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Experiencing the highlights of South America

South America is a vast and varied destination, offering visitors the opportunity to explore breathtaking beaches, snow-covered mountains, tropical rainforests, and everything in between.

Historically, South America has long been home to an astounding array of cultures – both living and ancient – many of which have left a lasting mark to this day. For those looking to experience some of the wonders that this massive continent has to offer, it can be a bit daunting.

To help get you on your way, we’ve highlighted a few of the amazing things you can see and do in some of South America’s most revered destinations.


Machu Picchu

Situated in the west, Peru is home to one of the continent’s most well-known landmarks – Machu Picchu. Not only is this ancient Incan citadel famous in its own right, but it’s also surrounded by a maze of rich archaeological sites, along with the Inca Trail and the Sacred Valley. If you’re planning a visit to Peru, spend some time in Cusco, the oldest inhabited city on the continent, or head to the capital, Lima, to experience some of the country’s culinary delights.


Sally Lightfoot crabs inhabit the Galapagos Islands

Another country found on the west coast, Ecuador straddles the equator and boasts a diverse landscape, including the unique Galapagos Islands, located about 600 miles from the mainland. One of the world’s most remarkable destinations, the Galapagos archipelago is an open-air museum, home to an astonishing array of endemic species, that inspired Darwin’s ground-breaking theory of evolution and his book ‘The Origin of the Species’.

The city of Guayaquil, close to the Pacific coast, is not only the gateway to the Galapagos, but also exudes a welcoming, vivacious ambience. Here you can stroll around the colourful streets adorned with colonial architecture and plenty of lovely places to eat and shop, perhaps visiting the central plaza where iguanas roam freely.


Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro

For a lively take on South American culture, Brazil never disappoints. Rio de Janeiro is a breathtaking introduction to the country, boasting famous beaches, a vibrant music scene, delicious food and impressive sights, including the Christ the Redeemer Statue which has become an emblem of the city. Completed in 1931 and standing at 98 feet tall at the top of Corcovado Mountain, the iconic statue was voted one of the New Seven Wonders of the World.


Cartagena's atmospheric skyline at sunset

Found in the north, Colombia boasts many of South America’s top draws, all within one cultural wonderland. Visit the UNESCO World Heritage site at Cartagena de Indias, the jewel in Colombia’s crown, built beside the Caribbean coast by the Spanish during the 15th and 16th centuries. Cartagena’s old city is packed with elegant plazas, palaces and mansions, cobbled streets, flower bedecked balconies and horse-drawn carriages – the perfect spot to spend an afternoon exploring.


The Lake District of Chile, with Osorno Volcano

Instantly recognisable, the long, thin footprint of Chile stretches along the western edge of South America. The people of this country are one of its biggest assets; famed for their good vibes and welcoming nature, but the country also boasts a desert, mountains and glaciers.

Explore the country’s Lake District, with its dense forest, crystal-clear lakes and snow-capped mountains – including Volcan Osorno, which can be seen in the distance on a visit to Lake Llanquihue, and is often likened to Mount Fuji. Or explore Magdalena Island, one of the most unspoiled fauna habitats in the whole of South America. Located 25 miles north of Punta Arenas, the island is a natural reserve to a host of birdlife, including Magellan Penguins and cormorants.

Whatever you’re looking for during your South American adventure, you’re sure to make memories in Chile.

Planning your adventure in South America

The wonders of South America provide a backdrop for a life-changing adventure – one that’s as calm and relaxed, or adventurous and adrenaline-fuelled as you wish. From the heights of the Andean peaks to the southernmost glaciers of Patagonia, along with Incan ruins, colonial towns and landmark monuments, South America has something to offer everyone.

The hardest part is deciding where to start. Discover our American cruises and see where we could take you next.

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.