18 South and Central American Adventures for Travelers in 2018

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2017 is almost over. It is time to begin planning your 2018 outdoor adventures. I asked my fellow travel bloggers to share their recommendations for a 2018 outdoor adventure. I had a tremendous response and had to break up the responses by region. Keep a look out of my other 2018 region adventure lists. Here are 18 travel bloggers recommendations for South and Central American Outdoor Adventures in 2018.

Glacier Trekking in Patagonia, Chile

Maya of Travel with the Smile

Patagonia in southern Chile is a beautiful mountainous landscape. Popular treks, glacier peaked mountains and countless turquoise lakes draw an increasing number of visitors every year.

Opportunities for glacier trekking are almost endless and range from an easy walks to mountaineering level. We’ve experienced glacier trekking in the remote part of Chilean Patagonia, on the Exploradores Glacier. Just getting to the starting point, a little town Puerto Rio Tranquilo, is quite a journey. You can either cross the border of nearby Argentina or take the much more exciting scenic road Carretera Austral (read our comprehensive road trip guide).

Almost all travel agencies on the main road offer a 1-day tour to the Exploradores Glacier. You will hike through the forest, then put on the crampons and after you learn how to walk up and down the icy waves, you will go for a walk on the glacier. On a clear day, you will have an incredible opportunity to see the tallest mountain of Patagonia sitting at 4,058 meters, Mount San Valentin.

Exploring Deserto de Tatacoa, Colombia

Dan of Layer Culture

Whoever thought Colombia had deserts within it’s borders? If you like a great outdoor adventure be sure to check out Deserto de Tatacoa in Colombia. It looks like something straight out of a western movie! Not only will you encounter some of the most arid land you’ve ever seen, but you’ll be surprised to know that this, so called desert, is actually a dry tropical forrest. You can find everything from rare birds, living plants, cactuses and even fossils.

At Deserto de Tatacoa you’ll also find other outdoor activities such as Horse riding, bike riding and even swimming pools. That’s right, there are several swimming pools to be found right in the middle of the blazing hot desert. A dip in the pool gives you a perfect end to your day after a long hike around the various trails.

Fresh Water Snorkeling in Rio de Prata, Brazil

Leanne of The Globetrotter GP

Rio de Prata is simply a stunning underwater experience not to be missed if you are visiting Brazil. Situated close to Bonito – the ecotourism capitol of Brazil – there are loads of things to do in the area like visit the crystal clear bright blue cave lake at Grotto de Azur, swim in aqua coloured waterfalls in the rainforest or go searching for colourful macaws at Buraco das Araras limestone sink hole – trust me, you won’t have to search very hard…!
Rio de Prata itself is a totally unique experience. One of the best freshwater snorkelling locations in the WORLD! It’s no surprise with an incredible visibility of 50 metres! After a fantastic buffet lunch and a gentle stroll through the rainforest in your provided wetsuit and water boots, you will be given a training session in the river for all snorkelling newbies. You then spend about 90 minutes floating with the current through the beautiful underwater garden keeping your eyes peeled for anacondas and caiman! Whilst you may or may not come face to face with these monsters (which I’m told is safe,) you will most definitely see plenty of huge brightly coloured fish and plenty of underwater springs bubbling away. It was without a doubt, one of my best highlights from my 9 week trip to South America! Read more about Bonito and Rio de Prata here.

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Standup Paddle Boarding on Lake Atitlan, Guatemala

Nicole of Wee Gypsy Girl

Lake Atitlan is one of Guatemala’s prime travel spots for a good reason. This blissful lake is framed by towering volcanoes and quaint Mayan villages, with plenty of traditional culture to discover. For outdoor adventurers, there’s plenty to enjoy, too. Hiking, paragliding, kayaking, you name it! My favourite way to enjoy Lake Atitlan, though? Stand up paddleboarding!

Stand-up paddleboarding on Lake Atitlan is the perfect way to appreciate every inch of this beautiful lake. It’s faster than swimming, slower than taking a speedboat and much more fun than kayaking. Plus, if you’ve never tried SUP before, the gentle waters of Lake Atitlan are the perfect place to try it. When I did my SUP tour, it was my first time trying stand-up paddleboarding but I was soon zooming about the lake steadily on my own two feet. Of course, I had a few falls, but when the water is so pretty and crystal clear, you can hardly complain!

Volcano boarding on Cerro Negro, Nicaragua

Allison of Eternal Arrival

Volcano boarding in Nicaragua is as unique and adrenaline-seeking as it gets! Climb Cerro Negro, an active volcano near Leon which has a height of about 2,100 feet. It takes about an hour to climb, but the climb is grueling as volcanic gravel crunches and slides between your toes, making every step a real workout. Meanwhile, you have a piece of plywood strapped to your back and a backpack holding all the safety equipment you’ll need to make it down the mountain as unscathed as possible. You’ll suit up in a thick jumpsuit, eye mask, and gloves before sitting on a plywood board, praying for your life and sliding down at speeds of around 30 miles per hour. I felt not once or twice, but three times and left bruised, battered, but alive. It was a truly insane experience, and honestly one I won’t be doing again – but I’m glad I gave it a try.

Meeting King Penguins on the Falkland Islands

Nadine of Le Long Weekend

When I planned to visit a colony of king penguins in the Falkland Islands I had no idea just how much it would move me! The main colony of king penguins (which also happens to be the world’s most accessible colony) is located just over two hours drive from the archipelago’s capital, Stanley. The drive out can be treacherous and should only be undertaken by those who know the way well (there are no roads), and with the right kind of vehicle!

The journey is worth it though, and arriving at Volunteer Point is a reward in itself. The King Penguin colony is located on the grassy banks of one of the most beautiful beaches I’ve ever seen. Nevertheless, I spent most of my time with my eyes drawn in the other direction – where the incessant noise of the king penguins collective chatter was coming from. They are amazing birds to see in real life. They way they interact with each other and huddle together in camaraderie is mesmerizing. But what made it such a special experience was seeing the king penguin chicks with their fluffy brown bodies in stark contrast to the penguins they would one day become!

Hiking Acatenango Volcano in Guatemala

Claire’s Footsteps

Hiking up Acatenango Volcano is an unforgettable experience. It’s four hours to the top, but don’t take that lightly; the hike is more of an uphill battle, with all participants constantly fighting for breath and feeling their heart pounding out their chests at each rest stop.

But as soon as you’re three hours in, you’ll stop at a camping spot, where you’ll realise that the struggle was worth it; you’ll camp your tent and be able to look out onto a magnificent vista of the Guatemalan countryside beneath you, and a volcano opposite that – if you’re lucky – might even be erupting.

Make sure you don’t miss the morning hike to the top of Acatenango to catch the most spectacular sunrise. It’s another hour to the summit, but the view is absolutely unmatchable; watching the surrounding countryside get lighter as the sun turns the sky pink, orange and red before making its final ascent makes the incredibly arduous climb completely worth it.

Cycling the Death Road in Bolivia

Owen of My Turn to Travel

The Camino de la Muerte in Bolivia, or the Death Road, is a 64km long road that connects La Paz to Coroico. In the 1980s, there was an average of 200-300 deaths per year on the road due to the narrow 3m roads, hairpin turns, drunk drivers and forces of nature. In 1995, the Inter-American Development Bank named it as the “World’s Most Dangerous Road”. Since 2008, a new road opened that brought most vehicles over and the Death Road became a popular tourist attraction. Daredevils seeking the thrill of a scenic downhill mountain biking adventure can sign up for a tour with the numerous tour agencies in La Paz. You get to ride along snow-capped mountain peaks and the dense Amazon rainforests. If you complete the ride, you’d be rewarded with a survivor T-shirt!

Crossing to San Blas Island, Panama

Nathalie of Marquestra

Driving our Jeep Wrangler from Argentina to Colombia, en route to Central America, crossing the Darien Gap wasn’t an option. It’s a 50 km area with no roads and an area where no one should venture. We shipped our vehicle across to Panama in a maritime container, and we on the other hand, had 2 options. Fly a no frills flight or set sail for the San Blas Islands en route to Panama.

Imagining turquoise seas, deserted islands and curving palm trees, we chose a 5-day budget cruise aboard a 40 ft catamaran, all aboard with 4 other passengers and 2 crew. The Darien Gulf’s waters are known to be temperamental but nothing could have prepared us for the 30 hours of stomach-churning ride. The rough seas made the vessel feel like a piece of cardboard riding 20-foot waves.

This was the uncomfortable but necessary hurdle to make it to paradise. After a few days of relaxation, sunbathing, swimming and, of course, drinking rum, we quickly forgot about the tumultuous portion of our cruise. It was all behind us now, we could just enjoy the privilege of this remote and pristine area of the world had to offer, welcome to the San Blas Islands.

Horse riding in the hills of Pucon, Chile

Jeanette of Travelling Honey Bird

Hidden away in the hills of Pucon, Chile, lies a horse riding haven. A safe place where all riders, from beginners to experts, can find themselves in a world of horse happiness. When most people start considering Pucon, as an adventure town, they generally think about climbing an active volcano, canoeing on the lake or getting in some sneaky ski time. The Antilco Camp is a short drive from the town centre. Offering half day tours to four/five day expeditions across the Andes and into Argentina. Each ride takes you into a rarely seen side of the beautiful countryside. Surrounded by volcanoes, snow and some very friendly birds.

Let me tell you that if you go to Pucon and don’t consider a horse riding adventure than you really are missing out on a unique and wonderful way to experience the Andes.

Trekking in Parque Tayrona, Colombia

Meg of Fox in the Forest

Do you dream of a place where dense, verdant jungle meets the sea? Then you’ve got to visit Tayrona National Park. Located on the northern coast of Colombia, Tayrona has stunning views, swimming beaches, and lots of wildlife along its adventurous trails. It’s well-worth your time to spend a night in the park sleeping in hammocks. Accommodations are basic, but an overnight stay allows you to truly enjoy the beauty and scenery of the park.

Most visitors opt to hike in to Cabo San Juan along the main trail and spend the night. This is certainly a worth-while experience, but don’t forget to explore the other smaller trails like the 9 Piedres and Pueblito Ruins. Start hiking early for your best chance at spotting wildlife such as howler monkeys, caiman, and dart frogs. Afterwards, go for a relaxing soak in the deep blue waters at one of the swimming beaches.

Be sure to take note of park rules, as many of the beaches are very unsafe for swimming due to strong currents. As always when visiting the wilderness, leave the place cleaner than you found it. Happy hiking!

Coastal Hiking on Easter Island

Ketki of Dotted Globe

Easter Island is one of the most underrated adventure destinations. This tiny remote island in the Pacific is known for its stone statues called the Moai and the unique Polynesian culture that existed there. There are also many outdoor things to do on Easter Island including scuba diving, spelunking and hiking. One of my favorite hiking trails on Easter Island is the coastal hike along North Coast. The hike starts at Anakena Beach and ends at Tahai complex; it needs 7-8 hrs to complete. The hike follows rocky coastline of Easter Island and offers incredible views along the way. Many archaeological sites are scattered along the trail and the route passes through fallen Moai and their crumbling platforms, ancient Rapa Nui boat houses and other ruins. Very few visitors to Easter Island hike this 18 km long trail due to the lack of infrastructure on this part of the island and the strenuous nature of the hike. Those who do are able to experience the utter remoteness, rugged beauty and untouched nature of Easter Island.

Overlanding From Salta, Argentina to the Atacama Desert in North Chile

Lina & David of Divergent Travelers

Almost all adventure travelers are looking for that unique outdoor adventure that is different from what the normal traveler experience. This requires you to immerses yourself into the unknown and head off the beaten path. Overlanding from Salta, Argentina to the Atacama Desertthrough some of the wildest terrain in South America is a unique adventure. Known as the Travesia this adventure mixes the Ancient trade routes between Argentina/Chile with mind-blowing landscapes, remote hiking and a bit of luxury. On this adventure you will not see other travelers out exploring and that is what’s so magical about the Travesia.

Hike unmarked paths that only your local guide knows about. Climb up to some of the most remote mountains where you can sit enjoying the epic view with the wind in your hair. This is an adventure you will be talking about for a lifetime. The Travesia is a locally guided, small-group luxury expedition un-like any other offered in South America. You will spend your days hiking, wildlife viewing, immersing in nature and enjoying the road less traveled.

Sandboarding in Huacachina, Peru

Danielle of Like Riding a Bicycle 

I’d heard of snowboarding, of course, and had seen many a surfer in my day. But when I arrived in Huacachina, Peru, there was something altogether different awaiting me in the vast sand dunes: sandboarding. Sandboarding is precisely what it sounds like. It’s like snowboarding, just on sand dunes. In Huacachina you can either rent a board yourself, trekking up and down the sand dunes in the beating hot heat, or you can go on a tour. The tour takes you in an ATV of sorts up several sand dunes, the vehicle being an adventure of its own! They start you out with a small hill, and you can either try it standing up or just lying down on your board, for those of us who are less athletically inclined! They then bring you to bigger and steeper dunes. The last one was way too much for me, but that was okay, you could choose to descend into the dune to meet the others at the bottom in the dune buggy if you wanted, though that felt like a not-so-safe roller coaster on its own! It was an awesome time; when I was there they do tours in the morning or at sunset, and I highly recommend doing the sunset tour!

Hiking the Valle de Cocora in Salento, Colombia

Bert of Survive Travel

Salento is a quaint little town in the department of Quindio in Colombia. There are a few good things to do there but the best (IMO), is hiking in the Valle de Cocora.

Hiking in the Valle de Cocora is quite famous in the area but is still quiet, even on a public holiday. There are two different day hikes you can do, the short or the long. The short version is a 60 to 90 minute round trip to the famous fields with coconut trees. It is great for families or for those that don’t want to walk too much.

The longer day hike is about 6 hours walking. It takes you through some great scenery. Forest walks, over bridges, along rivers, and past some spectacular viewpoints. There is also lots of wildlife to spot along the way, and if you get sick of walking you can always hire a horse.

You could also do a multi-day hike all the way into the mountains.

Assuming you only do a day hike, be sure to head back to Salento afterward to try out some of their specialties. I recommend the trucha and patacon.

Hike Mount Roraima in Venezuela

Alya of Stingy Nomads

If you want to venture off the beaten track in South America and do an awesome hike Mount Roraima in Venezuela is the place to go. Located in the South of the country close to the border with Brazil which makes the easiest way of getting to Roraima is taking a bus from Manaus to the border and then a taxi to a little town Santa Elena de Uairen. Roraima is a guided trek nobody is allowed to do it independently. There are two options to do the hike with a company, it’ll cost you about 100 – 130USD per person for 6 – 7-day hike or to find a local guide in the town, price will be less than a half. The hike takes 6-8 days depending on how much time you have on the top of Roraima, the longer the better, there is a lot to see. The surface of Roraima is a real Lost World with its own eco system, unique plants and living beings. You can hike for days on the top of the mountain. The main points of interest on Roraima; natural jacuzzi, La Ventana (The Window), the Triple Point (meeting of three borders; Venezuela, Brazil and Guyana), the Crystal Valley, Maverick (the highest peak of Roraima), Gladys lake. It’s though that Mt.Roraima inspired Conan Doyle to write his famous novel The Lost World.

Fishing for piranha in the Amazon jungle in Ecuador

Micki of The Barefoot Nomad

The Amazon jungle in the interior of Ecuador is one of the best places in the world to fish for live piranha. While most people think visiting the Amazon means a trip to the interior of Brazil, the mighty Amazon creates a swath through nine countries, and it is relatively easily accessible in Ecuador. However, even here the Amazon is remote with a lack of facilities, so this is an adventure that you’ll want to take with one of the excellent eco-lodges and tours in the area.

If you’re lucky, your guide will kit you out with traditional bamboo fishing poles, baited with raw meat, and set out in a dugout canoe. It is definitely unnerving to see the raw meat bait disappear from the hooks within a matter of seconds! While many piranha are less than six inches long, but some you reel in may be larger than your head.

Hiking to the Indigenous of Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, Colombia

Jennifer of Made all the Difference

A happy chance of fate let to the opportunity to hike to an Ingenious village in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta mountains in northern Colombia.  I started my day out in my hostel in the small coastal town of Palomino.  I meet my guide and we drove to the base of the mountains.  After stopping to check in and ask permission to hike from the lower villages.  From there we headed up into the mountains. The hike took two hours into the jungles of Colombia.  We passed many a leaf cutter ants carrying their leaves. The trail twisted and turned until the top of one of the mountains.  We arrived at a small village with a school.  I got to eat fresh star fruit and papaya that grows in the village.  My guide explained the nomadic lifestyle of these indigenous.  It was worth the trip up into the mountains to meet these locals and experience their lifestyle.

What is going to be your list for 2018 South and Central American Outdoor Adventures?

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