South America holds some of the most beautiful destinations on earth. If you are fortunate enough to travel throughout the various Latin countries you will behold natural wonders that cannot be found in any other location. Bustling cities filled with specialty shops and novelties and high peaks surrounded by thick and tangled jungles, active volcanoes, the rich cultures with excursions taking you into yesteryear, then back to the present, and more than you could possibly see in one lifetime. Since it’s impossible to see all of the sights in one trip, we’ve chosen the top 20 must see attractions in South America for your consideration and enjoyment.
Isla del Sol, Bolivia
When planning your trip to South America, make certain to make a detour to the Isla del Sol Bolivia. You’ll find it nestled in the famous Lago Titicaca. The translation of the name means the Island of the Sun. This is a beautiful location, but even more intriguing are the people and their culture. Here, you will experience the richness of the old traditions of the Quechua and Aymara people who have preserved their native tongue. Visiting the isle is a dream experience for anyone who takes an interest in exploring old cultures and their traditions. Visit the Bolivian side of teh Lake and discover the birthplace of the Sun God, and teh 80 ruins that tell the story of the people who once lived in this place.
Angel Falls, Venezuela
Angel Falls, Venezuela is a must see attraction when you’re in South America. The scenery and vastness of this site is an experience that will be with you for the rest of your life. The Kerepakupai, also known as the deepest fall is absolutely breathtaking. Canaima National Park is the home of the 979 meter wonder. The Fall is the highest waterfall that flows uninterrupted in the known world. You’ll want to take plenty of pictures and videos of this site. Due to the lack of accessible roads, the only way to reach Angel Falls is by air. Charters are also available for doing fly overs which offer some spectacular aerial views of the falls and the surrounding area.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia just happens to be the largest salt flat in the world. It is known throughout the world for the beautiful illusions that are created in the area. The salt flat occupies more than ten thousand square kilometers. The scenery is breathtakingly surreal. You’ll behold large piles of salt that will boggle the mind. In addition, parts of the landscape are so highly reflective that they produce a mirror image of the objects directly above. In observing the night sky, you’ll get a panoramic view that is hard to find anywhere else in the world. This is definitely one of the attractions in South America that you don’t want to miss out on. The pictures are beautiful, but the experience is nothing short of unforgettable.
Machu Picchu, Perú
Another top attraction to visit in South America is Machu Picchu, Peru. It is a remarkable thing to behold the sacred city in all its glory. The now abandoned ruins of the city which was built in the 1400s, is magnificently preserved in the picturesque mountain setting at Machu Picchu, Peru. Discover more about the mysterious history of the massive stone walls in one of the most significant archaeological locations in the world. If you arrive at the site early in the morning, you’ll behold one of the most spectacular sunrises as Sol rises over the mountain tops. On your way to Machu Picchu, you’ll travel through the colonial city of Cusco where you’ll find a mixture of indigenous culture melded with Spanish architecture. There are several unique villages nearby and each is worth a visit.
Cristo Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Another site to visit when in South America is Cristo Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. Rio is a bustling city that is filled with wild parties and some of the most remarkable beaches. It is world famous for its hiking trails which lead you to pinnacles offering spectacular panoramic views of the city below and yet more amazing attractions. Expect to find a blend of African and European culture within the city. Rio also is home to the “world’s largest urban forest.” Mountain peaks and wildlife live within the midst of the city. Plan to take a lot of pictures and videos on our stay there. Even if you’ve put together an exciting itinerary of South America, you may not want to leave.
Eje Cafetero, Colombia
Columbia has been made famous for its coffee export. Here you can sample the authentic blends which are unique to specific areas of the country. This is a tour that is intended for coffee lovers who have an interest in learning more about the history of coffee, how it is grown, different varieties and what makes each distinct, and the process for preparation of the beans. There are several colonial towns in the area. They seem to be the preservation of a time long passed, but they are real and functional and they await your arrival. While you’re there, you’ll be amazed at the beauty of the green mountains that surround the towns. The most highly recommended towns to visit when in Eje Cafetero are Pijao, Filandia and Salento. You’ll also have the options of riding through the area on horseback or taking a hike around the more popular locations.
Cotopaxi National Park, Ecuador
This is yet another highly recommended site to visit if you are a volcano lover. Cotopaxi Volcano is located within the Cotopaxi National Park in Ecuador. It is one of the most popular attractions in the entire country of Ecuador. The stratovolcano is a sight to behold. While there, you will have options for touring via jeep or by hiking and there are plenty of guides available to ensure that you don’t miss any of the sites. There are locations that offer spectacular views of the entire chain of volcanoes in the area.
Iguazú Falls, Argentina and Brazil
Another popular attraction in Argentina and Brazil is Iguazu Falls. Iguazu is the word in the local dialect for “big water.” This is one of the most visited sites in the region. The falls divide the countries of Argentinean and Brazil. The majority of visitors prefer to enter from the Argentina side because there is a trail that will allow you to walk directly over the falls of what is called “Devi’s Throat.”This is the highest fall in the area. If you’re afraid of heights, the hike may not be for you. This is a locale that you won’t want to pass by if you’re within a few thousand miles or so.
Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
Cartagena de Indias was once a large slave port. It’s a city that is filled with historical significance. It’s a well-preserved colonial city that features colorful streets and some of the finest examples of architecture from days gone by. You’ll find castles and old churches a just a few of the magnificent sights to behold at this attraction. If you’re in South America, you will be glad that you made Cartagena de Indias one of your stops. Anyone who is fascinated with colonial architecture will easily fill their days visiting all of the unique structures in this city. If you don’t already know a lot about the history, there are no worries, you’ll be supplied with all the history lessons that you can handle.
Mount Roraima, Venezuela
Everyone should make a place in their itineraries to visit Mount Roraima in Venezuela. This regions is a photographer’s dream come true. You wont’ know where to begin. The mountain itself is a table shape and the surrounding landscape is filled with unique rock formations and geographical features. One of the most interesting facts about this region are the hundreds of waterfalls that flow straight off of high clifftops and plummet into the valleys below. If you have the time, you can go on a five day hike that leads you to a mountain top that has views that cannot be served justice with mere words. Rather, they must be experienced. Mount Roraima is unique in South America because it serves as the center point of the triple border for Guyana, Venezuela and Brazil.
Torres del Paine, Chile
Torres del Paine, Chile is another highly recommended attraction to see when in South America. It’s best to visit this site towards the end of the tourist season because it’s so popular that the area is often paced with visitors. Torres del Paine is a National park that offers guests the opportunity for day hikes or more deluxe deals for several day hikes. The Torres W trek is a five day excursion that offers some of the most beautiful scenery in the world. This is one of the shorter hiking treks but the typical length of time for serious hiking enthusiasts run between seven and ten days. Torres del Paine is a hiker’s paradise. The landscape is complete with dramatic mountain peaks, a variety of colorful flora and fauna, and large glaciers that are dazzling against the light of the sun.
Tayrona Park, Colombia
Tayrona National Park in the country of Colombia is a trip that those interested in archaeology will find amazing. In fact, the dense forest is home to many archaeological sites that you can visit via tour guides. This is the former home of the indigenous Tairona’s which occupied the region up to the 15th century. It offers a multitude of sensory experiences in one setting. The beaches are picturesque surrounded by high mountain peaks and lush forest. If you’re into scuba diving, you’re in the right place to enjoy an excursion into the clearest waters on earth in the Cabo San Juan area. There are plenty of recreational as well as educational opportunities so Tayrona National Park is a safe bet that offers something for everyone in your travel group.
El Chaltén, Argentina
El Chalten is yet another hikers paradise. It is located in the Argentinian Patagonia and is the optimal place for explorers to begin their journey. From El Chalten, you can embark on a day tour or multi-day hike that takes you on some of the most amazing trails leading to Cerro Torre or Fitz Roy Mount. The views are unbelievable. You’ll discover glaciers, lakes and panoramic views. The town is fully equipped to keep visitors occupied with a variety of dining opportunities and entertainment to round out the experience.
Your trip to South America will not be complete unless you plan on visiting Iquitos in Peru. You absolutely must go on an adventure into the Amazonas and use Iquitos as your base camp. The floating city can only be reached by plane or boat. The region is famed for its production of rubber and here you can lean all about the popular export including the history, how it’s manufactured and other interesting facts. The city is brimming with markets and tour guides who are ready to take you on jungle adventures to learn more about the flora and fauna of the region, firsthand. Visit the traditional villages to get an authentic taste of the culture, or go on a cruise of the rivers. The wildlife that you’ll encounter here is also fairly remarkable. Be careful for the Piranhas though. We heard that they bite.
Buenos Aires, Argentina (La Boca)
Your trip to South America must also include a trip to La Boca, Buenos Aires. This city combines an infusion of European culture with South American traditionalism. It’s known as the most complete cosmopolitan hub featuring a virtual plethora of cultural centers, museums theaters and art galleries. You could easily spend weeks in La Boca, Buenos Aires and not see everything that you want. There is simply too much to see and do in this city. It’s a good idea to plan at least a few extra days here, because once you arrive, you’ll wish that you had. Don’t forget to check out the tango dancers. If you’re inclined to take a few lessons for yourself, there are plenty of instructors who will be happy to show you a few moves. Perhaps the best part of visiting La Boca is that you’ll have so many different things to choose from. You’re in the hub that offers total immersion in history, culture, the arts and amazingly fun night life activities. Some of the finest cuisine in the world can be had in Buenos Aires. When you just want to get away and relax, you’re not far from popular hiking areas or spas that offer peace and quiet and a place of repose. If you could only choose one destination in South America to visit, Buenos Aires would definitely be at the top of the list.
Chapada Diamantina, Brazil
Chapada Diamantina is another attraction that you shouldn’t pass up. This is a wonderland of huge valleys, canyons that seem to have no bottom and a few hundred amazing waterfalls. You’ll think that you have been transported through a time warp to another dimension. While you’re there, plan on visiting Cachoeira da Fumace. It’s a mountain that is 353 meters in height. You can hike up a trail that will lead you directly to the top for some of the most fantastic views imaginable. It’s really cool to stand at the top of where a waterfall starts.
Cayo Sombrero, Venezuela
Another popular attraction to see when in South America is Cayo Sombrero. It offers amazing beaches with clear water that is turquoise in color against the contrasting pure white sands. This is a paradise for divers who enjoy clear waters, lots of reefs to explore and some of the most colorful and unique tropical fish examples in the world. To get to Cayo Sombrero, start from Chichiriviche where you’ll also find plenty of fun, and take a boat to the island because it’s the only way to get there. In fact, there are several worthy cays that you may want to investigate while you’re there. You won’t find any hotel accommodations in Cayo Sombrero and there are no roads there either. In fact, nobody lives on the island, and this is likely to be the reason you’ll find it in such pristine condition.
Perito Moreno, Argentina
Perito Moreno in Argentina is another attraction that is worth seeing. The glacier is a spectacular five km in length and towers more than 70 meters above the water. If you’re there at just the right time, you may be privileged to watch the dramatic sight of massive ice blocks breaking away from the outer part of the glacier, and exploding into the water below. It’s an amazing sight, but you don’t want to be too close when it happens. There are other things to do when visiting Perito Moreno, but the glacier is the main attraction. Have camera and video equipment on hand so you don’t miss out on the shot of a lifetime.
Salvador de Bahia, Brazil
Salvador de Bahia offers some of the most amazing colonial architecture in all of Brazil. This is a former slave port for the Portuguese empire. This is one of the reasons why so many of the residents are of African descent and follow the customs and traditions of their original homeland. There is an amazing infusion of African culture that allows for a total immersion experience. When you’re there, it’s recommended that you check out the Pelourinho neighborhood for a place to stay. This is a good city to learn about the intriguing history of the people who live in this city, and the evolution that the country has undergone since colonial times. Rich history lessons, authentic cuisine, and amazing architectural structures are some of the greatest attractions that draw throngs of guests into Salvador de Bahia, Brazil. It’s an experience that you won’t want to miss when visiting South America.
Atacama Desert, Chile
The Atacama Desert is known as the driest desert in the world. If you’re in South America, you’ll kick yourself later if you don’t visit the magnificent attractions that are found here. It’s located in the north part of the country. While at Atacama you can opt to charter a bicycle to go on your own or you can go with an expert tour guide for a more complete experience. The main attractions at Atacama are the large volcanoes, the salt flats, the spring waters and the geysers. You’ll encounter strange and interesting rock formations in the daytime and some of the most expansive views of the night sky when it’s dark. Sunrises and sunsets are also some of the most spectacular in the world at Atacama.