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20 Beautiful Things You Must Experience in South America

Why Does No One Swim in The Western Coast of South America?

Because the water is Chile. 

{If you did not get the joke, then you need to learn the countries that make up South America}

South America is a continent of incredible diversity and experience, so much natural beauty, and rich cultural heritage plus, a ton of crazy adventures. With that, a lot of people are traveling to and visiting the beautiful continent but what’s even better is having a guide through experiences that make your adventure through the continent a memory to always remember.

Hold onto your sombreros and grab your caipirinhas, we’re diving headfirst into the weird, the wild, and the wonderfully wacky side of South America. From the towering peaks of the Andes to the lush depths of the Amazon Rainforest, South America is a playground of beauty, cultural experiences, excitement and unique experiences that you definitely have to explore. Let’s walk through some historical landmarks in South America.

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A Bucket list of Cultural Attractions in South America 

  • Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1983 in recognition of its cultural and historical significance. It is also considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.

Many visitors describe their visit to Machu Picchu as a deeply spiritual and transformative experience, feeling a sense of awe and wonder at the majesty of the ancient ruins and the breath-taking beauty of the Andean landscape.

The best time to visit Machu Picchu in Peru is during the dry season, which typically runs from May to September and the dry season ensures better trail conditions for trekking routes leading to Machu Picchu.

Christ the Redeemer, Brazil

  • Christ the Redeemer, Brazil

Christ the Redeemer is a statue of Jesus Christ, located in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. This enormous statue is the most famous monument in Brazil and one of the most iconic landmarks in the world.  It took nine years to build and is a great place to get married.

You can marry your loved one beneath Christ the Redeemer. There is a small Catholic chapel at the base of the statue. The chapel is dedicated to the patron saint of Brazil – Nossa Senhora Aparecida (Our Lady of Aparecida).

  • Iguazu Falls, Argentina and Brazil

“My poor Niagara …”

That is what Eleonor Roosevelt said when she saw Iguazu Falls.

Iguazu Falls is beyond epic, nowhere else can you feel such an awesomely unyielding force of nature in such a stunningly beautiful setting. 

There are many ways to experience Iguazu Falls. You can view them from two countries—Brazil and Argentina—at different times of the day and night, take a wild boat ride right under the falls’ veil, see them under the light of the full moon, or take a helicopter ride for a bird’ s-eye view.

Brazil can lay claim to about 20% of the falls and Argentina to the other 80%. This means that you get a bigger picture view of the falls from the Brazilian side, looking towards Argentina. But in Argentina, you get closer to the falls, there is more area to explore. This is a cultural experience for people who enjoy nature and love to savor and explore it.

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  • Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is considered one of the most extreme and remarkable vistas in all of South America, if not Earth, It’s worth the experience. Here, a thick crust of salt extends to the horizon, covered by quilted, polygonal patterns of salt rising from the ground. This beautiful cultural attraction and otherworldly terrain serves as a lucrative extraction site for salt and lithium—the element responsible for powering laptops, smart phones, and electric cars. 

At nearly 12,000 feet above sea level, visitors may experience altitude sickness if they haven’t properly acclimatized. Symptoms include nausea, headaches, and insomnia among others. Discuss various options for preventing and treating altitude sickness with your doctor before your trip.

  • Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

As amazing as you think the Galápagos Islands will be, they routinely exceed expectations. It’s a place where lizards swim, birds walk, and humans — for once — don’t take center stage.

This is also one of the world’s top scuba diving destinations, so spending time on or in the water is a must, whether that means you’re ready to jump in with your snorkel for a sea lion swim or are happy to enjoy the views from the deck of your adventure cruise. The seafood in the Galápagos Islands is extremely fresh and the islands have many fine dining establishments to cater to hungry visitors. 

Good Read: The Worst Time To Visit Galapagos

Amazon Rainforest

  • Amazon Rainforest

Spanning 8 countries and one overseas territory in South America and representing an area twice the size of India – or roughly 28 times the size of the UK! It spans across: Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Venezuela, Guyana, Suriname, and the overseas territory of French Guiana. And incredibly, a new species of animal or plant is discovered in the Amazon every other day on average. This is a South American travel experience you definitely should experience.

  • If you want to see the sheer size and scale of the River Amazon, travel from Brazil.
  • If you want a quicker and more cost effective visit, travel from Peru.
  • If you want to experience the most biodiverse section of the Amazon, travel from Ecuador.
  • Cartagena Old Town, Colombia

The Old Town of Cartagena is one of the most enchanting attractions in Colombia. You could spend days drifting through the colorful streets, admiring the colonial architecture, before diving into the expansive gastronomic scene.

  • La Boca Neighborhood, Argentina

This is the most Instagrammable neighborhood in Buenos Aires. The houses weren’t always quite so bright. It wasn’t until the 1960s, when local artist Benito Quinquela Martín decided to use his neighborhood as a canvas, painting one abandoned street that quickly became a meeting place for other La Boca artists. The rest of the neighborhood followed suit, and a homegrown tourist attraction was born.

  • Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

The cinematic scenery of this eighth wonder of the world will leave you in awe. Get your backpack and sneakers ready and take a tour trekking the huge Torres del Paine National Park. Patagonia is a vast area that straddles both southern Chile and Argentina and among this area are known cities and destinations in Argentina such as: Bariloche, El Calafate, El Chalten and Ushuaia. On the Chile side we then have the famous Torres del Paine.

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  • Colca Canyon, Peru

Colca Canyon is one of those places in Peru that has everything. And more. The most popular and shortest place to go to Colca Canyon is Arequipa. Peru’s Colca Canyon Is Twice As Deep As the Grand Canyon and if you love to trek and hike, this is for you. This is not a beginner hike by any means as it has thousands of feet in elevation and that also changes on steep paths. 

  • Malpelo Island, Colombia

When you think of scuba diving, Colombia may not be the first place that comes to your mind. But, the country is home to some of the best diving. Five hundred kilometers from the Colombian mainland, over water, Malpelo gives the impression that the island is a barren rock but it’s much more. On any given dive, you might swim with 200 to 300 hammerhead sharks and hundreds of silky sharks. Whale sharks, eagle rays, tuna, sailfish and even whales also visit this underwater ridge. 

This is shark diving at its best, and it can only be found at Malpelo Island.

  • Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio de Janeiro is one of the most beautiful places you should experience in South America—and one of the most beautiful cities in the world. Often referred to simply as Rio, it is a vibrant and dynamic city known for its stunning natural beauty, rich cultural heritage, spectacular natural surroundings, and world-class beaches. There’s nothing quite like lounging on the sands of Copacabana or Ipanema, sitting in the shadow of the iconic Sugarloaf Mountain while the sounds of the city thrum in the background.

  • San Carlos de Bariloche, Argentina

Bariloche is nestled in the picturesque Andes Mountains and surrounded by pristine lakes, lush forests, and snow-capped peaks. It is located in the heart of Argentina’s Lake District, known for its crystal-clear lakes and scenic vistas. Skiers and snowboarders flock to Bariloche during the winter months to enjoy excellent snow conditions and breathtaking mountain views. The city’s picturesque streets and plazas add to its charm and appeal.

  • Mendoza wine region, Argentina

Mendoza wine region is widely considered to be the most important wine region in Argentina.  Its winemaking history is nearly as old as the colonial history of Argentina itself and the winery has gained this reputation as it accounts for almost two-thirds of the entire wine production in Argentina. 

  • Kaieteur Falls, Guyana

At 825 feet, these falls are nearly five times as tall as North America’s Niagara Falls. At 741 feet, the impressive falls is known as the world’s largest single-drop waterfall by the volume of water flowing over it. By no surprise, Kaieteur is also among the most powerful waterfalls in the world.

Malpelo island - experience south america

  • Baños, Ecuador

Baños, a small community situated in the shadow of an active volcano and surrounded by waterfalls, dense forests, and the Amazon Basin. Baños is perhaps best known for “the swing at the end of the world,” an Instagram-famous rope swing that more than earns its nickname. Relax and rejuvenate in these soothing thermal waters, which are said to have therapeutic properties. Besides the swing, Casa del Árbol offers a treehouse and zip lines, providing exhilarating experiences and panoramic views of the surrounding landscapes.

  • Rapa Nui, Chile

Rapa Nui, also known as Easter Island, is a remote and enigmatic island located in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, belonging to Chile. Moai Statues; Perhaps the most iconic feature of Rapa Nui, these massive stone statues are scattered across the island, ranging in height from a few feet to over 30 feet. Explore the volcanic crater of Rano Kau, one of the island’s three extinct volcanoes. 

  • Valle de la Luna, Chile

Named for its lunar landscape, the otherworldly Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon) in Chile’s Atacama Desert is known for its jagged, wind-carved rocks. As the sun sets each evening, the change in light makes the rocks appear to change from pink to a deep red, just before the sky fills with some of the world’s best stargazing. Such a unique experience. Explore the otherworldly terrain of Valle de la Luna, characterized by its dramatic rock formations, salt flats, and sand dunes. The landscape’s resemblance to the surface of the moon has earned it its name. 

  • Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, Brazil

Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is a breath-taking natural wonder located in north-eastern Brazil, renowned for its stunning sand dunes and crystal-clear lagoons. Roughly the size of Rhode Island, this dune-filled national park looks like a faraway fantasy planet. Is it a drowned desert or a sandy lake? Either way, it’s beautiful. Experience the vast expanse of sand dunes that stretch as far as the eye can see while getting a feel of the hidden lagoons nestled among the sand dunes.

  • Lima, Peru

Foodies, listen up – you MUST visit Lima, which is regarded by many as the culinary capital of South America, with no less than four of the top 50 restaurants in the world. It’s also the capital and biggest city in Peru and is filled with cool, trendy neighborhoods like Miraflores and Barranco and great surfing beaches! 

Taking a tour across South America is an experience filled with beautiful life long memories waiting to be embraced and explored. 

You made it this far… Let me share a secret with you – Backpack through South America on a budget

Thank you for reading.

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