Before Traveling to South America at the end of 2013 I would’ve found it hard to believe that it would rival my incredible 2.5 years gallivanting around Europe. Although Europe is an amazing continent, having now covered quite a bit of South America, I can honestly say it was somehow slightly more enjoyable. Was it the people? Was it the delicious cuisine or the breathtaking scenery? I’m not quite sure. What I am sure of is that there are some places that definitely should be on everybody’s to-do list.
Here are my 10 must-see destinations of South America.
1. Machu Picchu – Peru
One of the most scenic walks I ever had the pleasure of taking was the 5 day Salkantay trek to Machu Picchu. At some points the altitude can reach close to 5,000 metres above sea level so making sure you have a decent level of fitness is of some kind of importance. I wouldn’t worry too much though, if I can do it, I would happily assume anyone can.
2. Iguazu Falls – Argentina – Brazil
At over four times the width and 1.5 times the height of Canada’s Niagara falls, Iguazu falls is pretty impressive. I was lucky enough to visit the Argentinian portion which covers 80% of the falls, with the other 20% belonging to Brazil.
3. Salar de Uyuni, Salt Flats – Bolivia
Booking a 3 day tour starting at the Salt Flats of Bolivia will set you back around $100USD. A very small amount of money considering it’s one of the most popular South American tourist must-see destinations. The Salar contains a large amount of sodiums, potassiums, magnesiums and 43% of the world lithium supplies, a vital component of many electric batteries.
4. Death Road – Bolivia
Scary? Yes a little, but as I have detailed in a previous blog post the ride is as terrifying as you make it. Wanna go slow? Go slow. It’s really as simple as that.
5. Swing At The End Of the World – Ecuador
I begin to feel an unmistakable sense of envy when I see other travelers perfect swing photos, but unfortunately I had no other option but to visit the famous spot on a grey, cloudy day. Yes, it was as fun as it looks.
6. Galapagos Islands – Ecuador
Located 906km off the west coast of Ecuador is a group of islands famed for its strange array of animal species that contributed to the reasons for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection. It sure is a little pricier here than on the main land, but a place that has to be seen to be believed.
7. Quilotoa – Ecuador
Quilotoa is a 3km wide water-filled volcano located in the Ecuadorian Andes. It’s a half-hour hike down from the viewpoint and 1-2 hour hike back up the 280-meter vertical ascent, but as you can see it’s well worth it.
8. Huacachina – Peru
Home to a tiny 96 residents, Huacachina is a town complete with a lagoon, palm trees, thriving businesses and whole lot of sand. I recommend taking an adrenaline inducing dune buggy ride around Huacachina’s surrounding sand dunes. The sunsets here are also equally as incredible.
9. Amazon Rainforest
The lungs of planet Earth, yet we seem to think it’s perfectly okay to continually chop it down for none other than some type of monetary gain. Humans sure can be dumb sometimes. There’s only one word that I could use to describe the Amazon rainforest: alive. Don’t forget your mosquito repellent.
10. Patagonia – Chile – Argentina
Whale-watching, penguins, picturesque glaciers or scuba diving, anyone? This incredible part of the world is shared by Chile and Argentina. It is admittedly a little bit out of the way, but as you should know, if it’s not hard, it’s not worth doing…well…most of the time.