11th February, 2020
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. This array of natural wonders, along with cultural hotspots and historic monuments, makes the South American continent a captivating destination for holidaymakers looking to get the most out of their trip.
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. After all, there’s a lot to take in, and a lot of options for where to start.
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.
Found in the west, Peru is home to one of the continent’s most famous 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.
Another country found on the west coast, Ecuador straddles the equator and boasts a diverse landscape, including the unique Galapagos Islands. Inland, Quito, the capital city, represents one of the world’s best kept Spanish colonial centres, and is now a UNESCO World Heritage site. Lying at an altitude of 2,850 metres, you can wander the cobbled streets as you take a journey into Ecuador’s past. For a different slice of Ecuador, venture up to the Pichincha Volcano by cable car, or head to the equator and visit the Mitad del Mundo landmark north of Quito, which translates to "middle of the world".
For a lively take on South American culture, Brazil never disappoints. Iconic Rio de Janeiro is a breathtaking introduction to the country, boasting famous beaches, a lively music scene, delicious food and impressive sights. But these lively metropolises offer just a taste of what Brazil has to offer. The country boasts the greatest collection of plant and animal species found anywhere on the planet, and there are plenty of opportunities to spot everything from toucans and howler monkeys to sea turtles. For a magical sight, head to the Brazilian side of Iguazu Falls – possibly one of the most impressive waterfalls in the world. Its 275 falls, along the border of Brazil and Argentina, will leave you speechless.
Found in the north, Colombia boasts many of South America’s top draws, all within one cultural wonderland. Head to the underground salt cathedral in the north, or visit the UNESCO World Heritage site at Cartagena de Indias, built by the Spanish during the 15th and 16th centuries. Cartagena’s old city is packed with plazas, palaces and mansions – the perfect spot to spend an afternoon exploring. If you fancy a day in nature, Tayrona National Park on Colombia’s Caribbean coast pairs beautiful untouched beaches with swathes of lush rainforest; take a hike to the Pueblito ruins within the park during your visit, keeping an eye out for the brightly-coloured reptiles and butterflies en route.
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 Volcán Osorno, a stunning volcano often likened to Mount Fuji. Wonder at the wooden UNESCO World Heritage churches of Chiloé, or enjoy a star tour in San Pedro de Atacama, one of the places on Earth said to have the clearest skies. 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.
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.
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