Every traveller strives towards a different ideal. While some may yearn to sink their bare feet into soft beach sand, others may seek out the world’s last true wildernesses spaces. Spaces where there are no barriers between yourself and the natural world and where the success of a day’s adventure is measured by how high your heart rate soared.
If you’re chasing the ultimate adventure, South America’s snow-capped mountain peaks, frothing rivers, seemingly endless stretches of open road, steamy jungles and frozen wastelands will give you the chance to find yourself in the roaring silence of the vast unknown.
Here is our list of four incredible adventure holidays in South America:
Raft the Futaleufú River in Patagonia, Chile
The Futaleufú, or Fu, is a thunderous mass of clear, turquoise water originating in Argentina’s Amutui Quimey Lake and flowing over 120 miles through northern Patagonia, moving west through Chile and then emptying into the Pacific. Steep canyon walls, impressive granite boulders, snow-capped mountains and primaeval forests make this one of the final frontiers for a pristine white-water river experience.
The Fu’s 47 rapids range from an easy Class II to a testing Class V making it possible to tailor itineraries to a group’s different fitness levels, experience and ages.
Stay in blissfully rustic river camps along the route. Built into the cliffsides, each camp is kitted with riverside stone hot tubs (to ease those tired muscles), hot showers and comfortable beds to rest each night.
At the end of your Fu rafting experience, celebrate your achievement with a stay at Uman Lodge, a remote cliff-top retreat perched 500 feet above the upper Futaleufú Valley.
Warm and spacious, natural woods and huge windows create a seamless blend between the luxurious lodge and the natural environment. Feel free to immerse yourself in the bountiful activities on offer – or simply put your feet up and enjoy the expansive views and Patagonian air.
Drive Route 40, Argentina
Embark on a road trip to end all road trips. Known as Ruta Nacional 40, this tyre-thrashing highway begins just south of the border with Bolivia and snakes its way nearly the entire length of Argentina over more than 5,000 km, continuing almost all the way to Tierra del Fuego in the south.
The sheer variety of experiences and landscapes are nothing if not overwhelming.
The vast, barren horizons of the frozen steppe stand in contrast to the impossibly green pockets of high altitude vineyards, ice-blue lakes and snow-capped mountain peaks.
Numerous adventures await in the landscapes bordering Ruta 40, but these are among the Plan South America favourites:
Stay at Hacienda del Molinos, Salta
Admired for striking red rock formations, rugged landscapes and high-altitude vineyards, the Calchaquí Valleys are full of contrast – vivid green vineyards lie alongside barren red hills, cacti forests framing the horizon.
Hacienda del Molinos is a mandatory stop on any tour of this area. A traditional hacienda dating back to the 18th century, it has been refurbished to contemporary standards of comfort, without losing its historic charm.
Traditional materials such as ceilings of carob tree and reed, and heavy adobe walls create a sense of place.
Horse riding, Argentina
Drive south for a day along Ruta 40 and you’ll find yourself in the heart of the Andes, surrounded by vast foothills and high plains; snow-capped mountains a familiar companion by this leg of your journey. Adventure travellers will marvel at the mountaineering, hiking, horse riding and rafting opportunities found in the areas surrounding Argentina’s wine region of Mendoza.
Make it a priority to stay at Estancia El Puesto, where trekking, 4×4 and wine tours are on offer. Horse riding treks, however, take pride of place. With these, you’ll experience the views and landscapes of Piedra Escondida, Mirador del Litoral, Glaciers, El Paso Fiero, Loma de las Mulas and Portezuelo de la Piedra. Animals you may encounter include the grey fox, Condor and puma.
For a truly epic adventure, embark on their six-day Cross of the Andes horse riding trek. Led by a team of gauchos, your journey through this fascinating landscape will take you past ancient glaciers, ice-blue lagoons and a vast emptiness devoid of human interference.
Extreme adventures with White Desert, Antarctica
The only company in the world to fly into Antarctica’s interior, White Desert offers a carbon-neutral experience of the seventh continent. An adventure at the end of the world, various itineraries are offered to suit your preferences. Fly from Cape Town on a private plane and stay at the luxurious Whichaway Camp, featuring heated pods (sleeping two people each), a private chef and access to a team of expert field guides.
Travel to the lowest point on Earth when you visit the South Pole, spend time with a 6,000-strong colony of curious Emperors Penguins at Atka Bay and slip between massive natural ice waves and caves. Adventure excursions include treks and learning the skills of a polar explorer, including technical rock climbing, mighty abseils and even kite skiing across the blank white expanses. The White Desert guides will push you as far as you want to go.
Scale Aconcagua mountain, Argentina
Take a long walk to the roof of the Western world when you scale the mighty Aconcagua. The highest summit in the Americas stands at 22,840 feet, in the air where aeroplane’s fly. Begin your ascent at the foot of Aconcagua mountain, in Mendoza, accompanied by a trained mountain guide, equipped with years of expert insight and knowledge to ensure climbing safety.
There are two routes to choose between, depending on your experience level:
The best-known route to the summit, ‘normal route’ is an unforgettable experience to be enjoyed safely and reliably.
More experienced mountaineers can challenge themselves by ascending a different face of Aconcagua mountain. Steep and brutally cold, this route offers a challenging approach to this mountain. Different options are available to test climbers’ technical acumen, as well as mental and physical fortitude.
Penetrate the Amazon rainforest, Peru
Home to the planet’s greatest biodiversity and up to 60% of the world’s rainforest, the Amazon sprawls across nine countries and offers an unrivalled adventure holiday experience.
The mighty Amazon River begins as a small trickle of water, high in the Peruvian Andes, and swells to a vast basin (nearly 200 miles wide), fed by thousands of tributaries. The world’s largest river flowing through the world’s largest rainforest offers ample opportunity for adventure lovers.
Enter the Amazon from either Peru, Brazil or Ecuador and spend about 4 days in this astonishing environment. Your adventure experience can be tailored to your level of fitness and skill, from difficult multi-day hikes to astonishing waterfalls or easy wildlife spotting opportunities with stays in pristine eco-lodges.