South America is the perfect continent for travelling. It has everything – beautiful scenery, rainforests, rivers and waterfalls, wildlife galore, bustling cities and music filling the streets. So with so much to see and do, many travellers are faced with the same question: “What are the top places to visit in South America?” Well, we’re here to help with some of the top places we think should be squeezed into every South America trip…
Machu Picchu, Peru
If you’re hiking the spectacular 33km long Inca Trail or just catching the train, the lost Inca city of Machu Picchu is a must see place on any Peru trip. The surrounding area known as the Sacred Valley has plenty to offer also, with the beautiful Inca citadels of Pisac and Ollantaytambo. The undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas and the once capital city of the Inca Empire, Cusco, is the starting off point for most trips into the Sacred Valley, making this area a history lovers paradise.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
These volcanic Islands lie 1000km off the west coast of Ecuador and are a nature lovers paradise. The home of giant tortoises, marine iguanas and 100’s of different bird species, wildlife spotting is the main attraction here. Most tourists spend 4-8 days cruising around the islands by boat, by far the best way to get up close to most of the wildlife. The scuba diving here is fantastic and also very unique.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
The stunning southwest corner of Bolivia has many beautiful landscapes. The Salar de Uyuni is one of the best and is the largest salt flat in the world, sitting at an altitude of around 3650m above sea level. You can go on 4×4 safaris from Uyuni, which take in the salt flats (including spending the night in a salt hotel!), numerous volcanoes, coloured lakes, hot springs, geysers, flamingos, llamas, alpacas and endless spectacular landscapes.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
One of the most beautifully located cities on the planet. Home of the world famous Rio Carnival, there is so much here to keep you occupied for weeks on your Brazil trip. Sunrise on Sugar loaf mountain, sunset from Corcovado (next to the statue of Christ the Redeemer), chilling on the beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, sipping coffee in Santa Teresa, cheering on a football match at the Maracana stadium and dancing the night away in one of the many clubs located all over the city, are just a few of the fantastic experiences to be had in Rio.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
The world’s highest waterfall at a height of 979m and with a plunge of 807m. It is located within the Canaima National Park in the south east corner of Venezuela. To visit, you must fly (45mins) from Cuidad Bolivar to Canaima. From Canaima it’s another 5-8 hours (depending on the water levels) by boat upstream to the falls. Best visited in the wet season, so the falls are at their most impressive, between June and September, but in truth, anytime is great, as they are one of the most spectacular sites on earth.
Cuidad Perida, Colombia
Built by the Tayrona Indians, between the 8th and 14th centuries. Located in Northern Colombia near to the town of Santa Marta. The only way to visit the lost city is to join a 52km, 6 day guided tour. The first 3 days are spent trekking to the lost city, with 1 day exploring the site and the other 2 days trekking back to the start. Not much of the original city remains, but the views and location on the site are awesome.
This southern area of Argentina and Chile is simply stunning and is best visited in the summer months of October to March. Visitors come to see its amazing landscapes and natural wildlife. Some of the most popular things to do are to hike around the amazing granite peaks in Parque Nacional Torres del Paine, to visit the Perito Moreno Glacier and to go whale watching on the Valdez Peninsula. The beautifully located mountain towns of El Calafate and Bariloche are also popular and the world’s southernmost city of Ushuaia is the starting point for trips to Antartica.
Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina
One of the great natural wonders of the world. These falls lie in an area known as the tri-borders of Brazil, Argentina and Paraguay. The falls are best visited over two days, one day spent on the Brazilian side, which gives you the big overview of the falls, and one day on the Argentinian side, where you are able to get up close and personal with the falls. There are many walking tracks on both sides that take you to spectacular viewpoints, with lots of wildlife to spot along the way.
The Pantanal, Brazil
One of the world’s largest and most diverse wetlands. It lies in western Brazil and spreads into southern Bolivia. Wildlife spotting is the areas main draw card with 1000 bird species, 400 fish species, 300 mammalian species, 480 reptile species and over 9000 different species of insects. Giant otters, Capybara, Tapirs and Jaguars are just a few of the animals to look out for. The city of Campo Grande is the main starting point for trips into the Pantanal.
Amazon Rainforest, nine different countries
The mighty Amazon rainforest covers 40% of South America and contains over half of the world’s rainforest. It is spread over 9 different countries, with Brazil having the largest part, home to various Amazon jungle lodges. The Amazon River flows through the rainforest and is arguably the longest river in world at around 6600km from its source in the Peruvian Andes to its delta on the Atlantic coast. The rainforests diverse wildlife population is again the biggest draw card to the area. The area’s largest city, Manaus, is a great place to arrange trips into the rainforest and along the Amazon River.