South America boasts, among its many wonders, the largest river, the longest mountain range, the highest and driest desert, the largest tropical wetland and the largest rainforest in the world.
It encompasses an astonishing range of latitudes, stretching from Caribbean beaches in the tropical north to the glacial fiords of Tierra del Fuego, the most southerly landmass in the world outside of Antarctica.
Along its length run the Andes, whose stunning peaks, volcanoes, plains, valleys and rivers are home to innumerable microclimates and ecosystems, making South America not only the most bio-diverse continent in the world, but also a breathtakingly beautiful destination for every season.
DEC | JAN | FEB
Our winter is summer for most of South America, making it the idea time to visit Patagonia, an area that encompasses roughly the southernmost third of Argentina and Chile. It is a land of dramatic scenery and impressive wildlife. The coasts are rich in marine life, like the colossal elephant seals and audacious orcas of the Valdes Peninsula. Travelling south across Patagonia, the endless desert steppe finally yields to jagged vertiginous peaks, glaciers, turquoise lakes and forests. Here, at the southern end of the continent, stay at the Tierra Patagonia Lodge from where you can take guided hiking, biking and horse-riding excursions into
the breathtakingly beautify Torres del Paine National Park, and in the evening relax and soak up the wonderful vistas from the lodge spa.
The winter months bring heavy rain to the tropical Andean highlands; rain that feeds into the infinite tributaries of the gigantic Amazon basin, heralding the start of the highwater season. This is the best time to explore the Amazon by boat. The high water makes it possible to navigate right up to the flooded jungle for the best views of spectacular birds, monkeys, turtles and caimans. Take a three- or four-night cruise from Iquitos in northern Peru on one of the luxurious Delfin river boats where expert naturalist guides will accompany you on a range of excursions into the pristine jungle wilderness to experience the incredible flora and fauna, and with luck spot the iconic pink river dolphins.
MAR | APR | MAY
April and May are particularly good months for visiting the most emblematic of all South American destinations, Machu Picchu. Get there in style travelling through the lush scenery of the Sacred Valley on the Hiram Bingham train, or if you like a challenge, you can hike the famous Inca Trail to Machu Picchu. However you get there, stay at the Sanctuary Lodge, the only hotel located next to the citadel, for access to the awe-inspiring Lost City of the Incas.
At an altitude of 3,800 meters in the Andes, Lake Titicaca straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia. It is the birthplace of the Inca civilisation and is still home to one of the oldest communities in South America. Stay at the Titilaka Lodge hidden away on the shores of the lake on its own private peninsula with impressive views across the water. From the lodge take a trip out to the improbable Uros floating islands, built on totora reeds, where the indigenous Uros-Titino people still maintain many of their traditions today.
JUN | JUL | AUG
The Pantanal is the world's largest tropical wetland, and although less well-known than the Amazon, it provides better opportunities to spot some of the larger animals. This is especially true from July when the falling water level forces animals to congregate around the shrinking oxbow lakes and rivers, providing the perfect opportunity to spot the elusive jaguar and many other species like capybara, maned wolf and giant anteaters.
Located in the jungle on the border of Brazil and Argentina, the Iguazu Falls are a natural phenomenon that has to be seen and heard to be believed. 60,000 cubic feet of water per second thunders over the vast horseshoe-shaped falls, sending mist, spray and noise into the surrounding jungle. Stay at one of Awasi Iguazu's secluded luxury bungalows, surrounded by the tranquillity of the forest, from where you can explore Iguazu National Park with your own expert guide who will take you to the most beautiful parts of the park for unforgettable views of this natural wonder.
SEP | OCT | NOV
Easter Island, or Rapa Nui, is one of the most remote inhabited places on earth, situated more than 2000 miles west of the South American continent. It is one of the most intriguing destinations, which has fascinated travelers, archaeologists and anthropologists for centuries. This volcanic island is rich in culture, archaeological wonders and mystery. Scattered across the island are hundreds of Moai - giant heads carved from stone. Some stand on raised stone platforms with their backs turned to the ocean, some are on hillsides looking out to sea, while others lie partially complete in quarries or lie on the ground having fallen victim to ancient conflicts. All tell a story that is not fully understood. But there is more to Easter Island than just the enigmatic Moai; hiking and biking trails will lead you to wild and secluded beaches and volcanic craters with panoramic views of the vast ocean.
There is no better base for exploring the island than the Explora Rapa Nui lodge. It is built from local volcanic rock that blends into the slope where it sits in a privileged and secluded location, surrounded by trees, prairies and with far-reaching views over the Pacific. At Explora, there are over 30 different guided hikes, bike rides, snorkelling and scuba diving explorations to help immerse yourself in Easter Island.
San Pedro de Atacama
San Pedro is a vibrant adobe-built town in the heart of the Atacama Desert, the highest and driest desert in the world. It is thought that some parts of the region have not seen rain in 20,000 years. The area around San Pedro is a wonderland of almost otherworldly scenic beauty. There are immense salt lakes populated by flamingos, bizarre wind-sculpted rock towers, mud pools, fumaroles, deep red rock gorges cut into the desert, giant dunes, ancient petroglyphs and oasis, all set against a backdrop of giant ochre volcanoes (several are taller than Kilimanjaro), under the clearest sky in the world. The extraordinary climate here has helped to preserve the Chinchorro mummies, the oldest mummies in the world - predating the oldest Egyptian mummies by millennia. In more recent times the clear dry air has made the Atacama home to some of the most advanced telescopes in the world.
There are several great lodges to stay at in San Pedro. A fantastic option is Tierra Atacama. It has the high standard of accommodation and service that you would expect for a lodge of this type, but what sets it apart is the location - all rooms (and the pool) look towards the stunning skyline of volcanoes that turn all hues of oranges, reds and purples at sunset before the night brings you the Milky Way like you've never seen it before.