From Amazon rainforests to Patagonian glaciers to the mighty Andes mountains, South America overflows with diverse landscapes to explore. Add vibrant cities, captivating history and culture, and warm hospitality, and it’s easy to see why South America remains a top destination. With so many good places to travel in South America across its 12 countries, how do you decide where to go? Use this guide to the best places to visit for an epic adventure.

Experience Lively Cities

view from the top of Christ the Redeemer (1)

Many excellent places to see in South America allow you to experience the energetic urban vibe the continent offers.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

The cosmopolitan Argentine capital exudes European charm with neighborhoods like San Telmo filled with cobblestone streets, tangos dancers, street markets, and quaint cafes. Don’t miss visiting the famous Teatro Colón opera house. At night, enjoy parrillas (steakhouses) and a glass of Malbec while taking in tango shows. Buenos Aires provides the perfect blend of arts, architecture, entertainment, and cuisine.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Rio remains one of the top places in South America for its spectacular landscapes, party atmosphere, and vibrant culture. Take in the view atop Sugarloaf Mountain, relax on Copacabana Beach, dance the samba at a local show, and tour colorful favelas to experience the local vibe. Time your visit for Carnival to join one of the world’s biggest parties.

Bogota, Colombia

Once known for unrest, Bogota now shines as a top place to visit in South America. La Candelaria historic district unveils Spanish colonial architecture alongside trendy cafes and restaurants in refurbished mansions. Top museums like the Gold Museum and Botero Gallery house impressive collections. And you can’t miss visiting the colorful mountainside barrios on the free walking tours.

Revel in Jaw-Dropping Scenery

pier in santa barbara california

One of the greatest appeals of South America is the astonishing natural beauty across the continent. These spots showcase some of the best nature has to offer.

Patagonia Region

Spanning southern Chile and Argentina, Patagonia impresses visitors with untouched forests, massive glaciers, turquoise lakes, and snow-capped Andes peaks. Torres Del Paine National Park in Chile provides top-rate hiking amongst the dramatic mountainscape. Argentina’s Perito Moreno glacier offers walkways right up to the icy front. Patagonia is one of the top places in South America for outdoor enthusiasts.

Iguazu Falls, Argentina & Brazil

At the border of these two countries lies one of the most awe-inspiring sights on the continent. Iguazu Falls consists of 275 individual drops cascading around the jungle; the sound is deafening. Cross footbridges over the rapids and get soaked by the spray. Combine visiting both sides for the full magnificent panorama.

Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

One of the most surreal places in South America is this massive salt flat stretching over 4,000 square miles. Its perfectly flat desert gets covered in a thin layer of water during the wet season, creating a giant mirror reflecting the sky. Get artsy with creative perspective photos playing with the reflections.

Absorb Fascinating History

Praia do Leme, Rio de Janeiro (1)

South America’s rich history and culture make it such an engaging destination. These are some top historical spots to visit:

Machu Picchu, Peru

No list of top places in South America is complete without this. One of the new Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu amazes with its intricate stone walls and terraces set high in the Andes. Learn about the Inca empire while exploring the ruins and hiking the epic Inca Trail.

Easter Island, Chile

On this tiny remote Pacific island lies nearly 1,000 mysterious moai statues left behind by the Rapa Nui people. Gaze in wonder at the monolithic stone heads dotting the island and visit quarries to see unfinished work. Anthropologists still have many unanswered questions about their origins and purpose.

Cerro Rico, Potosi, Bolivia

This mountain of silver looms large in Bolivian history. As part of the Spanish empire, indigenous slaves mined silver here under brutal conditions, and the mountain directly funded the growth of Europe. Tour the mines to witness how workers still extract resources today.

Sample Local Culture

views of Rio de Janeiro

One of the great joys of South American travel comes from engaging with the local culture. Here are some top spots for a cultural immersion:

Otavalo Market, Ecuador

This massive market run by native Otavaleños people offers the perfect introduction to Indigenous culture. Browse traditional handicrafts like weavings, carvings, and jewelry. Try typical foods at the food stalls while listening to panpipe musicians. The vibrant costumes and community spirit leave a deep impression.

Tierra del Fuego, Argentina/Chile

At the southern tip of the continent, this archipelago provides a window into a disappearing culture. Interact and share mate (tea) with the nomadic Kaweskar people to learn about their fishing lifestyle and simple dwellings. Help preserve their heritage through community visits.

El Chalten, Argentina

Base yourself in this cozy Andean village with Alpine architecture to hike Mt. Fitz Roy and soak up the gaucho lifestyle. Chat with local cowboys, try regional specialties like smoked lamb, and drink Patagonian craft beer at a local pub. The blend of stunning scenery and cultural immersion makes it a favorite stop.

With so many excellent places to see across its diverse landscape and cities, South America promises a trip filled with magic and wonder. Start planning your itinerary and prepare for the adventure of a lifetime! Let me know if you need any other recommendations for best US cities for solo female travel.