Explore South AmericaPosted on: 21 August 2014 by Jennie Carr
Jennie Carr feasts on the beauty and culture of South America and finds something for all tastes on her travels
To really get the best experience in South America an escorted tour is the answer. This huge continent has so much to enjoy, stunning scenery, diverse geography and a wealth of culture too. The contrasts of buzzing cities such as Rio de Janeiro, the secrets of the Amazon River, the desolate Atacama desert and the marvels of Patagonia are best seen with an experienced guide who can ensure you don’t miss a thing!
Brazil stretches far and wide with fascinating sights throughout the country. The unmissable 30 metre tall statue of Christ the Redeemer stands high above Rio de Janeiro and is well worth a visit for the far reaching views across the city and ocean. Sugar Loaf Mountain is similarly iconic, with excellent vistas, and named as a reminder of the importance the sugar industry had for Brazil. Hardy climbers enjoy the challenge of reaching the summit by themselves, most people take the cable car! The famous beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, where all of life takes place, are close to the city and a contrast to the mountain.
Iguazu Falls are an absolute wonder, stretching across Brazil and Argentina as one of the new Seven Wonders of Nature. Brave souls can venture out on walkways over the Devil’s Throat, suspended 80 odd metres above torrents of water thundering down to the river below. The National Parks which surround this totally unique feature are World Heritage Sites.
40% of North and central South America is covered by the Amazon Basin, which includes the river, flood plain and tributaries, beginning in Peru, meandering across the Andes, flowing through Colombia then out to the ocean via Brazil. The region covers half a million square kilometres. The rainforest is home to so many natural wonders, and a river cruise will allow visitors to see these, however a trek inland will reveal even more wildlife and may lead to an encounter with remote, little known forest tribespeople. The thousands of species of animals, reptiles and birds are totally to be marvelled at.
Equally special are the Inca sites, which are based around Cusco in Peru, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and cross into Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Columbia and Ecuador. The architecture of the Incas is subtly present everywhere and of course, at Machu Picchu the astonishing achievement of this ancient civilisation is highly visible. Various sites can be visited including Inca Pisac and Sacsayhuaman for more insights into the culture of the Incas, and the Sacred (Urubamba) Valley is of central importance to the entire region.
Lake Titicaca, home to manmade islands on which villages are built, is the largest lake in South America, complete with steamers, some of which were made in Britain. The local lifestyle here is an ancient one, and lucky visitors can stay with a family in their traditional homes.
For an unearthly experience, the Atacama cannot be beaten and it is thought of by many as the most uninhabitable place on earth; it is certainly the driest hot desert. The landscape is almost lunar, with extraordinary features from wind erosion and most unexpected colours, so it has been used by NASA for moon landing training. It is also a favourite for filming space movies. Its clear air and near zero pollution make it perfect for watching the palnets and stars so several observatories are based here too. When there is precipitation, the desert bursts into life for a short time, surprising everyone.
South America is full of surprises, a little unpredictable so the services of a tour manager are hugely beneficial, taking care of any hiccups along the way. Local guides add a touch of local colour, sharing an insider’s expertise about their own regions. An escorted tour ensures that all travellers get the very best from their South American experience.
Silver Travel Advisor recommends Journeys of Distinction for luxury group or private touring in South America and worldwide.
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