With your travel insurance for South America sorted, start ticking off these lesser-known destinations for authentic experiences in this amazing continent.

Huacachina, PeruSouth 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, Ecuador

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.

Valparaíso, Chile

Situated 70 miles North West of Santiago, Vaparaíso’s UNESCO-status downtown is charming, colourful and bohemian in equal measures. You can visit the writer and poet Pablo Neruda’s home there, and then spend the afternoons ascending the surrounding hills in ‘ascensores’ to look out over the city’s original architecture and get some amazing photos. Valparaíso, Chile’s capital of culture, has some great places to eat and drink and soak up the atmosphere.

Banos, Ecuador

Combining mineral pools, waterfalls, lush forest and active volcano, it would be easy to think that Banos has it all. Unfortunately the relaxation offered by soaking in mineral pools heated by a volcano is offset a little by the dull architecture and the slightly overcrowded feel of the village. Don’t let this put you off though, as it also offers plenty of outdoor activities including rafting and biking for adrenaline junkies and is in a truly beautiful natural setting.

Paracas, Peru

Located 4 hours South of Lima, this sun-drenched beach town offers chilled summer vibes all year round and is the perfect base to explore the ‘poor man’s Galapagos’, the Ballestas Islands. Watch the sunset on the Pacific coast and get up early the next day to see exciting and varied wildlife on the Ballestas Island tour. Try the local chocolate (Chocotejas) and then chill out some more on the beautiful beach.

Trip Prep

Travel insurance for South America is a must, especially if you’re going off the beaten track. Make sure you’ve got comprehensive medical cover for peace of mind, and that your gadgets are covered by your travel insurance, for South America is a beautiful continent and you don’t want to leave without photos of you experiences.