South America is a continent of stunning natural wonders, vibrant cultures, and world-class cities. It's also home to some of the most breathtaking scenery in the world. Here are our top picks for where to go in South America if you want to see some truly incredible sights.
Buenos Aires is an amazing city for food, nightlife, and culture.
San Telmo has many great restaurants and bars, but it's also home to the famous Sunday antique market. There are tons of tango clubs in this district as well, so you'll be able to get your groove on while enjoying some delicious Argentinean cuisine.
Palermo is a little more upscale than San Telmo, with many popular restaurants and bars along Avenida Corrientes. If you're looking for something more highbrow than the traditional steakhouse fare popular in Argentina, this is the neighborhood for you!
Tigre is a suburb on the northern edge of Buenos Aires known for its beautiful riverfront parks and beaches. It's also home to many restaurants serving fresh seafood—and some of Argentina's best pisco sours.
Check out our tour “Buenos Aires to Lima: High Andes & Machu Picchu,” which begins in Buenos Aires and provides you the opportunity to extensively explore this amazing city.
Iguazu Falls, one of the most beautiful natural wonders in the world, is an unforgettable experience. Located on the border between Argentina and Brazil, this massive waterfall encompasses 275 individual falls that are spread across 2 kilometers (1.24 miles) and up to 70 meters (229 feet) high.
The falls are surrounded by lush rainforest and dry forest—both home to many species of animals, including monkeys, toucans, parrots, deer, capybaras (the world's largest rodent), and caimans (a crocodilian reptile). The park offers several hiking trails through the jungle landscape, on which visitors can enjoy the scenic views from above or below the waterfalls' cascades.
An optional visit to Iguazu Falls can be organized from the trip “Grand Rail Tour of Brazil."
If you take a trip to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, don't be surprised if you find yourself eating some of the best seafood of your life at a hole-in-the-wall restaurant on the side of the road, or taking in an exquisite sunset from atop a mountain. That's just how things go in this city. From the Copacabana Beach to Corcovado Mountain and everything in between, Rio has so much to see and do that it can feel like sensory overload. But that's what makes it such an exciting place!
The food: oh, my goodness … the food. I could eat in this city every day for the rest of my life and never get tired of it. From traditional Brazilian dishes like feijoada (black bean stew) and pao de queijo (cheese bread) to local favorites like pastel (fried dough filled with cheese) and coxinha (chicken croquette), there is something for everyone here—and everything is so fresh! And did I mention there's also amazing seafood? (Because there is.)
Discover Rio de Janeiro on our “Grand Rail Tour of Brazil."
If you're looking for a way to experience the Amazon rainforest, you have several options, including Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, and Brazil. These countries offer various ways to explore the rainforest with an experienced guide who knows all of its best spots.
The Amazon rainforest is home to an incredible amount of biodiversity, including endangered animals such as jaguars and giant otters. You can also take tours that incorporate a visit to indigenous tribes in their homes deep within the jungle.
Lake Titicaca is a large body of water shared by Peru and Bolivia and is the highest navigable lake in the world.
You can visit Lake Titicaca from Puno, Peru, and take a cruise to the floating Islands of the Uros and Taquile Island. Puno offers some of the best views of Lake Titicaca, especially at sunset.
If you want to explore beyond Puno, take a trip to Copacabana in Bolivia. This town sits scenically on a peninsula that separates Lake Titicaca’s larger section from its smaller one. The small town is known for its beautiful beaches (too cold to swim) and access to the Sun and Moon Islands, where the Inca empire started.
We visit Lake Titicaca on our tours “Buenos Aires to Lima: High Andes & Machu Picchu.”
Torres del Paine National Park is one of the most famous parks in Chile, and it's easy to see why. There are icy glaciers, rugged mountains, and a lake that changes colors depending on the time of day.
The park is located near Puerto Natales and Puerto Toro, and is accessible by bus from Punta Arenas. The most popular way to get there is by taking a tour from Puerto Natales or another nearby city (e.g., Punta Arenas).
You can stay at any one of the many hotels or lodges within Torres del Paine National Park or one of the many hotels in nearby Puerto Natales.
Take a look at our tour “Patagonian Rail & Cruise,” on which we extensively explore the Torres del Paine National Park.
The salt flats of Uyuni are a marvel of the natural world. This seemingly endless expanse of white is an unexpected beauty that is hard to believe.
The area is so large that it has its own islands, one of which is Incahuasi Island. This is a great place for a short hike on which you can observe rabbits hopping around among giant cacti. Another fascinating site is the railway cemetery near Uyuni. The cemetery consists of old locomotives and carriages from the historical Uyuni - Antofagasta Railroad built when Bolivia had access to the Pacific Ocean.
In addition to these sites, there are many salt hotels in the area where you can stay to make your salt experience complete.
We explore the Uyuni Salt Flats on our tour “Buenos Aires to Lima: High Andes & Machu Picchu."
The most incredible tourist site in the world is Machu Picchu, located in Peru. It was built by Inca leader Pachakutec in 1460 A.D., then forgotten and eventually re-discovered by Hiram Bingham in 1911.
Machu Picchu's title as a world wonder is due to both its natural beauty and historical significance. The site is on a high mountain ridge overlooking the Urubamba Valley near Cusco, with stunning views of the surrounding mountains, vegetation, and wildlife. Some of the structures that survive at Machu Picchu include temples, workshops, and residences for the Inca rulers.
Hiram Bingham rediscovered Machu Picchu in 1911; he was an explorer who had been looking for another lost city called Vilcabamba. When he found this site instead, he named it "Machu Picchu," which means "old mountain" in Quechua (the language spoken by the Incas).
If your bucket list includes the Galapagos Islands, you're in luck. This destination is one of the most fascinating and beautiful places on earth, and it's also one of the most accessible for travelers.
The Galapagos Islands are a group of volcanic islands located in the Pacific Ocean about 1,000 miles off the coast of Ecuador. They were formed by an active volcano system that began erupting about 3 million years ago. Since that time, they have been shaped by their unique environment—including extreme winds, high temperatures, and frequent earthquakes—and the migration patterns of birds, marine mammals, and other animals.
The blue-footed booby is perhaps the most famous animal associated with this area: a medium-sized bird with bright yellow feet that can be seen flying above the water or perched on rocks near shorelines throughout the archipelago. Other notable animals include giant tortoises (the largest such living species), sea lions, penguins, dolphins, sharks … and even whales!
Cartagena, Colombia, is a stunning colonial city nestled along the Caribbean coast. It features sandy beaches, delicious rum, and a surprisingly vibrant nightlife scene.
The city was founded in 1533 by Spanish conquistadores and quickly became an important part of the Spanish Empire. Cartagena was one of the first cities founded by Europeans in South America and served as the capital of Colombia until 1819. The city has retained much of its original architecture, including many beautiful examples of Spanish Colonial-style buildings.
Cartagena de Indias is part of our trip “Coffee & Rum in Colombia and Panama."
If you're looking for an unforgettable adventure, look no further than South America.