The Top 10 Must Visit Cities in South America

Rio de Janeiro
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Let’s cut straight to it: The Top 10 must visit cities in South America are…
Favela Rio

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil

This huge seaside city is most famous for its’ iconic Christ The Redeemer statue, Copacabana Beach, Ipanema Beach, Sugarloaf Mountain, Favelas and the iconic Carnival festival. You’ll find colour and confusion at every turn – this is one very vibrant, chaotic, somehow chaotically beautiful, crazy city to visit. No visit to South America would be complete without a few nights in Rio! As such, this is also one of the most expensive cities to stay on the continent. Hotels don’t come cheap and the standards aren’t particularly high – but its worth the sacrifice to see and experience Rio for yourself.

la paz

La Paz, Bolivia

La Paz will have your head spinning almost as soon as you land – and it’s not just due to the altitude at (3660m above sea level). The city is absolute chaos and there’s something to see, hear, witness, or watch at every turn. Trust me when I say you’re in for some serious people watching opportunities.


Cusco, Peru

Situated in the Peruvian Andes is the charming Cusco – also known as the gateway to Machu Picchu. With Spanish Colonial architecture and cobblestone pathways, Cusco is sure to please the eye. There’s also a great food scene (Peruvians love potatoes – I hope you do too) and plenty of charming hotels darted around the city.


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Quito, Ecuador

The Ecuadorian capital flies a little under the radar for a city that dates back 500 years. In fact the whole country tends to be overlooked to some extent, in favour of its’ more popular neighbours… but don’t be fooled, Quito has a lot to offer visitors, particularly by way of Spanish Colonial architecture and oh, so many churches.

four seasons buenos aires

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires is as close to European as you will get without being in Europe itself. There’s plenty to see and do here, warranting at least 2-3 nights in the city. Don’t miss these 9 great things to do in Buenos Aires!

sao paulo

São Paulo, Brazil

Let the numbers speak for themselves: this is the 12th largest city in the world, most populous in Brazil, AND the Americas. AKA this place is huge. If you want a city skyline that seems to never end, here it is.


Cartagena, Colombia

If you want a time warp, here it is. Cartagena is located on the Caribbean coast of Columbia and is home to 16th Century plazas, colourful buildings, and a beach attitude to life. If you want to go where the foreign crowds aren’t, this is one of your best bets. You’ll surely meet plenty of locals here, as it is a popular beachside destination for Columbians year-round (with a tropical climate).



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Salvador, Brazil

Mostly known for its’ Portuguese architecture (pictured above), Salvador, in the state of Bahia, is one of Brazil’s huge-but-somehow-quaint-and-charming coastal cities. If you’re planning to explore more beyond the hotspots and venture further into any one country, Brazil might just be your ticket to a good time!


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Valparaiso, Chile

If there is one thing I got wrong when visiting Chile last year, it was to spend too much time in Santiago and not enough time (or any time at all) in nearby Valparaiso on the coast of Chile. This is a city that literally looks as if it has been painted on a canvas – the above picture says it all!

Over to you – do you have plans to visit South America? Join the conversation below 

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    Alabama Tourist Attractions
    November 30, 2015 at 9:59 pm

    Thanks for sharing great information , Great post .

    Orange Beach
    September 24, 2015 at 3:46 pm

    Thanks for sharing i be here many time and always this color full city looks amazing.

    Amber Gonzalez
    June 9, 2015 at 11:20 am

    I loved Montevideo, when I was in Uruguay! The beaches are awesome

    Bart Steenbergen
    May 21, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    I am Living in Montevideo.. And currently for business in Lima.. From this list I enjoyed Cartagena very much. Would recommend Bogota as well from Colombia. Lima should not be on this list.. but the food here it is absolutely amazing.. From my asado in Montevideo to high cuisine ..

    Ben Stuart
    May 6, 2015 at 2:31 pm

    Great Places to be visited but Montgomery Zoo is also one of the most popular tourist

    Masha Brown
    May 4, 2015 at 2:13 pm

    I think traveling as a woman solo anywhere you should take precautions. I went to Italy for three weeks last fall and although everyone worried me before I left, I felt incredibly safe. I also walked around with a “don’t fuck with me” look on my face and let me tell you, it worked! I also packed clothes that I thoigh looked “European” and maybe it helped that I have brown hair and eyes so I kinda look Italian. Basically even people selling stuff on the streets wouldn’t come up to me selling Jewelry! But would go up to the two italian men next to me. So I think it worked.

    My travel experience in SA are limited to Ecuador. There, is much theft of purses and such. I have heard many stories of family friends who had their bags snatched while a motorcycle went by. So be careful. Maybe use on of those money fanny packs inside your pants? My parents went to Columbia and loved the capital. I think if you do your research, wherever you want to go, and don’t act like a complete tourist ( look at maps before you go out into the street so you don’t have an X on your back) you should be ok. Use your best judgement, if your gut feeling says don’t do it, follow that, don’t put yourself in bad situations you should be ok. Also I heard its good to let the consulate know before you leave that you will be traveling in that country. That way if anything happens the government knows that their citizen is there and will hopefully help get you to safety. Good luck! And I say just do it! You only have one life, best not have regrets and live it!!! <3

    Masha Brown
    May 1, 2015 at 4:18 am

    Been to Ecuador a few times since my parents used to own a place on the beach in Manta. My favorite place was Montañita. Hippy, cultural hot spot of Ecuador! Totally different from Quito, which is in the mountains and has that European vibe, but I really thought Montañita was so much better because it was so unique! Businesses line the streets from all over the world. Literally, this is a hub of international culture. People move here from everywhere, to surf, to party and to live. Restaurants of all sorts of cuisine, artists peddling their crafts on the street. At night it’s a huge party that never stops. This place has it all, and of course, you are also on the beach. I think it’s worth to see Quito, but Montañita, hands down, is the place to go. And maybe live. 😉 you’re welcome!

    May 1, 2015 at 2:36 am

    Cusco and La Paz are definitely top of my list but they all look so beautiful!

    Daisy @ Simplicity Relished
    May 1, 2015 at 1:44 am

    Yes!! Can’t wait to spend 3 weeks in Quito this summer. xx

    April 30, 2015 at 11:41 pm

    I studied abroad in Buenos Aires in college and I’ve always wanted to go back and explore more of the country and continent. If you have time while in Buenos Aires, I recommend hopping the ferry to Colonia in Uruguay for a day trip. It’s a great alternative to the hustle and bustle of some of these big South American cities!

    April 30, 2015 at 9:01 pm

    Great roundup! I’m planning another trip this time to South America in 2016 and I’ll be covering Ecuador, Bolivia and Peru so this is great! There are some destinations on here that I was not previously familiar with either. I think what’s so beautiful about the south is that it’s such a colourful and rich place with a diverse culture and complex history (and probably some really yummy food!)


    April 30, 2015 at 6:52 pm

    I’m surprised Medellin didn’t make the list, but I love both Buenos Aires and Rio! Bariloche is also quite nice but much more of a town than a city. Cheers!

    April 30, 2015 at 6:16 pm

    I instantly clicked this post as soon as I read “South America.” As much as I hope to visit Europe on day, my dream is to see every country in Latin America and this post gives me some ideas as to where I would like to start! I admire your life so much and can’t tell you how happy I was that you shed some focus to Latin America. Hopefully you venture into El Salvador soon as it gets quite a bad rep but is such a gem of a country. If you ever visit please let me know so I can recommend some spots! I would love to see it represented in some good light for once. Thanks again for sharing!

    April 30, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Cusco is absolutely gorgeous! Definitely the most beautiful city in Peru…

    Cartagena is next on my list to visit at the end of the year…

    Karen Farber
    April 30, 2015 at 4:28 pm

    I am from Peru, but am yet to visit Cusco!! I now live in the US, so it’s a little harder to make the trip there, but it’s next on my list! I mean, come on, I feel like I’m not completely Peruvian without seeing cusco and Machu Picchu!

    April 30, 2015 at 4:10 pm

    Just a little remark: it’s ColOmbia, not ColUmbia. Therefore also ColOmbians… Thanks!

    April 30, 2015 at 4:05 pm

    Really inspiring, there are a few cities I never thought about visiting. I can’t wait to visit them all!

    Jennifer Stevens | Adventurous Appetite
    April 30, 2015 at 12:36 pm

    I agree with this list, but also adore Medellin in Colombia 🙂

    Michelle | Lights Camera Travel
    April 30, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    The more I read/see about SA the more I want to go!! I spend so much time in pretty much every other region, but Africa and SA are yet to be explored 😀

    April 30, 2015 at 10:08 am

    Great list of cities of South America I lived in Chile for 3 years. Valpo/Vina great recommendation don’t think Santiago is all that worthwhile but has access to many places. I plan on going back to South America next year to travel.

    April 30, 2015 at 9:57 am

    plan to go to all of these next year!

    April 30, 2015 at 8:35 am

    These cities look beautiful! I’d love to visit them!

    April 30, 2015 at 8:11 am

    So glad you included Salvador on this list! It’s such a beautiful, interesting place and the surrounding beaches are pretty as well.

    April 30, 2015 at 7:35 am

    I just came back from Cusco and I’m having withdrawals already! Everything about that city was so lovely. I can’t wait to explore the rest of South America 🙂

    April 30, 2015 at 7:07 am

    I love those colorful houses 🙂
    It looks sooo great ♥

    April 30, 2015 at 7:03 am

    I absolutely love Cusco! Arequipa, Peru is another great city that could be added to this list!

    April 30, 2015 at 6:52 am

    I would also add Medellin in Chile and Banos in Ecuador!

    April 30, 2015 at 6:50 am

    Yay so happy to find Ecuador here! I’m goin there next yers for exchange and I’m so excited and love reading everything I can about it! I’ve gotten the exact same kind of impression, it’s left in the shadow of its neighbours even tho it for sure shouldn’t be!
    I’ve never been to South America before, but I would love to visit all these places! Hopefully some day I will!
    Greetings from Finland!

    Lisa @ Strum Simmer Sip
    April 30, 2015 at 6:23 am

    South America is definitely one of the next stops on my list and Rio is currently the front runner. I wish I could go to all of these at once!

    April 30, 2015 at 6:06 am

    I definitely agree with you on Quito. I feel like Ecuador as a whole is frequently passed up for other countries such as Brazil. When I was in Quito, I only got a glimpse of the Spanish colonial architecture but from the little that I did see, it was a facet of Quito not to be missed.

    Also, the churches! One of the most famous churches in Ecuador, located in Old Town Quito, is La Iglesia de la Compañía de Jesús (Church of the Society of Jesus) which is AMAZING. Ornate details and gold are EVERYWHERE. Trust me, it’s incredible. Definitely one of the highlights of my trip!


    April 30, 2015 at 5:58 am

    I can’t wait to visit them all on my trip!
    Especially Cusco, Peru.

    April 30, 2015 at 5:34 am

    Mendoza, Argentina is also a must see! Beautiful outdoors, amazing wineries, and almost everywhere has the Andes as a scenic backdrop

      April 30, 2015 at 11:46 am

      I agree! Exploring the Andes is amazing. Buenos Aires is just too noisy for my taste. But then again.. I’m from Mendoza so I’m biased 😛