The Most Popular Places to Go in South America

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la paz

10. La Paz, Bolivia

The capital of Bolivia, La Paz, looks and feels like a time warp. You won’t find brand name clothing or mega malls, but you will find typical Andes dress & culture at every turn. While you will come across the odd Golden Arches or Subway ‘eat fresh’, you will be on a mission of sorts to find them, and will be pleasantly surprised (and sometimes disgusted) by the local cuisine you can and should try. It’s an odd place – and I’m not convinced it was the altitude itself – but it has a certain charm you certainly won’t find elsewhere.

What not to miss while you’re there: Bike riding Death Road; The Witches’ Market; Tiwanaku


9. Atacama Desert, Chile

While it might be the driest place in the world, it is somehow bursting with life and colour way out in the Atacama Desert. There’s plenty to see and do, so be sure to base yourself here for a couple of nights at least. If you’re into astronomy, the desert has fantastic star-gazing opportunities with a number of tour operators running night tours.

Don’t miss: San Pedro de Atacama; El Tatio Geysers del Altiplano; Flamingos of El Salar de Atacama; Astronomy

Patagonia Chile

8. Torres del Paine, Chile & Argentina

As one of the most spectacular places I visited in South America, Torres del Paine can certainly not be missed off the list. While it is a little more out of your way, the rewards are phenomenal. No matter what season, Torres del Paine can be enjoyed year round. If you want to beat the crowds venture South in the winter time.

Don’t miss: W-trail; Lago Pehoe; Salto Grande

Iguazzu Falls

7. Iguazu Falls, Argentina & Brazil

If you’re travelling between Argentina and Brazil, you absolutely can not miss Iguazu Falls – a spectacular display of 275 individual drops. The falls are visitable from both sides of the border, however you will have a very different experience on each side. To see the falls up close, visit the Argentinian side. For a panoramic view of the falls, the Brazilian side is best. Helicopters leave from the Brazilian side and speed boat rides through the falls depart on the Argentinian side. For an overall experience, visit both. There is a border crossing right at the falls (just be sure to check your visa requirements in advance!!).

Don’t miss: Speedboat on the Argentinian side; Helicopter on the Brazilian side


6. Santiago, Chile

For many travellers Santiago is the point of entry into South America. While Santiago is not as exciting or vibrant as other cities in the region, it does have one of the most impressive skylines with the buildings below and Andes mountains in the background. If you get the time, consider spending a couple of nights in the mountains and check out the slopes!

Don’t miss: San Cristobal Hill; Santa Lucia Hill; Skiing in the Andes Mountains


Image by Angel M. Felicisimo

5. Quito, Ecuador

At an elevation of 2,800 metres above sea level, Quito is the highest capital city in the world. Altitude may have a slight effect on you, but if you’re staying hydrated you should be fine. Very few locals speak English, so be sure to brush up on your Spanish before you arrive or print a handy phrase guide to take a long with you.

Don’t miss: Church of the Society of Jesus; Pichincha Volcano; Cathedral of Quito


Image by Norma Gòmez

4. Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena has incredible significance to the continent and its’ history is so intriguing that you really must stop by if you’re in Colombia. Located on the northern coast, Cartagena became the first Spanish colony on the American continent. As such, it was one of the core cities for freed African slaves coming from the Americas. It’s a vibrant city with plenty to see and do, so be sure to spend a few nights.

Don’t miss: Castillo San Felipe de Barajas; Las Bovedas; Plaza Santa Dominigo

buenos aires argentina

3. Buenos Aires, Argentina

If you didn’t know any better, you’d think Buenos Aires was in Europe do to its’ architecture… but the culture is worlds apart! Be sure to try a tango lesson and don’t miss the chance to make your own empanadas at ‘The Argentine Experience’ for something fun and different.

Don’t Miss: La Recoleta Cemetery; La Boca; The Argentine Experience

Machu Picchu

2. Machu Picchu, Peru

It should come at no surprise that Machu Picchu nearly tops the list! This incredible UNESCO World Heritage Listed site is a must when visiting South America. You’ll need to fly here from Lima and the flights are nearly always fully booked, so be sure to make your plans well in advance!

Don’t Miss: Machu Picchu; Huayna Picchu; Inca Trail; Gate of the Sun; Winawayna

Rio de Janeiro

1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Ahhhh Rio. There’s no other city in the world like it and there’s no way you should visit the region without making your way to RIO! Carnivale is the best time of year to visit, but also the most popular. Whilst here, be sure to not miss any of the top attractions – they’re all worth a visit. Also be sure to try an acai bowl as it is here in Brazil where the acai craze began!

Don’t miss: Christ the Redeemer; Sugarloaf Mountain; Copacabana; Ipanema; Favela Tour

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    Pedro @travelwithpedro
    July 21, 2015 at 3:26 am

    Great list, Brooke! As a Brazilian it’s horrible to say I don’t know my own continent that well. I still need to make it to Torres del Paine and Ecuador, for example. And I agree, there’s no place in the world like Rio – although Sydney, Cape Town and Hong Kong are great, too. 🙂

    alfredo ciano
    July 17, 2015 at 9:34 am

    Amazin’ Places : Pure Air , Blue Sky , Much Fun , Beautiful Girls…

    Hitesh Kajla
    July 11, 2015 at 1:12 pm

    It’s an amazing list and I will surely visit some of these places.

    July 10, 2015 at 9:28 am

    I have yet to set foot in South America, I look forward to making a trip out there!

    Lorena from sunshine and lorena
    July 10, 2015 at 12:17 am

    All of these photos are gorgeous! I just want to book a ticket and go!

    July 9, 2015 at 12:12 pm

    These photos are gorgeous and the places seem awesome to visit! Def adding them to my bucket list! 🙂

    July 9, 2015 at 3:14 am

    Oh now I just want to get out and travel! So many places to see! Thanks for this!

    July 8, 2015 at 11:49 pm

    I made a mistake, I wanted to say: this city has **beautiful landscapes too**

    July 8, 2015 at 11:45 pm

    you don´t know nothing about Santiago, this city has beautiful landscape too.
    if you come to Santiago, yo have to visit Cajon del Maipo, Aguas del Ramon, Pirque, embalse el yeso, Valle de la engorda, etc,
    Santiago it´s not just de downtown,airport,etc, please visit these places and you will have a great experience

    Marie @ Marie Away
    July 8, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    Can’t wait to head to South America in a few weeks—I’m hoping to hit most of these destinations. So much vibrancy, life, and unique history on and off the tourist track.

    July 8, 2015 at 2:23 pm

    South America is one of my favorite places after living there for 3 years. You’ve added all of the great places. What about the Salt Flats in Bolivia?

    July 8, 2015 at 3:09 am

    Woo hoo, I got 10 out of 10 🙂 I’m not sure Santiago deserves to be on this list, since it’s really only popular as a transport hub. The other destinations are all pretty amazing, although I had bad luck with the weather at Iguaçu Falls and so was very disappointed with it. Just one more reason to go back to South America!

    July 8, 2015 at 2:48 am

    I am headed to Brazil in one month! Travelling all over the state of Rio de Janeiro! I hope to one day hit up all these places!


    Sarah || Sky Envy
    July 7, 2015 at 4:31 pm

    One out of 10. Although, Peru is so big and beautiful… hopefully you can stop by Lake Titicaca- highest navigational lake in the world. Man-made reed islands, anyone? But yes, I need to explore of more South America!

    jessica wright
    July 7, 2015 at 12:42 pm

    This all looks amazing — dying to get out there!

    Jessica Righetti
    July 7, 2015 at 10:55 am

    I get so excited when you post about South America. I am volunteering in Brazil for a little over a year starting in November this year & am hoping to Travel around south America during & after volunteering. I have got many tips & written down many places to visit from your blogs! Thank you. 🙂

    Escaping Essex
    July 7, 2015 at 5:16 am

    All sounds so amazing, I need to get to South America pronto. Danielle x

    Marcella @ WhatAWonderfulWorld
    July 7, 2015 at 2:21 am

    Great list, I’d choose many of these for my own list too! I feel very lucky to have been to 7 of these 🙂 I would also add in Salar de Uyuni as the beauty is unbelievable! 😀

    July 7, 2015 at 12:37 am

    Bolivia sounds enchanting..almost like traveling back in time!
    I just returned from Brazil and there’s exciting experiences in São Paulo and Rio de Janeiro.. Lots of exciting pictures of top things to do and see 🙂

    Kacy Kish
    July 7, 2015 at 12:15 am

    Great list! I want to see all of these places! I’ve lived in Brazil for the past three months, but unfortunately Rio is the only one I’ve crossed off the list (going back this weekend as well!!), but I’m heading to Buenos Aires next week and I can’t wait. I’ll look into your recommendations.

    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel
    July 6, 2015 at 10:57 pm

    All of these are high on my list for sure!

    The Common Wanderer
    July 6, 2015 at 10:07 pm

    Ahhh, this just induced the most ridiculous desire to visit South America! Amazing!

    Ivy Kriste
    July 6, 2015 at 7:34 pm

    All beautiful places..

    July 6, 2015 at 6:26 pm

    Isn’t La Paz at a higher altitude than Quito?

    Salar de Uyuni has to be one of the top destinations, especially if you’re overlanding.

    Traveling Rockhopper
    July 6, 2015 at 6:19 pm

    Nice post!
    Actually, this month on my blog is Argentina, and lots of Patagonia pictures 😀

    July 6, 2015 at 4:13 pm

    Nice post! South Ameeica is def on my bucket list!

      July 6, 2015 at 4:14 pm

      Sorry South America!

    July 6, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    Wine country in Argentina is amazing too! Mendoza has lots of great wineries, biking, and hiking!

    Clipping Path Outsource
    July 6, 2015 at 8:49 am

    Iguazu Falls is a great place to visit!

    Bart I Hasta la Proxima
    July 6, 2015 at 8:29 am

    Great read! Rio is still on my list to visit this September, can’t wait to go. I’ve been recently to Patagonia – Torres del Pain for some great hiking. It’s worthwhile to visit that place as the scenery is amazing. When you flying in the landscape looks like you are going to land on the moon. Incredible. And please for everybody visiting Buenos Aires, cross the river and visit the country where I live now – Uruguay. Please click on the website to see some cool videos and stories about South America.

      July 21, 2015 at 12:51 pm

      You will love Rio! The city has such a vibrant spirit. Here’s some things to do in Rio. Dont miss the futévoley!