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South America’s Hidden Wonders Revisited

In 2010, Joshua Foer and myself decided that as the founders of Atlas Obscura, it was time we went out to these places we’d only explored digitally.

The goal was to discover the hidden wonders of South America through stories and video for Slate.com, to prove the notion that Atlas Obscura set out to prove: that the world is rich in little-known amazements. The first plan, and rallying cry was to see “thirty wonders in thirty days.” This of course proved insane, and impossible. Instead we narrowed it down to our seven favorite little-known wonders, and set out. For just over a month we visited Columbia, Venezuela, Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. We traveled into the rainforest, through the mountains, and into FARC-controlled territory in Colombia. Four years later, it is all the clearer to us that we barely scratched the surface. 

Here are five of Atlas Obscura’s hidden wonders of South America.  — Dylan, Co-Founder of Atlas Obscura

“The Caño Cristales was where we knew our trip had to begin. It was one of the first places anyone added to the Atlas Obscura that seemed so incredible we weren’t entirely sure if it was real.” — From the accompanying Slate article by Josh.

“But before I could stop him, Mario had fastened their tandem rope to the roller, and before Dylan could stop Mario, he had hurled the two of them over the cliff and into the 1,200-foot abyss.” — From the accompanying Slate article by Josh.

“The announcement felt like it belonged to another century. A gentleman explorer sets off on a hike into the hills, and comes back to report that one of the world’s greatest natural marvels had been hiding all these years just over the next ridge.” — From the accompanying Slate article by Josh

“Five centuries ago, the Andes were strung with suspension bridges. By some estimates, there were as many as 200 of them, braided from nothing more than twisted mountain grass and other vegetation, with cables that were sometimes as thick as a human torso. At least 300 years before Europe saw its first suspension bridge, the Incas were spanning longer distances and deeper gorges than anything that the best European engineers, working with stone, were capable of.” — From the accompanying Slate article by Josh

“Stepping onto a floating island is an unnerving sensation, like walking on a giant sponge that squishes underfoot. Though the reed mats are up to 12 feet thick, there is always the feeling that one could step right through to the cold lake below. ” — From the accompanying Slate article by Josh