By Ayngelina Brogan
South America tourism is heating up. Travelers are flocking towards the equator for a glimpse at a stunning patchwork of beautiful landscapes with snow-capped mountains, spectacular jungles, and awe-inspiring deserts.
Whatever you plan on embarking on an adventure, or taking a more relaxing vacation, South America will not disappoint. The spirit of this continent is infectious, and no matter where you go, the fierce Latin passion will sweep you away.
Of course, due to the number of countries with such vastly different cultures and terrain, you may find it overwhelming to pick the one that’s right for you. So, when planning your trip, consider one of these highly recommended destinations that are perfect for both first times and repeat visitors.
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
Peru has recently become the darling of the traveling community due to its shining jewel, the Incan kingdom of Machu Picchu.
Hidden within the lush Peruvian mountains, this mystical city remained a secret for ages and now is the continent’s best known archaeological site.
While some travelers choose to enjoy the views in comfort.aboard a luxurious train, others choose the more adventurous option of trekking the trail. Both offer a tremendous sense of wonder by seeing the ancient society, so you will no doubt be happy by choosing either option.
2. Amazonia, Ecuador
The Amazon is one of the most unique ecosystems on our planet. This enormous region covers about 40% of the South American continent, touching many countries.
Travelers should be aware that this region is not for the lighthearted, but if you are comfortable with roughing it, you will get a chance to see a vast amount of creatures including monkeys, birds, caimans, and tarantulas.
One of the easiest and most popular ways to enter the Amazon is located in Ecuador through its capital city, Quito. If you have extra time, spend some time exploring Quito and Cuenca, particularly their historic districts which are among the best preserved in Latin America.
3. Angel Falls, Venezuela
Nestled within Venezuela’s Canaima National Park is Angel Falls, the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall.
Although impressive, the hike into Angel Falls is not the only reward. The accompanying jungle trek navigates the grasslands, rivers, and mountains to reveal other spectacular waterfalls and lagoons.
Travelers who brave the trip will be treated to a tropical wildlife viewing including monkeys, poison arrow frogs, and gorgeous native plants like orchids.
4. Torres del Paine, Chile
Torres del Paine National Park is located in the Southern-most region of Chile and for those willing to venture to Patagonia, it offers amazing hiking opportunities that traverse through glaciers, lakes, and blue mountains.
Treks are available for varying experience levels on clearly marked paths.Travelers seeking just a taste of the breathtaking views can choose a day-trip, while experienced hikers may want to opt for the popular five-day “W” route. For the most adventurous and seasoned hikers, the full circuit is your best bet and can be completed in 9 days.
5. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
If you have spent time scrolling through Instagram photos, you may already be familiar with the Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, which is the largest salt flat in the world.
Photographers flock here to capture the unique landscape. Visiting during the dry season is recommended for its limitless horizon perspective, but if you plan your trip during the rainy season, from January through March, your photographs will have the magnificent reflections that are almost Dali-like.
The salt flats are often part of a 3 or 4-day tour in Bolivia that promises to defy expectations and include such unusual stops as the Salt Hotel. This intriguing location is so incredible, you may feel like you’re outside of this world.
6. San Pedro de Atacama, Chile
San Pedro de Atacama once was a cattle transport hub that has morphed into a major tourist destination.
The star of this region is the Valle de Luna (Moon Valley), which brings tourists on a trek of the area at sunset. You will marvel at the expansive desert that provides an idyllic setting for star-gazing.
Often, guests are taken by the town’s quaint charm and frequently stay longer than expected for the many tour offerings of craters, canyons, caves, valleys, and salt mines, so make sure you leave yourself enough time for proper exploration.
7. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands are the ultimate animal lover’s paradise and perhaps the last unspoiled place on earth where wild creatures prosper without fear of mankind.
Like a fairytale, you can play amongst sea lions, march with the penguins, and swim alongside turtles. This is the premier destination for anyone looking to truly connect with nature and respectfully interact with the wildlife.
Most of the tours offered are full-day explorations of a single island, but some kayaking, hiking, and cruise packages can go on for several days.
8. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
South America’s largest lake is home to several indigenous communities that make the area both agriculturally strong, and full of cultural significance.
Copacabana is largest and most well-known town on the shoreline. Due to its rich history, Copacabana’s religious festivities, often celebrating Pachamama (Mother Earth), are frequent and popular with visitors.
Your experience doesn’t have to end at the shore, however. Many boats leave for Isla del Sol (Sun Island), which is a sacred Incan island. Here travelers can bask in the beauty of blue skies and clear fresh water while gazing at the snowcapped mountains of the Cordillera Real.
9. Easter Island, Chile
Easter Island, also known as Isla de Pascua or Rapa Nui by the Spanish and Polynesian, is one of the most alluring sacred sites on Earth.
Famous for its enigmatic giant stone figures, the Moai were built centuries ago, but continue to be a mystery. They remain our only link to ancient Polynesian culture.
Easter Island’s white sand beaches make it the idyllic location that combines ancient history with a healthy dose of tropical fun in the sun. After viewing the Moai many visitors choose to participate in a number of water sports including bodysurfing, surfing, scuba diving, snorkeling, and more.
10. The Pantanal, Brazil
This region of Brazil is fairly unknown by most travelers, but with the greatest density of animal life in all South America, it is not to be missed.
Created by seasonal flooding of the river Paraguai, the area’s wetlands are considered to be one of the world’s largest and most diverse freshwater wetland ecosystems.
Photographic safari tours are popular with visitors and offer views of majestic jaguars, blink-and-you’ll-miss-them hummingbirds, colorful macaws, and several other species that inhabit the area.