Spotlight on the canyons and gorges of Latin America
Latin America’s exquisite nature knows no boundaries and the canyons and gorges of this region account for some of the most dramatic landscapes on earth. With this in mind we’ve selected five of our favourites, which can easily be visited on a trip to Central and South America:
Copper Canyon, Mexico
The system of canyons in the Sierra Tarahumara, in north-west Mexico, is larger and deeper than the Grand Canyon in the USA. It offers views of some of the continent’s most spectacular mountain scenery. Ravines and gorges, and a variety of landscapes from snow-topped peaks to sub-tropical citrus groves can be found here. Taking a trip on the Copper Canyon Railway is an unforgettable way to see it, with stunning views and plenty of opportunities to get off and explore the region. Stop at the highest point on the line (over 2300m) in Creel, which is also the commercial centre of the Tarahumara Indian community and a good base for excursions into one of the many side-canyons or to the impressive 806 feet high Basaeachi Waterfalls.
Itaimbezinho Canyon, Brazil
The Aparados da Serra National Park in the south of Brazil was set up to protect the Itaimbezinho Canyon. The canyon’s vertical walls reach a spectacular 700m, while the top is a softly rolling plateau. It’s one of the largest canyons in the Americas, and is covered in lush green vegetation while a boulder-strewn river runs through the bottom. From the Pedra Afiada Ecolodge, hikes can be undertaken along the river bed and plenty of wildlife can be found within the parks boundaries, including parrots, raccoons and pumas.
Visit Itaimbezinho Canyon on our Self-drive Southern Brazil and Buenos Aires holiday.
Colca Canyon, Peru
People visiting Peru often miss out on Colca Canyon and travel straight to Machu Picchu. However, the world’s third deepest canyon is another highlight that shouldn’t be missed. Follow the 100km passage and be amazed by an impressive range of vistas all along its length. Terraced green fields, barren steppes and traditional local villages can all be seen en-route. It’s highly recommended to stop at a few of these villages, where you will find women still wearing intricately embroidered traditional headwear and dresses. Another attraction in this area is the chance to see the icon of the Andes, the condor, fly over the deepest point of the canyon – a powerful and memorable experience.
Pacuare River, Costa Rica
Going white-water rafting on one of Costa Rica’s most picturesque river gorges is a once-in-a-lifetime adventure. The river navigates through deep canyons and runs alongside the Talamanca Mountain Range. The rainforest surrounding the river is home to an abundance of wildlife, including jaguars, howler monkeys and a large variety of birds. Both beginners as well as experienced rafters can test their skills on the river, as there are rapids available from class II to class V, as well as multiple waterfalls. Rafting can be done year-round, although the river may increase in intensity between October and December, which are the wetest months.
Go river rafting on the Pacuare River on our Luxury Adventures in Costa Rica holiday.
Humahuaca Gorge, Argentina
The Humahuaca Gorge is a long canyon of intensely coloured rock dotted with outsized cacti in the northwest of Argentina. From the lovely village of Purmamarca it’s easy enough to delve right into the gorge with its candy-striped rock faces and desert terrain. The village lies at the foot of the famous Hill of Seven Colours. The multi-hued rock layers represent different periods of river and sea sediment which accumulated over 600 million years. The striking colours are at their most beautiful in the morning or evening sunlight. The village itself is worth visiting too, featuring adobe houses and a bustling market on the village plaza.
Visit Humahuaca Gorge on our Off the beaten track Argentina: Remote Puna adventure holiday or on our Pato Andino: Panorama of the Andes escorted group tour.
Alternatively, browse all of our holidays to Argentina to see what else this rich country has to offer.
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Our exciting range of articles on Latin America explore everything from iconic destinations and lesser-known cultural gems to delicious traditional recipes. You’ll also find exclusive travel tips, first-hand client reviews and the chance to get your personal questions answered by our travel experts.View Extraordinary Inspiration
Maggie Wilson - Travel Expert
Maggie visited Latin America on her first backpacking trip when she was 19. Since then, she has taken every opportunity to travel, and has managed to explore a lot of the region in subsequent trips.
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!
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.
Sally Dodge - Travel Expert
A former Journey Latin America tour leader, Sally spent 7 years working, travelling and living throughout Latin America before returning to the UK to help people arrange their own adventures to this wonderful destination.
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.
Hannah Waterhouse - Travel Expert
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.