Many travelers head to South America to hit the big cities and explore the dizzying number of historic and cultural sites that make this part of the world so popular. However, consider venturing off the mainland and checking out some neighboring islands that offer plenty of adventure, relaxation and historical value as well.
1. Galapagos Islands
Fueled by growing concerns over the environmental impacts of increasing numbers of visitors to the Galapagos, there has been discussion and rumors circulating that tourism may eventually be restricted. The Galapagos Islands are one of the most important places in the world, as the islands are home to a vast number of endemic species, which became a key component of Charles Darwin's research and theory of evolution by natural selection.
2. Falkland Islands
This remote archipelago of several hundred islands is located off the coast of Argentina and is often explored in conjunction with Antarctic cruises. Claimed by Argentina as the Islas Malvinas, the Falkland Islands are an overseas territory of the United Kingdom. The ideal time to visit is summer, between October and March. Much like the Galapagos, the Falkland Islands are renowned for their spectacular wildlife. Lodging options are available and flights land at RAF Mount Pleasant airport (MPA).
3. The Floating Islands of Titicaca
Located on the Andes border of Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is home to the floating islands of Uros. This group of more than 40 artificial islands is made from floating reeds and is home to the pre-Incan Uros tribe. They used dried totora reeds to make their boats and even the islands themselves. While most descendants have moved to the mainland, several hundred still live on the floating islands.
4. Isla Navarino
Isla Navarino, or Navarino Island, is an island off the coast of Chile, located between Isla Grande de Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn. It has great archaeological significance and was a key spot for the indigenous Yagan culture. In 2002, it was declared to be one of the last 24 true wilderness eco-regions of the world. In 2005, UNESCO declared it a biosphere reserve. Tourism is just developing in Isla Navarino, so now is the time to visit if you want to experience its natural wilderness.
5. Easter Island
Easter Island is one of the world's most remote inhabited islands. It is a Polynesian island, yet is technically part of South America. The island is famous for its moai, or statues created by early Rapa Nui. These stone blocks were carved into head and torso figures that are, on average, 13 feet tall and weigh around 14 tons. It is believed the Rapa Nui built these to honor important people and ancestors, but little is actually known due to very little recorded history on the island. UNESCO named it a World Heritage Site in 1995. Today, the remote island sees a large number of tourists who make the lengthy journey from Santiago, Chile, or Tahiti.
6. Fernando de Noronha
This archipelago of 21 islands and islets is located off the Brazilian coast and is home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world. The islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and attract a variety of divers, surfers, and eco-tourists that are interested in exploring these stunning shores. Fernando de Noronha is named after the 16th century Portuguese businessman and merchant who financed an expedition to the area. Flights are available from Sao Paulo, Brazil, but please note there is a hefty Environment Protection Tax payable upon arrival at the airport.
Have you been to any of these amazing islands?