25 Best Places To Visit In South America

25 Best Places To Visit In South America, From The Wetlands Of Brazil To Easter Island
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As a digital nomad who works and travels full-time, I spend a good portion of the year in South America. The first city I visited was Buenos Aires, and it immediately stole my heart — it is arguably one of the best cities on the continent. Since then, I’ve had the opportunity to explore beyond Argentina, including Brazil, Chile, Colombia, and Uruguay; Peru will be added to that list in the coming months.

South America has unlimited things to offer, from beautiful beaches and mountainside villages to world-class cuisine and two of the New 7 Wonders of the World. With the help of Elisban Huarancca, an official tourism guide in Peru, Eva Castro, owner of Creo Ecolodge Jardin Project in Antioquia, Colombia, and Alexander Balardjischvili, CEO of C2Rio Tours & Travel, we’ve compiled a list of the 25 best places to visit in South America.

The best places to visit in South America

Jardín, Antioquia, Colombia

Best places to visit in South America
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Jardín is a small town a few hours south of Medellín with colonial architecture, beautiful scenery, and lots to do. Castro of Creo Ecolodge, where I stayed during my trip to Jardín, gave plenty of recommendations for things to do while you’re in town. Take a tour of Cueva del Esplendor, or Cave of Splendor, where you’ll find a beautiful waterfall, or head to a nearby coffee farm to learn how Colombian coffee is produced. My favourite is Cafe Historias, which has some of the best coffee I’ve ever tasted.

Castro says the best time of year to visit is August and September when there are very few travellers. This is also when the annual Jardin Film Festival takes place. It gets much busier in town from December through April, Castro says.

Cocora Valley, Salento, Colombia

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Due west of Bogota is Cocora Valley, one of Colombia’s most famous hiking destinations. You can take a day trip from the nearby town of Salento or do a multi-day hike throughout the valley. There are campsites available for use if you choose to spend the night looking at the stars. It’s famous for having the tallest palm trees in the world, which stand at over 195 feet tall and can live up to 200 years. The almost oversaturated green colours of the hills are stunning. Castro highly recommends going at “golden hour” — early in the morning or late in the afternoon — for the best views.

The Lost City, Magdalena, Colombia

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The Lost City, or Ciudad Perdida in Spanish, is located near Santa Marta in northern Colombia. It’s estimated to have been founded in the 8th or 9th centuries, making it hundreds of years older than Machu Picchu. It was home to anywhere between 1,400 to 3,000 people and about 170 terraces, with apparent spaces for living, working, and religious practice. You’ll have to do a three- to six-day trek with a tour company to get there. On the way, you will see rare native plants and wildlife, which is an adventure in itself.

The Rock of Guatapé, Guatapé, Colombia

Best places to visit in South America
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Guatapé is a town in northern Colombia, directly east of Medellín, and it’s famous for The Rock of Guatapé, which is reached via more than 740 steps. At the end of your climb, you will be rewarded with sweeping views of the town and different islands in Guatapé Lake. The town is reachable via a bus ride that’s less than two hours from Medellín, making it a perfect weekend trip.

“The people here are more welcoming and warm,” says Castro. “When you are walking, you can find many smiling faces… It’s part of our culture.”

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San Rafael, Antioqua, Colombia

San Rafael is excellent “if you really want to have the deepest connection with yourself and with nature,” says Castro. She recommends Vanadurga Ashram, a yoga sanctuary if you want to practice yoga while you’re here. “These places are really magical, and you can learn how to change your perspective,” Castro adds.

San Rafael is known for its natural beauty, including mountains, waterfalls, and rivers. You can bird watch, hike, or simply soak in nature. “People want to come to have an inner journey,” says Castro. “If that’s your goal — to find out something inside of you — I’d recommend places like San Rafael.”

Cusco, Peru

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If you are interested in Inca ruins, Cusco is the perfect place. Churches, museums, and winding streets here will leave you charmed. “Travelers to Peru should know that they will face a diverse and colourful culture, with very warm and very friendly people,” says Huarancca. “Also, understand that they will face different flavours that will help them experience every second of their trip.”

Cusco makes a great starting point to reach Machu Picchu. Many travellers spend a few days here exploring and acclimating to the 11,150-foot elevation. (In comparison, Denver has an elevation of 5,280 feet.)

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Machu Picchu, Peru

Best places to visit in South America
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Arguably one of the best places to visit in South America, Machu Picchu is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. The site was initially an Inca citadel, likely built in the 1450s and often called “The Lost City of the Incas.” Machu Picchu is about 50 miles (80.46 km) from Cusco; from there, you’ll take a train to Aguas Calientes and then a bus to the site. You cannot visit without a tour guide, so make reservations well in advance.

“The visit to Machu Picchu can be all year round; different climatic factors help to understand the mysterious nature of Machu Picchu,” says Huarancca. “But if you are looking for dates with little rain, it is well suited from April to the end of October.”

Lake Titicaca, Peru

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Lake Titicaca is the largest of South America’s freshwater lakes, as well as the world’s highest navigable lake. It’s an estimated three million years old, and there are man-made islands constructed of layers of tortora roots and reeds. The number of islands varies at any given time but is usually somewhere between 40 to 60. You will have some of the best views in the Andes from this place, and it is extremely important to Peruvian and Bolivian indigenous communities.

Rainbow Mountain, Vinicunca, Peru

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Close to Cusco in the Andes Mountains is Vinicunca, also known as Rainbow Mountain because of the colourful stripes on display year-round. The colours result from different mineral layers that were combined with melted ice to create rows of reds, yellows, purples, and greens.

The Amazon Rainforest, Peru

Best places to visit in South America
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One of the best places to visit in South America, the Amazon Rainforest spans eight countries and is almost 2.6 million square miles (67,33,969.08 square kilometres) in size. You can visit the Peruvian Amazon from three areas: Manu National Park, Tambopata Province, and the city of Iquitos. Each provides something unique to tourists. The best option depends on what you want to see, how much time you can spend, and your budget.

“The only recommendation I can give to international travellers is to make reservations in advance and have good information about the places you will visit,” says Huarancca. “It is necessary to find out the type of food, drinks, and traditions that place has.”

Huacachina, Peru

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Huarancca recommends visiting Huacachina, “a small oasis in the middle of the desert.” Located south of Lima and near the city of Ica, Huacachina is a desert village complete with rolling sand dunes on all sides. You can’t swim in Huacachina Lagoon, but you can rent paddle boats to glide across the water. It’s the only natural oasis in all of South America, formed by underground aquifers.

Colca Canyon, Peru

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Colca Canyon is another tourist attraction in Peru that you should not miss, according to Huarancca. It’s one of the world’s deepest canyons (twice as deep as the Grand Canyon) and you can take a day trip from Arequipa to see it or a multi-day trek for the most spectacular views. Either way, you’re likely to see plenty of native wildlife and breathtaking scenery.

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Uyuni Salt Flat, Bolivia

Best places to visit in South America
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Bolivia is home to the largest salt flat in the world, originally a prehistoric lake that went dry. Now Uyuni Salt Flat is around 4,200 square miles (10,877 square kilometres) of striking white salt and rock formations. If you visit between December and April, which is the rainy season, you may see bright pink flamingos. Many people who have visited when water is on the ground describe the experience as walking on a cloud since the sky is reflected in the water. Book a room at Kachi Lodge, which is set right on the flat, for a very special stay.

Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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Christ the Redeemer is one of the New 7 Wonders of the World and a must-see for anyone heading to Brazil. The statue of Jesus stands almost 125 feet tall and looks over Rio de Janeiro. When visiting the marvel, you can expect phenomenal views of the city. Balardjischvili recommends taking the train to see the statue and booking that ticket in advance.

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Pantanal Wetland, Brazil

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Measuring more than 40 million acres, Pantanal Wetland is the biggest wetland on Earth. Jaguars and crocodiles are just two of its residents — with more than 4,700 plant and animal species, it’s one of the most biodiverse destinations on the planet. Balardjischvili recommends “bringing insect repellent, a light raincoat, and a sweatshirt — and always hydrate.”

The Imperial City of Petropolis, Brazil

Best places to visit in South America
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One of the best places to visit in South America, Petropolis is a mountain resort outside of Rio de Janeiro known for its palaces, architecture, and food. “Visit Petropolis on a guided tour to enjoy the historical aspect,” Balardjischvili says. “Always book your tour on legalised companies with good reviews.”

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Sugarloaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

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One of the best places to visit in South America, Sugarloaf Mountain is a major landmark in Brazil, well known for the panoramic city views guests get at the top. The cable car system here opened in 1912; it was the first in Brazil and the third in the world. “For Sugarloaf, visit it in the morning, as it is fresher; sunset is beautiful but extremely crowded,” says Balardjischvili. “If you are travelling during the high season, buy a skip-the-line ticket.” The mountain peak sits almost 1,300 feet in the air, so you’ll be grateful you don’t have to climb all the way up.

When asked about the best time of year to visit Rio de Janeiro, Balardjischvili says May or June, when “you’ll enjoy beautiful sunny days with no rain and 77 degrees (25 degrees Celsius).”

Buenos Aires, Argentina

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One of my favourite cities in the world is Buenos Aires, where you can find anything from tango shows and street art to the best steak you’ll ever eat. Each neighbourhood has something special. Head to La Boca for beautiful murals along the streets, then tour the famous cemetery in Recoleta before stopping at a speakeasy in Palermo. There’s no shortage of fantastic things to do here, and the city makes a wonderful home base for seeing more of Argentina.

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Zuccardi Winery, Uco Valley, Argentina

Best places to visit in South America
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Zuccardi Valle de Uco is an award-winning winery that I had the opportunity to visit this past January. It certainly lives up to its reputation, with fantastic wines and the Andes as a stunning backdrop to the property’s extensive vineyards. Reservations for tastings and tours can be made online.

Iguazú Falls, Puerto Iguazú, Argentina

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Located on the border of Argentina and Brazil, Iguazú Falls is comprised of about 275 individual waterfalls, making it the largest waterfall system in the world. Most of the waterfalls are on the Argentina side, but the tallest is on the Brazil side. It’s a stunning sight to behold and an absolute must for anyone travelling through South America.

Patagonia, Argentina

Best places to visit in South America
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Patagonia is larger than many countries around the world and is split between Argentina and Chile. You can expect each city in the region to feel unique; some of the most popular ones in Argentinian Patagonia are El Calafate, Ushuaia, and El Chaltén. Whether you go to Patagonia Brewery in San Carlos de Bariloche or hike one of the 300 glaciers throughout the region, you will surely have an experience you’ll never forget.

Punta del Este Beaches, Uruguay

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Uruguay is still relatively underrated, but it is a fantastic place for international travellers. It takes just a couple of hours by ferry to get from Buenos Aires, Argentina, to Montevideo, the capital of Uruguay. From there, it’s about a two-hour drive to Punta del Este, which has some of the best beaches in the country, plus high-end shopping and fantastic steakhouses.

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Valparaíso, Chile

Best places to visit in South America
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Valparaíso is located on the coast of Chile and is less than a two-hour drive from Santiago. It’s famous for its colourful homes and for being the home of renowned poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda. It’s also connected to Viña del Mar, where you’ll find some of Chile’s top beaches. The city is a UNESCO World Heritage site with excellent architecture and many things to discover.

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Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

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The Galápagos Islands are perfect for nature lovers. Visitors can learn about the archipelago’s unique biodiversity, go scuba diving, lounge on beaches, or embark on a multi-island cruise. You might also swim with sea lions or hang out with giant turtles.

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Easter Island, Chile

Best places to visit in South America
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One of the best places to visit in South America, Easter Island is a Chilean territory in the middle of the South Pacific Ocean. It’s known for the nearly 900 stone statues of human figures, called moai, that you’ll find here. The statues are believed to have been created over time, from the 11th century to some time in the 17th century. From Santiago, it’s about a 5.5-hour flight to reach the island.

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This story first appeared on travelandleisure.com

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Harrison Pierce

Harrison Pierce


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