We know that not everyone is itching to see the well-known landmarks, but would rather seek out the less-than-typical spots. We’ve gathered a list of our favorite hidden gems throughout Central & South America. After you check out these places, we know you’ll have a tough time deciding which to visit first.
1. Jericoacoara – Brazil
This small coastal town in Brazil was once just a local-known spot, but due to it’s beautiful and serene environment, it’s quickly become discovered by tourist interested in escaping reality. This small fishing town isn’t exactly easy to get to, but trust us when we say it’s very much worth it. If you’re not really a beach bum, then this place might not be for you, as people travel there for the amazing beaches and non-stop water activities. We don’t need to say much more other than this town is a true escape from our busy lives.
2. Las Lajas Sanctuary – Colombia
When people visit locations known for old architecture, they always will add a cathedral or two to the list of ‘must-sees’. Well if you haven’t seen Las Lajas Cathedral in southern Colombia, then you haven’t seen South America’s most impressive cathedral. Located on the border of Ecuador and Colombia, not only is this cathedral massive, but it’s built on a canyon with a waterfall as a backdrop. It’s almost too hard to tell if the landscape or structure is more beautiful. Just drop the name into Google and even the images will take your breath away… imagine being there in person.
3. Salar de Uyuni – Bolivia
Less unknown, but still lesser-known to a typical traveler, is the world’s largest salt flat: Salar de Uyuni. This stunning salt lake makes you feel like you’ve been transported to another planet. The salt flat formed from prehistoric lakes and continues to fascinate travelers of all types with it’s ultra-white backdrop and potential for really epic photos. One warning though, it’s not the easiest to get to so choose your method of transportation carefully. There are many reputable tour operators, but make sure you check of any history of accidents due to unsafe vehicles and drivers.
4. San Juan del Sur – Nicaragua
Currently being featured on Survivor, this small town was another gorgeous beach town only known to locals. Since it’s now been featured a few times on a very popular television show, it’s less hidden but still very much a gem. Surfers and beachbums won’t be able to get enough of this coastal town, and those who enjoy a good time will love the (very few) beach bars and clubs. Once again, it’s not a place you go for mass amounts of activity, but more to take in stunning scenery and unwind from our insanely busy lives.
5. Perito Moreno Glacier – Argentina
When you think of Argentina, we bet you don’t think of large ice caps. Well, located in the southwest Santa Cruz province, you will find the Los Glaciares National Park which has just that. It’s not the most hidden you’ll find because tourists no doubt will add this to their list, but most don’t go to Argentina for the ice. This makes the list because it’s a natural wonder that is disappearing from so many places, but here’s a location where you’ll find one of only three Patagonian glaciers that is still growing.
6. Valle de la Luna – Chile
Located in the Atacama Desert in Chile, this spot isn’t exactly the prettiest place you’ll ever see, but it makes the list because it’s such a fascinating place. Valle de la Luna is arguably the driest desert in the world that contains natural beauty and a landscape that will remind you of the moon, which makes sense since the name literally translates to Valley of the Moon. Best time to explore the region is close to sunset, because you won’t forget the views. And no need to pack your rain jacket since this spot hasn’t seen rain in hundreds of years.
7. El Peñol – Colombia
Also referred to as La Piedra Del Peñol, this next hidden gem literally translates to “The Rock”… and no, we aren’t talking about Dwayne Johnson. Although a rock doesn’t sound very interesting, this structure was formed millions of years ago and declared a National Monument by the Colombian government in the 1940’s. It’s a gigantic sight to see and one that you’ll get a spectacular view from after you very ambitiously climb a lot of stairs. Easily accessible from Medellin and a spot that everyone dubs as an ‘extraordinary geological wonder.’
8. Chapada dos Guimarães National Park – Brazil
Not the easiest to get to since it’s so protected, but it’s a beautiful region with waterfalls and endless tropical plantation that you should really explore. This park is perfect for the traveler looking to burn some calories on a gorgeous hike where it’s thought that dinosaurs once roamed. Make sure to charge up your camera as you get your Jurassic Park on and snap lots of photos of vegetation, wildlife, caves and fossils. Best time to visit is beginning in May and before rainy season picks back up in September/October.