Home to the longest mountain range, largest salt flats, and the tallest waterfall in the world, South America is booming with once in a lifetime experiences waiting around every corner.
With 14 beautiful countries and their remarkable cities, it can seem impossible to narrow down the must see destinations.
Whether you like outdoor adventures, history lessons, tasting authentic cuisine, navigating through city streets, or socializing with the locals – we got you covered.
Read on for a list of 10 impressive places to see as you prepare for your next adventure.
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1. Asuncion, Paraguay
One of the oldest settlements in South America, Asuncion is extremely underrated – which means there’s a good chance you’ll have this magnificent little city all to yourself.
Visit Museo del Barro to learn about Paraguay’s history and observe some ancient relics like wood carvings, ceramics, masks, and religious sculptures.
Walk along the lovely path of La Costanera – or rent rollerblades if you’re feeling active. Double up on the beauty by planning your walk around sunset.
Fall in love with the vibrant neighborhood of Loma San Jerónimo, and admire the stunning architecture, local boutiques, and tasty cheese rolls.
Stop by the Mercado Cuatro for all things Paraguay, including authentic street food vendors, handmade crafts, and fresh produce.
Visit Palacio de Los López, the presidential palace, at nightfall; the building is lit up and every inch is shining bright.
After a day of taking in the sights, head over to La Casa del Mojito for a one-of-a-kind cocktail at the rooftop bar (do I hear drinks with a view?).
2. Puerto Iguazú, Argentina
Right on the border of Brazil and Argentina, the small town of Puerto Iguazú packs a punch with its many waterfalls.
Iguazu Falls gives Niagara Falls a run for its money with a series of 275 cascading falls surrounded by a thick, tropical forest. The falls are actually the largest system of waterfalls in the entire world, making a trip to the city worth it for this wonder alone.
Get ready to get wet as you walk along the boardwalks around and under the falls for out-of-this-world views. Take the train up to the highest point, Garganta del Diablo, for an impressive view overlooking the falls – but be sure to wear a raincoat to avoid getting soaked.
There’s a good chance you will see coati, the Argentinian raccoon, along the trails – so have your camera ready.
For a different experience, take to the falls via a motorboat for a guided tour that is sure to get your heart pumping and leave you soaked in the process.
If you happen to be in town for a full moon, you don’t want to miss the full moon tour of the falls where you’ll listen to the nocturnal wildlife, admire the falls in the moonlight, and even possibly catch a midnight rainbow.
3. Georgetown, Guyana
Known as “The Garden City of the Caribbean”, the capital of Guyana is filled with lush greenery, historical landmarks, and some of the friendliest people you’ll ever meet.
The town was once completely made of wood, but after a terrible fire in 1945 many of the buildings were rebuilt to the structures standing today. One structure that has withheld since 1889 is City Hall, a historical landmark, which reflects the original neo-gothic style and tropical colonial architecture.
Take a guided tour and taste test 3 different kinds of rum at El Dorado Rum Distillery, the last distillery of its kind.
Hangout with the friendly manatees at Georgetown Central Park. If you don’t see them right away, try tapping the water with your hand or drawing them in with some tall grass.
Check out the very busy, 24/7 Bourda Market for some fresh fruit, veggies, spices, local medicine and more.
For a one of a kind dinner experience head over to the Backyard Cafe – where you can pick out your own fresh ingredients for chef Delven Adams, to cook right before your eyes.
4. Montevideo, Uruguay
Established in 1724 by Spanish soldier Bruno Mauricio de Zabala, Uruguay’s capital city is not only its largest, but is also the hub for the country’s culture, history, and European influence
Pay your respects at the mausoleum and monument dedicated to military leader José Gervasio Artigas, located in the Plaza Independencia. Some major historic landmarks are also located just steps from the Plaza, like the remains of the fortress walls that once stood tall around the city, the Estevez Palace, and Palacio Salvo.
Fun fact: The 33 palm trees that line the plaza square were planted in remembrance of the 33 soldiers that lost their lives in the war for independence.
Make sure to wear your eating pants to Mercado del Puerto, where you can enjoy some of the country’s finest dishes like their iconic asado BBQ.
If you aren’t lucky enough to visit the city during its 40 day long carnival, dedicated to the country’s vibrant culture, the Carnival Museum is the next best thing if you’re looking for a taste of how the city celebrates and the carnival’s importance to the country.
Some other museums to visit include Museo Blanes, Pittamiglio Castle, Museo Andes 1972, and Museo del Gaucho and Currency.
5. La Macarena, Colombia
The adorable city of La Macarena has a lot to offer – but the highlight is its national park. Serranía de la Macarena is unlike any other park in the world – bringing three very different landscapes together to create an awe-inspiring, diverse environment. The park combines the Andes Mountains, the Amazon Rainforest and the Orinoquia Basin.
Biodiversity booms here with endangered and eccentric species including anteaters, jaguars, pumas, deer, eight monkey species, 500 bird species, 1200 insect species and 100 reptile species.
Spend your day admiring the contrast between the unique rock formations of the savannahs and the lush greenery of the rainforest, while watching wildlife every step of the way.
There are quite a few breathtaking waterfalls within the park, but the one that stands out is the Waterfalls of Caño Cristales. The 62-mile Caño Cristales River boasts cascading falls that share the colors of the rainbow. To see the waters during its peak colors of red, yellow, blue and green, you will want to plan your visit between June and October.
In order to visit the park you’ll need to obtain a permit, and access to Caño Cristales is only possible with a licensed tour guide.
6. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Known for having the bluest sky in the entire world, it’s no surprise that Rio de Janeiro is overflowing with beauty.
Hop on a train and enjoy the view as you make your way up to the summit of Mount Corcovado to see the famous, 98-foot tall statue of Christ the Redeemer.
Take the cable car up and around Sugarloaf Mountain for some extraordinary views of the ocean and the city from its summit. You’ll see people sunbathing, enjoying cocktails and partaking in water based activities at Copacabana Beach. There are a few restaurants at the top if you want to take a break or give yourself an excuse to spend more time on this lovely mountain.
See how the biggest carnival in the world is organized and learn how to play some of the instruments during a Samba City Tour.
Hangout at Downtown Rio’s close competitor, Santa Teresa; walk down the artsy streets, pick from a variety of restaurants, and enjoy a night of live music.
Tijuca Forest is a 8,300-acre park with free admission – so put on your hiking shoes, take to the trails, and keep an eye out for some of the 350 different species of wildlife that live here.
Before you leave, be sure to stop at Feira Hippie de Ipanema, the “Hippie Market”, for some handmade souvenirs you won’t find anywhere else.
7. Loja, Ecuador
Founded in 1542, this underrated city is rich in history and lush beauty and is perfectly located between the Malacatos & Zamora rivers.
Not only is Loja the only place in Ecuador with a city gate, la Puerta de la Ciudad looks more like a castle – and houses a museum, café, and sculptures of Don Quixote and his sidekick, Sancho.
Walk along the stunning gardens and historic monuments that make up Plaza Parque Central.
Restored on three separate occasions in completely different time periods, the unique architecture of The Loja Cathedral is unconventional, to say the least.
Grab your camera and head down to the narrow streets of Calle Lourdes to capture the cobblestone paths and Spanish-colonial homes in one perfect shot.
Stop for dinner at A Lo Mero Mero and try some classic dishes like cecina de chancho, pernil, quesadillas lojanas, biscochuelos, and tamales lojanos.
8. Medellin, Colombia
Once known for its violence, Medellin has turned itself around – and now draws tourists in from near and far for its large variety of museums, parks, and restaurants.
Check out the unique, larger than life statues created by famous Colombian sculptor Fernando Botero Angulo at Plaza Botero.
Take the cable car up to Parque Arvi to escape the hustle and bustle of the city and observe some of the country’s wildlife. Join a free walking tour provided by the locals to learn about the area’s history and importance to the country.
When you’ve built up an appetite, head over to one of the local restaurants and order the classic Columbian dish bandeja paisa, which is an amazing combination of rice, plantains, corn cakes, avocado, minced meat, chorizo, black sausage, fried pork rind and a fried egg.
Nightlife is booming with a large selection of bars and clubs on the strip of Parque Lleras – so party the night away. The most popular club is Eslabón Prendido, where locals and tourists come together for a lively night of salsa dancing.
Located right outside of the city, Guatapé is a must-see with its vibrant colored houses. Climb up to El Peñol for astonishing views of the lakes and hills below.
9. Ushuaia, Argentina
The southernmost city in the world is an adventurer’s dream with mountains, glaciers, lakes, and waterfalls at every turn.
The Tierra del Fuego National Park is highly acclaimed for its magnificent scenery. You can spend weeks exploring the 170,000 acres of snow covered peaks, a variety of forests, lakes, glaciers, and bogs.
Cruise the Beagle Channel for a chance to see marine animals including dolphins and whales, and dock on different islands to see the Yámana Ruins and the Faro Les Eclaireurs, the famous white and red lighthouse.
Visit the oldest ranch in the region, Estancia Harberton, for a tour of the land and a meal overlooking the Beagle Channel.
Isla Martillo is home to colonies of Magellanic and Gentoo penguins, and if you take a zodiac boat tour you’ll be able to hang out with these adorable creatures. Keep an eye out for newborn chicks and the mighty king penguin.
Get ready to get muddy on a short hike to Laguna Esmeralda, where you can appreciate the turquoise color of the glacial lake.
10. Tarija, Bolivia
If you enjoy your fair share of wine, then you have to plan a trip to Tarijia, the epicenter of wine distribution in Bolivia. Viva Tours makes it easy to tour the different vineyards, with a minivan ride to two of the main sites and a local boutique for 4 hours of decadent wine tasting.
Have fun getting lost in Mercado Campesino as you zig zag through vendor lined streets selling just about anything you can think of.
Step into Casa Dorada, a rich merchant’s mansion now transformed into a museum, for a taste of Bolivia’s luxury living back in the mid-1900s.
Give yourself a scare on a tour through the “haunted” mansion of Castillo Azul.
Nature enthusiasts will appreciate a hike out to Coimata Waterfalls, where you’ll see cascading falls and take a dip in the natural swimming holes during the warmer months.