For anyone planning a trip to Latin America to see iconic drawcards like Machu Picchu, Iguazu Falls and Rio but also keen to discover the continent’s hidden gems, Australia’s Contours Travel, which specialises on the region, has released a ‘Great Eight’ list of off-the-beaten track experiences guaranteed to take you safely beyond the busy tourist trail.
The list has been created by Melbourne-based Latin American expert, Ted Dziadkiewicz, Managing Director of Contours Travel, which is Australia’s longest-running Latin America tour operator. Contours Travel offers boutique, hosted group tours and also bespoke personal itineraries for independent travellers. Ted has travelled to Latin American more than 130 times and these are his top tips for going beyond the icons……..
#1: Seven Lakes Scenic Route
The magnificent beauty of the lakes of Argentina and Chile is well known as a one-day experience but on a short detour to the Seven Lakes area, located 100kms north of Bariloche in southern Argentina, and you will discover an equally breathtaking natural wonderland worthy of a ten-day tour. Take the time, extend your stay and get away from the travelling crowds. A fly/drive tour of this area will take you along roads less travelled to unspoilt villages, national parks, fishing spots and hiking trails but still offers amazing lodges and spas so you can travel safely and in comfort.
#2: The island of Chiloe
If you are heading to Bariloche to the lakes district in Chile before you cross the border set aside an extra two days and take the short ferry ride to explore the delightful island of Chiloe with its seafaring culture and landscape dotted with picturesque UNESCO protected wooden churches.
#3: Stay and play at Lake Titicaca
Set high in the Andes on the border of Peru and Bolivia, the world’s highest navigable lake begs extra time to soak up the magical mysteries of this remote region scattered with islands, ancient ruins and fascinating indigenous cultures. Stay in a rustic, lakeside lodge so you have time to birdwatch, cycle, kayak, fish, visit the marketplaces and learn basket weaving with the locals.
#4: Overland from Bolivia to Chile and Argentina
Rather than flying, there are now great adventure options to jump aboard a bus to experience the beauty of the Andes on the ground. See the amazing contrast is landscape as you travel across the unique landscape of Bolivia’s Uyuni salt flats – the largest in the world - into the driest desert in the world, the Atacama Desert in Chile and over the Andes on a paved road to Salta in Argentina from where there are connections to Iguassu Falls.
#5: San Blass Islands
After sailing through the Panama Canal on our one-day crossing catch a local domestic flight to the tropical-idyllic San Blass Islands in the Caribbean to meet the indigenous people and laze on white, palm-fringed beaches beside azure waters.
#6: Torres del Paine National Park
In the Patagonia region of Chile and renowned for wild mountain scenery and spectacular hiking- but why not give your legs a break after your five or seven-day walk and add on a two or three-day kayaking and camping trip along the waterways for a completely different way to immerse yourself in the amazing landscape.
#7: Ibera Marshlands
These Argentinian marshlands are a shortcut option for lovers of nature who don’t have the time to make the complicated journey to the more famous Brazilian Pantanal marshlands. Similar to the Pantanal, the Ibera lakes and lagoons are a haven for flora and fauna and located just two hours south of Igaucu Falls.
#8: Paraty farewell weekend away
With its quaint cobblestone streets, multi-coloured, Portuguese architecture and thriving music and café culture, this UNESCO heritage village in Brazil is a popular weekend getaway for locals escaping the hustle and bustle of the city. Hugged by jungled mountains and secluded beaches on the coast between Rio and San Paulo, Paraty is the perfect place to relax like a local as a final stop at the end of your busy Latin American adventure.
Specialising only in Latin America and led by a well-travelled expert in the region together with a team of on-the-ground experts, Contours Travel offers tours throughout Latin America with tailored itineraries exploring the best the region has to offer.