Whether you crave the freedom of a bike or prefer the comfort of a four-wheeled rig, a growing number of outfitted excursions make visiting the Andes easier than ever.
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Argentina's Arid Northwest
The isolated deserts surrounding Salta resemble the American Southwest—150 years ago. Experience them as the local gauchos do, on a guided, four-day backcountry horseback ride with Cabalgatas Fernando Escudero ($620; www.fernandoescudero.com). The northwest's remote mountain rain forests also host some of the best white water in all of Argentina. Salta Rafting organizes a five-day trip down the Lipeo River's Class IV and V rapids ($800; www.saltarafting.com).
Often overshadowed by Peru's ancient sites, Bolivia has ample archaeological treasures of its own. Wildland Adventures visits both the pre-Inca site at Tiwanaku and the Inca ruins on Lake Titicaca's Isla del Sol ($1,970; www.wildland.com). Bolivia's premier white-water river, the Tuichi, plummets from the peaks north of Lake Titicaca. Explore Bolivia guides a 14-day excursion down its Class IV rapids ($1,750; explorebolivia.com).
Peru's Inca Ruins
There are scores of outfitters guiding trips up the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu; here are two standouts: Mountain Travel Sobek's itinerary dodges the crowds by approaching the site via a less trafficked but equally spectacular trail ($3,290; www.mtsobek.com). Missoula, Montanabased Adventure Life combines Machu Picchu with a variety of other tours to far-flung corners of Peru ($1,190; www.adventurelife.com).
Chile's Atacama Desert
Outfitter Chile Discover leads six-day treks ($1,600; www.chilediscover.com) through this austere, desiccated region, where colorful geology, pre-Inca ruins, and natural hot springs are tucked into an otherworldly landscape. East of the desert, towering peaks form the Chilean border with Bolivia and Peru. You can climb Earth's highest volcano, 22,614-foot (6,893-meter) Ojos del Salado, on a 16-day expedition with KL Adventure ($3,500; www.kladventure.com).
See It All by Bike
The author traveled with MotoDiscovery, which offers its 34-day High Andes Expedition—on dirt and pavement through Chile, Argentina, Bolivia, and Peru—nearly every spring ($6,950; $2,650 for bike rental; www.motodiscovery.com). The Ayres Adventures 16-day trip from Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil ($6,750, including rental of a BMW F650GS; www.ronayres.com), travels through northern Argentina into the Bolivian altiplano and finishes in Machu Picchu.
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