Top Sights in South America That Are Worth the Hype
South America is lucky. It is a continent of startling contrasts, filled with stunning natural scenery and manmade creations that are downright impressive to witness, with so many destinations and landscapes to choose from. Of course, there are always those same places that visitors flock to from across the world; but which are the top sights in South America that are really worth the hype? Here’s our pick of the continent’s must-see spots that live up to their reputations, and you really need to see at least once in your lifetime.
Undoubtedly one of the top sights in South America, Machu Picchu, Peru, very rightly deserves its place among the bucket lists of travellers. This ancient citadel was carved out of the Sacred Valley landscape hundreds of years ago, and is a manmade marvel to behold. The distinctive, emerald peaks that rise behind the centuries-old complex make for a breathtaking backdrop to the 150 stone buildings, ceremonial temples, agricultural terraces and 3,000 steps of this archaeological site, an astonishing creation that served as the last stronghold of the Inca. In truth, nothing can prepare for the awesome majesty of the one and only Machu Picchu, which isn’t only a top sight in South America, but the world.
A natural wonder and grand spectacle of mother earth, Iguazu Falls isn’t like any other waterfall you’ve seen before. Spanning a width of 3km and made up of 275 different cascades, many of which plummet from heights of up to 80m, Iguazu Falls is simply jaw-dropping. In fact, it’s so large that it sprawls over the borders of Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay, with the heart of the action taking place at the ‘Devil’s Throat’, where several of the Iguazu River’s tributaries meet and collide in a dramatic display. Here, you can gaze over at the crashing waters from an elevated viewpoint, though it’s also well worth getting up close to the falls on a boat ride. What’s more, the surrounding Iguazu National Park is endowed with more action-packed activities to make the journey here even more worthwhile; from biking and hiking through the Atlantic Forest to 4×4 adventures and wildlife-watching excursions.
El Perito Moreno Glacier
From the tropics of Brazil to the windswept pampas of Patagonia; this top sight in South America reveals the spellbinding geology of the continent’s frozen south. El Perito Moreno is an immense glacier, enthroned in the wilds of Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina, within easy reach from El Calafate. Interestingly, this is a glacier with a surface area around the same size as Buenos Aires; a glacier that is expanding, rather than shrinking, and one that you just can’t take your eyes off. While here, follow the wooden walkways positioned opposite El Perito Moreno to reach myriad viewpoints overlooking the glacier, and be sure to take to the waters of Lake Argentino to see it all from below. It’s an incredible sight to see glacial ice calving into the lake in a huge crash; one that’ll make up some of your best memories of Patagonia.
The Amazon Rainforest needs no introduction. This is the most biodiverse place on the planet, a tropical wonderland stretching for a mind-boggling 2,100,000sq miles over nine countries in South America, including Brazil, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Dwelling in this extraordinary natural world are 40,000 plant species; 2.5 million insect species; 1,300 types of bird; and 427 mammal species, who inhabit a great mix of habitats and ecosystems. On top of this, the Amazon is the home of various tribes and jungle communities, who have maintained the same way of life for years. However, this beautiful and extremely precious corner of the world is sadly under threat, most recently from the devastating fires that have swept through huge parts of the Brazilian Amazon. The impact is still yet to be fully uncovered, but it is still possible to visit those parts of the Amazon untouched by the fires.
Another totally different landscape to the tropics of the Amazon and the icy realm of Patagonia, Chile’s Atacama Desert flaunts its own unique appeal. This is the driest desert in the world, with some of the clearest night skies for stargazing, rock formations dating back millions of years, and eerily beautiful scenery brushed in strokes of red and ochre. Moreover, the land is dotted with geysers, volcanoes, high-altitude lagoons, salt flats, canyons and gorges, a dramatic background that sets the scene for biking, hiking, horse riding, 4×4 adventures and even floating in pools of mineral and salt-rich water. Additionally, you can witness Flamingos, Guanacos and Vicuñas in the wild,then spend the night in a boutique hotel that segues into the desert landscape and offers spa pools, yoga, fine food and locally-inspired Atacama décor.
Uyuni Salt Flats
The Uyuni Salt Flats in Bolivia are one of the unmissable top sights in South America, whose iconic image of seemingly endless white plains are even more impressive in real life. The 4,000sq mile salt flats are among the highest in the world, a prehistoric lake that dried up and is today encrusted with salt as thick as 10m, providing around 60% of the planet’s lithium. Interestingly, when rain falls on Uyuni, the salt flats are carpeted in a shimmering sheet of water that reflects the sky above, blurring the horizon and making it hard to distinguish the earth from the sky – an extremely beautiful and ethereal sight. On the other hand, when it’s dry, it’s always fun to play with the distorted dimensions you can get by taking photographs of objects and people at different depths, owed to the blank canvas stretching for miles behind you. But best of all, the Uyuni Salt Flats are an example of mother earth in all her glory, with nothing for miles all around but nature.
Ready to explore the top sights in South America? Start building your trip online using Discover Your South America. Handpick the hotels and activities you want, adjust the durations depending on how long you want to stay in each place, and have fun in the process! Surtrek is always at hand to help out. Call us on 1 866 978 7398 (Canada and USA) or 080 8189 0438 (UK) to talk to an expert, and Discover Your South America with Surtrek!