Where Should I Travel in South America?

A reader recently asked me what I thought were some of the best places to travel in South America. Now I have lived in South America and travelled considerably across this part of the world, but I haven’t been everywhere, so today I’m tag teaming with fellow travel blogger and boyfriend to answer the question, because it seems that Sam has been almost everywhere…

Here are our top picks in no particular order:

ARGENTINA

Tango-Buenos-Aires-Argentina

Buenos Aires – What’s there not to love? First of all, the food is amazing; this is the land of asado (steak), red wine, and alfajores. The architecture will leave you dreaming of Europe, but the city has a distinct Latin American attitude and flair. You can explore the upscale neighbourhoods on a bike tour, visit the most extravagant cemetery in the country (La Recoleta), stroll the colourful streets of Boca, watch a tango performance, eat like a king, do the epic Buenos Aires Pub Crawl, and so much more.

Northern-Argentina-church

Salta – When you tire of the capital (although, how could you?) head up north to Salta. The city is located in the province by the same name, and is affectionately nicknamed ‘the beautiful’. Salta offers some of the most exotic scenery in the country. You will see rugged mountains in shades of burnt orange, pale pink, and lavender. It is a great place for day excursions and wine tours, or if you simply want to relax, you can settle into a guesthouse in the outskirts of town.

Northern-Argentina-scenery

Jujuy – Located just north of Salta, on the border with Bolivia, this province is even more rugged and unexplored. The sleepy town of Purmamarca is an important stop since it is home to the ‘Cerro de Siete Colores’, which translates to the ‘Hill of Seven Colours’ – and it looks exactly like what it sounds. If you can’t make it all the way up to Bolivia’s famed salt flats to see Salar de Uyuni, Jujuy offers a great alternative with the Salinas Grandes, which are equally as impressive.

Iguazu-Falls-Brazil-Argentina

Iguazu Falls – If you don’t mind a bit of a detour, the famed falls that straddle the border between Brazil and Argentina are definitely worth a visit. You can visit the falls from the Brazilian side, but most would argue that the Argentinean side has the best view.

*I know I’m really trying to sell Argentina, but I’m half Argentinean so I can’t help it.

BOLIVIA

Salar-de-Uyuni-Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni – This happens to be the world’s largest salt flat, and it makes a great setting for snapping some optical illusion photos (especially if it has just rained because that’s when the sky and the ground become indistinguishable). Random fact: Salar the Uyuni serves as a breeding ground for several species of pink flamingos. Who knew?!

Sucre-Bolivia

Sucre – This city is known for being pretty. Sucre has beautiful colonial architecture, scenic parks, and it is very easy to negotiate on foot. This isn’t necessarily a place where you come for any specific attractions; it’s more of a laid back city where you come to soak in the beauty and relax.

Mercado-Market-La-Paz-Bolivia

La Paz – Not only is Bolivia’s capital a thriving city, but it also happens to be the highest capital in the world! This a place where there is no shortage of things to do: the Witches’ Market, the colonial buildings on Calle Jaen, folk music and beers at a peña (bar), or perhaps a cheesy evening of Lucha Libre…

BRAZIL

Ipanema Beach, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil - Flickr CC over_kind_man

Rio de Janeiro – Believe the hype when you hear it because Rio de Janeiro is amazing! Sure it’s a little rough around the edges, and it is quickly becoming one of the priciest destinations in the continent, but there is so much to love. The beaches, the seaside restaurants serving up the catch of the day with a glass of caipirinha, the samba music that pulls you out of your seat to dance, the booming nightlife of Lapa… I could go on.

PERU

Cuzco-Sacred-Valley-Peru

Cusco – Most people who come to Cusco are en route to the famed Lost City of the Incas, but there is plenty to do in this quaint little town, so give yourself at least a few days (you’ll likely need it to become acclimated to the altitude anyway). Aside from the markets, museums, and churches to visit, there are plenty of day trips to be done around the Sacred Valley.

Llama-Machu-Picchu-Peru

Machu Picchu – Who hasn’t heard of Machu Picchu?! The Lost City of the Incas, and also one of the Seven Wonders of the World! It’s not easy to reach, but when you finally come around that last bend and see the ancient city below for the first time, it takes your breath away. You can either take the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes and do the remainder of the journey by bus, or if you are fit enough, you can opt to do the Inca Trail on foot (and there are various lengths to choose from).

Puno-Lake-Titicaca-Lago-Titicaca-Peru

Puno – Most people who come all the way to Puno, a city which stands at a dizzying 3,800+ meters above sea level, do so because of Lake Titicaca. You can visit the Uros floating reed islands where people live, and on some islands you can opt to do a home stay with a local family. Go for a dip in the freezing lake waters if you’re brave enough!

Huacachina-Ica-Peru-sand-dunes

Huacachina – This teeny tiny village is considered a little oasis in the desert. People usually come here for one thing only – the sand dunes! Whether you want to try your hand at sandboarding, go on a dune buggy ride, or hire an all terrain vehicle to have some fun, this is the place to do it.

CHILE

San-Pedro-de-Atacama-Chile-desierto

San Pedro de Atacama – Why San Pedro de Atacama? Because it is home to some of the most spectacular landscapes on earth! Do you want geysers? If so head to El Tatio – a field with over 80 active geysers. Do you want to see terrain that looks like it’s from another planet? If so, go to Valle de la Luna (Valley of the Moon). Salt flats? They have those too. The landscape is as varied as can be, just remember that it is bitterly cold at this altitude even during the day, so dress accordingly.

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This is brief sampling of some of the places we have been to in South America and really enjoyed. Again, we have not been everywhere so not every country/city is covered in this little guide. If you think we missed that people really need to know about, feel free to share it with us in the comments below. 🙂

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24 Comments

  • I would also recommend places in Brasil like Paraty and Ilha Grande… and in Chile, try to get to Easter Island! I also did a day trip to Valparaiso, outside Santiago on the coast, and it was pretty awesome. More recently, I’ve been hearing a lot of great things about Colombia, but I can’t speak firsthand on it…
    Colleen Brynn recently posted..The Beautiful People, Eye Ball, 2013My Profile

    • Audrey says:

      I would love to explore Chile! I remember seeing the Andes from the airport in Santiago and being amazed – the Andes, right there! And you know you have me sold on Easter Island already. 😉

  • The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) says:

    Great suggestions. We were glad we added Arequipa to our itinerary at the last minute in Peru. Beautiful main plaza and cathedrals, a volcano towering over the city, and just a day trip from the stunning Colca Canyon. Also, there weren’t nearly as many tourists there as Lima, Cusco, or Puno.
    The Time-Crunched Traveler (Ellen) recently posted..3 places to go on safari in South AfricaMy Profile

  • allmyprettyones says:

    What about Ushuaia, or the rest of Patagonia, and the Falkland Islands with their antarctic species, like penguins and seals? You can take an Antarctica cruise from there, or simply explore the glaciers at the southern tip of Chile or Argentina.

    Can’t wait to see where you end up 🙂
    allmyprettyones recently posted..my pregnancy back-up planMy Profile

  • Sam says:

    Having *just* come from Patagonia (Chilean and Argentinian), I can’t help but notice this huge region as a gaping omission from this list! It’s rugged and beautiful and harsh and expensive, but definitely worth visiting.
    Sam recently posted..Food Porn Friday: Jacinto, MontevideoMy Profile

  • Arianwen says:

    Great selection! Aside from Salta, I visited them all in the past 8 months and it was incredible. I’d add Rurrenebaque in Bolivia, the Galapagos, and the W trek in Patagonia to that list. They were among my absolute highlights. Also, Huaraz is a lesser known, but totally stunning part of Peru. There’s so much to see you can’t really go wrong though!
    Arianwen recently posted..Florianopolis round one: too old to party?My Profile

  • Rosie says:

    Southern Chile is beautiful, and totally different from the north. Chiloe island and the Navimag ferry ride through all the misty, emerald islands from Puerto Montt to Puerto Natales are two of my favourite things in South America.
    Rosie recently posted..Ass GiganteMy Profile

  • I’ve just finished the Full Circuit 8 day trek/camping around Torres del Paine in Chile and it’s simply amazing scenery. If 8 days is too much, there’s the smaller but more touristy W Circuit.

    Weather plays a part, but if you go Dec-Feb you’re bound to do well. I managed to squeeze it in Mar, but was told I got lucky. Photos here if you’re interested….

    https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.217193835089988.1073741827.130589643750408&type=1

    Taking the Navimag ferry tonight (5 days / 4 nights) up through the Fjords on the coast.
    The CounterIntuitive recently posted..Hiking up Pedra da GaveaMy Profile

  • Great collaboration on this one!
    South America needs to be coloured in on our travel map. We’ve spent so much time in other parts of the world, but we think it’s time to venture to the Latin world!

    Thanks for the post and great ideas.
    Cheers
    Dariece – Goats On The Road recently posted..Budget Guide To Backpacking ChinaMy Profile

  • Hogga says:

    all of the above!
    Hogga recently posted..Bat Monsters of Fort Fredrick, GrenadaMy Profile

  • Maria says:

    I’m sold on Argentina with your comment, ” Salar the Uyuni serves as a breeding ground for several species of pink flamingos”
    Maria recently posted..Medic HumorMy Profile

  • Michael says:

    So glad you included Salta Province in your list, I feel like its a bit of an overlooked and hidden gem. Probably good not so many foreign tourists make it out that far. Well worth the effort though. I rented a car for a week and drove through the small mountain towns around Salta. Absolutely stunning.

  • Your pic of Puno is awesome! I would add Montevideo, Uruguay to the list. I haven’t been since I was young, but from the little I remember and from what my parents have told me, it’s a great city!
    Dana Carmel @ Time Travel Plans recently posted..Hiking the Ihlara ValleyMy Profile

  • Sara Rodriguez says:

    Amazing photos! I really liked your suggestions. Personally, I’ll choose Brazil, cause I love this country, its landscapes, people, languaje…
    Thank you for sharing with us!
    Sara Rodriguez recently posted..México: San Juan Chamula, tradición en ChiapasMy Profile

  • Sofie says:

    What a great overview post! And the pictures make me want to visit all of those places:)
    Bookmarking this!
    Sofie recently posted..Barcelona, here I come!My Profile

  • jill says:

    If you like hiking, I recommend Huaraz in Peru. Such a gorgeous area (not the town itself). Lots, and lots, and lots of hiking opportunity. Your itinerary makes me miss S. America so much. Have a blast!!
    jill recently posted..Miracle of the Year: Getting Scuba Certified in HawaiiMy Profile

  • This Battered Suitcase says:

    I was just saying yesterday how badly I want to go back to South America – this list just confirms it! I love all the places you listed (though it kills me that I didn’t get to Salta when I was in Argentina). I would definitely add Colombia to that list: Tayrona, Cartagena, Medellin, Salento, Popayan…there are so many amazing places to visit there. I also would recommend the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador, and, when you’re in Buenos Aires, a ferry over to Uruguay for a few days!

    OK…I have to go back immediately.
    This Battered Suitcase recently posted..How to Be Prepared to Travel Anywhere, AnytimeMy Profile

  • S.J.Bisby says:

    I’ve always wanted to do a road trip from Santiago to Buenos Aires along Route 7 I think it’s called; it would be such an epic trip between two great cities. Be nice to end it at the beach too! Just need some money to go do it.
    S.J.Bisby recently posted..Getting home from Rome – The hard wayMy Profile

  • Ceri says:

    Fabulous recommendations. I miss Latin America so much and can’t wait to explore the south next time I head over there. <3
    Ceri recently posted..Sorry I’m Not SorryMy Profile

  • Beth says:

    Ah, these are great! About Peru, though, I really would recommend Cajamarca and Huaraz. They aren’t as touristy, and in my opinion, are the most beautiful places in Peru and in the world! Your blog is great. You’ll be seeing more of me! 😀
    Beth recently posted..surviving the craziesMy Profile

  • Addy Jhon says:

    Holidays are always an absolute fun. it comes to camping, camp America is one of the most enjoyable explorations of spending free time most enjoyably and usefully.
    Addy Jhon recently posted..Camp AmericaMy Profile

  • Rio de Janeiro is simple amazing. Is a city that have with everything the crazy people in lapa, the peace, the beaches, the green, the favelas and the people. My suggestion for who is coming to Rio on the first time is to stay in a safety area like Ipanema or Leblon and come in the low season like March to June and September and October to have fun with more fun without big queues. The weather is good whole year. Enjoy the carioca life style going to a samba session, visiting the Favela, enjoying the best views and nice sunsets and staying on the beaches the whole day.

  • I would recommend places in South America like Chile, Argentina Ecuador are the best places to visit. I visited them all in the past 3 month and it was awesome trip. I agree with Rosie southern Chile is beautiful among them, but try to explore them in long trip.

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