South America is known for its rich cultures and spectacular landscapes. Here’s a roundup of four must-see natural wonders.
Colca Canyon, Peru (one of deepest canyon’s in the world)
Colca Canyon in Peru is 3,400m at its deepest point and runner up to nearby Cotahuasi Canyon as the deepest canyon in the world. Twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA, its highlight is the spectacular viewing point at Cruz Del Condor. If travellers are lucky, they might see the Andean condors (the largest bird in the Americas) soaring above them, though they only come out in the morning and late afternoon. The main village of Chivay is four minutes to Colca Canyon by car.
Atacama Desert, Chile (the world’s driest non-polar desert)
The Atacama Desert covers northern Chile between the coast and the foot of the Andes, without outlying areas also stretching into Argentina, Bolivia and Peru. It’s the driest place on Earth apart from the poles, without any greenery, shade, cities or pollution. Landscape photographers flock to a backdrop that looks like a Martian landscape, while star gazers come to visit the desert’s three major international observatories.The closest airport is at the mining town of Calama, accessible via flights from Santiago. From Calama it’s a 90-minute transfer to San Pedro de Atacama.
Angel falls, Venezuela (the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall)
Angel Falls in The Canaima National Park in South Eastern Venezuela is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall cascading an amazing 979m, 19 times higher than Niagara Falls. Its main plunge over the Auyantepui mountain is followed by about 400m of cascades and rapids before a 30m secondary drop. It is located in the Canaima National Park, an adventurer’s dream with breath-taking mountains, rivers, lakes and savannahs. The nearest major airport is Cuidad Bolivar, which offers 25-minute flights to the Canaima National Park airstrip.
Salt flats, Bolivia (the world’s largest salt flat)
Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia’s south east is known as the world’s largest salt flats, containing up to 10 billion tonnes of salt.
Photographers and travellers alike go to the salt flats in awe of its desert landscape. In the dry season, from May until Oct, visitors can go on four-wheel-drive tours right onto the plains of salt. The closest city to Salar de Uyuni is Calama in Chile, from where travellers can take a 7-9 hour bus ride, depending on border formalities.