Countries covered: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Argentina, Uruguay & Brazil

South America just may be the world’s most underrated destination. Tourism in Colombia is growing steadily as visitors finally feel comfortable exploring the country’s many attractions: colonial cities, archaeological ruins, coffee plantations, high-mountain trekking, tropical beaches and islands, scuba diving, surfing, and whale watching. Known as the microcosm of South America, Ecuador is most popular with students wishing to learn Spanish as well as with nature-lovers fascinated by the Galapagos Islands. However, both the colonial gem of a capital that is Quito and the country’s interior jungles (the Oriente) are equally impressive, despite not really being on the beaten path. Read more

Known for hiking the historic Inca (Empire) Trail, indigenous archeological sites such as Machu Picchu, traditional folk healers (a.k.a. shaman or curanderos), once-abundant gold resources, colonial-era settlements like the architecturally gifted city of Cusco, exotic Amazonian jungle, coastal deserts, the breathtaking Andes mountains, Pisco sours (alcohol) and its seafood (especially ceviche), the gastronomic hotspot that is Peru is one of South America’s most visited destinations for good reason. Featuring a broad range of landscapes from deserts of the Andes to rainforests in the Amazon to towering volcanic peaks, boasting the largest salt flat on the planet just perfect for four-wheel driving and otherwise home to fine colonial architecture, the landlocked and highly indigenous nation that is Bolivia is surprisingly one of South America’s least visited destinations. That’s all the better, as prices are lower, problems are fewer (e.g. haggling tourists) and the overall experience is far more authentic.

Known for incredibly diverse nature, gauchos (a.k.a. cowboys), delicious meats (especially the steak), world-renowned wines, tango, soccer fanatics, and attractive people, Argentina is nothing short of amazing. The lasting impressions you are likely to have of Argentina are of its live-for-the-moment people. Argentineans are rarely quiet, often hilarious, instinctively passionate, and always fashionable. The country oozes a level of stylishness incomparable to anywhere outside of the Mediterranean. Contrary to much of the Mediterranean, however, tourists surprisingly are not arriving in Argentina by the masses-at least not yet. Home of one of the most chic resorts in all of Latin America, Uruguay is one of the continent’s most pleasant and prosperous countries. Although colonial Colonia Del Sacramento and Montevideo are great destinations for stopping over en route, ultimately Uruguay’s tourist magnet draw is the seasonally popular resort Punta del Este, often labeled as the Monte Carlo of South America.

Known for colorful and colonial architecture, festive music, an incomparable nightlife scene and a free-spirited culture that becomes most expressive during Carnival, Brazil is THE country that extends over approximately half of South America and covers much of the Amazon. This is a land of tropical scenery, of astonishing biodiversity, of seemingly endless coastline, of powdery white-sand beaches, exotic and clear waters, giant waterfalls, canyons and rivers, adventure, and excitement. Brazil is undoubtedly one of the Americas most talked-about and enchanting destinations.

Note that while Chile does not have its own chapter, this very long country is certainly worth mentioning nevertheless. While some enjoy the urban centers of La Serena, Puerto Montt, Santiago, Valdivia and Viña del Mar, arguably none of them are a ‘must-see’ destination. Chile’s greatest destination is arguably its Atacama Desert. It is best reached by land after visiting the salt flats in Bolivia.

Base yourself in the village of San Pedro de Atacama. From there, you can make daytrips. Make sure to rent a car. Dedicate one day to Rainbow Valley (a.k.a. Valle del Arcoiris) and then Valley of the Moon (a.k.a. Valle de la Luna). At the end of this day, watch the sunset from a lookout point called Mirador Likan-Antay. The next day, wake up at 5:00am, dress very warmly and visit the El Tatio Geysers. Afterwards, go bathing at the Puritama Hot Springs. Lastly on this day, bathe in the Escondidas de Baltinache Lagoons. On the final day in Atacama, bathe in the Cejar Lagoon and then walk along the Salar de Atacama Salt Flats.

One more destination worth visiting in Chile is Torres del Paine National Park. One day should be spent on a shared tour which stops at various lookout points. The other day should be spent hiking all the way to a lookout point called Mirador Base Las Torres. 1-way, the hike takes around 4 hours.

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