in , , , , , , ,

15 Off-the-Beaten-Path Places to Visit in South America

A backpaker on a trip.
A backpaker on a trip.

The “gringo trail” is a name for the most popular route backpackers and tourists typically follow during their travels in South America. Machu Picchu and Bolivia’s Salt Flat and the statue of Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro come to the mind.

While these are places worthwhile but there are plenty of other incredible places to visit in this beautiful and rich in history continent. Here are a few of my top off-the-beaten-path places that you should visit throughout South America.

1. Ischigualasto & Talampaya National Park, Argentina

Ischigualasto Provincial Park and Talampaya National Park are two adjacent parks, covering 275,300 acres within the region of deserts in Northwest Argentina.

Valle de La Luna Ischigualasto Park.
Valle de La Luna Ischigualasto Park.

One of the sites recognized for its ethereal rock formations its the Ischigualasto Park with white, crumbly, and a variety of colors of sediment and mineral streaks, which create the appearance of a lunar landscape, also called “Moon Valley”.

The Talampaya Park On the other hand is distinguished by its stunning red canyons, which are up to 150 meters high. Different shades of red color these canyon walls nearly in a similar fashion that resembles an art work.

Both sites feature massive geo-forms that look like submarines and mushrooms. The formations were created by the wind, water, and a lot of time.

UNESCO has granted the adjacent parks Heritage status due to the fact that they are places of fossils that date back to earlier in the Triassic time period i.e. dinosaurs roamed these areas.

2. Quebrada Las Gachas, Colombia

Quebrada Gachas is among the hidden spots that you do not want to reveal. It’s like an alien formation. Las Gachas is a red water body that is shallow, with many plunge pools can be slid into by belly, or simply relax in as the natural spa.

It’s a easier to access and a much cheaper alternative to the renowned Cano Cristales And, unlike its counterpart it’s style remains identical throughout the year.

It is about a 1 hour hike from the tiny village located in Guadalupe, which is located in the Santander Province of Colombia. It’s a simple hike and you’ll not see a soul along the trail. The majority of the people on the river are natives of the area.

One of them shouted as I got here: “Welcome to Paradise!”

3. Choquequirao, Peru

Choquequirao is referred to as the Choquequirao location is frequently compared with Machu Picchu; they have an identical design and structure, they were massive religious, political and economic centres within the Inca empire. Both cities were able to escape from the Spanish conquistadors.

But in contrast to Machu Picchu, Choquequirao receives less than 50 people per day. This is because of the remoteness of the place.

To reach Choquequirao it is necessary to walk two days across and down an abyss, and to the other side, and return for another two days. The trek can be hot during the day, and cold at night. The trek is easy and extremely steep, however, the breathtaking views of the canyon and the rivers can make up for it.

You’ll certainly feel a sense of achievement when you walk into the remains of this magnificent city. Choquequirao is believed to be larger than Machu Picchu however only 30% is excavated.

Cloud-covered and difficult reaching, Choquequirao is the real “Lost City” in the Inca’.

4. Gocta Falls, Peru

Although not as well-known as Iguazu Falls, or Angel Falls, Gocta Falls nevertheless is a spectacular waterfall located in northern Peru. With a height of 771 meters, it is among the highest waterfalls in the world.

Beautifull view of the Gocta Falls. A off-the-beaten-path place to go in South America.
Beautifull view of the Gocta Falls.

To get to the base of the falls, you’ll have to walk for 2 hours from the city of Cocachimba through a thick rainforest. You’ll hear the falls prior to even seeing it.

The high altitude in the Chachapoyas region is why clouds often over at the summit of the waterfalls, creating an almost mystical feeling. on the lowest level, the water dissolves into the air.

The most appealing aspect of Gocta Falls is despite its splendor, there aren’t any visitors. It is possible to snap a picture without fearing the photobombers.

5. Marble Caves, Chile

The Marble Caves in Chile is among the places that can bring about jealousy among your fellow travelers.

The eroding of thousands of years and glacier runoff created waves of smooth, wavy lines within the marble’s natural column. When the right time is present the sparkling water reflect light on the marbles, making them appear a dazzling cerulean blue.

A boat tour typically takes visitors to three different structures that include the Marble Caves The Marble Cathedral, and the Marble Chapels. The Marble Chapel is the most popular however, the whole area is commonly referred to as”the Marble Caves.

The nearest village to stay can be found in Puerto Rio Tranquilo – along the Carretera Austral in Chile.

6. Lamas Castle, Peru

In the northern part region of Peru, Tarapoto is way far from the ‘gringo path’. The city lies situated in the Amazonian cloud forest area and is bordered by waterfalls. But what stands out the most was the tiny town of Lamas just only 35 minutes away.

The town’s colorful and charming is known for its medieval-style European castle that is completely out of place within the Amazon forest. Instead of serving as an imitation for the kids the castle, which is five levels tall was constructed with care and care for detail.

There are carvings, sculptures and symbols in the rooms’ interiors and areas, which make you feel as if you’re in an era of Renaissance period.

Incredibly, The Castillo de Lamas was built by a wealthy Italian businessman who was looking to construct something with a significant sentimental value for his. Since its construction the castle is known as “The Castle that saved the Town’ because it generated jobs and brought in tourists.

7. Samaipata, Bolivia

Samaipata is a peaceful town located in Eastern Bolivia nestled in the mountain s, is surrounded by ruins, waterfalls , and national parks. In Quechua “Samaipata” signifies ‘Rest in the Highlands’. It’s a great place to escape the bustling city life that is La Paz or Santa Cruz.

Samaipata is famous for its ruins of El Fuerte, some 15km away from the town. The massive dark-granite monolith is an UNESCO World Heritage site due to its historical significance.

This site’s archeological remains have influences from three different cultures and was used as an official capital for the province in addition to a ceremonial zone as well as a fort. In the words of UNESCO El Fuerte de Samaipata represents “a unique testimony to pre -Hispanic traditions and beliefs, and has no parallel anywhere in the Americas”.

Another popular tourist attraction near Samaipata is Las Cuevas waterfalls – a collection of three waterfalls, frequented by tourists and locals enjoying themselves. The place was like a secluded sanctuary in the forest.

8. Pukara de Tilcara, Argentina

The tiny village in the mountain of Tilcara is among many towns within the breathtaking valley of world-class UNESCO-declared Quebrada de Humahuaca in the north of Argentina.

The most famous part of town is located on an incline that is just 20 minutes away from the town: the Pukara de Tilcara.

Pukara is a word that means “fort” in Quechua and it was believed that this site was an fortress. It was identified as an early Inca fortified settlement made up of stone houses constructed in the Omaguaca tribe sometime between 1st millennium A.D. and the 16th century.

Surrounded by a variety of cacti, the homes vary in both size and design, providing a sense standing. Apart from the houses there were churches and burial grounds.

The highest point of the hill is a massive Mesoamerican Truncated Pyramid – it is a monument in honor of the archaeologists who first worked at the site.

9. Purmamarca, Argentina

This town, Purmamarca located in Northern Argentina is famous for its Hill of Seven Colors (Cerro de los Siete Colores).

Legend has it that children from their village may have painted the once dull hill in the night, as their parents went to sleep. Every night, they painted a single color, and after seven nights, they had completed their work. Every year , the residents of Purmamarca celebrate a day in honour of their hill’s painting.

Scientifically, the diverse shades were created by different kinds of claystones, mudstones limestones, as well as other kinds of rocks at different times intervals. In time, they grew into an ochre color, as well as yellow brown, orange, green violet and lilac colors of the hill that we are seeing in the present day.

Each of Tilcara along with Purmamarca are both located in both the Jujuy area in Northern Argentina.

10. Cuevas de las Manos, Argentina

The mysterious Cuevas de las Manos (Caves of the Hands) in Argentina is the biggest and most impressive exhibition of hand prints anywhere in the world. The rock art display was believed to be created over 9000 years ago.


The majority of paintings are hand-printed. However, certain paintings also depict the guanacos, rheas or hunting scenes, and pictures believed to be aliens or evil spirits.

UNESCO recognized the cave along with the paintings it contains as a Heritage Site for its large size and the method of painting.

The best method to travel there is to get a chauffeur who is from Los Antiguos or Perito Moreno in Argentina. Don’t be surprised when you discover you’re not the only person in the area If you visit in the off-season!

11. Gramado, Brazil

When you mention Brazil and people will immediately instantly think of soccer beaches, favelas and Carnaval.

In the southern part of Brazil there is the town of a mountain resort with beautiful buildings that resemble fairytales and chalets in the alpine chocolatiers, and artisan stores.

There aren’t beaches or slums, and there aren’t traffic lights! The cars here stop to allow people to cross the street, which in is something you will not find in other Brazilian cities.

Welcome to Gramado a town that has wooden structures with storybook woodworking, as well as an hydrangea-lined main road. It’s a town that can make you believe you’re located in Europe rather than South America.

Foreigners may not have heard of Gramado however, it is a major tourist destination. Brazilians come to the town during Christmas time for the festivities, the picturesque lake, and the cool weather in the mountains.

There are several buses that go towards Gramado that depart at Porto Alegre every day.

12. Cocora Valley, Colombia

It is located in the Cocora Valley is a breathtaking trek within the Quindio department of Colombia. This valley is location of the national tree of Colombia as well as the highest trees in the world, the wax palm trees.

These palm trees can reach up to 60m in height and are decorated with a few leaves, resembling something straight from the pages of a Dr. Seuss book!

The simplest method of getting to Cocora Valley is to take the 30 -minute isy (local jeep) ride from Salento. At the entry point of the park, there are two choices: a 30 minute easy walk straight to the palm trees, or a five-hour loop through the valley and into the forest of clouds, passing through rivers, climbing and descending hills until you are in the palms.

The hike of five hours is tougher but it’s worth it for beautiful views of the mountains and fresh air.

13. Kaieteur Falls, Guyana

Kaieteur Falls is the national attraction of Guyana and also its most famous natural attraction. But, it’s off the beaten track since the majority of tourists don’t even get to Guyana.

If you decide to visit Guyana, Kaieteur Falls is an absolute must visit. It is the biggest single drop waterfall on earth. it will impress you with its stunning beauty and flow. There’s also almost always the possibility of a rainbow!

To reach Kaieteur National Park you’ll have take a 1 hour flight from Georgetown and it will only depart at the time that the 12-seater plane is fully occupied, meaning you might be stuck waiting for several days.

14. Los Arrayanes National Park, Argentina

Los Arrayanes is a national park in greater Nahuel Huapi National Park in Argentinian Patagonia, established specifically to preserve the arrayan tree forest.

Typically, Arrayan trees only develop on the banks of rivers, however over there, they constitute an entire forest. Los Arrayanes is the “only passable arrayanes forest in the world”.

The Arrayan tree has a silky smooth and cinnamon-colored bark with white spots that are irregular and, in combination with their distinctive twisted branches and slanted branches, create the ideal natural frame to take photos.

Add in the mysterious glowing orange light of the late afternoon sun and you’ll have the most beautiful, romantic forest. According to folklore from the area the forest was the inspiration for Walt Disney to create ‘Bambi’.

The nearest city close to Los Arrayanes National Park is Villa la Angostura. From the entry point of the park’s larger area, you can trek 12km or take the 45 -minute cruise up to Los Arrayanes.

15. Cerro Castillo Nature Reserve, Chile

Cerro Castillo National Reserve is an expansive mountainous wilderness area that is dotted with lagoons, glaciers and amazing basalt spires. The most impressive feature in the reserve is (almost) identical Cerro Castillo (Castle Hill).

The reserve is inside Chilean Patagonia and, like other places in Patagonia it is possible to do
an easy day hike or a multi-day hike. Whatever you choose you’ll be among the very few trekkers to visit the nature reserve.

The route to the “castle” involves climbing steep switchbacks, traversing mu ltiple rivers, and stumbling over loose rocks. But when you get to the glacier lake underneath the tooth turrets with their jagged snowy caps you’ll feel satisfaction that’s not shared by other visitors.

With only a few trekking infrastructures and almost no guides it’s hard not to be curious if this is the way Patagonia was prior to mass tourism.

Villa Cerro Castillo is the village in which you’ll be preparing for your hike.

I’ve spent a year backpacking South America and barely scratched the level of exploration. It is my hope that this guide will serve as a point of reference to help you steer clear of the path of the gringo and find the hidden treasures!

The best experiences occur in areas that were previously unimagined.

Spread the love

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *