Every real adventurer knows life is sweeter with the wind whipping through your hair, blood pumping with endorphins, and a board firmly planted under your feet. And if you can do it all while exploring a new country or two, well, that’s even better. South America is the best of well, everywhere – combining the dream slopes of Europe with the rocking waves of the South Pacific and the sand dunes of the Middle East. There's no other way around it, it’s a thrill seeker’s paradise.
Whether you’re dreaming of snowboarding, surfing, or sandboarding, we’ve scoured South America for the best adventure spots so you can spend less time planning and get straight to the good stuff.
If funky tan lines and bleached hair are your speed, head to the coastal cities for plenty of fun in the sun. We’ve found two spots that are close enough to the action yet off-the-grid enough you won’t be bogged down by weary-eyed tourists.
Become a Beach Bum in Ecuador
Serious surfers know Ecuador’s prime location along the equator means you’re virtually guaranteed amazing swells and mild water temperatures year-round. If you’re in search of monster waves, head to the tiny beach town of Montañita, where the waves are at the prime in winter and early spring and the locals frame their days around the tides. You can expect to find plenty of consistent barrel rolls, cheap eats, and lots of characters who call this little slice of paradise home.
Discover Brazil’s Island Life
While Rio is typically recognized as the premier surfing spot in South America, those in the know ditch the crowds and head to Fernando de Noronha. Referred to as “Brazilian Hawaii,” this group of islands just off the main coast is home to spinner dolphins, reefs, and plenty of breaker waves. A totally hidden gem and protected national marine sanctuary, plan your trip for late January when the waves are at their best and it's South American summertime (whlie the rest of the U.S. is hunkering down for winter).
Sandboarding is one of the newest trends in extreme sports, primarily because it’s more hardcore than snowboarding. It’s up to you to hike to the top of each dune with all your gear – making the payoff that much sweeter. A year-round thrill, you don’t need to worry about the desert closing seasonally.
Cut Loose on the Sand Dunes in Peru
The capital of Southern Peru, Ica is home to Huacachina, which contains the largest sand dune in the world. A luxury escape for adventure travelers, tours organized by local hotels will help you find the tallest dunes (some reaching an astounding 300 feet), wax your board, and keep hydrated. By the way, those small, blue patches aren’t mirages and they’re exactly where you should cool off after a long day in the sun.
Experience the Real Death Valley in Chile
Chile’s Death Valley is just a small slice of the massive, 600-mile Atacama Desert, which NASA has called the driest place on Earth. And the best way to explore this otherworldly landscape? On a board to cover more ground. While you’re sandboarding in Death Valley, though, don’t overdo it -- apply sunscreen rigorously, drink plenty of water and take your time walking up the dunes — they aren’t going anywhere.
Snowboarding on mountain slopes is so passé. If you want to up the adrenaline factor, head to South America, where you can fly down cliffs and volcanoes. Powderhounds will be in heaven with the high altitude offerings that are some of the steepest and deepest runs in the world.
Carve Some Powder at the Gateway to Patagonia
Located in the Argentinian lake region at the foothills of the Andes Mountains, Bariloche is a world-class ski and snowboard town akin to the Swiss Alps. Actually part of Nahuel Huapi National Park, the small town is the gateway to Cerro Catedral, one of Argentina’s premier ski areas. They experience a steady stream of activity throughout the winter months thanks to multiple resorts in the area, many of which offer ski-in, ski-out lodging so you’re never too far from the action.
Fly Down the Slopes of a Live Volcano in Chile
Chile is no stranger to winter sports enthusiasts, but even avid snowboarders find the tiny resort of Pucon an unexpected surprise. The highlight? The smoking crater of Volcano Villarrica, whose hardened lava creates natural jumps and freestyle runs full of half pipes, cornices and wind lips unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before.
Sponsored by LAN Airlines