When was the last time you felt awe? The goosebump shiver of the sublime, triggered by a place so incomprehensibly magnificent that the material world pales in insignificance.
At Aracari, we like to think of ourselves as facilitators of that euphoric feeling. From the vast expanse of the Atacama Desert in Chile to the breathtaking panoramas of Machu Picchu its Inca ruins steeped in inconceivable history – we have spent the last 26 years connecting our clients to some of the world’s most tremendous moments of awe. It’s our language – and we know the power it holds.
Of course, it’s no secret that a luxury South America vacation can be a catalyst for a change of state. However, here at Aracari, we have always been believers in something much deeper. Done right, travel can unlock an altogether higher and more intense state of emotion triggered by the sublime.
So, when our Aracari insiders caught wind of a fascinating new study probing into the scientific benefits of awe and wonder, we were hooked. And after reading more we knew not only did we need to share news of such an enthralling subject with you – the astute Aracari community – but also that we could combine this new research with our own expertise.
The Art of Awe
The sensation of awe as a consequence of travel or experience is no new thing. Irish philosopher Edmund Burke defined the feeling in 1757 as an ‘artistic effect productive of the strongest emotion the mind is capable of feeling’. But what is more current is the neurological science attributed to the transformative power of awe.
Recent studies spearheaded by Professor Dacher Keltner have scientifically linked exposure to awe and wonder with the deactivation of stress regions in our brain, calming inflammation in the body, and spurring the parts of our neuro-system tied to creativity and joy. And after reading, not only did we need to share news of such an enthralling subject, but we knew we could combine this new research with our own expertise, curating the many magnificent ways you can experience awe and wonder in South America.
Finding Awe During a Luxury South America Vacation
Each one of our luxury South America vacations hinges on experiences that evoke genuine awe in our clients, from meetings with remote Amazonian villagers to a private picnic on the lagoons of Brazil’s magnificent Lencoes Maranhenses National Park.
Away from the crowds, outside of tourist tropes, we finetune our itineraries so that they are filled with once-in-a-lifetime experiences that foster connection and wide-eyed wonder even in the most well-traveled of clients. And so, in the following words, you’ll gain a glimpse into our unique way of doing just that.
Moments of Awe: Travel Across South America’s Staggering Landscapes
A luxury South America vacation isn’t complete without time spent in the great outdoors, and to us – there are no greater outdoors than those found here.
If it’s a hike that piques your interest, we take you away from the tourist trails and into the rural wilderness. Because whilst the most well-trodden routes hold popularity for a valid reason, it’s away from the crowds that rare moments of awe feel the closest.
In Peru, the Ancascocha trek is found along the same mountainous route as the Inca Trail high in the Andes, yet very few venture along its path. Named in the Top 20 Hikes by National Geographic – this magnificent route passes through turquoise lagoons and snow-capped peaks, extraordinary wildlife, archaeological relics of the enigmatic Inca Empire, as well as rural Andean communities. Reaching a maximum altitude of 4650 mt / 15255 ft above sea level in the incredibly wild and rugged landscape, you’ll witness glistening glaciers and red-tinged mountains standing in stark contrast to rolling black hills in the background. The kind of scenes that truly heighten our sense of the sublime and open us to feel the benefits of awe and wonder.
Given the vastness of our continent, not all landscapes can be explored on foot. Thankfully other awe-inspiring experiences are best accessed by horseback, especially in Ecuador and Chile – where our clients have ridden through the wild mountains and stretching pampas without another soul in sight.
And then you have a natural spectacle of a different kind. One triggered not by size and scale alone, but by immeasurable beauty. In Brazil, the Lencoes Maranhenses National Park is truly a sight to behold – a vast spectacle of dunes and crystal-clear lagoons. Our itinerary The Treasures of Brazil features three days here, staying at a nature-engulfed eco-camp on the edge of the national park and journeying across the expanse to dip in the pristine pools, connect with local people in remote communities and hike to an unmissable ariel vantage point where the land appears like a series of white bedsheets billowing in the breeze.
Whilst the remote stargazing on the prehistoric lake beds of the Salar de Uyuni or wild swimming in the multi-colored lagoons of the Eduardo Avaroa National Park or sailing the great lakes of Southern Chile and Argentina – are each sure to spark their own moments of blissful awe.
Moments of Awe: Bear Witness to South America’s Most Spectacular Wildlife
Incredible flora and fauna can be found in abundance in South America but the secret to the truly sublime experiences is knowing the hideaways without crowds, in remote corners of the continent. Often these wildlife-filled boltholes are the result of wonderful conservation efforts of local NGOs – and nowhere is that more true than at the remote Tambopata Research Center, Peru.
Located deep in the Amazon rainforest inside the 3.7 million acres of protected jungle, sightings of capybara, caiman, geese, monkeys, and other large species are frequent, including one especially special sighting. On most clear mornings dozens of macaws and hundreds of parrots congregate on the large riverbank in a raucous and colorful spectacle. Discretely located fifty meters from the cliff, our guests observe green-winged, scarlet, and blue-and-gold macaws, as well as several species of smaller parrots, descend to ingest the clay – a sight that is only found here, far from modern civilization.
Peru’s Colca Canyon too is home to awe-inspiring bird watching. It’s the great Andean condors that are found here, and during our itinerary Travel with Taste: Peru’s Spellbinding South, our clients reach the famous Condor Cross to view the majestic birds in flight. With an average wingspan of 3m (10ft), these creatures create spine-tingling awe in all of those who witness them gliding through the vast gorges of the Colca Canyon.
Those are of course but a few examples of the awe-inspiring wildlife found across South America. From the pink dolphins and giant hummingbirds of the Amazon rainforest to the wild vicunas and guanacos galloping across the high-altitude plateaus of Bolivia and Chile – our region is one of the best places on earth to feel hair-raising wonder sparked by natural phenomena.
Moments of Awe: Trace the History of South America’s Ancient Civilizations
To us, one of the greatest sources of awe in South America must be the relics left behind by ancient civilizations. Often cultivated in extreme isolation, such as in the cloud forests that surround Machu Picchu – these astonishing structures sit atop mountains built with enormous stones thousands of years ago.
Witnessing the ingenuity and inventiveness of civilizations so far in the past is an incredibly moving experience, highlighting the power of humankind. Machu Picchu is of course the most famous relic of the ancient Inca Empire but visit Peru with Aracari and you’ll discover a land etched in deep history.
Located above the glacier-fed Apurimac River, surrounded by towering snow-capped peaks, and seated on a high ridge, Choquequirao is a remote, rarely visited ‘lost city of the Incas.’ Aracari curates a superb five-day, four-night camping trek as part of a luxury Peru itinerary, plunging down into the Apurimac Canyon and up to reach the ruins of Choquequirao. Meaning ‘Cradle of Gold’ in Quechua, Choquequirao is believed to be where the last Inca rulers fled following the loss of the city of Cusco to the Spanish during the conquest.
Other awe-inspiring discoveries far pre-date the Incas too. During our itinerary Undiscovered Peru, Aracari clients visit Huaca de La Luna of the Moche people who ruled this part of Peru from around 100-700 A.D. As well as the ancient mud-brick city of Chan Chan, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the capital city of the Chimu Kingdom which fell to the Incas in the 15th Century. This vast edifice was the largest city in Pre-Columbian America, its cavernous interiors split into nine huge citadels.
Visiting these captivating sites as part of a luxury vacation to South America with Aracari is made even more awe-inspiring since our experiences are led by prominent historians. Those who have written books and led research projects about the civilizations that once prevailed here can provide the intricate detail to truly colour your imagination.
Moments of Awe: Connect to the Cultures of South America
Truly meaningful travel is as much about the people you meet, as it is the places you visit. At Aracari, our itineraries are deeply entwined with local cultures upheld by native communities. By facilitating private experiences, which operate away from the tourist traps, we are privileged to facilitate some of the most awe-inspiring moments permitted by travel.
During our Pillars of Peru vacation, you’ll meet with a friend of Aracari, Natalia Gonzalez. Natalia is a leading anthologist based in Tarapoto, a town nestled deep in the Amazon rainforest. Her workshop can be found on Instagram, @Jane_Artistans, and is responsible for exhibiting authentic art and craft made by women from the local jungle communities. Aracari guests have the chance to meet with Natalia for a private conversation and a guided visit to her workshop, where you’ll be able to purchase some of the unique pieces showcased here.
Likewise in a remote pocket of the Sacred Valley, our privileged access has created a rare opportunity for guests to meet with masterweaver Nilda Callañaupa. Here our guests experience an entirely authentic insight into the history of textiles in the region. You’ll learn how in the Andes, weaving is a language, and that fine weavings were as precious as gold during the time of the Inca Empire. And how more than twenty-five years ago, Nilda, recognized that precious history was being lost.
In a bid to prevent this from happening, Nilda, a master weaver herself, founded CTTC (Center for Traditional Textiles of Cusco). Since then, CTTC has done extraordinary work in the region. And during your visit to Huayoccari, you’ll witness some of the most authentic textile techniques in all of Peru. Meeting with Nilda herself – as well as her team of local weavers creating some of the country’s finest textile work.
And, in the remote village of Espigão found in the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park of Brazil, Aracari facilitates a deeply humbling visit to the home of Mr. Codo – a local flour producer – and his family during our itinerary The Treasures of Brazil. From his incredibly rural and extremely humble holding, Mr. Codo plants manioc used to make the kind of flour that is essential in Brazilian cooking. During this one-of-a-kind experience, Mr. Codo will demonstrate how he turns the manioc into flour using simple tools and equipment, an arduous process that takes up to a few days to produce just 10% of what is needed for a minimum living. The demonstration takes around 2 hours, after which Mr. Codo will invite you to enjoy a cup of coffee and a slice of homemade cake prepared by his wife. In a moment of total awe, our guests gain an invaluable glimpse into communities like the one to which Mr. Codo belongs, learning of a deeply hospitable culture founded on making everyone welcome.
Travel for your Wellbeing: Connect to Awe with Aracari
Finding moments of awe – as you’ll learn from Kelter’s work – isn’t too difficult once you know where to look. What is a challenge though, is finding a luxury travel company as deeply intertwined with awe-inspiring moments as Aracari.
The power of awe is our language, and our itineraries are written with it. So, now that you know the wellbeing benefits of the awesome, why not take a walk on the sublime side with Aracari for your next luxury vacation to South America?
Aracari’s dedicated Travel Designers are equipped with all the specialist knowledge and contacts to weave a bespoke itinerary, tailored completely to your taste. Whether you choose to visit a single-destination trip or build a tailormade vacation around multiple destinations – we’d be delighted to connect you to moments of awe during a private South American voyage.