South America is a continent that offers something for every traveler, whether you are looking for adventure, history, culture, or relaxation. With 12 countries and countless attractions, it can be hard to choose where to go and what to see. That’s why we have compiled this list of the best places to visit in South America, based on their popularity, reviews, and features. Here are our top picks:
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is one of the most iconic and impressive sites in South America, and the world. This ancient citadel, built by the Inca civilization in the 15th century, is perched on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley, surrounded by stunning scenery. Machu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. You can explore its stone terraces, temples, and chambers, and learn about its mysterious history and culture. You can also hike the famous Inca Trail, or take a train or bus to reach this awe-inspiring destination.
2. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and one of the most vibrant and cosmopolitan cities in South America. Buenos Aires is known for its rich cultural and artistic scene, its elegant architecture, its delicious cuisine, and its passionate tango. You can visit its historical and cultural landmarks, such as the Plaza de Mayo, the Casa Rosada, the Teatro Colón, and the Recoleta Cemetery. You can also enjoy its lively nightlife, its colorful neighborhoods, such as Palermo and La Boca, and its charming cafés and restaurants.
3. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands are a group of volcanic islands located in the Pacific Ocean, about 1,000 km off the coast of Ecuador. The Galapagos Islands are famous for their unique and diverse wildlife, which inspired Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution. The Galapagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a biosphere reserve, and home to many endemic species, such as giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue-footed boobies, and penguins. You can visit the islands by boat or plane, and enjoy activities such as snorkeling, diving, hiking, and wildlife watching.
4. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is the second-largest city in Brazil, and one of the most popular and visited cities in South America. Rio de Janeiro is known for its stunning natural setting, its lively culture, and its festive atmosphere. You can admire its iconic landmarks, such as the Christ the Redeemer statue, the Sugarloaf Mountain, and the Copacabana and Ipanema beaches. You can also experience its musical and artistic scene, its delicious cuisine, and its famous carnival, which is one of the biggest and most colorful celebrations in the world.
5. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Torres del Paine National Park is a national park located in the Patagonia region of southern Chile. Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most spectacular and scenic places in South America, and a paradise for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The park features majestic mountains, glaciers, lakes, rivers, and forests, and a rich flora and fauna. You can hike the famous W or O circuits, or choose from many other trails, and admire the park’s landmarks, such as the Cuernos del Paine, the Grey Glacier, and the Salto Grande waterfall.
6. Cartagena, Colombia
Cartagena is a port city on the Caribbean coast of Colombia, and one of the most beautiful and historic cities in South America. Cartagena is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a living museum of colonial architecture, culture, and history. You can explore its walled old town, which is full of charming streets, plazas, churches, and monuments. You can also enjoy its tropical climate, its sandy beaches, its colorful nightlife, and its delicious seafood.
7. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat, located in the southwest of Bolivia, near the Andes mountains. Salar de Uyuni is a natural wonder that covers an area of over 10,000 square kilometers, and looks like a giant mirror that reflects the sky. Salar de Uyuni is a popular destination for photographers, adventurers, and travelers who want to experience its surreal beauty and its unique attractions, such as the Incahuasi Island, the Tunupa Volcano, and the Train Cemetery.
8. Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil
Iguazu Falls are a series of waterfalls that span the border between Argentina and Brazil, and form part of the Iguazu River. Iguazu Falls are one of the most impressive and powerful waterfalls in the world, and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. You can visit the falls from both sides, and enjoy different views and perspectives. You can also take a boat ride, a helicopter ride, or a walk along the trails, and marvel at the falls’ beauty and force.
9. Lake Titicaca, Peru/Bolivia
Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable lake, located in the Andes mountains, between Peru and Bolivia. Lake Titicaca is a sacred and mythical place for many indigenous cultures, and a place of natural and cultural beauty. You can visit the lake by boat, and explore its islands, such as the Uros, Taquile, and Amantani, which are inhabited by local communities that preserve their traditions and customs. You can also enjoy the lake’s scenery, its clear water, and its serene atmosphere.
10. Angel Falls, Venezuela
Angel Falls are the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, located in the Canaima National Park, in the southeast of Venezuela. Angel Falls are a stunning sight that drop from a height of 979 meters, and create a misty spray that can be seen from kilometers away. You can visit the falls by plane, boat, or helicopter, and admire their majesty and splendor. You can also explore the park, which is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a biosphere reserve, and home to many other waterfalls, rivers, mountains, and forests.
11. Easter Island, Chile
Easter Island is a remote island in the Pacific Ocean, belonging to Chile, and famous for its mysterious and ancient statues, known as moai. Easter Island is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a place of archaeological and cultural interest. You can visit the island by plane, and discover its moai, which are scattered all over the island, and represent the ancestors and deities of the Rapa Nui people. You can also learn about the island’s history, culture, and legends, and enjoy its volcanic landscape, its beaches, and its wildlife.
12. Quito, Ecuador
Quito is the capital and largest city of Ecuador, and one of the highest and oldest cities in South America. Quito is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a city of contrasts, where colonial and modern architecture, culture, and lifestyle coexist. You can visit its historical center, which is one of the best-preserved and most beautiful in the continent, and admire its churches, museums, and monuments. You can also enjoy its panoramic views, its gastronomy, its nightlife, and its proximity to the equator and the Andes mountains.
South America is a continent that has so much to offer to travelers of all kinds, from natural wonders to cultural attractions, from adventure to relaxation. In this article, we have shared with you some of the best places to visit in South America, but of course, there are many more to discover and enjoy. The most important thing is to find a place that matches your preferences, budget, and expectations. No matter where you go, remember to respect the local culture, environment, and people, and to have fun and make memories that will last a lifetime.