It is a simple fact that no journey will be the same as the next. We all have different interests and make decisions in the different ways, but surely there is some universal agreement out there about the must-dos in South America?! As always, this is our opinion, based on personal experience, but we hope that we have covered the very best bits that this continent has to offer in our ultimate top 10 destinations in South America.
For Europeans like us, South America is a titan in terms of its land mass. Journeys take days rather than hours and the continent holds a wealth of diverse terrain that is both epic and dramatic. Dominated by its vast spine that is The Andes mountain range, much of he continent’s treasures and indigenous cultures can be found at high altitude, but South America also has a vast coast teeming with life, endless arid deserts, fertile river valleys and deep humid jungle. We spent almost 10 months travelling in South America and we could easily have extended that to 10 years!
Be sure to follow the links to individual posts in order read about everything in more detail.
Made famous by Darwin’s voyage, the Galápagos Islands are truly a unique and well conserved treasure of our world. The Galápagos are like stepping into a time warp where weird and wonderful creatures still have little fear of mankind. Team that up with stunning volcanic islands and fascinating cruises for a variety of budgets and it’s a sure-fire winner.
Small, iconic and remote, Easter Island still holds a sense of mystery for a modern explorer. It’s easy to navigate around the rolling countryside, through herds of wild horses to the various sites to see the proud Moai statues, learn how they were carved from the volcanic rock and marvel at a unique culture which survived alone in the ocean for so long. The only con is the expensive flight!
You will run out of superlatives in about a minute in Torres del Paine National Park. Wild nature at it’s most desolate and beautiful. From craggy mountains and monstrous glaciers to rolling plains with baby blue lakes and wild guanaco, everything is just WOW!
It’s at the official end of the world, how fabulous! The Beagle Channel off the shore from Ushuaia is the last outpost in Argentina before the icy world of Antarctica. The added bonus is that it is wildlife rich and beautifully scenic. We wanted to visit Antarctica too, but we need to do some serious saving for that..!
Sailing through the Patagonian fjords is a unique way to cover some distance in Patagonia. Mesmerizing lands appear out of the mist in seemingly endless fashion. Whilst some might find this type of landscape rather monotonous, we found it epic and dreamy.
If you are after awe-inspiring and humbling experiences then you won’t find a better place in the continent. Marvelling at the sheer power of nature embodied at these waterfalls will leave you feeling rather giddy.
What can we possibly say? One of the wonders of the world and for good reason. Although it is a very touristy destination these days, the remote and, until fairly recently, lost citadel of Machu Picchu will still give you butterflies and it is a prime example of what the advanced and skilled Inca culture was capable of. Don’t forget the other Inca sites in the Sacred Valley though!
Possibly the most magical and surreal part of South America? We think so. It’s a rough and ready tour across the remnants of ancient salt lakes surrounded by volcanoes that, for better or for worse, you will neither forget nor regret.
The colonial gem of the continent, this ancient and colourful Caribbean town will charm you with its beautifully preserved architecture and lively atmosphere.
Not for the faint hearted, this remote outpost of civilisation is a culture shock as much as it is fascinating. Venture down the Amazon River for a full immersion into the jungle that will amaze you, challenge you and pull you out of your comfort-zone. You will never perceive “civilization” in the same way again.
Again, this is our personal top 10, but whether you agree or not one simple fact is undeniable, South America is a vast and endlessly fascinating continent that must be experienced to be understood. Our 10 months there felt like 10 years as the wealth of experiences were too much for our little western minds to elaborate on a normal time scale. If you are feeling an itch to visit the continent we can only advise you to go for it. It will challenge you, inspire you and at times exasperate you but you’ll love (almost) every minute of it. Oh, and your little western mind will never be the same again!