Rio de Janiero, Buenos Aires, Lima, the Galapagos Islands—South America is bursting at the seams with unique cultural experiences and once-in-a-lifetime memories waiting to be made. But, unless you’re planning a six-month sabbatical, it’s pretty much impossible to do it all. That’s why Hipmunk rounded up some of South America’s can’t-miss spots. Keep reading to find the best places to visit in South America.
Best Places to Visit in South America
This bustling Brazilian city is the third-largest metropolis in all of South America. It’s famous for its incredible nightlife, including world-famous nightclubs like Fosfobox, FebarJ, and Leviano Bar. Rio even played host to the 2017 Olympics. But there’s more to Rio than that. The cultural and natural attractions of Rio de Janeiro are at least as much of a draw as its famed social scene.
The statue of Christ the Redeemer by French sculptor Paul Landowski is one of the most iconic landmarks in the world. It’s considered one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. And in terms of natural wonders, Prainha beach, famous for its surfing waves, is a must—even if it’s just to watch a few pros hang ten.
After that, head to the rainforests of Ticuja, which have an abundance of hiking trails where you can take in native flora and fauna. No matter your vacation style, Rio de Janeiro is one of the best places to visit in South America.
Colloquially referred to as “the Paris of South America,” you can bet this Argentinian capital has great fashion, killer cafes, and rich culture. The city is home to El Teatro Colon—one of the best opera houses in the world. Buenos Aires is also packed with stunning architecture and beautifully landscaped parks. It’s hard to leave your hotel without running into a historical landmark or art installation of some kind.
Don’t miss the Casa Rosada—the “pink house” on the eastern side of Plaza de Mayo, where Eva Perón stood on the balcony and spoke to the city’s residents. And make sure to take ample time at the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, the city’s main fine art museum. You’ll get a holistic picture of Argentine art, as well as see works from other famed European painters, including Cézanne, Degas, Picasso, Rembrandt, and van Gogh.
A cultural mecca, these are just some of Buenos Aires’s claims to fame. These attractions and countless others make Buenos Aires one of the best places to visit in South America for a taste of authentic culture.
3. Lima, Peru
The Peruvian capital has been a bit of a hidden gem until recently. Historically, tourists have seen Lima as a place to stop on the way to Macchu Pichu. But Lima is a destination worth visiting in its own right.
In the Ciudad de los Reyes (City of the Kings, as named by Spanish conquistadors), Lima’s city center, there’s an abundance of pre-Columbian history and colonial architecture to take in. Can’t-miss historic landmarks include the Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco and the Museo Nacional de Arqueología, Antropología e Historia del Peru.
Lima is also becoming more and more famous for its culinary scene—it was recently called the best food city in the world. Foodies can experience fresh seafood dishes sourced from and inspired by Lima’s coast.Traditional fare combines Spanish, Asian, and Incan influences in famous dishes like cevice, causa, and anticuchos. For the history buff and the gourmet, Lima may just be the best place to visit in South America.
This archipelago of volcanic islands is about 600 miles west of South America, and considered part of Ecuador. Because the equator bisects the islands, some of the Galapagos are in the northern hemisphere, some in the southern. They also happen to sit at the convergence of three ocean currents.
The unique location of the islands makes them incredibly interesting in terms of biodiversity. The islands have a diverse marine ecosystem, with many animal species being unique to the Galapagos archipelago. From giant tortoises to marine iguanas, the wildlife here is in a class of its own. For the eco-tourist or naturalist, the Galapagos Islands are an unparalleled wellspring of wonder and discovery.
From island-hopping to ship tours to snorkeling and diving excursions, there’s a way for every type of traveler to explore this hotbed of ecological richness. Must-see highlights include a trip to San Cristóbal Island, where the beach is strewn with sunbathing sea lions; Tortuga Bay to observe the black turtles hatching their eggs; and Isabela Island to see (or even hike) the Sierra Negra Volcano.
No matter what kind of getaway you’ve got on the brain, these are four of the best places to visit in South America. For more travel inspiration, check out the cheapest cities to visit in Europe, right here.