South America offers fantastic countries to visit. Home to many of the world’s top attractions, explore the ruins of ancient civilizations, visit beautiful islands, explore vast jungles, and walk the streets of vibrant and historic cities.
Offering one of the most diverse experiences in South America, Peru provides fantastic experience of culture, history and nature.
Cusco and the Sacred Valley
As one of the favorite activities, explore the famous archaeological areas of the Inca Empire, which dominated South America until the 1500s. Visit Cusco and the Sacred Valley to see Machu Picchu and many other Incan and pre-Incan sights.
Here, you can marvel at the incredible fortresses and architectural achievements that defied belief for centuries.
The Amazon Rainforest
In addition to exploring hundreds of historic cultures, balance the experience with one of the world’s top nature experiences in the Amazon Rainforest.
Explore the jungle with your naturalist guide to see many different monkeys, pink river dolphins, giant otters and sloths dotting the treeline of Amazonia.
You will stay at comfortable lodges providing a sanctuary in the rainforest and sleep listening to the sounds of Amazonia.
If you want to maximize comfort, Peru is also home to some of the most luxurious Amazon river cruises in South America.
Peru’s Other Attractions
Peru offers a celebrated cuisine and you can enjoy some favorites in the country’s restaurants. These are found in both Lima and Cusco.
Enjoy adventure activities on the sand dunes from Huacachina, mountains and trail walks from the mountaineering hub of Huaraz, lake tours of Titicaca, and the colonial architecture of Lima and Cusco.
Home to the Galapagos Islands, Amazon Rainforest and beautiful scenery, Ecuador is a fantastic place to visit in South America.
The Galapagos Islands
The Galapagos Islands are the main attraction, which are a tropical archipelago about 550 miles (900 km) from Ecuador’s coast.
On the Galapagos, you will find many scenic islands filled with extraordinary wildlife, beautiful beaches and iconic landmarks.
Enjoy Galapagos Cruises or package tours from hotels to make the most of your experience. Note that many of the favorite areas can only be visited with a Galapagos accredited guide on a multi-day tour.
Whether you choose a hotel or cruise for your experience, you can head out on guided expeditions to find giant tortoises, Galapagos sea lions, blue-footed boobies, marine iguanas and more.
You will also enjoy beautiful scenery, fantastic beaches and learn about the islands and a fascinating Galapagos history filled with explorers, pirates and naturalists.
The Amazon Rainforest
Another natural attraction, Ecuador is home to one of the most wildlife-rich sections of the Amazon Rainforest. The Yasuni National Park has a record-breaking level of wildlife and you can enjoy fantastic rainforest lodges and cruises, which include guided tours to see the animals and plants.
Enjoy guided expeditions from the recommended jungle lodges and Amazon river cruises to find several different monkeys, pink river dolphins, parrots, toucans, prehistoric-looking reptiles and much more.
You will then head back to your lodge or cruise for delicious meals and to relax in spacious suites before your next day of adventure.
Ecuador’s Other Attractions
Ecuador also offers fantastic cloud forests to see hummingbirds and orchids, beautiful beaches, and many activities from the adventure hub of Baños.
Covering almost half of South America, Brazil is the largest country in the continent and offers many fantastic attractions and things to do.
Visit the many vibrant and interesting cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, Recife and Florianopolis to enjoy local culture, dancing and history.
Famously, Brazil is also home to some beautiful beaches. Popular beaches to enjoy include Rio’s Copacabana, the beaches of Ilha Grande, and Florianopolis.
The Amazon Rainforest
For nature lovers, Brazil is home to the largest section of Amazon Rainforest, which you can visit from Manaus for a cruise down the Amazon’s largest tributary called the Rio Negro. Spot different monkeys and birds as your guide teaches you about this vast forest.
Heading south from the Amazon, you can enjoy the incredible Pantanal, which is the world’s largest wetland ecosystem. This is a fantastic place to see capybara, jaguar, anteaters, and caiman crocodilians. The wetlands are teeming with animals and offers a wildlife density similar to the plains of Africa.
A lesser-known natural attraction is the Brazilian Cerrado, which is a tropical savanna in the north of the country. In addition to the incredible landscape, some of the favorite animals in the cerrado are the maned wolves and tool-using capuchin monkeys.
Brazil’s Other Attractions
Brazil is home to fantastic waterfalls such as Foz do Iguaçu, which you can also visit from Argentina mentioned a little further down. This is also where you find the desert-like landscape of Lençóis Maranhenses National Park with beautiful blue pools of water frequently shown on Instagram.
Of course, one of the favorite things to do in Brazil is to enjoy carnaval, which happens between February and March each year and features giant parades of samba music, dancers and colorful floats best enjoyed in Rio de Janeiro and São Paulo.
Colombia is a very diverse country to visit. Enjoy a relaxing experience of the Amazon from Leticia in the south where locals from Colombian cities vacation for a short tropical vacation, beautiful cities, the Andes mountains, and the Caribean.
One of the favorite cities to visit is Cartagena. Positioned on the coast, Cartagena offers ocean views, beautiful colonial architecture, and easily visited nearby islands.
Tayrona National Park
In the north of the country, you can find the popular Tayrona National Park. This is a beautiful protected area with palm-tree-lined white-sand beaches, which rank as some of the country’s best.
One of the favorite hikes in the country is the jungle trek to the Lost City (Ciudad Perdida). The trek takes you to one of the largest pre-Colombian settlements in the Americas.
The Lost City consists of around 170 stone terraces in the mountainside. Archaeologists have dated the area to around 800 AD and estimate the city once housed 8,000 people. Home to the native Tayrona people, the site was abandoned at the time of the Spanish conquest in the 1500s.
Colombia’s Other Attractions
Enjoy the Amazon, Andes mountains, the Caribbean coast, and some fascinating and beautiful cities.
Although Colombia has long since emerged from the days of Pablo Escobar, you can still visit his old estate of Hacienda Nápoles to learn about this part of the country’s history.
At the estate, the country has added a few amusements but you can still see Escobar’s antique car collection, the Cessna planes used for drug trafficking and the ever-growing population of hippos. These are the descendants of the animals in his private zoo and this is now the largest population of hippos outside of Africa.
Argentina is another top country to visit in South America. Enjoy fantastic culture, vibrant cities, delicious cuisine and must-see natural attractions.
As one of the most well known attractions, no visit to Argentina is complete without seeing the incredible UNESCO listed Iguazu Falls. The cascades stretch 2 miles (3 km) across the Iguazu River and are a spectacular sight to witness.
Although you can also visit the falls from Brazil, Argentina arguably offers the best viewing areas. For example, the most popular section of Iguazu Falls is known as the Devil’s Throat (Garganta del Diablo) and is located on the Argentinian side.
In the south, you can find Argentina’s region of Patagonia with beautiful mountains and glaciers. Famous for breathtaking scenery, enjoy guided walks and hikes admiring the surroundings and visiting different lakes.
Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina as well as a main attraction. Enjoy a culturally rich city with many galleries, opera performances, top rated restaurants, and a beautiful historic center. You can also join a tango class to learn the famous dance that originated on the streets of Argentina.
The Iberá Wetlands
A lesser known natural attraction in the country’s north are the Iberá Wetlands. This is a large wetland ecosystem where you can enjoy incredible wildlife-watching opportunities. Enjoy spotting different monkeys, capybara, parrots, caiman crocodilians, and giant anteaters.
The Wine Region
Argentina is also a fantastic place for touring the many wineries. Mendoza is the popular destination on the wine route and is surrounded by the country’s largest wine producing region. Mendoza is a small relaxed city with many restaurants, city parks and boutique cafes.
Located next to Argentina, Chile is another gateway to Patagonia in the south of the continent.
Enjoy breathtaking scenery and tours of the lakes, mountains and glaciers. The most popular region in Chile’s area of Patagonia is known as Torres del Paine. Find bright blue icebergs and a mountainous landscape that makes you feel like you’re on another planet.
Situated a few thousand miles from Chile’s coast, you can find the famous Easter Island. Here, you can enjoy tours and see the famous moai, which are the large statues carved by island inhabitants between the 13th and 16th centuries. There are hundreds of the statues found on the island and you can learn of the island’s fascinating history, with important lessons we can learn for the stewardship of our planet.
The Marble Caves
Back on Chile’s mainland, you can discover one of the world’s most untouched natural wonders. Deep in Patagonia, you can find the incredible Marble Caves (Capillas de Mármol) in the General Carrera Lake. Enjoy boat tours to explore the fantastic structures, which reflect the surrounding water in the cavern walls offering incredible photography opportunities.
The capital city of Santiago is also a great place to explore for a day or two of your itinerary. Visit interesting museums, enjoy delicious cuisine in the many restaurants, and enjoy beautiful architecture in the historic center.
The Wine Region
Of course, no visit to Chile would be complete without a tour of the magnificent wine regions. You can begin your wine route a few hours from Santiago, which is where you can find a very high number of world-renowned vineyards.
The Atacama Desert
Chile is also where you find the famous Atacama desert from San Pedro de Atacama. Enjoy stunning volcanic scenery, active geysers, sand boarding the dunes, and a massage or dip in the hot pools. When night comes, simply enjoy magnificent stargazing opportunities of a crystal-clear night sky.
A landlocked country towards the south of the continent, Bolivia offers many things to see and do.
Bolivia is another country where you can visit the famous Lake Titicaca. Accessed from Copacabana, this is the world’s largest high-altitude lake and the region has its own unique cultures and wildlife.
Explore the region to experience beautiful scenery and a fascinating culture. The area had great significance for the Inca Civilization who believed that the Sun rose from the lake each morning
One of Bolivia’s most popular historic attractions is the UNESCO listed Tiwanaku. This is a large pre-Columbian archaeological site named after the Tiwanaku people who lived here around 300 BC.
La Paz is Bolivia’s capital city and is an interesting city to visit. Surrounded by snow-capped mountains, enjoy different restaurants, cafes and markets. High in the mountains, you will also see street vendors selling many varieties of potatoes, which originated in the Andes. The Inka cultivated thousands of potato varieties as well as many other crops.
The Amazon Rainforest
Bolivia is also a great place to explore the Amazon Rainforest. The jewel in the crown of Bolivia’s jungle is the incredible Madidi National Park, which is accessed from the rainforest town of Rurrenabaque.
Explore the rainforest on guided tours from rainforest lodges to find colorful parrots, giant otters, caiman crocodilians, many different birds and many different monkeys.
Another recommended place to visit in Bolivia in the UNESCO listed city of Sucre. This is the 5th largest city in Bolivia and contains some beautiful colonial architecture. Enjoy different restaurants and cafes while walking the streets and absorbing the local culture.
Salar de Uyuni
Another favorite attraction in Bolivia is the famous Salar de Uyuni. This is the world’s largest area of salt flats. Many Salar de Uyuni photos can be found online with visitors playing with depth perception. Enjoy scenic surroundings, spot the visiting flamingos, take some fantastic photos and even relax in the nearby hot springs.
Uruguay’s capital of Montevideo offers a fantastic jumping off point for the country. Enjoy a culturally rich city with world class restaurants, boutique cafes, a popular dockside market, galleries, interesting museums and the beautiful architecture of Montevideo’s Ciudad Vieja, the oldest part of the city.
Montevideo is also the base to experience Uruguay’s fantastic wine region. The climate is similar to Argentina and Chile, the more famous wine countries in South America. Although smaller, Uruguay’s wine region produces the world’s favorite grapes and the fresh ocean breeze adds a fantastic flavor to the wines. Enjoy tasting the wines in Montevideo’s many restaurants or visit the wineries in the wine region of Canelones, which is under an hour’s drive from the city.
Another favorite activity is to relax in the country’s hot springs of Termas del Arapey and Termas del Dayman. Both areas offer lodges to stay in and the Termas del Dayman are more developed with resorts and more restaurant choices.
Punta del Diablo
A popular beach visit is Punta del Diablo, which is also where you can find a fortress from the 18th century, cafes, restaurants and different shops.
Another favorite activity is to enjoy a stay at a hacienda to experience the gauchos who are experienced horse riders and livestock farmers. You can enjoy this experience from different areas, including the scenic resort city of Punta del Este.
Paraguay is a lesser-visited country than the others on this list, however, it has a lot to offer.
The Pantanal Wetlands
Paraguay is another place to experience the incredible Pantanal Wetlands. This is a lesser visited region than Brazil’s Pantanal, but it’s still rich in wildlife. Head out on guided tours to find tapir, peccary, puma, many different birds, and many other mammals.
The Ybycuí National Park
Another favorite protected area to visit in Paraguay is the Ybycuí National Park. Part of South America’s threatened and wildlife-rich Atlantic Forest, enjoy walks by waterfalls, crystal clear streams, and spot many different birds.
The Saltos del Monday
The Saltos del Monday are a fantastic series of waterfalls to visit. Accessed from Ciudad del Este, the cascades are 390-feet (120-metres) wide and 150-feet (45-metres) tall offering some fantastic photography opportunities.
The Cerro Cora National Park
The Cerro Cora National Park is another favorite protected area in Paraguay. Enjoy stunning scenery and views from the different lookout points. In addition to being a top nature spot in Paraguay, the area is also historically significant for the country. This was the site where Mariscal López, the president of Paraguay in the late 1800s, and military leader, was killed in battle ending the 6-year Paraguayan War. Enjoy bird watching opportunities and some of Paraguay’s most attractive scenery.
For a glimpse into deep history, Itá Letra are ancient petroglyphs with carvings dating to between 5000 and 2500 BC. There are different animal shapes and symbols. However, one of the most fascinating are the marks that appear to refer to the constellations and stars. You can visit Itá Letra from Villarrica.
Found in north-east South America, the Guianas are a lesser-visited region of South America.
The region is culturally fascinating due to the influence of Dutch, British and French colonists for the respective countries of Suriname, Guyana and French Guiana. Enjoy diverse culture and a vast section of tropical rainforest with many animals and plants.
Suriname is South America’s smallest country and was colonized by Dutch settlers in the early 1600s. Dutch remains the country’s official language despite the country achieving independence from the Netherlands in 1975.
Paramaribo is the jumping-off point for exploration, tours and to enjoy diverse and delicious cuisine. Much of the country is covered in tropical forest where you can enjoy fantastic rainforest tours to see many animals and plants.
Guyana is another tropical country to visit on the Guiana Shield of South America. Differing from other countries in South America, English is the official language of Guyana as this was a former British colony.
Much of the country is covered by tropical rainforest to enjoy watching parrots, toucans, capuchins, howler monkeys and other tropical wildlife. Georgetown is the main city to visit in Guyana and offers restaurants, cafes, museums and tours to other areas of Guyana. A must visit attraction is the incredible Kaieteur Falls.
French Guiana is the only country of the Guyanas that is still a colony of its parent country. As this is a French colony, French is the official language and has a fascinating influence on the culture. Enjoy delicious cuisine in the many restaurants, see colonial architecture, the historic Devil’s Island prison camp, and wildlife tours.