How to Add Purpose to Your South America Travels

Avid supporters of the travel with purpose movement know that adding an extra-special meaning to any journey is key to making the whole experience a much more fulfilling and memorable one. The way we see it: why take a mere holiday when you can take a life-changing journey, instead, and still come home relaxed and totally revitalised?

When planning a trip to South America, there are 101 ways to add a purpose to your journey, be it on a dedicated mission that dictates your entire itinerary (say, to tick off the Big Five) or a more laid-back plan to add a few dedicated activities alongside a host of other fun and enlightening experiences.

Wondering what on earth your travel purpose should be on your next tour of South America?

Here are just a few pointers to get your creative juice flowing:

Head off on a journey of culinary discovery –Savouring your way through South America is a very popular option as the continent boasts a variety of unique and sensational gastronomies. Heading off on a journey of culinary discovery here isn’t just about satisfying the taste buds (as valiant a travel purpose as that may well be) but also offers an unrivalled chance to learn more about the evolution of every country’s culture – often represented in its cuisine – and, to top it off, also broadens your cooking repertoire, especially if you include cooking classes to your itinerary aside from food and wine appreciation tours. Visit our Wine & Dine archives for some truly mouth-watering travel inspiration (have tissues at hand for the drooling!) check out this bizarre South American food blog if you’re feeling adventurous and see our guide to planning your trip if you love cuisine and culture above and beyond anything else.

Seafood ceviche a typical dish from Peru. Credit: Shutterstock.

Attend a sporting event – Almost every country on earth boasts a ‘national sport’ of sorts, a much-revered activity that gets the whole country dancing and celebrating. In Latin America, soccer is the main de-facto religion and catching a game in one of the many world-renowned stadiums (like the ones in Rio de Janeiro or Buenos Aires) is one of the most culturally-enriching experiences any visitor can enjoy. Even if you don’t fancy watching a bunch of men chasing a ball around a huge field, you still won’t be able to resist the sheer force of a colossal crowd that sings, dances and cheers, non-stop, for two hours. It is absolutely soul-stirring! It’s also worth noting that many South American countries do actually follow various sports, so do some research to see if your journey coincides with a national or international competition (be it a baseball, basketball, athletics, volleyball or anything else) if you’re a sporting fan.

Visiting a soccer game in Latin America is definitely bucket list material. Credit: Shutterstock.

Learn more about pre-Columbian cultures – Before the Europeans landed on South America’s shores, the entire continent was inhabited by some of the most enigmatic, advanced and complex cultures the world has ever known. They built outstanding cities and farming infrastructure that was impressively ahead of their times; they constructed pyramids to their dead and temples to their gods. They built walls, without mortar, that have withstood thousands of years and were amazingly talented artists, crafters, weavers, stonemasons and sculptors. Their collective legacy is one of the most impressive in the world and learning more about the continent, in pre-Columbian times, is absolutely rewarding. Ancient history lovers can add purpose to their travels by taking a literal journey back in time, by visiting and exploring some of the most magnificent treasures left behind by illustrious cultures such as the Inca, Maya, Chimu and Nazca.

Ruins of Chan Chan with its beautifully carved walls. It is quite possibly the largest pre-Columbian city in South America. Credit: Shutterstock.

Enjoy a wildlife-watching bonanza – Animal lovers will have a field day in South America with the continent home to some of the most unique creatures on earth. From the llamas, alpacas and condors of the Andes to the sloths, anacondas and capybaras of the Amazon and Pantanal, not to mention the giant turtles and iguanas of the Galapagos Islands and the waddling penguins, pumas and maras of Patagonia: this continent is an animal lover’s epitome dream. On a dedicated wildlife tour in South America, you can include all of the continent’s top animal havens, all of which offer spectacular and rather unique travel experiences in their own right.

How adorable are baby Galapagos sea lions?! Credit: Shutterstock.

Trek to your heart’s content – A magnet for serious and leisurely trekkers and mountaineers from all over the world, South America boasts some of the most coveted trekking trails in the world. The stupendous Andes mountain range is, naturally, the focal point of all the attention yet considering they stretch for over 7,000km (the world’s longest mountain range) and traverse seven countries, your trekking options are nearly endless. Home to some of the tallest peaks on earth, the Andes range is the most defining natural feature in the continent, shaping every aspect of it: from its incredible jungle to its most arid desert. Our comprehensive collection of dedicated trekking tours of South America can give you an excellent overview of just how varied the options are: from mammoth multi-day adventures through the arresting peaks of southern Patagonia to more leisurely yet still challenging hikes through the central Andes in Peru (chasing Machu Picchu dreams) and even multi-faceted journey, like cruises in the Galapagos Islands, where trekking is a daily excursion. See our guide on how to plan your visit to South America if you love hiking and the great outdoors.

Incredible hiking opportunities in Patagonia, Argentina. Credit: Shutterstock.

Add a Spanish language course to your itinerary – Learning a new language is never just about words or semantics: it’s about learning the intricacies of a foreign culture, a little about the different countries where the language is spoken and all of their combined illustrious histories. Much like cooking classes, language courses in South America offer much more than first meets the eye and gift an invaluable insight into the varying cultures that make up the continent. Taking a Spanish course in South America can give you a basic knowledge-base of local history, culture and social structure aside form gifting you the priceless opportunity to communicate with locals, thus infinitely enriching your visit.

Credit: Shutterstock.

Challenge yourself on a new activity you’ve never tried before – From horse rising to white water rafting, trekking, kayaking, mountain biking, surfing, SCUBA diving and even paragliding and hang-gliding: South America is a doer’s dream destination and if you’re ready to challenge yourself, you’ll find almost every major destination offers a plethora of exciting pursuits that are ideal for first-timers. What a wonderful way to build up excitement of an upcoming trip to South America! What’s more, there’s nothing to say your ‘new activity’ need necessarily be adrenalin-filled. In South America, you can also learn the art of wine-appreciation or hone in on your photography skills, learn to fish for piranhas in the Amazon or, an absolute crowd favourite, learn to dance the tango in San Telmo, one of the very best things to do in Buenos Aires.

Why not challenge yourself to some horse riding in Bolivia? Credit: Shutterstock.

Follow in the footsteps of your favourite authors/books – Some of the world’s most celebrated travel books – and even its lesser known ones – have the ability to inspire wanderlust like nothing else on earth and if you’re an avid devourer of travel literature then you’ll no doubt have come across some of the most evocative South American authors of all time. From Paulo Coelho to Pablo Neruda, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Isabel Allende, Julio Cortazar, Jorge Louis Borges and countless other illustrious wordsmiths, Latin America has given the world a wealth of exceptional literary talent and inspired foreign writers, like Paul Theroux, to travel and explore even further. A dedicated literary tour of South America can be immensely rewarding for those whose travel dreams were spawned by the musings on books they have read and can include touring Colombia as an ode to One Hundred Years of Solitude, visiting Pablo Neruda’s homes in Santiago and Valparaiso in Chile or taking a walking tour through JL Borge’s neighbourhood in Buenos Aires, one of world’s mightiest literary capitals. If you’ve spent years travelling vicariously through South America, you’ll find no better way to add purpose to your tour. And if you’d love to do this retrospectively, find out what the most recommended reads are before travelling to Peru, Brazil and Argentina.

At Chimu Adventures, we love organizing dedicated, bespoke tours through Latin America and find them to be some of the most rewarding missions. Personal, passionate and incomparably meaningful, purpose-filled tours take travels to a whole new level of enjoyment.

Contact us here to know more.

Author: Laura Pattara

“Laura Pattara is a modern nomad who’s been vagabonding around the world, non-stop, for the past 13 years. She’s tour guided overland trips through South America and Africa, travelled independently through the Middle East and is now in the midst of a 5-year motorbike odyssey from Germany to Australia.”