South America begins where the narrow border of Panama ends, at its meeting point with Colombia. This continent is an incredible amalgam of language, landscape, and culture. From the rolling pampas fields of southwestern Argentina to the dense jungle of the Amazon basin, you could spend years exploring the wonders of the thirteen countries of South America.
This name is inextricably woven into the ancient Incan civilization, whose ancient capitol, Cusco lies within its borders. Its modern day capitol is now the city of Lima. It shares the infamous Lake Titicaca with its neighbors to the south Bolivia, and the floating Tortora reed villages are on the Peruvian side of the water border. The Andes are on magnificent display here and is marked with innumerous traces of Incan life. Ancient paved trails that once linked the Inca Empire are still in use today. Hundreds of feet above the Urubamba river are the ruins of Machu Picchu. This Spanish cathedrals contrast with Indian descendants of the Inca; easily recognized by their short stature and colorful embroidered petticoats and bowler hats. From its pristine coastline to the meandering streams, which later become the Amazon, Peru will never fail to astound and delight its visitors.
This is the largest country in South America, with all the diversity you might expect in this country, which covers large areas of the southern continent.
Rio de Janeiro's world famous Carnival is the unquestionably the world's wildest street party. Most of Brazil’s population centers lie on or near the coast.
The city of Sao Paulo matches the country of Brazil in is greatness, it is without a doubt the most cosmopolitan city in all of South America, with the best nightlife and a large immigrant population. On the north coast, the city of Salvador has a beautiful bay dotted with islands, with 80 percent of the people living here being of Afro-Brazilian descent. Spanish and African influences merge to create Capoeira, an amazing combination of dance and martial arts. This city of 2 million is the third largest in Brazil. In the past several years, Salvador's Pelourinho neighborhood has been brought back to its colonial glory, when it was once the wealthiest city in the region. Beyond its coastal cities, most of Brazil is dominated by the Amazon River, which winds through thousands of square miles of pristine rainforest. Incredible natural displays like the puzzling phenomenon of dark and light rivers converging at the meeting of the waters around Manaus are examples of what make Brazil a place unlike any other.
This mountainous country is heavily influenced by the Inca culture, of which this country was once a part. Thousands of square miles of impossibly high peaks of the Cordillera Real extend as far as the eye can see. This is a rugged country to explore, South America tours and expeditions often taking what seems like forever on its unpaved and sometimes dangerous roads, perched on the edge of unprotected precipices that drop thousands of feet. Brave these perils and tests of patience to witness centuries old ceremonies to the sun gods, visit curious witches markets, and explore the well-preserved ruins of Tiahuanico.
This country is one of the smallest in the country, yet it has a strategic location that encompasses some of the best natural features found in South America.
Its capital of Quito is surrounded by majestic views of snow-caped summits. Cathedrals, parks, plazas, and museums are the top things to explore in this city. Warm Pacific beaches, Andean mountains, and jungle rainforest are all included in the borders of Ecuador. The wildlife on the Galapagos Islands, more than 600 miles offshore, inspired Darwin's evolution theory. Visitor travel to these remote islands on a Galapagos Cruises to see the rare species of marine iguanas, giant turtles and massive penguins that live there. Its interior jungle, populated by Amazonian tribes, is one of the most accessible in all of South America.
Chile is a long slice of land on the Pacific coast of South America. Dense forests, soaring mountains, blazing deserts and serene lakes make traveling the length of this country a dizzying whirlwind tour of natural landscape. From the equatorial warmth in its north to the icebergs on the south, Chile has a variety of climates. The ease and convenience you will find traveling in this country are due to the high amount of European visitors on South America tours, which is reflected in prices that are higher than its neighbors. Along with the indigenous Mapuche culture that has managed to preserve its traditional way of life, German, Spanish, Irish and English and immigrants add to the bevy of influences that extends to the people of Chile. The Torres del Paine National Park has mutli-colored granite towers, carved by glaciers. The undulating landscape bears the marks these massive ice floes left on the tundra of these Chilean foothills. Pink flamingoes, fast moving ostriches, dolphins, sea lions and migrating whales frolic in and around the islands and waterways of the scores of small islands that flank the southern coast, making for excellent sigh seeing while you're on a South America cruise. In the capitol of Santiago, Plaza de las Armas is at the heart of the city filled with museums, and cathedrals. The Cerro de (Hill of) Santa Lucia is an important city landmark, it was here that the city was first founded in on February 12, 1541.
This country, bordered by Panama to the north, Venezuela, Brazil to the east, and Peru and Ecuador to the west, has struggled for decades with instability and violence. Right-wing paramilitaries and guerillas, drug lords, and vigilantes all combine to create a situation that can make exploring this country while you travel South America safely nearly impossible. Charming colonial cities, snowcapped mountains, warm sunny beaches, and misty tropical rainforests are the landscapes that combine to make Colombia a beautiful country. The inland capitol of Bogota has the largest collection of gold work from the pre Colombian era, its Museo del Oro housing more than 3,000 precious artifacts of the ancient world.
Behind Brazil, this country is the second largest in South America. Although most visitors will invariably visit the seaside capitol of Buenos Aires, other hidden treasures off the beaten path await your exploration. The tempting peaks of Las Sierras west of Cordoba offer you the finest views, and the splendid cascading waterfalls of Iguazu National Park are destinations that are as relaxing to experience as they are easy to reach.
This place is synonymous with Devil's Island, where prisoners used to be held in solitary confinement. French scientists now work at the aerospace complex and populate Devil’s Island. While it is still hot, humid and bug infested, you can still experience the best in river canoeing and jungle tours. This tourism activity is not well developed, so this experience provides only the basic amenities with minimal comfort, making this a test of patience for those who wish to make this country a stop as they travel South America.
This former British colony is the only country in South America that has English as the official language. You might not find it easy to get around this small country, which is populated with more than 120 indigenous Amerindian communities.
Crystal rivers, unspoiled rainforests and the thundering waters at Kaieteur falls help you understand why it has its name, which means land of many waters. While the capitol of Georgetown is crime-ridden, it's worth braving the perils of Guyana to witness the incredible cultural diversity. Aside from the native tribes, Chinese, African, Indian, and Chinese settlers have merged to create a unique cultural experience.
Most of this country's relatively unpopulated country is comprised of dense jungle, only accessible by plane or boat. In the cities, woodcarvings from the hands of the descendants of escaped slaves are for sale. The capitol of Paramaribo displays the influences of the Spanish, African, and indigenous cultures that have coexisted here for hundreds of years. This country boasts one of the large protected areas of rainforest, with a whopping 3.95 million acres of reserves. The Raleighvallen Reserve is in the northern part of the country, and the Eilerts de Haan Gebergte Reserve is in the south. Explore these with guided South America tours led by indigenous guides.
Nestled between Brazil and Argentina, this relatively prosperous and peaceful little country finds itself the destination for well-to do South American, who travel to this Latin American version of the French Riviera. Excellent weather and clean beaches make this country irresistible to travelers from all over on South America tours. The capital of Montevideo, is no less agreeable. It's charming, safe and fun, with lively festivals all year round. You will enjoy the ease and comfort here and love the hospitality of the polite, friendly population. Incredible resorts and hotels give you a nice set of options for lodging during your stay, which you will find truly enjoyable. Colonia Del Sacramento is a well-preserved colonial city replete with antique charm. The relaxed countryside, with rolling pampas, is a relaxed day trip and every bit as reviving as the rest of its scenery.
Once the political turmoil of this country settles, plan a trip to Venezuela as you prepare to travel South America. Due in part to its eastern Caribbean location, this country has an excellent infrastructure and world class resorts. The capitol of Caracas has some of the finest shopping in the region. In addition, it contains features that draws visitor to South America, such as Andean highlands, tropical rainforests, and cascading waterfalls. Many South American cruise lines docks at its lovely ports.