Top Five Tourist Attractions in South America
South America is one of the most vast and diverse land masses on the planet. With over 370,000,000 of the world’s population located on the continent it has some of the biggest and busiest cities, as well as huge swathes of rainforest, beautiful beaches and high mountain ranges.
It is a tourist destination that is catching the world’s attention, and becoming increasingly popular for ecotravel trips. You can travel independently, or arrange a group tour such as through Bales Worldwide. For more information click here.
The most exciting and representative sights of South America can be found by getting out and exploring – from the bustling cities of Brazil to the high steppes of the Andes reaching heights of 4,0000 meters (13,123 feet) above the center of the continent. Here are some of our top picks for you to see on your visit to South America.
For information on guided tours read: Tours to South America
- Salar de Uyuni
Off and on I get asked by travelers what are good places for them to visit during their trip to Boliva and I respond excitedly, “The Salar de Uyuni! “What’s that”? is often the response I receive back and yikes. I think in the coming years that is going to happen much less often! The Salar de Uyuni is a highlight of a trip to Bolivia and a primary reason many choose to cross its borders on a trip to South America in the first place.
The world’s largest single salt flat, it is one of the most incredible sights to be found in all of Latin America. The plains were thought to be formed from several prehistoric lakes (Lake Coipasa near Oruro one of them) and they lie just before the rise of the Andes in the country’s south west. Also home to several species of pink flamingoes, it’s a glittering celebration of this extraordinary landscape.
For more information on how you can visit, what places in Bolivia you can take tours to the salar from read: Tours to the Salar de Uyuni
- Rio de Janeiro
Is Rio de Janeiro the world’s most beautiful city? Brazil certainly seems to think so, preening and prinking over its ‘old’ capital (Brasilia has been the capital of Brazil since 1960), for all the world to see. Rio is the definitive Brazilian city – great beaches, wonderful people, incredible culture and nightlife plus the best and rowdiest carnival the world has on offer (February/March).
Rio is also one of the leading lights in Brazil’s up-and-coming world status; first South American city to win an Olympic bid – hosting the Olympics in 2016. To boot, it is hosting the FIFA World Cup final soccer match in 2014.
- Machu Picchu
One of the world’s most famous sites, and deservedly so. This ancient Inca city, towering high in the Andes mountain range in Peru, is one of the most photographed and celebrated historical (and natural) phenomena in all of South America.
Macchu Picchu provides incredible panoramic views of the surrounds and they’re best appreciated by a trek up to the mountain top of Huayana Picchu, to fully appreciate the achievement of creating such a phenomenal landmark.
A huge drawback for many is the increasing costs of travel in Peru (airfare, hotels, restaurants) as it struggles to shed it’s Third World status and become a First World tourist destination. If you can handle a few hours of walking, there is one way to do Machu Picchu on a budget: Cheapest Way to Visit Machu Picchu.
- The Amazon
The Amazon Basin covers approximately 40% of the continent and has 10% of the worlds species represented within its boundary. There are over 10,000 mammals and 1,500 bird species and more than 2000 species of fish. A diversity and abundance of nature found nowhere else on earth.
The majority of the Amazon Basin is in Brazil – around 60% – yet eco-trips can also be arranged from Bolivia, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela.
Many conservationists throughout South America (and the world) are dedicated to stopping the continual destruction of this natural gem (clear-cutting, illegal harvesting of Mahagony and other hardwood trees for export, etc.) especially in Brazil where protests with supporters and local landowners vying against big business can get violent. It is estimated at the current rate of destruction, the entire basin could dissapear within 40 years (source: Rainforest Facts)
“Brazil’s dilemma: Allow widespread — and profitable — destruction of the rain forest to continue, or intensify conservation efforts.” quote from the article Last of the Amazon in National Geographic Magazine. Read the full story here.
- Iguazu Falls
Whether you want to see the Argentina side (Iguazu Falls) or the Brazil side (Iguaçu Falls), this cascading wonder is a site you won’t want to miss. For up close views it is best to visit the Argentina side, for large encompassing views the Brazil side.
For information on where to stay, eat and things to do for both sides of the falls, read: Travel Guide to Puerto Iguazú, Argentina & Foz de Iguaçu, Brazil. For videos of the Argentina side up close and personal, click here: Videos of Iguazu.