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101 of the Best Places to Visit in South America

You have limited time and you want to know the best places to visit in South America.

From all the startling landscapes, ornate colonial architecture, and remarkable ruins, how do you decide what to add to your itinerary?

To help you, we came up with this list of 101 of the continent’s best attractions.

Use the filters below to select specific countries and types of attractions that interest you. This way, you can focus on the places that best fit your plans.

 

Best Places to Visit in South America: Argentina

El Ateneo Grand Splendid

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Architecture, Shopping

El Ateneo Grand Splendid by Christian Jiménez (CC)
El Ateneo Grand Splendid by Christian Jiménez (CC)

Remember when everyone read books made of paper? El Ateneo Grand Splendid celebrates this period in grand style–with a huge bookshop in a stunningly opulent old theater.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The building dates to the early 20th century and the interior still features balconies, a huge domed fresco, a stage, and massive rosy red curtains.

Here, reading becomes performance. Leave your Kindle in your hotel.

Iguazu Falls

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Nature

Iguazu Falls by Martin St-Amant (CC)
Iguazu Falls by Martin St-Amant (CC)

Simply put, Iguazu Falls is one of the world’s most captivating waterfalls.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The falls stretch 2.7 km (1.7 mi) and cascade down 80 m (262 ft). Beyond the power of the water, the area contains 2,000 plant species and a cornucopia of wildlife: jaguars, ocelots, howler monkeys, and more.

Take a brief train ride in for the easiest access. However, a quick hike will let you observe the teeming rainforest.

La Recoleta Cemetery, Buenos Aires

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Historic Sites

Cementerio de la Recoleta, Buenos Aires by Andrew Currie (CC)
Cementerio de la Recoleta, Buenos Aires by Andrew Currie (CC)

Buenos Aires’ number one attraction, La Recoleta Cemetery serves as the final resting place of many of Argentina’s most prominent figures.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The site covers more than 5.5 hectares (14 acres). But it’s more than just a place full of famous dead people. Marble mausoleums, graceful statues, and a mix of Baroque, Neo-Gothic, and Art Deco architecture make it more like a grand museum.

The cemetery is laid out in blocks with alleyways, so it’s easy to navigate. Still, you might want to opt for one of the English-language tours (11am Tuesdays and Thursdays).

MAAM – Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana de Salta

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Museums

Children of Llullaillaco by grooverpedro (CC)
Children of Llullaillaco by grooverpedro (CC)

Museo de Arqueologia de Alta Montana de Salta provides a fascinating window into the world of Inca culture, particularly its ritual of child sacrifices.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The museum displays the eerily well-preserved remains of three young sacrificed Incas discovered at altitudes exceeding 6,000 m (20,000 ft). Exhibits also include pottery, fabrics, and figurines made of gold, silver, and onyx, which were found along with the youths.

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Museums

Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires) 10209.jpg by Brian Barbutti, edited by Bleff (CC)
Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (Buenos Aires) 10209.jpg by Brian Barbutti, edited by Bleff (CC)

With more than 12,000 pieces, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes (National Museum of Fine Arts) holds the largest public collection of art in South America.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

This museum isn’t just big; it’s also really important. First, no other museum on the continent contains as many significant 19th-century pieces. Second, you won’t find as much Argentine art in one place anywhere else in the country.

Among the collections, check out Antonio Berni’s New Realism masterpiece, ‘First Steps’, and Gauguin’s late 19th-century Woman of the Sea, from the artist’s time in Tahiti.

Nahuel Huapi National Park

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Nature

View from Cerro Campanario (Bell Tower Hill) by Cathy Arkle (CC)
View from Cerro Campanario (Bell Tower Hill) by Cathy Arkle (CC)

With snow-capped mountains and waterfalls tumbling into sinuous lakes below, Nahuel Huapi National Park provides a scene straight out The Sound of Music.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Beyond the landscape described above, the park also includes steppe land and even a bit of rainforest. Thick forests, glaciers, and rushing rivers also fill the scenery.

The scene is so reminiscent of the Austrian Alps that many Nazi fugitives settled in nearby Bariloche after World War II…

Parque Nacional Los Glaciares

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Nature

Vue de la Péninsule de Magellan by aloys_dharambure (CC)
Vue de la Péninsule de Magellan by aloys_dharambure (CC)

What’s the difference between America’s Glacier National Park and Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park? One’s got massive sheets of ice spilling from mountains into valleys and lakes, but the other doesn’t.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Unfortunately for the Land of the Free, global warming has been harsh on America’s glaciers. In the Argentina version, though, you’ll encounter giant blankets of turquoise, white, and gray ice blankets stretching about as far as you can see.

Head for Perito Moreno to watch this glacial beast plunk truck-size icebergs into the lake below.

Parque Provincial Aconcagua

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Nature

Parque Provincial Aconcagua by Bas Wallet (CC)
Parque Provincial Aconcagua by Bas Wallet (CC)

Welcome to the roof of South America: Aconcagua.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Parque Provincial Aconcagua is home to the highest peak in South America. In fact, no other mountain outside the Himalayas reaches this behemoth’s height of 6,962 m (22,841 ft).

Ready, Sir Hilary? Make sure you give this climb a solid two weeks.

Climb not? Fear not. You can still hike to base camps and shelters below the snow line to snap your photos.

Parque Tres de Febrero

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Parks

By Matias Garabedian (CC)
By Matias Garabedian (CC)

Delta Burke once riffed, “If you want to say it with flowers, a single rose says: ‘I’m cheap!'” Well, Parque Tres de Febrero–BA’s magnificent city park–ain’t thrifty.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The rose garden blooms with more than 8,000 roses across 93 species. The 400 hectare (989 acre) park also includes a zoo, planetarium, Japanese garden, and three artificial lakes.

Puerto Madero

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Neighborhoods

Panorama of Puerto Madero. by Luis Argerich (CC)
Panorama of Puerto Madero. by Luis Argerich (CC)

A vibrant waterfront area full of architectural gems, shops, and cultural centers, Puerto Madero is one of the trendiest neighborhoods in Buenos Aires.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The setting serves up an eyeful: steel-and-glass towers juxtapose with historical red-brick warehouses, and the sleek Puente de la Mujer cantilevered bridge crosses a channel separating the two areas.

Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Nature

Quebrada de las Conchas (CC)
Quebrada de las Conchas (CC)

A canyon of sandstone cliffs, Quebrada del Rio de las Conchas flashes colors of rich red and vivid greens in a remote corner of Argentina.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The road through the area offers one of the continent’s most scenic drives. Leave time for photo stops and try to be on the road for sunset.

Teatro Colon

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Architecture, Theaters

Main Auditorium Teatro Colón by Roger Schultz (CC)
Main Auditorium Teatro Colón by Roger Schultz (CC)

BA’s main opera house, Teatro Colon stands as an architectural and aural masterpiece.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Outside, a big, slightly pinkish building that blends Italian Renaissance, Corinthian, and Belle Epoque details beckons you.

Inside, cascading staircases, gilded promenades, and massive frescoes dazzle you.

But in the horseshoe-shaped auditorium, the acoustics swallow you.

The Hill of Seven Colors

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Nature

Cerro de los Siete Colores (Purmamarca, Jujuy) by Leandro Kibisz (CC)
Cerro de los Siete Colores (Purmamarca, Jujuy) by Leandro Kibisz (CC)

Step 1: mix together sediments from an ocean, rivers, and lakes over millions of years.

Step 2: use tectonic uplift to raise the layers above ground.

Voila!

You have hills made up of seven vivid colors.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

You won’t find a scene quite like it anywhere else on the continent. Pink is most prominent. White surrounds it. And a mix of purples, browns, reds, greens, and yellows provides startling contrasts.

The sight sits above an indigenous village in the isolated northwest corner of the country, which gives it even more of an end-of-the-Earth feeling.

Tierra del Fuego National Park

By country: Argentina Type of attraction: Nature

Islas del Canal by Mariano Mantel (CC)
Islas del Canal by Mariano Mantel (CC)

If you venture to South America’s southern tip, Tierra del Fuego National Park, with its bays, waterfalls, and abundant wildlife, is your reward.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Tierra del Fuego NP is a true wilderness–most of it’s off limits to people. However, the area you can access offers dense forests that turn red in autumn, big birds such as condors and cormorants, and tranquil lagoons and lakes.

Best Places to Visit in South America: Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni

By country: Bolivia Type of attraction: Nature

Piles of Salt Salar de Uyuni Bolivia by Luca Galuzzi
Piles of Salt Salar de Uyuni Bolivia by Luca Galuzzi (CC)

Never heard of Salar de Uyuni? Well, it’s time you should–it’s the world’s largest salt flats, formed when several prehistoric lakes dried up.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Located 3,600 m (12,000 ft) above sea level, this salty landscape simply boggles the mind–and blinds the eyes. Bring your sunglasses and choose your tour operator carefully to ensure your experience is both safe and memorable.

Mi Teleferico

By country: Bolivia Type of attraction: Viewpoints

Calacoto La Paz, Bolivia by Russland345
Calacoto La Paz, Bolivia by Russland345 (CC)

There’s really no better way to see La Paz then from above, seated inside one of the cars of Mi Teleferico, the longest urban cable car system in the world.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The chance to ride above the world’s highest capital city is undeniably one of those experiences you should put near the top of your bucket list.

Here’s another reason to ride Mi Teleferico–many locals use it as their chief form of public transport, so tickets remain incredibly affordable.

Yungas Road

By country: Bolivia Type of attraction: Nature

Death Road by Jimmy Harris
View of Death Road by Jimmy Harris (CC)

Adventure, adrenaline, and a splash of terror blend together when you ride Yungas Road, one of the world’s most dangerous mountain highways.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Referred to as “Death Road” by many locals, the highway claims hundreds of lives every year. Despite that, drivers and motorcyclists continue to brave the infamous road with unguarded edges.

If you prefer to not to emulate Wile E. Coyote during your trip and fall off the edge, go with a reputable tour operator.

Lake Titicaca

By country: Bolivia Type of attraction: Nature

Lake Titicaca - Road to Bolivia by Alex Proimos (CC)
Lake Titicaca – Road to Bolivia by Alex Proimos (CC)

Many civilizations lived and perished on the banks of Lake Titicaca, the world’s highest navigable body of water.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Majestic is the only way to describe this lake, sitting at an elevation of 3,800 m (12,500 ft) between Bolivia and Peru. Incas believed the sun was born here–time your visit for sunrise to see why.

Isla Incahuasi

By country: Bolivia Type of attraction: Nature

Isla Incahuasi, Salt flat of Uyuni, Bolivia by Diego Delso (CC)
Isla Incahuasi, Salt flat of Uyuni, Bolivia by Diego Delso (CC)

The hilly island of Isla Incahuasi seems completely out of place and out of this world, surrounded by the world’s biggest salt flats.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

There’s more than just salt here–the island shelters a huge variety of gigantic cacti, some of which are nearly 10 m (33 ft) tall. It’s both weird and beautiful, and tailor-made for stunning photos.

Biocentro Guembe Mariposario

By country: Bolivia Type of attraction: Wildlife Areas

Tucan at "Biocentro Guembe" by Matthew Straubmuller (CC)
Tucan at “Biocentro Guembe” by Matthew Straubmuller (CC)

You’ll definitely want to wear brightly colored clothing when visiting Biocentro Guembe Mariposario, the world’s biggest butterfly sanctuary.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Butterflies and rare birds galore–that should be enough reason to drop by when visiting Santa Cruz. For those who need more, the sanctuary offers a range of unexpected amenities, including swimming pools, playgrounds, bars, and restaurants.

San Francisco Basilica

By country: Bolivia Type of attraction: Architecture, Religious Sites

Place San Francisco in La Paz by Anakin
Place San Francisco in La Paz by Anakin

The original San Francisco Basilica dates to the 16th century, but it collapsed under heavy snow. The newer stone version has dominated the center of La Paz since the middle of the 18th century.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Baroque on the outside, Neoclassical on the inside, and splendid all around, San Francisco Basilica features an intricately carved facade of nature themes. Take a guided tour to catch obscure details and reach the bell tower, which offers commanding views of La Paz.

Best Places to Visit in South America: Brazil

Corcovado – Cristo Redentor

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Monuments, Religious Sites, Viewpoints

Christ on Corcovado mountain by Artyominc (CC)
Christ on Corcovado mountain by Artyominc (CC)

If you’ve seen only one picture of Brazil, chances are, you’ve seen Corcovado – Cristo Redentor. It’s the quintessential image of Rio de Janeiro.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The instantly recognizable city symbol is accessible by escalators and elevators–or hundreds of steep steps. The viewing platform at the top offers panoramic vistas of other landmark areas, like Copacabana and Ipanema.

Sugarloaf Mountain

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Viewpoints

Sugarloaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro by Helder Ribeiro (CC)
Sugarloaf mountain in Rio de Janeiro by Helder Ribeiro (CC)

Put it this way–if you don’t ascend Sugarloaf Mountain during your visit to Rio, you have no right to claim you’ve actually seen all of the “Marvelous City.”

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

It’s not made of sugar, but the views from the top are undeniably sweet. Take a glass-walled cable car to the top of the 400 m (1,300 ft) mountain to see all of Rio from a bird’s perspective.

Iguazu Falls

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Nature

Iguazu Falls by chensiyuan (CC)
Iguazu Falls by chensiyuan (CC)

When Eleanor Roosevelt saw Iguazu Falls, she exclaimed “Poor Niagara!” At 82 m (270 ft), Iguazu are a third taller than Niagara.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Here’s the real kicker–Iguazu isn’t one stunning fall, but 275 exquisite cascades forming one of the most spectacular waterfall systems in world.

The surrounding rainforest, part of a World Heritage-listed national park, shelters over 2,000 species of plants found nowhere else in the world.

Baia do Sancho

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Beaches

baía e praia do sancho by: Mathieu Bertrand Struck (CC)
baía e praia do sancho by: Mathieu Bertrand Struck (CC)

Baia do Sancho is the beach of your dreams: sugary white sand, calm turquiose water, and a land-before-time vibe.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Numerous publications have named this beach the world’s best. From February to June, two rainfall-fed waterfalls drop from the cliffs forming the bay. Paradise found.

Ibirapuera Park

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Parks

Lago do Parque do Ibirapuera by Xctu (CC)
Lago do Parque do Ibirapuera by Xctu (CC)

Surrounded by museums and monuments, Ibirapuera Park remains one of Latin America’s largest outdoor cultural/recreational areas.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Comparable to NYC’s Central Park, Ibirapuera includes designated sections for jogging, cycling, picnicking, and walking. Many of the surrounding buildings were designed by Oscar Niemeyer, possibly the most influential architect of the 20th century.

Paulista Avenue

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Neighborhoods

Paulista Avenue, São Paulo by The Photographer
Paulista Avenue, São Paulo by The Photographer (CC)

Nowhere is Brazil as cosmopolitan as along Paulista Avenue, home to many cultural and financial institutions notable on a global level.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Flanked by lavish mansions, former homes of Brazil’s powerful coffee barons, the avenue includes an extensive shopping area and boasts one of South America’s most comprehensive art museums.

Jardim Botanico de Curitiba

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Parks

Botanic Garden of Curitiba by Alan Franco (CC)
Botanic Garden of Curitiba by Alan Franco (CC)

The main greenhouse at Jardim Botanico de Curitiba may resemble London’s Crystal Palace, but the collection of native plants makes this garden unmistakably Brazilian.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Researchers from around the world come here to study rare tropical plants. Tourists flock to the garden to see the herbarium and take advantage of tennis courts, cycling tracks, and a large pond filled with carp.

Parque das Aves

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Wildlife Areas

Two Toco Toucans at Parque das Aves by Jorge Andrade (CC)
Two Toco Toucans at Parque das Aves by Jorge Andrade (CC)

Few tourist attractions in Brazil will make you feel as good as Parque des Aves, which rescues and rehabilitates animals unable to survive in the wild.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Zookeepers at this animal shelter will actually let you feed injured wildlife–the efforts you and other volunteers put in make a big difference in the animals’ future ability to return to their native habitats.

Activities for kids of all ages allow young visitors to learn about animal conservation and an important breeding program that reintroduces animals into the wild.

Botanical Garden (Jardim Botanico)

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Parks

Aléia Barbosa Rodrigues by Felipe Ventura dos Santos
Aléia Barbosa Rodrigues by Felipe Ventura dos Santos (CC)

A collection of over 6,500 plants from around the world and Brazil’s largest botanical library–that’s Jardim Botanico for you.

And, it’s right under the right arm of Christ the Redeemer statue, so you can’t miss it even if you try.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

This garden is part of a UNESCO-protected biosphere reserve. If that’s not impressive enough for you, just think–hundreds of species of birds live here completely accustomed to humans, so they’re much easier to observe than in the wild.

Dunas de Genipabu

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Nature

Dunas de Genipabu by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo
Dunas de Genipabu by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo (CC)

Heaven must look a little bit like Dunas de Genipabu–secluded freshwater lagoon, shifting sand dunes, and food kiosks serving up yummy local specialties.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Inside a renowned environmental protection area, these sandbanks keep shape shifting thanks to strong winds, and the ever-changing landscapes surprise even frequent visitors.

It’s the perfect balance between isolated and developed. Plus, a chance to sandboard down some of the biggest dunes in the world.

Ipanema Beach

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Beaches

Ipanema Beach by Jorge Andrade
Ipanema Beach by Jorge Andrade (CC)

How can you go to Brazil without visiting Ipanema Beach?

Answer–you couldn’t possibly.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

It’s one of the world’s top beaches–need we say more? It’s divided into sections by postos (posts), but whichever spot you choose to plop down you’ll enjoy cleaner sand and water than in Copacabana.

Arpoador

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Beaches

Arpoador - Rio de Janeiro by Rafaellagonc
Arpoador – Rio de Janeiro by Rafaellagonc (CC)

Arpador is truly spectacular at sunset, when the big orange ball dropping into the calm ocean creates an impressive show of naturally changing colors.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

This stretch of Rio coastline has the reputation for being one of the best surfing spots in Brazil, with a big rock outcrop forming waves nearly 3 m (10 ft) tall. If you prefer to stay on solid ground, explore the area’s alfresco cafes.

Iguacu National Park

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Nature

Parque Nacional do Iguaçú by Deni Williams (CC)
Parque Nacional do Iguaçú by Deni Williams (CC)

Iguacu National Park boasts one of the world’s most impressive waterfalls, taller even than the famed Niagara.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The 275 cascades forming Iguacu Falls provide countless opportunities for great photography. Beyond the thundering water, the park shelters hundreds of species of rainforest plants and animals.

Rua das Pedras

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Neighborhoods

Rua das Pedras by Marcelo César Augusto Romeo
Rua das Pedras by Marcelo César Augusto Romeo (CC)

It’s not only Buzios’ main street–Rua das Pedras is also a major nightlife and shopping destination.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The cobblestoned street offers access to numerous bars, clubs, galleries, and shops. You really a haven’t been to Buzios until you’ve strolled down the “Stone Street”–locals come here to shop, dine, and flirt the night away.

Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Miscellaneous

Itaipu Dam by Deni Williams
Itaipu Dam by Deni Williams (CC)

Possibly the world’s biggest power plant, Itaipu Hydroelectric Dam produces clean renewable energy and serves as a major tourist attraction.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

It took two countries–Brazil and Paraguay–nearly a decade to build this giant structure, named one of the modern Wonders of the World by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

It’s big, ambitious, and effective. And very, very humbling.

Pinacoteca do Estado de Sao Paulo

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Museums

Ponte da Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo by Rodrigo Soldon
Ponte da Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo by Rodrigo Soldon (CC)

Pinacoteca do Estado de Sao Paolo in a nutshell–Brazilian and European art housed inside a 1900 building that’s one of the city’s most recognizable landmarks.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Innovative and inspiring exhibits designed to get your thinking about the importance of art in the modern world. Plus, a charming cafe facing a lovely public park.

Museu Oscar Niemeyer

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Architecture, Museums

Museu Oscar Niemeyer by Halley Pacheco de Oliveira
Museu Oscar Niemeyer by Halley Pacheco de Oliveira

It’s not only named after the man responsible for much of Brasilia’s architecture–Museu Oscar Niemeyer was designed by the architect dubbed the “King of the Curve.”

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The eye-shaped design of the building inspired locals to call it the “Museum of the Eye.” Inside, rotating exhibits highlight the work of Brazilian and international architects from the 20th and 21st centuries.

Pontao do Lago Sul

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Parks

Paranoá Lake from Pontão do Lago Sul - Brasilia, Brazil by Daderot (CC)
Paranoá Lake from Pontão do Lago Sul – Brasilia, Brazil by Daderot (CC)

Pontao do Lago Sul, a picturesque pier on the southern shores of Lake Paranoa, makes you forget you’re actually in one of South America’s biggest cities.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Undeniably romantic, the place is also family friendly and ideal for outdoor enthusiasts into cycling, rollerblading, or boating. It’s Brasilia’s best spot for fresh air and exercise.

Parque do Caracol

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Nature

Caracol falls by By Tiago Fioreze
Caracol falls by By Tiago Fioreze (CC)

In a country of spectacular waterfalls, Parque do Caracol takes free-falling cascades to the next level–it features a sparkling fall dropping from a staggering height of 130 m (430 ft).

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Even if you’ve seen all the waterfalls you can take in a lifetime, you shouldn’t miss this pretty park. Cable car rides and picnics in a lush forest are just two of the things you can do there with–or without–little kids.

Catedral Metropolitana

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Architecture, Religious Sites

Cathedral of Brasilia by Cayambe (CC)
Cathedral of Brasilia by Cayambe (CC)

Don’t expect to see traditional bell towers at Catedral Metropolitana.

The brainchild of Oscar Niemeyer, it’s constructed of 16 concrete columns curved into the shape of a strange yet beautiful flower.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

If you’re going to see only one Niemeyer structure while in Brazil, this is the one you should pick. Without a doubt one of the world’s most distinctive churches, it features a 2,000 sq m (22,000 sq ft) stained-glass roof.

Beach Park

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Theme Parks

Beach park by João Melo
Beach park by João Melo (CC)

You’d never guess by its humble name, but Beach Park is Brazil’s biggest and best water park.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

You know that phrase “something for everyone?” Well, that actually rings true here.

The park is packed with attractions, from water slides and swimming pools, to game rooms, theaters, fitness centers, tennis courts, and spa facilities.

And that’s just a scratching the surface…

Mercado Central de Belo Horizonte

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Shopping

Mercado Central
Mercado Central (CC)

The best place to shop in any city is right where the locals get all their purchasing done–in Belo Horizonte, that’s Mercado Central.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Basically, it’s the go-to shopping place in town. The vendors sell everything from fresh fruit and veggies, to handmade souvenirs and exotic herbs and spices.

Catedral de Pedra

By country: Brazil Type of attraction: Architecture, Religious Sites

Catedral Nossa Senhora de Lourdes by Tiago Fioreze
Catedral Nossa Senhora de Lourdes by Tiago Fioreze (CC)

A touch of English Gothicism in the middle of Brazil, Catedral de Pedra features a pointy tower rising 65 m (213 ft) into the air.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The “Stone Cathedral” remains one of the most imposing buildings in Brazil–with a carillon of 12 bronze bells imported from Italy and an interior decorated with works by artists Marciano Schmitz and Pablo Herrera. It’s a church wrapped into an art museum.

Best Places to Visit in South America: Chile

Rapa Nui National Park

By country: Chile Type of attraction: Monuments, Ruins

Easter Island, Ahu Tongariki by Arian Zwegers
Easter Island, Ahu Tongariki by Arian Zwegers (CC)

You might know Rapa Nui National Park by another name–Easter Island. Mysterious and enchanting, it’s home to some of the world’s most-photographed stone monuments.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

An ancient Polynesian society that settled the island nearly 2,000 years ago built a powerful and imaginative civilization that survived free of any outside influence. Their “moai,” giant stone figures facing the sea, continue to fascinate scientists and tourists.

Cerro San Cristobal

By country: Chile Type of attraction: Viewpoints

Virgen San Cristóbal by Cratón
Virgen San Cristóbal by Cratón (CC)

Smack dab in the middle of Santiago, Cerro San Cristobal offers the best views of the city and the surrounding area, bar none.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

This big hill is a great place for you to get your bearings after arriving in the city, which spreads all around and stretches its urban tentacles halfway up the slope.

A few more reasons to climb up: the national zoo, a wooden playground with an interactive water fountain, two giant swimming pools, and a small but beautifully landscaped Japanese garden.

Barrio Bellavista

By country: Chile Type of attraction: Neighborhoods

barrio bellavista by Fernando Navarro Urrutia (CC)
barrio bellavista by Fernando Navarro Urrutia (CC)

Barrio Bellavista is an explosion of colors–the bohemian neighborhood’s facades make the private residences look more like gingerbread houses than actual homes.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

You’ll come here for the architecture, but stay for the people and culture. The barrio pulses with life around the clock, as Santiago’s coolest residents congregate at the area’s snazzy bars.

La Chascona

By country: Chile Type of attraction: Museums

Vista de la casa de Pablo Neruda "La Chascona" by Marcelo Ois Lagarde (CC)
Vista de la casa de Pablo Neruda “La Chascona” by Marcelo Ois Lagarde (CC)

Poetry lover or not, you can’t come to Santiago and NOT visit La Chascona, the former quirky home and now quirky museum of Pablo Neruda.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Winner of the 1971 Nobel Prize for Literature, Neruda is a national and continental treasure. He built this house for his lover, Matilde Urrutia, naming it “La Chascona” for her striking red mane. A tour of the house, which features a dining room designed like a ship’s cabin and a dual-faced painting of Urrutia, provides insight into the aesthetic that informed Neruda’s acclaimed poetry.

Barrio Lastarria

By country: Chile Type of attraction: Neighborhoods

Barrio Lastarria by RL GNZLZ
Barrio Lastarria by RL GNZLZ (CC)

If you like places with character, you’ll love Barrio Lastarria, Santiago’s hub of arts and culture.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Buzzing with a bohemian spirit of a European city, Lastarria packs a punch when it comes to cultural offerings–everything from notable national theaters and galleries, to alternative bars and chic cafes call this area home.

Parque Araucano

By country: Chile Type of attraction: Parks

Parque Araucano by Rodrigo Pizarro (CC)
Parque Araucano by Rodrigo Pizarro (CC)

Think of a fun outdoor activity. Add colorful gardens, playgrounds, skate parks, aviaries, bike paths, tennis courts, and green lawns to your mental picture.

What have you got? Parque Araucano, arguably Santiago’s best outdoor attraction.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

There’s so much to do here, you’ll probably want to stay all day–and come back the next. If you run out of steam, run across the street to the big mall, where you can shop, dine, or catch a flick.

Valle de la Luna – Valle de la Muerte

By country: Chile Type of attraction: Nature

Anfiteatro, Valle de la Luna by Diego Delso
Anfiteatro, Valle de la Luna by Diego Delso (CC)

Ever wondered what it would be like to step onto the surface of the Moon?

You don’t have to wonder anymore–Valle de la Luna-Valle de la Muerta transports you to a bizarre lunar-like world formed by natural erosion.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

There’s not a tree in sight here, but there are plenty of weird rock formations that’ll serve you as ideal photo backdrops. Laws of gravity still apply, despite what your gut might be telling you.

Geyser del Tatio

By country: Chile Type of attraction: Nature

Geysers del Tatio, Atacama Desert by Rodrigo Menezes (CC)
Geysers del Tatio, Atacama Desert by Rodrigo Menezes (CC)

You can literally watch the Earth’s thermal energy escape the ground at Geyser del Tatio, the highlight of Atacama Desert’s vast thermal fields.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

This is one for the bucket list–the hot steam released by the powerful forces continuously at work below this desert shoots as high as 6 m (20 ft) into the air. It’s a sight to see, especially if you come at sunrise.

Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos

By country: Chile Type of attraction: Museums

Museo de la Memoria by Warko (CC)
Museo de la Memoria by Warko (CC)

It’s not only a mouthful to say–Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos is a poignant and sobering reminder of the human rights violations committed by dictator Augusto Pinochet.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

During his 17 years in power, Pinochet executed thousands of his compatriots and tortured tens of thousands more. This museum remembers all of them.

Torres del Paine National Park

By country: Chile Type of attraction: Nature

Cuernos del Paine from Lake Pehoé by Miguel Vieira
Cuernos del Paine from Lake Pehoé by Miguel Vieira (CC)

A world of lakes, glaciers, and mountains, Torres del Paine National Park protects nearly 2,500 sq km (940 sq mi) of pristine Patagonian landscape.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Tailor-made for the intrepid adventurers, the park receives over 150,000 annual tourists. Scientists keep watch over the area to ensure local wildlife continues to thrive and future generations have a chance to see Nature at its best.

Huerquehue National Park

By country: Chile Type of attraction: Nature

Parque Nacional Huerquehue, Laguna Verde by Andrei Pojomovsky (CC)
Parque Nacional Huerquehue, Laguna Verde by Andrei Pojomovsky (CC)

Lush hills and deep gorges enclose several sparkling lakes at Huerquehue National Park, a heaven for hiking and camping enthusiasts.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Five different trails allow visitors to explore an unspoiled natural area near the city of Pucon. Pitch a tent at any one of over 20 sites and look up as it gets dark–the incredible starry skies may be one of Chile’s biggest and best surprises.

Best Places to Visit in South America: Colombia

Walled City of Cartagena

By country: Colombia Type of attraction: Historic Sites, Neighborhoods

Las Murallas, the walls of Cartagena by Joe Ross (CC)
Las Murallas, the walls of Cartagena by Joe Ross (CC)

When it comes to strolls through history-steeped areas, few sites compare to Walled City of Cartagena, where colonial architecture meets modern attractions catering to cruise-ship tourists.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Settled by the Spanish in the 16th century, this area is enclosed by thick stone walls erected after an attempted attack by Sir Francis Drake. In addition to photogenic mansions, squares, and churches, the district contains modern restaurants, cafes, and a string of street vendors.

Gold Museum (Museo del Oro)

By country: Colombia Type of attraction: Museums

Museo de Oro, Gold Mask by Mariordo (CC)
Museo de Oro, Gold Mask by Mariordo (CC)

Boasting a collection of 55,000 items, Gold Museum (Museo del Oro) remains one of Bogota’s golden attractions–displaying 6,000 gold objects ranging from tiny jewelry to giant sculptures.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Alongside the museum’s golden treasures, you can see exhibits of ancient pottery and carvings made of stone, wood, and shells. The onsite cafe serves up traditional Colombian food–another reason to spare this museum an hour or two… at least.

Mount Monserrate

By country: Colombia Type of attraction: Religious Sites, Viewpoints

Montanha Monserrate by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo (CC)
Montanha Monserrate by Leandro Neumann Ciuffo (CC)

A city symbol and a heaven for amateur shutterbugs, Mount Monserrate towers over Bogota and offers panoramic views of the urban sprawl and the surrounding countryside.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

If you ascend to the top on clear day, you can see as far as the Nevado del Tolima, a volcanic range 130 km (84 mi) west of the mountain. The top also features a 17th-century church with a Fallen Christ statue linked to a number of miracles.

Museo Botero del Banco de la Republica

By country: Colombia Type of attraction: Museums

Museo de Botero by young shanahan (CC)
Museo de Botero by young shanahan (CC)

With two floors of paintings and sculptures of chubby men, women, and children, Museo Botero del Banco de la Republica adds a bit of character to a classic museum complex.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Most of the works displayed here were created and donated by Fernado Botero, arguably Colombia’s finest contemporary artist. Other highlights include pieces by Picasso, Dali, Chagall, and Matisse.

Perhaps best of all, you can appreciate Botero’s offbeat style free of charge.

Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona

By country: Colombia Type of attraction: Beaches, Nature

Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona by Ben Bowes
Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona by Ben Bowes (CC)

The jungle meets the sea at Parque Nacional Natural Tayrona, Colombia’s top outdoor attraction.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Over 50 rare and endangered species call the pristine natural area home, but most stay hidden deep in the park’s shady rainforests. For most tourists, gorgeous beaches remain the reason to visit this picturesque north Caribbean landscape.

Medellin Metrocable

By country: Colombia Type of attraction: Viewpoints

Metrocable de Medellín by Jorge Gobbi
Metrocable de Medellín by Jorge Gobbi (CC)

Medellin Metrocable may be one of the world’s least expensive sightseeing options, designed to offer quick access to some of the city’s least developed favelas.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

It’s an elevated metro system that lets you see the city from a bird’s-eye view–need we say more?

Oh, yes–and it’s cheap!

Las Lajas Sanctuary

By country: Colombia Type of attraction: Architecture, Nature, Religious Sites

Santuario de Las Lajas, Ipiales, Colombia by Diego Delso (CC)
Santuario de Las Lajas, Ipiales, Colombia by Diego Delso (CC)

How did they build Las Lajas Sanctuary on the edge of that deep river-cut gorge?

Magic, maybe.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

This is one of the world’s strange yet spectacular marvels of engineering–the building sits on a stone bridge spanning a dramatic canyon carved by the Guaitara River. Think fairy tale illustrations and prepare to be stunned.

Best Places to Visit in South America: Ecuador

Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus

By country: Ecuador Type of attraction: Architecture, Religious Sites

Iglesia de La Compañía, Quito, Ecuador by Diego Delso (CC)
Iglesia de La Compañía, Quito, Ecuador by Diego Delso (CC)

Topped by green domes and dripping with extravagance inside and out, Iglesia de La Campania de Jesus dazzles with its stunning golden interior.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Quito’s top Baroque attraction, this church boasts head-to-toe gold leaf decorations–the elaborate furnishings partly explain why the builders took 160 years to complete the structure. See if you can spot images of indigenous Ecuadorian faces subtly depicted on the pillars.

Quito Old Town

By country: Ecuador Type of attraction: Historic Sites, Neighborhoods

Quito calle García Moreno by Cayambe
Quito calle García Moreno by Cayambe (CC)

Latin America’s best-preserved historic center, Quito Old Town earned its World Heritage listing thanks to a dazzling selection of monasteries, churches, and convents from the early colonial days.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Despite the look of the place, the atmosphere is far from colonial here–sightsee with a guided tour, then hit the area’s modern shops and restaurants.

Galapagos Beach at Tortuga Bay

By country: Ecuador Type of attraction: Beaches, Wildlife Areas

Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) on the beach at Tortuga Bay - Galapagos - Santa Cruz Island by David Adam Kess (CC)
Marine Iguana (Amblyrhynchus cristatus) on the beach at Tortuga Bay – Galapagos – Santa Cruz Island by David Adam Kess (CC)

In terms of natural beauty and wildlife diversity, Galapagos Beach at Tortuga Bay is tough to beat. Few places in the world offer so much white sand and such pristine blue waves.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

On most days, your only company on this sandy beach will be iguanas. Throw on your snorkeling gear to discover a stunning underwater ecosystem teeming with fish and thousands of other aquatic creatures.

Intinan Museum

By country: Ecuador Type of attraction: Museums

Inti Nan Museum, Quito by David Berkowitz (CC)
Inti Nan Museum, Quito by David Berkowitz (CC)

Intian Museum boasts an Equator marker nearer the actual center of the Earth than the monument you can visit right next door.

Plus, the exhibits and activities add fun to a very educational visit.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The place for anyone interested in experiencing the power of the planet’s magnetic forces. The museum also includes many ethnographic exhibits, so can learn about Ecuadorian culture in addition to discovering the scientific quirks of the Equator.

El Cajas National Park (Parque Nacional Cajas)

By country: Ecuador Type of attraction: Nature

Cajas National Park, near Cuenca by Alex Proimos (CC)
Cajas National Park, near Cuenca by Alex Proimos (CC)

Magnificent natural views and striking landscapes make El Cajas National Park a great place for those once-in-a-lifetime hiking adventures.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The giant park shelters everything from lush cloud forests to otherworldly landscapes that’ll make you feel life you’ve just stepped onto the surface of the Moon.

Requirements for an unforgettable trip: good boots and a fully charged camera.

Playa de los Frailes

By country: Ecuador Type of attraction: Beaches

Playa de los Frailes, Ecuador by Mihai (CC)
Playa de los Frailes, Ecuador by Mihai (CC)

It doesn’t get more pleasantly secluded than Playa de los Frailes–perfect if you want to really get away from it all and enjoy some quality “me” time.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Shielded from tourists by a sprawling national park, this white-sand beach seems far removed from the rest of the world. Despite this, it offers plenty of facilities, like food stands, restrooms, and changing rooms.

Kaieteur Falls

By country: Ecuador Type of attraction: Nature

Kaieteur Falls by Bill Cameron (CC)
Kaieteur Falls by Bill Cameron (CC)

You haven’t witnessed the power of nature until you’ve seen Kaieteur Falls, nearly five times higher than celebrated Niagara Falls.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

You’ll find few tourists here and an abundance of wildlife, including tiny golden frogs and striking scarlet-colored cock-of-the-rock birds. The surrounding paths provide plenty of spots for outstanding snapshots.

Best Places to Visit in South America: Paraguay

Represa Hidroelectrica Itaipu Binacional

By country: Paraguay Type of attraction: Miscellaneous

Itaipu Binacional hydroelectic dam, Paraguay by Liam King (CC)
Itaipu Binacional Hydroelectic Dam, Paraguay by Liam King (CC)

It’s not only one of the world’s biggest hydroelectric dams–Represa Hidroelectrica Itaipu Binacional is a remarkable engineering feat that stands in testament to the collaboration of two neighboring countries.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Enormous and effective, the structure was named one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, and even had a snazzy piece of music written in its honor by American composer Philip Glass.

Costanera de la Ciudad de Encarnacion Paraguay

By country: Paraguay Type of attraction: Parks

Avenida Costanera, Playa San José Encarnción by Myparaguay (CC)
Avenida Costanera, Playa San José Encarnción by Myparaguay (CC)

In the middle of inland Paraguay, Costanera de la Ciudad de Encarnacion provides an idyllic beach setting backed by modern bars and restaurants.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

This promenade is a hive of activity on warm days, when big crowds jostle for a good spot on the banks of the Parana River. It’s the perfect place to jog, bike, walk, or kick back with a cool cocktail.

Las Cataratas

By country: Paraguay Type of attraction: Nature

Cataratas do Iguaçu by Nico Kaiser (CC)
Cataratas do Iguaçu by Nico Kaiser (CC)

On the convergence of three countries, Las Cataratas crashes down a tall cliff and beats the maximum recorded flow of Niagara Falls more than five times over.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Thanks to its sheer power, this waterfall remains one of those great sights adventurers place near the top of their bucket lists. Simply put–it’s stunning.

The easiest point of access is Ciudad Del Este, a major shopping destination nicknamed the “Supermarket of South America”.

Best Places to Visit in South America: Peru

Machu Picchu

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Historic Sites, Ruins

Machu Picchu early morning by Charlesjsharp (CC)
Machu Picchu early morning by Charlesjsharp (CC)

Most visitors top off their tour of Peru with a stop at Machu Picchu, where the spirit of the Inca Empire lives on surrounded by spectacular natural scenery.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Machu Picchu is one of the world’s best-known archaeological sites–and one of the most important locations for anyone wishing to understand South American history. Thousands of people flock here every day, yet the site retains an atmosphere of mystery and grandeur.

Parque de la Reserva

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Parks

Magical water circuit, Reserve Park, Lima, Peru by Diego Delso (CC)
Magical water circuit, Reserve Park, Lim by Diego Delso (CC)

Probably downtown Lima’s most spectacular spot, Parque de la Reserva boasts one of the world’s largest fountain complexes.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Water, light, and laser shows, synchronized to popular music–it’s what makes this park more than just a shady place to read a book or feed the pigeons. On hot days, there’s no better way to cool off than by splashing in the fountains.

Miraflores

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Neighborhoods

Lima, Peru Miraflores Skyline by Quado678 (CC)
Lima, Peru Miraflores Skyline by Quado678 (CC)

If your travels ever take you to Lima, concentrate your energy on Miraflores, the Peruvian capital’s most affluent district.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Why Miraflores? Simple, and best expressed in the form of a list: beaches, parks, theaters, galleries, shops, cafes, and nightclubs.

And another thing–an entire street dedicated to pizza!

Sacsayhuaman

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Ruins

Sacsayhuamán, Cusco by Diego Delso (CC)
Sacsayhuamán, Cusco by Diego Delso (CC)

Despite your likely first impression, Sacsayhuaman is so much more than a pile of boulders–these ancient stone walls surround a paved area that once probably contained a giant solar calendar.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Ancient engineering doesn’t get much better than Sacsayhuaman. These gargantuan stones were cut with primitive tools and fit together perfectly without the use of mortar–something modern masons probably couldn’t do.

Centro Historico De Cusco

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Historic Sites, Neighborhoods

Plaza de Armas Cusco by karlnorling (CC)
Plaza de Armas Cusco by karlnorling (CC)

Centro Historico de Cusco contains the remains of one of the oldest cities in South America, once the capital of the powerful Incan Empire.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

A stroll through this neighborhood is literally a stroll through history. In addition to many remnants of the extraordinary stonework created by the ingenious Incas, the area contains colonial-era churches, convents, and houses.

Museo Larco

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Museums

Museo Larco by collectmoments (CC)
Museo Larco by collectmoments (CC)

Few museums in the world rival the collection housed at Museo Larco, home to over 50,000 ceramic pots, some of which are over 4,000 years old.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

If you’d rather skip the pots as an unpleasant reminder of your kitchen chores, look for the displays featuring ancient gold and jewels.

Leave the kids at the hotel if you wish to see the exhibit of pre-Columbian erotica and vitrines dedicated to STDs.

Plaza de Armas

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Parks

 Plaza de Armas by Apincheira
Plaza de Armas by Apincheira (CC)

Lima’s history began at Plaza de Armas, a grand square surrounded by impressive architecture and anchored by a big bronze fountain.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

When Francisco Pizarro established Lima in the 16th century, Plaza de Armas became not only the heart of the new city, but also the center of Spain’s sprawling South American empire.

It’s still the center of the city’s social life, an ideal place to meet friends and chat up the locals.

Convento de Santo Domingo

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Architecture, Historic Sites

Convento de Santo Domingo, Cusco bz Diego Delso (CC)
Convento de Santo Domingo, Cusco bz Diego Delso (CC)

The Spanish erected Convento de Santo Domingo over one of the most sacred spots in Incan history–the former site of one of the largest temples ever built in honor of the sun god Inti.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

It may seem like just another church now, but the sun temple once boasted walls coated in gold.

The gold’s long gone, but that unmistakable air of Inca mystique remains, as does a weird blend of architectural styles that symbolizes the clash of two mighty empires.

Salinas de Maras

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Nature

Salineras de Maras by Diego Delso (CC)
Salineras de Maras by Diego Delso (CC)

A world of salt–that’s the best way to describe Salinas de Maras, where ancient Incas produced salt used for religious ceremonies and the finicky business of mummification.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

If you prefer your salt in a little shaker and don’t really care for history of condiments, come to Maras to enjoy the surrounding nature and take a few National Geographic-worthy pictures of the ancient terraced flats.

Monasterio de Santa Catalina

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Architecture, Religious Sites

Peru, Arequipa, Monasterio de Santa Catalina by leander.canaris (CC)
Peru, Arequipa, Monasterio de Santa Catalina by leander.canaris (CC)

The 16th century lives on at Monasterio de Santa Catalina, one of Puru’s finest colonial-era religious complexes.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The monastery opened in 1580, admitting only wealthy girls capable of paying a hefty sum for admission. Today, only 20 nuns remain here, living quiet lives and preserving the complex’s colonial-era atmosphere.

Barranco

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Neighborhoods

Barranco District by tadekk (CC)
Barranco District by Tadek Kurpaski (CC)

Barranco isn’t the world’s only bohemian district, but it very well may be the only one built into a ravine–picturesque settings rarely get better than this!

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

In the 1920s, Lima’s rich and famous residents built summer homes in this scenic area. Today, their beautifully restored Art Deco houses provide an antidote to the city’s nondescript business neighborhoods and slum districts.

Colca Canyon

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Nature

Peru (the Way from Colca Canyon to Puno) by World Wide Gifts (CC)
Peru (the Way from Colca Canyon to Puno) by World Wide Gifts (CC)

Twice as deep as the more famous Grand Canyon, Peru’s Colca Canyon provides a home for majestic condors and hides tiny communities still living according to pre-Inca traditions.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Yes, the canyon’s scenery and trekking opportunities are indeed epic. And when your feet get tired of hiking and your eyes fill with those stunning vistas, you can soak away your weariness at La Calera natural hot springs.

Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Architecture, Religious Sites

 Iglesia de San Francisco, Lima, Perú by Diego Delso (CC)
Iglesia de San Francisco, Lima, Perú by Diego Delso (CC)

Not even a series of earthquakes could knock down Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco, known for its yellow facade and world-renowned library.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Erected in 1774, the church features extensive catacombs that once housed the remains of some 25,000 people. Today, the exquisite building serves as the centerpiece of Lima’s World Heritage-listed city center.

Kuelap Fortress

By country: Peru Type of attraction: Historic Sites, Ruins

Kuelap by Elemaki (CC)
Kuelap by Elemaki (CC)

Second only to Machu Picchu in historical significance, Kuelap Fortress served as a home to the enigmatic Chachapoyas, a.k.a. the “People of the Clouds.”

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Kuelap remains one of the biggest and oldest stone structures in the Americas, built well over 1,400 years ago. The ruins, some 3,000 m (10,000 ft) above sea level, provide unparalleled views of northern Peru’s landscape.

Best Places to Visit in South America: Suriname

Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral

By country: Suriname Type of attraction: Architecture, Religious Sites

Interior of Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral by David Stanley (CC)
Interior of Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral by David Stanley (CC)

Western Hemisphere’s largest wooden structure, the restored Saint Peter and Paul Cathedral was designated a minor basilica by Pope Francis.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Even if you’re not into religious architecture, it’s worth a peek inside this 19th-century building made entirely of Surinamese cedar wood.

The woodwork and intricate carvings are out of this world, and the pipe organ–currently under restoration–is expected to be worth 10 million euros when finished.

Neveh Shalom Jewish Synagogue

By country: Suriname Type of attraction: Religious Sites

Neveh Shalom Synagogue (1835) and the Ahmadiyya Jama Mosque by David Stanley (CC)
Neveh Shalom Synagogue (1835) and the Ahmadiyya Jama Mosque by David Stanley (CC)

With its unusual sandy floor, Neveh Shalom Jewish Synagogue reminds worshipers of the 40 post-Exodus years Hebrews spent in the desert.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

It’s probably not the biggest synagogue ever established in South America, but it is one of its oldest, dating back to 1723. A testament to Suriname’s diversity, right next door stands a prominent Islamic mosque.

Best Places to Visit in South America: Uruguay

Rambla de Montevideo

By country: Uruguay Type of attraction: Neighborhoods

Rambla de Montevideo by todo tiempo pasado fue mejor (CC)
Rambla de Montevideo by todo tiempo pasado fue mejor (CC)

Missing a walk down Rambla de Montevideo, a winding avenue along the city’s curving waterfront, equates to missing a visit to one of Uruguay’s finest outdoor attractions.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The promenade stretches for over 20 km (12 mi) and, thanks to strict regulations limiting urban development, nothing spoils the ocean views. It’s the perfect place for anyone who likes to walk, jog, or cycle and get a great tan at the same time.

Barrio Historico

By country: Uruguay Type of attraction: Neighborhoods

Barrio Histórico, Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay by Emilia Garassino (CC)
Barrio Histórico, Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay by Emilia Garassino (CC)

It’s no wonder the Portuguese and Spanish forces fought for Barrio Historico for over a century–even now, this old town occupies one of the most strategically important locations in South America.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Why should you care about an old neighborhood full of crumbing houses and ruins of Portuguese forts? Well, for one thing, it’s a World Heritage Site.

And for another, this area is so pretty and photogenic, you’ll have plenty of excuses to use that expensive new camera–or selfie stick!

Theatre Solis

By country: Uruguay Type of attraction: Architecture, Theaters

Teatro Solis by Carolina Bonaba (CC)
Teatro Solis by Carolina Bonaba (CC)

Not only Montevideo’s finest performance space, Theatre Solis is also one of the city’s oldest and most important architectural landmarks.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

After a major renovation project, this building from 1856 boasts superb acoustics–perhaps the best in South America.

Not in the mood for opera? Regular tours provide a chance to see the performance area and appreciate the acoustics without having to sit through a show.

Pocitos

By country: Uruguay Type of attraction: Beaches

Montevideo - Playa Pocitos by Gabriel Millos (CC)
Montevideo – Playa Pocitos by Gabriel Millos (CC)

Pocitos proves that Montevideo’s beach culture is alive and well. With its green foreshore and soft sand, the neighborhood bursts with energy on steamy days.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

If you wish to meet the locals but don’t feel like knocking on strangers’ doors, go to Pocitos. Montevideans come here to swim, play soccer, and hang out at the area’s bars.

New friendships guaranteed!

Puerto de Punta del Este

By country: Uruguay Type of attraction: Neighborhoods

Puerto de Punta del Este by Talkingheads (CC)
Puerto de Punta del Este by Talkingheads (CC)

One of South America’s busiest marinas, Puerto de Punta del Este serves as the gateway to Uruguay for anyone arriving by sea.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The marina features nearly 500 moorings and has the capacity to receive up to 350 boasts at once.

Left your yacht at home? Come to Punta to explore its fish markets and restaurants, and keep your eyes peeled for sea lions swimming between luxurious boats.

Auditorio del Sodre

By country: Uruguay Type of attraction: Theaters

TEDxJoven@Montevideo - Auditorio Nacional del SODRE by TEDxJoven Montevideo (CC)
TEDxJoven@Montevideo – Auditorio Nacional del SODRE by TEDxJoven Montevideo (CC)

Very modern and extremely functional, Auditorio del Sodre is the place for attending musical performances, movie screenings, and ballet.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

With a busy schedule of performances, this cultural center caters to every type of visitor–and all kinds of budgets. From classical music to art exhibits, there’s something for everyone here.

Drop by the center’s cafe for a quick pick-me-up, or check out the website for upcoming poetry evenings and other events.

Best Places to Visit in South America: Venezuela

Isla Coche

By country: Venezuela Type of attraction: Beaches

Coche Island by Don Perucho (CC)
Coche Island by Don Perucho (CC)

Western explorers first discovered Isla Coche in 1498, when that intrepid adventurer called Christopher Columbus landed ashore.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Picture white sand, blue water, and a distant horizon where the sea meets the sky. Now picture yourself with your feet in the water and a cold beer in your hand–that’s Isla Coche!

Basilica Virgen del Valle

By country: Venezuela Type of attraction: Architecture, Religious Sites

Iglesia Virgen del Valle, Margarita by Rei2Rey (CC)
Iglesia Virgen del Valle, Margarita by Rei2Rey (CC)

Pilgrims from around the world come to Basilica Virgen del Valle to pay homage to a famed image of Mary, the mother of Jesus.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

This delicate structure remains one of Margarita Island’s major architectural treasures. Inside, you’ll find a warm and welcoming atmosphere. Outside, a small market of handmade souvenirs, candles, and flowers.

Cayo de Agua

By country: Venezuela Type of attraction: Beaches

Cayo de Agua in Los Roques by Tucanrecords (CC)
Cayo de Agua in Los Roques by Tucanrecords (CC)

You’ll find nothing but white sand and blue sea at Cayo de Agua. One word suffices–paradise!

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

The beach is part of one of the Caribbean’s largest marine parks, with access to one of the world’s biggest coral reefs. It’s heaven for snorkelers, divers, and kitesurfers.

It’s time you dug up your beach gear!

Angel Falls

By country: Venezuela Type of attraction: Nature

Angel Falls in Venezuela by Francisco Becerro (CC)
Angel Falls in Venezuela by Francisco Becerro (CC)

Angel Falls–highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Dropping from a height of nearly 980 m (3,200 ft), the waterfall is 15 times higher than Niagara. Impressed yet?

This natural wonder sits in the middle of a World Heritage-listed national park, home to hundreds of species of endemic plant and animal species.

Parque Nacional Morrocoy

By country: Venezuela Type of attraction: Beaches, Nature, Wildlife Areas

Cayo Pelón - Parque Nacional Morrocoy by Rufino (CC)
Cayo Pelón – Parque Nacional Morrocoy by Rufino (CC)

Parque Nacional Morrocoy isn’t your typical national park–it’s also a major beach destination with sandy shores and numerous islets to explore.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Outdoor fun and nature appreciation–it’s like going to biology class right on the beach. The park shelters about 260 species of birds, as well as green sea turtles, dolphins, and whales.

Best Places to Visit in South America: Dependent Territories

Falkland Islands (UK)

Volunteer Point

By country: Falkland Islands Type of attraction: Nature, Wildlife Areas

Volunteer Point, Falkland Islands by Don Faulkner (CC)
Volunteer Point, Falkland Islands by Don Faulkner (CC)

Once almost extinct, king penguins congregate in such huge numbers at Volunteer Point, it’s now one of the world’s top bird conservation areas.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

Arguably the most important tourist destination in the Falklands, the area is also home to ruddy-headed geese, steamer ducks, magellanic penguins, and stilt sandpipers.

What can you do there besides bird-watch? Well, you can take exceptional photos and camp under the stars, or hike along the ocean and join thrilling 4WD tours.

French Guiana (France)

Kourou Space Centre (Centre Spatial Guyanais)

By country: French Guiana Type of attraction: Miscellaneous

Museo del Espacio en Kourou - ESA - Guayana Francesa by Montserrat Boix (CC)
Museo del Espacio en Kourou – ESA – Guayana Francesa by Montserrat Boix (CC)

Here’s something really interesting: Europe’s spaceport is located in French Guiana, in a place called Kourou Space Centre. European Space Agency launches all of its satellites from this facility, 500 km (310 mi) north of the Equator.

Why it’s one of the best South America tourist attractions…

If you time your visit carefully, you can watch a launching from one of the center’s observation points–or join the locals at one of Kourou’s beaches. Guided tours reveal secrets of the cutting-edge control room.

Creating Your Itinerary of the Best Places to Visit in South America

We gave you 101 of the best places to visit in South America.

But you know what? Hundreds more awesome ones aren’t listed here.

Discover them using Inspirock’s South America trip planner. It’ll organize them into a customizable itinerary, saving you tons of time while planning your trip.

Ready to get cracking on your adventure?

Plan your South America itinerary

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