South America has a lot of amazing destinations: Machu Picchu, Buenos Aires, Rio… the list could on and on. But what about the hidden gems of South America? The places off the beaten track that offer the same beauty, the same sensory experience, but won’t show up in the next edition of Frommer’s. We’re here to break down a few of the best hidden gems in South America for you.
Cueva de las Manos, Río Pinturas, Argentina
Cueva de las Manos is Spanish for “Cave of the Hands.” As the name suggests, these series of caves are covered in painted handprints of the indigenous inhabitants of this region some 9,000 years ago. The scenery surrounding these caves is stunning in its own right. This section of Patagonian landscape lies in the valley of the Pinturas River.
Salt Cathedral, Zipaquira, Colombia
About an hour northeast of Bogota lies Zipaquira where patrons of the Roman Catholic church built the Salt Cathedral 200 meters below the earth through a series of salt mine tunnels. Created around the 5th century B.C., the cathedral is still in use today (although not officially by the Catholic Church) as every Sunday, some 3,000 patrons come to pay homage. Catholic or not, visitors can wander through the tunnels and salt corridors until they arrive at the sanctuary.
Las Lajas Cathedral, Narino, Colombia
In Southern Colombia, just before the Ecuador border lies arguably Colombia’s most beautiful cathedral. Las Lajas is a stunning piece of architecture that stretches across a river canyon and is backed by a beautiful waterfall. The natural scenery surrounding this man-made structure make the whole visceral experience quite amazing.
Floating Islands, Uros, Peru
The floating Uros Islands in Peru are located off the coast of Puno in Lake Titicaca. These man-made islands are constructed from totora reeds and are completely mobile. Floating along the lake, they provide shelter to their inhabitants as well with a handful of thatched houses on each. The Uros tribe, who preceded the great Incan civilization, has about 40 of these makeshift islands floating about two hours by boat off the Peruvian coast.
Serra da Capivara National Park, Brazil
Located in northeast Brazil, Serra da Capivara National Park is home many prehistoric paintings. Much archaeological work has been done in the area that has found this to have the largest concentration of prehistoric small farms in the Americas. The park became a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991.
There are so many great wonders on this continent. While the tourist locations are popular for a reason, don’t be afraid to get off the main trail every once in a while and head to some of these hidden gems.