South America is a dream travel destination for many, and its name alone conjures images of impressive Incan ruins, exotic jungle terrain and bustling Latin cities. This guide will outline some of the exciting lesser-known destinations away from the heaving crowds to visit in between all of the main attractions, to make your trip more meaningful and memorable.
The only dessert oasis in South America, Huacachina is located 5 hours south of Lima and is easily accessible by bus. You could stop off here on your way to Machu Picchu for a more authentic experience, but come quick because every year more and more tourists are becoming aware of this beauty.
It’s the perfect destination for thrill-seekers – you can go sandboarding and hire a dune buggy before relaxing around the lagoon which is said to have healing properties. There are also a number of wineries and pisco (the national drink) distilleries close by, and day trips to the legendary Nazca Lines running from Huacachina too.
Otavalo hosts one of the most important markets in the Andes, which dates back to pre-Incan times and specialises in exquisite weavings and textiles from the Otaveleños. Traders still wear traditional dress and it really is a must-see market for tourists so don’t let its popularity put you off — it’s the real deal, authenticity dripping from every market stall. It’s not the prettiest city architecturally but the stunning mountain backdrop of Otavalo and the surrounding hidden lakes and mountainside villages will mesmerise you after you’ve stocked up on beautiful local crafts.