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Sure, Patagonia deserves its reputation as one of the most stunning, adventure-rich spots on the planet. But there are plenty of other places to visit throughout the country for hiking, biking, camping and all sorts of other active pursuits. And with a stellar airfare sale from South American airline LAN extended through August 11, it's a great time to check them out.
The sale offers direct flights to cities including Mendoza, Cordoba, and Buenos Aires in Argentina; Ecuador's eco-haven, the Galapagos Islands; and Lima, Peru. Tack on a few extra days to the Labor Day Weekend, and you can wrap up summer with a brag-worthy trip.
Here, a few can't-miss options:
Mendoza: This region in western Argentina is famous for its wine, but it's also an excellent base for outdoor adventures nestled in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. Intrepid climbers will be tempted by Aconcagua, the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere at 22,829 feet (check out Alpine Ascents, www.alpineascents.com, for rates and expedition information). In the Parque Provincial Aconcagua, there are plenty of less aggressive treks. And for the city-dwellers who prefer to be closer to the wine region, the city park in Mendoza, Parque General San Martín, provides a peaceful, green oasis with miles of trails that draw runners and cyclists.
Galapagos Islands: In recent years, these pristine volcanic islands, which inspired Charles Darwin's evolutionary theories because of their unique bird and wildlife populations, have become the face of ecotourism. In late July, they were removed from the UNESCO danger list, a development that highlights the importance of choosing an outfitter dedicated to minimal environmental impact. One to check out: eco-conscoius Natural Habitat, which offers several types of trips to the Galapagos. Another option is Southern Explorations, which, as of publication time, listed eight spots left on the September 4-12 multi-sport trip to the islands.
Córdoba, Argentina: The isolated mountain village of La Cumbre, in this stunning province a few hours' drive from Buenos Aires, is where the world's top paraglider, Hernán Pitocco, calls home. Pitocco and dozens of other paragliding, or parapente, enthusiasts flock to the region for its splendid launch cliffs and winds, or thermals. If you want to take to the wind, tandem flights run about $60. And there are plenty of options in the region for those who prefer to keep at least one foot on the ground: trekking, fishing and hiking.