Many intrepid travelers aspire to visit South America one day. But with 18 million square kilometers and 14 countries to explore, where do you start?
South America is a stunning part of the world, with myriad diverse cultures and landscapes. No matter what sort of traveler you are, it has something for everyone. There are ancient historic cities, sublime mountain landscapes, adrenaline-fuelled adventure sports, and pristine sandy beaches. Spot wildlife and sample foods you’ve never experienced before, all the while learning about the long history of this fascinating continent.
If you are planning a South America trip and don’t know where to begin, here are four countries you absolutely must visit.
As a tourist destination, Peru is best known for the Lost City of Machu Picchu, to which travelers flock from all over the globe. And when you see it for yourself, you’ll see why. The country is teeming with ancient ruins and remnants of historic Incan civilizations nestled amidst gorgeous mountain terrain. It is also home to several ancient cities such as Lima and Cuzco, as well as some of the most stunning, remote hikes you’ll ever walk.
South America’s largest country, Brazil should be on everyone’s travel bucket list. If incredible weather and gorgeous beaches aren’t enough to sway you, how about the fact that it is home to the world-famous Carnival in Rio de Janeiro? Marvel at the outrageous costumes and party atmosphere and dance in the street until the sun comes up above the iconic Christ the Redeemer statue on top of Corcovado mountain. Sports fans won’t be disappointed either, as Brazil is the home of the best soccer team in the world, and the sport is a huge part of the culture. Alternatively, you can get your adventure fix with a trip to the lush Amazon rainforest. Just don’t forget your bug spray.
Ecuador is an undiscovered jewel in South America’s crown, and it has gone largely unnoticed by the huge swathes of tourists who visit the continent each year. But the country is home to some of the most incredible sights on Earth, including the Ecuador rainforest and Galapagos Islands. Witness some unique wildlife such as black iguanas and gigantic Galapagos tortoises. Take a hike to the base of the picture-perfect snow-capped volcano Cotopaxi, the country’s second-highest summit, or visit the city of Banos to get your adventure fix with a bungee jump or white water rafting trip. Culture vultures can wander the streets of the historic capital city Quito, or sample Ecuador’s many culinary delights such as ceviche or the world’s best dark chocolate.
No trip to South America can be complete without visiting Chile. The country has so much to offer that it’s impossible to see it all in a single trip. Head down south to explore the mountainous national parks of Patagonia, and you may even see wild pumas and penguins in their natural habitat. Or if you prefer warmer weather, you could head up north to the Atacama Desert – the driest on Earth with the most beautiful starry night skies you’ll ever see.