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:
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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Real Latin America Experts
Sophie Barber - Travel Consultant
Sophie lived in Chile before joining us and has travelled extensively across Latin America, from Mexico to the furthest tip of Patagonia.
Carrie Gallagher - Travel Consultant
A former JLA tour leader, Carrie brings a wealth of on-the-ground experience to our London-based Escorted Groups team.
Mary Anne Nelson - Travel Consultant
Born in the Atacama Desert in northern Chile, Mary’s insider knowledge and dry sense of humour make her a highly valued member of the Tailor-made team.
Ben Line - Travel Consultant
Ben fell in love with Latin America on a six month backpacking trip from Colombia to Mexico in 1995. Since then he has explored most of South America, including living in Peru for a year. He is now Manager of the Tailor-made Department.
Hannah Donaldson - Travel Consultant
Having spent part of her childhood in Colombia and worked in Brazil and Costa Rica, Hannah's ties to Latin America run deep. Hannah is an invaluable part of our Group Tours team.
Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Consultant
Hannah had an early introduction to Latin America when her family moved to Ecuador and she returned to study in Buenos Aires for a year before backpacking across the continent.