South America conjures up images of spectacular scenery, a variety of outdoor adventures, intriguing historical ruins, scrumptious food and unmatched hospitality. Rich in culture and steadfastly versatile, it’s a bucket list favorite. But where to go?
While many already know about Machu Picchu and the Christ the Redeemer statue, we made sure to put a list together of the South American destinations, not all know about or travel to. They’re the hotspots that’ll set you apart. Check out the must-dos to warm the South American traveler’s soul.
Iguaza Falls, Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay
Heading for a fall? Alright, well not literally but in South America, you’ve not lived until you see the glorious Iguaza Falls, the planet’s largest network of 275 waterfalls spanning three countries (Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay). The biggest drop plunges at a staggering 80 meters! Enjoy helicopter rides or take the lift from the Salto Floriano base (Brazil) for fantastic views.
Rainbow Mountains, Peru
An Instagram post for sure, Rainbow Mountain is rugged, beautiful and unguarded South America at its best. If you don’t find the seven colored Cusco located mountain intriguing enough (slim chance), the region is dotted with tons of snowcapped peaks, crystal rivers, magnificent glaciers and beautiful local villages. Several Cusco travel companies organize day treks to Rainbow Mountains.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
Nestled in the plunging depressions of the popular Canaima National Park in Venezuela, Angel Falls descent from a height of 980 meters (19 times Niagara Fall’s height). With a dense forest cover and sheer drops crashing from a cloud-covered mountain, you’d be forgiven for mistaking you’re back to the pre-historic age.
Laguna Colorada, Bolivia
Laguna Colorado is a stunning saltwater lake, located in the spectacular Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna Nationa Reserve, whose beautiful white borax islands contrast with stark red water. Laguna Colorado is an unruffled destination, where you can sit for hours watching Jame’s flamingos and other exotic birds. You could even spend the night at one of the tiny villages encircling the lake.
Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina
Perito Moreno Glacier, located in the Los Glaciares National Park in southwest Argentina is a major tourist attraction for the collapsing ice spectacle, glacier caves and a large freshwater reserve. The attraction boasts of a well-equipped visitor center, and fascinating ice trekking trails (conducted by local tour companies).
Lake Titicaca, Peru and Bolivia
The planet’s highest accessible lake traverses through two countries while offering stunning sunset vistas from both. While Copacabana on the Bolivian side is set on the lake in the midst of lush rolling hills, Peru features the magical Uros Islands. The sunsets are best savored at a lakeside bar sipping on a pisco sour. Haven’t tried it before, well there’s no other place better to try it.
Cayenne, French Guiana
No, it’s not the spice. Cayenne is the capital of French Guiana. Its 17th-century old town districts blend some influences from the Caribbean, Brazil and France – go figure! Shops and cafes can be found on the main commercial route of Avenue du Général de Gaulle. Top things to do or visit in Cayenne include Fort Cépérou, Cayenne Cathedral, Jardin botanique de Cayenne and Museo deparatmental Alexandre-Franconie.
The Sacred Valley, Peru
Tucked into the foothills of Rio Urubamba Valley, the Sacred Valley (El Valle Sagrado) is accessible through a narrow road (complete with dramatic turns) 15 kilometers from Cuzco. The ultimate travel potpourri, it features secluded weaving hamlets, splendid colonial towns, imposing Inca citadels and local markets. Sacred Valley boasts of innumerable trekking routes (in addition to other adrenaline soaring activities) sprinkled with Inca sites.
That the entire city of Buenos Aires is hip and cosmopolitan is common knowledge, however, it is the Palermo area which is often the scene stealer for travelers. Its grid-like, organized streets are teeming with bars, pubs, eateries, nightclubs (start only at midnight) and bakeries. Visit on weekends for the vibrant market at Plaza Serrano. Grab a filling chorizo sandwich from a street cart, while you’re tempted to tango on the road.
Atacama Desert, Chile
Juxtaposed between the Andes and the dramatic Pacific, this incredible piece of landscape is an ode to South America’s breathtaking natural beauty. Rush-shade ravines, jagged ranges and vast stretches of salt pans, topped with volcanic horizons make-up its unique topography. Spread across a 1,000 km land strip, a little-known fact about the Atacama is that it is one of the few places on earth that features more than 300 days of clear skies.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Sprawling across 10,000 km², the planet’s largest salt flat is a photographer’s delight for its unusual landscape. Salar de Uyuni is located in the midst of fluorescent lakes formed as a result of diverse minerals from adjoining mountains. Go on a 4×4 vehicle tour that offers basic accommodation. Brace well for the cold weather. This is one Bolivian beauty.
Tayrona National Park, Colombia
One of the nation’s most famous national parks, Tayrona sprawls across 12,000 hectares of land, in addition to 3,000 hectares of water. The park features a diverse topography ranging from flourishing rainforests, sandy beaches and arid lands. More than 55 endangered species are housed in the park, though spotting them on the outer forest edges isn’t easy.
Paramaribo District, Suriname
Paramaribo is a district of Suriname that encompasses the capital city of Paramaribo and its surrounding areas. This area was first colonized by the British in the 17th century. The city went back and forth between Dutch and British control until the Treaty of Breda, leaving Suriname to the Dutch. There’s a little bit of history for you folks!
Sugarloaf Mountain, Brazil
Nature and a hippie happy vibe conjoin at Brazil’s tourist favorite Sugarloaf Mountain. Nestled at over 200 meters above sea level, the mountain offers sweeping vistas of Rio and the adjoining Guanabara Bay along with tons of emerald rainforests and mountains. Cable cars operate from 8am (last ticket purchase 7:50pm) until and 9am every 20 minutes.
Galápagos Province, Ecuador
Galápagos is a province of Ecuador in the South American country’s insular region. It’s just 1,000 km off the west coast of the mainland. The islands are a group of volcanic islands that sit right on top of the equator. The islands also have unique biodiversity that has been made famous since Charles Darwin developed his theory of evolution. WOAH!
Punta del Este, Uruguay
This city is a resort city that sits on a narrow peninsula in the southeast of Uruguay. The popular beach, Brava Beach is known for it’s surfing as well as an obscure sculpture known as “The Hand.” Yes, it’s a giant sculpture of five fingers sticking up from the ground. Worth a few pictures, eh?! You can also check out the 19th-century lighthouse at the most southern tip of the peninsula. It’s quite the view.
Don’t recognize this city or country? Well, it may be small compared to the countries in South America like Brazil and Argentina, but it’s destinations are just as breathtaking. Georgetown is the capital of Guyana and sits on the continent’s North Atlantic coast. Believe it or not, the city is culturally connected to the English-speaking Caribbean region and home to quite the British colonial architecture. Expect to see some cricket matches and Gothic-style cathedrals as you stroll about.
Asunción is the capital of Paraguay and is bordered by the Paraguay River. The city is known for the seat of government the houses the president’s offices, López Palace. Nearby, the Independence House Museum is marked by its colonial features and architecture that document the emancipation from Spanish rule. Asunción is home to several cultural events and touring art exhibits, so come ready to be immersed in history, culture and art.