Travel Inspiration

Under the Radar: South America

Under the Radar: South America

Sparking a long-time love affair for most travellers, a single dose of South America’s heady adventure is seldom enough. With cities set at vertiginous heights, crumbling pre-Colombian sites, and Andean peaks dusted with icing-sugar snow, the continent sets the stage for all manner of escapades. Scattered across 12 sovereign states (and a number of territories), many of South America’s monuments and natural treasures have reached superstar status, rewarded with places in guidebooks worldwide and inscribed into UNESCO’s hall of fame. If you find yourself falling for its wonders and want to venture beyond its classic cast of attractions, our travel experts have revealed some hidden gems in South America…

  1. Pantanal, Brazil
  2. Tayrona National Park, Colombia
  3. Manu National Park, Peru
  4. Aysén, Chile
  5. Guyana


Pantanal, Brazil

Hidden in plain sight, slap bang in the centre of South America, the Pantanal has somehow managed to remain one of Brazil’s best-kept secrets. This could be because the Amazon often hogs the limelight when it comes to wildlife destinations, or due to its not-so-appealing name (pantanal means ‘swamp’ in Portuguese). Nevertheless, as the largest tropical wetland on the planet, the Pantanal is an unmissable under-the-radar destination and one of the best places to spot jaguars in the wild. As well as these majestic big cats, expect to see hyacinth macaws (the world’s largest parrots), capybaras (the world’s largest rodents) and jabiru storks (the continent’s tallest flying bird).



Tayrona National Park, Colombia

Within reach of the world’s highest coastal mountain range and a sacred site for the indigenous Kogi people, Colombia’s Tayrona National Park boasts nature and culture in equal measure. Travellers come for its abundant wildlife and stay for the rugged beaches and coastal lagoons. Float down Don Diego river, as howler monkeys clamber through the treetops above, or take the more adventurous route by tubing and rafting along the waterways. As the ancestral home of the Kogi people – the last surviving civilisation from the world of the Inca and Aztec – the park falls under their stewardship, and within the Puelito ruins, you’ll find evidence of an even older civilisation (the Tayrona).



Manu National Park, Peru

Spanning Andean highlands, cloud forest and lowland jungle, it’s no wonder that Manu National Park in Peru is among the most biodiverse destinations on earth. Flora and fauna is in abundance, with 4,000 animal species and 20,000 types of plant calling the sanctuary home. Permits are required to enter the biosphere and it’s challenging to access without a tour guide, yet this ensures that much of sprawling reserve remains satisfying unspoilt and protects its status as one of our hidden gems in South America.



Aysén, Chile

An often overlooked corner of Northern Patagonia, situated within a sparsely populated slice of Southern Chile, Aysén is an Eden for adventure-lovers. The rugged wonderland encompasses ever-changing glaciers, dense rainforest, steep-sided fjords and semi-arid steppes. This delightful amalgam of landscapes allows for numerous forms of exploration, from leisurely self-drives to more challenging climbs. The Carretera Austral is the region’s sole highway, connecting surrounding sporadic towns. This is the best of Patagonia without the crowds.

Aysen, Chile



A whole country which sits tucked beneath most travellers’ radars, Guyana deserves a special mention on our list of hidden gems in South America. Visiting is a truly wild and unique nature experience, with stand-outs including spotting pumas in the jungle, staying with indigenous communities in the jungle, climbing high into the canopy of the Iwokrama Forest and sitting at the top of Kaieteur Falls, the world’s tallest single drop waterfall. To add to its already impressive accolades, Guyana is also one of the leaders of true community based eco-tourism, renowned for its many community-owned eco-lodges which take you wonderfully off-map.

Written by Luisa Watts