Mountain range in Peru, best latin american countries to visit

10 Best Places to Visit in South America is 2024                         

Finding the best places to visit in South America is no easy task, especially since this continent has the perfect mix of beaches, landscapes, biodiversity, cultural centers, and ancient ruins. Traveling to South America is a journey to the past that also ignites your senses in the present moment.

If you’re not sure where to go, keep reading to discover the best countries in South America to visit. I’ll offer a variety of options so you can create a well-rounded itinerary. From old temples and colonial churches to beautiful rainforests, deserts, islands, and even tundra, you’ll find it all here.

We’ve traveled extensively throughout South America, and it leaves us breathless every time. There is so much to see on this continent, so we’ll be back in no time to explore even more. If you’re ready to dive into the unique heritages, traditions, and landscapes of South America, let’s go!

1. Argentina, the best South American country to visit for natural landscapes

Argentina has one of the most diverse landscapes in South America, so you really need to take your time to discover everything. One of the popular tourist destinations is San Carlos de Bariloche in Nahuel Huapi National Park, Argentina’s largest park. Plus, the city is a great starting point for this day trip along the Road of the Seven Lakes.

Of course, I highly recommend a whale-watching tour on the Valdés Peninsula. We were also blown away by Los Glaciares National Park and its Perito Moreno Glacier, which you can see on this day trip from El Calafate. For more hiking, check out the village of El Chaltén. That is also part of the Patagonia photo tour we run each year.

Argentina, best place to visit in south america

1. Argentina, the best South American country to visit for natural landscapes

Argentina’s cities are some of the most beautiful places in South America, particularly the capital of Buenos Aires. This highlights tour is perfect for first-time visitors, although I also suggest seeing a tango show. Over in the wine region, Mendoza produces Argentina’s Malbec wines. This tasting tour is perfect for wine lovers, but if that’s not your thing, check out this day tour of Mendoza and the surrounding area.

The large city of Salta is home to impressive 18th and 19th-century buildings and cultural institutions, and it’s surrounded by interesting attractions. This day trip from Salta goes to the hamlet of Purmamarca and the Salinas Grandes salt flats, one of the 7 Wonders of the Argentine Republic. Moreover, this tour visits the farms and tobacco plantations of the Lerma Valley and the wineries of Cafayate.

Also, you must visit Iguazú Falls, one of the seven natural wonders of the world. The falls consist of 275 different waterfalls and are in the middle of the Parana jungle, so they’re a sight to behold. This multi-day tour gives you several unique perspectives of Iguazú so you can take in all its beauty.

Finally, venture to Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, where you can see Tierra del Fuego National Park or take a penguin-watching cruise through the Beagle Channel.

2. Colombia, one of the best South American countries to visit for art and culture

Colombia is a gorgeous country with a wealth of South American attractions. A good place to start is the capital of Bogotá, one of the largest cities in the world. To make sure you don’t miss anything, take this highlights tour.

Outside of Bogotá, the Salt Cathedral of Zipaquirá is one of the most beautiful places in South America. The Catholic church was built 660 feet underground among the salt mines, which you can see on this tour. Another adventurous place to visit near Bogotá is the La Chorrera Waterfall, Colombia’s highest waterfall. I recommend this guided hike through the Andean jungle to see the falls.

Colombia’s second-largest city, Medellín is a great place to learn about the Paisa culture of the Antioqueños, the indigenous people of this region. There are many tours here that explore the unique theaters and parks, although I like this graffiti art walk and this Pablo Escobar tour.

Colombia, best countries in south america to visit

2. Colombia, one of the best South American countries to visit for art and culture

Near Medellín, you can find more interesting sites, such as El Peñol de Guatapé, a massive rock hill that’s millions of years old. This day tour from Medellín takes you to the famous landmark and includes sightseeing in Guatapé.

If you’re by the coast, don’t miss a stop at the port city of Cartagena to see its colonial structures. The Rosario Islands, which form one of Colombia’s Natural National Parks, are a short boat ride away. That said, the Colombian island of San Andres is ideal for water sports enthusiasts thanks to its coral reefs, which you can see on this scuba dive.

Lastly, in the very north of Colombia, at the foothills of the Sierra Nevada, Tayrona National Park boasts an incredible landscape of coves, lagoons, rainforests, and the Pueblito Ruins. The park is also a hotspot for bird-watching. Colombia is home to about 20% of the world’s bird diversity, with over 1,950 species living here. Other birding spots include the Antioquia Rainforest and the Los Nevados Cloud Forests.

3. Chile, another one of the best places to visit in South America

Chile is one of the best countries in South America to visit thanks to its range of landscapes, climates, and natural wonders. It’s also home to some lovely cities, particularly the capital of Santiago de Chile, which you can see on this highlights tour.

From Santiago, you can take this day trip to the Cajon de Maipo, a beautiful mountain gorge. Or, you can book this excursion to discover Valparaíso, Viña del Mar, and the Casablanca wine valley. On the other hand, Valle Nevado has the best skiing and snowboarding in Chile, and Easter Island is known for its giant statues, or moai, which the Rapa Nui people built between 1100 and 1680 CE. Central Chile is home to Conguillio National Park, a natural haven full of lava flows, lush vegetation, forests, and the Llaima volcano.

Chile, the best places to visit in south america

3. Chile, another one of the best places to visit in South America

You’ll experience a completely new environment in the Atacama Desert, the driest non-polar desert in the world. Set up base in San Pedro de Atacama, then take a tour to see the Salar de Atacama salt flats. San Pedro is a departure point for several wonderful tours, including this trip to the Valle de la Luna and this day tour to the geothermal fields at the El Tatio Geysers. This area has some of the darkest skies on the planet, so if you’re a fan of astrophotography like us, I recommend this night tour or joining one of our Atacama Photo Tours if you want to learn how to photograph the Milky Way like a pro!

In the southern Chilean Patagonia, begin your journey in Puerto Natales and check out the Mylodon Cave Natural Monument followed by a day hike or a full-day tour of Torres del Paine National Park, which we also visit during our Patagonia photo tour. Further south, you can see Cape Horn on the Tierra del Fuego archipelago, while off the coast of Chile, Chiloé National Park is home to a temperate rainforest and a local population of pygmy blue whales.

4. Peru, the best place to visit in South America for history

Peru is one of the coolest places in South America, a region with rich ancient history and culture. You’ll get a good overview of Peru’s past, present, and future by visiting Lima, Peru’s capital city. In addition to its colonial architecture and museums, Lima is known as a top culinary destination in South America. While you’re here, you must try Peruvian ceviche and a Pisco sour, the city’s signature drink. If you’re short on time, this city tour will give you all the highlights.

Another place you can visit from Lima is Huacachina, a village in a natural oasis. Located in the world’s driest desert, Huacachina is surrounded by huge dunes and the Huacachina Lagoon. This bus tour from Lima travels to the beach town of Paracas and the village of Huacachina. It also includes a boat tour to the Ballestas Islands off the coast of Paracas. Sometimes referred to as the Peruvian Galapagos, these islands are home to various bird species, penguins, seals, and sea lions.

A short flight away, you’ll find Cusco, the old capital of the Incan Empire and one of the best cities to visit in South America. Its crown jewel is Machu Picchu, an ancient citadel containing the Temple of the Sun, the Inti Mach’ay cave, and more. Be sure to get your ticket in advance! There is also this combo ticket, which includes admission and round-trip transportation from Aguas Calientes, or this full-day group tour of Machu Picchu directly from Cusco.

Mountain range in Peru, best places to visit in South America

4. Peru, the best place to visit in South America for history

You’ll also love the Salt Mines of Maras, a large salt extraction center built between 500 and 1100 AD. This tour from Cusco goes there and stops at the Incan ruins at Moray and the town of Chinchero, which is known for its traditional Peruvian weavings.

From Cusco, you can also visit the Humantay Lake, and alpine lake with a distinct turquoise color, so it’s worth taking a day trip there. Yet another natural area in South America you can visit from Cusco is the Rainbow Mountain (Vinicunca), where you can go hiking. Or you may prefer this multi-day trek through Manú National Park, in the Peruvian Amazon jungle.

However, if you like hiking, there is no better place than Huaraz. This area is a mountainous paradise of crystal blue lakes, the Cordillera Huayhuash, and the Cordillera Blanca. It’s so magnificent that we have organized Huayhuash Photo Tours here.

Another famous place to visit in South America can be found in the Nazca Desert; the Nazca Lines were made between 500 BC and 500 CE and are best viewed on a sightseeing flight. Along Peru’s border with Bolivia, you can tour Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. If you have extra time, check out the beautiful city of Arequipa or Colca Canyon, a breathtaking spot where you can see the Andean condor.

5. Brazil, the best country in South America to visit for beautiful beaches

Brazil is known for its beaches, rainforests, and Carnival celebrations. It’s the largest country on the continent, so it’s the place to go if you want to see many famous landmarks in South America.

Starting in the capital of Rio de Janeiro, you can visit one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the Christ the Redeemer statue. This city tour will cover all the highlights so you don’t miss anything. I also recommend doing a sightseeing tour of São Paulo, a city with a vibrant art and nightlife scene.

Moreover, one of the oldest cities in the Americas, Salvador, is located on the Brazilian coast. A center for Afro-Brazilian culture, it has all kinds of interesting sites, so consider a half-day tour through town.

Brazil, most beautiful countries in south america

5. Brazil, the best country in South America to visit for beautiful beaches

When it comes to nature, Brazil doesn’t disappoint. In addition to having some of the most beautiful beaches in South America, the country is home to part of Iguaçu Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world. You must take this boat ride to experience the rush of the falls for yourself!

In the northeast, in the State of Maranhão, you can explore Lençóis Maranhenses National Park. It’s known for its rolling hills, sand dunes, and valleys, which transform into freshwater lagoons during the rainy season. It’s a hub for ecotourism in South America; a place where you can swim, canoe, surf, and ride quad bikes.

You should also spend time in the Amazon Rainforest. The city of Manaus is a great base camp, and it’s worth taking a multi-day tour through the jungle to see endangered species, medicinal plants, and scenic waterways.

In addition, Natal Sand Dunes State Park is an incredible coastal environment. And of course, the beaches in Brazil are out of this world, especially Copacabana Beach. Some other hotspots include Ilha Grande off the coast of Rio de Janeiro, the island of Florianópolis, the Lagoon of Conceição, and the surfing beach of Joaquina.

6. Ecuador, one of the best places to visit in South America

Attention! Due to the current situation in the country, we do not recommend traveling to Ecuador at this time.

Ecuador is small but full of wonder, and it’s one of the cheapest countries to visit in South America. I recommend starting your visit in the capital of Quito, which is full of historic monuments and colonial churches. This day tour offers an overview of the “Middle of the World” and the local culture.

Meanwhile, Cuenca has a large expat population and is known as the city of four rivers. Just outside the city, you can reconnect with nature and go hiking through the highlands of Cajas National Park. Another city worth visiting is Baños. Known as the “adventure capital of Ecuador,” Baños has countless outdoor activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, and rafting. It’s home to dozens of waterfalls, and the Baños de Agua Santa hot springs, and it sits at the base of the Tungurahua Volcano.

Ecuador, places to visit in south america

6. Ecuador, one of the best places to visit in South America

In addition, Ecuador’s natural areas are some of the coolest places in South America. Two hours from Quito, you’ll find the Mindo Cloud Forest, where you can take an adventure tour that includes waterfall hikes, rock climbing, and ziplining.

South of Quito, Cotopaxi National Park is home to one of the world’s highest active volcanoes. This volcano tour includes Cotopaxi, the Quilotoa Volcano, and the Limpiopungo Lagoon. Also, while it’s further south, the Chimborazo Volcano is also worth visiting, as it’s the tallest mountain in Ecuador and the Andes (north of Peru).

Finally, Ecuador has delightful beaches, specifically Esmeralda, Montañita, and Salinas. And if you can manage to book a trip to the Galápagos Islands, you’ll be greatly rewarded. For example, this 10-day excursion explores the various islands and their endangered species as well as mainland attractions like Quito.

7. Bolivia, the best South American country for unique sights

Don’t forget to add Bolivia to your South American travel itinerary. Named after liberation leader Simón Bolívar, this country is known for its ancient cultural heritage and natural areas. A great way to get introduced to Bolivia is through a half-day tour through the capital city of La Paz. Surrounding the highest capital in the world are the peaks of Mt. Illimani and Huayna Potosi.

From here, make your way to legendary Lake Titicaca. This day trip from La Paz is convenient and includes a boat ride on the lake. You’ll visit Isla del Sol to see the Inca Steps, then stop by the towns of Copacabana and Yumani.

Bolivia, famous landmarks south america

7. Bolivia, the best South American country for unique sights

You can also visit the constitutional capital of Bolivia, Sucre. Known for its whitewashed Spanish colonial buildings and 16th-century churches, it’s a place where you can step back in time. This walking tour lets you get up close and personal with Sucre’s ancient streets and architecture. If you have the time and want to check out another colonial city, you can check out Potosi and venture into the museums or the silver mines, such as with this tour.

Back on the western side of the country, the Uyuni Salt Flat (Salar de Uyuni) is one of the most incredible places in South America that we’ve ever seen. Spanning 3,900 square miles, it’s the largest salt flat in the world and an amazing photo spot. I suggest taking this tour to see the salar and the flora and fauna of the Bolivian Altiplano or joining our Atacama and Bolivia photo tour.

From Uyuni, you can book a 4×4 Jeep or private tour to see the Laguna Colorada, an impressive salt lake. In addition to its red and white colors, which come from the water’s borax and algae, the lake attracts large groups of flamingoes.

8. Venezuela, another one of the best countries in South America to visit

Venezuela is a unique country with a distinct history, which is why it’s considered an interesting place for South American tourism. Part of that history is economic and political instability over the years. While there are areas of Venezuela that are tourist-friendly, just keep in mind that there are fewer amenities and services here.

One of its best attractions in Venezuela is the town of Ciudad Bolívar and its beautifully preserved historic center. I also recommend visiting Mérida, a city in the Andes Mountains that was a major player in Venezuela’s War of Independence. Today, it’s a popular tourist hub thanks to its vast array of activities and the Mérida cable car, one of the highest and longest in the world.

To the north, Venezuela’s capital, Caracas, is about 20 miles from the Caribbean Sea. This economic center contains important structures like the National Pantheon of Venezuela, which serves as the final resting place for notable figures like Simón Bolívar. Just outside downtown Caracas, Galipán is a lovely mountain town surrounded by pristine nature, while Ávila National Park is the perfect place to go hiking and discover the local flora.

Venezuela, south america tourist destinations

8. Venezuela, another one of the best countries in South America to visit

Other magnificent parks in Venezuela include Morrocoy National Park and Medanos de Coro National Park. The former is a haven for hikers and divers, while the latter has a unique coastal habitat with desert, salt marshes, and sand dunes.

If you’re on the opposite end of the country, check out Canaima National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the largest park in South America with the highest uninterrupted waterfall on earth, Salto Angel. To the south of the park, Mount Roraima encompasses the area at the intersection of Venezuela, Guyana, and Brazil. It’s a flat-topped mountain, or tepui, and the highest of all the tepuis in South America’s Pacaraima mountain chain.

You can also venture off the mainland and explore Venezuela’s coastal areas. The Orinoco Delta is a massive wetland area teeming with wildlife like capybara. Isla de Margarita is a beachy paradise while Los Roques Archipelago consists of about 350 small islands and cays and is one of the best places to visit in South America for snorkeling.

9. Uruguay, the best place to visit in South America for nature lovers

Uruguay is a small country on the southeastern coast of South America, but if you can venture over there, it’ll be worth the effort. Your first stop should be the capital city of Montevideo, where you can immerse yourself in the culture and history of this nation. This half-day tour is a wonderful introduction to Montevideo and includes all the highlights like the Legislative Palace, Centenario Stadium, Agricola Market, and the Old Town.

In addition, Montevideo is super close to Playa de los Pocitos, a gorgeous South American beach. Punta del Este is further away, but you can take this day trip from Montevideo to make things easier. Also, if you keep heading east, you’ll find the coastal town of Jose Ignacio, Laguna Garzón, and its famous circular bridge. Go a bit further, and you can visit the beach of Costa de Oro and the hamlet of Cabo Polonio, a hidden gem and haven for water sports enthusiasts.

Montevideo, Uruguay, most popular cities in south america

9. Uruguay, the best place to visit in South America for nature lovers

To the west, close to the border with Argentina, the Colonia del Sacramento welcomes you with its quaint cobblestone streets and historic quarter. It’s a UNESCO World Heritage Site and dates back to 1783, so if you plan on visiting, consider this excursion from Montevideo.

Finally, the northwestern region of Uruguay has the most amazing natural pools. The Dayman Hot Springs has 11 pools as well as Swedish showers, hydro jets, saunas, and an ozone pool. Alternatively, the Arapey Hot Springs is within a full resort and spa. Its waters contain several minerals, and the resort is in the countryside, so it’s ideal for a relaxing vacation in South America.

10. Guyana, the best country to visit in South America for hidden gems

Last but not least, Guyana is an underrated country, but this just means you’ll be able to see one of the top places in South America without all the tourist crowds.

Organize your trip around the capital city of Georgetown and start your visit with this city tour. You’ll learn all about Georgetown’s history and visit the most popular attractions like Providence Stadium, the Demerara Harbour Bridge, St. George’s Cathedral, and the bustling Stabroek Market.

Guyana, best country in south america to visit

10. Guyana, the best country to visit in South America for hidden gems

After spending time in Georgetown, venture off the beaten path to find some amazing hidden gems. For example, Kaieteur Falls is a 740-foot-tall single-drop waterfall nestled in the country’s Amazon region. It’s part of Kaieteur National Park, home to the tiny golden frog and the Guianan cock-of-the-rock, a colorful bird species.

Another natural beauty is the Iwokrama Rainforest, known as the “Green Heart of Guyana.” This protected area preserves the country’s tropical forest and wildlife, which includes over 800 local species. Keep an eye out for red howler monkeys, macaws, jaguars, and caiman! If you’re interested in ecotourism in South America, the forest has an impressive Canopy Walkway suspended 100 feet in the air.

And of course, Guyana isn’t without its beaches, particularly Shell Beach, which is about 140 miles northwest of Georgetown. Getting to the beach is tricky since you can’t drive there, but there are boats and excursions available. It’s worth it to see this pristine ecosystem of mangroves and swamps. Plus, the beach is a nesting site for endangered sea turtles.

Now you’re ready to plan your trip through South America. While planning your itinerary, keep this travel map of South America handy so you can quickly locate the attractions you’re interested in.

If you have any questions or you’d like to give me your opinion on the best places to visit in South America, leave me a comment. I’d love to hear from you! Safe travels and enjoy your South American adventure!

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CHIEF ADVENTURER, TRAVEL GURU, AND MASTER PLANNER AT CAPTURE THE ATLAS
Hey there, I'm Ascen, your personal trip planner on a mission to help you craft the most incredible adventure of your life. While I'm based in Las Vegas, you won't find me there often. As a full-time traveler, I'm always on the go, exploring new destinations and capturing the world through my lens. From the enchanting shores of Almeria, Spain, where I grew up, to the far reaches of the globe, I'm here to provide you with detailed travel guides and practical tips to make your trip planning a breeze. Find out more about me here.
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