A couple look at a glacier
Photograph: Used under license from Shutterstock.com

South America’s best activities for adventure-seekers

Get your heart pumping with sandboarding, hang gliding and more

By Olivia Hart for Time Out in association with Ubank

If the idea of taking a few weeks off work, upgrading your exploring kit, and being surrounded by stunning natural beauty sounds like your kind of holiday; well, you're in the right place. Book a flight to South America and find world-famous attractions and lesser-known wonders that will leave you with memories to last a lifetime. We’ve curated an epic list of year-round activities worth ticking off (so book if you dare). 

To make this trip abroad much easier, ubank offers Spend accounts which come with a Visa debit card and no ATM or international transaction fees charged by ubank, and a Save account to fund your adventures. Plus, ubank have an easy-to-use app. 

7 activities to explore

Take the well-trodden Inca Trail to the ancient ruins of Machu Picchu

Since its rediscovery in 1911, no trip to South America is complete without a pilgrimage along the Inca highways to reach Machu Picchu, South America’s most famous ruins. The four-day hike is walked by thousands every year - with a cap of 500 a day - and winds its way up and over three high Andean passes en route. Lesser-walked options include the Lares, Salkantay or even Choquequirao which connects Machu Picchu with another incredible Inca site. Whichever trail you take, this mystical journey of snowy mountain peaks and ancient ruins is well worth the journey.

Sandboarding down golden dunes in Huacachina

While the climb up giant sand dunes in Huacachina Peru might be a workout, it’s all fun and games on the way down. Feel like a kid again as you slide down fluffy sand beds on a board and then trek your way back up to do it all again. Stop to rest while you take in the golden setting sun before heading back to the small oasis villages at the foot of the dunes.

Soar above the iconic landmarks of Rio de Janeiro

This culturally-rich city is a melting pot of carnival, samba, golden beaches and not to mention a giant statue of Jesus. The best way to experience it? Glide over the famous landmarks with a bird’s eye view of the magical city as you hang-glide down to the beach below. This breathtaking experience is unmatched and will help you tick off a few items in one go. Not all of Rio’s wonders are at soaring heights, so be sure to continue on foot before ending the day at one of the city’s all-night parties for a night to remember.

Trek across otherworldly landscapes in Patagonia

The diversity in landscape that you’ll find on a hike across Patagonia will take your breath away. Covering a massive chunk of southern Chile and Argentina, you can expect to walk past teal lakes and emerald forests, glittering glaciers and rushing rivers all over the span of a few days. There are plenty of well-trodden trails to take in places like Torres del Paine National Park or Los Glaciares National Park, just be sure to plan ahead for your expedition by booking accommodation in advance so that when you show up on the day you can concentrate on the task at hand.

Explore the mystical Amazon Rainforest for an unforgettable sight

What traveller hasn’t dreamed of visiting the one place left that seems truly wild? The Amazon doesn’t just attract tourists for its towering trees and stalking wildlife, most come for its near-mythical status. Explore the vast jungle where people are few and rivers run through like roads on a canoe, a boat, or on foot. However you book to tour this marvel, it's sure to live up to every expectation.

Walk through the clouds in Bolivia’s salt flats

Journey across Salar de Uyuni, the world’s largest salt flat by 4x4 or on a guided tour and you’ll feel like you’re amongst the clouds. This unimaginable sight was once a lake that stretched across most of Southwest Bolivia before it dried up leaving only a vast salt desert. When the surface is bone dry it becomes a pure white expanse but when there’s a little water it reflects the sky like a mirror causing the horizon to disappear and creating an eerie sight that has to be seen to be believed.

Swim with rare sea creatures while scuba diving in the Galápagos Islands

Ecuador's Galápagos Islands are home to the kinds of creatures you won’t find anywhere else in the world which is why this Pacific Ocean spot rivals the Great Barrier Reef as one of the best places in the world to dive. Swim amongst sharks, sea lions, marine iguanas and manta rays on this epic adventure and then return to land in search of other rare wildlife including pink iguanas and blue-footed boobies (which do in fact have blue feet).

If any one of these has signalled your inner adrenaline-junkie, start saving now with ubank. Use the offer code “TIMEOUT20” when you join and make five eligible card purchases in your first 30 days and score $20*.

*Make 5 eligible card purchases in the first 30 days to unlock sign up bonus. Terms and conditions apply.

Products issued by ubank, part of NAB. This information is general. Consider if it’s right for you. TMDs at ubank.com.au/tmd

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