This 2023, travel is being redefined. Travelers looking to go beyond the traditional “see, shop, and dine” experiences to find places that truly transform the way that they travel and educate them about the world, its many cultures, ecosystems, and diverse destinations. This transformative, experiential-focused travel is highly in demand with explorers who are now more than ever looking to go beyond the destinations that are famed in guidebooks for decades and uncover rare travel experiences in South America that give them a unique perspective to bring home to family and friends.
As experts in South America, we have an infinite amount of recommendations to share with visitors looking to diversify their South American vacations, but a few destinations stand out to us as places where those who are looking to go beyond the traditional can experience a lesser-seen side of South America in 2023. Kuoda wants to take you there and help you discover the best off-the-beaten-path location for your travel experiences in South America. Here’s where we’d like to take you in 2023 – get in contact with us today to start planning your getaway!
1. Cocora Valley, Colombia
When to go: December – January
Head into the Cocora Valley if you want to be immersed in a park that looks prehistoric. Mountains covered in bright green moss and foliage loom around you, with giant palm trees dotting the valley. Most visitors choose to hike their way through this region, admiring all of the incredible fauna and flora along the way. Outside of the quaint town of Salento is where the spectacular trail begins, in the midst of the cloud forest, jungle, farmland and, to top it all off, the tallest palm trees in the world. The national park status means that the area surrounding the valley is protected, which has helped to keep the landscape relatively untouched.
The area is also popular with birdwatchers, as there are over hundreds of species of birds that have been spotted in the park. Birdwatching enthusiasts can get a chance to see a variety of hummingbirds, Yellow-eared parrots, and the Andean Condor. In addition, you might get a chance to see sloths, Andean Beer, and even the occasional jaguar. For activities, the Cocora Valley is a great place for hiking, horseback riding, and mountain biking. In addition, thrill-seekers can take part in rafting, and scenic flights can be arranged to get a bird’s eye view of the valley.
2. Trujillo, Peru
When to go: December – March
The colonial city of Trujillo appears as though it hasn’t changed in hundreds of years. Its colonial-style architecture, alongside its remarkable pre-Incan archaeological sites nearby, is the perfect juxtaposition of prehispanic Peru meeting the Spanish era influences. The city and the top attractions that lie in its vicinity have recently gained recognition, and the location on the coast makes it the perfect getaway for those looking to do it all on their luxury tour to Peru. Trujillo also makes a perfect base for travelers who want to visit old pre-Columbian Ruins, especially the extraordinary ruins of Chan Chan.
Each January, the colonial city of Trujillo located in Northwestern Peru hosts its famous Marinera Festival, a courtship dance native to the coasts of Peru often featuring skilled horsemanship, which brings hundreds of dancers and thousands of spectators from across Peru and internationally. Taking place at the peak of the Peruvian summer, the Marinera Dance Festival is a 10-day festival that features parades, demonstrations, and national competitions for marinera dancers. This is one of Peru’s most lively events that can’t be missed on your luxury tour to Peru!
3. Chimborazo, Ecuador
When to go: December – February or June – August
Glacier-clad Chimborazo, Ecuador’s highest volcano, anchors the southern end of the country’s “Avenue of Volcanoes”. One of the best highlights of the Chimborazo province is an opportunity to visit the Chimborazo National Park/Wildlife Reserve. For the Indigenous Ecuadorians, the Chimborazo volcano is a sacred mountain of great importance due to its size. It is also home to a vast number of wildlife including more than 7,000 vicuñas, hummingbirds, condors, pumas, deer, wolves, marsupial rats, rabbits, and camelids. The reserve has eight types of ecosystems which make the Chimborazo Wildlife Production Reserve an incredible place to visit for wildlife enthusiasts.
The Chimborazo volcano itself is a sight to behold. While it is not the world’s tallest mountain, it is, due to its position on the Earth, the furthest point on the Earth’s surface to its center. There are superb mountaineering options here, and climbing the mountain can be an amazing experience for both experienced mountain climbers and those looking to get out of their comfort zone. For those that prefer not to climb at this altitude, there are lots of hiking opportunities in this beautiful area of the country and nearby hotels offer wellness options for the ultimate relaxing getaway to the highlands. For climbing, you may be best placed to go with a local professional guide who knows the routes up the mountain well.
4. Ciudad Perdida, Colombia
When to go: December – January, July – September
La Ciudad Perdida (Spanish for ‘Lost City’) is an ancient archaeological site perched within the Sierra Nevada mountain region of northern Colombia, built by the Tayrona people dating back to approximately 800 AD – older than Machu Picchu. Long forgotten, nature covered it for centuries, but with the help of archaeologists and the blessing of local indigenous people who today protect their ancestral site, around 10% of it has been uncovered and made open for those who make the pilgrimage here on the Lost City trek.
5. Sucre, Bolivia
When to go: March – May, August – October
Sucre, the first capital of Bolivia, was founded by the Spanish in the first half of the 16th century. The food, beautiful architecture, museums, cultural and outdoor adventure activities make Sucre a must-see for your Bolivia vacation. This beautiful and relaxed city is brimming with adventure possibilities, ranging from trips to barely-visited rural villages, to trekking through ancient, otherworldly landscapes. Sucre has some of the most accessible nature activities, all within striking distance of the city, making it a great spot for those who like an adventure.
Set in a valley surrounded by mountains with an intricate ensemble of whitewashed buildings with stunning patios, Sucre has preserved its colonial architecture since it was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991. With a selection of excellent accommodations, a mild and comfortable climate, a wealth of colonial-style churches and museums, and plenty to see and do in the surrounding area, though Sucre is off the typical tourist trail, visitors find themselves spending much longer in Sucre than they planned on – and for good reason!
6. Paracas, Peru
When to go: December to March
About 160 miles south of Lima is the UNESCO-listed National Reserve of Paracas, Peru. The park covers an astonishing 826,450 acres, and one of its headline attractions is a boat trip to the Ballestas Islands, whose rich pickings of wildlife earn it comparisons to Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands. A luxury Paracas tour & trip to the Ballestas Islands will surely get the adrenaline running in this exclusive area of Peru.
The protected waters of Paracas are one of the most biologically productive marine regions in the world: there are more than 215 different bird species in the reserve as well as whales, dolphins, sea lions, and the endearing Humboldt penguin. Wildlife isn’t the only draw, either. Heritage hunters will find more than 100 indigenous archaeological sites, while adventure seekers will be satiated with activities including surfing, ATV, and motorbike rides, as well as kayaking. The pristine beaches of Paracas, which also fall under the remit of the Peruvian National Park Service, make great resting spots in between activities and tours.
7. Puno, Peru
When to go: November – April
According to Peruvian legend, Puno is the sacred birthplace of the Inca Empire. Today, Puno lives on as a legendary city, known for its kind hospitality and folkloric origins. Don’t miss the opportunity to immerse yourself in the joy of local festivities during your luxury trip to Peru. Sail across Lake Titicaca, learn about the indigenous community of the Uros people, and celebrate authentic Peruvian culture. During your visit to the Uros floating islands on Lake Titicaca, you will be taught about the daily life of the indigenous inhabitants, and take home some beautiful handicrafts. With even more time to spend, you can even spend an evening with a local family for a first-hand experience. A weekend in Puno is the perfect addition to any luxury Peru vacation, especially if you are looking to make lasting memories with the locals.
On your list of things to do in Puno, you should unquestionably not miss the Festival of the Virgen de la Candelaria. In early February, between 2 and 12, this two-week holiday is filled with a unique religious procession, accompanied by folk dances in which participants drink beer on every step, colorful and spooky costumes, and an incredible amount of alcohol. It is believed that during the great rebellion of Túpac Amaru in 1781, the Virgin protected the Spanish inhabitants of Puno from the Incas besiegers.
8. La Guajira, Colombia
When to go: December to April
The Colombian department of La Guajira is a unique and beautiful place: a huge coastal Caribbean desert covered in giant sand dunes, salt flats, and stunning beaches, and home to Colombia’s largest Indigenous population, the Wayuu. The Wayuu people are one of the most unique and numerous of Colombia’s indigenous peoples. Never conquered by the Spanish, they possess a unique and fascinating culture and offer visitors the opportunity to sample authentic food and learn local dances and music.
Guajira encompasses everything from the jungles and crystalline rivers of Palomino to the arid deserts of Punta Gallinas; from the paradise beaches of Cabo de La Vela to the forgotten cloud forests of Macuira National Natural Park – one of Colombia’s 40+ national parks and is also one of the least well-known and most underrated. Like an oasis in the otherwise bone-dry deserts of Guajira, Macuira is home to epic sand dunes, waterfalls, and even an elfin cloud forest in the heart of the desert. It can be tricky to get there, but it’s worth it if you want to explore a truly wild and beautiful corner of the country.
9. Marble Caves, Patagonia, Chile
When to go: December – March
Chile’s Marble Caves are one of the most peculiar and extraordinary natural wonders in South America. The magnificent Marble Caves have formed over the last 6000+ years as the water melted from the nearby glaciers filling up General Carrera Lake and washing up against these solid rocks slowly carving out intricate caverns, columns, and tunnel systems. Over thousands of years, this mineral-rich glacier water also changed the color and shape of the Marble Cave formations to beautiful hues of blues, greens, blacks, and yellows. Though a spectacular sight, the Marble Caves can be a bit of a challenge to reach, with the best option being by boat from the closest town to the Marble Caves, Puerto Rio Tranquilo in southern Chile. Despite its remote location, the destination is an incredible sight for those looking for a deeper experience on their Patagonia adventures.
10. Huacachina, Peru
When to go: May to November
You may know about Peru’s spectacular coastline, but for first-timers and veteran Peru travelers alike, the lesser-visited desert region of the country is a spectacular sight to experience on your luxury trip to Peru. Take a trip to Huacachina and test your surfing skills on the Peruvian desert sand dunes! By far one of the most unexpected and exciting thrills of South America has to be sandboarding, ATVing, and experiencing the majesty of Huacachina.
The desert is accessible within a short drive from Lima, so it’s a great day trip idea if you are looking for a unique sporting adventure. You can enjoy a dune buggy ride across the slopes, race down mountains of sand with your boards, and visit the town, an oasis that provides refuge and replenishment after a long day of adventure with plenty of shaded restaurants and shops to explore.