The best South America vacation spots include a vast diversity of experiences and landscapes. You can experience the lush wilderness of the Amazon rainforest or party at the famous Rio de Janeiro beaches. You may choose to witness magnificent Iguazu Falls or trek through the Andes to the incredible Inca ruins of Machu Picchu. Perhaps, you’ll choose to cruise the Galapagos Islands far out in the Pacific off the coast of Ecuador. The top places to go in South America are varied by taste, of course, but here are some of the best.
One of the best South American destinations for beaches may be Brazil. One of the reasons for this is because the accessible coastline is so very long (more than 4,500 miles). Another reason is that the cosmopolitan city of Rio has been a continuing force in world history since it was first encountered by Europeans in 1502—and, it also has some of the best beaches in the world right in the city and for miles along the coast both to the north and south. Rio de Janeiro is, in fact, one of the best South America vacation spots for wonderful beaches, sophisticated hotels, and vibrant nightlife. Additionally, it is one of the most beautiful cities in the world, on a par with San Francisco and Cape Town for magnificent cityscapes framed by beautiful bay and ocean. Here you will find the iconic statue of Christ the Redeemer and the signature landmark of Sugarloaf Mountain.
Also among the best South American destinations in the country of Brazil are the mighty Amazon River and its vast rainforest, which covers 2.5 million square miles and accounts for a staggering percentage of the world’s biodiversity. There are river cruises down the river, usually from the large port of Manaus, and treks available in the jungle to search for some of the thousands of unique species of exotic flora and fauna.
Nonetheless, there are many countries in the top places to go in South America as well, and Argentina is high on the list. The city of Buenos Aires is one of the most sophisticated in the world, and along with Rio, is where most people who visit the country will spend time. It is blessed with rich history, graceful Spanish colonial architecture, and a vibrant culture that gave birth to the sultry tango. Some of the smartest boutiques in the world are located here, placing the city with Milan and Paris as an international fashion center.
From here, you can access two other of the best South America vacation spots—the vast grasslands know as the Pampas, home of the Argentine cowboys called gauchos and Iguazu Falls marking the border between Argentina and Brazil. You can book vacations on estancias (ranches) to experience life on the plains, or stay in five star resorts in the rainforest around the falls. In Brazil, this magnificent falls that rivals Victoria Falls in Africa is call Iguacu. There is a national park on each side of the river protecting the falls, and both parks are UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
UNESCO World Heritage Sites are often on the list of the top places to go in South America and there are others on the continent, beginning with the Galapagos Islands that protect some of the most unique and endangered life in the world. These islands belong to Ecuador, which boasts three other UNESCO Sites including its lovely old capital city of Quito.
The country of Peru is quite small compared to Argentina and Brazil, but it has an impressive number of UNESCO Sites, including the incomparable ruins of Machu Picchu. Its lovely capital city of Lima and the equally lovely city of Cuzco both boast elegant colonial architecture as well as more Inca ruins. This country is one of the best South American destinations to explore the pre-Columbian past of the continent, including the mysterious Nazca Lines in the high Andean desert. If you want to get really mysterious, you can make the expedition out to the South Pacific Easter Island (a territory of Chile) to ponder its monumental statues. South America is a popular destination for ocean cruises that make port calls at many of the places around the coast from Rio de Janeiro to Valparaiso in Chile. Some of these cruises will cruise along the scenic fjords of Patagonia. Others might push off from Ushuaia on the tip of Tierra del Fuego, and head for an expedition to Antarctica.