Explore natural wonders. Relax on the beach, then walk through the lush rainforest—trek up volcanoes and ski down snow-capped mountains. Discover vibrant cultures with rich and diverse histories, then stuff your face with decadent food.
South America has endless wonders, from the people to the food and landscapes. You will always have options. Whether it's for adventure or leisure, there are countless ways to enjoy this diverse continent.
To help you find the perfect destination for your South American adventure, we’ve compiled a list of some of the best places to start!
5 South American Destinations That Transform Your Life
1 - Argentina
The land of football, tango, and breathtaking landscapes, Argentina provides a taste of Europe with a Latin American flare. Located on the southern tip of South America, this former Spanish colony is full of fun to be had.
From the Perisian-style cafes, wide boulevards, and colorful neighborhoods of Buenos Aires, to the colonial sites and Andes Mountains in Salta and ski slopes in San Carlos de Bariloche. Venture to the southernmost tip, and you’ll find yourself in legendary Patagonia.
Patagonia is more than just a trendy outdoor apparel brand. It is a stunning region in South America that stretches across Argentina and part of Chile. You’ll find breathtaking views of wild landscapes, virgin forests, snow-capped mountains, glaciers, rivers, volcanos, and more. Where else on Earth are you going to be able to witness glaciers and volcanos in the same place?
Safety-wise, Argentina is one of the safest countries in South America to visit. Take precautions, especially in big cities, and always check travel advisories before traveling.
2 - Chile
Directly to the west of Argentina is the skinny little country of Chile. Formed by both Spanish and indigenous traditions, the Chilean culture is deeply rooted in family, hospitality, and the arts. It is the birthplace of noteworthy artists, authors, and musicians.
Visit the Chile side of Patagonia, and you'll find icy glaciers, stunning mountains, and unique wildlife, including penguins, Andean cats, and the southern elephant seals. Yes, penguins! If you head west, you'll find the one place Chile is most famous for.
Just over 2000 miles off the coast of Chile is the remote Chilean territory of Easter Island. This enchanting island is famous for its "moat,” or stone statues of human figures. These fascinating statues can be found throughout the island. To learn about these curious figures and the island's history, I suggest hiring a guide to show you around.
Safety-wise, you can confidently explore Chile as long as you avoid political demonstrations and closely monitor your possessions. Make sure you check travel advisories before you leave.
3 - Uruguay
Uruguay is home to pristine beaches, grand art-deco and colonial-style homes, and lush landscapes worthy of exploration. Take a stroll down the Santa del Estas, the South American version of the French Riviera. Sip some Mate and enjoy the rich history retained in the old neighborhoods of Ciudad Viega, Montevideo.
From mid-January to early March, the nation celebrates the legendary Carnival. For forty days, the streets transform into one ongoing party celebrating the unique melting pot of culture found in Uruguay. Enjoy delicious food and check out the candombe street performers.
Then, when you are ready for a little digital detox, head over to Cabo Polonio. It is a charming remote town with no electricity, running water, and no roads leading in or out. It might sound a little extreme in these modern times, but it’s an excellent opportunity to break out of your bubble.
Safety-wise, Uruguay is usually safe to travel to; however, it is always wise to check travel advisories.
4 - Peru
At the heart of Peruvian culture is music and dance, with every region hosting its unique style of the two. The music showcases the intricate tapestry of cultural influence the nation weaves together. Featuring traditions and customs from the Incas, the Spanish, and even enslaved Africans, the culture is full of life and vivid expression.
Peru is a small nation hosting one of the Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu. This top tourist destination provides an in-depth look at the culture and heritage of South American indigenous people. The ancient Inca ruins sit 7,700 ft above sea level and offer awe-inspiring views of the surrounding landscape. With a limited number of daily visitors, you’ll want to book your trip in advance to secure a spot.
While there, check out Cusco, Peru, the former capital of the Inca Empire. There you’ll see the unique blend of Andean and Spanish cultures that Peru is known for. The Plaza de Armas in the historic downtown area represents the center of the former Inca Empire.
If you are craving a little adventure, explore The Amazon, one of the most famous rainforests in the world, through Canopy Walks and guided tours. There is nothing like it in the world.
Safety-wise, you’ll want to keep an eye on travel advisories. While Peru is generally safe for travelers, civil unrest is expected. You should be okay sticking to tourist areas and practicing safety measures.
5 - Ecuador
For a unique look at modern indigenous culture, Ecuador is no better place. Nestled between Colombia and Peru, this tiny nation is home to high elevations, friendly locals, and incredible scenery.
The infamous Andes Mountains, stretching across seven different countries, cut straight through Ecuador, significantly impacting the culture and climate of the nation. These mountains host a multitude of wildlife.
Their capital city, Quito, sits over 9000 feet above sea level, making it the highest elevated capital city in the world. The entire town is designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and the historic city center’s buildings are some of Latin America’s least altered and best-preserved historical buildings.
If you are tired of the high elevation, head out to The Galapagos Islands, made famous by Charles Darwin. This incredible island territory is home to iconic sea turtles, sea lions, manta rays, and more. Relax on the beach or trek the volcanoes, then head out to snorkel or scuba dive in the ocean.
Before leaving Ecuador, be sure to stop by Casa del Arbol. This famous treehouse is where you will find The Swing at the End of the World. It is perched on the edge of a mountain overlooking Banos, Ecuador.
Safety-wise, Ecuador is safe for travelers as long as they stay within tourist areas and practice basic safety precautions. The country does experience occasional civil unrest, so be sure to check travel advisories before you leave.
So next time you are planning a getaway,
consider exploring the vibrant cultures throughout South America. Take a tango class in Argentina, dance with Uruguayans at Carnival, or discover the indigenous lifestyle in Ecuador. The possibilities are endless.
Let us know where you’re inspired to visit!