Four Magical South American Towns
Guest post by Daniel Caracciolo
South America is the most diverse continent in the world. No matter whom you are or what you like there is always something that will interest you in South America. The one that shocked me the most was the love I felt for those small, but magical towns. They had me wanting to settle down and spend the last of my days enjoying the simple life! When I took the time to think of the most memorable, 4 towns came to mind straight away. I left a part of me in each of these towns, so here are my 4 magical towns of South America!
Salento is a small town located in Colombia’s south. This small quaint town is nestled atop one of Colombia’s beautiful valleys, the Quindio River Valley. With its modest altitude and yearly rains the surrounding landscape of this stunning town flourishes green in every direction. These conditions make the surrounding area perfect for growing many things, but my favorite is coffee!
The coffee plantations around Salento are one of the main reasons to travel here. If you like amazing, organic, fresh coffee you will certainly love Salento! The entire town is surrounded by both large and small plantations that offer tours and tastings. With the picturesque valleys to enjoy while exploring the plantations, this region simply can’t be missed!
In Salento, lovely cobblestone streets flow through the town and the colonial architecture bursts from the ground seemingly untouched by modern times! This was due to a diversion of a road some time ago that left Salento largely isolated, this is how the town has kept its aging colonial heritage with such grace. Salento’s main square is a wonderful place to spend a day or night. It boasts amazing coffee shops, street food stalls, and the best empanadas I ate in Colombia! From the main square, every street is lined with colorful colonial buildings with painted window frames and decorated doors. Salento really steps its visitors back in time!
However it’s not just the coffee or colonial buildings people travel far and wide for, Salento is also home to the famous wax palms. These wax palms are located in the nearby Cocora Valley and are famous for great height! From below a thin stems shoots up high into the air making them appear to defy physics! The palms make for fantastic views and even better photos. Walking through the valley’s small trails is a breathtaking experience that complements this magical South American Town!
Salento should be on every traveler’s list and has well deserved its spot in my “4 Magical South American Towns” list!
Search for Hotels in Salento via Agoda
El Calafate, Argentina
When I first laid eyes on El Calafate I fell in love instantly! This gorgeous small town in the south of Argentina is located in one of the most beautiful regions on earth. The area that surrounds El Calafate is part of the region of Patagonia. This region is famous all over the world for its picturesque mountain peaks, huge glaciers, and the most turquoise lakes you can find!
The most famous of the nearby attractions is the Perito Moreno Glacier that bursts a whopping 80m out from beneath the water and is over 170m thick in some places. The Icefield here is the 3rd largest body of fresh water in the world and unlike others around the world, it’s getting bigger! But the Glacier’s size isn’t only what makes it so amazing, it also that the Glacier is alive! It’s not uncommon to witness large junks of ice, the size of buses, explode from the glacier walls! The sound of the ice breaking off sounds as if canyons are going off! The overall experience is crazy!
El Calafate town’s streets are lined with tall pine trees and elegant oak shop fronts. It reminds me of Banff, Canada. With beautiful summer weather exploring this quaint town is no chore at all. On one corner you can try fantastic craft beers brewed in the region, and on another corner, it is possible to shop at the small market stalls that line the side streets. El Calafate also has great cafes, delicious ice creameries, and all the restaurants to go along with it. El Calafate is a breathtaking sight and lives up to its surrounding landscape.
Search for Hotels in El Calafate via Agoda
Nicknamed “Bolivia’s Little Switzerland,” Samaipata really makes you feel like you’re in a small country town in Switzerland! It’s a combination of the rolling hills that surround the town and the buildings’ intricate architecture. The area that does surround Samaipata…simply put, is gorgeous!
The area’s surrounding forest conceals many things, however, the most special being the “El Fuerte de Samaipata”. An Inca ruin that dates back to over 500 years lies atop a small hill only 5 minutes from the town. One area of the ruins that was used for ceremonies is carved from a single giant rock! The ruins are one of the main tourist attractions of this small town, however, there are more reasons to call this magical South American townhome for a few days – the waterfalls!
Only 10 minutes from the center of town is a small place called “Las Cuevas” that is home to several beautiful waterfalls! These waterfalls are stunning and no visit to the town would be complete without seeing them. The whole area is breathtaking and the small hiking trails offer fantastic panoramic views. There are 3 main waterfalls and all are great for cooling off!
As for the Samaipata town itself, during the night the spectacular cathedral and central park light up! Visits to the local markets are a great place to meet all the friendly locals and pick up some tasty organic foods. The quiet ambiance and friendly locals make wasting away your time a breeze in this magical South American town!
Futaleufu is another town located in the region of Patagonia, and along with El Calafate, really doesn’t disappoint! Due to Futaleufu’s northern location in Patagonia, the climate here changes slightly and the huge white peaks are replaced with some spectacular rivers and greenery!
The Futaleufu River is said to be one of the best rivers for kayaking and rafting in the world. After hitting the rapids on a raft last year for myself, I can agree! The river a huge adrenaline rush that will have you holding on to the raft for dear life. That being said, the views are incredible floating down the calmer areas!
The rafting and kayaking is what Futaleufu is famous for but it’s not the only reason to visit! Due to the rushing rivers and a giant lake, fly fishing is extremely popular and people travel from around the globe to cast a line! With plenty of professionals in town willing to take tourists out, anyone can have a go. Even if fishing isn’t your thing, a day out on the beautiful lake is a must!
The town of Futaleufu is a breath of fresh air and a great place to wine and dine on some Chilean wine and great Argentinian steaks. There are lots of nice restaurants and two cool bars which make letting your hair down after a day of activities very tempting. The main square lights up at night and is the perfect place to enjoy a sunset (they even do yoga in the mornings there!)
Although all of these towns I have mentioned are gorgeous and offer incredible things to do, I personally find that the small towns dotted all through South America give me the best local experience. They are places where time moves slowly and the people smile as you walk by. They welcome you in, making leaving hard, and it’s all because you no longer become a number in a million, instead, you become a face and name to the people around you. That bond with the people of the place you are visiting is what really makes you get to know the culture. So get packing, and enjoy these 4 magical towns of South America!
Search for Hotels in Futaleufu via Agoda
About Daniel Caracciolo
Daniel is an adventure travel blogger from Australia. He has spent the last 2 years traveling and writing about his experiences with his partner Bailey on their travel blog Destinationless Travel. Daniel loves anything extreme and is a licensed skydiver who loves to surf. With no plans of slowing down, his next adventure awaits in New Zealand, where he plans to hike every trail in the country while calling a self-contained van his home.