Our favourite off-the-beaten-track activities
In today’s increasingly globalised world, there may no longer be such a thing as a truly undiscovered destination. However, Latin America still has plenty of off-the-beaten track activities to enjoy. These are ten of our favourites:
1. Visit a spectacled bear rescue centre in Peru
Meet the ‘real’ Paddington bear at the Chaparri Conservation Area, a community-owned and managed reserve protecting and sheltering a wild population of threatened species, including the Andean spectacled bear. Bears and other animals rescued from illegal captivity are being rehabilitated here as well. The 34,412 hectare park can be explored via different trails, which allow you to admire the wildlife and gorgeous landscapes around you.
You can visit Chaparri Conservation Area on our From Paddington to Peru holiday.
2. Experience Cuban rural life at Baracoa
While most visitors flock to the northern beaches and islands, or to the colonial towns of Havana and Trinidad, it’s Baracoa that’s arguably even more interesting. Twenty years after Christopher Columbus’ arrival in Cuba, it became Cuba’s first city and capital. Today, the place is full of local atmosphere and character backed by green hills, chocolate trees and coffee bushes. The background is dominated by the tabletop mountain of El Yunque. This all makes Baracoa an extremely varied destination – worth the perhaps slightly longer journey.
You can visit Baracoa on our Active Cuba: Hike, cycle and salsa or Parakeet: Cuba beyond the beach holidays.
3. Expedition cruising in Antarctica
Expedition cruising in Antarctica is probably the Mother of all the off-the-beaten path adventures. Expeditions run between October and March, and you can choose from an expanding variety of routes. The ice-covered landscapes feature a kaleidoscope of colours and a symphony of sounds. You can find hundreds of thousands of penguins, seals, whales and bird-life in their natural habitat. Modern, relatively small-sized expedition ships make travelling to Antarctica more comfortable than ever, but it remains every bit of an adventure.
Browse all our holidays to Antarctica here.
4. Swim with whale sharks in Belize
Taking an optional sea trip in the company of the magnificent whale shark is an unforgettable experience. This type of shark can grow up to lengths of 18 meters, which make them look rather intimidating. However, they’re filter feeders and pose no threat to humans at all – indeed you can jump in and join them on a special whale shark watching boat trip. Whale sharks roam from Gladden Spit to Placencia in Belize between May and September.
Browse all our holidays with the option to swim with whale sharks in Belize here.
5. The Puna wilderness of Andean Argentina
The Puna de Atacama is a vast, other-worldly, arid landscape of extremes. The area is immense – the size of England – and has an incredible varied landscape, dotted with only a few hamlets, abandoned mining villages and Inca ruins. Travelling through this part of the world includes high mountain passes, desert paths and volcano-filled fields. Some people describe the area as a scene from a science fiction movie, others as the surface of Mars. Either way, it’s a unique, pioneering and expeditionary experience; one you’ll never forget.
Browse all our holidays which include a visit to the Puna wilderness of Andean Argentina here.
6. Cycling from Lake Titicaca to Machu Picchu
Two of Peru’s most famous landmarks, Lake Titicaca and Machu Picchu are divided by the Central Valley which is defined by snow-dusted Andean mountains. You can now cover this ground by bike, and cycle 492km over seven full days from Lake Titicaca through the valley until you arrive at Ollantaytambo. Finish your journey to Machu Picchu by train. This is an adventure not suitable for the faint-hearted, as you’ll be cycling on unpaved roads and tracks for several hours a day, and camp underneath the stars. However, the incredible views are more than worth it.
Browse our holidays to Cusco here.
7. Discover northeast Brazil’s dunes and lagoons
The famous sand dunes of Lençois Maranhenses create a desert-like landscape in the north of Brazil. In the summer, rain’s collected amidst the dunes creating a mesmerising scene, best appreciated between May and September. The inviting oases scattered around the area are extremely inviting for a swim and can be indeed enjoyed in that way. On a half-day tour of the park, you’ll travel amidst a wonderland of sand dunes and lagoons, transported by a 4x4 jeep for an amazing off-the-beaten-track experience.
Browse all of our holidays with the option to visit northeast Brazil’s dunes and lagoons here.
8. Discover Indian culture in the Colombian Amazon
Tourism in the Colombian Amazon is on the up and provides visitors with the great opportunity to learn more about the many of indigenous communities that call this area home. Close to the lively Leticia, the gateway to Colombia’s Amazon department, live 22 indigenous communities from the Ticuna, Yagua and Cocana tribes, all self-governing and fiercely protective of their traditions. They live by fishing and agriculture, and by selling crafts and artwork. Guides will introduce you to local families who welcome you into their homes, so that you can get a glimpse of the community experience.
Visit an Indian community in the Colombian Amazon during our Off the beaten track Colombia: San Augustin and the Amazon holiday.
9. Fly over Kaieteur Falls - Guyana
The Kaieteur Falls is the world’s largest single drop waterfall by the volume of water flowing over it. With a dazzling drop of 250m surrounded by an incredible sandstone amphitheatre, the land simply seems to collapse from under the gushing Potaro River. Walking to the falls would take days, hence why there’s a propeller plane service landing at a tiny airstrip near the waterfall. Once here, you can lie down on the edge of a natural rock platform overlooking Kaieteur. The lack of human impact, the roaring sound of the river and the gorgeous natural environment make it an incredible experience.
You can visit the Kaieteur Falls on our Guyana Wildlife: South America’s Wild Frontier or Coq of the Rock: Trailblazing the Guianas holidays.
10. Go sea kayaking on the Pacific Ocean in Nicaragua
Nicaragua may be the largest country in Central America, it’s also one of the least visited. Kayaking along the wild estuaries beyond León offers a chance to get back to nature in a secluded and beautiful area. You’ll find yourself almost alone in an environment filled with wildlife, such as sea turtles, crustaceans and many types of fish and bird. The mangroves provide some desirable shade along the way, and of course there’s always the opportunity to take a dip in the refreshing waters of the Pacific or to relax on one of the deserted beaches.
Browse all our holidays with the option to go sea kayaking on the Pacific Ocean here.
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Meet our team
Real Latin american experts
Carrie Gallagher - Travel Expert
A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours department.
Lina Fuller - Travel Expert
Lina's passion for the continent where she was born really took off when she moved to Córdoba (Argentina) to study, spending the holidays travelling between Argentina and her native Colombia.
Sophie Barber - Travel Expert
Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia and beyond to Antarctica.
Paul Winrow-Giffin - Travel Expert
After graduating in Computer Science, Paul spent seven months travelling from Colombia to Argentina and came home hooked on Latin America.
Chris Rendell-Dunn - Travel Expert
Anglo-Peruvian Chris grew up in Lima and spent much of his adult life in between London and Cusco as a tour leader, before settling permanently in our London-based Tailor-made and Group Tours sales team.
Juliet Ellwood - Travel Expert
After graduating with a degree in Anthropology and History and having been fascinated by Latin America since childhood by the book featuring photos of Nazca, Juliet first visited the region in 2003. Since then, Juliet has visited the majority of countries in Latin America but has particularly extensive experience with Peru, a country she loves for many reasons but not least, its incredible archaeological richness and delicious food!