This Argentinean city was the scene some of the most important events in the country’s history,...
Guide to Outdoor adventure
On a continent that offers pure, untamed nature, this selection of the best outdoor destinations has something for everyone: activities in the water, mountains, jungle and desert, plus green outings for city dwellers.
Latin America boasts the world’s largest hydrographic basin, the longest river, the most arid desert and the tallest waterfall, among many other attractions. It is an inexhaustible source of activities, adventure and enjoyment for those who love getting up close and personal with nature.
A comprehensive guide to outdoor activities in Latin America, with 32 recommendations for those who love the water, the mountains, the jungle and the desert. We’ve also included seven excursions for city dwellers looking to leave the pavement behind in seven of the region’s mayor cities.
outdoors 2.0: technological advances are changing the face of adventure tourism – the Internet, gps, smart fabrics and a host of other inventions have revolutionized how we enjoy the great outdoors.
Río Futaleufú, Chile-Argentina: World famous for class IV and V rapids, this river runs through stunning natural scenery from the province of Chubut, Argentina, to Chile’s Región de los Lagos.
Río Apurímac, Perú: Another of South America’s most renowned rivers is near Cusco. This tributary of the Amazon boasts class III, IV and V rapids.
Río Mendoza, Argentina: Flanked by the Andes, 37 miles from the city of Mendoza, this river is primarily class III but includes sections ranked IV and V. The best time to enjoy the rapids is between November and March, when the spring thaw turns on the power.
Fiordos Hornopirén, Chile: Imagine yourself surrounded by mountains covered with pristine forests as you paddle peacefully alongside porpoises and seabirds. That’s what you’ll find in the fjords south of Hornopirén, in the Región de los Lagos.
Parque Nacional Los Alerces, Argentina: One of the most beautiful parks in Argentina (in the province of Chubut) is the perfect spot for kayaking, with the Andes as your companions.
Cabo Blanco, Perú: This beach in the northern Peruvian region of Piura is the site of Panic Point, a break reserved for expert surfers.
Montañita, Ecuador: Great spots like La Punta and Beach Break are two and a half hours drive northeast of Guayaquil.
Florianópolis, Brasil Brazil: The country’s main surfing hub in Santa Catarina.
Pichilemu, Chile: About two hours south of Santiago, the Punta de Lobos break is the site of an international big-wave championship.
Isla San Andrés, Colombia: This island in the middle of the Caribbean boasts one of the largest coral barrier reefs in the world. With an average visibility of 80 to 100 feet (and as far as 200 feet in certain areas), these waters are perfect for spotting dolphins and sharks or exploring sunken ships.
Islas Galápagos The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador: Coral reefs, sea lions, rays, garden eels, tortoises, sea iguanas, sharks, hammer fish, whales and morays are just some of the marine life you’ll find off the archipelago.
Isla Fernando de Noroña, Brasil Brazil: With visibility extending 130 feet, this Brazilian archipelago is considered one of the world’s best diving spots.
If you love the mountains…
Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, Chile: Tapped as one of the best trekking destinations in the world, this national park has routes as short as a day to as long as a week, allowing visitors to discover rivers, lagoons and the famous massif.
Camino del Inca, Perú: This classic trek can be completed in two days and one night or four days and three nights and includes a visit to Machu Picchu.
Cotopaxi, Ecuador: Standing over 19,300 feet above sea level, this iconic peak offers relatively easy high-altitude trekking. From the top, you can take in the entire Ecuadorian mountain range and majestic views of the Andes.
El Chaltén, Argentina: The “trekking capital of Argentina” is found in the province of Santa Cruz. Explore paths of varying difficulty during a daytrip or take a guided trek for up to three days.
Cerro Catedral, Argentina: The country’s most important ski resort, with more than 74 miles of runs, is located near San Carlos de Bariloche.
Andes Centrales, Chile: Just 25 miles from Santiago, you’ll find the largest skiable surface in South America. The Farellones and El Colorado resorts boast more 3,200 acres of snow. La Parva offers some 30 runs and 14 elevation levels, and the exclusive Valle Nevado mountain center has 23 miles of runs.
Cordillera Blanca, Perú: With 35 peaks exceeding 19,685 feet in altitude, this mountain range in the Department of Ancash is a rock-climber’s dream. Places like the Acantilados de Huanchac, the Quebrada de Llaca and the Torre de Parón feature granite and conglomerate walls of varying degrees of difficulty.
Cerro Fitz Roy, Argentina: This peak in El Chaltén stretches more than 11,150 feet high. Its extreme difficulty offers a serious challenge for climbers from around the world.
If you love the jungle…
Amacayacu, Colombia: A three-hour drive (37 miles) from Leticia, this national park in the Amazon lets you observe more than 468 registered species of bird on hikes through the forest or from high platforms.
Río Napo, Ecuador: One of the best places for bird watching in the Ecuadorian Amazon, which spans three of the country’s provinces. The river’s banks are part of Parque Nacional Yasuní and home to 562 bird species.
Tambopata, Perú: In the Department of Madre de Dios, the Tambopata nature reserve offers the chance to spot more than 400 kinds of bird over a weeklong trek through the jungle. Puerto Maldonado, the department’s capital, has paths where you can take in more than 100 species of bird in just a few hours.
Iguazú, Argentina: The heart of Argentina’s jungle is one of the most popular destinations among bird watchers, who come from all over the world to spot more than 400 local species.
Provincia de Cundinamarca, Colombia: Just outside Bogotá is one of the highest canopies rides in South America, which travels nearly 4,000 feet at a height of 820 feet.
Huilo Huilo, Chile: In the middle of a private park dedicated to eco-tourism, 100 miles east of Valdivia, Chile’s largest canopy route runs almost 2,000 feet through evergreen forest at a height of nearly 300 feet.
Ciudad Perdida Tayrona, Colombia: This archeological landmark from the Tayrona culture includes more than 200 farming terraces and an organizational and cultural center on the outskirts of Santa Marta, adjacent to the Parque Nacional Tayrona. Set aside at least six days for trekking excursions, which include camping in the tropical jungle and seven hours of hiking a day.
Pico da Neblina, Brasil Brazil: The highest peak in Brazil is located in the northern part of the state of Amazonas, near the Venezuelan border – a perfect hiking spot, surrounded by jungle.
If you love the desert…
Llanos de Challe, Chile: Located 25 miles north of Huasco in the Región de Atacama, Parque Nacional Llanos de Challe is just a short distance from beautiful beaches and a diverse array of natural landscapes. If you are lucky enough to visit after a rare desert rain, you’ll see the 113,000 acres transformed into an unforgettable tableau of colorful flowers.
Cordillera de la Sal, Chile: Less than 20 miles from San Pedro de Atacama, this mountain range has a number of paths that lead to interesting destinations like the Valle de la Luna, with rock formations turned white by the soil’s high salinity, or the Valle de la Muerte, with enormous dunes and mountain range formations.
Huacachina, Perú: The dunes of this desert oasis on the coast of Peru (near Ica) are a paradise for sandboarding enthusiasts.
Tilcara a Las Yungas, Argentina: In the Argentinean high plateau, a six-day trek takes adventurers from the desert heights to the heart of the jungle. This difficult hike will take you past places like the Garganta del Diablo and Campo Laguna, both at more than 13,000 feet above sea level, and through the immense jungle vegetation of San Lucas in Las Yungas.
If you love the city, but you’re looking for a taste of nature…
Bosques de Palermo, Buenos Aires: With paths for jogging, skating and biking, this park features a number of lagoons, a planetarium, and an endless carpet of green. It’s a favorite spot for enjoying a picnic in local style, with facturas (croissants) and mate.
Cerro San Cristóbal, Santiago: Covering more than 1,780 acres, this landmark of the Chilean capital is the largest city park in the country. It boasts terrific views at the summit, as well as a number of picnic areas. This metropolitan park also includes two large pools and a cable car that travels from the bohemian neighborhood of Bellavista to the zoo and the summit.
Parque La Carolina, Quito: With nearly 150 acres of nature in the financial district of Ecuador’s capital, this park offers recreational, sporting and cultural activities.
Biking in Bogotá: Colombia’s capital features more than 200 miles of paths reserved exclusively for bicycles. There are also organized tours, with a guide leading you to all of the city’s main attractions.
Costa Verde, Lima: Along the cliffs of the Peruvian capital, this beach offers a chance to enjoy water sports, hiking, biking and even paragliding.
Reserva Ecológica Manglares de Churute, Guayaquil: Just an hour’s drive from the city, you’ll find one of Ecuador’s most important wetland areas, with a surface area of more than 123,000 acres and trees reaching heights of 100 feet. The trails can be explored as part of a guided tour.
Variety in Rio: The perfect combination of nature and adventure in a city includes hang gliding in the Floresta de Tijuca, climbing Pan de Azúcar, biking in Parque de Flamenco, surfing and picnics next to waterfalls.
Adventure excursions and outdoor life have benefited greatly from technological advances. In recent years, the Internet, GPS systems, smart fabrics and other innovations have revolutionized our enjoyment of The Great Outdoors.
TEXT Alejandra Rodríguez
ILLUSTRATIONS Óscar Ramos
There was a time when climbing mountains, finding a great break to surf and discovering the world by bicycle or sailboat were challenges for a few, brave souls. But gone are the heavy boots, thick layers of warm clothing and backpacks stuffed with extra t-shirts (for changing out of sweat-soaked gear). Now outdoor enthusiasts can take advantage of an array of high-tech options, from gadgets to keep you informed and on course to synthetic fabrics that guarantee thermal insulation, water resistance and, in some cases, a connection to cell phones and MP3 players.
So what about unplugging yourself and getting away from it all? “Technology is by no means divorced from the world of the outdoors,” says Noemí Llorente from the specialized site AirelibreyTecnologia.com. “We use GPS systems for hiking routes and special fabrics that are lighter and resistant to high temperatures.” Mountain biking guide Mariano D’Alessandro of MTB Tours echoes this notion, “Without a doubt, technology has become part of the adventure, offering more efficiency and precision when it comes to starting a program, choosing an activity or getting new equipment. While the essence of adventure remains – because we’re still dealing with the pursuit of the unexpected – today’s adventurer can boost his or her experience by embracing technological advances in order to anticipate and prepare for changes in the weather, enjoy the chosen activity more safely, record the experience to share it through electronic media and discover new routes.”
From calling home during your trip to sharing experiences instantaneously through social media, anything is possible. Is any of the adrenaline lost with so many high-tech comforts? According to Llorente, “A trip used to be more of an adventure. You had to know how to use a compass and read maps. Now, with GPS systems and Google Earth, we can get to know the area even before embarking on the trip. This is a great asset when it comes time to plan your excursion.” And D’Alessandro points out a new option – wikiloc.com – where you can download GPS routes “and then follow the route of your choice according to the level of difficulty most appropriate for your degree of expertise and physical condition.” This 2.0 revolution has forever changed the way we get around, both outside the house and inside. And while it will always be fun to kick back on your living room couch and flip through a good travel book, it can’t compete with being able to plan detailed itineraries at Google Maps (complete with gas and toll costs) or downloading publications like Coleman’s LATAM Guide to your smartphone or tablet for free at iTunes. You can also obtain detailed mountain weather forecasts at meteoexploration.com and up-to-the-minute reports on wave and wind conditions around the globe at the prophetic windguru.cz.
“From checking weather conditions before setting out to choosing waterproof yet breathable clothing, there’s a new wave of products available to the adventure tourist that allow for greater safety and comfort,” explains D’Alessandro. “For example, windbreakers and jackets are no longer measured in terms of being waterproof, but rather in terms of breathability, which refers to the efficiency and speed with which a garment gets rid of the perspiration accumulated during periods of physical exertion in poor weather and low temperatures. The secret lies in the design and the type of membrane used.”
In the 21st century, technology extends far beyond devices for orienteering – the clothing used on a trek has changed as well. These advances come in the form of the latest-generation synthetic fabrics that let you climb a mountain or enjoy winter sports in garments that are waterproof and incorporate protective PTFE (Teflon) layers, Gore-Tex and eVent membranes or the more recent TPE (thermoplastic polyester elastomers), which are more eco-friendly than PVC. And what’s more, nanotechnology – the science of elements on a molecular scale – has led to the emergence of “smart clothing” or “tech à porter,” advanced garments that can help monitor heart rate and perspiration, analyze perspiration to change the temperature in accordance with the climate or use solar energy to charge your iPod or MP3 player.
The big name brands have already begun to apply these advances to their designs. Nike Plus sneakers feature a device that facilitates a connection between the shoe, an iPod or iPhone and a wireless sensor that records distance, time, speed and calories burned during a given activity. The Argentinean brand Indarradtx offers waterproof jackets that come with a keypad on the sleeve to control your music player without having to take it out of your pocket. Another important innovation in the world of textiles – cotton threads that conduct electricity, developed by Colombian scientist Juan Pablo Hinestroza at Cornell University in New York – means that jackets that recharge your mobile devices are on the way!
Documenting your adventures has also been modernized with a new generation of MOV- and AVI-format video cameras. Then there’s the GoPro HD, a portable camera that fits in the palm of your hand or mounts on your surfboard or helmet, taking pictures automatically for up to two and a half hours as you surf, ski or hang-glide.
And there’s more. Thinking about bringing a guitar for a fireside sing-a-long? Now, you can enjoy music through tiny, wireless speakers like the Jambox, which lets you listen to tunes and videos, as well play games and make phone calls via your iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch, Nintendo DS and other Bluetooth-equipped devices. Another model, the Hercules XPS 120 Outdoor, is resistant to water and dust and lets you take your music along for the ride, from the sea to the ski slopes.
The list goes on and on… a high-tech adventure for nature lovers. in
Mariano D’Alessandro, MTB Tourswww.mtbtours.com
Zapatillas Nike Nike sneakersnikerunning.nike.com
Electricity-conducting cotton textilesnanotextiles.human.cornell.edu
MOV- or AVI-format video camerascontour.com gopro.com
120 Outdoor Jambox and Hercules XPS 120 outdoor speakerswww.jawbone.com speakerswww.hercules.com