South America is one of the hottest must-see travel destinations, especially for more adventurous types. In a guest post by Luis from Vagabundo magazine, he picks the best and most beautiful places to visit in South America…
Cartagena, Colombia – the beautiful gem of the Caribbean coast
Often said to be the jewel in the crown of the Caribbean Coast this spectacular port city in Colombia is beloved by backpackers and adventurous tourists. Built in the 16th century, the city is a beautiful South American gem with an old town cobblestone streets, colorful colonial buildings, pretty squares and locals who have a love of dancing (and life)!
- Check out our guest blogger’s post on Spending a week in Cartagena. Colombia
The Canaima National Park, Venezuela – one of the largest and most beautiful national parks in the world
Home to the highest waterfall in the world – the Angel Fall – this National Park can only be reached taking a flight from Caracas, via Puerto Ordaz. The tepuies, or table-top mountains, whose formation goes back to the time when South America and Africa were part of the same continent, can only be found here and are an excellent opportunity for hikers and climbers.
The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – a gorgeous wildlife haven in South America
Nearly everyone want to visit this archipelago despite being one of the most expensive attractions in all of South America. But having the chance to walk among the exotic wildlife species – such as the giant tortoise and the sea iguana – make it worth every penny. Swimming with wild dolphins and snorkeling are also other highly recommended activities in the Galapagos.
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile – a truly spectacular natural area made famous by the Motorcycle Diaries
This area, located about 60 miles east from the northern Chilean city of Antofagasta, has been made famous by the cult-favourite movie The Motorcycle Diaries. San Pedro de Atacama is a great adventure destination for hikers and sand boarders, surrounded by desert and not much more. You should also visit pre-Columbian ruins or just take in amazing, lunar-esque landscape in places like the Death Valley or the Valley of the Moon. It is also known to be the best stargazing spot in South America.
The Meeting of the Waters, Brazil – a stunning natural phenomenon in South America
Manaus is the largest city of northern Brazil and it is located at the confluence of two rivers – the black-watered Rio Negro, coming from Colombia and the sandy Rio Solimões, from Peru. They run without mixing waters for eight kilometers until they finally meet to form the bigger Amazon (due to their different temperatures and densities). The waters are a very interesting natural phenomenon and make fantastic places to visit in South America.
Tayrona National Park, Colombia – easily one of the most beautiful places to visit South America
There are many beautiful national parks in South America but the Tayrona National Park located in North America seems to have it all – beaches of white fine sand, beautiful palm trees swaying in the gentle breeze, shaded coves, stunning lagoons, turquoise waters and dense patches of rainforest. In the centre of the protected park are the Pueblito ruins a spectacular archaeological site that can be accessed by a forest trail.
The Nazca Lines, Peru – an ancient and mystical attraction
Declared as a UNESCO World Heritage Site, the lines and figures on the ground can only be seen from above – which means that a flight has to be taken to admire them completely. Alternatively, nervous flyers can also view them from some hills nearby. The main attractions to this site are the precision of their formation and the amount of speculations regarding their origin and purpose.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil – the most beautiful and famous waterfall in South America
Easily one of the most famously beautiful places to visit in South America this natural wonder is a part of Iguazu River located on the border of the Argentine province of Misiones and the Brazilian state of Paraná. They formed from of a volcanic eruption and the incredible waterfall falls spans an area of 2.7 kilometres wide making it the largest waterfall in the world. A stunning must-see attraction in South America which has also been granted UNESCO world heritage site status.
The Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia – a beautifully surreal destination in South America
With an extension of almost 4,100 sq mi, this is the biggest salt flat in the world. A surreal yet very beautiful destination, the area is highly photogenic. The flats are not near any major cities and construction materials are hard to transport so there are a bunch of hotels built from salt blocks taken directly from the Salar. The train cemetery and the abandoned tracks are also major tourist attractions and definitely worth a visit if you’re in this area.
Cusco, Peru – one of the most spectacular cities to visit in South America
Once travellers have tackled the mighty Machu Picchu many don’t intend on leaving Peru without spending at least a little bit of time in the beautiful city of Cusco. Located in the Peruvian Andes it was once the capital of the Inca Empire and today is almost seems suspended in time with a truly beautifully preserved old part of the city complete with arcades, carved wooden balconies and Incan wall ruins in a striking Spanish colonial style.
Christ the Redeemer Statue, Brazil – hailed as one of the new seven wonders of the world
Easily one of the most iconic and striking attractions in South America, the Art Deco statue made of concrete and sandstone sits at the peak of the 700-metre Corcovado mountain and overlooks Rio de Janerio. A must-see and a comforting sight in beautiful Brazil it also represents just how much religion is important in every-day life in South America.
Lake Titicaca, Peru and Bolivia – a stunning natural wonder
Between the two countries lies the largest lake by volume in the continent and the highest navigable lake in the world. The artificial islands (named Uros) are one of the main tourist attractions, but islands like Amantí and Taquile are best known for holding a low-profile tourism model. Here visitors can gain a complete cultural experience as many families offer overnight stays at their homes as well as the opportunity to get involved in traditional rituals and practices (something which I highly recommend).
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile – jaw-dropping scenery
The Chilean Patagonia is full of beautiful natural wonders. One which you shouldn’t miss is the UNESCO Biosphere Reserve-Torres del Paine. A great place to practice adventure tourism, it’s accessible from the southernmost Chilean cities, such as Punta Arenas. It is one of the best-hiking destinations in the country, and it’s better to visit during the austral summer because of the more pleasant weather and the longer daylight hours.
The Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina – the famous protected glacier
With ice walls towering as high as 40 meters, deep blue landscapes and sights, and inclusion within the Perito Moreno National Park, this glacier is a must-do when visiting southern Argentina. It is accessible from villages like El Calafate. This one is different from other glaciers around the world as it is constantly moving outward several feet per day and ice chunks fall into the sea everyday. I recommend ice trekking and viewing cruises for the best options for exploring it.
The Falkland Islands – one of the most underrated destinations to explore in South America
This remote archipelago on the South Atlantic is a self-governing British Overseas Territory has been claimed by Argentina for a long time, hence the Falklands War in 1982 between the two nations. The native population – called Falkland Islanders – are although still considered to be British Citizens. Despite such controversy, the islands are beautiful and definitely worth a visit. The Falkland Tourism Board is located in Stanley (the capital and only city). Head there for organized activities ranging from wildlife encounters and trout fishing to boat trips and hiking.