TRIPS

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SOUTH AMERICA

Top Hidden Gem Destinations in South America

Explore the rugged wilds of the Galápagos Islands, hike and horse-ride in Ecuador’s Cotopaxi National Park, or trek through the jungles of Colombia. Book on one of these TRIPS by Culture Trip and adventure awaits.
Louis Rabinowitz
23 Dec 2021
Whether you’re seeking relaxation, adventure, or a combination of both, South America brims with great destinations waiting to be explored. To fire your imagination, we’ve combined the best hidden gems in TRIPS by Culture Trip.
1 . Ecuador’s Cotopaxi National Park, for hiking and horse riding
Dominated by the glacier-capped, 5,897m (19,347ft) Cotopaxi volcano, Cotopaxi National Park is only a two-hour drive south of Quito, but it could hardly feel more remote. Whether you’re up for the challenge of hiking to the summit or just following a gentler walking trail such as the one around the Limpiopungo Lagoon, it makes an unforgettable addition to any Ecuador trip. You can visit and go horse riding as part of this eight-day adventure, which also includes a cooking class and walking tour in Quito, a bike ride along the Baños Waterfall Route, and an opportunity to go whitewater rafting in the Amazon rainforest.
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Next available from20 Aug 2022
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2 . The Galápagos Islands, for extraordinary wildlife and volcanic landscapes
The Galápagos Islands are renowned for their incredible biodiversity – which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution – and wild, volcanic landscapes, but among the many islands in the archipelago, there are some lesser-known spots that are definitely worth a visit. On boulder-strewn North Seymour, for instance, you’ll encounter an abundance of sea lions and magnificent frigatebirds, while South Plaza offers the chance to spot hybrid iguanas while hiking through cactus forests. Alternatively, you can snorkel with penguins off the coast of Bartolome. On this five-day trip, you’ll visit an uninhabited island in addition to experiencing the highlights of Santa Cruz and San Cristóbal.
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Next available from27 Aug 2022
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3 . Colombia’s Zona Cafetera, for a taste of coffee and hiking

Colombia boasts some of the most majestic landscapes in South America, and you don’t have to venture that far out of town to be immersed in spectacular natural surroundings. The Zona Cafetera, the country’s Unesco-listed coffee-growing region, is particularly idyllic – think rolling hills covered in coffee plantations, banana trees and bamboo forests, interspersed with colorful villages. If hiking is your thing, head to the Cocora Valley, where you’ll come across the gigantic, endemic Quindío wax palms. It’s just one of many fantastic destinations featured on this eight-day adventure, which starts in Bogotá and ends in Medellín, traversing the Andes mountains en route.

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Next available from15 Oct 2022
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4 . Colombia’s Tayrona National Park, for jungle treks and river tubing

While the Andes are arguably Colombia’s main draw for travelers, it would be a mistake to overlook the country’s dazzling northern coastline. There aren’t many places in the world where you can trek through the jungle and relax on palm-fringed beaches against the backdrop of snow-capped mountains, but the Tayrona National Park is one of them. You’ll enjoy a guided hike there as part of this eight-day adventure, as well as river tubing on the Río Don Diego, exploring Cartagena’s beautiful Walled City, and snorkeling around the tropical haven of the Rosario Islands. A visit to San Basilio de Palenque – the first African town in the Americas to be freed from slavery – offers a fascinating insight into the region’s complex history.

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Next available from22 Oct 2022
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This is an updated version of an article originally by Euan Marshall.