If you’ve ever wanted to pack your bags and head to a new destination for weeks, or even months at a time, then you should add a “slow travel” excursion to your bucket list. Slow travel is one of the biggest travel trends right now, and in 2023 it will continue to grow. This style of exploration has huge benefits, allowing you to take your time and be fully immersed in the local lifestyles of a new place. But where should you go for a longer excursion?
These six destinations are the best places to slow travel in South America. These won’t be weekend trips or four-day vacations. You will want to spend a few weeks here, wandering at your own pace and making connections with the land and the locals.
1. Take your time in Peru’s Sacred Valley
One of the most famous attractions in all of South America is located just a short way away from a charming, peaceful region known as the Sacred Valley. If Macchu Picchu is the brightest star in Peru, then the Sacred Valley is the spectacular solar system that surrounds it.
Snow-capped Andean Mountains climb towards the clouds, while Incan ruins and archaeological sites decorate this historic land. Travelers who want a rich cultural exchange, vivid scenery, delicious food, and an exciting adventure around every corner should consider spending some time in the Sacred Valley.
Spend your mornings exploring the local village markets. At the Pisac Market, travelers can shop for handicrafts, artisanal products, and fresh local produce. Shopping locally is one of the best ways to learn about a new destination. You’ll get to see what the residents are wearing and eating depending on the season, buy some amazing goods from small business owners, and even mingle with some new friends if you’re feeling social. Pisac is an excellent place to grab some Peruvian street food and pick up a hand-crafted llama wool sweater.
When you’re ready to step back in time, take a few days to tour the many Incan archaeological sites throughout the Sacred Valley. There are so many unique places to learn about beyond Machu Picchu. For example, travelers can tour a fortress that has stood for centuries, known as Sacsayhuaman. Every year, locals still celebrate the Inti Raymi here, a tradition passed down over hundreds of years honoring the venerated god of the Incan Empire.
Moray is another special site to study in person. Here, history and science cross over in the tiered gardens that Incans once used to test different gardening techniques and agricultural practices.
Of course, if you want to ascend to Machu Picchu, we will make it happen! There’s no better place to connect with ancient history than this elusive mountain citadel. Since you’ll have some extra time, add a hike to Huayna Picchu to your itinerary. This is the sister mountain to Macchu Picchu, which most travelers do not get to experience due to their fast-paced adventures. As a slow traveler, you’ll get the chance to explore both mountains for the ultimate excursion.
2. Wander the vast landscapes of Patagonia
Nature lovers will find no better place for slow travel in South America than Patagonia. The breathtaking scenery of this natural reserve is something that cannot be captured on camera. Seeing it with your own eyes is the only way to really understand how miraculous Patagonia is.
A few weeks wandering the wild valleys and mountains will leave you feeling inspired. Visiting the charming small towns along the way will warm your heart, as the locals greet you with warm hospitality and introduce you to their local customs. For the most memorable expedition ever, cross from Argentina to Chile and see all the best places that Patagonia has to offer.
Start in the northern city of San Carlos de Bariloche on the Argentinian side of the region. Here, your adventure begins with a few days of wandering through Nahuel Huapi National Park. There are dozens of activities to do here, including scuba diving, horseback riding, joining a local pub crawl, tasting the finest Argentine chocolate, and more. Bariloche truly has something for everyone! It is a worthy first stop on your tour of Patagonia.
As you make your way south, head into El Chaltén, a paradise for hikers and trekking enthusiasts. The mountains hear leave a lasting impression, as the Fitz Roy and Cerro Torre cast gargantuan shadows across the earth with their impressive summits and peaks. You can find many wonderful multi-day treks here, allowing you to connect with nature on a deep level for several days before setting off to the next Patagonian destination.
Entering the park that’s home to Perito Moreno is an invigorating feeling. One of the world’s most extraordinary sites can be found here, and you are about to explore it for days on end! Tucked in the Los Glaciares National Park near the town of El Calafate, travelers will be introduced to the world’s largest glacier accessible by land. Get a better look at this crackling ice field with a kayak tour, sailing through serene aqua waters while looking up at the impressive crystalline structure. Then, after witnessing the glory of this glacier, you can unwind at your luxury hotel and receive a spa treatment to restore your tired muscles. Slow travel in South America is all about balance – a little adventure and a little indulgence make for the ideal escape.
3. Relax on the Colombian coast
If you want to spend some time soaking up the sun, and enjoying a stress-free year of travel, then book a trip to the Colombian coast. There are dozens of magical places to explore here, which you can do over the course of a month for the most relaxing South American journey ever.
Starting in Cartagena is a must. This energetic coastal city is magnetic, full of history and excitement in every neighborhood. Located on the Caribbean shores, this is an excellent slow travel destination for anyone who wants to unwind while sipping a cocktail, whether you’re on a luxury vacation or working remotely while traveling the world. During your stay, be sure to visit some of the city’s landmarks, like Old Town Cartagena, also known as the Walled City.
Here, a magnificent and indestructible fortress still stands, a testament to the hard work and resilience this city showed against swashbucklers and invaders throughout history. You can also find some of the world’s best restaurants in the Walled City. One can’t-miss dining spot is Alma Restaurant and Bar, which celebrates Colombian cuisine in style.
Cartagena is also an excellent gateway to some of Colombia’s most beautiful beaches. Most noteworthy are the Rosario Islands just off the coast. You can visit these islands during a day trip for an easy adventure close to the city. Here, white sand beaches stretch around every shore, with sparkling blue waters and the serenity of a remote paradise. Besides relaxing under the sun, you can cut through the sea with a kayak, head underwater with a scuba excursion, and even see the Enchanted Lagoon light up with phosphorescent plankton.
After spending some time in the capital city, head over to the beaches of Santa Marta. Some of Colombia’s most famous beaches are awaiting here for the traveler who wants nothing but sun, surf, and adventure. Spend some time on Playa Blanca when you want to do nothing but nap on the beach. It’s quite secluded and frequented mainly by locals, so you’ll be able to unwind and enjoy the peaceful scenery.
And, when you’re ready to turn your beach adventure up a notch, you can find several beach parties throughout the Santa Marta region. Especially during the summer months, spots like El Rodadero are amazing for a dance party in the sand after dark.
From Santa Marta, be sure to visit Tayrona National Park. This natural reserve is a unique destination for outdoor adventures, as the jungle and the oceanfront converge in one beautiful location. There are plenty of hikes throughout the park, as well as wildlife opportunities and snorkeling excursions that will make this trip an unforgettable one.
4. Experience city life in Medellin
Traveling to the City of Eternal Spring for a luxury, slow travel adventure is perfect for anyone who wants vibrant nightlife, incredible culinary options, and rich art and culture around every corner. This is a destination for the traveler who can’t get enough of city life.
Start your metropolitan fantasy by getting to know the neighborhoods with a walking tour of the city. We’ll show you around the most famous parks and plazas throughout the city, so you can explore confidently on your own time. Medellin is known for its impressive art museums, so you’ll be able to explore a few during your stay.
One can’t-miss museum is the Museo de Antioquia, which boasts a large collection of works from Colombian legend Fernando Botero. Study the evolution of Botero’s work here for an afternoon of art history. You’ll also be able to see works from artists around the world that are on constant rotation here.
If you want an even more charming activity to fill your days, visit the Antonio Uribe Botanical Gardens. The natural oasis in the center of Medellin is celebrated for its colorful and wondrous displays of thousands of flowers. The gardens are a popular place to hold live events, but it is most well known for the annual Festival of Flowers! In a grand exhibition of natural beauty combined with art and culture in a huge celebratory ceremony. Hundreds of gardeners build their own floats for the epic parade. Plus, live music and sporting events are held throughout the festival week, so you’ll find plenty of things to do if you visit in August when the event is held.
But if not, no worries. Medellin still has plenty of excitement to offer. Nightlife in the city offers some of the best parties and live music in the nation, so you’ll have ample opportunities to make lasting memories with locals.
The Poblado neighborhood is considered the epicenter of Medellin nightlife, so it is a must on any itinerary. There are plenty of bars and clubs frequented by locals as well as travelers, making it an eclectic social scene with diverse options. For the most authentic Colombian parties, explore Barrio Colombia. And if you want a breath of fresh air with some good drinks and a slower pace, visit the Las Palmas district.
When you’re ready to escape the city center for a moment, travel to Guatapé. Travelers fall in love with this little town for the colorful houses that decorate every street here. Spend a few days wandering the charming cobblestone pathways, finding the best local eats, and conquering the biggest attraction in Guatapé: El Peńol. This massive rock is one of the largest in all of South America and offers some of the best views imaginable. You will have to climb the 740-step ascent, but once you reach the top you’ll be rewarded with an unforgettable sight.
5. Escape to the Andes Mountains in Peru
If you want the best of both worlds: city life and serene nature, then it’s time to ascend into Peru’s Andean Mountains. Here, there is a charming little city called Puno that offers adventure and cultural immersion. Plus, it serves as an excellent gateway to the world’s highest navigable lake: Lake Titicaca. This body of water has many unique features to learn about, so it’s best to take your time here and learn about as much as possible.
One of the most well-known features of Lake Titicaca is the floating islands that serve as a home for the Uros people. This indigenous community has lived on the water for centuries, building islands out of totora reeds and maintaining a life in the middle of the lake.
Visiting these islands is one of the best cultural experiences one could have. Not only will you see one of the most interesting and impressive displays of craftsmanship, but you’ll also get a chance to meet some amazing people and learn about the Uros culture first hand.
Return to Puno when you’re ready for a bit of city life. This is the birthplace of the Inca empire, and it is full of beautiful architecture, fascinating history, and most importantly – friendly faces ready to welcome you to their town.
Puno is famous for its many festivals. Folklore and tradition are honored in high esteem here, so there are plenty of chances for you to get in on the fun and enjoy an authentic Peruvian celebration. But the biggest festival by far is the Virgen del Candelabra Festival and Carnival.
Every year, locals, visiting Peruvians, and world travelers come together to appreciate and honor the celebration. Spectacular dances and theatrical performances are staged by the shores of Lake Titicaca, with tens of thousands of dancers and musicians coming together for a grand showcase. If you want to experience this festival for yourself, be sure to plan your trip for February.
6. Slow down with a slow travel trip to the Amazon Rainforest
Slow travel in South America can be full of activities and exploration, but it can also be an opportunity to slow down and relax for a little while. There is no better place to do just that than the Amazon Rainforest.
If you want the ultimate luxury vacation, climb onto a river cruise through the Amazon for a week of total relaxation. Cruising the Amazon is one of the best ways to see this buzzing natural oasis. You’ll get to study unique wildlife, visit extremely remote indigenous communities, and relish the luxury accommodations and services aboard your ship.
The Amazon is also home to some of the most amazing jungle lodges if you want to spend some time surrounded by the trees and getting up close with wildlife. Inkaterra Hacienda Concepcion is an excellent option for anyone looking to stay close to town but feels like they’re in a remote part of the jungle. Just a 25-minute boat ride from Puerto Maldonado, this lodge offers travelers a five-star spa, cabana-style suites, and several activity options to guide you through your jungle expedition.
Or, for an escape into the true wilderness, stay in Refugio Amazonas. Located in the Tambopata National Reserve, this lodge is a secluded, private escape that offers luxury immersion into the Amazon. This is an excellent place for families looking to enjoy slow travel in South America.
Whether you want to wander through big cities for weeks on end or traverse into the wild and explore at leisure, there are plenty of unique adventures awaiting you in South America. Curate the perfect slow travel itinerary with one of our experts, and we’ll help you plan a trip that allows you to take your time during a luxury vacation.