One of the most diverse and inspirational multi-stop adventure destinations is the unique and alluring continent of South America.
Its calling cards include the Amazon rainforest, the snow-capped peaks of the Andes, the awe-inspiring Machu Picchu, the glaciers of Patagonia, the wetlands of the Pantanal, the Atacama desert, the Galapagos Islands and a profusion of stunning waterfalls, lakes, beautiful beaches and vibrant cities.
From its culture to its gastronomy, and landscapes to wildlife, an assortment of wonderful experiences and memories can be created in a variety of ways depending on personal interests and the time available to explore.
It would take several visits to get anywhere near all this awe-inspiring continent has to offer, but whether visiting for the first time or returning for your next adventure, there are fantastic itineraries and touring options that I would recommend.
I have picked out just a few of the highlights that feature in many of the exciting Latin America journeys that I love to piece together...
Iguazú Falls in Argentina and Brazil
An astounding wonder of nature, the almighty Iguazú Falls is a chain of 275 separate waterfalls that stretches along the border of Argentina and Brazil, deep within a vast tropical natural park, rich in flora and fauna.
They can be accessed from both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides, and with the contrasting yet equally magical experiences that each offer, it is a must to visit both if you can.
The Brazilian side offers the quintessential panoramic views, whilst the Argentinian side provides the opportunity to get a little closer, walking along boardwalks and feeling the spray.
There are several ways to experience this remarkable wonder of nature with networks of walkways on both sides, exhilarating boat safaris and helicopter rides all available.
No matter what way you choose, witnessing the sheer power, magnitude and thundering roar at close quarters is an extraordinary experience that will forever live in the memory.
The largest country in the region dances to the rhythmic beat of outstanding variety, with pulsating, vivid cities, wild rainforests, abundant wetlands, timeless colonial towns and palm-fringed beautiful beaches, all part of its captivating make-up.
From exploring the legendary Amazon rainforest by river cruise to the wildlife haven of the Pantanal and the beauty of the Fernando de Noronha archipelago, there is plenty for lovers of nature but this is also a country where you can party, relax, explore and dance, like no other.
Rio de Janeiro, backdropped by the incredible sites of Sugarloaf Mountain and Christ the Redeemer, is the capital of samba with its celebrated carnival and the infamous electricity of the iconic shores of Copacabana and Ipanema.
The dreamy villages of Paratay and Buzios provide a more sedate pace and along with the charming island of Ilha Grande are just perfect for a few days of relaxing after an active South American adventure.
From its wetlands to winelands and gauchos to glaciers, Argentina is a safe, friendly and accessible place of immense beauty and spectacular variety.
An outdoor lover's paradise with an exhilarating diversity of adventure, landscapes range from arid desert and sub tropical jungle in the north, through endless pampa plains and vineyards moving down through the majestic Lake District and peaks of the Andes to the mighty glaciers of Patagonia.
The land of estancias may be famed for its horse riding, steaks with chimichurri and delicious red wine but that's a mere snippet of what this wildly intoxicating country has to offer. Here are some of its essentials to consider:
A visit to the irresistible capital and the passionate home of tango is essential for any trip to Argentina. Buenos Aires is a bustling hub of activity that will inspire any city dweller with its stylish architecture, tree lined avenues, eclectic mix of modern, bohemian and more traditional neighbourhoods, and a host of exquisite boutiques and fabulous restaurants.
It seems to have inherited the best of its Spanish heritage whilst maintaining a very individual flair. I highly recommend spending some time wandering the city streets and getting lost in the story of Eva Perón before indulging in some of South America's finest cuisine.
Against the picturesque backdrop of the Andes mountains and surrounded by beautiful vineyards, lies Mendoza, Argentina's wine capital.
Stay in a beautiful wine lodge, take a tasting tour, cycle or horse ride through the vineyards, enjoy the magnificent gastronomy, ascend Mount Aconcagua or simply relax and unwind with a glass or two.
Bariloche - The Lake District
The lakes and mountains that surround the small, Alpine town of Bariloche make it one of Argentina’s prettiest areas and fantastic for both water and land-based activities.
Visitors come to ski, fish, climb, trek and bask in the cool, fresh landscapes created by the huge forests and glacier-fed lakes of Argentina's largest national park.
A collection of swamps doesn't sound massively appealing at first but delve a little deeper and you will find one of the largest nature reserves on earth. A protected area, access is limited because of the strong focus on preserving biodiversity. It's not the easiest place to get to but it is so worth the effort.
Home to over 300 species of bird, it is a haven for rare wildlife with caimans, capybaras, swamp deer, pampas deer, howler monkeys, giant otters, anacondas and greater rheas amongst the inhabitants.
Staying in a remote lodge, enjoying jeep safaris and getting face to face with the residents is heavenly for lovers of nature.
The enchanting lands of Patagonia house crystal blue waters, towering glaciers, mountains and volcanoes. El Calafate is a popular town near the edge of the Southern Patagonian Ice Field, known as the gateway to Los Glaciares National Park and home to the massive Perito Moreno Glacier.
The ever-shifting icy landscape is an acclaimed site, and for active travellers, I highly recommend a mini-trek on the glacier itself.
Taking a catamaran to see other glaciers, visiting a ranch for a taste of the real Patagonia and a trip to El Chaltén, home to Mount Fitz Roy on the Chilean border are other popular excursions in this scenic region and of course the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, the southernmost tip of South America, nicknamed the 'End of the World' where the Antarctic cruises depart from Ushuaia.
Combining a trip to Argentina with Chile is an increasing popular itinerary.
Chile stretches almost half the length of South America with one side of the country dominated by the Andes Mountains and the other by the dramatic Pacific coastline. It offers some of the world’s most outstanding, awe-inspiring and varied landscapes from ancient forests, volcanoes and the driest deserts to the fjords and vast, spectacular, epic wilderness of Patagonia’s glacial fields.
A discovery of highlights can include:
Santiago - the bustling, cosmopolitan capital city, home to Chile’s fascinating culture and the Central Market, famous for its cuisine and fish stores.
Heading north to the incredible Atacama Desert – the highest, driest desert in the world, filled with red rock landscapes and outstanding natural phenomena.
Touring the stunning wine country, taking a unique road trip along the Carretera Austral and the exceptional beauty of the Lake District including the crystal-clear lakes of Puerto Varas, a city infamous for its German traditions.
Valparaíso, a coastal bohemian town filled with poetic inspiration and colourful buildings.
The dramatic mountains and bright blue icebergs of Torres del Paine National Park, the crown jewel of Patagonia.
The potential for adventure across Peru’s diverse landscape, with both group and tailor-made tours at your disposal, is endless, The only question is, what would you like to experience first?
The 16th century citadel of Machu Picchu, the ancient ‘Lost City of the Incas’, is one of the most impressive archaeological sites in the world, sat deep in the Andean mountains.
Originally designed to be completely self-contained, surrounded by natural springs and agriculture to feed the population, the Inca citadel was only rediscovered in the early 20th century.
Despite its popularity with travellers, the site still retains its mystery and the ruins are accessible by train and bus, or for the more adventurous, a four-day hike.
Cusco, the gateway to Machu Picchu, is a bustling hub and home to some delightful historic treasures. Filled with colonial architecture and cobblestoned streets, the city has been beautifully preserved.
Speaking of great mystery, the Nazca Lines, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, is a group of geoglyphs etched into desert sands. Spread over 500 square kilometres, these surreal line drawings have puzzled academics for many years. The best way to see the glyphs is by air with scenic flights available from the nearby town of Nazca.
Once colonised by pre-Inca civilisations, Colca Canyon at 3,400 metres is one of the world’s deepest canyons and both a cultural and natural highlight. Formed by a geological fault between two volcanoes, the site is now home to famous residents, the mighty condor, who can be seen riding the updraughts of the canyon’s thermals.
Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest in South America.
Floating islands made of reeds are home to the indigenous people, Uros, who have been living this way for centuries and non-floating islands offer homestay opportunities for those wishing to experience the traditional way of life.
Covering over half the country, the lush Amazon jungle is an ecological treasure. You can venture out from the cities of Puerto Maldonado or Iquitos to spot monkeys, birds, river turtles, caiman and capybara.
Experience the jungle in style and comfort at the Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica, where you can stay in one of 35 luxury wooden cabanas in front of the Madre de Dios River. The facilities also offer a visit to the Inktaterra Canopy Walkway - a bridge system 30 metres above the ground, allowing stunning views of the Amazon below.
The Ballestas Islands lie off the coast of Peru, south of Lima, and can only be explored by boat as the islands themselves are protected. They offer refuge for many wildlife species including sea lions, dolphins, Humboldt penguins and an array of sea birds including Guanay cormorant, blue-footed boobies and the Peruvian pelican.
The nation's capital, Lima has a population of 8.5 million people. Its museums are a great way to learn about the region’s culture and early civilisations, and with an abundance of restaurants and cafes, it’s the perfect place to sample Peru’s delicious cuisine.
The Galápagos Islands
The Galápagos is an archipelago of tiny volcanic islands, found 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador and home to miraculous species of native wildlife, sea-life and vegetation.
A Galápagos cruise is nothing short of paradise for lovers of the natural world and regarded as one of life’' ultimate wildlife experiences and a major bucket-list tick.
Getting up close to large seabirds such as frigates, albatrosses and blue and red-footed boobies will delight birdwatchers whilst the Galápagos giant tortoise is the largest of its kind in the world, in contrast to the endangered Galápagos penguin, the world’s second smallest and the only of its kind residing north of the equator.
One of the most popular inhabitants is the Galápagos marine iguana, who unlike most lizards, can also forage underwater, an ability well-suited for the environment.
I can advise the best way and time of year to create this once-in-a-lifetime exploration.
Other South American countries such as Ecuador, Uruguay, Bolivia and Colombia have plenty to offer too, the latter particularly having seen a big increase in tourism over recent years.
Wildlife, wine, waterfalls, mountains, food, culture and the most pleasant and passionate people make South America an endless opportunity for adventure.
Allow me to put a journey together based on your interests because here, anything is possible.