Us zealous adventure seekers cannot stop raving about the raw beauty of South America and we are definitely onto something. The amount of untamed, rough and exceptionally beautiful wilderness that can be encountered on this continent is utterly endless and unfathomable.
While many people are understandably scared or too inexperienced to go off the beaten path in South America, it is here where the most immaculate and unspoilt natural wealth can be found. Brace yourselves for 15 of the most remote, untouched and gorgeous natural sights in South America.
- The Lost City (Ciudad perdida), Colombia
In 1972, deep inside the dense rainforest of the Colombian Magdalena Province, a group of treasure hunters discovered a completely unknown and abandoned ancient city, believed to have been built around 800AD, some 650 years earlier than Machu Picchu. The Lost City has since been explored by local tribes, beleaguered by the FARC and analysed by specialists from all over the world but its original significance and purpose remain shrouded in mystery.
The city consists of 169 stone terraces and countless circular squares connected by irregular steps. The area is today inhabited by regional tribes who believe that the site once constituted the political and cultural centre of their predecessors, the vanished Tairona chiefdom.
The archaeological site can nowadays be visited on a week-long hike but trust us, this is nothing for beginners. The Colombian army frequently patrols the area and the site can only be accessed on organised tours.
The high amount of tension that surrounded this area for the past few decades as well as the extreme remoteness of the location, deep inside a thick tropical jungle, renders this an absolutely unmissable experience for adrenaline seekers in South America.
- Tierra del Fuego, Chile & Argentina
The archipelago of Tierra del Fuego (Land of Fire) forms the southernmost tip of the South American continent and is divided between Chile and Argentina. The island is home to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world and the town of Puerto Williams, the capital of the Chilean Antarctica province. Apart from sheep farming and scientific settlements, Tierra del Fuego will delight adventurers with its impressive glaciers, its imposing mountains and its crystal-clear lakes. The island’s formidably remote location as well as the breathtaking scenery make the Land of Fire one of the most invigorating destinations for nature junkies in South America.
- Torres del Paine, Chile
Torres del Paine is the largest and most popular national park in Chile and its landscapes are completely out-of-this-world. While roaming around the 1.8sqkm park, you feel like you’ve just accessed Narnia or accidentally entered the set of King Kong. The spectacular lakes and waterfalls are only matched by the snowy peaks and the thousands of wild llamas, condors and other animals who share your astonishment. No description does Torres del Paine justice, which is why you should have a look at our photo story to obtain a genuine impression of the otherworldliness of this place.
- Sacred Valley (Valle Sagrado de los Incas), Peru
Located high up in the Peruvian Andes, the Sacred Valley of the Incas was the epicentre of the highly sophisticated Inca tribes, who built their imperial capital of Cusco in this region. The Inca Emperor Manco Inca Yupanqui won against the army of Spanish colonist Hernando Pizarro in 1537 but withdrew from the Valley after the Spaniards took control over an ever-expanding amount of territory.
The colourful mountains towering over the valley contain countless sets of enticing archaeological sites, notably the world-renowned city of Machu Picchu and many smaller tribal towns. Apart from historical locations, the Sacred Valley also offers innumerable opportunities to immerse yourself into nature. The stunning landscapes comprise myriads of enthralling hiking routes along wild rivers and across challenging mountainous passes.
In addition to that, the perilous Inca Trail is without a doubt the purest way to ascend to the fabled site of Machu Picchu, enabling you to get a glimpse of the sacred ruins in peaceful serenity, before the hordes of tourists flock in.
- Mount Fitz Roy (Cerro Chaltén), Argentina
The 3,400m (11,171f) high Cerro Chaltén is a grandiose feat of nature situated in the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, on the border between Chile and Argentina. Ascending to the top of the mighty Chaltén is one of the most challenging endeavours in the world of mountaineering and comparable to reaching the top of the daddy of all mountains, Mount Everest. Fitz Roy’s striking peaks, its imposing stature and the difficulty levels of its hikes certainly make it one of the most alluring, demanding and exhilarating destinations for adventurers on the southern extremity of the world.
- Quilotoa Volcano, Ecuador
Ecuador is one of the lesser visited countries in South America but its natural beauty can undoubtedly compete with the more popular nations. The small Andean nation boasts 8 major volcanoes making it hard to elect which one to include on your Ecuadorian adventure. The Quilotoa is one of the most wondrous volcanoes in all of South America, thanks to the striking location of its caldera at an altitude of 3,914m (12,841ft). The caldera has a diameter of 3km and was formed by a major erosion approximately 800 years ago. The hikes around the caldera are challenging and the sporadic amount of tourist infrastructure makes this one the most remote and remarkably adventurous activities in South America.
- Atacama Desert, Chile & Bolivia
This unique expanse of lifeless land, soaring mountains and scattered lakes is not only the driest place on earth but also adventurers’ heaven. Chile is one of the most naturally diverse countries in the world and its northern regions have absolutely nothing in common with its equally beautiful South. Road tripping, hiking, camping, sand boarding or dune driving, everything a passionate adrenaline junkie could possibly yearn for is available in the Atacama Desert which is why it should under no circumstances be missed when embarking on a journey to South America.
- Vinicunca, Peru
The mountain of Vinicunca, also known as Rainbow Mountain, is a mesmerising natural wonder in the Peruvian Andes at an altitude of 5,200m (17,100ft) above sea level. Its seven different colours, which are overlapping minerals, give it the looks of a rainbow and create utterly fabulous imagery. The remoteness of the mountain is another factor adding to its allure. The mountain is located in the region of Cusco but can only be reached on a day-hike from the small town of Quechuyuno.
- Angel Falls (Salto Angel), Venezuela
Venezuela has received a lot of severely negative press in recent months and the situation in the country does indeed look bleak. Hyperinflation, street riots, food shortages and more and more tenuous safety levels have erased the country with the largest oil reserves in the world from nearly everyone’s bucket list.
What the media doesn’t tell you about Venezuela however is that this country is home to one of the most bewildering natural sights in the world, the totally unrivalled Angel Falls.
The Salto Angel is the highest waterfall in the world and its location is so remote that reaching it takes a total of 3 days from a larger city.
Situated in the middle of a dense rainforest, this UNESCO World Heritage Site has a total height of 979m (3,211ft) and makes most North American waterfalls look like water tabs.
If you plan on reaching this unbelievably isolated site in a critically unstable country, the required journey consists of the following: flight from Ciudad Bolivar to the ‘nearby’ Canaima Camp, a 10h drive to the river and an immeasurably long boat ride to the base of the falls.
- Yacyreta Island Dunes, Paraguay
Located in the Paraná River in southern Paraguay, the island of Yacyreta is famous for its uniquely shaped white sand dunes. The river is divided by the imposing Yacyreta Dam which is vital to Paraguay’s economy. The island can be visited but has no tourist infrastructure and only a handful of fishermen live there on a permanent basis. Paraguay being one of the least visited countries in South America, reaching the island is difficult and only possible with a local guide. The fact that the whole area is so isolated and unknown makes this an otherworldly and daunting experience for travellers who love to venture into (nearly) unexplored lands.
- Smoke Falls (Cachoeira da Fumaça), Brazil
The dazzling Brazilian Smoke Falls are located in the remote Bahía region and constitute a genuine stomping ground for adventurers. The Falls are named Cachoeira da Fumaça because of the fact that the wind constantly sprays the water flow before the masses of water touch the ground. The 340m (1115ft) high waterfall changes stature in seasons which means that it can stay completely dry outside of the rainy season. The waterfall is situated inside the very remote Chapada Diamantina National Park and the base can be reached after a 3-day-hike through the park. From above, the site is a lot more accessible as only 6km lie between the falls and the ecological base in the Vale do Capão. Even so, only zesty adrenaline seekers will venture into this unspoilt area due to its extreme isolation and lack of modern tourist infrastructures.
- Tatacoa Desert, Colombia
If you are looking for the ultimate reserve of peaceful tranquility in Colombia, look no further. The Tatacoa Desert in the Guajira Peninsula is an arid tropical desert and a fossil-rich zone. In addition to the numerous astronomy specialists who frequent the area to conduct experiments, the Tatacoa is a popular spot for travellers who like to relish the fascinating sand and stone formations in beautiful serenity.
- Uyuni Salt Flats (Salar de Uyuni), Bolivia
The largest salt flats in the world are impressive from every angle and provide the perfect opportunity for distance manipulating pictures. Located in southwestern Bolivia, the Salar de Uyuni is the major route across the Altiplano high planes and home to a wide range of exotic bird species, notably flamingos. Hollywood has used this uncanny setting in numerous occasions, the salt flats were in fact chosen as set for the planet of Crait in the new Star Wars movie: The Last Jedi and James Bond also ventured into this empty wilderness in the movie Quantum of Solace.
- Iguazu Falls (Cataratas del Iguazú/Cataratas do Iguaçu), Brazil & Argentina
The largest waterfall system in the world certainly has to be included on this list. Although a bit more touristy than the other natural sights, Iguazu is an absolute must for every nature enthusiast and its location on the border between Argentina and Brazil makes it an excellent place for a border hopping expedition. The falls are more than 2.7km (1.7m) wide and their highest drop rises to 82m (269ft). If you have seen Niagara, Iguazu makes it look like a village pond. Most of the falls are situated on the Argentinian side, which is easily accessible and therefore quite popular but still a top destination for adventurers.
- Osorno Volcano, Chile
The 2,652m (8,701 ft) high Osorno Volcano is nicknamed Fuji of South America and for good reason. Situated in the Chilean Los Lagos region, the awe-inspiring volcano has erupted 11 times between 1575 and 1869 and one of the eruptions was spotted by Charles Darwin on his second voyage of the Beagle. The volcano is close to the sea but also right next to numerous lakes and ski skations. The natural diversity in this region is unfathomable and the Chilean Lake District has retained a favourable degree of authenticity, which makes this one of the most underrated areas in the longest country in the world.