South America isn’t all ancient ruins, bustling Brazilian beaches and glacial mountain ranges. Here are a few hidden secrets we think you’ll love:

Venezuela

Bordered by Brazil, Colombia and Guyana, Venezuela is undoubtedly one of the most biodiverse countries on the planet. From its Caribbean coast and tranquil tropical islands in the north, to the dense Amazon jungle in the south, Andes mountain range on the Colombian border and sprawling Orinoco River basin, Venezuela is a living, breathing petri dish. While capital Caracas still has some work to do on its public image, the country’s national parks (43 in total) offer incredible hiking opportunities – perhaps to the glacial lakes of the Andes or through jungle to the foot of Angel Falls – and the chance to spot wildlife, such as crocodiles, anacondas and honeybears.  

Trip Name Days From GBP
Venezuela Independent Journey

12

£2,810

Guyana

With its palm tree-lined beaches, dense rainforest (featuring a who’s who of the animal kingdom) and lively towns, Guyana feels like a world in itself. Spend a day strolling the grid-like streets of capital Georgetown, taking in the dilapidated Dutch Colonial buildings, the enormous Gothic Revival City Hall and eclectic Stabroek Market. Nature buffs will marvel at the impressive Kaieteur Falls, the widest single-drop waterfall in the world, and the multi-tiered Orinduik Falls, or exploring the Iwokrama Rainforest, home to jaguars, capybaras and boa constrictors. This secluded pocket of jungle, city and coast offers a true off-the-beaten track experience.

Trip Name Days From GBP
Guyana Independent Journey

15

£4,092

Cotopaxi

Smack bang in the middle of Ecuador’s Avenue of the Volcanoes, the snow-capped peak of rumbling (and sometimes smoking) Cotopaxi towers above the other volcanoes in the region; at 5897 metres, it’s the highest active volcano in the world. The area is popular among trekkers and mountain bikers, eager to clamber to the region’s lakeside Inca ruins and along bumpy park roads, but birdwatchers and nature-lovers are well catered for too. Orange-faced falcons and Andean gulls frequent the skies, along with the elusive Andean condor, while the national park surrounding the volcano is inhabited by deer, pumas and the Andean speckled bear. 

Trip Name Days From GBP
Cotopaxi & Quilotoa Experience - Independent

3

£345

Pantanal Wetlands

If you’re in need of a wildlife-fuelled adventure – where the animals are out in the open, rather than hidden in the leafy undergrowth of the Amazon – head to the phenomenal flooded wetlands at Pantanal. Located in the heart of Brazil, these vast everglades cover some 210,000 square kilometres of land, stretching into neighbouring Paraguay and Bolivia. Home to an array of wildlife including capybaras, red-bellied piranhas and giant river otters, the wetlands are the perfect location to spot animals in their natural habitat. And with so few people frequenting the area, it really is just you and nature. 

Trip Name Days From GBP
Brazil Pantanal Experience - Independent

4

£595

Ballestas Islands

Often described as Peru’s version of the Galapagos, this stony outcrop of islands is home to an abundance of curious creatures. Setting off by boat from the coastal town of Paracas, watch as fur seals and sea lions bask in the sun (or frolic in the waves alongside the boat) while colonies of Humboldt penguins cover entire islands and pelicans lumber just above the water’s surface. The mysterious Candelabra rock formation – an enormous prehistoric geoglyph of a figure etched into the mountain – overlooks the sea and begs the question of all visitors: where did it come from? Is it connected to the Nazca Lines, is it a navigational guide or was it created by… aliens? 

Trip Name Days From GBP
Nazca and the Ballestas Islands Experience - Independent

3

£515