South America is packed with adventure! South America is one of the richest regions of our world in terms of exhilarating nature scenery, diverse wildlife, but history as well. Some of the greatest ancient civilisations have stood their test against time in these lands, and there’s a lot left for us to see and explore.
Bucket list enthusiasts will love the fact that they can find the highest mountain range here, the biggest rainforest, world’s tallest waterfall, and the largest river – the Amazon. But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of what’s there to see here; you’d be amazed by Brazil’s heavenly beaches, Atacama’s deserts, and some of the most exotic islands in the world – the Galapagos in Ecuador.
And all that doesn’t even get me started on experiences you can find in other countries here, as there are fourteen in total – each with its own unique offerings, peoples, and experiences you simply have to see to believe. So, without further ado, let’s get started. Here are some of the most amazing places you need to visit if you ever find yourself in South America:
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
To ease your way into all of this, here’s a place you’ve certainly heard about before – Machu Picchu, in southern Peru. Machu Picchu is what remains of an Inca citadel, which is believed to have been an estate for its emperor Pachacuti, in the 15th century.
Machu Picchu was made known to the International world back in 1911 by Bingham, an American historian, and by 1967, thirty percent had been restored. Of course, restoration continues today.
Visiting this site not only gives you a glimpse into the history of the Incas and how they lived, but it also opens up a spectacular windows to nature scenery, as it is located 2,430 meters above sea level. Machu Picchu became a Peruvian Historic Sanctuary in 1981, and also a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983.
If you fancy hiking to some lesser visited ruins, check out the incredible Ciudad Perdida in Colombia – a lost city swallowed by the jungle and only recently resdiscovered. You can reach this amazing place on a challenging 5 day hike, check out this post for details on the Lost City hike in Colombia.
2. Angel Falls, Venezuela
Nature enthusiasts gather around; this is something you’ll definitely want to see. Located in Venezuela, Angel Falls is home to the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, at the peak height of an outstanding 979 meters.
Its actually located in the Canaima National Park, meaning that you’ll have the chance to see many other things before witnessing this nature wonder. Unfortunately, there are no roads taking you here, but in a way, it’s a good thing, because only those truly want to experience its wonders will fly there.
3. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Entirely formed by volcanic action, and home to giants such as ancient tortoises and spooky iguanas, the Galapagos Islands offer a unique opportunity for exploration. Galapagos is made out of whopping 18 islands, and are located about 910 kilometers (545 miles) off the coast of Ecuador.
Besides walking through lava fields on the beach or admiring the giant animals on land, you’re welcome to go snorkeling with turtles and sea lions. Above all, these islands represent some of the few unspoiled and uncluttered islands in our world, and it’s definitely worth taking the experience while this is true. You’ll also want to try some local Ecuadorian food while you’re here. It’s delicious!
4. Iguazu Falls, Argentina
While I recommend you visit the highest waterfall in the world in Venezuela, I also urge you to come to Argentina for the same reason! Well, not exactly the same, the waterfalls here are not that high, but guess what – there’s 250 of them… In one place!
Here, you’re welcome to take a soothing boat ride, in the midst of over two hundred exciting waterfalls, and all that in the core of an enormous tropical jungle that spans over Brazil and Argentina.
5. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
If hiking is your thing – then you’re going to LOVE this! This national park, which is part of the Chilean Patagonia, provides some of the most exciting hiking adventures to anyone who’s willing to travel there! Its trails are pass azure lakes, an amazingly beautiful blue glacier, and go deep into Chile’s emerald forests.
Besides its thrilling nature scenery, you’ll also likey to spot a few Guanacos, a close relative to the camel, which after facing extreme extinction, managed to get their herd’s numbers back in line and are now more alive than ever. You’re also likely to see the Andean conder in action, as well as the flamingo. All in all, this should turn out to be one of the most beautiful hiking trips of your life!
6. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
In case you feel like you have enough options for nature viewing, here’s a great opportunity to socialize and meet different cultures. Lake Titicaca, which is actually the largest lake in South America, is home to a cluster of 60 islands, which can be experienced through a 40-minute boat ride from Puno.
During your time here, you’ll have the chance to visit and socialize with local families who’ve been here for decades. And since hospitality is a huge thing here, you’ll be welcomed to share food with the Uros people, cook with them, teach their children, and help with maintaining the islands.
7. Rainbow Mountain, Peru
It’s actually called the Ausangate Mountain, and it’s part of the Peruvian Andes, but if you take a look at it, you’ll see a mountain that literally resembles a rainbow, who would have thought?
Dubbed as one of the most beautiful geologic sights in the world, the Rainbow mountain is stripped with an abundance of colors, from maroon to lavender and to turquoise. Besides taking a picture here, you’re welcome to take the hiking trail on its peak, which should take several days. Check out this post for details on how to hike rainbow mountain.
8. Patagonia, Argentina/Chile
Patagonia is not exactly one thing you need to see or one country you need to visit, it’s actually a region filled with pampas, deserts, grasslands and two coastlines and it spreads through both Argentina and Chile.
This whole area is divided into five regions; Chubut, Neuquen, Rio Negro, Santa Cruz and Tierra del Fuego. Together, these comprise an area that’s filled with a couple of dozen cities and interesting sights. Patagonia is vast, and a good part of it is desolate, but the part that’s not, has a few things you need to witness. One of these is the Perito Moreno Glacier, located in the Los Glaciares National Park. You can camp out all over Patagonia and if you fancy basking in the natural glory of the landscape in style, you could stay in an amazing EcoCamp – this post from Wandering Kiwis is simple awesome.
There’s also the breathtaking Patagonian Ice Sheet, but it’s only viewable from a mountain peak or an airplane. You can also find penguin colonies in Patagonia, in a city called Ushuaia, which is coincidentally the southernmost city in the whole world. Check out this post for an epic two week itinerary for Patagonia.
9. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Even though I feel like I can’t stop viewing forests, caves, jungles, glaciers and what not, I think it’s time we introduce a city into the mix, don’t you? And what better way to do that than to suggest you explore one of the South America’s most proclaimed cities – Rio de Janeiro.
Rio de Janeiro is filled with people of diverse backgrounds and pertains a cultural African-European mix, and its all accompanied by thrilling beaches and late night parties! But, if you’re not a fan of partying and taking the typical swim, you’re more than welcome to explore one of many trek paths this city has to offer.
10. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Right after Rio de Janeiro, I’d have you turn your head to one of the richest cities in South America – Buenos Aires. And when I say richest, I by no means mean money, but something much more valuable!
I’m talking about countless theaters, cultural centers, museums, art galleries, and much much more that this city has to offer. Its called the ‘most European’ city of all cities in SA, and some of its most famous regions include Puerto Madero, La Boca, Palermo and Sant Telmo. It’s also home to the romantic tango dance, which you will find is widely accepted and practices here, and if you want to learn – there’s a lot of lessons available.