South America is a continent of extremes, with lush tropical rainforests, snow-capped mountains, desert plains, cosmopolitan cities and ancient ruins. The diverse landscape is brimming with amazing sights to see – from the Inca Trail to Rio De Janeiro. Honestly, this list could go for hundreds of points, but we’ve rounded up 25 of the best places to visit in South America to help you plan your next great adventure.
1. Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina
On the border between Argentina and Chile, the UNESCO World Heritage protected park features towering mountains, glacial lakes, and the Upsala, Onelli and Perito Moreno Glaciers.
2. The Amazon, Brazil
The lush rainforest of the Amazon spreads across Brazil, Peru, Colombia, Venezuela, Ecuador, Bolivia, Guyana, Suriname and French Guiana. With more than 60% of the landscape sitting in Brazil, it’s one of the most popular entryways to the majestic site.
3. Machu Picchu, Peru
We couldn’t leave out arguably the most famous tourist destination in South America! The ancient Mayan citadel known as Machu Picchu is a must-visit for its historical and cultural significance, not to mention the natural beauty of the surrounding Inca Trail. Find out more about the site and hiking the trail here.
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4. Angel Falls, Venezuela
A UNESCO World Heritage Site, the Angel Falls is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall plummeting over the edge of the Auyán-tepui mountain. It’s by far one of the best places to visit in South America.
5. The Galápagos Islands, Ecuador
A volcanic group of islands off the coast of Ecuador, the Galápagos Islands boast natural beauty and a jaw-dropping line-up of animals. Sea lions, tortoise, penguins, rays and sharks are just some of the incredible animals on the island and in the surrounding waters.
6. Patagonia, Argentina and Chile
The Patagonia region, spread across both Argentina and Chile, encompasses the southern section of the Andes Mountains, glaciers, pristine rivers and lakes and countless magical landscapes from deserts to lush tablelands. Some of our favourite spots include the gateway town of Puerto Natales, the Torres del Paine National Park and Laguna de los Tres.
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7. Ushuaia, Argentina
The adventure hub of the southernmost tip of South America, Ushuaia sits beneath the snowy Martial Range and acts as a gateway to the other islands of the Tierra del Fuego archipelago and the Antarctic. So, what is there to do at the end of the world? Check out the charming town before seeing the Martial Glacier, Lago Roca, Beagle Channel or Lapataia River.
8. Atacama Desert, Chile
West of the Andes Mountains is the Atacama Desert. The world’s driest nonpolar desert, this rust-coloured landscape – which has been used by NASA and is often compared to Mars – is made up of salt flats, lagoons, dunes, active geysers and the famous Valle de la Luna. Plus, it’s renowned for being one of the best places in the world to see the stars!
9. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
One of the most recognisable spots in South America, the Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat in the world and spreads out across almost 11,000 square kilometres. Impressive… and ripe with opportunities for creative photos.
10. Colca Canyon, Peru
This epic canyon in the south of Peru is TWICE as deep as the Grand Canyon in the USA – you know, that old thing – and is perfect for a lengthy hike or even just a pit stop. Hands down, one of the best places to visit in South America.
11. Death Road, Bolivia
A short drive away from the bustling city of La Paz lies Death Road, an infamous road cut into the Cordillera Oriental Mountain chain. Don’t let the name throw you. This once-deadly road is now a popular biking trail for tourists visiting La Paz, offering up incredible views and taking you past a cloud forest of greenery and roadside waterfalls.
12. Iguazu Falls, Argentinian and Brazilian Border
13. Bogota, Colombia
This high-altitude capital city blends cosmopolitan charm with historic colonial structures. From the cobbled streets of the La Candelaria district to the ridiculously high cable car ride up to Mount Monserrate, the Colombian city has a lot to offer.
14. Kaieteur Falls, Guyana
More waterfalls? You bet! This is the world’s largest single-drop waterfall, plunging from heights of 741 feet in the Potaro River in the Kaieteur National Park within the Amazon. It’s roughly four times the size of Niagara Falls and is surrounded by dense rainforest.
15. Cusco, Peru
The former capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is a historical town with a blend of Andean and Spanish cultures. When checking out the magic that is Cusco, pay a visit to the vibrant Rainbow Mountain nearby for a picture-perfect moment, or make your way to the site of Machu Picchu and the Inca Trail.
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16. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
The largest lake in South America, this serene destination was once credited as the birthplace of the sun by the Incas. Lake Titicaca sits between the borders of Peru and Bolivia, with man-made islands (created using totora reeds) scattered throughout the lake. Learn more about this incredible lake and the people who live there, here.
17. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Copacabana and Ipanema Beach? Christ the Redeemer? Pão de Açúcar AKA Sugarloaf Mountain? The iconic hot spots of Rio deserve a place on every Brazilian bucket list.
18. Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Brazil
Pristine white sand dunes filled with crystal clear green and blue waters, now that’s an epic sight to behold. The UNESCO World Heritage Listed park spans along an 80km coastline, with beaches, sand dunes and freshwater lagoons waiting to be explored.
19. Mendoza Wine Region, Argentina
The Mendoza Province is the heart of Argentina’s wine trade, accounting for a substantial share of the nation’s wine production. Flanked by mountain peaks, the picturesque Mendoza wine region is the perfect spot to relax and take in natural sights while sipping on a glass of locally produced Malbec.
20. Huacachina, Peru
The village of Huacachina is a short drive – but a whole world away – from the city of Ica. A mesmerising desert, the village feels isolated from the outside world thanks to towering sand dunes that surround. Dune buggying, sandboarding, authentic Peruvian dining and relaxing by the lagoon are just some of the ways to keep yourself entertained here.
21. Baños de Agua Santa, Ecuador
Baños is a must-visit for thrill-seekers and one of the best places to visit in South America. The town is surrounded by mountains and serves as a gateway to the Amazon Basin. From canyoning, to bathing in hot springs, to swinging at the “end of the world,” there are lots of unique activities to pop on your Baños itinerary.
22. Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, Colombia
In the foothills of the Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, this protected park offers up a slice of Colombia’s Caribbean Coast. Sandy beaches stretch out from the dense greenery of the rainforests, leading to stunning turquoise waters that look SO inviting. Look up ‘paradise’ in the dictionary and you’ll probably just find a description of this heavenly landscape, it’s that good.
23. Valparaiso, Chile
This bohemian port city boasts rows upon rows of colourful houses, cool street art and a historic downtown region prime for architecture nerds. It’s a vibrant city with an artistic heart – and nearby beaches if you fancy a dip.
24. Caño Cristales, Colombia
These free-flowing colourful waters within the Parque Nacional Natural Sierra de La Macarena have become a top tourist destination in recent years. Dubbed the ‘Liquid Rainbow’ the colourful rivers, waterfalls and streams turn vibrant shades in the months of July to November thanks to algae.
25. Buenos Aires, Argentina
It’s long been referred to as the “Paris of South America,” but Buenos Aires is an enchanting city all it’s own. Check out the colourful La Boca neighbourhood, the Casa Rosada palace and the Plaza Dorrego for a taste of this diverse place.