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While a bit of a trek from Asia, South America is perfect for those longer school holidays, with countries coming into season at every time of year. Our friends at luxury tour operator Lightfoot Travel pick out their favourites, as well as the best places to stay with kids. Give them a call to speak to their South America specialist, Olie Lever, who can help create your own tailor-made itinerary.
Take your pick from the thunderous Iguassu Falls, the mighty Amazon or the wildlife-rich Pantanal. From jungle to waterfalls and beach to city, Brazil offers families a hugely diverse holiday experience. At Iguassu, enjoy the panoramic falls from the viewing platforms above the Devil’s Throat Gorge, as well as exploring the extensive jungle walkways and exotic fauna around the falls. Kayak or take a 4x4 safari through the Pantanal to see the giant anteaters, giant otters and the elusive jaguars.
Where to stay: Fazenda Barranco Alto
This is a comfortable small lodge run by a family, with incredible personal service. You can kayak, horse ride, go for walks, do night and day 4x4s and perhaps travel alongside researchers who are often seen at the lodge tracking the huge array of wildlife.
The ultimate family holiday destination, the Galapagos offers some of the best wildlife experiences on the planet. Snorkel with sea lions, get up close to giant tortoises and swim with sea turtles. A year round destination, the Christmas, Easter and summer holidays are all fantastic for a few days exploring by boat or island hopping. The Galapagos can easily be combined with Ecuador’s Amazon and/or Machu Picchu in Peru.
Where to stay: Eclipse
With family set departures, special activities and programs, as well as a special child coordinator, this ship wins hands down!
Embark on a fascinating combo of the Amazon jungle and Sacred Valley where you can hike, mountain bike, raft, go on village visits with cooking lessons and observe community projects in action. The Peruvian Amazon offers one of the better wildlife experiences in the overall Amazon rainforest with Macaw clay licks among the highlights, whilst the Sacred Valley is fantastic for little known Incan ruins, markets, villages and adventure too: rafting, hiking and biking. And no Peru visit would be complete without a trip to the magnificent Machu Picchu, a place no less spectacular even having seen it time and time again in countless photographs. Rounding that last turn when the ruins fully come into view is a sight the children are sure to never forget!
With older teenagers, the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu is an excellent route to do from start to finish. Or, if you’re looking to hike with far less people and in a bit more comfort, the Lodge to Lodge trek along the “Alternative Inca Trail” is a fantastic option. Less touristy, these treks enable you to experience the real Andes via more adventurous and off-the-beaten-path hiking trails as well as cultural experiences – we particularly love learning how to cook the infamous Peruvian Guinea Pig!
Where to Stay: Inkaterra Machu Picchu
The hotel caters well for families wanting an unforgettable adventure with excellent facilities, children’s menus and child-friendly excursions available.
Quite possibly one of the most striking natural vistas on earth, set out on mountain biking, hiking and 4x4 excursions through the Atacama Desert. Next, embark on a ski safari through the Andes, which definitely makes Whistler and Niseko seem tame in comparison! Here, some of the smaller resorts are set on the volcanoes of Chile’s Lake District which make for extremely scenic runs. The level of the runs range from beginner to advanced, and the ski season runs from July to September.
Where to stay: Tierra Atacama
While not a family hotel per se, we’ve picked this because it is quite possibly the most stunning property in the country with plenty of activities to keep families busy.
Visit the Argentinian side of the mighty Iguazu, sailing so close to the falls that you have to wear rain gear to avoid getting soaked. The Argentinian side differs from the Brazilian side with plenty of space to explore with walkways to see the wildlife and the individual cataracts. Argentina’s Lake District is fantastic for all sorts of outdoor activities including riding, fishing, canoeing canopy trails and family walks. If you’re looking for an added wildlife experience, add on a few days in the Ibera Wetlands, renowned for its flora and fauna, fishing and horse riding. Aside from all the fun family activities, parents will no doubt thoroughly enjoy daily sundowners, sampling the wine the country is world famous for.
Where to stay: Belmond Das Cataratas Hotel
A great spot from which to visit Iguazu, this property is one of only two located within the protected National Park. With a pool and adventure activities such as rafting and helicopter rides, this is particularly good for older children.