Eight of the greats: South American marvels

When talked about in a business and political sense, South America is seen as unstable at best. However, it has some spectacular natural beauty spots that have long been standing the test of time and rival the best this planet has to offer.

When talked about in a business and political sense, South America is seen as unstable at best. However, it has some spectacular natural beauty spots that have long been standing the test of time and rival the best this planet has to offer.

Here we take a look at eight of those that are truly worth checking out:

Inspirational Iguazú
Straddling the Argentinian-Brazilian border, the Iguazú Falls certainly fall (sorry!) into that category of 'have to be seen to be believed'. Or at least they have to be seen to witness their breathtaking beauty.

Superlatives and camera shots really fail to capture what's on show here.

While they can be visited in one day, a two-day stop is recommended, where you can take in both the Argentinian and Brazilian sides to this wonder.

Perfect Patagonia
Another shared delight, the rugged and wild southernmost part of the Americas is split between Argentina and Chile. From snow-capped mountains interspersed with monstrous glaciers that spring crystal-clear rivers to rich wildlife running into expanses of nothingness, Patagonia truly is a majestic land.

It’s most extreme regions may not be the most easily reached, but they will take your breath away.

'Inca-nting' Machu Picchu
This might be a man-made site, and a stunning one at that, but the Peruvian-Andes setting impresses just as much as, if not more so than, the ancient ruins.

The option to trek over three to four days from the town of Cusco to the old Incan settlement is one very much worth the effort.
Machu Picchu might be seen by some more 'alternative' tourists as a well-worn trek, but it is so for very good reasons.

Be bowled over by the Salt Flats
Nestled high in the Andes in south-western Bolivia, this long-since dried out sea is a quite spectacular vista.

At times it feels like there is no end in sight to the vast expanse of blinding white spread out before you; at 10,582 square kilometres, Salar de Uyuni as it is known, is the largest salt flat on the planet.

Between the salt and the altitude (3,656 metres-above-sea-level) it’s a pretty harsh environment for most flora and fauna. However, it does serve as a breeding ground for pretty pink flamingos.

A dawn dip in natural hot springs near the Chilean border offers a relaxing way to end a visit here.
Jeep tours over a couple of nights can take visitors from Bolivia to Chile or vice versa.

Rip-roaring Rio
OK, there isn't too much 'natural' about the actual city of Rio de Janeiro, but we include it here because of the landscape that surrounds it. It has, arguably, a setting unmatched by any other big city in the world.

On one side are the golden beaches of the Copacabana and Ipanema running into the wild Atlantic Ocean, juxtaposed with the peaks of the Sugarloaf Mountain and Corcovado, where atop of the latter sits the famed statue of Christ the Redeemer.

Buenos Aires may be a beautiful city architecturally wise, but it is nature’s touch that gives Rio the edge for us.

Lose yourself in nature trekking to La Ciudad Perdida
Described by some as Colombia's scaled-down version of Machu Picchu, La Ciudad Perdida (The Lost City) in many way feels more authentic.

Perched hidden away by tropical jungle in the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, a three-to-four day hike is required to reach it — and unlike Machu Picchu, there's no bus or train at the end to take you back to modern civilization. No, you've to trek back on the at times unclear and muddy route you took to arrive.

You could say it's not the destination but the journey getting there — and back — that matters most. All the same, the 'city' itself is nice to check out.

Great Galápagos
The naturalist and geologist Charles Darwin managed to find life-changing inspiration here; take a visit yourself and you should see why.
Natural delights, both over and above water, abound in this Ecuadorian archipelago. It’s the exotic wildlife that is in charge in these parts; humans must (and do) play second fiddle. In many ways, visiting the islands feels like a step back to prehistoric times — at a substantial cost albeit. The price of understanding evolution, you could say.

Amazing Amazon
This vast, largely untamed jungle and great river system is perhaps Mother Nature at its best. For an idea of its size, no less than nine countries share in its natural spoils (namely Bolivia, Brazil, Colombia, Ecuador, French Guiana, Guyana, Peru, Suriname and  Venezuela).

As biologically and botanically diverse as it is grand, the Amazon is special. Special in its splendour but also special in its vital role as the great ‘Lungs of the Earth’. The Amazon commands respect.

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