Tourism in South America has exploded over the past few decades as global visitors have discovered the remarkable scope of cultures, nature and history sewn into the fabric of these lands. If you’re searching for inspiration for your next adventure, then look no further; we’ve picked the five best reasons why you should explore South America.
1. Its plethora of historic monuments marking lost civilizations
From the Tehuelche people of Patagonia, to the Tiwanaku culture in Bolivia and the more recent Inca Empire that populated much of the Andean regions in the 15th and 16th centuries, myriad civilizations have left their footprints upon South America.
Trek the now iconic Inca trail to reach the landmark that has become synonymous with South America itself: Machu Picchu, an example of the enchanting Inca citadels that once dominated the mountains in this region. For the even more intrepid, The Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) is the archeological site of an ancient city in Colombia which is believed to be over 650 years older than Machu Picchu and requires a 28 mile (46 km) round trip through dense jungle to reach.
If you need further proof that South America is a hub of fascinating historical monuments, stare into the eyes of the Rapa Nui civilization in the 900 monolithic moai figures that dominate Easter Island, 1,289 miles (2,075 km) west of Chile.
2. The enormous and completely awe-inspiring natural formations
Visitors to South America never fail to be spellbound by the superlative scale of its staggering geological and glacial formations. Perito Moreno, a 19 mile (30 km) long glacier in Argentina, is a colossal example. A reminder of the earth’s ice ages, visitors can appreciate its enormous scale by viewing it from a walkway at its foot or by ice trekking atop the glacier.
Further north in Bolivia, El Salar de Uyuni is the world’s biggest salt flat and an eye-muddling expanse of unblemished, white salt. Iguazu Falls, on the border between Argentina and Brazil, are formed from hundreds of waterfalls crashing over the edge of the Paraná Plateau and considered the largest waterfall system in the world.
3. It includes a whopping five of the 17 most ecologically diverse countries in the world
Venezuela, Peru, Colombia, Ecuador and Brazil are amongst the most ecologically diverse countries in the world; a fact that comes as no surprise when you consider the sheer wealth of wildlife found in one of the planet’s most incredible and unique ecosystems, the Amazon Rainforest.
It covers an area of over 2 million sq. miles (5.5 million sq. km) making it the largest and most diverse area of tropical rainforest.
4. South America’s cities are vibrant hubs of culture and cuisine
A wealth of vibrant cities make South America an unmissable destination for culture and world-class dining. Rio de Janeiro is the home of the most famous carnival celebrations, where a two week period sees the city let loose through its peerless displays of Brazilian dancing, music and parades of spectacular outfits.
Argentina’s bohemian capital, Buenos Aires, is unmatched in its elegant, tree-lined avenues, traditional parrillas and stately plazas filled with tango dancers. Santiago shouldn’t be missed either, having established itself as a hub of gastronomy and exceptional wines, while Quito’s breathtaking colonial architecture draws visitors from around the globe.
5. Travelers are never short of adventurous destinations
If adventure is what sets your heart ablaze, South America is your travel soul mate. Chile was recently crowned as South America’s Leading Adventure Tourism Destination in the World Travel Awards 2016 thanks to the unbeatable hiking in Torres del Paine National Park and the extreme, world-class rapids in Futaleufú in Los Lagos Region.
But nor does the rest of South America disappoint. Sling your hammock up on a river boat in the Amazon anywhere from Iquitos in Peru, Rurrenabaque in Bolivia or Manaus in Brazil and discover how South America is the unrivalled adventure travel destination on the planet.