South America is one of the best destinations to travel to in the entire world, but so many people don’t take advantage of it. When you think about the reasons why, the first may be that there is some unrest there – but that unrest usually doesn’t reach touristy areas. Instead, the primary reason is that people don’t know where to go when they are in South America. It is a whole continent just filled to the brim with amazing people, fantastic culture, and unstoppable food.
So where to go? Here are our picks:
1. Galapagos Islands
For something completely unique, head to the Galapagos Islands. This is a group of islands located almost 600 miles off of the coast of Ecuador. Here you will get an inside look at what nature looks like when it is untouched. Even better, you will get to interact with nature and wildlife in a way you never have before. Throw caution to the wind and snorkel with sea turtles, walk side by side with birds you won’t find anywhere else in the world, and see what mother nature looks like when she is respected.
There are already signs that global warming is impacting the Galapagos, so put this one near the top of your list.
2. Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
The largest lake in South America is Lake Titicaca, which also happens to be home to a huge indigenous culture that has been preserved. You’ll see the culture of Peru in these people, but even better you will come to understand indigenous people. Rent a boat to go out onto the water to really see the beauty. Near the shores it has been touched by some pollution, but once you get away from it you will see beautiful and brilliant blue waters.
In the middle of the lake, make sure to visit the islands of the Uros people. It’s about a forty minute ride but you will be able to communicate with local families who have some of the best stories to tell.
3. The Amazon, Ecuador
The Amazon is an absolutely massive region so it would be impossible to see all of it. In fact, it covers 40% of South America and is in many countries, Still, the portion located in Ecuador is particularly popular amongst tourists. It is safe and there are plenty of options to go exploring.
The Amazon has one of the best ecosystems at work in the entire world. You will be able to spot everything from monkeys and jaguars to anacondas and iguanas. Choose from one of the native-led tours to experience the best of the best. If you are worried about safety, make sure to take one of the tours from the Sacha Lodge.
4. La Paz, Bolivia
La Paz is a bit confusing and extremely busy – think of it like the Bolivian New York. However, that also makes it a fantastic place to spend a few days. You’ll have to adjust being that high up in the air, but it also means that you can experience a different way of life. Nicknamed “The City that Touches the Sky,” it is home to many tourist friendly places that still have traditional flair.
Make a visit to the Witches Market, a place to buy charms and herbs from “real” witches. If you enjoy music, the Museo de Instrumentos is a place to find the next up and coming artists. There are tons of jam sessions and artists learning how to perfect their skills.
Keep some room for street food because there is plenty of it available all over La Paz and it is extremely cheap.
5. Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia, Chile
Many people want to skip over Chile when they visit South America, but we don’t recommend that. The long and thin country is home to so much worth seeing. The Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile offers some of the most beautiful hiking options for those who are physically fit. Called South America’s finest park, the granite pillars in the Torres del Paine is worth the trip alone.
If you do take up the hiking option, you’ll be able to see all of the different natural wonders Chile has to offer, including crystal clear lakes, thick forests, and even a gleaming glacier. For bird watchers, it is also home to rhea, condors, and flamingos. The Guanacos, a relative of the camel, are worth a few looks as well.
6. Rio, Brazil
Rio de Janeiro is going through a bit of a facelift after the Summer Olympics, making this the perfect time to visit. It is well known for having some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, lush greenery, and of course a ton of fun places to visit. Go while you’re young to enjoy endless nights of partying!
If that isn’t quite your speed, travel up to Corcovado Mountain to see Christ the Redeemer, the largest art deco statue in the world – and the most famous.
7. Laguna Verde, Bolivia
Laguna Verde, or Green Lagoon for all of you that haven’t taken beginner Spanish, is a tropical lagoon that has colors that range from brilliant turquoise to emerald green. Located at the southern tip of Bolivia and close to Chile, it is a sight like you have never seen before. If you are interested in photography, the dormant 19,555-foot volcano gives way to spectacular views.
This isn’t the only lake around that is beautiful, you’ll find Laguna Colorada which has white shores with red water..
8. Angel Falls, Venezuela
The world’ highest and most spectacular waterfall is Angel Falls in Venezuela. The waters call and miraculous 3,212 feet – that’s 19x the distance of Niagara Falls. The remote location does require you to do some hiking or to take a boat ride to them, but it will be worth it when you see just how gorgeous it is. If you do take the hiking route, you’ll see tons of animals and vegetation.
This location hasn’t been as touched by the tourism market yet, so go while you can.
9. Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is a classic destination for anyone who comes to Peru. Hidden within the Andes Mountains, Machu Picchu is a somewhat fascinating city that remained a secret for hundreds of years. It only became known in 1911! Today, it is a well-known archaeological site where you can learn much about the Incan tradition. You’ll learn about their lives while taking in the stone ruins, terraces, and plazas that they once called home.
There are two basic ways to get here: one is the train, which offers some amazing views of Peru. The other is to hike, which is cheaper but can take a few days.
10. Iguazu Falls, Argentina
Iguazu falls is one of the natural wonders of the world and it won’t come as a surprise when you get here. There are over 250 waterfalls that surround the jungle and they make up a massive system that is constantly flowing. It is awesome because you can get close to the falls and actually feel them hitting you with the mist – without wearing those silly parkas. You can take a boat as well, but you will get wet.
Of course, you’ll also be able to take in all of the brightly colored birds and amazing flowers that spring up in this environment.