Four Growing Destinations for Families Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia: - Family Traveller (USA)

It’s no wonder Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia have been growing in appeal among families. These Andean countries have just what families are looking for, from buzzing cities to off-the-beaten-path destinations. Here are some sites not to miss when visiting these amazing countries.

 

The colorful Cartagena, Colombia.

Colombia

Families are just starting to discover the beauty and diversity of Colombia. The Eje Cafetero has become one of Colombia’s main attractions because of the country’s reputation as one of the largest coffee producers in the world. And yet, the Eje Cafetero and its pristine Amazon basin are still untouched by tourism.

This beautiful region mixes a taste of the friendly Colombian culture, the country’s stunning landscapes and exciting adventure activities. During a visit to the Eje Cafetero, families can travel through the authentic and charming small towns of the area, taste delicious local gastronomy, and experience Colombia’s friendly and diverse culture. The people of this area are known for their hospitality and great food.

Recently, a number of coffee haciendas have opened their doors to offer plantation tours. The local staff tells visitors how the natural elements influence the plants and why Colombia has the best coffee quality in the world. Then, children and their parents can experience the complete coffee production process — from learning how to prepare the soil to sowing coffee beans, growing the plants, toasting and finally roasting the beans. The excursion ends with visitors tasting different coffee flavors.

For active families looking for outdoor activities, the Eje Cafetero offers fascinating horseback rides through the Coffee Cultural Landscape, a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You’ll enjoy stunning landscapes, traditional architecture, coffee plantations and native forests. Passing lakes, valleys and fruit trees on horseback, the family will see the best of this beautiful area.

Last but not least are two other important attractions in the region: the botanical garden and the butterfly farm. In the botanical garden, visitors observe beautiful ferns, orchids and a guadua forest. The butterfly farm is designed to look like a giant butterfly — it’s almost as impressive as the 50 different species of butterflies inside the building.

Despite its natural richness, the Colombian Amazon is still considered an off-the-beaten-path destination. New and comfortable lodges offer an ample array of activities to make sure that young and old have a great time in the jungle and create unforgettable memories in one of the most biodiverse regions on earth. While exploring the rainforest by foot or canoe, families can observe an unbelievable variety of wildlife including monkeys, pink dolphins and 900 species of birds.

Because of its remote location, the Amazon communities in Colombia have had little or no contact with the outside world. Therefore, visiting them during a trip to this region is an activity that should not be missed. A close encounter with a local community is a life-changing experience for parents and their children, as they discover a different lifestyle and learn about ancient ancestral traditions.

 

Fernandina Island, Galapagos National Park, courtesy of Ralph Lee Hopkins.

Ecuador

Colombia’s southern neighbor is Ecuador, one of the smallest and most diverse countries in South America. The Galapagos Islands and Machalilla National Park are just two examples of unforgettable destinations in Ecuador.

With its unique combination of natural beauty and scientific value, the Galapagos Islands are on many people´s bucket lists. The archipelago is also attractive to families because of its unique combination of natural beauty and fascinating activities. During excursions, naturalist guides share interesting scientific facts. It’s a wonderful way to learn about Darwin’s Theory of Evolution, unique ecosystems and volcanic geology.

The main reason to visit the Galapagos is to see its amazing wildlife. Native species, including the Galapagos giant tortoise, the Galapagos fur seal and the Galapagos penguin, are three of the 14 species that can only be found on the Galapagos. In addition, the animals on the islands do not feel threatened by humans, allowing visitors to have close encounters with sea lions, iguanas and other fascinating species.

Even though the Galapagos Islands are without doubt a bucket-list destination, Ecuador has much more to offer. The Machalilla National Park is the perfect place to relax, explore a unique forest and get away from it all.

One of the national park’s icons is Los Frailes Beach. It is the perfect place for parents to relax on the white sand while children play in the crystal clear water. There are no buildings on this well-preserved beach. Los Frailes is surrounded by a fable-like forest combining dry and humid ecosystems with over 200 bird species.

Another highlight is Isla de la Plata, where parents and children can observe frigate birds, blue footed boobies and Nazca boobies. In addition, tourists can swim, dive and snorkel with colorful fish and sea turtles, making this excursion a great complement to the Galapagos Islands. Between June and September, Isla de la Plata gives visitors a wonderful bonus: Humpback whales, who use these waters to give birth.

 

Photo courtesy tbradford/Getty

Peru

Peru is one of South America’s most famous destinations, mainly because of Machu Picchu. Nowadays, many families are choosing to visit this country because of its beautiful landscapes, colorful culture and amazing wildlife. The country’s iconic Inca ruins cannot be missed, but there are other destinations to see, too, like the sand desert of Ica.

The adventure to the ruins of Machu Picchu starts with the train ride from Cuzco, passing stunning landscapes of mountains and lush green valleys. In between Cuzco and Machu Picchu, the Sacred Valley offers a paradise of nature and rural culture. Both parents and children can enjoy learning about the rich history and seeing the indigenous villages. Here, visitors learn that Peru has many more archeological treasures than Machu Picchu, such as the Maras Salt Ponds that have been used since pre-Inca times. Ollantaytambo is a massive Inca fortress with stone terraces. The Sacred Valley is also a great site for adventure tours, including horseback riding and rafting.

Cuzco is more than the gateway to Machu Picchu. This ancient city has an interesting mix of Spanish and Inca influences and gives parents and kids  the opportunity to learn about Peruvian culture. Parades held during the many festivities in the city give great insights into the colorful culture of Cuzco. However, at any moment people dressed in traditional clothing and llamas can be found in the town’s streets. Another highlight of the city is, of course, the delicious Peruvian cuisine.

Maybe not as famous as Machu Picchu, the Ica area offers the right combination for a tour to Machu Picchu. However, many families miss this extraordinary destination because it is not on Peru’s main touristic route. The fun here begins with a buggy ride that takes families to the huge, yellow colored sand dunes of Huacachina. Once there, a thrilling sand boarding experience awaits; it’s great for children of all ages.

It is possible to extend a visit to Ica with a flight over the famous Nazca lines. Ica also has something for nature lovers. They can take part in a small boat trip tour to the beautiful Ballestas Islands to observe pelicans, penguins and sea lions.

 

 

Bolivia salt fields.

Bolivia

Being one of the lesser known destinations in South America has given Bolivia a wonderful opportunity to preserve its traditional culture and natural purity. But recently, families and travelers have started to appreciate Bolivia’s hidden gems. Two of the most important destinations for a family holiday are the Uyuni Salt Flats and Sucre, the capital of Bolivia.

The Uyuni Salt Flats form one of the most amazing natural phenomena in the world, and exploring them is an experience that families will never forget. On their way to the flats, you can visit a mystical train cemetery. Walking through the old locomotives and train wagons is a step back in time. Children enjoy climbing and playing around on these old machines and discovering how different trains looked in the past.

After driving through a never-ending, deserted landscape, the next stop is Uyuni. If you’re visiting during the dry season, families enter heaven on earth as they step onto a seemingly endless white “sea.” This unique landscape is the perfect setting for photographers; they can play with perspective and create amazing images. During the wet season, Uyuni changes into the largest mirror ever seen. Travelers also fall in love with the contrasting views of the salt flats combined with the Thunupa Volcano, the red lagoon and the Incahuasi Island with its giant cacti. It’s a different world, an experience children will remember for the rest of their lives.

Uyuni also offers more than just beautiful landscapes. For example, the artisanal salt factory teaches visitors about the traditional process of salt production and gives them the opportunity to buy unique souvenirs made out of salt. On the salt flats, you’ll also see buildings made entirely out of salt, including hotels. At night, when the sky turns deep black, you can enjoy a breathtaking view of millions of stars.

Despite being Bolivia´s capital, Sucre is still an off-the-beaten-path destination. The city takes families centuries back in time with its colonial architecture, old churches and cobblestoned streets. While the historic center brings visitors centuries back in time, the dinosaur region outside the city helps them experience thousands of years of history. Parents and their children love seeing the authentic dinosaur footprints in Cala Orcko, coming from eight different species. In the Cretacious Park, children can enjoy giant figures of dinosaur species that lived 65 to 70 thousand years ago.

Sucre has two other fantastic natural destinations near the city: the Presto Palm Forest and the Icla Canyon. Walking through the only palm forest in Bolivia gives families the opportunity to observe 24 species of mammals and over 100 species of birds. The Icla Canyon is a great destination for active families looking for adventure programs, such as abseiling, bird watching and hiking.

 

For more on Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Bolivia, visit Pure Travel Group.