The Top 10 Experiences in South America: Our 2023 Travel Hotlist

The Top 10 Experiences in South America: Our 2023 Travel Hotlist, Aracari Travel

 

Every January, our travel specialists dedicate hours to curating Aracari’s hotlist for the new year. Like a guiding compass, this exclusive directory helps shape our luxury South America vacations for the year ahead, pinpointing some of the continent’s most exciting pioneers, from hoteliers to head chefs.  

The criteria for making it onto our travel hotlist is of course stringent. Marisol and our team continuously pose questions around sustainability, authenticity, and purposeful travel to South America – ensuring that those who make it onto our shortlist adhere to Aracari’s core values.

The Best Experiences in South America: Travel Beyond Peru in 2023

We’re delighted to announce that, in the first edition of its kind, this year’s travel hotlist spans more of our magnificent continent, as we too widen our premium travel service to include more of South America. Using our insider knowledge – the product of over two decades of experience in luxury travel – we will curate tailor-made itineraries that zigzag across South America.

So, with unparalleled connections and access, our experts have sought out other industry trailblazers who are creating new and innovative ways to experience our region to feature in our 2023 Travel Hotlist. Within its words, you’ll find everything from hotels to hikes, from superyachts to superfood workshops.

And the best part? Each of these unique experiences can be handpicked to form the foundations of an exceptional, multi-country, luxury vacation to South America. Curated with the attention and affection of our specialist team, let this list of exclusive travel experiences be the beginning of your private South American tour with Aracari in 2023.

Arrange a call with our Travel Designers

Where to go in South America: Our Official 2023 Hotlist

From a beachside paradise in Colombia to luxury lodges in Argentina tucked away in deep Atlantic rainforest just 20-minutes from the world’s largest waterfalls, from the agricultural artist putting Peruvian potatoes on the world stage to Bolivia’s most daredevil mountain bike adventure, welcome to our shortlist of the very best happenings in luxury travel to South America. And let’s just say – it looks set to be a very happy New Year indeed.

1. Kontiki Wayra: A Luxury Ecuador Cruise

Sail around the sublime Ecuadorian coastline aboard the Kontiki Wayra – a private charter yacht designed for laidback luxury and unforgettable discoveries during a bespoke South America vacation. The route of Kontiki Wayra takes in some of Ecuador’s most breathtaking coastal destinations, beginning in San Vincente in the North and traveling to Puyango towards the Southern tip of the country.

Available for up to 8 days, Aracari guests can experience an extraordinary voyage of exploration and luxury during a private tour of South America. Days aboard this luxury Ecuador cruise start with panoramic views of the mesmerizing coastline while holding a cup of freshly ground local coffee. Then, once the anchor is dropped, the yacht becomes a center of luxury marine activities.

For those who like a spike of adrenaline, the Kontiki Wayra has waterpark slides, stretching from the top of the sundeck to the waves beneath. And you can choose from kayaking, paddle boarding, snorkeling, or scuba diving too.  For a more relaxing experience, guests can unwind on sunbeds secured to the boat’s floating island. There’s also the option for a yoga class on the sundeck or time in the gym. Before heading for a spa visit, where hedonists can indulge in a hot stone massage before climbing back to the sundeck to enjoy a glass of chilled champagne in the jacuzzi. 

Kontiki Wayra prides itself on exceptional farm-to-table and dock-to-table gastronomic experiences. Each day, meals can be enjoyed in the elegant dining area or al fresco in the sundeck. Whilst in the evening, guests will enjoy personal service from the yacht’s bartender. The organic bar can be found on the sundeck, where you can sample signature cocktails and local artisan beers, just in time for the sun to disappear behind the horizon to the beat of live music. Best experienced as part of a luxury South America tour, taking in more of exquisite Ecuador, The Kontiki Wayra is attended to by a full crew, including two-expert guides and top chefs, who provide exceptional service for those onboard.

2. The Marvels of La Paz and Gaston Ugalde: Cultural Travel to Bolivia

Set in a staggering landscape, La Paz straddles the Altiplano at 3,900 meters (12,795 feet) above sea level. It’s one of the best places in South America to witness the contrast between past and present, as native Aymara and Quechua people in traditional multi-colored skirts and bowler hats inhabit the frenzied bustle of a modern metropolis!

During this exclusive private tour of La Paz, you’ll begin an unforgettable day in the city’s downtown district. Some of the key highlights of this fascinating area include the Witches Market, the downtown government buildings on the Plaza Murillo, and the San Francisco Church. As you meander along colorful colonial streets, you’ll stop to sample salteñas, a delicious Bolivian pastry snack.

Next, you’ll visit the impressive Museum of Ethnography and Folklore, housed in an 18th-century building, which showcases the history of many Bolivian cultures, including pre-Hispanic relics, colonial and contemporary festive masks, Andean ceramics, and more. And afterward, you’ll ride the cable-car public transportation system to El Alto for breathtaking cityscape views and begin your journey towards the south of the city.

After lunch, you’ll visit Salar Galeria the studio of Gastón Ugalde, a pioneering artist and longtime friend of Aracari. Considered Bolivia’s most celebrated living artist, Gastón Ugalde is known all over the world for his thought-provoking work. A visual arts leader in the region and referred to by critics as the ‘Andean Warhol’ – Gastón has a career spanning many decades, with work exhibited at biennales like Venice, Sao Paulo, Paris, and Habana. 

Salar Galeria is the artist’s La Paz gallery, showcasing his contemporary work, as well as that of other carefully curated international artists represented by the gallery. In this exclusive experience available only to Aracari guests, you will enjoy a guided visit to this pivotal studio and discover the story behind the work of the extraordinary Gastón Ugalde.

3. The Potato Pioneer: One of Peru’s Best Foodie Experiences

An unmissable foodie experience high in the Andes, spend a few hours in the company of Manuel Choqque whose meticulous and inventive farming methods have produced over 380 varieties of native potatoes, putting his produce on the menus of Lima’s most renowned culinary institutions: Central and Maido.

A fourth-generation farmer, Manuel attended Lima’s prestigious Universidad Agraria, where he studied agricultural engineering, before returning to Huatata to run the family farming business and apply his knowledge to improving the genetics of native potatoes. Manuel’s interest in potatoes soon expanded beyond ocas and mashuas to ancestral potato varieties, products from Inca and pre-Inca cultures that were no longer being used.

Fast forward to today, and Manuel has more than 380 varieties of native potatoes, which he improves by imitating bees with manual cross-pollination. During this exclusive experience, you’ll learn how this delicate process involves removing the pollen from one potato flower and sprinkling it onto a flower of another variety. Manuel’s inventiveness achieves tubers with bright, intensified colors such as blue, purple, and red while enhancing the nutritional properties, textures, and flavors too. Such agricultural prowess caught the eye of Virgilio Martinez, the renowned Peruvian chef of Central fame – who sought out Manuel for his unrivaled knowledge of potatoes and tubers.  You’ll be able to sample the different types of freshly harvested potatoes cooked in a ‘huatia’, which is a traditional way of cooking in the Andes using the heat of the earth in an underground oven.

One of the best foodie experiences in South America, Manuel will finish by showing you his latest invention: a wine made from the ocas and mashuas tubers. You’ll have the chance to sample (and purchase) the different kinds of wine, including red, white, and sparkling, which are sold in Lima’s award-winning restaurants: the world-renowned Central Restaurant and the award-winning Maido.

A foodie experience found nowhere else in South America, Manuel is the ultimate pioneer of potatoes and a thoroughly deserving entry on our 2023 travel hotlist.

4. The Galapagos Sky Yacht: Experience the Best Diving in the Galapagos Islands

Galapagos Sky is a 100ft (33m), 16-passenger luxury liveaboard yacht custom designed and built for the best scuba diving in the Galapagos Islands. Specifically created for scuba divers, you’ll discover the wonders of the Galapagos Archipelago on dry land and witness the beauty beneath the waves – with up to four dives per day during a spectacular private South America vacation with Aracari.  

Spanning 7-days, this high-octane adventure vacation to the Galapagos Islands takes guests across the Archipelago in search of the best diving spots in South America. The itinerary includes three days at the remote northern islands of Wolf and Darwin, which have now been scientifically recognized as having the highest abundance of sharks in the world. As well as diving with endemic Marine Iguanas at Cabo Douglas, Mola Mola at Punta Vicente Roca, and many other fascinating species; Green Sea Turtles, Whale Sharks, Hammerhead Sharks, Sea Lions, and Manta Rays.

Accompanied by an experienced crew, including two expert naturalist guides and Dive Masters, you’ll be exposed to their leading knowledge of the region. The small diving groups mean that your luxury Galapagos vacation will be highly personal and private, allowing you to soak up the experience at your own pace – one of the many reasons we have highlighted the Galapagos Sky Yacht as one of the best experiences in South America for those seeking adventure.

It’s important to note that diving in the Galapagos is advanced due to strong currents, varying visibility, cold water, and depths that can be 20-30 meters or 65-100 feet. Aracari’s team of specialist travel designers can advise on the appropriate level of ability for this diving experience and will suggest alternative luxury Galapagos cruises should the required level be too advanced for you or your party.

5. The Ancascocha Trek: The Undiscovered Inca Trail Alternative 

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, preferring to take the well trodden path instead. 

With Aracari, you’ll spend four days in the majestic Southern Andes hiking the challenging Ancascocha trail. 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 indigenous Andean communities. Then, at the end of day four, you’ll arrive in Ollantaytambo, catching the train to Machu Picchu the next morning for a private guided tour of the ancient wonder.

The start of this difficult yet magnificent trail is found in the community of Qamicancha, 30 minutes outside of Ollantaytambo. Located on the picturesque shores of Silke River (a tributary of the Urubamba River), Qamicancha is where you will be introduced to the local muleteers and their mules, responsible for the logistics whilst hiking the Southern Andes.

Over the next few days, you’ll reach a maximum altitude of 4650 mt / 15255 ft above sea level, walking up to 14 km / 8.7 miles per day. Testament to why Ancascocha is one of the best treks in South America, you will witness some of the continent’s most breathtaking scenery. In this incredibly wild and rugged landscape, glaciers glisten in the sun and red-tinged mountains stand in stark contrast to rolling black hills in the background. The trail itself joins parts of the Inca Trail along the route, and you’ll cross paths with fascinating ruins, including the archaeological site of Paucarcancha – a small Inca citadel and administrative control center.

Trekking in the Andes with Aracrai is a unique experience, offering appropriate luxury in some of the continent’s most remote landscapes. Drawing on our decades of experience, we offer discerning travelers authentic treks away from the crowds, with top-notch equipment, first-class guiding, and uncompromised safety standards.

6. Sofitel Baru Hotel: The Best Beach in South America

The beautiful Isla Barú is a former peninsula south of Cartagena, Colombia. Warm Caribbean waters lap the white sandy shore, making this one of the most sublime beach areas in all of South America. And for 2023, this pristine land is home to new a level of luxury.

The Sofitel Baru Calablanca Beach Resort has been painstakingly designed to seamlessly blend into this rare natural haven. The gentle caressing breezes, stunning vistas, and soft white sands surrounded by turquoise waters are an unmissable highlight during a luxury South America vacation that passes through the region.

Inside the hotel, the feel is slick minimalism. The space is expansive, with more than 180 rooms in total, although you’d be forgiven for thinking the number was half of that because of the hotel’s clever layout. You’ll find no less than five swimming pools, scattered across the landscape to create a spacious feel, whereby guests are never concentrated in one particular area of the hotel. There are several restaurants too, offering a variety of local and international cuisine.

There are of course many reasons that the Sofitel Baru Calablanca Beach Resort has made our travel hotlist for 2023, but here are our three favorites. Firstly, the rooms. Tastefully decorated with luxury modern amenities, the hotel rooms vary in size from a supreme double to a large penthouse suite of 120 sq mt. Regardless of size, however, each room has beautiful uninterrupted views of the coast, to be enjoyed from private balconies. There are also plenty of adjoining rooms throughout the property, which makes this the perfect place to enjoy as a family with children.

Our second highlight is the long white sandy beach that can be found here. Unusual for the location due to the area’s geography, Calablanca is one of the longest and most unspoiled beaches on the continent, and we think Sofitel Baru Calablanca is the place from which to enjoy all its splendor during a luxury vacation to South America in 2023. And finally, the hotel’s efforts towards sustainability make it highly favorable for Aracari. You won’t find any plastic being used by the team on site, contributing towards their planet-friendly practices in one of the planet’s most beautiful places.

7. Bolivia’s Daredevil Road: Mountain Biking on the Yungas Path

Bolivia’s Yungas Road was built by Paraguayan prisoners in the 1930s to connect the high-altitude city of La Paz, 4,650m (15,256 ft) above sea level, to the lowland Bolivian Amazon found at an altitude of 1800m (5,905ft). Thankfully, it’s been more than 15 years since the perilous Yungas Road has been used by streams of traffic coming from La Paz, Bolivia’s high-altitude capital. Christened the ‘World’s Most Dangerous Road’ by the Inter-American Development Bank in 1995, it has since fallen into relative disuse for auto transit and in 2007 an alternative new road was constructed where most traffic now flows. And during that time, it has become popular with thrill-seeking mountain bikers, who have dubbed it ‘Death Road’.

Despite its ominous name, you don’t need to be an especially experienced downhill mountain biker to enjoy the ride – although the route is recommended for confident beginners and above, with at least average fitness. During the experience, you’ll be accompanied by an expert English-speaking guide, along with a mountain bike expert. The standard of equipment is first-class, and you’ll be given a full briefing introduction on how to operate their premium-quality mountain bikes.

Your journey will begin at Cumbre (meaning the summit), located approximately one hour outside of La Paz. At 4,650m (15,256 ft) above sea level, this is the road’s highest point, surrounded by the spectacular scenery of rugged snow-capped mountains of the Cordillera Real. From here you’ll take to your top-of-the-range mountain bikes for a unique downhill adventure, following a scenic route that goes from snowy peaks through sharp curves with steep cliffs, waterfalls, and lush vegetation. Whilst the beginning of Yungas Road is smoothly paved, halfway down it changes to a narrow, dirt road cut precariously into the side of the mountain with a 1000m + (3,300 feet) sheer drop to your left! It’s not for the fainthearted, but your expert guides will ensure that every safety precaution is rigorously adhered to.

One of the best experiences in South America for adventure seekers, the ride time is around 5 hours, and you’ll cover over 64 km (40 miles), the vast majority of which is downhill. There’s no doubt that the highlight of the daredevil road is the so-called Curve of Death, where you’ll ride through several waterfalls and along a sharp curve with a vertical drop!

There will be a chance to make several stops along the way, where you’ll be able to take photographs of the stunning landscape and enjoy a drink and a snack. Finally, you’ll reach the end point of the journey – the village of Yolosa. A 2,850m lower than you started your journey, Yolosa is a subtropical clime located at 1800m (5,905ft) above sea level – a staggering fact that puts this experience firmly on our top 10 South America experiences for 2023.

8. Los Qolqas: A Peruvian Eco-retreat in the Sacred Valley

Burrowed in the heart of the Sacred Valley of the Incas lies the eco-retreat of Las Qolqas. Its name originates from the Quechuan word, ‘Qolqas’ – relating to the stone houses used by the Incas to store grains and textiles, and the nearby town of Ollantaytambo, just 2 kilometers away, is home to some of the most preserved Qolqas structures in all of Peru. 

It’s not only the property’s name that is inspired by the land’s ancient past but the whole ethos. As part of a luxury vacation to South America, Aracari guests can spend several nights at Los Qolqas, immersed in the natural beauty of the magnificent mountainous surroundings and marveling at relics left behind by lost civilizations.

The team here is passionate about helping guests learn more about their unique position in the Andes, organizing regular guided visits to some of the most mystical and sacred spots in the whole of Peru. Free shuttle buses run from Los Qolqas to Ollantaytambo town several times a day, whilst other fascinating sites can be accessed on foot, such as the millenary pre-Inca fortress of Pumamarca, just a short walk from the eco-camp.

The accommodation here is comfortable yet modest so as to not distract from the beauty of the place. Sturdy safari-style tents are pitched across the grounds, ranging in size, and equipped with all the amenities needed for a relaxing stay in one of our most recommended hotels in the Sacred Valley.

The tents are separated by indigenous trees laden with native fruits, such as Avocados, Lucumas, and Chirimoyas, and the onsite botanical garden is filled full of vegetables and herbs like Muña (Andean mint), Lemon Grass, and Huacatay. During a luxury South America vacation with Aracari, you’ll be invited to learn more about these homegrown delights, and how each is used as ingredients in the hotel’s kitchen.  

9. Awasi Luxury Lodges: Stays in South America’s Most Iconic Landscapes

Awasi is a collection of three small luxury lodges that offer an all-inclusive, private experience in some of South America’s most iconic destinations. During a private South America vacation with Aracari, our expert Travel Designers can map a tailormade itinerary around stays in these exquisite properties, combining Awasi lodges with more of our top 10 places to see in South America.

The three Awasi lodges can be found in Atacama and Patagonia, both in Chile, and Iguazu, which is found in Argentina. Awasi Patagonia is located in a private reserve with impressive views of the Torres del Paine Mountain Range and Lake Sarmiento. Inspired by traditional Patagonian shelters and estate ‘outposts’, there are just 14 villas on the Awasi private reserve. Whilst in San Pedro de Atacama, the lodge here is fondly named the ‘oasis in the desert’. It’s the ideal retreat from which to explore the impressive natural scenery of the Atacama Desert. Returning afterward for a swim in the pool, a drink by the fire pit, long evening meals in the Relais & Chateaux restaurant, and open-air communal areas to take in the world’s clearest skies.

The third luxury lodge is found in Argentina, located just 20 minutes from the world’s largest waterfalls, Awasi’s new 14-room lodge is situated on the banks of the River Iguazú, surrounded by the Atlantic Rainforest. An unforgettable moment during a private South America vacation with Aracari, Awasi Iguazú is the ideal spot to enjoy the world-famous National Park and its surroundings, while also enjoying especially crafted excursions that go beyond the falls.

Whether you opt to include one, two, or all three of the Awasi lodges in your luxury South America tour with Aracari, you will be treated to an exquisite, premium standard of service. Each room is assigned a private guide and premium vehicle just for that room alone, so you can explore at your own pace, visiting where you want, when you want. It’s this fact especially, that puts Awasi lodges firmly on our 2023 travel hotlist. 

10. Vertical Sky Luxury Suites: A High-Adrenaline Cliffside Stay 

Clinging to the cliffs of Antanuca Mountain, deep in the Andes, are the Vertical Sky Luxury Suites. One of Aracari’s most recommended hotels for a luxury South America tour that crosses through this region, a stay here offers an unforgettable experience.

Opening its doors in 2021, Vertical Sky Luxury Suites are a feat of engineering at 3,300 meters (10,800 feet) above sea level. Once guests arrive at the hotel’s reception, they will begin the 30-minute hike across the mountain to reach their sleeping quarters and the property’s restaurant. Comprising seven different suites, the cleverly constructed glass domes and capsules are fixed to the landscape, perfectly positioned to give guests a sweeping vista of the magnificent Nev Veronica mountain and the surrounding Valley.

The team here has been careful to adhere to sustainable practices too. Water and energy on-site are all conserved as much as possible, waste is properly recycled, ingredients are seasonal and sourced from the surrounding area, and the people who work here are local, many of them walking to work from the neighboring village communities. Reforestation is also a key consideration of the founders, with each guest invited to plant a tree, commemorating their visit in a way that will help to ensure the future of this delicate, high-altitude ecosystem.

A stay at Vertical Sky Luxury Suites is ideal for a luxury vacation to South America, especially for those traveling to Peru with older children and young adults, or could even be enjoyed as part of an adventurous honeymoon to Peru. Zip wires, a suspension bridge, and a unique adventure circuit are all part of the exhilarating experience for those who visit. 

Experience a private South America vacation curated by Aracari in 2023

Our Travel Hotlist for 2023 is of course only the beginning. We hope that the scope and diversity showcased within it highlight the unrivaled uniqueness of a luxury South America tour with Aracari. But as ever, we are led by you too.

We can handpick experiences from across the continent based on your specific interests, so that should you wish to see the spectacle of Patagonia with an expert naturalist or cross the marvel of Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni in a specialist, luxury campervan – we can make it happen.

Mark and Cecile – our dedicated Travel Designers – are equipped with all the specialist knowledge and information to create a bespoke luxury vacation to South America in 2023, tailored completely to your taste. Whether you choose to visit countries each as a single-destination trip or build a tailormade itinerary around multiple destinationswe’d be delighted to connect you to your own private South American voyage.

Arrange a call with our Travel Designers

 

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