The 6 Best Off the Beaten Path Destinations in Central and South America

volcano in central america

If you’re a thrill-seeking adventurer, you probably like to travel off the beaten path. These destinations give you a more authentic experience of the country. You also don’t have to deal with crowds of tourists or overpriced food and activities. And, Central America is one of the best regions to seek out the road less traveled. Here are the six best off-the-beaten-path destinations you won’t want to miss out on. 

1. The Puna, Argentina

The Puna is a desert located in the Andes of Argentina, with some crossover into northern Chile. This isn’t a top destination for many people, but it really should be! As you explore the desert, you’ll come across the Tolar Grande Mountains, over 200 volcanoes, sand dunes, pink beaches, and bright, blue lagoons.

Make sure to visit Los Ojos del Mar, a site with three deep pools in the middle of a salt flat. Scientists can’t explain how or why the lakes are here, but the lakes are thought to be over three million years old, with prehistoric organisms still living there! The Puna is also home to Salar de Arizaro, the sixth largest salt flat in the world. 

You’ll need a tour guide to help you navigate this off-the-beaten-path adventure. However, prepare yourself, it can feel quite strange as you’ll often see no other people for long periods. Traveling the Puna feels like you’re traveling through a prehistoric wilderness full of stunning natural landscapes. 

Travel off the beaten path and explore The Puna in Argentina.
Via @socompa_adventure_travel on Instagram

2. Flores, Guatemala

Flores, Guatemala, is known as the gateway to the nearby Mayan ruins. As a result, many travelers only pass through here on their way to the ruins. But, that’s a real mistake, as Flores has a lot to offer and should be appreciated. 

Flores is a wonderful town on a tiny island on Lake Peten Itza, Guatemala. You don’t need a lot of time here – you can walk the entire island in 20 minutes. But, you can have a fun-packed day or two in Flores. 

Rent a canoe or a boat and spend your day relaxing by the beach. You should also take the time to visit Ixpanpajul Natural Park, where you can hike, zipline through the jungle, go horseback riding, and take in the natural wildlife. 

Also, consider visiting the ARCAS Wildlife Rescue Center, which cares for between 300-600 animals and over 40 species, animals who need care. The center takes in endangered and injured animals, releasing rehabilitated animals back into the wild when it’s safe to do so. It’s a way to see local wildlife and support a wonderful organization at the same time. 

Flores is a great place that warrants at least one day of exploration before moving on to other areas of Guatemala. 

Water views in Flores, Guatemala
Via @centralamericaliving on Instagram

3. Ometepe Island, Nicaragua

Up until very recently, Nicaragua wasn’t a destination most people considered for their next vacation. Even with its increasing popularity, most people opt for the tourist-heavy beaches of San Juan del Sur. But, our off the beaten path recommendation is Ometepe Island for a cheaper, less crowded, and equally beautiful destination. 

We’re not saying to skip San Juan del Sur, but make sure Ometepe Island makes it on your Nicaragua itinerary too! Ometepe is an island formed by two volcanoes rising out of Lake Nicaragua. The island is full of a beautiful landscape you can explore. You’ll get to enjoy rainforests, beaches, wildlife populations, freshwater pools, and archaeological sites. 

Ometepe Island, Nicaragua is an off the beaten path destination that any traveler should explore.
Via @thespothostel on Instagram

4. Rurrenabaque, Bolivia

You may not have heard a lot about Bolivia, but this country has a lot to offer travelers. The country spans the Amazon Basin rainforest, the Andes Mountains, and the Atacama Desert. Go off the beaten path by going to Rurrenabaque, Bolivia. This small town is right next to the Bolivian rainforest and the Beni River. 

The number one attraction here is the rainforest. Luckily, Rurrenabaque is one of the cheapest and most exciting ways to explore a rainforest! Book a multi-day wildlife safari tour through the jungle and you’ll get to fish (and eat) piranha, swim with river dolphins, and even see anacondas in the wild. When you’re not in the rainforest, you’ll also want to check out the jungles of Madidi National Park too! 

Views of the foggy, dense Bolivian rainforet.
Via @bolivia on Instagram

5. Angel Falls in Venezuela

Angel Falls in Venezuela is the highest waterfall in the world at 3,000 feet. You would think this makes it a tourist hotspot, and it kind of is. However, we still count it as being off the beaten path because it can be challenging to get to, which means not many people bother with the trek. Angel Falls is located in Canaima National Park. The only way to access the waterfall is by boat up the river, air, or a short hike to the viewpoint. If you’re willing to put in the effort, this will be one of the most unique and memorable experiences of your life. And, you can almost guarantee almost no one else in your life has seen these falls! 

Angel Falls in Venezuela
Via @saltoangelvenezuela on Instagram

6. Volcan De Conchagua, El Salvador

Many people visiting El Salvador choose to do a day hike and conquer the Santa Ana Volcano. This is a gorgeous hike, but it’ll be a packed journey full of hundreds of other travelers. And, let’s face it, you’re an “off the beaten path” traveler, so you’re looking for something different. Opt for the Volcan De Colchagua instead. The peak of this volcano offers a panoramic view of the Gulf of Fonseca Bay which borders Nicaragua, Honduras, and El Salvador. We suggest you go in the early hours so you can avoid the fog and get proper views from the top. 

Water views from the top of Volcan Conchagua in El Salvador.
Via @erickmountains on Instagram

Which off-the-beaten path spot sounds like the adventure you’ve been itching for? 

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