Located mostly in the tropics, South America enjoys a generally warm climate all year-round. To complement that ideal weather, the world’s fourth largest continent also boasts of the best beaches in the world, being strategically bordered by the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.
The continent is also dotted with ancient remains of some of the world’s oldest civilizations. There is so much more to discover, so here are the top 12 travel destinations in South America to give you the best Latino experience.
12. Valparaiso, Chile
The colorful city of Valparaiso is nicknamed “The Jewel of the Pacific”, and rightly so. This UNESCO World Heritage Site boasts of a wide array of well-preserved architectural marvels, like the Iglesia de la Matriz, as well as several funiculars around the city. Aside from its picturesque cityscape, Valparaiso is also the perfect place to try pisco sour, the national drink of Chile, or grab a plate of chorillana.
11. Cartagena, Colombia
The port city of Cartagena faces the Caribbean Sea, which is why it is a top destination for beach lovers. The nearby Baru Island, which houses the famous Playa Blanca, is linked to the city by the Puente de Baru. Cartagena has an inner walled city, as well as several fortresses that reflect the city’s colonial past.
Most notable among these monuments are the Castillo San Felipe de Barajas, and the fortresses of San Fernando de Bocachica and San Juan de Manzanillo. As night falls, pause for a while and enjoy the sunset views from La Popa.
10. Lake Titicaca
The largest lake in South America is bordered by Peru and Bolivia, and is home to several islands depicting the cultural uniqueness of its inhabitants. Consistent travel favorites include the islands of Amanti, Taquile, Isla del Sol, and the man-made islands of the Uru people. The night sky over the lake is especially famous for its stellar view of the Milky Way.
9. Easter Island, Chile
Easter Island is one of the most highly photographed places in the world, owing to the moai stone statues scattered all over the island. These well-preserved structures were believed to be carved by the ancient Rapa Nui people in as early as 1250 CE. Most of the island is protected within the Rapa Nui National Park, and is declared as a World Heritage Site.
8. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Nature lovers shouldn’t miss a chance to visit the Galapagos Islands. The islands offer about a hundred visitor sites, including around 60 snorkeling sites for a personal encounter with the Galapagos turtles and sea lions. The archipelago is also the perfect place to simply admire the wonders of nature, and observe species in their natural habitat, or take a stroll along its volcanic fields.
7. Los Roques, Venezuela
The Los Roques National Park consists of around 300 islands, islets, and cays, and boasts of being home to the most beautiful coral reefs in South America. Its pristine waters are the perfect venue for water activities like snorkeling, kitesurfing, paddling, and diving. With an average temperature of 27 degrees Celsius all year round, its serene beaches offer the perfect escape from the hustle and the bustle of the city.
6. Ouro Preto, Brazil
The old mining town of Ouro Preto is noted for its well-preserved Baroque architecture. Its cobblestone streets and old buildings take its visitors back to the 17th and 18th centuries, giving a glimpse of the city’s colonial past.
Notable attractions include the churches of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, St. Francis of Assisi, and Immaculate Conception. The annual street carnival of Ouro Preto is also a must-see for fun-loving tourists.
5. Iguazu Falls
Bordering Argentina and Brazil is the breath-taking beauty known as the Iguazu Falls. The 2.7-kilometer long falls is divided into around 250 smaller cataracts with drops ranging from 60 to 82 meters. Aside from the Iguazu Falls itself, travelers can get a glimpse of the colorful exotic birds around the area.
4. Torres del Paine, Chile
The Torres del Paine National Park offers the most picturesque views of Lake Pehoe and the Paine Massif. It is a popular hiking and camping spot in Chile, especially during the southern summer months. Aside from its peaceful landscape, Torres del Paine is also home to a wide array of exotic flora and fauna, making it a favorite for nature lovers.
3. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Often dubbed as the “Paris of South America”, the Argentine capital of Buenos Aires exudes a European charm, owing to its colonial past. Much of its Spanish architecture remains, offering one of the most beautiful panoramic views in the country.
The rich cultural scene in Buenos Aires makes it a tourist favorite, especially when the city hosts music festivals like the Buenos Aires Jazz Festival. The city is also lined with restaurants to get a taste of their famous empanadas and Argentine barbecue.
2. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The vibrant city of Rio de Janeiro is famous for its perfect balance between the busy city life and a laid back beach culture. One of the city’s most popular attraction is the 30-meter tall Christ the Redeemer statue which is often depicted as overlooking the cityscape.
Media and pop culture has made Rio’s beaches popular, especially Ipanema and Copacabana.
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
Topping the list is the Inca citadel of Machu Picchu in Peru. Its location at 2,430 meters above sea level, as well as its well-engineered terraces, still intrigues archaeologists today.
Machu Picchu has been declared as a natural and cultural heritage site, owing to its highly preserved state. Visitors not only get a glimpse of how the Incas lived, but also get to appreciate the breath-taking view of the surrounding mountains.