picture of the cover of a sample tour itinerary

Download itinerary

  • Get This Itinerary Now! 📬
  • Hidden
  • Hidden

Jul 24, 2012


By Annica Gaither

Share This Post

South America Travel Destinations" class="side-info__social">

Last updated on March 18th, 2021 at 10:59 am

Top 10 South America Travel Destinations

For those of you who are not familiar with South America, I have compiled a list of my top 10 South America travel destinations. Whether you like beaches, history, nature, or big cities, there is something for everyone in South America!

1. Machu Picchu, Peru

Machu Picchu on sunny day

First on our list of the best South America travel destinations is Machu Picchu. The “Lost City of the Incas” is the ancient civilization of Machu Picchu.  Located high in the Andes in central Peru, this archaeology buff’s heaven is surrounded by lush green peaks. Explore the ancient ruins with one of our knowledgeable local guides, on our Essence of Peru trip, or our Travel of the Incas tour.  Both tours visit the spectacular ruins as well as travel through Cusco and the Sacred Valley, two of the main points en route to Machu Picchu.

2. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, also known as the “Paris of South America,” is a very cosmopolitan city located on the Rio de la Plata, on the eastern coast of Argentina.  This is a top travel destination because of its excellent cuisine, diverse population, and European architecture. Buenos Aires has a different feel than the other major cities in South America.  Enjoy a delicious Argentine steak, take a walk through the Cementerio de Recoleta, or watch a Tango Show. All of these activities are readily available in this European style capital.

3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

surfers in rio de janeiro

Next on our list is Rio de Janeiro. Beautiful green mountains jutting out from the earth, and meeting the cool waters of the blue Atlantic Ocean, Rio de Janeiro is a city you will never forget. One of Brazil’s largest cities, Rio is home to the Christ the Redeemer Statue, Carnival, Sugarloaf Mountain, Guanabara Bay, and cheerful Cariocas.  Whether it be relaxing on your rooftop pool at your hotel, or swimming in the ocean and suntanning on the beach, Rio is a top South America travel destination for relaxation while also having an active nightlife. Combine Rio and Buenos Aires with the Tango, Samba & Waterfalls tour.

4. The Amazon Rainforest

The Amazon is a must-see for animal lovers. See a variety of animals, including parrots, macaws, monkeys, alligators, and even pink dolphins! Enjoy a cruise on the rustic Tucano or the luxurious Iberostar ship, or if you are more interested in one of the many Amazonian Lodges, go for the Amazon Eco Park, the Anavilhanas. Or you may stay at one of the many lodges in the Peruvian Amazon. No matter where you stay, you will be sure to have an unforgettable trip!

5. The Lakes District, Patagonia (Argentina & Chile)

View of the foliage and lakes in San Carlos de Bariloche Argentina

Patagonia and the Lakes District is, of course, a must on our top 10 South America Travel Destinations. Located in both Chile and Argentina, the Lakes District is the region located just above Patagonia. Lakes and mountains create beautiful vistas for nature enthusiasts.  Our Chile, Andes, and Buenos Aires tour takes you on the Lake Crossing, a full-day journey across the border by boat and motorcoach.  Skiing and trekking are also available in this region. Bring your camera to catch a glimpse of the amazing scenery!

6. Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza is a haven for traveling wine drinkers.  The fertile lands and irrigation systems in place have allowed for a flourishing grape and wine industry.  Come to Mendoza to enjoy the delicious Malbec grapes grown, fermented, processed, and bottled into excellent Argentine wines.  There are also a wealth of adventure activities such as trekking, rappelling, rafting, horseback riding, and zip line to name a few. View the In-Depth Mendoza Wine Tour.

7. Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena square and church

No list of the top 10 South America travel destinations would be complete without a tour to Cartagena. Cartagena de las Indias, a Caribbean city located on the northern coast of Colombia.  Beautiful beaches, colonial architecture, delicious food, and eclectic people make this coastal city an excellent vacation spot.  On your tour stop by the local fortress, a UNESCO world heritage site, take a cruise over to the tropical Islas Rosarios, or even party on a “chiva,” a local bus that operates as a pub crawl.

8. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Another top South America travel destination for animal enthusiasts, a visit to the Galapagos Islands is the ultimate destination. Hop on a plane from Quito to Baltra, and begin your cruise immediately. Ranging from smaller boats to larger vessels, see it all by doing day trips to the various islands. View the blue-footed boobies, aquatic iguanas, giant tortoises, and other various birds.  It is here that Charles Darwin did his studies on evolution.

9. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Uyuni Salt Flat at sunset

Next up on our list of the top 10 South America travel destinations is Salar de Uyuni. The largest salt flat in the world, Salar de Uyuni, is truly a sight to see.  In the dry season, you have a vast expanse of flat salt-covered plains. In the wet season, the plains flood and create a mirror effect, the reflection of the sky on the flat water is a spectacular sight.  Our Classic Bolivia tour will take you to Uyuni, and you may even stay in a salt hotel!

10. Patagonia (the Southern Cone)

Last on our list is Patagonia, home to jaw-dropping landscapes and stunning sights.  If you are traveling through Chile, don’t miss the chance to visit Torres del Paine National Park or the penguin colonies near Punta Arenas.  In Argentina, mini-trekking on the Perito Moreno Glacier near El Calafate or visit the “End of the World” in Ushuaia, home to the Beagle Channel as well as more penguin colonies. Patagonia is an excellent option for the outdoorsy type or those interested in photography.

See yourself in a top South America Travel Destination!

While there is a never-ending list of fabulous and interesting South America travel destinations, these are my top picks. Wines, nature, wildlife, outdoor activities, or beaches, South America has it all!

Are you ready to begin planning your South America adventure? Contact us and a member of our Travel Team will contact you to begin working on your itinerary!

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Create Your Own Custom Tour

Click your preferences: Destinations & Activities. Be as specific or general as you like - or click Help Me Decide! We'll spice it with hidden gems & personal tips to create your perfect trip.

Choose Amazon destinations (optional)
Choose destinations (optional)
Choose Bolivia destinations (optional)
Choose Brazil destinations (opt)
Choose Chile destinations (opt)
Choose Colombia & Panama destinations (optional)
Choose Ecuador & Galapagos destinations (optional)
Choose Paraguay & Uruguay destinations (optional)
Choose Patagonia & Antarctica destinations (optional)
Choose Peru destinations (optional)
Choose Guianas destinations (optional)
Choose Interests
Choose activities
What category of accommodation?

You can choose more than one!

When would you like to go?
How many travelers?
age groups
age groups
Review my trip summary





Highly recommended - Phone: We ❤️ to talk! A brief chat with your personal Travel Consultant helps us create your perfect trip!

Last updated on March 18th, 2021 at 10:59 am

Hooray! Thanks for Sharing!

If you have an additional 30 seconds we’d love to learn more about you…

Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Custom Tour Request Popup

  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • Hidden
  • One Moment Please

    We are matching your tour idea with the right Travel Consultant
    who will be in touch shortly.
    Thank you for your request!

  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.