Our Ultimate South America Travel Bucket List
We've shared the 20 amazing travel experiences we want to have before we die, but we could spend a lifetime on any of the world's continents and still have more to discover. So today, we're taking a deeper dive into South America, to spotlight 16 destinations and experiences we'd love to visit. Scroll below to see the list, and start adding these to your Pinterest travel boards!
A hotel in Punta Ballena, Uruguay, Casapueblo was originally built as a summerhouse and workshop by Uruguayan artist Carlos Páez Vilaró over the course of a whopping 36 years. It has since been converted into a museum, art gallery, café, and hotel. Located on the southern tip of Uruguay, east of Montevideo, it has stunning views of the Atlantic Ocean and the Rio de la Plata.
If you have the opportunity to visit Peru, spend some time in the mountains outside of Cusco and shadow a local farmer for a day to get a feel for the daily lives of locals and meet some adorable llamas. A local travel agency like Andean Exclusive Tours should be able to set up an unforgettable experience of herding llamas, alpacas, and sheep.
Fifteenth-century Peruvian Incan site Machu Picchu has become one of the hottest destinations for American travelers, and for good reason. Situated on a mountain ridge above the Sacred Valley, the iconic site and historic sanctuary was built in classical Inca style and has been carefully restored, giving visitors a great idea of what life was like around 1450. Thousands of tourists walk the Inca Trail to visit Machu Picchu each year, and it can be accessed via a one-, two-, four-, or five-day hike through the Andes mountain range—the long route is a great challenge, if you're up for it!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is a stunning coastal city worth visiting any time of year, but visit during Carnival, a world-famous festival held annually before Lent, for a truly unparalleled experience. The massive event, a bigger version of Mardi Gras, draws more than two million people daily for parades with floats, elaborate costumes, samba music, local eats, and parties galore.
Dating to pre-Columbian times, reed boats, made of Totora reeds, are still used on Lake Titicaca, which borders Peru and Bolivia. The area’s indigenous Uros people, who live today on man-made floating islands across the lake, have become one of Peru’s biggest tourist attractions, welcoming visitors for cruises across the lake.
Famous for their great number of endemic species, Ecuador's Galápagos Islands—a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, studied by famous evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin—is a wildlife lover's dream destination. Visit for an introduction to blue-footed boobies (pictured), giant tortoises, marine iguanas, flightless cormorant birds, tiny penguins, magnificent frigatebirds, and more.
Argentinian province Mendoza is known for being a world-class wine-tasting destination and is a must-visit for any vino enthusiasts heading to South America. Located in the foothills of the Andes, the vineyards—which offer incredible mountain view—are planted at some of the world's highest altitudes, producing popular varietals like malbec, cabernet sauvignon, tempranillo, and chardonnay. Many local companies offer bike tours of the vineyards for an active wine-tasting experience.
Sailing to Antarctica is not an experience for the casual traveler, but if you're serious about outdoor adventure, you can't find a more exhilarating way to depart South America than on this intrepid polar expedition. Surrounded by seals, whales, penguins, and icebergs, you'll have an immersive, once-in-a-lifetime experience.
An archipelago in the South Atlantic Ocean on the Patagonian shelf, the Falkland Islands (a British overseas territory) is known for its wildlife, specifically its bird species—there are close to 230! (In fact, the islands have no native reptiles or amphibians, and only one native mammal.) The islands have five breeding penguin species, including king, rockhopper, Magellanic, gentoo, and macaroni penguins. Get your camera ready.
The largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon belongs to nine South American countries and is famed for its biodiversity. The rainforest is crisscrossed with thousands of rivers and remote river towns. If you want to go "off the grid," a canoe trip into the heart of the Amazon is the most surefire way to do it. Canoeing for several days, you can camp on beaches along the way and take day hikes with local native guides. Not for the faint of heart, the experience will be hot, sweaty, and muddy, but ultimately seriously rewarding.
Composed of lakes, rivers, mountains, and glaciers, Chile's Torres del Paine National Park is a sight for sore eyes and truly a postcard-perfect place. Each year, the park receives more than 150,000 tourists, who come from all over the world to hike and camp. There are two main treks: the popular "W" route, which takes about five days, and the full circle, which takes eight to nine days to journey. Not so adventurous? There's also a luxury hotel, Las Torres Patagonia, within the park, and others nearby.
Also known as the Coffee Triangle, the Colombian coffee growing axis is famous for producing a majority of Colombian coffee, which is considered some of the best in the world. If you're a coffee lover, this is the ultimate place to experience a fresh brew. And moreover, the landscape is jaw-dropping. If the delectable coffee and rich, lush landscape don't stun you, tourist attractions like Colombian National Coffee Park and Matecaña City Zoo will keep you entertained.
Bordering Argentina and Brazil, Iguazú Falls is one of the widest waterfalls in the world. Iguazú's famed Devil's Throat has water pouring into it from three sides, and a person viewing it can be surrounded by 260 degrees of waterfalls. Needless to say, it's a jaw-dropping place to visit—especially when you can catch a rainbow, too.
The Îles du Salut, or Islands of Salvation, off the coast of French Guiana are a small group of volcanic islands where missionaries once went to escape an outbreak of the plague on the mainland. In the 19th century, they were used as a penal colony, home to notorious French prisoners. Today, they are a tropical getaway with eerie remains of prison buildings and a cemetery—and a unique place to explore colonial architecture and experience wildlife like macaws and monkeys.
Encompassing 4086 square miles in Southwest Bolivia is the world’s largest salt flat, Salar de Uyuni, which formed as a result of transformations between prehistoric lakes. Extraordinarily flat, with seasonal flooding, the landscape creates the illusion that you are walking on water—and offers some quality photo opportunities. It's also a breeding ground for pink flamingos and has an antique cemetery of abandoned 19th-century trains, which are also great tourist attractions.
The southernmost city of the world, Ushuaia, Argentina, is often referred to as El Fin Del Mundo (The End of the World), thanks to its location at the very tip of South America. This port on the Beagle Channel is "a hop and a skip" to Antarctica and the Southern Ocean. Unsurprisingly, it's quite desolate (and cold and windy!), but the landscape and colors in this subpolar region are magnificent to see—especially if you really want to get away.
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What destinations and experiences would you add to this list? Tell us below.