat. If you wipe out, though, you’ll be facing some nasty sand burns, and anyone who’s trekked up or slid down a sand dune can tell you that they bring a new meaning to the words “stinging pain.”
Danger Level: Again, you’ll need to be quite fit for this activity. Dunes can reach a very steep incline, and climbing up them is exhausting (especially with Atacama’s aridity and elevation).
Atacama Bonus! After you’ve boarded the dunes, hang around for one of this desert’s spectacular sunsets or come back to see the incomparable night sky views. Atacama’s altitude, lack of cloud cover and absence of light pollution make it one of the best stargazing spots on the planet.
Brazil: Go on a Jaguar Safari in Pantanal
Not the hunting sort of safari — the kind of safari where you take only pictures and leave only footprints.
The Pantanal is a 75,000-square-mile seasonal floodplain whose freshwater wetlands are a hotbed of diverse species. It’s also South America’s main wildlife reserve. You can spot giant anteaters, macaws, marsh deer and even the mighty jaguar— the only member of the Panthera family native to the Americas. This is a big cat that likes water, and you’ll have a better chance of seeing it in Pantanal than anywhere else.
Danger Level: You’ll need a tour for this one, obviously. Reputable tour companies usually will send you off in the care of a naturalist and a local guide, so the actual danger level is limited to strenuous hiking and being in a very wet, very warm and very wild environment.
Brazil Bonus! Check out Brazil’s Costa Verde, a lush rainforest on the shores of the Atlantic Ocean. You can explore this UNESCO World Heritage Site by kayak or by boat. However you go, make sure to see Saco de Mamanguá, a tropical fjord.
Do Just About Anything in Patagonia
What kind of adventure do you have in mind? Want to live like a gaucho for a bit? Go whitewater rafting? Kayak among whales? Ice trek up a glacier? Go windsurfing or kitesurfing? Set sail for Antarctica? You can do that from Argentina, not just New Zealand.
You can do all that and more in this vast region. For an especially adventurous trip, include the Tierra del Fuego. This is the southern tip of South America, and it’s sometimes counted as part of Patagonia (or not). It’s a remote, wild region unlike anything else— a proper adventure in itself.
Danger Level: The further south you go, the more extreme the weather gets. And most of Patagonia is quite remote. Educate and prepare yourself before you arrive; even the most experienced hiker or climber can find Patagonia challenging.
Next time the urge to go thrill-seeking hits, you can do way better than heading to the nearest roller coaster for a mindless rush of adrenaline. See what Latin America can give you – you’ll never return home complaining that you were bored!