Landscapes in South America
Just a short distance from San Pedro de Atacama is the Vale de la Luna. Its name comes from the moon-like landscape of this part of the Atacama desert. In the valley of the moon are narrow canyons to explore and amazing rock formations in all kind of shapes. One of such valleys is the canyon de sal where, when there arenâ€™t any people around, it is extremely quiet except for the crackling sounds of the salt deposits in the rocks. One of the prettiest rock formations is called the amphitheatre, which looks like the name it has been given and is especially pretty with the Licancabur volcano in the background.
When visiting just before sunset, the colours of the desert are even more striking. Just try to avoid going to the same spot as hundreds of other visitors to se the sun set.
Colombia's Grand Canyon. A gorgeous canyon with a river cutting through at the bottom almost 2000 meters below. The slopes are steep and covered with wonderfully shaped cactuses. It is now possible to take in the beauty by classy cable car, else the winding road that traverses the canyon will give excellent views from both the summit and bottom. The serious hairpin turns seem never-ending and are either to-die-for for motorcyclists or sickening for those stuck in a bus. It is just one of those splendid routes that Colombia has so many of.
The largest lake in Colombia, located at the semi-high elevation of 3000 m. It is an enchanting place, where clouds come rolling in from the surrounding hills to lie low over the cold water. Any road to here is winding and takes you through tough farmland and rough villages (like Cuitiva, Iza and Tota). The local farmers all sport ponchos, wide brim hats and sunburned cheeks. There even is a "Playa Blanca" at the shore of the lake with sand and space for camping under the pine and eucalyptus trees.
The volcano Chimborazo (6,310 m) is not only the highest mountain in Ecuador, but the summit is also the farthest point from center of Earth. It is inactive and can be scaled year round on a climbing tour. In the summer when the snow has receded and only the ice cap at the summit is left, it is possible to drive all the way up to the first refugio at 4,800 m. Even if you are not planning to climb Chimborazo, it is worth taking the journey out there for the surroundings are beautiful rough Andes highlands with grazing vicuñas (a kind of llama).
Cotopaxi's prefect shaped, snow-capped cone has made it the most famous volcano in Ecuador. Though the height is impressive 5,897 m, it is only the second highest summit in the country after volcano Chimborazo (6,310 m). Though Cotopaxi is still considered active (last eruption was in 1975), the summit is a very popular climbing peak that can be reached by altitude fit people in company with a mountain guide and suitable gear.
Laguna Quilotoa is an impressive crater lake at the elevation of whooping 3800m. The diameter of the volcano crater is 3km and apparently the depth is 250m. The water is deep green which turns to psychedelic wasabi green along the shore. Just to top off the picture-perfect view, several snowcapped volcanoes are dotting the horizon. Getting here can be rough, but the trip goes through the most lovely high altitude countryside, where the mountain slopes are cultivated by tough farmers. Not just a place at altitude, but also attitude.
As often with waterfalls, countries claim that they are the tallest, widest, most voluminous, etc. in the world. The Kaieteur Falls is none of the above, but is probably the world's tallest waterfall with this volume. In any case it is definitely one of the most amazing waterfalls in the world! The massive amount of water from the Potaro river plunges 226 metres down into the gorge below. Pretty much all visitors to the falls take the one-hour flight from Georgetown to the top of the falls where there is an airstrip where small planes can land. From there you can take a guided walk to different viewpoints to admire the grandeur of these magnificent waterfalls and stand on the edge of where the water plunges down. If you have the chance, consider staying overnight. At dawn and dusk, a huge amount of swifts go out or come in to sleep behind the waterfalls.
A trip there is more than just viewing the tallest waterfall in the world (1002 m), it is an amazing journey through one of the most spectacular landscapes on the globe. A tour will normally start with a flight into the small indigenous village of Canaima about 50 km from the falls. The surprisingly nice setting will for sure impress you (think lake, waterfalls and palms in the most cliche way). From here the trip goes upstream in a canoe zigzagging through small rapids and escaping big boulders. The sheer sides of the ever present huge tepuis (tabel mountain) of "God of Evil" will be leading the way into the Devil's Canyon, where the Angel Falls are plunging over the edge at the very top. Even with a trek up to the base of the falls, it is hard to grasp their gigantic size. Don't consider the narrow belt of water as the highlight, but merely a grand finale of a great trip.
Many don't realise that the Andes actually stretches into Venezuela, but the country is home to a pocket of high altitude peaks including Pico Bolivar (5007 m), the highest point in Venezuela. There are many gorgeous treks in the area's two national parks of Sierra Nevada de Merida and Sierra La Culata, but the Venezuelans themselves seem to prefer to ascend the heights without have to trek. They drive up the Condor Pass (4007 m), the highest road in the country, to pose in front of the splendid views. Join them for a day out and see if you get tempted to do as the local macho chicos do, pose bare chested (men only though) for it is cold up here. And no, you can't see any condors here.
Mt. Roraima is a table mountain (so-called tepuis or tepuy) and the highest in Venezuela (2810 m). This flat-top mountain with free-dropping edges is an amazing trek into another world. The top has been cut off from the rest of the world for millions of years, which means plant and animal life has developed independently. It is a strenuous multi-days trek up to a lost world of strange rock formations surrounded by clouds. A walk to the edge offers spectacular views to other table mountains like neighbouring Kukenan. A brave peek over the edges will get anyone dizzy for the drop is more than 400 meters. Some locals believe that Roraima and Kukenan have supernatural powers and that they are centres for metaphysical phenomena like crystal energy and UFO activities, which just adds to the mystery of the place. This is truly a unique experience, which should not be missed.