In past times, the term “adventure” may have brought images of Indiana Jones-style travel to mind, exploring and discovering relatively unchartered territory full of picturesque views and notable pursuits. But with a rising number of tourists flocking to such places to take part in the selfie-revolution, it’s become harder to find destinations that maintain the thrill and provide the true adventure that “adventure travel” was meant to provide.
The reality can be disheartening, but if you’re willing to go slightly “off the grid,” there are still plenty of under-the-radar experiences waiting to be found. Whether your ultimate vacation includes navigating cliff-side dirt roads by bike or hiking through lush, untouched terrain, discovering the origin of your go-to comfort food or maneuvering waters unexplored by most tourists, Central and South America offer a variety of “Insta-worthy” adventures without the “Insta-fame.”
Salta, known as the birthplace of Argentinian empanadas, is often overlooked by the fame of Buenos Aires, Patagonia and Argentina’s wine region. Although not exactly “off the grid,” Salta is lesser-known among most tourists and offers a wide array of indigenous experiences. However, the true Argentina pilgrimage for any food connoisseur is discovering the flavors of empanadas salteñas which are baked in a clay oven and served with a spicy tomato and pepper dipping sauce. Choose from carne, chicken, or cheese and onion (or try one of each).
Simply google Belize, and you’ll find gorgeous beach views awaiting your beach-bum body. But if lying in the sun for hours on end isn’t your ideal retreat, consider exploring Belize’s waters beyond the beach instead. The Mountain Pine Ridge Reserve offers a semi-secluded retreat in the Maya Mountains where you can kayak the Barton Creek Caves, shower under Big Rock Falls and soak in the Rio On Pools.
Death Road (also known as Yungas Road) was once considered the most dangerous road in the world, and it’s not recommended for the faint of heart. However, adrenaline-seeking bikers wishing to navigate winding, cliff-side dirt roads sans guardrails set out to conquer Death Road year after year. You won’t be joined by many, but if you can look past (literally) the many thousand feet drops beside you, you’ll be rewarded with scenic vistas and an accomplished quest only few can write home about. But if you proceed, do so with extreme caution and book with a tour guide.
Chapada Diamantina National Park is nicknamed the “Taj Mahal of adventure tourism.” It’s too large to see its entirety in one trip, but that also means there’s an exhilarating activity for any type of thrill-seeker in your group. The Enchanted Pool and Blue Pool Cave offer stunning, postcard-worthy reflections and isolated swims, and the Cachoeira do Sossêgo waterfall offers a rewarding refresh at the end of a challenging five-mile hike. Keep in mind, it’s highly recommended to hire a guide.
Chiloé, a 40-island archipelago off the Patagonian coast, is home to lush landscapes, emerald waters, 16 UNESCO-protected churches, and colorful palafitos (homes on stilts). But due to rough coastal waters, visiting the islands has been relatively impossible for travelers. However, locals are now preparing for an increase in visitors after the government announced its 2020 opening of the Chacao Bridge, connecting Isla Grande de Chiloé with the mainland. Chiloé is the perfect under-the-radar destination as it’s nearly untouched by tourists (for now).
Who said relaxation can’t be adventurous? Churin, a small mountain town nestled in a valley of the central Peruvian Andes, is home to a multitude of hot springs. Located near the southern tip of the Huayhuash Circuit, Churin’s the perfect finale for hikers who’ve endured the high altitude to catch glimpse of the spectacular turquoise lakes. The catch? Most travelers don’t know about Churin, leaving the post-hike reprieve for only the well-informed to enjoy. Don’t expect 5-star lodging, but do expect an escape from the crowds and a much-needed, post-hike soak.
That’s right; simply take a trip. One Google search of Uruguay, and you’ll discover how little the country is covered in the travel sphere, despite being stable and safe in comparison to some of its neighbors. The country is progressive and culturally sophisticated but doesn’t host a “mega attraction,” meaning it’s easily overlooked, free of touristy crowds, and full of authentic South American experiences.
Craving an adventure that actually feels like one? Contact your Ensemble travel agent to start planning.