Top 10 Guided South American Adventures

Machu Picchu on your bucket list? South America has incredible adventures but planning can be overwhelming for the occasional traveler. Check out treks led by boutique and family-friendly companies that are breaking the tour group stereotype.

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Photo By: Adventures By Disney

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Knock Out Bucket List Spots in Peru

If you want to see Machu Picchu without a spending a week hiking and camping in backcountry, Adventures by Disney has a nine-day Peru trip designed to give the whole family a cultural sampling of the country. The guided-trip includes a train ride to and private tour of Machu Picchu, but it also features other ruins in Peru, such as the Inca’s Sacred Valley. There’s adventure, too, with a rafting trip down the Urubamba River and a chance to get up close and personal with llamas, alpacas and vicuna. 

Explore Brazil’s Pantanal Wetlands

If you have a family with adventurers and non-adventurers, planning a vacation everyone will enjoy can be tough. Thomson Family Adventures offers a 10-day trip in Brazil that hits the right balance of the great outdoors and city life and culture. The trip starts by exploring the Pantanal wetlands which have more than 1,000 kinds of birds and 300 different mammals. There’s even a nighttime walk to try and spot a jaguar. The trip ends in Rio with a chance to experience Brazilian culture in cooking and Samba classes. 

Venture Through Patagonia

Intrepid Travel’s guided Patagonia Wilderness trip explores both the Argentinian and Chilean side of Patagonia through stunning national parks. View the spectacular glacial landscape of Los Glaciares National Park and visit Perito Moreno Glacier, one of the few advancing glaciers on the planet. Then journey to Chile and camp through Torres del Paine National Park to see the famed granite towers and spot rare and cute half-alpaca-half-deer-like guanacos.

Mountain Bike Peru

Why hike Peru when you can rip through endless singletrack in the Andes Mountains? Trek Travel offers a guided unique Peru experience that’s all about mountain biking. This is an extreme trip for the avid biker as you’ll descend more than 20,000 feet in six days. There are several high elevation passes throughout the trek and if you’re prone to altitude sickness it’s best to pad the beginning of the trip with a couple of days in Cusco to adjust before peddling.

Caravan Through Bolivia

Bolivia might not be on your South American bucket list. But it should be. The country is famous for its extreme, otherworldly landscapes. Luxury tour group Absolute Travel has a Bolivia to Chile 9-day trip that includes exploring the famous Salar de Uyuni salt flats via luxury-vintage camper. Enjoy uninterrupted views of the surreal and beautiful sunset over the flats.

See Falkland Islands' Residents

There is a place where penguins outnumber people by the hundred-thousands. If you’re an avid birder and this adorable species is on your list, Intrepid Travel’s Falkland Islands cruise is the trip of your life. Downside? It’s 33 days so it’s a bit of a commitment but remember: secluded beaches with thousands of penguins. The cruise sets sail from South America’s southernmost tip of Ushuaia, Argentina and journeys to some of the most remote islands on the planet.

Backpack to Machu Picchu

If hiking to Machu Picchu is something you’ve always dreamed of doing but you’re nervous about navigating the Inca Trail, The Mountain Lodges of Peru have guided trips that take hikers on a historic section of the trail through 15 different ecosystems. The 7-day lodge-to-lodge trek has creature comforts and pampers guests with gourmet meals, massages and even outdoor jacuzzis.

Explore Ecuador and the Amazon

Many travelers fly into Ecuador only to immediately board a tender for the Galapagos Islands. While the islands are a bucket list destination and have species found nowhere else on the planet, there’s much to explore on the mainland, too. Adventures By Disney designed a 12-day trip for families that combines adventures in the Galapagos and the Ecuadorian Amazon. Activities include guided rainforest hikes where there’s always a chance to spot sloths and a paddle down the Napo River to see the pink river dolphin.

Bike Chile’s Eco Reserves

Why drive Chile’s lake and volcano district when you can bike it? Trek Travel specializes in biking trips for avid cyclists. Rides are led by experienced cyclers and give travelers a chance to get a different perspective while traveling. The week trek through Chile's eco reserves includes peddling under active volcanoes and past glacier lakes. You’ll also get the chance to bike part of Chile’s most scenic road, the Seven Lake Route.

Cruise the Galapagos Islands

Experiencing the Galapagos Islands is a once in a lifetime trip, especially for avid birders. Charter company Ecoventura offers small yacht cruises around the islands with field guides to show travelers an array of colorful wildlife from yellow and turquoise iguanas to blue and even red-footed boobies. Trips range from six to 14 days with custom itineraries offering activities on shore such as biking, kayaking, snorkeling and even diving. But you won’t be roughing it like Darwin. The luxury fleet has private chefs to prepare gourmet meals and Ecuadorian specialties. 

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