South America is full of hidden family-friendly destinations and activities, often being overlooked as a great place to vacation with the kids. Where else can offer exciting ancient temples, golden sandy beaches or natural wonders like the Amazon or Iguazu Falls all within one trip?

We know that planning any time away with the kids can be daunting at the best of times, so we’ve taken a look at some of South America’s most family-friendly places in Peru, Brazil, Argentina, Ecuador, Chile, Bolivia, Uruguay and Colombia to get your ideas going. Each can be visited either as a standalone trip or combined into one big adventure, the choice is yours.

1. PERÚ

Machu Picchu
Often voted the world’s top travel destination, Machu Picchu is a must for any family tour of Peru. What could be more exciting than visiting a lost ancient city hidden in a verdant, mountainous valley? Depending on the age of your children, strapping on your walking boots to hike the Classic Inca Trail over 3 to 4 days may be too strenuous. We’d not recommend the trail to anyone under the age of 14. Instead, taking the five-star Hiram Bingham train to Machu Picchu is a much more relaxed option as you travel through the Sacred Valley and Andes Mountain Range by rail. The area around Machu Picchu is very safe and there are some great family-friendly hotels, too.

The Sacred Valley
Cusco and the Sacred Valley have been at the heart of Peruvian culture, spirituality and empire for thousands of years. Thankfully, much of that heritage—from prehistoric sites and Inca temples, to grand colonial churches and priceless museum artefacts—is still wonderfully preserved to this day. Whether you’re young or old you can’t help but lose yourself and travel back in time as you travel from one impressive spiritual site, ancient fort or palace to the next. What’s more, the Sacred Valley is also bewilderingly beautiful so even journeys between stops provide their own enjoyment.

Paracas

Paracas, on Peru’s western coastline, is a place of boutique beachside hotels, adventure and wildlife. The coastline and desert surrounding Paracas are home to many myths and legends, none more so than the nearby Nazca Lines – giant ancient carvings in the desert that can only be seen from the sky. Meanwhile Paracas itself is known for its exciting dune buggying adventures and boat rides to the Ballestas Islands, home to an abundance of seabirds, sea lions, and even penguins.

The Amazon Rainforest
Of course, Peru is also home to the magical Amazon Rainforest where families can marvel at the towering trees, tropical plants, and excitement of endless wildlife-spotting opportunities – not to mention sleeping to the sounds of the jungle!

There are different ways to explore the Amazon Rainforest as a family. You can fly to Puerto Maldonado in the Tambopata National Reserve where you can pick up a transfer to one of many welcoming eco-lodges. Here, look forward to guided excursions, trekking along nature trails to rainforests gardens, canoeing through the wetlands, walking above the trees on a suspended bridge or a twilight river journey to look for Caiman, the choice is yours!

Alternatively, a family-friendly Amazon cruise is another great way to see the jungle at a gentler pace. You’ll have plenty of onshore excursions to choose from during planned stops while aboard, as well as the chance to see more of the rainforest as your boat sails through the waterways each day.

2. BRAZIL

Río de Janeiro
Rio de Janeiro may seem like a busy, bustling and at times challenging city, and it is. However, there is more to Rio than cocktail bars, samba and a turbulent social history when it comes to a family-friendly holiday in Brazil. In fact, Rio is a city of beaches (who doesn’t love a golden sandy beach?), huge monuments and views that children will love – like Christ the Redeemer – and even nature. Rio’s Tijuca National Park, for example, is the largest urban forest in the world.

So if traveling to Rio with children, between time on the beach and hunting down tasty food spots, the activities then come thick and fast. You can take the train up Corcovado Mountain, visit the fun-filled Museum of Tomorrow, or take the cable car Sugar Loaf Mountain for amazing views of the city. Atelier’s Brazil specialists can also advise on the best family-friendly hotels in Brazil, too.

The Pantanal
If your little ones love the idea of exploring untamed wilderness in the middle of nowhere, then look no further than Brazil Pantanal Wetlands – the biggest of their kind in the world. While here, you can have all kinds of adventures like horse riding, 4×4 offroad drives, spotting giant tropical plants, birdwatching or boat tours in search of Caiman.

The Pantanal offers both adults and children the chance to escape from the human activity of everyday life and immerse themselves into one of the world’s last untouched landscapes. What’s more, the beauty and adventure to be found here will keep everyone engaged!

3. ARGENTINA

Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is a cosmopolitan and bohemian city, though one which comes with charm and plenty to keep children amused. Firstly, the city is awash with sprawling parks and playgrounds, many of which have art installations, fountains and carousels. You could wander the colorful and cultural district of La Boca or taste local cuisine at Mercado de San Telmo.

Elsewhere around Buenos Aires you have art museums, tango shows to enjoy, boutiques and shopping malls, plus plenty of day trip to exciting stops like the magnificent Iguazu Falls or getting a taste if gaucho (cowboy) culture at a working estancia (horse ranch).

Iguazu
Iguazu Falls is a once-in-a-lifetime natural wonders to witness, and a great family-friendly stop on any South America tour. Easily accessible from Buenos Aires, you can experience the ferocious power of these falls on an exciting boat ride right up to one of the main drops – one of 275 in total that make up Iguazu. There’s more, as the tropical national park that surround Iguazu is also home to walking trails, birdwatching walks and plenty of plant life to admire.

For those brave enough, take the walking trails that lead to a series of elevated viewpoints and suspended bridges, including above the infamous Devil’s Throat where 14 formidable drops plunge water with unimaginable force. You can even book a helicopter ride to get a real birds-eye view!

El Calafate
El Calafate in Argentina’s beautiful Patagonia region is a mountainous landscape of windswept plains, glacial streams and an interesting cultural heritage, too. The main highlight for adults and children alike is the Los Glaciares National Park where you’ll find the incredible Perito Moreno Glacier. Be in awe as you take a boat ride along its imposing façade.

Larger than the whole of Buenos Aires and standing 240ft tall, Perito Moreno is a true marvel of Mother Earth that can also be witnessed from a series of scenic walking trails opposite. El Calafate is also great for hiking routes, mountaintop lookouts and learning bout the areas earliest settlers.

4. ECUADOR

The Galapagos Islands
For any family keen on wildlife or exploring amazing landscapes, the Galapagos Islands are a top choice. This volcanic archipelago off the coast of Ecuador is famed for its diversity of endemic species, azure waters, and inspiration for Darwin’s Theory of Evolution.

The Galapagos are a collection of ancient volcanic islands which each have their own look and feel, wildlife, geology, and ecosystem. No matter which route you choose, whether on a Galapagos cruise or island-hopping by land and air, the scenery and wildlife will leave children enchanted. Imagine exploring lava tunnels and volcanic craters, endemic species such as Galapagos Penguin and Land Iguana, as well as iconic creatures like the Blue-footed Booby and Giant Galapagos Tortoise, plus crystalline seas, untouched bays, boutique lodges and luxury cruise vessels to take your around.

Quito
Whether you’re in Ecuador to visit the Galapagos or take the kids on a train ride past the country’s southern volcanoes, time in the capital will be a lot of fun. Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that’s known for its beautiful buildings, historical squares and rich cultural heritage.

Family-friendly highlights of Quito include Plaza Grande, the Archbishop’s Palace, Metropolitan Cathedral, the Santo Domingo Convent, and of course Earth’s 0´0´0´latitude line just north of the city. Visit the unique Intiñan Museum for the chance to stand in both the northern and southern hemispheres at the same time, as well as taking the cable car for great views!

5. CHILE

Atacama Desert
Any family looking for adventure and luxury in South America should look no further than the Atacama Desert, a place of outdoor activities and otherworldly natural wonders/landscapes. There are countless tours available with cultural and scenic activities like the El Tatio Geysers, Altiplano Salt Flats, the Moon Valley, Saciel Volcano or visiting the historic highlights of San Pedro, Cejar Lagoon, and so much more.

There are also some of Chile’s finest and most unique boutique hotel in Atacama too, so days can be spent either enjoying the grounds or heading out for further excursions like a picnic in the desert, horseback or mountain bike ride, hiking, and some of the best stargazing anywhere on Earth.

Tierra del Fuego
Tierra del Fuego National Park is one of the most spectacular landscapes in South America and a place kids will love for its glacial lakes, snow-dusted mountains, biking, canoeing, forests, and scenic walking routes. Between kayaking on one of the surrounding lakes or taking a walk through the forests and hills, you can go on the lookout for sea lions and penguins, cormorants and albatrosses while sailing the Beagle Channel, visit Cape Horn, or even plan a trip to the “End of the World” in Ushuaia.

6. BOLIVIA

Salar de Uyuni
Salar de Uyuni will leave the whole family spellbound, and makes for no end of fun family photos for the album, too.

Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat (a third the size of Belgium), found in Bolivia’s southwest Altiplano region near the borders with Chile and Argentina. The plains themselves are in fact salt beds from ancient, prehistoric lakes that dried up over 40,000 year ago.

Uyuni creates an optical illusion of scale and perspective that the kids will go mad for, a hypnotic landscape that needs to be seen to be believed. Though it’s not just the salt flats that will keep you busy and in awe, there’s also the nearby highlights of Eduardo Avaroa National Park, the Sol de Mañana geysers, ancient ruins (and mummies) in Pukara de Ayke, Thunupa Volcano, and the giant cacti of Incahuasi Island.

7. URUGUAY

Punta del Este
If you’re fresh from the bustle of Buenos Aires or simply want a few days on the coast, Punta del Este is a great spot to unwind with the kids. This stretch of coastline has plenty of beachfront hotels and great eating spots, as well as a pleasant harbor area, Museum of the Sea, and of course those golden beaches to enjoy.

8. COLOMBIA

Cartagena
Colombia’s Cartagena is one of the finest and prettiest colonial towns in South America, and will make the kids feel like they’re travelling back to a time of pirates and adventure. Still a living and breathing part of Colombia, the colorful streets of Old Cartagena are a joy to walk around. Expect brightly painted houses and hanging baskets, especially the historical districts of El Centro, San Diego, and the many churches, monasteries, and palaces found around each central plaza.

Elsewhere you can visit the grizzly Palacio de la Inquisición to learn about the Spanish Inquisition, or the impressive San Felipe de Barajas Castle which is nearly 700 years old.

Being coastal, Cartagena is also good for boat rides, snorkeling and a trip to the tropical Rosario Islands.

San Andres
The coral island of San Andres is a super spot to finish your family holiday in Colombia, a place of idyllic hotels and gorgeous sandy beaches, Caribbean culture and the lip-smacking cuisine that goes with it. You’ll need to take a flight to San Andres as it lies 500miles off the coast of Colombia. Efforts to get there are repaid with bright blue seas, watersports aplenty, snorkeling and scuba diving during your stay.

No matter what your travel style, level of luxury or adventure, South America is a fantastic family-friendly vacation destination that may just surprise you.

Speak to Atelier’s travel specialists and they will craft the perfect tour just for you and your family.

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