South America, the fourth-largest continent in the world, is home to twelve countries and extends from the Gulf of Darién in the northwest to the Tierra del Fuego archipelago in the south. It encompasses several islands, including the Galápagos Islands (Ecuador), Easter Island (Chile), the Falkland Islands (United Kingdom), and the Chiloé and Juan Fernández archipelagos (Chile). It is a continent of extremes, housing the world’s largest river, the Amazon, and the Atacama Desert, one of the driest deserts in the world. In South America, you will find several opportunities for an unforgettable travel experience. In this article, we delve into the 21 best places to visit in South America.
What do you need to know before visiting South America?
1. Visit Countries that Suit your Interests
South America is a large continent with twelve countries, all of which offer unique experiences and beautiful places to visit. You might be tempted to want to explore more than one country during your trip. However, because of its size, country-hopping in South America takes longer than it does in Europe or Southeast Asia. Therefore, to make the most of your trip, choose one country and embrace the treasures it has to offer.
2. Seasons are Opposite in South America
In South America, one could say that everything is backwards. In a literal sense, it is. Seasons and weather patterns are different. Also, due to its size, it is impossible to choose the ideal time of year to visit. It mainly depends on the nation you are traveling to.
3. Health Tips to Keep in Mind
Before you travel, consult your doctor, then make a list of the medications you’ll need to carry and the vaccinations you’ll need to get at least a month ahead. Also, be prepared to deal with altitude or mountain sickness. This will be noticeable in high-altitude regions with elevations greater than 3,500 meters above sea level, such as Chile, Bolivia, Peru, and some regions of Colombia.
4. Knowing Basic Spanish is a Must
English won’t get you very far on your trip through South America. It is imperative to brush up on your Spanish and Portuguese before traveling because these languages are commonly spoken. Beautiful mountain paths and historic sites are typically found outside the busy cities. And this is where having a little understanding of Spanish can be really helpful. The majority of hotel personnel and taxi drivers only know Spanish in smaller cities and villages.
5. Sort out Payment Options with your Bank
Banking and money are not the same as they are at home. The first item on your checklist should be telling your bank about your travels. By doing this, you can prevent your card from being blocked if transactions are unexpectedly made in another nation. Additionally, you can talk to them about the many card possibilities, ATM services, and banking options in South America.
What are the 21 best places to visit in South America?
- Machu Picchu, Peru
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Iguazu Falls
- Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
- Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
- Amazon Rainforest
- Easter Island, Chile
- Lake Titicaca, Peru & Bolivia
- Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
- Cusco, Peru
- Angel Falls, Venezuela
- Atacama Desert, Chile
- Colca Canyon, Peru
- Quito, Ecuador
- Tayrona National Park, Colombia
- Ushuaia, Argentina
- Pantanal, Brazil
- Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
- Salvador, Brazil
- Cartagena, Colombia
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
Nestled atop a 2,430-meter mountain ridge in southern Peru, Machu Picchu stands as a testament to the ingenuity and sophistication of the Inca civilization. Often referred to as the “Lost City of the Incas,” this 15th-century citadel is an iconic symbol of Inca heritage and a magnet for travelers seeking to unravel its mystery.
Machu Picchu showcases the classical Inca architectural style, featuring meticulously crafted dry-stone walls. Within this stunning complex lie notable structures, including the Intihuatana, the Temple of the Sun, and the Temple of the Three Windows. With around 200 structures serving diverse functions and a clear division between agricultural and residential areas, the exact purpose of Machu Picchu remains a mystery.
In 1982, Machu Picchu was granted the status of a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary and in 1983, was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. In 2007, it was elected one of the New Seven Wonders of the World through a global internet poll.
Machu Picchu is open year-round. The rainy season, from October to April, adds a mystical touch with foggy mornings. Peak crowds typically gather in July and August. Sundays can be busy, as Cusco province residents have free access on this day.
2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Along the southeastern coast of Brazil lies the captivating city of Rio de Janeiro, often referred to as Rio. It is the capital of the state of Rio de Janeiro and the second-most populous city in Brazil. In 2012, a portion of Rio de Janeiro was designated a World Heritage Site by UNESCO.
Rio de Janeiro’s name dates back to January 1, 1502, when Portuguese explorers arrived at Guanabara Bay. Believing it to be the mouth of a river, they christened it “River of January”—”rio,” meaning “river,” and “janeiro,” representing “January” in Portuguese.
Rio de Janeiro has stunning natural landscapes and a rich culture. Visitors flock to Rio for its renowned Carnival, the pulsating rhythms of samba and bossa nova, and its famous beaches, including Barra da Tijuca, Copacabana, Ipanema, and Leblon.
The city is adorned with iconic landmarks that include the towering statue of Christ the Redeemer atop Corcovado Mountain, Sugarloaf Mountain, the electrifying Sambódromo parade avenue used during Carnival, and the colossal Maracanã Stadium, one of the largest football stadiums in the world. Rio de Janeiro hosted the 2016 Summer Olympics and the 2016 Summer Paralympics and was the FIFA World Cup venue in 1950 and 2014.
While in Rio, exploring these top attractions is a must:
- Christ the Redeemer: Visit the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue on Corcovado Mountain.
- Sugarloaf Mountain: Ride a cable car to this granite peak for panoramic city views.
- Copacabana Beach: Enjoy sunbathing, water sports, and vibrant beachfront bars.
- Santa Teresa: Stroll through the charming hilltop neighborhood with cobblestone streets and the colorful Escadaria Selarón mosaic stairway.
- Tijuca National Park: Explore the world’s largest urban rainforest with hiking trails, waterfalls, and scenic viewpoints.
- Ipanema Beach: Relax on the 2-kilometer stretch of sandy beach.
- Feira Hippie de Ipanema: Shop at this open-air market with over 500 stalls offering a variety of goods, including Brazilian handicrafts.
- Parque Lage: Visit the English-style garden with a historic mansion housing an art school and café.
- Pedra da Gávea: Hike to this impressive mountain summit for expansive views of Rio.
- Try Feijoada: Savor Brazil’s national dish, feijoada, a hearty stew of black beans and pork or beef, often served with rice and oranges.
3. Iguazu Falls, Brazil & Argentina
Next on our list of the best places to visit in South America is the Iguazu Falls. Iguaza Falls is the world’s largest waterfall system, stretching over 1.7 miles in width—almost three times wider than Niagara Falls and even larger than Victoria Falls in Africa. The flow rate of Iguazu Falls varies throughout the year, reaching a maximum of 450,000 cubic feet per second during the rainy season and tapering off during the dry season. The most iconic section, the “Garganta do Diabo” or “Devil’s Throat,” is a semicircular chasm where a significant portion of the river plunges into a misty abyss, creating an ocean-like spectacle. The constant spray from the falls shrouds the surrounding rainforest, resulting in a visually stunning and ever-changing landscape.
Iguazu National Park in Argentina and Iguaçu National Park in Brazil jointly protect the Iguaza Falls. The perpetual spray of the falls nourishes the surrounding subtropical forest. The forest teems with life and hosts over 2,000 species of plants and a diverse array of wildlife. Tapirs, giant anteaters, howler monkeys, ocelots, jaguars, and caimans are just a few of the creatures that call this region home.
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4. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galápagos Islands, known as “islas Galápagos” in Spanish, are a remote and captivating archipelago located in the eastern Pacific Ocean, approximately 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador in South America.
Spread across a vast area of over 17,000 square miles, the Galápagos Islands consist of 13 major islands, six smaller islands, and numerous islets and rocks. Each island has its own distinct landscapes, from lush highlands to arid coastlines, and is home to a remarkable array of plant and animal species found nowhere else on Earth.
One of the most iconic residents of the Galápagos is the giant tortoise, a species known for its incredible longevity and the inspiration for the islands’ name, which derives from the Spanish word “galápago,” meaning “turtle.” These gentle giants can live for over a century.
In 1959, the Galápagos Islands became Ecuador’s first national park, and in 1978, they were designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Today, the islands are protected and managed by Galápagos National Park and Marine Reserve.
There are several activities for visitors on the islands. You can hike through volcanic landscapes, snorkel with playful sea lions, or go kayaking. Scuba divers have opportunities to encounter a wide range of marine life, from rays to sea lions. In addition to the incredible wildlife and landscapes, you can explore the human history of the islands, from the early explorers and pirates to Charles Darwin’s transformative visit.
5. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Next on our list of the best places to visit in South America is Buenos Aires. Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina. It is often referred to as the “Paris of South America” due to its strong European cultural influence.
Buenos Aires has a rich cultural heritage due to the waves of immigrants that settled in the city over the years. This diversity is reflected in the city’s eclectic architecture, cuisine, and lively neighborhoods.
Buenos Aires has more active theaters than any other city in the world. The iconic Teatro Colón, an internationally acclaimed opera house, is a must-visit for lovers of the performing arts. The city also has a diverse range of museums dedicated to art, history, and culture.
No exploration of Buenos Aires is complete without diving into the world of tango, the city’s iconic dance and music, from sophisticated tango dance halls to lively neighborhood milongas.
In Buenos Aires, football is a way of life. Legendary matches between Boca Juniors and River Plate are a highlight.
The city is a foodie’s paradise, offering a tantalizing blend of Argentine cuisine and international dishes. There are over 3,500 restaurants to choose from.
Shopping in Buenos Aires is an adventure. From artisan fairs to upscale boutiques, the city offers a wide range of shopping options. Recoleta is home to high-quality Argentine leather shops.
6. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Torres del Paine was designated as a National Park in 1959. It is known for its stunning landscapes of mountains, glaciers, lakes, and rivers. Torres del Paine shares its borders with Bernardo O’Higgins National Park to the west and Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park to the north. At the heart of Torres del Paine lies the Cordillera del Paine, a mountain range of subpolar forests and Patagonian Steppes.
The park’s name has deep-rooted significance. “Paine” translates to “blue” in the Tehuelche language, while “Torres” means “towers.” These “towers” refer to the three imposing granite peaks—Torres d’Agostini, Torres Central, and Torres Monzino—that dominate the landscape.
Beyond the peaks are valleys, rivers like the Paine, and pristine lakes such as Grey, Pehoé, Nordenskiöld, and Sarmiento. Cascading glaciers like Grey, Pingo, and Tyndall are also part of the Southern Patagonia Ice Field.
Torres del Paine is full of wildlife. Here, you can encounter guanacos, foxes, cougars, and the Chilean Huemul. The park is also home to many bird species, like the Andean condor, Chilean flamingo, Magellanic woodpecker, coscoroba swan, and Magellan goose.
7. Amazon Rainforest
The Amazon rainforest spans approximately 7 million square kilometers across nine South American countries: Brazil, Peru, Guyana, Colombia, Ecuador, Bolivia, Suriname, French Guiana, and Venezuela. It encompasses over half of the planet’s total rainforest volume.
The Amazon houses one-third of the tropical rainforests on earth. It is home to an estimated 390 billion trees belonging to approximately 16,000 species. It also houses around 10% of the known global wildlife species, with countless more species yet to be discovered.
The Amazon acts as a carbon sink, storing an estimated 150-200 billion tons of carbon. Each day, it releases around 20 billion tonnes of water into the atmosphere, influencing global and regional weather patterns and water cycles. The Amazon is a stabilizing force for our climate, and its preservation is essential for our planet’s well-being.
8. Easter Island, Chile
Easter Island is one of the best places to visit in South America. The island is located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean. It is also known as Isla de Pascua in Spanish and Rapa Nui in the local language. The island was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. The island is roughly triangular is shape, with a total land area of 63 square miles. Its highest point is Mount Terevaka, which reaches an elevation of 1,969 feet above sea level.
The island is located at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian Triangle in Oceania, making it one of the world’s most isolated inhabited islands. This isolation has contributed to the island’s mystique, as it remained largely hidden from the rest of the world until European explorers arrived in 1722.
Easter Island is renowned for its nearly 1,000 monumental stone statues called moai. These towering figures were carved from a soft volcanic rock known as tuff. The purpose behind their creation remains a mystery, with theories suggesting they were built to honor ancestors, chiefs, or important figures in Rapa Nui society.
The process of carving and transporting these colossal statues across the island is a testament to the ingenuity and craftsmanship of the early Rapa Nui people. Many of these statues still stand today, dotting the landscape with their imposing presence.
Much of the island is now protected within Rapa Nui National Park.
9. Lake Titicaca, Peru & Bolivia
Lake Titicaca is the largest lake in South America. Nestled high in the Andes Mountains, it straddles the border between Bolivia and Peru. It sits at a breathtaking 3,810 meters above sea level, making it one of the highest navigable lakes in the world. This provides visitors with the opportunity to explore it up close.
Lake Titicaca’s history is as deep as its waters. The region has been home to various ancient Andean societies. Sites like Pukara, Sillustani, Cutimbo, Tiwanaku, and Isla del Sol offer glimpses into the past of long-lost civilizations. It is a place steeped in myth and legend. According to Incan mythology, this sacred lake is believed to be the birthplace of the first Inca king, Manco Capac, and even the birthplace of the sun itself.
One of the most extraordinary features of Lake Titicaca is the Uros floating islands. These man-made islands, constructed from layers of totora reeds, are home to the Uro people, descendants of the ancient lake dwellers. The Uros maintain their traditional way of life, crafting reed boats and homes.
Lake Titicaca offers an array of activities for travelers. You can embark on island-hopping tours, exploring the Uros Islands and the culturally rich Taquile Island. You can go on kayaking adventures on the lake.
For a deeper cultural immersion, consider staying with local families on the islands like Amantani, Taquile, Tikonata, and Uros. These homestays offer a rare opportunity to partake in the daily lives, traditions, and festivities of the indigenous communities.
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10. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Next on our list of the best places to visit in South America is Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni, often referred to as the “Mirror of God”. Located in the heart of southwestern Bolivia, this colossal salt flat spans a staggering 4,050 square miles, making it the largest salt flat on earth.
The story of Salar de Uyuni began thousands of years ago when prehistoric lakes gradually evaporated, leaving behind a thick crust of salt. Today, this salt crust stretches as far as the eye can see, creating a surreal and seemingly endless expanse. What makes the landscape even more enchanting are the natural polygonal patterns etched into the surface, a result of the salt’s crystalline structure.
One of the most captivating aspects of Salar de Uyuni is its ability to transform into a giant mirror during the rainy season, which typically occurs from December to April. During this time, nearby lakes overflow and create a thin, perfectly still layer of water on the salt flat’s surface. The result is a breathtaking reflection of the sky above, where clouds, stars, and even the moon seem to float beneath your feet.
In Salar de Uyuni, you can stay in the world’s first salt hotel, where the walls, furniture, and decorations are crafted from salt blocks.
11. Cusco, Peru
Nestled in the breathtaking landscapes of southeastern Peru, amidst the towering peaks of the Andes mountain range, lies the ancient city of Cusco.
Cusco’s history stretches back over 3,000 years. In the 15th century, it became the capital of the mighty Inca Empire under the leadership of Inca Pachacutec. The city flourished, showcasing remarkable stone architecture, including the awe-inspiring Temple of the Sun and intricate stone masonry. Today, the remnants of this glorious era can still be witnessed throughout Cusco. The city’s narrow, cobbled streets wind their way past ancient Inca walls, with Spanish colonial structures gracefully layered on top.
In 1983, Cusco was designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, earning the title of “City of Cuzco.”
As you wander through the streets of Cusco, you’ll encounter a vibrant tapestry of the Quechua culture. Indigenous people, often adorned in traditional attire, are a common sight in the city. Their rich heritage is interwoven into the fabric of Cusco’s daily life, from colorful markets to lively festivals that celebrate the region’s indigenous roots.
Cusco’s elevation is nothing short of remarkable. Perched at a breathtaking 3,400 meters (11,200 feet) above sea level, the city is a testament to human adaptability. While the high altitude may pose challenges to acclimatization for some visitors, it’s also part of what makes Cusco a truly unique destination.
Cusco serves as the gateway to some of the world’s most iconic archaeological wonders. Chief among them is the legendary Machu Picchu. There is also the Sacred Valley of the Incas, with its ancient ruins, terraced agriculture, and picturesque villages. You can explore other sites like Moray, Pisac, and the mesmerizing salt ponds of Maras.
The surrounding mountains in Cusco offer some of the best hiking trails. You can also go whitewater rafting on the Río Vilcanota, go bungee jumping, or ride in a hot-air balloon. Cusco’s burgeoning psychedelic tourism scene offers opportunities to explore traditional healing ceremonies with plants like San Pedro and Ayahuasca.
No visit to Cusco is complete without savoring its delicious food. The city’s cuisine is a tantalizing fusion of Andean ingredients and Mediterranean influences, from succulent trout to the traditional delicacy of roast guinea pig (cuy).
12. Angel Falls, Venezuela
Angel Falls is certainly one of the best places to visit in South America. It is located within the heart of Venezuela’s Gran Sabana region in Canaima National Park. With a height of 3,212 feet and an uninterrupted drop of 2,648 feet, Angel Falls is the tallest waterfall on earth. It is 15 times taller than Niagara Falls. The falls plunge from the summit of Auyán-Tepuí, a flat-topped mountain often referred to as “Devil’s Mountain.”
Angel Falls was named after the American aviator, Jimmie Angel, who discovered it in 1933. The Canaima National Park, which houses the Angel Falls, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The park is home to various species of wildlife, including monkeys, poison arrow frogs, giant anteaters, armadillos, sloths, otters, jaguars, pumas, tapirs, and capybaras.
The best time to visit Angel Falls is between May and November, during the rainy season when the falls are at their peak. Between December and April, rainfall decreases, and the falls diminish to a trickle.
13. Atacama Desert, Chile
The Atacama Desert, located on the Pacific coast of South America, covers approximately 105,000 square kilometers. It is the driest nonpolar desert on Earth. It receives very little precipitation, with some areas recording less than 3 millimeters of rainfall annually.
The environmental similarities of Atacama Desert to Mars have long intrigued scientists. It has been used to simulate Mars expeditions, test instruments designed for Mars missions, and conduct experiments. It has also been used as a filming location for Mars scenes in movies.
Due to its unique conditions, the desert houses rare minerals found nowhere else on Earth. Surprisingly, despite its extreme aridity, certain peaks in the Atacama Desert have glaciers.
Some areas within the desert are touched by the camanchaca, a marine fog that sweeps in from the Pacific Ocean. This fog provides moisture for hypolithic algae, lichens, and cacti.
14. Colca Canyon, Peru
The Colca Canyon is one of the world’s deepest canyons. It has a depth of about 1,000 to 2,000 meters and is nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States. The canyon was sculpted over millions of years by the Colca River.
The Colca Valley, which surrounds the canyon, is home to colorful Andean communities with roots dating back to pre-Inca times. These communities still practice their ancestral traditions, including the cultivation of stepped terraces called “andenes.” Visitors can immerse themselves in the daily life and customs of these communities.
Here are some of the highlights of the canyon:
1. Majestic Andean Condors: The canyon is famous for the Andean condor, a symbol of longevity. These majestic birds soar along the canyon walls.
2. Diverse Wildlife: Notable bird species include the giant hummingbird, Andean goose, Chilean flamingo, and mountain caracara. Other animals include vizcacha (a rabbit-like rodent), zorrino (skunk), deer, fox, and vicuña (a relative of the llama).
3. Soothing Hot Springs: After a day of hiking and exploration, you can relax in the natural hot springs of La Calera. Various other hot springs, some developed for tourists, can be found throughout the valley and canyon.
4. Archaeological Treasures: Colca Canyon boasts several archaeological sites. You can explore the Caves of Mollepunko, Paraqra’s mummy, Fortaleza de Chimpa, and pre-Hispanic settlements.
5. Cultural Attractions: Chivay, the largest town in the Colca Valley, hosts the Wititi festival, considered a “cultural heritage” of Peru. The region is also known for its crafts, including items made from baby alpaca fiber and unique embroidery.
6. Infiernillo Geyser: You can explore the Infiernillo Geyser, located on the slopes of the Hualca Hualca volcano.
15. Quito, Ecuador
Next on our list of the best places to visit in South America is Quito. Quito is the capital of Ecuador, and with an elevation of 2,850 meters, it is the highest capital city in the world. Quito’s history is a tapestry woven with threads of indigenous cultures, Incan rule, and Spanish conquest. Archaeological evidence suggests human habitation in the area dating back to 4400 BC, long before the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors in 1534.
One of the crown jewels of Quito is its historic center, a UNESCO World Cultural Heritage Site since 1978. This beautifully preserved colonial district offers a glimpse into the city’s Spanish colonial past. You can stroll along cobblestone streets, admire colorful facades, and visit ornate churches like the Quito Metropolitan Cathedral, the Basilica del Voto Nacional, and the Church of La Compañía de Jesús.
El Panecillo, a hill crowned by a towering statue of the Virgin Mary, offers panoramic views of the city. The statue itself is a symbol of Quito’s deep-rooted Catholic heritage.
While Quito is renowned for its historical charm, it also embraces modernity. In the lively neighborhood of La Mariscal, you will find a plethora of restaurants, bars, and nightlife options. Quito is also home to many parks.
While in Quito, you can take a ride on an aerial tramway to the top of the Pichincha volcano.
16. Tayrona National Park, Colombia
Tayrona National Park is nestled on Colombia’s Caribbean Coast and spans over 30 kilometers. It is renowned for its stunning beaches. Hiking trails wind through the park and there are several dive sites from which divers can explore the underwater world of coral reefs, caves, and marine life.
Tayrona is home to over 60 mammal species, including jaguars and pumas. The park also houses over 300 bird species, including the majestic Andean Condor, king vulture, and military macaw.
The park is home to indigenous ethnic groups, including the Kankuamo, Kogui, Wiwa, and Arhuaco, each with their unique cultures and traditions. Visitors can engage with these communities, gaining insights into their way of life.
The best time to visit Tayrona Park is during the dry season from December to mid-January and from February to April.
17. Ushuaia, Argentina
Ushuaia, located at the southernmost tip of Argentina, is one of the best places to visit in South America. It is famously known as the “End of the World.” The city serves as a launching point for journeys into the wilderness of Tierra del Fuego. It is also a common starting point for Antarctic expeditions due to its proximity to the frozen continent and its fleet of expedition ships. From November to April, adventurers from around the world gather here to embark on once-in-a-lifetime voyages to the icy expanse of Antarctica.
Despite its remote location, Ushuaia has a lot to offer. Visitors can indulge in shopping, often of tax-free goods, and savor delicious local cuisine. The warmest months in the city fall between November and March, making this period the ideal time for outdoor activities and exploration.
When it’s not gloomy or windy, which is most of the time, Ushuaia is incredibly lovely, nestled among the mountains beside a bay. The museum at the former penal colony is a great spot to watch penguins, orca whales, and seals.
18. Pantanal, Brazil
The Pantanal is the world’s largest tropical wetland area and the largest flooded grasslands on Earth. Spanning an estimated 54,000 to 75,000 square miles, it sprawls across Brazil’s Mato Grosso do Sul state and extends into Mato Grosso, Bolivia, and Paraguay. The name “Pantanal” originates from the Portuguese word “pântano,” meaning swamp or wetland.
The Pantanal experiences a seasonal cycle of flooding and drying. During the rainy season, which typically lasts from November to March, nearly 80% of its floodplains are submerged beneath a vast expanse of water. This seasonal flooding nurtures a vibrant tapestry of aquatic plants and supports many animal species.
Pantanal is home to an astounding 463 bird species, 269 fish species, over 236 mammal species, 141 reptile and amphibian species, and countless invertebrates. Among its rare inhabitants are the marsh deer, the giant river otter, and the hyacinth macaw. It also has one of the world’s healthiest jaguar populations.
If you are fortunate enough to visit the Pantanal, a world of adventure awaits. Activities include kayaking, boat trips, piranha fishing, sportfishing, horseback riding, and night safaris. Jaguar safaris along the Cuiába River provide a chance to witness these magnificent creatures in their natural habitat.
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19. Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
Los Glaciares National Park is the largest national park in Argentina. It was established on May 11, 1937, and is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Los Glaciares National Park is natural wonderland of glaciers, towering mountains, and pristine lakes. At the heart of the park lies the majestic Andes ice cap, the largest glacier field in the world outside of Greenland and Antarctica.
Among the park’s many glaciers is the Perito Moreno Glacier. Its dynamic nature keeps visitors on the edge of their seats as massive chunks of ice periodically calve off, crashing into the waters of Lake Argentino below.
In the northern reaches of the park is the iconic Mount Fitz Roy, also known as Cerro Chalten. Climbers and hikers from around the world are drawn to its rugged slopes.
Los Glaciares National Park is also home to two lakes, Lake Argentino and Lake Viedma. These lakes feed into the Santa Cruz River.
Activities for visitors include horseback riding, hiking, fishing, rafting, biking, and birdwatching.
20. Salvador, Brazil
Salvador is a beautiful city found in the northeastern coast of Brazil. It is also known as São Salvador or Bahia.
Salvador’s history is a tapestry woven with threads of colonialism, African influence, and the fight for independence. Founded in 1549, it was once the capital of the Portuguese colony of Brazil, serving as a vital hub for the sugar trade. Its strategic location made it a target for pirates and adversaries of Portugal.
One cannot delve into Salvador’s history without acknowledging its pivotal role in the African slave trade. The city was a significant center for this harrowing commerce during colonial times. Today, the city has a substantial black and mulatto population, contributing to its distinctive culture.
Salvador’s geography is a masterpiece. The city is divided into two distinct parts: the lower city, which hugs the picturesque bay, and the upper city, perched atop the hills, which houses government offices, residential areas, and historic sites. The streets of Salvador are adorned with Baroque colonial churches, forts, and architectural landmarks. The heart of the city, the Pelourinho, is an architectural marvel and a UNESCO World Heritage site, with its charming cobblestone streets and colonial buildings.
With about 80 kilometers of coastline, Salvador is blessed with beautiful beaches. The city hosts a vibrant pre-Lenten Carnival, one of the largest in the world, where samba rhythms and colorful parades flood the streets. Salvador is also home to universities, museums, and cultural institutions.
21. Cartagena, Colombia
Last but not least of the best places to visit in South America is Cartagena. Cartagena is a city on the northern coast of Colombia. It was one of the first Spanish colonies in the Americas and served as a vital link between the New World and Spain during the age of exploration. The city played a crucial role in the export of Bolivian silver to Spain and the import of enslaved Africans.
Today, Cartagena has evolved into a modern metropolis and is the capital of the Bolívar Department. It has a thriving economy, driven by maritime and petrochemical industries and the tourism sector that attracts visitors from around the globe.
The heart of Cartagena, the colonial walled city, was made a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984. This designation recognizes its exceptional architectural and cultural value. Strolling through its narrow, picturesque streets, you’ll encounter a harmonious blend of colonial-era churches, vibrant plazas, and lovely courtyards.
Cartagena has a vibrant and diverse cultural scene. There are theaters like Teatro Adolfo Mejía, where you can enjoy captivating performances, and museums like the Museo del Oro and the City Museum Palace of the Inquisition.
Throughout the year, Cartagena comes alive with a myriad of festivals. The Cartagena International Music Festival and the International Film Festival of Cartagena are two notable events that draw music and cinema enthusiasts from far and wide.
Cartagena offers a plethora of attractions for visitors to explore. Start your journey in the Old Town, the inner walled city, where time seems to stand still amidst the colonial architecture and charming cobblestone streets. Savor the exquisite cuisine at Celele restaurant in the vibrant Getsemani neighborhood, known for its street art. You can also visit the San Felipe de Barajas Castle, where you will enjoy panoramic views of the city and the sea. Visit the La Serrezuela shopping mall, a chic destination for shopping and dining.
Frequently Asked Questions
What is South America’s top tourism destination?
Argentina continues to be the most popular travel destination for travelers from outside of South America.
What South American nation is the safest?
Uruguay. Uruguay is at the top of the list of South American nations with the best safety records. Out of the 163 countries in the world, Uruguay is ranked 46th in the 2022 Global Peace Index.
Which South American city is the richest?
The richest city in South America, Sao Paulo, accounts for 67% of Brazil’s luxury market, making it one of the least-tapped in the world.
What draws travelers to South America?
The abundance of historical history in South America is one of the biggest reasons to travel there. When you travel to locations like Tiwanaku, the Nazca Lines, and Machu Picchu, you’ll be in history nerd nirvana. Additionally, South America has some of the most breathtaking scenery on the planet.
In conclusion, South America offers an incredibly diverse and captivating array of destinations for travelers. From the lush jungles of the Amazon Rainforest to vibrant cities like Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, this continent has something to offer everyone. Each country in South America has its own unique charm and attractions, making it difficult to choose just one destination to explore.