Discover the top attractions and best places to visit in South America. From Brazilian beaches 🏖 to Argentinian glaciers 🧊
South America stands as a continent brimming with mesmerizing wonders, vibrant cultures and thrilling adventures. From the peaks of the Andes, to the Amazon rainforest this diverse region offers an array of extraordinary destinations for travelers to explore. To assist you in planning a journey here is a compilation of the top 20 must visit places in South America.
1. Peru, Machu Picchu
Undoubtedly Machu Picchu holds its place as one of South America’s travel destinations. This awe inspiring Incan citadel is perched high amidst the Andes Mountains. Presents breathtaking vistas of the surrounding terrain. Constructed during the century Machu Picchu was later. Remained relatively unknown until its rediscovery in 1911. Today visitors embark on pilgrimages to Perus premier attraction to wander through its stone temples and terraces. While the classic approach involves undertaking a four day hike along the Inca Trail, those seeking an alternative can opt for a train journey from Cusco. Regardless of your chosen path, witnessing Machu Picchu ruins at sunrise is a highlight that will enrich any American vacation.
2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Renowned for its beaches, lush rainforests and iconic landmarks Rio de Janeiro stands as one of the cities in South America. Known affectionately as the “Marvelous City ” Rio offers a supply of energy alongside scenery. Must visit attractions include Copacabana Beach, Sugarloaf Mountain and the majestic Christ the Redeemer statue. During the day indulge in sunbathing on Ipanemas shores and embark on invigorating hikes through Tijuca National Parks forests. As night falls, immerse yourself in rhythms at clubs and bars located in the Lapa neighborhood. Make sure not to miss out on experiencing Rios Carnival—a spectacular multi day celebration of samba music, vibrant costumes and lively street parties.
3. Iguazu Falls, Argentina/Brazil
Located on the border between Argentina and Brazil the awe inspiring Iguazu Falls consist of 275 waterfalls cascading over jungle covered cliffs. Visitors have the opportunity to get up close to this wonder by walking along pathways that extend over the rushing waters. Feel the mist, against your face at the Devil’s Throat waterfall. Explore jungle trails that offer breathtaking panoramic views of the entire waterfall system. Stay until sunset when rainbows form amidst the spray — creating picture vistas that will leave you in awe.
Whether you’re visiting Iguazu Falls, from the Brazilian side you’ll be amazed by the power and breathtaking beauty of this natural wonder.
4. Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
Patagonia is home to Torres del Paine National Park, a must visit destination for nature enthusiasts. This park is famous for its awe inspiring landscapes, including the granite peaks of Torres del Paine, shimmering glacial lakes and golden pampas grasslands. Exploring Torres del Paine offers thrilling adventures like. Treks such as the renowned W Trek, ice hiking on Grey Glacier and witnessing condors soaring above majestic cliffs. After a day you can relax by the fireplace or in a jacuzzi at one of the park’s lodges and camps. With its crystal clear rivers and vibrant wildlife Torres del Paine showcases some of South America’s spectacular scenery.
5. The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The Galapagos Islands In Ecuador have gained fame thanks to Charles Darwin’s work on evolution. These volcanic islands serve as a living laboratory for studying wildlife. Exploring this archipelago provides opportunities to encounter sea lions, giant tortoises, marine iguanas, blue footed boobies and other unique species up close. Most visitors opt for day cruises in the Galapagos that allow them to wake up to a new island each morning.
Snorkel, alongside sea lions, take walks on secluded beaches with black lava sand and marvel at the unique birds and reptiles found exclusively in the Galapagos. With its landscapes and abundant wildlife the Galapagos Islands truly captivate nature enthusiasts who visit South America.
6. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Situated in the desert regions of Bolivia near the border, Salar de Uyuni stands as the largest salt flat in the world. This extraordinary scenery boasts an expanse of glittering hexagonal salt formations that cover 4,000 square miles. During the season when it transforms into a mirror with a thin layer of water Salar de Uyuni becomes an Instagram worthy spectacle. The reflections of the sky during sunrise and sunset create an ambiance. Local tour agencies offer captivating guided expeditions to Salar de Uyuni that include visits to lagoons and volcanic landscapes throughout the area. It’s an adventure you will cherish forever!
7. Atacama Desert, Chile
Renowned as one of Earth’s driest polar deserts Chile’s Atacama Desert is famous for its otherworldly terrain. Imposing canyons, mountainscapes, steaming geysers and incredibly saline lagoons give Atacama a resemblance to Mars rather than our own planet Earth.
To experience the wonders of nights birdwatching at high altitude lakes and exploring the rock formations of Moon Valley make San Pedro de Atacama your base. In years this oasis town has gained popularity as a destination attracting fellow travelers who are drawn to the extraordinary beauty of this remote region.
8. Lake Titicaca, Peru/Bolivia
Another awe inspiring location is Lake Titicaca, which stretches across Peru and Bolivia. Situated at an altitude of over 12,500 feet above sea level it holds the distinction of being the navigable lake on Earth. Embark on a boat tour through its turquoise waters to discover the significance attributed to Lake Titicaca by guides. Visit the reed islands created by the Uros people and meet with the Aymara people on Taquile Island. Marvel at the snow capped peaks that frame this shimmering lake and ponder how Lake Titicaca has captivated travelers for centuries as one of Andes most highlights.
9. Easter Island, Chile
Lastly venture to Easter Island in Chile — a Pacific island where you’ll encounter moai statues. Carved centuries ago by the Rapa Nui people, for reasons that continue to perplex historians and archaeologists today.
Easter Island has an air of mystery with its history surrounded by speculation and theories. Apart, from being to 1,000 moai statues this Chilean territory also offers breathtaking volcanic landscapes, beautiful beaches and amazing diving spots. The feeling of being isolated over 2,000 miles from mainland Chile only adds excitement to the experience of visiting one of the enigmatic places in South America.
10. Angel Falls, Venezuela
Nestled within the jungles Angel Falls stands as the world’s highest continuous waterfall. It was named after American pilot Jimmy Angel who first flew over the falls in 1937. To witness this wonder you can embark on a river journey starting from Canaima village and trek through lush rainforests until you reach a viewpoint facing the majestic cascade. With its staggering height of 3,200 feet and water thundering down from the topped Auyantepui Mountain, Angel Falls is truly a sight that will leave you in awe. For travelers who crave off the beaten path, visiting Angel Falls in Canaima National Park is an extraordinary adventure.
11. São Paulo, Brazil
As Brazil’s capital city São Paulo captivates visitors with its vibrant cosmopolitan vibe. This dynamic metropolis boasts top notch restaurants, luxurious hotels and diverse neighborhoods waiting to be discovered.
Food enthusiasts should definitely not pass up the opportunity to indulge in the delights offered by some of São Paulos restaurants. Apart from the cuisine there are plenty of attractions to explore including parks, captivating museums and a diverse range of architectural wonders from ornate cathedrals to futuristic skyscrapers. When night falls São Paulos renowned nightlife comes alive with music spun by DJs and vibrant clubs that keep pulsing until dawn. For an exhilarating experience of culture I highly recommend spending a few days immersing yourself in the sights, sounds and flavors that São Paulo has to offer.
12. Cusco, Peru
The enchanting city of Cusco seamlessly blends together Spanish influences in a captivating way. As the capital of the Incan Empire Cusco still retains fragments of its walls and palaces. The city center boasts a fusion of Incan stonework alongside colonial churches and plazas—an extraordinary blend that has earned it recognition as a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Cusco serves as a hub for exploring both the Sacred Valley and Machu Picchu—both a few hours away. While adjusting to the altitude at 11,000 feet above sea level take some time to peruse the market filled with textiles or savor mouthwatering Peruvian cuisine while immersing yourself in cultural attractions like lively folkloric dance shows. With its heritage and proximity to ruins visiting Cusco is an unforgettable addition to any travel itinerary, through Peru.
13. Cartagena, Colombia
Step back in time. Be transported to the era when you visit Cartagena — one of South America’s most breathtaking cities.
This beautiful coastal city, in Colombia’s region still boasts a well preserved fortified Old Town, constructed during the 16th century to safeguard against marauding pirates. Stroll through squares adorned with bougainvillea, visit exquisite Baroque churches and marvel at the pastel colored houses of Cartagena. Immerse yourself in the culture by savoring an agua de panela—a juice made from raw sugarcane—at lively cafes while enjoying live music. As night falls, join the locals as they dance salsa on the bustling streets. With its ambiance and abundance of attractions Cartagena is an absolute delight to explore.
14. Mendoza, Argentina
Mendoza is a city situated at the heart of Argentinas thriving wine country. Surrounded by snow capped Andes mountains Mendoza offers the blend of urban sophistication and outdoor adventure. Indulge in days spent savoring malbec wines at wineries and relishing farm to table cuisine. Don’t miss out on tasting Argentinas grass fed beef paired with a cabernet wine. For those seeking thrills you can go whitewater rafting on the Mendoza River or embark on a hike up Aconcagua South Americas peak. Alternatively you can hit the slopes at one of the ski resorts. With over 300 days of sunshine Mendoza stands as one of Argentina’s cherished vacation destinations.
15. Lima, Peru
Lima, the capital of Peru offers a captivating blend of history, culture and mouth watering cuisine. The heart of the city lies in the Plaza Mayor surrounded by cathedrals and colonial mansions that reflect Limas role as the center of the Spanish Empire, for three centuries. Nowadays Lima is renowned as South America’s capital attracting food enthusiasts who flock here to savor dishes crafted by famous chefs. Treat yourself to ceviche, lomo saltado and refreshing pisco sours while soaking up Limas atmosphere and timeless charm. Don’t forget to set aside some time for a day trip to explore the ruins of Pachacamac along the picturesque Pacific coast.
16. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Moving on to Buenos Aires in Argentina, get ready for an experience filled with tango dancers, romantic neighborhoods and incredible steakhouses. This charming capital city exudes a vibe through its Parisian style architecture, cozy sidewalk cafes and serene plazas shaded by leafy trees. Immerse yourself in tango shows in La Boca district. Indulge in shopping for leather goods, in the San Telmo neighborhood. Lastly, don’t miss out on visiting La Recoleta Cemetery where you can pay respects at Evita Peron’s tomb.. When night falls upon Buenos Aires join the locals as they hop from one bar to another until dawn breaks.
Buenos Aires captivates visitors with its architecture and vibrant energy that lasts day and night creating a captivating blend of nostalgia and passion.
17. Salvador And Bahia, Brazil
Salvador, a city, at the heart of Brazil’s Bahia state is renowned for its African culture and lively Carnival celebrations. The rhythmic music and dances brought by slaves have become a part of Salvador’s essence. Experience the beats at an open air bloc party. Witness the mesmerizing practice of capoeira, a martial art with acrobatic elements developed by slaves. Take a stroll through Pelourinho, the historic district adorned with pastel colored colonial buildings housing cozy cafes, art galleries and vibrant bars. Immerse yourself in Bahias spirit by spending a day on its stunning beaches followed by an evening of joyful dancing to salsa, samba and axé music at one of its exuberant clubs.
18. Colca Canyon, Peru
Colca Canyon in Peru is truly remarkable as it reaches twice the depth of the Grand Canyon, in the United States plunging down to 13,650 feet. However it’s not its depth that makes Colca Canyon special; it also boasts breathtaking scenery encompassing volcanic peaks and terraced farmlands. Moreover this awe inspiring location offers one of the opportunities to witness majestic Andean condors gracefully gliding through winds.
Sign up for a canyon tour starting from the quaint village of Cabanaconde, where you can get an up close experience, with majestic birds and witness herds of alpacas grazing on the steep slopes. Whether you choose to embark on a hike through the canyon or simply enjoy the breathtaking views from overlooks, Colca Canyon is guaranteed to leave you in awe.
19. Fernando de Noronha, Brazil
Located 220 miles off the coast of Brazil Fernando de Noronha offers a paradise that feels like your very own private island. Its pristine beaches and crystal clear waters are consistently ranked among the most beautiful in the world. Immerse yourself in snorkeling adventures alongside sea turtles in these bays or challenge yourself with thrilling surfing experiences. If hiking is your preference explore forests that lead to clifftop vistas. Alternatively indulge in relaxation under swaying palm trees on sands. With tourist accommodations Fernando de Noronha exudes an atmosphere that invites true escapism from the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
20. Bariloche, Argentina
Nestled within Argentina’s Lake District, San Carlos de Bariloche serves as a base for outdoor enthusiasts seeking adventure amidst stunning landscapes. Surrounded by forests and majestic snow capped mountains this charming alpine village showcases influences reflecting its Swiss heritage. Whether its summer or winter Bariloche offers opportunities for skiing enthusiasts and hikers alike to delve into nature at its finest.
Explore the heights glide through lakes in a kayak or take a breathtaking gondola ride, up Cerro Otto to witness the mesmerizing views of Nahuel Huapi Lake. After exhilarating days in Bariloche and Argentine Patagonia, cozy mountain lodges with crackling fireplaces offer the retreat.
South America is a land of diversity from the snow capped peaks of the Andes to the rainforests of the Amazon. Immerse yourself in cities, immerse yourself in charming colonial towns and delve into ancient ruins to truly experience local culture and history. Outdoor enthusiasts will be captivated by wonders like Iguazu Falls Torres del Paine and Angel Falls. For those who appreciate dining from Lima to Mendoza, to São Paulo, South America offers world class gastronomic delights.