THE STUNNING SPLENDORS OF SOUTH AMERICA
No one warns you about South America. That this is a continent so spectacular and awe- inspiring, so filled with wonder, that it isn’t a place you only visit once—South America is a destination worthy of a lifetime’s obsession.
While the bright lights of the big cities might steal the limelight, South America’s natural wonders are the true spectacle. From the breathtaking beauty of Perito Moreno Glacier to the mind-boggling depth of Colca Canyon, the dazzling star-filled sky of the Atacama Desert, South America is a continent literally bursting at the seams with majestic sights. Be forewarned, you’ll want to return for more.
“The rugged landscape is beautiful with the desert, sand, and volcanos in the background. I recommend spending an afternoon walking around the town of San Pedro; there is a small museum, an old church, and a lot of shops. One of my favorite activities was horseback riding.”
THE ATACAMA DESERT
As the sun sets in the Atacama Desert, the beauty of the universe slowly begins to reveal itself. The gentle swish of the Milky Way, the red glow of Mars, infinite stars twinkling with an unimaginable intensity. Texas isn’t the only place where the stars shine bright; this high plateau in northern Chile is a stargazer’s paradise. Telescopes are not needed to appreciate the view, but the Atacama is home to multiple world-class observatories, several of which are open to the public.
By day, the scorched rust-colored landscape resembles the surface of the moon. So much so, NASA uses the rocky terrain to test Mars rovers. At the eastern edge of this, the world’s driest desert, stands the majestic Licancabur volcano, towering over the surrounding landscape at an extraordinary 19,409 feet high. The eerily beautiful Atacama holds other surprises as well—steaming fields of ancient geysers, fantastic sandstone ridges, and massive sand dunes perfect for sandboarding are all here for exploration and adventure. That is, if you haven’t stayed up all night staring at the stars.
PERITO MORENO GLACIER
The sound is unmistakable, loud and sharp like a gunshot. What happens next is one of the most exhilarating sights imaginable, as several tons of turquoise-colored ice crash into the freezing waters of Lake Argentino. This is Perito Moreno, a spectacular 19-mile-long glacier that is the crowning glory of Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park. This majestic glacier, one of the few in the world that is still growing, is set in stunning Patagonian scenery. For an unforgettable experience and breathtaking views, don a pair of crampons for a trek across the ice.
PERU’S COLCA CANYON
To stand on the edge of Colca Canyon, a two-hour drive from Arequipa, Peru, is to be transfixed by an overwhelming awe. Early morning is the best time to visit, when the golden light creeps across the mountains and into the valleys, slowly bringing the full depth of the chasm into view. Giant Andean condors soar overhead as your mind struggles to comprehend Colca’s magnitude—11,000 feet deep, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. A feeling of reverence is an appropriate reaction, only compounded by the glorious snow-capped mountains that complete the magnificent view.
“The big highlight of Colca Canyon is seeing the condors. The best time to go is early in the morning to Condor Cross. Having a guide is well worth it, since they can take you to some of the best hiking spots and viewpoints along the way. Personally, I found the guide’s insights on the local culture to be quite interesting as well as entertaining.”