Thinking about a trip to South America? Consider a tour of the Amazon Rainforest‘s tropical nature, spanning regions of Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Colombia. Don’t miss the natural wonders of Chile, including the glaciers and panoramic mountains of Patagonia. Experience serenity amongst the ruins of Machu Picchu, or follow the rhythms of tango & wine in Argentina. Plan your South America tour by activity: whether you love spas & lodges, trains, food & wine, golf, light adventure, UNESCO sites or want to plan your honeymoon, SouthAmerica.travel will design your perfect South America trip. 98% of our travelers rave about our South America vacations and cruises. All South America tours are hand-crafted by our travel experts and feature must-see destinations and hidden gems, customized to fit your travel style, dates and preferences. Browse our top South America trips or create your own custom tour in just 3 easy steps.
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Things to Do in South America
Stunning natural wonders, ancient civilizations, fascinating cultures, and fun-loving cities offer a colorful mix of things to do and see in South America. With so many activities to consider it can be challenging to narrow your options and plan a vacation. Our guests rave about many of South America’s unique offerings - but a few stand out. Inspired by guest reviews, here's our list of the top 20 things to do in South America:
Top 10 Things to Do in South America
- Hike the Inca Trail to the ancient city of Machu Picchu, Peru
- Explore Iguazu Falls in Argentina and Brazil - the largest waterfall system in the world
- Observe the world's most amazing wildlife in the Galapagos Islands of Ecuador
- Hike the epic W Trail of Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile
- Visit the monolithic statues of Easter Island, Chile
- Indulge in the fabulous beaches and nightlife of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
- Meet the locals of the floating islands in Lake Titicaca, Bolivia
- Spend a few nights in a Brazilian Amazon Rainforest lodge
- Cruise down the Amazon River by river boat from Quito, Ecuador
- Fly over Kaieteur Falls in Guyana – surrounded by pristine rainforest
More Top Things to Do in South America
- Watch ice calving off Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina
- Stroll the charming city of Cartagena, Colombia
- Indulge in a bevy of fabulous restaurants in Lima, Peru
- Learn to dance the tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Fish for piranhas in the Peruvian Amazon
- Kayak around the Chiloe Archipelago in Chile
- Dance the night away at the Rio Carnival in Brazil
- Visit the Bolivian Salt Flats during the rainy season
- Discover the best stargazing in the world at Atacama desert in Chile
- Unwind in the bohemian seaside town of Valparaiso, Chile
Peru & Machu Picchu Tours
The lost city of Machu Picchu is one of the most famous archaeological sites in the world and a must-see experience while visiting Peru. Travel to this UNESCO World Heritage Site by train from Cuzco or a multi-day hike along the Inca trail. Browse all Peru tours or start with these popular itineraries featuring Machu Picchu and the Peruvian Amazon:
Amazon Rainforest Tours
Renowned as the world’s largest jungle, the Amazon rainforest spans across 6 countries. The most diverse ecosystem on earth offers something for everybody – extraordinary landscapes, amazing wildlife, even visiting a shaman. Mix up your Amazon rainforest tours with a few days in Rio de Janeiro for a truly unique experience of South America’s most contrasting destinations.
South America Cruises
Much of South America’s most spectacular scenery is best viewed from the water. Located 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are one of the world’s most renowned places for viewing wildlife. Or explore the isolated fjords and untamed lands of Patagonia on a luxury expedition cruise at the bottom of South America. Browse all South America cruises or start with these guest favorites:
Recommended South America Tours:
Luxury Galapagos Cruise & Ecuador Train Tour
Patagonia Cruise to Ushuaia, Torres del Paine & Santiago
Multi-Country South America Tours
From natural wonders and ancient civilizations to colonial villages and cosmopolitan cities – South America has it all. Why explore just one country when you can experience the best of South America with one extraordinary vacation package. Browse all multi-country tours or start with these three popular itineraries:
South America Custom Tours
Of course, every traveler to South America is unique – that’s why we highly recommend customizing your tour – a guaranteed 5-star experience all about you! You can customize any part of the tour ideas listed on our site or create your own South America custom tour.
South America FAQ’s
Thinking about a South America trip? Here’s a list of frequently asked questions we often hear from our guests. Visit our South America Vacation Planning page for in-depth South America travel tips.
What is the best time to visit South America?
As 90% of South America is located south of the equator, the seasons of the year are reversed for travelers coming from the northern hemisphere. This aspect is particularly relevant when traveling to the southern cone of the continent which features Chile, Argentina and Uruguay.
The tropical and subtropical portions throughout South America allow for travel throughout the year. However parts of Patagonia, a region within lower Chile and Argentina, is partially inaccessible during the deepest winter. Our experts consider traveling during the “shoulder season” of late spring (October – early December) and early fall (April and May) generally to be the best time to visit South America. This is due to the perfect balance of climatic conditions, amount of travelers and accessibility to sites. Additionally, it provides more moderate temperatures in the tropics and the possibility of spring flowers or fall colors in the far south.
What is the busiest time to travel to South America?
Semana Santa, the holy week preceding Easter, is a very busy time being that much of South America is Catholic. Major holidays are also a very busy time, such as Christmas, New Year’s and Carnival. Therefore if you wish to escape the crowds, you should consider avoiding these holiday seasons, as many South Americans are traveling at this time as well.
Does South America experience monsoons?
No! You will not experience an Asia-like monsoon, where torrential rains occur for months. However, you should take note of the rainy and dry seasons. Expect intermittent, heavy downpours during the rainy season in all tropical areas. However, those rains are usually not 24-hour, multi-day events. It normally rains a lot during a short period of the day.
Generally, the rainy season is “summer” and the drier season is “winter”. For example, Carnival in Brazil happens during the rainy season in February, which is the summer in Rio. However, the event is rarely affected by the rains. Though south of Buenos Aires and Santiago de Chile, you can expect a pattern as you know it from home with warm summers, cold & rainy winters. Just remember the Southern Hemispheres seasons happen at opposite times. December is summer with July being winter and June having the shortest days.
Is South America an inexpensive destination?
Bolivia and Paraguay are other countries that tend to be less expensive. Traveling through Brazil can also be quite affordable as the cost for domestic flights is low, including the 4-hour flight from Rio de Janeiro to Manaus in the Brazilian Amazon. Major cities of South America, such as Rio de Janeiro and Santiago de Chile, can be as expensive as most major world cities – depending of course on the current exchange rate.
How does the food taste in South America?
Fantastic! It is especially encouraged to try what you don’t know, that is the best way to try South American cuisine. South America boasts some of the finest dining experiences worldwide where only local ingredients that are unique to the area are used. The world is discovering South American flavors, a trend which started with Peru’s appearance on the world’s culinary stage. The availability of recognizable “Western” food depends on the amount of former immigrants from a specific country. However, you’ll always find “meat and potato” dishes you are familiar with. Below are a few examples of different cuisine styles that are also prevalent in South America:
• Local style Chinese restaurants (known as Chifa) are highly recommended in Peru.
• Italian influences are heavily integrated within Argentina.
• European and African influences are strongly represented within Brazil.
• The biggest “Japantown,”” outside of Japan, can be sound in São Paulo.
• Indian food is very difficult to find, as was no immigration from India in South America, apart from in Guyana. Indian spices are also difficult to find. Vegetarian food nowadays is ubiquitous! Vegan options are becoming more and more common due to South Americans as a whole, are health-conscious eaters.
How about that stomach bug? Will I get sick from the food?
Just like any traveler from any region of the world risks when traveling to a new destination, your body may encounter a microbe which is unfamiliar and thus reacts to once. Therefore, there is always a chance. To counter this, it is recommended to get Loperamide / Imodium before you travel.
Food in South America is actually as safe as it is at home. And like at home, even after you clean and rinse the ingredients before cooking, there are still some bacteria remaining. Therefore the main difference is that your stomach is familiar with the bacteria at home, and therefore does not react.
In any case, be careful! In the tropics, it is highly recommended to avoid fresh salad, as well as “anything which cannot be peeled or cooked.” In places such as the Amazon, locals do not eat salad. Larger restaurants often provide them because of the demands of tourists. Though, stay away! Choose instead, for example, sautéed Brazilian kale, known as “couve.”It is made with a hint of garlic – another deterrent to the stomach bug!
Which currency do I use in South America?
Every country has its own currency within South America. However, the big exception is in Ecuador, where the U.S. dollar is the official currency. Some souvenir shops and the occasional restaurant, located in heavily touristed areas may accept the dollar.
Your guide will gladly take tips in US$ or Euros as well. However do not give your guide the currency of another South American country. Use only the country’s money, US$ or Euros. In general, credit cards are widely accepted, even for your drink on Copacabana beach! It is always best to use the local currency, which is available from most banks’ ATM’s, or paying by credit card.
Will I get along with the locals speaking only English?
Yes! South Americans are very friendly. Always helpful. If they do not speak English, they always find someone who does. It is recommended to try to learn a few basic words in Spanish and, for Brazil, Portuguese. That always gets you big smiles. A few examples include Por favor translates from both languages to please. In Spanish, Gracias, or in Portuguese Obrigado (when said by a male) or Obrigada (when said by a female) translates into Thank you. And when you say it, always remember to look people in the eyes!
What kind of vaccinations do I need for South America?
All those vaccinations that are recommended for home, such as Measles, Tetanus, Hepatitis A + B and so forth are considered essential by the world’s medical community. Additionally, in some tropical areas, the Yellow Fever vaccination plus a Malaria prophylaxis is recommended. The latter two, of course, are dependent on where you are traveling. Your travel consultant can give you an initial recommendation, but always consult your doctor. In all cases, it is the recommendations of the World Health Agency (WHO) who are the leaders in this matter.
What is the best time of year to cruise South America?
As South America is big, the best time to cruise South America of course depends on when you plan going. Remember the seasons in the Southern hemisphere are the opposite from the Northern hemisphere. That said, for a cruise around Cape Horn or through Patagonia, the best time would be from December to March. For a river cruise on the Amazon choose the time when the water is still high – to have easy access to shore – but it doesn’t rain too much. The best time then would be the end of the rainy season in May.
Is it safe to travel to South America?
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