Exotic vacations in South America inspire thoughts of an action-packed adventure or a trek against the backdrop of breathtaking scenery. Or perhaps such a trip would lead to a lazy afternoon at the beach under a sweltering tropical sun. The following three South American destinations bear special mention because none of them are for the faint of heart.
Atins to Lençóis in Maranhenses National Park, Brazil
Lençóis, meaning bedsheet in Portuguese, owes its unusual nickname to its terrain of extreme contrasts. During the rainy season, the typical sandy dunes are broken up with shallow lagoons. You can hike this area in socks, climbing sand dunes that are an average of 65 feet tall but can rise to twice that. On the other side of a dune, you may need to wade across a pool that could span 300 feet or more. It is no easy stroll through a placid body of water either. The lagoon can be 10 to 30 feet deep in spots and the water is close to 90 degrees Fahrenheit.
Machu Picchu, Peru
The Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is beautiful, but not a walk in the park. Covering 26 miles of high-altitude climbing, the trail is as daunting as it is scenic. Dead woman's pass is arguably the most difficult portion of the trail. It is rocky with few trees to gain purchase, and the altitude is 13,828 feet (1,800 meters). The path to Machu Picchu sees the joining of thick green forest with hand-laid stone and archeological ruins. There are tips to make the Machu Picchu trip easier for those who think they can handle the adventure.
Make sure you are well prepared to endure four days and three nights of sometimes-inhospitable elements hiking difficult terrain and elevations. Rainy and windy conditions are commonplace. You do not need to be a marathon runner, but being as fit as reasonably possible bodes well. Make sure you have appropriate boots, pace yourself on the trail, bring and drink plenty of water, and arrive in Cusco a couple of days early to acclimate to the altitude.
Rio Juramente Whitewater Rafting, Argentina
If you think hiking is difficult, you can try a change of pace by going white water rafting down the Rio Juramente. It turns out this is not a trip for the faint-of-heart either. It is a two and a half hour intense trip down 12 kilometers (about 7.5 miles) that include 10 class III and 5 class II rapids. When you are not diverted by the periodic wall of water, you can enjoy the picturesque view of Juramento Canyon. If you feel braver or fitter, you can make half a day for your trip. Watch out for jagged rocks on the river bottom and roiling waters that can easily capsize a boat.
When you seek a bit of a thrill on your vacation, nothing beats a challenging adventure in an exotic South American venue.
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