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South America Tours
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 your South America vacations. 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 Ecuador
- Fly over Kaieteur Falls in the Guianas – 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
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Best Vacation Spots in South America
From natural wonders and ancient civilizations to colonial villages and cosmopolitan cities, South America offers unique destinations for all types of travelers. To help you plan your dream South America vacation, our travel experts have rounded up the best places to travel in South America. From popular cities to famous landmarks – along with top-rated tours to consider, here is our pick of the best vacation spots in South America.
Best Places to Travel in South America: Cities
- Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – With its world-famous skyline of green tropical mountains, fabulous beaches, and famous festivals, Rio de Janeiro has it all. Visitors rave about the outdoor adventures, seaside lifestyle, and samba-fueled nightlife.
- Buenos Aires, Argentina – The cosmopolitan capital city of Argentina is famous for its tango shows, great wine, fabulous food, and world-class museums. Buenos Aires is a melting pot of multiple ethnic and religious groups. For its architecture it is also called the “Paris of South America.”
- Lima, Peru – Lima is the capital of Peru and it was once the vice capital of the Spanish Empire. From here they ruled not only South America but also the Philippines. History, unique food inspired by the rainforest, the Andes mountains, and ocean access makes Lima a must-see city for all kinds of travelers.
- Quito, Ecuador – This UNESCO heritage city is regarded by many travelers as South America’s most beautiful city. Ecuador’s capital city sits high in the Andean mountains and is well-known for its colonial architecture blending European and Moorish styles.
- Santiago, Chile – Chile’s capital and largest city is everything you need and do not expect. Almost shockingly modern in parts, its position in a valley surrounded by the snow-capped Andes mountains makes it a great entry to the country. Around Santiago you’ll find the best wineries of Chile conveniently nearby!
Recommended South America Tours:
South America Deluxe Tour
The Heart of the Andes
Santiago, Puerto Varas and Chile Wine Tour
Best Places to Travel in South America: Landscapes & Cultural sites
- Machu Picchu, Peru – South America’s best-known archaeological site, the sacred city of Machu Picchu, was built in the 15th century and later abandoned. The Inca Trail, Peru connects it with Cusco which is the former capital of the Inca Empire.
- The Amazon Rainforest, (Peru, Brazil, Ecuador and more) – The Amazon features the world’s biggest rainforest, the largest river, and the greatest biodiversity on Earth. Guests often explore by river cruises or from special lodges.
- Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia – The world’s largest salt flat covers over 4,000 square miles. In the rainy season, this stunning landscape is covered by a shallow lake perfectly reflecting the sky above. It feels like you are not on Earth and you’ve got to see it to believe it!
- Lake Titicaca, Peru, and Bolivia – Lake Titicaca is not only the largest lake in South America, but also the highest navigable body of water in the world. The surrounding snow-capped Andean mountains give it a unique atmosphere. Don’t miss the inhabited Uros floating islands!
- Corcovado and Sugar Loaf mountains, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Imagine a mountain range covered with lush tropical vegetation and a city and the sea around it. Got it? Now you have a good picture of Rio de Janeiro in your mind. It is that landscape spectacle that makes Rio what the Cariocas, people from Rio, call the “Marvellous City”.
Recommended South America Tours:
Inca Trail to Machu Picchu Peru Tour
Highlights of Bolivia Tour
Rio, Tropical Island & the Historical Port of Paraty
Travels of the Incas
Best Places to Travel in South America: Mountains & Waterfalls
- Iguazu Falls, Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay – Iguazu Falls, featuring more than 250 waterfalls, rests between Argentina and Brazil and is probably the most famous and unique waterfall in South America. The best viewpoint is ‘Devil’s Throat’, a spectacular view nearly engulfed by the surrounding falls. A symphony of blue skies, green tropical rainforest, and crushing waters.
- Andes Mountains, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina – The Andes are the longest mountain range in the world with diverse terrain including glaciers, grassland, desert, forests, and snow-capped volcanoes. At 22,837 feet (6,960.8m), Aconcagua is an incredible mountain to behold.
- Torres del Paine National Park, Chile – The W Trek in the Patagonian Andes is one of the most epic hikes in the world. Bright blue icebergs, golden grasslands, and horn-shaped granite towers blend to create one of the most breathtaking landscapes on the planet.
- Angel Falls, Venezuela – Home to the tallest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls in Bolivar State, Venezuela stands at 3,212 feet before dropping 2,648 feet. With no overland routes into the area, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is only accessible by air or long hikes.
- Kaieteur Falls, Guyana – Despite being the shortest waterfall on our list, Kaieteur Falls is easily one of the most powerful and awe-inspiring. Surrounded by pristine rainforests and rare wildlife, itt is considered the largest single drop waterfall by volume of water passing over it. You may well have the place entirely to yourself when you visit.
- Gocta Falls, Peru – These recently discovered falls in the Peruvian department of Amazonas are still a little difficult to get to. But the famous fortress of Kuelap nearby makes them a hidden gem worth visiting and can easily be included in a tour of Kuelap and the Chachapoyas culture.
Recommended South America Tours:
Tango, Samba & Waterfalls
Santiago and Torres del Paine Tour
The Highlights of Venezuela Tour
Three Guianas Adventure Tour
Gocta Waterfalls & Kuelap: The Chachapoyas Experience
The Complete Brazil Train Tour
Best Places to Travel in South America: Beaches & Islands
- Galapagos Islands, Ecuador – This archipelago 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador is one of the world’s best destinations for viewing wildlife, with many species found nowhere else on earth.
- Easter Island, Chile – This mythical island, famous for its monolithic statues (Moais) built by the Rapa Nui people, is also popular for its white-sand beaches, surfing, and scuba diving. 2,300 miles off the coast of Chile it is politically part of Chile and geographically and culturally part of Polynesia.
- Copacabana & Ipanema Beaches, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil – Copacabana inspired architects and poets long before Ipanema became famous. As it is Horseshoe-shaped it creates its own landscape with the green mountains behind it. Still the best place for tourists to stay, it offers a plethora of restaurants along the beachside Avenida Atlantica and numerous bars along the beach too. The famous song “The Girl from Ipanema” made this the most famous beach of Rio de Janeiro. Today on Sundays it is the playground for the rich, but also attracts many people every afternoon for the view of the sunset from the Arpoador rocks.
- Baia do Sancho, Fernando de Noronha, Brazil – It does not get more remote in Brazil that this! This beach is far off the coast of the Brazilian state of Pernambuco and entirely a National Park. It will remind you more of a paradise on foot only. Do you want to relax? This is it! Nightlife is zero. Tourists sleep either in small sophisticated “pousadas” or in rooms rented out by a few families.
Recommended South America Tours:
Galapagos Islands Cruise on the Galapagos Legend
Santiago and Easter Island Tour
Fernando de Noronha Tours
Best South America Tours
Here is our selection of some of the best South America trips. These include some of the continent’s most famous destinations and classic combinations. We’re always happy to give advice and customize any trip to take in the vacation spots you are most interested in. We’re experts in the less visited and off the beaten track parts of South America, so if you’re looking for something a bit different, let us know.
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:
Recommended South America Tours:
The Essence of Peru Tour
Machu Picchu & the Amazon Jungle Tour
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.
Recommended South America Tours:
Rio de Janeiro & the Amazon Rainforest Tour
Rio, Ouro Preto and Brazil Amazon Tour
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:
Recommended South America Tours:
World Wonders of South America
Chilean & Argentine Patagonia Tour
The South America Wine Tour
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.
5 Best South America Tours for 2023
|South America Deluxe Tour||from $4770||26 Days||This deluxe tour is perfect for honeymooners or those who want to see the highlights of South America in style. On this deluxe tour, you will visit...|
|The Essence of Peru||from $2890||15 Days||Historic Lima, the Ballestas Isles (the 'Galapagos of Peru'), Nazca Lines, the white city of Arequipa, Lake Titicaca, mystic Cuzco, the Sacred Valley...|
|World Wonders of South America||from $1990||11 Days||The Iguazu Falls, located on the border of southern Brazil and northern Argentina, and the ruins of Machu Picchu, nestled in the cloud forest of...|
|Rio de Janeiro & the Amazon Rainforest Tour||from $1450||8 Days||Rio de Janeiro, the former capital nestled between tropical mountains and sea, welcomes you. Let nature dominate at the Amazon Ecopark Jungle Lodge...|
|Very Best of Argentina||from $2500||13 Days||Discover the Highlights of Argentina on this one-of-a-kind best of Argentina tour through the most scenic landscapes in Argentina. From the...|
Download Your Free
South America Travel Guide
Download our FREE South America Travel Guide and get inspired to explore to South America. Browse through 26 pages of travel planning tips and ideas – a great resource for planning your dream vacation.
- Colorful maps and images
- Unique hotels within South America
- Inspiration for cruises, remote lodges and trains
- Wine, golf and adventure ideas
- 24 top tours of South America
South American Tours FAQs
Thinking about a South America trip? Here’s a list of frequently asked questions we often hear from our guests. Visit our South America Travel Info page for in-depth South America travel tips.
What is the best season to travel to 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 that 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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