Len莽贸is Maranhenses: Brazil’s sweeping dunes

After a day in the sun, you could be forgiven for thinking this magical expanse of sand and water is a mirage. Stretching across 1500 square kilometres of Brazil鈥檚 tropical north-east coast, Len莽贸is Maranhenses comprises a series of blue-green pools that ripple through crescent-shaped dunes like strokes of ink on parchment. Known as the 鈥榖edsheets of Maranh茫o鈥 (named after the state of the same name), the beach is a sight to behold.

When it rains (from January to June) water fills the valleys and crevices up to three metres deep, held fast by watertight rock beneath the sand. The lagoons are at their peak between July and September and tours run regularly from S茫o Lu铆s, the capital of Maranh茫o, and from Barreirinhas, just outside the national park. Bring your togs and prepare for a memorable swim.

Brazil’s colossal Inhotim Art gallery

Where can you find outdoor sculptures, art pavilions and more than 4000 plant species all in one place? At Inhotim. Sprawled across more than 140 hectares of botanical gardens in south-eastern Brazil, this colossal open-air art gallery and contemporary museum is a world unto itself. Pick up a map, choose your route and lose yourself in an aesthetic wonderland.

The gallery features notable artists from Brazil and around the world, with each installation showcasing a unique perspective of聽the relationship between art and nature. Many of the pieces are interactive, and you鈥檒l find yourself wandering through interpretive forests, lakes and valleys. The gallery鈥檚 size almost guarantees a second visit, since it鈥檚 impossible to see everything in one day (multi-day passes are available). Explore on foot, join a tour or, for about AU$10, cruise around in a chauffeur-driven golf cart.

La Paz鈥檚 Witches’ Market

Love, money, luck: everything you could possibly want can be summoned at La Paz鈥檚 bustling Mercado de las Brujas 鈥 for a price. Take a stroll down the cobbled streets of the Old Quarter for a fascinating insight into Aymara religious traditions that remain alive and well in Bolivia today, in the form of love potions, spiritual readings and spells.

Just a word of advice 鈥 eat lunch well in advance. Along with soapstone amulets, ceramic figurines and penis candles, black-hatted yatiri (witch doctors) also purvey dried snakes, turtles, armadillos and llama foetuses. It鈥檚 an urban shopping adventure that鈥檚 definitely not for the faint of heart or the weak of stomach.

Ride an ATV up a Volcano

Bicol鈥檚 Mount Mayon Volcano is about as picturesque a volcano as you can imagine. Perfectly conical, it is the Philippines鈥 most active volcano, having erupted five times in the past 25 years. Needless to say the ATV ride towards its base is a thrilling one.

You can take one of several routes, depending on your聽budget and experience, but make sure you see the lava front from the 2006 eruption. There you can climb the still-steaming lava wall and look back down the valley you鈥檝e just ridden up. Crossing rivers and accelerating up steep climbs, this is a ride for confident drivers.

From the lava front you鈥檒l then cruise through local villages and the dense green countryside, all the while keeping an eye on the image of menacing Mount Mayon in your rearview mirror.

Ride the Devil’s Nose

For the engineers tasked with building a train line between Quito and Guayaquil at the beginning of the 20th century, the mountainous terrain of the Andes presented a challenge. The completed route traverses gorges, rivers, forests and a particularly harrowing mountainside descent known as the Devil’s Nose, where more than 2,000 workers died during construction. The train winds down a sheer, rocky slope, travelling more than 500 vertical metres in a 12-kilometre journey, during which passengers are treated to breathtaking views of what is known as the Condor’s Aerie.

In case the idea of riding a century-old train route down what is essentially a cliff makes you shudder, don’t panic 鈥 the tracks and carriages have been refurbished, so you can white-knuckle your way down the mountain in comfort.

Heli-ski Patagonia from a luxury yacht

Heli-skiing on remote slopes is one of the coolest things you can do on snow. Throw in a luxury yacht and a crew at your beck and call, and you’ve got a seafaring, sky-scraping, snow-slicing adventure unlike any other.

Imagine cruising the wild waters of Patagonia with 32 staff at your disposal and two choppers waiting to whisk you off to play with snow on untouched mountains.

Your luxe vessel, Atmosphere, comes with hot tubs, private chefs and an open bar. When you鈥檙e done exploring the digs, jump in a zodiac for an aquatic expedition, go on a guided wildlife adventure and make your mark in fresh powder.

Immerse yourself in mud at El Totumo

Squelch mud through your fingers and feel it ooze between your toes inside Colombia鈥檚 El Totumo volcano. About an hour鈥檚 drive from Cartagena, this pillar of goop promises a soothing and somewhat bizarre activity for travellers willing to slither into its embrace. To give it a go, cough up some pesos, strip to your togs and clamber up a rickety wooden ladder to the top of the volcano鈥檚 cone. Once you are immersed in the warm slop, a masseuse will offer to pummel your shoulders and massage the sludge into your scalp, all in the name of relaxation.

The experience doesn鈥檛 end when you emerge resembling a concrete-clad monster. Hand yourself over to one of the local ladies, who’ll scrub you squeaky clean in the nearby lake. Just get ready to temporarily part with your swimsuit; the women are very, very thorough.

Witness orcas feasting on sea lions

Sea lions are cool. Orcas are cooler. And if you happen to be at Peninsula Vald茅s around February you just might witness one of the coolest, albeit most gruesome, showdowns between beasts in the wild. As sea lions give birth in huge numbers here, pods of orcas lurk in the shallows looking for a feast of pups. The killer whales come with a killer instinct and often lunge out of the water, beaching themselves to grab their unsuspecting prey.

If there鈥檚 no orca action, you can enjoy the purity of watching pups frolicking on the beach and bleating like lambs to their mothers. If you miss the February feast, never fear. Between June and December, the World Heritage-listed peninsula, on the central coast of Argentina, is prime whale-watching territory, with scores of southern rights breaching off the coast.

Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival

There is something to be said about stumbling into a small uni town in the middle of Atlantic Canada with a thirst for craft beer and jazz and blues. Every September, New Brunswick’s capital Fredericton comes alive for five days of music and mayhem as some of the world’s best bluesmen, jazz masters and the odd thundering rock group set up camp among the tented stages and turn this picturesque town on the banks of the St John River into party central.

It is low key and cool, so much so, you might very well find yourself wandering past a barefoot Michael Franti, yoga mat under one arm, on his way to the park to meditate before headlining that evening.

Entertainment is everywhere and you’ll more often than not find yourself in a local pub with an extraordinary blues player jamming with friends all afternoon. It is very easy to settle in, especially with the excellent craft beer on hand. Picaroons and Grimross are hard to top.

When the sun goes down the big guns come out and the larger venues start to reverberate. The choices are vast, from the Cox & Palmer Blues Court聽to the loud and wild Mouse Light Blues Tent.

Sleep in late and don鈥檛 go too hard early as the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival is definitely one for stayers!