Landscapes in South America
In the north of the country, at the border of Brazil and close to the border of Paraguay, you can visit these fantastic waterfalls.
Visiting from the Argentinian side is the most rewarding. You can get a lot closer to them than from the Brazilian side. From close-by you can experience the great force of the water, especially when standing just above the Garganta del Diabolo - 'The Devil’s throat'. If you want to get even closer, you can take a tour on one of the powerful rubber boats that bring you right underneath some smaller sections of the waterfalls. Don’t expect to stay dry!
National Route 40, or just Ruta 40, is more than 5000 km long and just one of these classic routes of the Americas. Nowadays a large part of it is paved so the trip might not be as rough and romantic as it once used to be but still, it's a great way to travel from Northern to Southern Patagonia. It gives you a better idea of how vast Patagonia actually is. The classic part of Ruta 40 is between Bariloche and El Chalten, roughly 1300 kilometres long and takes about two days. There is just no end to the infinite sceneries with hills, mountains, lakes and sometimes a farm with sheep or guanacos. The halfway point where many people end up staying overnight is Perito Moreno, an insignificant town not to be confused with the glacier that bears the same name further South.
The south-west corner of Bolivia, straddling the border to Chile, is a unique area on this planet. It is protected as a national park but the beauty of this region reaches way beyond the borders of the park. The arid altiplano landscape is dotted with volcanoes such as the active Ollagüe (5863 m) where you can see smoke rise from its side, and the perfectly symmetrically shaped Licancabur volcano (5920 m) on the border with Chile.
The park and region is however mostly known for its many lakes that all have different colours from white to blue, green and red. The most famous ones are the Laguna Verde, at the Licancabur volcano and the Laguna Colorado. The colours of these mainly salty lakes come from different algae and plankton. It is this algae that attracts the three different species of flamingos that are present in high numbers at most of the lakes. This area keeps surprising because there is still much more to see. There are geysers and bubbling mud pools at Sol de Mañana, there are hot springs to warm up on a chilly morning, rock formations such as the Arbol de Piedra and there is the rabbit with a long tail called viscacha.
Only discovered in 2003 by two local men, Cueva Galaxia is a small cave but quite different from usual caves with stalagmites and stalactites. The cave has only a few small chambers with pretty ceilings that look more like web-like structures, kind of like deteriorated tree leaves - or like inverted corals - leave it up to your imagination!
In this small area just south of Salar de Uyuni there is also Devil’s Cave (Cueva del Diabolo) with sacred burial chambers. Around these caves and on the hill above the caves you get pretty views of the area. Furthermore is the area full of petrified cacti.
If you wonder what the ** is after the name of the Galaxy caves - it stands for the two men who discovered this site.
No journey to Lake Titicaca would be complete with a trip onto the lake itself. Isla del Sol, in the southern part of the lake, offers an excellent day or overnight trip. A growing tourism infrastructure offers eco-hotels and organic restaurants for those who wish to spend the night. Or, very well maintained hiking trails cross the island providing wonderful views not only of the lake, but the other-worldly island geography. Added to that, mystical ruins dot the island and taking a local as a guide will give insight into the rituals of the indigenous groups who have used the island as a place of worship for centuries.
The largest salt lake of the world keeps on amazing people and should be on the itinerary when visiting Bolivia or even South America. At an altitude of about 3600 m it is part of the Bolivian Altiplano. This enormous salt lake is dry most of the year but for a few months there is some water in the lake turning it into a huge mirror. When the lake is dry you can drive across admiring the vastness and because there is a the lack of depth it is popular to make fun photos with different objects. Other attractions are the small local salt production places at the edge of the lake where you can see the locals dry the salt and make salt bricks to use for constructing houses and hotels for tourists. Incahuasi island is another popular stop and pretty much in the middle of the salt lake where there is a trail that leads to the top of this cactus-filled island.
© Louise Brønden
Formerly the bottom of the prehistoric lake formed in the high plateau between the Occidental and the Royal range shared between Bolivia and Peru. This area now has an attraction very different from the numerous Inka remains. The flat clay was transformed by underground rivers and torrential rain and wind and the area now boasts strangely shaped pinnacles and deep winding canyons consisting of sedimentary clay, volcanic ashes and the occasional congregation of gravel and pebbles. Some of the towering clay pillars have been named according to their appearances but the real draw here is just walking around in this bizarre landscape, whether you think it looks like the moon or not...
At the northern edge of the Salar de Uyuni towers the Tunupa Volcano above the salt lake. On a day trip it is possible to hike to the crater rim at about 5,000 m or even further direction the top of the mountain. The base for the hike is in the tiny village of Coquesa, where there is not much more than a few houses and a hostel. From there you can start hiking but it makes it definitely a little easier to be driven some hundreds of meters uphill close to some caves with mummies at about 4,000 m. The hike from here is quite strenuous, especially approaching the edge of the crater where the terrain is sandy with small stones. The views are amazing though and worth the effort. When you stand about 1,500 meters above the salar you quickly forget the tough climb.
Get away from the Bahian beaches and head to the Chapada Diamantina and Vale do Capão for some hiking. Before it became a national park, the Chapada Diamantina was a diamant mining area, hence its name. You can go trekking for multiple days or do day hikes in a landscape of table mountains and waterfalls.
At the cahoeira da fumaça you can hang your head over the edge of the cliff and watch the waterfall go down ..... and spray up again, not touching the ground.
Lençois is the main access place for the Chapada Diamantina and is a pretty and lively colonial town where you can easily spend a few days.
Brazil shares these fantastic waterfalls with Argentina. They are not the largest, highest, widest, etc of the world, others take these honors, but they are very impressive. You can go visit from either country. From the Brazilian side you get a larger overview of the falls from a trail across the river. It gives you a good idea of the vastness of the falls. Also the surrounding nature is beautiful. You can see several animals. Birds such as egrets and toucans but also the adorable Coati. Foz do Iguaçu is the access town but except for visiting the falls there is little else to do here.