South America is a curious combination of the familiar – European languages, colonial churches, secular politics and beach culture – and the exotic. Until a decade ago, the latter provided the impetus for most people to take the long-haul flight across the South Atlantic. They went to see Machu Picchu and Inca culture, the Uyuni salt flats and bowler-hatted quechua-speakers, Patagonia’s empty spaces and the Welsh community. Wildlife, too, has long been a draw, most notably the birds and mammals of the Pantanal and Amazon rainforest and the Galapagos islands’ endemic wonders.  

Away from the cities South America comes into its own – the vast interiors of these countries, whether the pampas of Argentina and Uruguay, Venezuela’s Llanos, or Ecuador’s Amazon region, are much less European and far more exciting. For travellers who want a genuine wilderness experience, there are many regions where getting to remote lodges involves small planes or motorised canoes as well as a willingness to sleep without windows, and to dine without a bottle of wine and an attentive waiter. That said, a lot of upgrading of rural accommodation is afoot and in many countries, most notably Argentina, Brazil, Ecuador and Peru, there is now luxury accommodation even in the depths of cloudforests and in the middle of remote, uninhabited plains.