Everyone has a few awesome experiences on their bucket list that they want to check off. I asked a few fellow travel bloggers what some of their most memorable experiences were while traveling and the response was fantastic. In fact, it was so good that I had to break it up by region because there were so many amazing experiences to share. I have even decided to add a few of these my own bucket list after reading all of these stories. I hope these ladies inspire you as much as they did for me. So here are some of the most memorable travel experiences in South America.
Memorable Experiences: South America
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
After 5.5 months of travel we topped off our journey through Latin America with a trip to the incredible world wonder of Machu Picchu near Cusco Peru.
The final ‘big’ experience on our 6-month trip through Central and South America led us to the very heart of the Inca empire 2400 meters above sea level. After a month exploring the Peruvian Coast we ventured inland to reach the heights of Cusco, Ollantaytamboo, Aguas Calientes and finally Machu Picchu. The journey to the Inca archaeological site Machu Picchu threw up some torrential rain, an extremely early alarm, a taste of altitude sickness and several modes of transport including a winding minibus.
Many people top off their South America trip with an expedition to the world famous UNESCO world heritage site first discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911. It’s not uncommon for people to visit Peru on the basis of this experience. Machu Picchu is the crowning jewel of any trip to Peru and South America it’s guaranteed to feature on almost every bucket list. Whether you take the four day Inca Trail which is closed in February or the easy option like we did Machu Picchu is the very definition of a memorable travel experience.
2. Butt Skiing in Florianópolis, Brazil
Those that know me know that I’m not big into nature. I can’t ever fathom ever living away from the big city and not easily impressed by the great mountains and rivers of the world. However, there was just one time that I stood in awe of nature. That was when I visited the Dunas da Joaquina in Florianópolis, Brazil.
Among Brazilians, Florianópolis is a city-island known as the Ilha da Magia, or Island of Magic, due to its enchanting beaches and natural scenery. The Dunas da Joaquina (Joaquina Sand Dunes), are in the east of the island, by the Praia da Joaquina (Joaquina Beach). When I climbed up the tall dunes, I got a stunning view of Florianópolis’s coast and the marsh lands below the dunes. When I climbed down the dunes from the other side, suddenly all the noise from people and cars stopped. It was just me, the dunes, and the wind. As I sat amongst the dunes, I felt removed from the world. For the first time in my life, I felt dwarfed by the power of nature. Besides walking up and down the dunes, it’s also a great spot to do some adventure sports. You can rent boards to sandboard down the dunes – a sport much like snowboarding. If you lack the skills do to so, you could partake in what Brazilians call ski bunda – butt skiing – sitting on the plank and sliding down the hill. Then climbing up and doing it all over again! Because Brazil has such a long coast, there are many great sand dunes in the country. I highly recommend you visiting one. If you find yourself in Southern Brazil, go to Joaquina; if you’re in the North, the Lenções Maranheses is a must
3. Sandboarding Death Valley in the Atacama Desert
Growing up in Florida, we didn’t have many options of mountain related activities. Not even, hill-related. During my last visit to Chile, I traveled north and went to the Atacama Desert, the driest desert in the world. Walking through the streets, of the small town called San Pedro de Atacama, I kept seeing snowboards everywhere and I thought it was so strange to see that in the desert. Later I found out that the boards were used to go sand boarding down the dunes in Death Valley. What??!?I HAD to do this.
I signed up immediately and told them that I have no idea how to do this and that I’ve only been close to a snowboard when I was 14 and I failed miserably at snowboarding. My instructor just laughed and told me not to worry. I grabbed a helmet and jumped into the van with the other people on the tour and started nervously talking to everyone. Once we arrived in the Death Valley, they cranked up the music and I told myself to stop being a chicken and enjoy it. And I did. I loved it! I wiped out plenty of times but I did manage at least one to ride down the dune. I would do again in a heartbeat and ended up being one of the best things I did during my trip.
4. Heli Boarding, Chile
I stood up in the four feet of pure snow, snowboard strapped to my feet and looked out over the mountain. I sat right back down. Why didn’t they warn me that it would be this steep?!
With nine years of snowboarding experience under my belt, I had conquered some of the most extreme mountains in the Rockies. But nothing prepared me for helicopter snowboarding in Valle Nevado, Chile (known as heliskiing) That morning we hopped into a brand new helicopter with an ex military pilot that enjoyed making us squirm as he showed off his skills. We flew four mountain ranges beyond the ski resort. The snow was completely untouched. As we went to land, the edge of the mountain wasn’t quite wide enough for the helicopter and our pilot hovered with only one of the landing skids touching the snow. Now, as I stood looking down the steepest mountain that I had ever encountered, I wondered how I would make it down. I stood up and slid a few inches then sat back down. Finally, I stood up and pointed my board downhill before my brain could register what I was doing.
The snow felt like clouds as I glided down the mountain. No trees. No people. Just lots and lots of powder. In that moment, the fear was gone and I flew down the mountain at speeds that I didn’t know were possible.The helicopter took us back to the top of the mountain two more times before returning us to civilization. The pilot tried his stomach dropping tricks again but nothing could compare the the adrenaline rush I had just experienced.
5. Sunset on Easter Island
Visiting Easter Island wasn’t so much my dream as it was my husband’s, but I couldn’t pass up the chance to see its legendary moai with my own eyes. Our dream trip crossed into nightmare territory several times in the weeks—and even hours—before our arrival. Somehow, we survived cancelled flights, tight connections, and missing luggage to find ourselves standing on Rapa Nui, one of the most remote inhabited islands in the world.
It was late in the day when we saw our first moai, the five giant stone heads that make up Ahu Tahai. They loomed ahead of us, staring into the island with their backs to the Pacific Ocean. We joined a growing group of travelers who laid on the grass or perched on stone walls to admire the view. As the day started to fade into night, a hush fell over the crowd as the sun began to setbelow the horizon. The brilliant blue sky faded into pink and orange before giving way to a few final minutes of bright, golden yellow. The moai stood tall, silhouetted by a sky that could have been on fire, before the sun disappeared and left us in the hazy twilight.
Before the sunset, my body was drained from the physical and emotional exhaustion that so often marks travel experiences. It took just a moment for me to forget all of it as I was drawn in by the beautiful sunset, the magical moai, and the joy of finding myself in a brand new place. Suddenly, I wasn’t tired; I felt rejuvenated instead. Even years later, watching the sunset on Easter Island remains one of the most memorable moments of my life.
Look out for our next top 5 experiences next week!