The world is full of many beautiful and striking wonders of nature. Some eerie, some stunning and some that will take your breath away but every so often you see a landscape so pure or so utterly different from what you are used to seeing that you have trouble believing it is from this planet at all.
South America is a continent blessed with so many wonders that it is hard to believe all of these places exist within it and yet these otherworldly delights are tangible experiences to behold. Here we detail some of the places you will struggle to believe are there.
1. Lake Atitlan - Guatemala
A gorgeous, placid lake in the Guatemalan Highlands of the Sierra Madre mountain range, Lake Atitlan is the deepest lake in Central America which lends an air of eerieness to its gently rippling waters as you're never quite sure what is beneath you. What makes it even more impressive are the three volcanoes surrounding it with their lush, verdant hillsides.
Stunningly picturesque, German explorer Alexander Von Humboldt described it as "the most beautiful lake in the world" whilst English novelist Aldous Huxley went one further when he said "Lake Como, it seems to me, touches on the limit of permissibly picturesque, but Atitlán is Como with additional embellishments of several immense volcanoes. It really is too much of a good thing."
2. Ica Desert - Peru
Like most deserts, this is a great, sandy wasteland which is beautiful in its desolation but unlike most are the eerie and quirky little towns that seem to pop up out of the dunes, starkly lit up against the endless nothingness of their lifeless surroundings. Famous for the whiskey produced in the area, the stunning Spanish colonial architecture seems weirdly out of place.
Looking like mirages, these villages and towns are tiny oasis's of paradise in the middle of nowhere.
3. Macchu Picchu - Peru
An ancient civilization high in the mountains. So well hidden was it that it wasn't (re-discovered) for many hundreds of years and is the most iconic symbol of the ancient Incan Empire it is a wondrous sight to behold early in the morning when the city sits just above the rising mist as though it were sitting on a layer of cloud.
In a time before vehicles, electricity or wi-fi, it is a wonder anyone managed to live here.
4. Cartegena - Colombia
A city filled with colonial churches and gorgeous, European inspired, architecture may seem beautiful but not particularly otherworldly until you take a look at the bold, bright and contrasting colors that make up the place and you might feel that you've stepped into a world where the colors of everything are inverted or, at least, incredibly heightened.
Used in the filming of many of the Pirates of The Carribean movie scenes it feels both so very old and yet extremely new and exciting.
5. Punta Del Este - Uruguay
The nightlife certainly can seem it has been supplanted from a science fiction film with its bright, neon lighting fuelled by tropical cocktails and dancing on the beach, but if you do make your way down to the waterside you may be struck by the large hand emerging from the golden sands as though it is rising up out of the very ground.
A gigantic beach sculpture, 'The Hand' captures the majesty of the place as the grains of sand slips through its fingers.
6. Iguazu Falls- Argentina/Brazil
On the Argentina/Brazil border, these falls are subject to much myth and legend where a deity planned to marry a beautiful woman named Naipí, who fled with her mortal lover Tarobá in a canoe. In a rage, the deity sliced the river, creating the waterfalls and condemning the lovers to an eternal fall, it is 269 feet high with 275 drops in it.
So powerful is the spray from the falls that it can be seen for many miles around forming a sort of cloud above the falls.
7. Island of Capurgana - Colombia
A secluded island that no one knew about right up until the 1970s. That is to say, natives knew about the area which has inhabited by Cuna Indians, but maps didn't chart the area until the late 20th century. Filled with amazing flora and fauna its isolation has allowed them to flourish and its small port brings tourists in to see what it has to offer.
What makes it a true wonder is that cars and other vehicles are still not permitted on the island in order to help maintain its unique balance.
8. Torres Del Paine - Chile
A National Park in the Patagonia region of Argentina, this rugged and jagged landscape has towering rock formations and mammoth peaks jutting out around lakes and spectacular hiking trails that can become perilous should you leave them. With unique and spectacular wildlife to the region, it is well worth keeping your eyes peeled for what frolics amongst the peaks and troughs of the undulating horizon.
Bright blue icebergs cleave the landscape in two as magnificent glaciers shimmer from up high whilst golden grasslands can be found at a lower level.
9. Salar De Uyuni - Bolivia
An evaporated lake left salt deposits behind to create these stunning salt flats that are so pure and reflective that often the horizon is blurred and the sky and ground become one whilst, at certain points, the curvature of the Earth can be seen. Pictures show the land and sky blend together as the horizon becomes indiscernible.
The largest salt flats on the planet, a hotel made entirely of the white stuff sits on the edge of them for weary travelers, just make sure not to drop your glass of water.
10. Ushuaia - Argentina
The most Southerly city in the world, it is surrounded by the Martial mountain range and looks out to see located in a wide bay on the southern coast of Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego. Ideal for whale watching and the perfect starting point to a voyage that will allow you to explore the desolate isolation of the arctic.
Stunning wildlife and scenery make it an amazing, if not a little chilly, experience.
11. The Green Lagoon - Bolivia
A beautiful lake surrounded by hillsides and mountains, this lagoon changes color depending on the winds and levels of sediment in the water and can do so in a matter of seconds as it moves from azure to turquoise to a dark green with the pigments being so powerful, you can see this change from the air.
A salt lake the foot of the volcano Licancabur, it would be stunning without its magical color changing properties.
12. Los Roques - Venezuela
An archipelago of around 350 small islands that provide a different experience at each stop, you can flit from relaxing on white, sandy beaches to snorkeling amongst beautiful coral reefs beneath the waves. Trek through the wilderness to spy the wildlife in lush and verdant settings or dive and swim in the stunning waters.
A national park in the Carribean sea, it is a marvel of nature.
13. Marble Caves - Chile/Argentina
On the Chile/Argentina border is the placid Lake Buenos Aries or General Carrera Lake. The glacial lake is a sight in itself with bold, brilliant color coming from the melting ice sheet that has turned to water but at its center lies the marble caves carved away over time that have now formed stunning rock formations.
These formations have magnificent blue and green ringed patterns where the waves of the lake have reacted with the calcium carbonate in the marble and, over 6000 years, have created a labyrinth of explosive color.
14. The Atacama Desert - Chile
The driest place on Earth, this desert has been likened more to the Red Planet of Mars than that of our Blue one but it is here on Earth that the home of some of the tallest mountains on the planet jut up out of the red sands towards the skies in jagged, lunar landscapes that pockmark the ground and add texture to the desolation.
And it is the skies you should be looking at as stargazing in this remote place can be spectacular due to lack of light pollution and completely clear skies.
15. Perito Moreno Glacier - Argentina
One of the largest ice sheets in the world, it is one of only three glaciers on the planet that is actually growing. Hike across this cold and frigid landscape to experience something you will never ever see anywhere else or go in winter to see huge chunks of ice break off and crash into the sea being set adrift into the waters below.
A 250 km2 (97 sq mi) ice formation, it is the third largest reserve of fresh water in the world.