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:

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 NZD
Ecuador to Peru Explorer

9

$2,720

South America in Depth

39

$17,460

Ecuador, Peru & Bolivia

24

$8,721

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 NZD
Brazil Pantanal Experience - Independent

4

$1,452

Ballestas Islands

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 NZD
Peru Highlights

21

$7,861

Lima to Cusco

17

$5,452

Peru Explorer

19

$6,435

Valparaiso

Even in the romantic light of 2016’s eponymous Pablo Neruda biopic, Valparaiso is still not done full justice in pictures. Chile’s most beautiful city is characterised by steep funiculars, old-school port-town grit and steep hills strewn with colourful houses. Between the old town and the romantic neighbourhoods near the port, there’s enough Bohemian charm here to while away whole weeks, with hidden taverns, artist-run galleries and top-notch Latin American cuisine in abundance. Head to scenic Cerro Concepcion and let the exploring begin. When it all gets too much, Vina del Mar, Chile’s premier seaside spot, is just half an hour away.

Trip Name Days From NZD
Rhythms of South America

31

$14,640

South America in Depth

39

$17,460

Chile, Argentina & Brazil

16

$8,170

Chile & Argentina

10

$4,207

Essence of South America

25

$10,830