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Ten Great Places to Visit in South America

Updated on February 21, 2015

South America is a wonderful, diverse and fascinating continent to visit. The best destinations combine amazing weather with beautiful geography, friendly people and a rich and vibrant sense of history and culture. Whether you're travelling in Chile, Peru, Argentina, Ecuador, Brazil or Columbia, here are ten superb places that you'll definitely want to visit and experience for yourself.

  • Peru - Arequipa & Machu Picchu
  • Ecuador - Quito
  • Columbia - Cartagena & Medellin
  • Argentina - Buenos Aires & Iguazu Falls
  • Chile - Valparaiso
  • Brazil - Rio de Janeiro & Salvador da Bahia

South America is a continent of beauty, wonder and awe-inspiring places
South America is a continent of beauty, wonder and awe-inspiring places | Source

Arequipa - Peru

The second largest city in Peru, Arequipa is a bustling center of commerce and industry, with a rich history as a focus for rebellions as Peru developed into republic. The center of the city is a World Heritage Site that occupies over 300 hectares of land and contains over 5,500 buildings, richly decorated in a style called 'School Arequipa'.

These are complemented by several important churches and cathedrals and a wealth of gardens in the city. About 100 miles outside, you will find Colca Canyon. At over 13,000 feet deep, the canyon is over twice the depth of the Grand Canyon in the US and is a perfect place for walking and hiking.

The city of Arequipa sprawls in front of magnificent mountains
The city of Arequipa sprawls in front of magnificent mountains | Source

Machu Picchu - Peru

Regarded as one of the most famous and important archaeological sites in the world, Machu Picchu is a 15th century Inca site located nearly 8,000 feet above sea level. The site has become the most important tourist attraction in Peru and draws hundreds of thousands of visitors every year.

Theories about the use of the site include it being a temple for 'The Virgins of the Sun', that it was the last Incan city, that it was built to respect the landscape around it or that it was a retreat for Incan royalty.

Machu Picchu - A place of mystery, nestled in the mountains of Peru
Machu Picchu - A place of mystery, nestled in the mountains of Peru | Source

Quito - Ecuador

Quito is the highest capital city in the world, located at nearly 10,000 feet up in the mountains. You can see absolutely breathtaking views across the city and the mountains, especially from the spectacular cable car ride from the city up to Cruz Loma at 13,500 feet.

Other great places to visit in the city include the incredibly well-preserved historic city-center, the Carondelet Palace, which is the main government building, the Basilica del Voto Nacional, the Cathedral of Quito, several renowned museums and many art galleries.

The lights of Quito
The lights of Quito | Source

Cartagena - Columbia

A port city on the north coast of Columbia, founded in the early 16th century, Cartagena contains a beautiful walled city and fortress that can be explored over two or three days.

You can also visit the Cartagena Gold Museum, the Palace of the Inquisition and many other historic sites, several of which were heavily influenced by piracy in the Caribbean area. The Islas de Rosario islands can be easily reached by ferry and boast some of the most beautiful beaches in the world.

A beautiful street in Cartagena, Columbia
A beautiful street in Cartagena, Columbia | Source

Medellin - Columbia

The second largest city in Columbia, founded in the early 17th century, Medellín is now a major center of education, science, commerce, technology, culture and festivals. It is a very easy place to travel around and one of the most beautiful cities in the whole of South America.

Located in the Andes mountains, the weather is very good throughout the year and the locals are very welcoming of travellers. Places worth visiting there include Arví Ecotourism Park, the Metropolitan Cathedral and the Palacio de la Cultura.

The Metro Cable is one of the best ways to see Medellin
The Metro Cable is one of the best ways to see Medellin | Source

The most beautiful places in the world - South Amercia

Buenos Aires - Argentina

As the wealthiest city on the continent, Buenos Aires has an incredible mix of architectural styles, cuisine, tourist attractions, history, culture and much more. As one of the world's largest and most important cities, Buenos Aires has been nicknamed 'The Paris of South America.'

The city boasts the highest concentration of theaters anywhere and is a vibrant center of art, history and culture. The former Archbishop of Buenos Aires, Jorge Mario Bergoglio, went on to become Pope Francis.

Quirkiness abounds in Buenos Aires
Quirkiness abounds in Buenos Aires | Source

Iguazu Falls - Argentina

An utterly spectacular group of waterfalls that need to be seen to be believed, Iguazu Falls are a set of waterfalls almost two miles wide, featuring nearly 300 individual waterfalls that fall between 200 and 300 feet. The falls can be reached from the city of Puerto Iguazú in Argentina and they are a third again as high as Niagara falls in North America. Not to be missed.

The power and beauty of the water and the sun at Iguazu Falls
The power and beauty of the water and the sun at Iguazu Falls | Source

Valparaiso - Chile

A friendly, relaxed and artistic city commune on Chile's coast, Valparaiso is one of Chile's major cities and seaports. Officially declared the cultural capital of Chile, the historic quarter is also a World Heritage Site.

The combination of beautiful architecture and cobbled streets has made Valparaiso a popular destination and the welcoming locals and varied culture ensure that it's a friendly, diverse place to visit.

Valparaiso, a magnificent city
Valparaiso, a magnificent city | Source

Rio de Janeiro - Brazil

One of the most beautiful places on the continent, Rio is a very popular destination in South America and one of the largest cities in the world, with over 6 million inhabitants.

The city celebrates a diverse range of people, cultures, cuisines and outlooks, and this, combined with Brazil's love of the outdoor lifestyle, sports and passionate living makes for an amazing place to visit. There are dozens of 'must see' sights in Rio including Maracanã Stadium, Christ the Redeemer, many miles of beaches, cable cars, the Theatro Municipal and much more.

Rio de Janeiro, a truly iconic city
Rio de Janeiro, a truly iconic city | Source

Salvador da Bahia - Brazil

Situated on the north east coast of Brazil, Salvador celebrates a very rich African-Brazilian heritage replete with great history, culture and a welcoming atmosphere. The city is known as Brazil's 'Capital of Happiness', due to the large number of parties and outdoor events that take place there.

This includes the Salvador Carnival, reputedly the best carnival in Brazil. Additionally, Porto da Barra Beach was voted one of the best beaches in the world.

Salvador da Bahia, one of the happiest places in South America
Salvador da Bahia, one of the happiest places in South America | Source

Beautiful, wonderful South America

Wherever you travel in South America, you're sure to have a fantastic time and you'll have plenty of stories to share when you return. Why not make a point of visiting some of these places next time you're planning a vacation? Happy journeys!

Which of these places would you like to visit most?

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    • gillesdeleuze profile image

      Gilles Deleuze 16 months ago from France

      Excellent and spectacular guide. Never been to South America. Some places I really need to vist, but I will first finish my Asia travels.

    • Akriti Mattu profile image

      Akriti Mattu 2 years ago from Shimla, India

      Any post that gives me new destinations to travel becomes my favourite :)

      Your post is just awesome. I feel like taking a flight right now and visiting each of these wonderful locations :) Voted up :)

      I recently wrote about my solo travel experience in India. Traveling is an inseparable aspect of my existence.