The Best 5 Cities to Visit in South America
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The Best 5 Cities to Visit in South America

4 min read

Sep 11, 2015

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By Christina Schranz

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Last updated on November 5th, 2020 at 10:00 am

Top Cities to Visit in South America

Read our Top 5 Recommended Cities and the most popular South American cities to visit in South America from travel consultant Christina Schranz.

1. Buenos Aires, Argentina

historic building in Buenos Aires Argentina

Nicknamed “The Paris of South America,” Buenos Aires has it all – architecture, culture, history, European flair, excellent wines, steak houses & tango! Buenos Aires is the capital of Argentina with a population of 3 million. It is an energetic city, split into numerous beautiful neighborhoods. Recoleta, Palermo, San Telmo, La Boca, Microcentro & Puerto Madero are all charming and worth visiting. In addition, Buenos Aires is the gateway to Patagonia. If you are on your way to the end of the world, El Calafate, Bariloche, or Iguassu, a stop in Buenos Aires will be first on your list.

Travel tip: A Buenos Aires tour is not complete without visiting the EL GRAN ATENEO bookstore on Santa Fe Avenue. This is located inside an old theater and was voted one of the most beautiful bookstores in the world.

Must-see sites on a Buenos Aires Tour:

2. Cusco, Peru

temple of the sun in cusco peru

Cusco is one of the most popular cities to visit in South America. It was once the capital of the Incan Empire and is known for its colonial architecture and museums. It is also famous for being the gateway to the world-famous Machu Picchu. Cusco is a UNESCO world heritage site and one of Peru’s most visited destinations. The cobblestone streets, churches, and archeological sites make it a truly picture-perfect destination. It is worth it to spend a few extra days before/after visiting Machu Picchu in order to truly get a feel for the city.

Travel Tip: Drink lots of water and get plenty of rest when you first arrive in Cusco. This will make it easier for your body to adjust to the high altitude.

Must-see sites on a Cusco Tour:

  • Plaza de Armas
  • Plaza de San Francisco
  • The Sacred Valley
  • Pisac Market
  • Maras Salt Mines & Moray

3. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio during sunset

Next on our list of cities to visit in South America is Rio de Janeiro! Rio de Janeiro is Brazil’s second-largest city and is best known for its beaches, football, music & epic celebrations (New Years & Carnival). Locals – who never seem to stop smiling – Caipirinhas and sand between your toes are icing on the cake. Of course, no trip to Brazil is complete without a Rio de Janeiro tour – it is THE most visited city in the Southern Hemisphere & it is easy to understand why.

Travel tip: Enjoy some coconut water (agua de coco) while people-watching in Copacabana.

Must-see sites on a Rio de Janeiro tour:

  • Corcovado (Christ the Redeemer statue)
  • Sugarloaf
  • Tijuca Forest
  • Botanical Garden
  • Copacabana Beach
  • Ipanema Beach
  • Petropolis

4. Santiago, Chile

Santiago cite center with Andes mountains at sunset

Santiago is one of the best places to visit in Chile. The capital of Chile is nestled between the snow-capped Andes and the coastal range. The rich cultural life, great wines, and its central location make it the perfect base to visit other parts of Chile. In recent years it has developed into a sophisticated city that has gained a reputation for being cosmopolitan, energetic, and very clean.

Travel Tip: Enjoy a drink at the roof-top bar in the W Hotel in Santiago (open from September to April). Take in spectacular views of the Andes and the Santiago cityscape.

Must-see sites on a Santiago tour:

  • Historic Center of Santiago
  • Cerro San Cristobal
  • Santa Lucia
  • Vina del Mar
  • Valparaiso
  • The Chile Wine Region

5. Lima, Peru

waves on the coast of lima at sunset

Last on our list of cities to visit in South America is Lima. Lima, the capital of Peru, has been overlooked way too long as a travel destination in and of itself. Often just used as a “stop-over” on the way to Cuzco, Machu Picchu, and other parts of Peru, it does not get the credit it deserves. Recently it has gained the nickname of being the “culinary capital of the world”. Peruvian cuisine uses a wide variety of ingredients from the mountains, coast and Amazon regions. It also boasts excellent museums, elegant cathedrals, and ancient archeological sites.

Travel Tip: Try the ceviche – this is Peru’s most popular dish!

Must-see sites on a Lima tour:

  • Plaza de Armas
  • Larco Herrera Museum
  • Parque Kennedy
  • San Isidro
  • Miraflores
  • Barranco
  • Pedro de Osma Museum & Dedalo Gallery
  • Circuito Magico del Agua

More Cities to Visit in South America

Contact a Travel Expert on all of the best cities to visit in South America. There are so many places to see and things to do in this marvelous continent. Make sure that your tour itinerary includes everything you wish to experience. Start planning your South America trip today!

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Last updated on November 5th, 2020 at 10:00 am

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