With its majestic peaks, pristine jungles and enticing archaeological sites, South America is truly a mind-blowing destination hard-wired for the adventurous travel junkie. Vibrant and wondrously colorful, this extraordinary destination has also a ton to offer for the casual traveler, thanks to its deep traditions, striking natural wonders, lively cities and Instagram-worthy colonial towns. Admired for its mouthwatering and diverse cuisines, South America has a wide array of culinary treats to delight your gastronomic urges and taste buds. Whether you consider yourself a bona fide adventurer, history buff or foodie, you’ll get your travel fix, with all the incredible places to visit in South America.
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Wondering where to go in South America? Here’s a great list of some of the best and most beautiful places to visit in South America. So, pack your suitcase and get your passport ready! Trust me, once you’ve finished reading this, you’ll feel an irresistible urge to explore these places to visit in South America.
Best places to visit in South America
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
When it comes to historic places to visit in South America, there’s nothing as spectacular and remarkable as Peru’s undisputed jewel – Machu Picchu. Built in 1400s, this beloved archaeological wonder is a symbol of Peru and the ancient Inca empire as well as the epitome of their civilization. Discover by an American professor in the 1900s, this UNESCO World Heritage site will leave you speechless and in awe, with its elaborate ruins and breath-snatching views. Furthermore, getting there through the Inca trail is an adventure in itself, and may wear you out.
2. Torres Del Paine National Park, Chile
Up for a mind-blowing and heart-pumping adventure that you’ll cherish until your last breath? Then, pay a visit to Torres Del Paine National Park, deemed as one of the most remarkable places to visit in South America. While getting to this Chilean national park isn’t an easy feat, the views of the crystal blue glaciers and soaring mountains as well as the Blue Lagoon are absolutely worth the adventure. To make things even better, this secluded Chilean Patagonia is home to an endangered species of deer.
3. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is, without a shadow of a doubt, one of the most surreal places to visit in South America. With an outstanding overall land area of over 10,000 square kilometers, Salar de Uyuni is by far the world’s largest salt flat. What’s more, it dazzles and impresses its spectators with its seemingly unending white expanses as well as bizarrely beautiful scenery. As soon as you set foot on this land, you’ll feel like you’ve just entered a fantasy realm and arrived in a different planet, with its smoky volcanoes, colored lagoons, great deserts and white floor. To top it all off, it’s a terrific spot to catch wild fauna in their natural habitat, like the llamas and pink flamingos.
4. Cartagena, Colombia
Stunning beaches, cobblestone streets and brightly colored buildings – this Colombian destination on the lovely Caribbean coast has all the hallmarks of a fantastic South American break. Moreover, the Old Town has dozens of sites dating back to the 16th century, and the nearby Islas del Rosario are well-known for their sweet coral reefs.
5. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos is by far the ultimate paradise for animal lover. After all, this archipelago is arguably the place in the world where man continues to respect Mother Nature’s boundaries and wild creatures prosper without fear of human beings. There’s nowhere else on earth where you can find creatures frolicking and wandering around, unafraid of their spectators. As with a kid’s fairy-tale, you can swim alongside sea turtles, laugh with the penguins and play among sea lions on the Galapagos Islands.
6. Iguazu Falls, South America
Want to see something really spectacular? Why not head to Iguazu Falls and be awed by its immense size and thunderous cascades. With a whopping total of over 270 waterfalls making up the landscape, it’s definitely more impressive than Canada’s Niagara Falls. Depending on where you go to see Iguazu Falls, you’ll be either in Paraguay, Brazil or Argentina.
7. Lima, Peru
Peru’s capital is one of the best kept secrets and most underrated places to visit in South America. Here, visitors can tour everything, from the baroque-style Spanish colonial Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco to Huaca Pucllana’s active archaeological site. Just make sure to save a little time to indulge on fresh ceviche.
8. Bogota, Colombia
Set high in the Andes, Colombia’s capital has seen a renaissance in its tourism for the past few years. See invaluable treasures at the Gold Museum, gorgeous flora at Bogota Botanical Garden and superb works of art at the Museo Botero.
9. Amazon Rainforest, South America
There’s no place on earth quite like the Amazon Rainforest. Known as the world’s largest tropical rainforest and the earth’s last frontier, it’s definitely one awesome, mind-boggling piece of real estate, covering 75 percent of the Amazon River basin and home to 390 billion trees. Moreover, it has a host of fascinating and extraordinary creatures, such as the pink river dolphin, glass frog, capybara, giant otter, black caiman, piranhas, arapaima, anaconda, and spider monkey.
10. Easter Island, Chile
Easter Island is not the easiest destination to reach in South America. Take note, it’s nestled in the South Pacific, and over 1,800 miles off Chile’s coast. But, on the plus side, its seclusion has helped preserved the mysterious 1,300-year-old collection of volcanic rock sculptures – maoi – that has become its biggest claim to fame. Once you’ve explored its extraordinary landscape, chill on a cushy, un-crowded beach and ponder one of the world’s most mystical places.
11. Cusco, Peru
Andean baroque and Inca majesty exist harmoniously in the stone streets of Cusco, epitomized by the Santo Domingo church and Qoriacancha palace. In this melting pot of mestizo and Amerindian culture, you’ll find a ton of archaeological wonders, lively summer festivals and extraordinary textiles.
12. Angel Falls, Venezuela
Angel Falls – Venezuela’s most prized attraction – is a majestic natural treasure that should be on everyone’s bucket list of places to visit in South America. With an elevation of 979 meters, it is the highest uninterrupted waterfall on the face of the earth. Actually, this surreal site is 14 times taller than Canada’s iconic Niagara Falls. As an added plus, getting to the cascade is quite an adventure in itself as well, featuring plane and river boat rides.
13. Sao Paulo, Brazil
On the lookout for the best places to visit in South America with great food? Sao Paulo – the largest city in all of South America – boasts a titillating cuisine and a booming art scene that are just as multi-national as its wondrous population of more than 9 million people. With Jardins district’s restaurants serving all kinds of food imaginable, you won’t be out of place going to this city, just for dining. Still, you’ll be missing out on crazy-good shopping, vibrant and diverse neighborhood tours, as well as world-class museums.
14. Huacachina, Peru
Set right at the heart of the desert, this photogenic oasis is truly one of the most weirdly beautiful places to visit in South America. Established in the 1930s, this relatively new city is built around a green-blue lagoon, and flaunts an array of resorts and restaurants. More than just a place to relax and unwind, this city also offers plenty of opportunities for adventure, like sandboarding.
15. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
No list of the best places to visit in South America is complete without the inclusion of Brazil’s main tourist magnet – Rio de Janeiro. With its vibrant nightlife and street scenes, the city makes a fun and exciting urban escape at any time of the year. Plus, the city has lovely world-class beaches filled with gorgeous and ripped people, including Ipanema Beach, Prainha, Copacabana Beach and Grumari Beach. On top of it all, there are quite a few landmarks in Rio de Janeiro that will unleash your inner shutterbug, such as Christ the Redeemer, Jardim Botanico, Tijuca National Park, Sugar Loaf Mountain, Lapa, Santa Teresa, and Ilha Fiscal.
16. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Looking for exciting urban places to visit in South America? Famed for tango, this Argentine hub is a must-see for folks who love world-class museums and excellent wine. Labeled aptly as the “Paris of South America”, this cosmopolitan city will also sweep you away with its Parisian-style cafes as well as picturesque wide boulevards. To make things even better, Buenos Aires has an enormous restaurant scene to satisfy all your food cravings, from Asian fusion to classic Argentine asado.
17. Santiago, Chile
Santiago is one of the top places to visit in South America, and a metropolitan joy where the more you look, the more you’ll find. Here, you’ll get to see art collections in Forest Park ranging from contemporary to pre-Columbian, experience the dance clubs and funky cafes dotting Bellavista, and gaze on architecture that runs the gamut from mirrored office towers to the 16thcentury church of San Francisco. Likewise, you can treat your palate with hearty Chilean fare, and shop alongside the locals at Mall Panoramico.
18. Mendoza, Argentina
Mendoza is an electric city to the east of the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere – Mount Aconcagua. For years, this Argentine wonderland has been luring adventure travelers, with rafting, hiking, skiing and climbing opportunities just an easy and short drive of downtown. Famous for its wine, the area has over 1,000 vineyards as well, making it one of top must-see places to visit in South America for oenophiles.
19. Medellin, Colombia
Think Medellin is one of the most dangerous places to visit in South America? Once infamous for its drug activity and dangerous gangs, Medellin has shed its old look, transforming itself into a dynamic destination for travelers looking for a culturally-rich getaway. Medellin proudly rises from Aburra Valley’s belly, and its striking natural charm makes it a perfect setting for horseback riding, zip lining and hiking.
20. Baños, Ecuador
Billed as one of the top offbeat places to visit in South America, Baños has a lot going on for the intrepid and open-minded traveler. In this lovely town, you’ll get to enjoy a bit of history, zip line rides, hot springs as well as experience the coolest and scariest swing in the world.
21. Cocora Valley, Colombia
Itching to travel to verdant places to visit in South America with intriguing wildlife? Cocora Valley is a splendid wildlife sanctuary and a preservation area for the Colombia’s national symbol – the wax palm.
22. Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
They don’t do things on a small scale in Los Glaciares National Park. Not only is it Argentina’s largest national park, but it also home to the largest ice cap outside Antarctica and Greenland. As a matter of fact, the ice cap is large that it feeds 47 humungous glaciers.
23. Mount Roraima, Venezuela
When it comes to heights, Mount Roraima is nowhere as impressive as some of the steep ranges, ridges and mountains in South America. Nevertheless, it will give you an urge to snap hundreds of photographs from different angles, with its unique shape.
24. Valparaiso, Chile
They don’t call Valparaiso, Chile as one of the most visually appealing places to visit in South America for nothing. Praised for its colorful and joyful appearance, this Chilean city will blow you away with its unique architecture and splashy colors. Additionally, you’ll have a chance to spot numerous works of street art.
25. The River of Five Colors, Colombia
Looking for Instagrammable places to visit in South America? Why not drop by Caño Cristales? Fittingly nicknamed as “the River of Five Colors”, this Colombian river is a wonder of nature, showcasing a colorful display. Sadly, though, this river will only look this eye-catching and kaleidoscopic from late July to November.
26. Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador
With a visit to the Cotopaxi National Park, you’ll get to admire a towering and outstanding volcano elevated 5,897 meters above sea level. If you’re fond of outdoor adventures and treks, make sure to include this national park to your list of places to visit in South America. Aside from the renowned stratovolcano, a diverse fauna and flora would attract your attention here too.
27. Quito, Ecuador
Founded on the ruins on an Inca city, Ecuador’s capital is an absolute nirvana for history buffs and culture vultures. Designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, the city remains the least-altered historic center in all of Latin America. As you wander around Quito, you’ll likely bump into its fabulous baroque gems, such as the La Compañía church and college, as well as Santo Domingo and San Francisco monasteries. Not to mention, this city sprawls across an awe-inspiring Andean valley surrounded majestically by volcanic peaks. And, though it’s best known for its historic treasures, the city also has all the modern-day comforts that a traveler might need.
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