Ancient cities. Exotic destinations. Breathtaking natural wonders. If you’re planning to travel around South America, these are the places you should visit. Keep reading to discover the 51 best places to visit in South America and make sure to add them to your bucket list.
1. Machu Picchu (Peru)
Most people have heard of it, or glanced at a passing photo, but not everyone has seen Machu Picchu in person. This majestic ancient Inca citadel is one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, and you can get there by hiking the famous Inca Trail or by taking the train.
2. Iguazu Falls (Argentina and Brazil)
As they say, don’t go chasing waterfalls because you’ll be chasing over 275 of them at Iguazu Falls. Combined, these falls make up the largest waterfall in the world and are best viewed from the Argentinian side where you can get up close to the misty views.
3. Christ the Redeemer Statue, Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
In order to fully experience Rio de Janeiro, you have to visit the most incredible tourist attraction in South America — the statue of Christ the Redeemer. Standing at 125 feet (38 m) with it’s pedestal, this colossal statue is one of the most-recognizable landmarks in South America, and one of the best places to view the city.
4. Sacred Valley (Peru)
Sacred Valley Tours:
For those whole love sweeping views mixed with ancient history, the Sacred Valley of the Incas is the perfect destination. Located in one of the most popular countries to visit in South America, the Sacred Valley holds ancient Inca agricultural testing sites, salt mines, ruins and so much more.
5. Atacama Desert (Chile)
You could say this is one of the coolest places to visit, but it’s also one of the hottest. This desert plateau that stretches nearly 995 miles (1600 km) along Chile’s Pacific coastline is one of the best places in the world to view the Milky Way. Additionally, it’s the driest desert in the world, so make sure to come prepared.
6. Salkantay Mountain (Peru)
Keen on trekking during your travels? Save a few days for the Salkantay Mountain trek. This trek takes you up to the Andes, near massive glaciers, and through the cloud forest into the rainforest. Added bonus — it leaves you off at Machu Picchu.
7. Laguna Verde (Bolivia)
This high-altitude lake rests at the foot of two volcanoes in Bolivia. It’s brilliant color ranges from emerald green to a bright turquoise depending on how windy it is, but it’s not a place to swim so leave your swimming gear at home.
8. Monasterio de Santa Catalina, Arequipa (Peru)
For a peaceful retreat, make time to visit the Monasterio de Santa Catalina in Arequipa. In fact, this historic convent was built in 1580 and is still active today. You can take a guided tour (recommended) with one of the expert tour guides at the entrance.
9. Colca Canyon (Peru)
Colca Canyon, one of the most beautiful places to go on vacation, is nearly twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and is designated as the second deepest canyon in the world. Hard to imagine anything deeper than the Grand Canyon, but this one takes the cake. Not to mention, you can spot one of Peru’s most interesting birds: the Andean condor.
10. Buenos Aires (Argentina)
If you’re in search of one of the more popular vacation spots in South America, Buenos Aires should be at the top of your list. This artsy-bohemian city is full of places to explore and has an exciting night life. As a matter of fact, if you’re a self-proclaimed foodie, you’ll love the Argentine barbecue.
11. Potosi (Bolivia)
Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world and also one of South America’s most wealthy cities due to its history of silver mining. As an added bonus, Potosi is the jumping off point for the Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia’s famous salt flats.
12. Salar de Uyuni (Bolivia)
As soon as you’ve explored Potosi, head over to one of the most famous places in Bolivia, the Bolivian salt flats of Salar de Uyuni. Many people like to bring props along to take a popular reflection photo similar to the one below.
13. Barranco, Lima (Peru)
Another bohemian/artsy destination. This quirky neighborhood in Lima is perfect for art lovers and foodies and has access to the nearby Miraflores Boardwalk and beach.
14. Huaca Pucllana Ruins, Lima (Peru)
You don’t often find ancient ruins in the middle of a metropolitan city. The Huaca Pucllana ruins date back to around 200 a.d. when Lima culture began its construction. Opt for a night tour when the ruins are illuminated.
15. Asuncion (Paraguay)
Of all the South American countries, Paraguay is definitely underrated. For this reason, you should add the capital of Asuncion to your list of must-sees for stunning architecture, fascinating museums, an up-and-coming restaurant scene and a thrilling nightlife — what more could you want?
16. Nazca Lines (Peru)
Arguably one of the best things to do in South America, the Nazca Lines are both mysterious and awe-inspiring. Make sure to book the flight to see them from the air. You’ll get the best views and an unforgettable experience.
17. Ibirapuera Park, São Paulo (Brazil)
This city of over 12 million people is the largest in Brazil and is home to the most visited park in all of South America. Surrounded by relaxing nature and walking paths, Ibirapuera is the perfect place to stop for a picnic or to visit one of the museums within the park.
18. Paracas National Reserve (Peru)
Known for its Playa Roja, or the red sand beach, Paracas National Reserve is where the desert meets the sea. Take a boat tour to the Islas Ballestas (Poor Man’s Galapagos) or explore the reserve where you can take in beautiful sights of waves crashing against the cliffs. Not to mention the delicious seafood!
19. Amazon Rainforest (Peru)
The Amazon is one of the best places to visit in South America and most easily accessible in Peru. It is a vibrant ecosystem bustling with some of the most diverse species on the planet. Pick from one of three popular Amazon destinations: Puerto Maldonado, Iquitos or Manu National Park (and make sure you bring bug spray!).
20. Lake Titicaca (Peru, Bolivia)
Check off two countries at once with a visit to Lake Titicaca on the border between Bolivia and Peru. Titicaca reigns above all other lakes as the highest navigable lake in the world, and it’s filled with so many things to see: The Uros Floating Islands, Tequile Island and Puno.
21. Galapagos (Ecuador)
Check off this top bucket-list item with a cruise in the Galapagos. See where Darwin researched On the Origin of Species and explore the islands’ diversity with an unparalleled opportunity for wildlife observation. For this reason it is one of our top (and favorite) destinations in all of South America.
22. Cartagena (Colombia)
Immerse yourself in the romance and beauty of Cartagena. This old Colombian city is known for its cobblestone streets and horse drawn carriages. Take a street food tour, then relax on the Caribbean coastline.
23. Pelourinho district, Salvador (Brazil)
Designated a UNESCO World Heritage site, Pelourinho promises exquisite colonial architecture, exciting capoeira experiences and sensational views of All Saints’ Bay. As soon as you arrive, you’ll be sure to fall in love.
24. Plaza de Armas, Cusco (Peru)
With any trip to South America, a walk-through of the Plaza de Armas in Cusco is a must. Though the architecture in the Plaza is attributed to the Spanish style, it was the Incas who actually built each massive cathedral. Take in views of the Andes and the city while enjoying lunch on one of the many balconies overlooking the Plaza.
25. Los Glaciares National Park (Argentina)
Los Glaciares National Park is one of the top places to visit in Argentina. Surprisingly, it is home to the largest ice cap found outside of Greenland and Antarctica. With over 47 glaciers in the area, the landscape almost seems otherworldly.
26. Pantanal (Brazil)
Plan ahead if you want to add Pantanal to your list. This remote location, nearly the size of Washington state, is home to the world’s largest tropical wetland and is another of South America’s designated UNESCO World Heritage sites. Spot a diverse range of wildlife akin to what you’d experience in the Amazon, minus the obscured view.
27. Ushuaia (Argentina)
If you’re looking to find the end of the world, look no further. Of all the places to see in Argentina, Ushuaia may be the most beautiful and the most remote. This capital city of the Tierra del Fuego region is the southernmost city in the world and, for this reason, it is perfect for whale-watching and penguin-spotting.
28. Tayrona National Park (Colombia)
Warm sandy beaches meet shady palm trees and cozy coves in this protected national park. Take a walk on one of the many forest trails and discover ancient ruins built by the Tayrona civilization between 200 C.E. and 1600 C.E. Then, enjoy a bit of sun on the beach.
29. Quito (Ecuador)
Named the oldest city in South America, Quito’s history goes back as far as the 16th century and was founded on the ruins of an ancient Inca city. It is one of the cheapest places to visit in South America and features a sky rail or Teleférico tram that glides you over the city for spectacular views. Additionally, it is a perfect destination for history buffs.
30. Angel Falls (Venezuela)
If Iguazu Falls wasn’t enough for you, head over to Angel Falls in Venezuela — the tallest waterfall in the world. You’ll want to chase this one; it’s another remote destination, but so worth it.
31. Easter Island (Chile)
With over 900 primitive statues carved by early Polynesian inhabitants to explore, Easter Island takes the cake for one of the top places to visit in Chile and, most importantly, one of the best places to visit in South America. For this reason, it is a perfect place for history buffs and explorers alike.
32. Torres del Paine National Park (Chile)
This incredible National Park in the heart of Patagonia offers a long list of activities for outdoor and nature enthusiasts. Begin with ice hiking or kayaking the Grey Glacier, then continue with hiking the French Valley, and conclude with horseback riding through the mountains or hiking the base of the famous granite towers.
33. Lençóis Maranhenses National Park (Brazil)
Situated on the north Atlantic coast of Brazil, the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is a picture-perfect desert landscape filled with bright white sand dunes and crystal clear lagoons. As soon as you step onto the dunes, you’ll understand why this park is so beloved.
34. The Hilly Parks in Santiago (Chile)
In Santiago, Chile, one of the safest places to visit in South America, the best way to spend your day is by walking through the neighborhoods and visiting the serene parks and green areas. These “hilly parks” are a beautiful place for relaxing and enjoying nature within the city, although it is just as fun to explore the city.
35. Pailón del Diablo (Ecuador)
Also known as the Devil’s Cauldron, this top tourist attraction in Ecuador is located 4 hours from Quito in the Baños de Agua Santa. Step across narrow bridges and admire the cascading waterfall. But don’t forget to snap a photo of the famous stairs!
36. Las Lajas Sanctuary (Colombia)
Built in the traditional Gothic style, this basilica church is situated in the canyon of the Guáitara River. Due to the location and architecture, many people have said this is the most beautiful church they have ever seen
— and it’s not hard to see why.
37. Caño Cristales (Colombia)
Caño Cristales, also known as the “River of Five Colors” or “Liquid Rainbow” is a must see in Colombia. Though the river is just average in size, its vivid colors highlight the yellows, blues, greens, reds and blacks of the flora and sediments within.
38. Laguna Colorada (Bolivia)
If Caño Cristales wasn’t enough color for you, head over to Laguna Colorada in Bolivia. This vibrant red salt lake spans around 6,000 hectares and sits within the Eduardo Avaroa Andean Fauna National Reserve near the border of Chile. In other words, it’s a truly colorful experience.
39. Punta del Este (Uruguay)
In the southeastern part of Uruguay is a resort city known for luxurious escapes and the perfect summer experience. First relax on the beach, then enjoy the high-end hotels and restaurants, and finally, taste the delights of Uruguay in this paradise where nature and luxury meet.
40. Mendoza Wine Country (Argentina)
Feast your eyes and your taste buds on the beauty of Mendoza wine country. Nestled in the mountains of one of the best countries to visit in South America, this gorgeous landscape features over 1,500 vineyards — a dream destination for wine lovers.
41. Rainbow Mountain (Peru)
In the past 5 years, Rainbow Mountain has become one of the top tourist spots in South America. Visit here for incredible photos of the colorful striped mountains and sweeping vistas of the Andes. Not to mention the super fluffy and friendly alpacas you can see at the top!
42. Huacachina (Peru)
You may have seen a desert oasis in a movie, but can you imagine seeing it in real life? Huacachina is one of the top places to visit in Peru and one of our must see places in South America for its exhilarating dune buggy rides, adrenaline-inducing sand boarding experiences and unforgettable desert sunsets.
43. Fernando de Noronha (Brazil)
Dive into crystal clear waters and snorkel with turtles, rays, dolphins and sea sharks at this incredible volcanic archipelago. Similar to the Galapagos (but not quite the same), this stark landscape holds a diverse ecosystem protected as a national marine park and ecological sanctuary.
44. Artistic Seaside Village of Valparaiso (Chile)
Arguably one of the most interesting places to travel, Valparaiso is not just another port city. As the former residence of the famous poet, Pablo Neruda, this quirky town is full of surprises.
45. Florianopolis (Brazil)
If beachside resorts and perfect weather are what you’re searching for, look no further. Florianopolis is an island just off the coast of Brazil popular for windsurfing, boating and enjoying the crystal clear waters.
46. Los Roques Islands (Venezuela)
This archipelago is another perfect destination for anyone who loves tropical waters. Visit any of the 300 islands and cays where you can stroll along perfect white sandy beaches and snorkel in the lively coral reefs.
47. Tiwanaku Ruins (Bolivia)
Another of our top South American destinations is the famous Tiwanaku ruins in Bolivia. These ruins are considered one of the largest sites in South America. The Tiwanaku civilization thrived between 500 and 900 AD and its cultural and political attributes are significantly distinct from any other prehistoric empire.
48. Kaieteur Falls (Guyana)
If you’re still chasing waterfalls, add Kaieteur Falls, the world’s largest single drop falls, to your list. Make sure to plan ahead though as these falls require hiring a private company to charter a plane to take you there.
49. Jijoca de Jericoacoara (Brazil)
This popular resort town and national park is perfect for relaxing with a tropical drink and watching the waves lap the shore. With this in mind, visit one of the many neighboring lagoons and catch the sunset on the sandy dunes.
50. Bogotá (Colombia)
This list wouldn’t be complete without mention of one of our favorite cities and one of the top destinations in South America — Bogotá. This high-altitude capital brims with excitement and history. In order to take in the true history of the city, make sure to check out one of the many famous museums there including the Museo del Oro and Museo Botero.
51. La Casa del Arbol, Baños (Ecuador)
Last but not least, in one of the most interesting countries to visit in South America, be sure to make a pit stop at La Casa del Arbol. This famous treehouse located in the volcanic valley is surrounded by scenic gardens and offers zip-lining, a cafe and a giant tree-swing.
It’s Time to Travel
This continent is abundant with fascinating landscapes and beautiful cultures. It is a land of majestic mountains, vast deserts and enchanting tropical paradises. Traveling to South America is a life changing experience that will give you memories to last a lifetime.
Now that you know all of the best places to visit in South America, you can start planning. Connect with one of our expert Travel Advisors and start customizing your South American vacation.