The South American continent has some of the most awe-inspiring natural landscapes on the planet. The mighty Andes mountain range is the ever-present backdrop to some of its most iconic natural landscapes, from the granite peaks of Patagonia to smoking volcanic craters in Ecuador, and from the high altitude pure-white salt flats of Bolivia to the steamy jungles of the Amazon, east of its lower slopes.
This vast mountain range starts in Panama in Central America, rising to huge heights in the middle of the South American continent, finally tailing off into the Southern Ocean at Cape Horn. Its steep mountain passes hid vast cities from the conquistadores, such as the now famous spectacular citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru and is even now still home to many remote rural and very traditional communities.
It usually only takes a day or two to acclimatise to the lofty altitude of some of South America’s most beautiful cities and towns located in the heart of the mountains where you are surrounded by some jaw dropping scenery at every turn.
The Andes are an ever present backbone to the entire continent and offer a serenity and beauty that is impossible to ignore. In the south especially there are some breath-taking drives across high mountain passes that will lead you from cool mountain forests and stark altiplano down to coastal dunes to the West or dense steamy rainforest to the East.
Journey from Bolivia or Argentina into the Atacama Desert in Chile by 4wd as you cross blindingly white salt flats and pass by simple adobe villages and high altitude salt lakes, home to rare species of flamingos. Further south the drive takes you between two famous wine valleys from Maipo and Casablanca to Mendoza where you can discover boutique vintages and take walks or horse-rides among the vines as well as experiencing innovative fine dining from some of the continent’s top chefs.
If you wish to leave the vehicle behind, then you could consider crossing the Andes through the impossibly scenic Lakes District from Chile to Argentina on horseback for some of the continent’s most breath-taking views. And then there are the trekking possibilities: from hiking amid stunning granite peaks and azure blue glacial lakes in Patagonia to multi-day exhilarating and challenging treks up high in Peru and Ecuador where you can discover traditional villages and the stunning remains of the once powerful Incan empire.
For powder fans, the Andes mountain ranges in both Argentina and Chile offer some great southern hemisphere skiing. Heli-skiing is the ultimate way to explore uncharted and challenging mountain territory. A helicopter transfer whisks you from its capital Santiago to Rancagua, to an exclusive lodge deep in the Andes where all the surrounding terrain is reached only by helicopter for the ultimate skiing holiday.
And, of course, it means you can ski from June to September when the northern hemisphere resorts are all closed. Chile’s Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate, so you can spend time skiing in the mountains one moment and then sipping a cool glass of sauvignon blanc in a sunny vineyard the next.
However you love to spend your time in the mountains, we know and love this landscape and will be delighted to share our expertise with you on exploring the Andes to the full.
By Marcela Kunova - 20th April 2017
Nicola Shepherd, founder and CEO of The Exploration Company, organises unusual trips for HNW and UHNW clients ranging from birthday parties at an Indian Maharajah's palace to reliving Sir Vivian Fuchs's 1950s expedition to the South Pole. Citywealth caught ...
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