16 Amazing Places to Visit in South America

Are you interested in a unique travel experience that is guaranteed to scratch any adventure enthusiast’s itch? Then this list of the best places to visit in South America is for you!

Not only is this area of the world cheap to travel to, but there is adventure around every corner. Peru and Patagonia in Chile/Argentina are huge hiking destinations on many bucket lists.

Why You Should Visit South America

What is there not to love in South America? These countries have a little bit of everything, and the hospitality of the people who live here is top-notch.

Each country is very distinct from one another, which makes the experience of backpacking in this area so unique. From large cities with deeply enriched cultures to some of the largest mountain systems in the world, there is no question that South America has a lot to offer.

Best Time of the Year to Visit South America

woman on top of mountain in south america
Image Credit: Phillip Anderson

The best time of the year differs depending on what country you’re visiting. For instance, if you want to go trekking in Peru, then the best time of the year to do this is from June through August. Although these are technically winter months, it is also the dry season and makes for great hiking weather.

For the southern countries of South America, Spring is a great time to visit. These would be the months of September, October, and November. This time is better for areas at the southern tip, like Patagonia.

Cost of Traveling to South America

While traveling (especially in the short term), flights and accommodation will make up most of your budget. Depending on what you want to do and how long you plan on staying will determine your allotted budget.

Even though South America can be really cheap, it can also be easy to spend more than you have to. The estimated costs are as follows:

  • Flights (high variance): ~$500 – $1000 (round-trip)
  • Accommodation: ~$360 – $900 (per month)
  • Food: ~$150 – $400 (per month)
  • Activities: ~$25 – $500
  • Other Transportation: ~$25- $100

It is possible to get by on $20 – $30 days while traveling in South America. This does not include your flight.

People who tend to travel faster will pay more for activities. Flights and tours/activities have the largest variance from one traveler to the next.

Best Places to Visit in South America

This list is not in any particular order, as each country is amazing in its own way. Every country in South America is worth visiting.

You will fall in love with this region of the world and never want to leave.


Colombia has a booming young culture of music and arts. It is a blend of many cultures from Spanish, African, and indigenous people of the land.

This region of South America is famous for its coffee beans and its unfortunate past. Cities like Medellin are top travel destinations for those looking to party.

There is more to Colombia than partying, as you will soon come to realize. It’s hard not putting Colombia on the list of best places to visit in South America.

1. Minca/Tayrona National Park

minca tayrona national park is one of the best places to visit in south america
Image Credit: Phillip Anderson

One of the world’s most unique areas is the coastal Caribbean town of Santa Marta. This town neighbors a national forest in which indigenous tribes still live.

Up in the neighboring mountains, just 30 minutes away, is the town of Minca. This is a small but adventurous area that is a must when traveling here.

Things to do in Minca/Tayrona National Park

  • Sleep in a Hammock on the Cabo San Juan beach in Tayrona National Park
  • Spend the day at the famous Pozo Azul Waterfalls
  • Take the 2-day trip up to Cerro Kennedy to see the Mountain Ranges

2. Medellin

man walking on trail above medellin in south america
Image Credit: Phillip Anderson

It’s hard to talk about Colombia without talking about Medellin. This is the second biggest city in the country and still growing. Many travelers flock here every year for their world-famous parties.

There is also a whole other side of Medellin that most don’t get to see. They call this the “city of eternal spring” as this area is surrounded by lush forests and many different waterfalls.

It is also super popular to take either a day trip or a couple of nights stay in the town of Guatape. Many different tours are going from Medellin to Guatape every day.

Things To Do in Medellin

  • Take a free walking tour of Communa 13
  • Take the sky rail to Parque Arvi
  • Hike the Cerro Tres Cruces hill
  • Visit Medellins Largest waterfall at Salto del Angel
  • Hike up the steps of La Piedra Del Peñol (Guatape Rock)

3. Coffee Region

coffee on table in south america
Image Credit: Phillip Anderson

This region of Colombia consists of the departments Caldas, Risaralda, and Quindío. It is very touristy here, but it is a completely different side of Colombia that you must see.

The vibe in these areas is extremely laidback, and the hospitality is the best in the country. It feels like nobody has a care in the world, and sometimes that’s okay.

This region stretches from the department of Salento all the way up to just south of Medellin.

Things To Do in Colombia’s Coffee Region

  • Visit Valle de Cocora (home to the tall palm trees)
  • Hike to La Cueva del Esplendor in Jardin
  • Go on a coffee tour in Salento
  • Do the four waterfall hike in Jardin


The largest country in South America and the 5th largest in the world, Brazil is a breeding ground for fun and adventure. The landscape throughout this country varies drastically depending on where you’re at.

Some might expect Brazil to be a Spanish-speaking country, but it is, in fact, not. Portugal once used to rule this part of the world, and because of that, the main language in this country is Portuguese.

You will find many different attractions ranging from treks in the Amazon rain forest, surfing on its coasts, and participating in their love for soccer (or football).

4. Rio de Janeiro

Most travelers who are planning to travel to South America have heard of Rio de Janeiro in Brazil. It is home to many beaches, huge parties, and a rich history.

The carefree lifestyle that embodies everyone you come across is addicting once you get around it. Everyone loves to have a good time, and you will too.

It is a truly postcard-worthy city with the backdrop of a beach, mountains, and tall buildings.

You would be silly to miss this city if you were visiting Brazil.

Things To Do in Rio de Janeiro

  • Hike up to the world-famous Christ the Redeemer (New World Wonder)
  • Attend the Carnival Festival (the largest party in the world)
  • Party the night away in the Lapa District
  • Take in the breath-taking scenery while lying on one of its many beaches

5. Manaus

Manaus is the largest city that has easy access to the Amazon Rainforest. You will not have an issue finding a tour company of your liking for a good price.

This city neighbors the Amazon river, which gives it an extremely unique feel.

The best time to visit Manaus is either between June – August or December – February. These two time periods offer a different look into the beauty of this area.

Just because these are the preferred months to travel to Manaus doesn’t mean you shouldn’t go during the other months. You will see changes in water level and more wildlife depending on whether you’re coming in the dry or wet seasons.

Things To Do in Manaus

  • Spend the night in an Amazonian Lodge
  • Visit the many different waterfalls in the area
  • Take a tour through the Anavilhanas Nature Reserve
  • Spend the day on the Ponta Negra Beach

6. Chapada Dos Veadeiros National Park

A more remote location that has been gaining popularity in recent years is the Capada dos Veadeiros National Park. It is said that this place has a mystical feel to it from its beauty and the people who live here.

The nature and scenery in this part of Brazil are something you must see for yourself. You will never get tired of hiking around in this park.

Things to do in Chapada dos Veadeiros

  • Take incredible photos of the crystal clear waters of Santa Barbara Waterfall
  • Hike to the Mirante da Janela viewpoint
  • Go cliff jumping at the Almecegas Waterfall


Neighboring Colombia to the south is the country of Ecuador. The country’s name is equator in Spanish. This is due to the equator going through the country and being close to the capital of Quito.

The geography varies largely in this part of the world, from pristine beaches to snow-capped peaks of the Andes Mountains. Ecuador is also famous for having the closest place to the sun, which is the Chimborazo Volcano.

Ecuador truly has it all, from easy hikes to beaches to top-of-notch volcano hikes.

One of the areas that has it all is Baños de Agua Santa.

7. Baños de Agua Santa

waterfall in south america
Image Credit: Phillip Anderson

This is often considered to be the adventure capital of Ecuador. Here you will have many activities to choose from on a daily basis.

It is also one of the safest areas in the whole country to visit. Located only three hours from the capital of Quito.

Things To Do in Baños

  • Visit a Thermal Bath House (the reason for the city to be called Baños)
  • Hike Volcano Tungurahua
  • Travel to the famous Pailon del Diablo waterfall
  • Go White Water Rafting


As you continue south, you will run into Peru. This country is referred to as the hiking capital of South America.

The attraction that brings in the most visitors per year is Machu Picchu. In 2021, this attraction saw around 447,000 visitors.

This may seem like a lot, but pre-covid (in 2019), Machu Picchu saw around 1.5 million visitors.

It is a new world wonder for a reason, but if you don’t like to do extremely touristy activities, do not fret. There is plenty of other amazing things to do in Peru.

After visiting Peru, it will be on your list of the best places you’ve traveled to in South America.

8. Cajamarca

steps overlooking cajamarca is one of the best places to visit in south america
Image Credit: Phillip Anderson

Many travelers may not have heard of Cajamarca before in their life. It is a very famous place amongst locals because of the immense amount of history this place has.

The last Incan Emperor was captured here. The rumor is that he offered to fill the room he was being held in with gold & silver. Once he delivered that promise, he was executed anyway.

This part of Peru should be on everyone’s list if they want to see a less touristy side of the country and learn more about its history.

Things To Do in Cajamarca

  • Hike to the Mirador Santa Apolonia
  • Visit one of the oldest archaeological sites in the country at Cumbe Mayo
  • Take a collectivo to Baños for a thermal bath
  • Take a tour of the Ransom room

9. Huaraz

man smiling overlooking lake in huaraz south america
Image Credit: Phillip Anderson

If you are one to hike, trek, or do some mountaineering, then Huaraz is the place for you. It is considered by many to be the hiking capital of Peru, and you can see why.

Huascarán National Park is located next to Huaraz and is a UNESCO World Heritage site. In this park is the famous Cordillera Blanca, which is the world’s highest tropical mountain range.

You will have to visit here multiple times to be able to complete every trail and trek available.

Things To Do in Huaraz

  • Hike to Laguna Paron to view one of the bluest lakes you’ll ever see
  • Spend the night at Refugio Peru before hiking to Laguna 69
  • Traverse some chains on your way to Laguna Churup
  • Some other great day hikes include Laguna Wilcacocha, Laguna Llaca, and Laguna Ahuac

10. Huacachina

couple on top of jeep in sand dunes in huacachina south america
Image Credit: Phillip Anderson

This area of Peru is one of the most unique areas in all of South America. Huacachina is a desert Oasis located a few hours south of the capital Lima.

It is a very popular backpacker and local tourist attraction because of its ease of access. Visiting Huacachina is a nice break from the high altitude living in other parts of the country.

You don’t need to spend much time here, but it is totally worth the visit.

Things To Do in Huacachina

  • Climb the famous dunes
  • Watch the sunset on a rooftop bar
  • Ride a dune buggy and have your breath taken away
  • Test your skills on the dunes with sandboarding

11. Cusco

cusco south america
Image Credit: Phillip Anderson

Last but not least in Peru is the famous city of Cusco. This was the capital of the Incan Empire from 1400 to 1534. This was the largest ever empire in the Americas and also the largest during their time.

Cusco has become very popular amongst tourists around the world for one destination, Machu Picchu. This archaeological spectacle was found in 1911 by Hiram Bingham.

Pre-covid times, this city was getting over 1 million visitors per year.

  • Even if you don’t like crowds, you must visit Machu Picchu
  • Hike the famous 5-day Salkantay Trek
  • Take a day trip to Laguna Humantay
  • People watch in the Cusco main square


When you are planning your visit to South America, it may be easy to overlook the country of Bolivia. The country that borders Peru to the east is full of many adventures with its own twist.

What was once part of the Incan empire, Bolivia (which was considered part of Peru at the time) had the largest supply of silver in the western world. This silver was discovered near the town of Potosi.

The discovery of this silver helped make it the largest urban city in the world during its peak.

12. La Paz

La Paz is the executive capital of Bolivia, and it is a unique one. This city is 3,624 meters high or 11,893 feet. That makes this the highest capital city in the world.

There are many things to do here, but the first thing that is suggested is not to do anything for a few days to get used to the altitude.

That shouldn’t be so hard with this city’s spectacular backdrop. You can sit down and enjoy a coffee while gazing at the Andes mountains in the background, which include Mount Illimani and Huayna Potosi.

Things To Do in La Paz

  • Reach the 6,088-meter peak (19,974 ft) of Huayna Potosi
  • Ride your bike down the famous ‘Death Road’
  • View the city from above while you ride the telefericos
  • Enjoy a coffee/tea in one of the great shops around town

13. Lake Titicaca

To the west and close neighbors of La Paz lies Lake Titicaca. This is the highest-standing lake in the entire world. It is truly one of the best places to visit in all of South America.

Another thing that makes this lake so special is that it borders Peru. This gives it a unique feeling to see another country from across the water.

Lake Titicaca has become part of the famous South American backpacking route, and for good reason. You don’t want to miss out on this attraction.

Things To Do in Lake Titicaca

  • Take a boat to visit Isla del Sol which offers clear waters and many hiking trails
  • Complete the Yampupata to Copacabana hike
  • Explore the town of Copacabana and witness its many celebrations

14. Salar de Uyuni

You may not think you’ve seen pictures, but it is very likely you have. Bolivia is famous for its picturesque salt flats known as Salar de Uyuni in Spanish.

Uyuni is the town next to these flats.

These salt flats are 4,050 square miles in length which makes them the largest in the world. This area of Bolivia is the most visited in the entire country.

What makes this area so picturesque is that the salt flat is essentially one large mirror when it rains. The water will sit on top of the salt as still as can be.

You want to make sure not to miss this bucket list destination in Bolivia.

Things to do in Salar de Uyuni

  • Visit the train wagon cemetery
  • Have a photo shoot on the famous salt flats
  • Take a trip to the Sol de la Manana Geysers


If you look at the map of South America, it is hard to miss Argentina. It is one of the biggest countries in all of Latin America.

Some of the things that Argentina is known for are its Italian heritage, soccer, wine, coffee shops, and Patagonia. It is impossible to see this whole country in just a short vacation time.

If you love food, wine, and mountains, then this is the place for you.

15. Buenos Aires

This is the capital of Argentina and is in the northern part of the country. Since this is a city, there won’t be as many hikes as there are in the southern part of the country.

What this city lacks in mountains, it exceeds in food and drink.

There is a huge coffee culture here as well. As you can see, many of these traits are similar to that of Italy.

Things To Do in Buenos Aires

  • Enjoy a steak dinner with a malbec wine
  • Sit down for a drink/snack in one of their many famous coffee shops
  • Take a stroll through the vibrant neighborhood of La Boca
  • Take dancing lessons to learn tango

16. Patagonia

Located around 30 hours by car, south of Buenos Aires is the region of Patagonia. This region is actually shared with their neighboring country of Chile.

Some interesting facts about Patagonia include:

  • The world’s southernmost city is in the Patagonia region of Chile
  • The largest dinosaurs were found in Patagonia
  • There are more than a dozen national parks located here

The part on Argentina’s side has a mixture of desert, grasslands, and some glaciers. It is also possible to hike from Chile to Argentina in one day.

Things To Do in Patagonia

  • Visit Glaciares National Park in Argentina to see Perito Moreno Glacier
  • Go hiking in the Cerro Campanario in Bariloche
  • Visit a King Penguin Colony
  • Go whale watching
  • Follow the Ruta 40 in Argentina

Conclusion: Best Places to Visit in South America

The best places to visit in South America are not confined to this list. This continent is full of amazing people and spectacular experiences.

This area of the world is great no matter what style of traveler you are.

When looking at the map, you may think a country is small compared to others worldwide. I suggest that you truly take your time while visiting here.

Traveling to South America will leave you with many stories that you can tell your grandkids about. And maybe some stories that you may want to keep to yourself.

Phillip Anderson