South America a wild and beautiful country, from the enormous rain forests of the Amazon Jungle to the mighty Amazon River that runs through it, from the majestic, snow-capped Andes to the granite peaks and enormous lakes in Chile that teem with animals found nowhere else on earth.
On one continent, the glaciers of Patagonia and the sun kissed beaches of Brazil and Panama bless the landscape.
In Argentina the Iguazu waterfalls, all two hundred and fifty of them, create a spectacular natural show, and on the Galapagos Islands off Ecuador the ecosystem is like no other on earth.
The history and culture of South America is equally diverse. This is land of the Tango, the Salsa and the Samba, Brazilian coffee and Chilean wine.
Archaeological remains of ancient and mystical Inca towns and temples tower over the surrounding countryside. Colonial villages sport cobble stoned roads and pretentious Spanish Cathedrals, whilst traditional tribes float their grass homes In the middle of Lake Titicaca, birthplace of the Incas.
Countries in South America
Learn to Tango in Buenos Aires, and then dance in the cool of the evening. The capital city of Brazil is full of art, music and colorful houses. Museums and art galleries offer an insight into the history and culture of the Argentinean people.
In towns around the country, Spanish colonial buildings surround cobbled streets, and in the surrounding valleys and hills, vineyards thrive.
Considered one of the natural wonders of the world, the Iguazu Falls are comprised of between one hundred and fifty and three hundred waterfalls. They create one of the most dramatic natural spectacles in South America.
In Glaciares National Park view a thirty-kilometer long glacier. Climb the sheer face or take a walk along the top, watch huge pieces of ice calve off the iceberg, or take a boat trip past floating glaciers.
Bolivia is a land of natural splendor, and home to the remains of ancient civilizations, which can be found in places such as Tiwanaku, with its awe-inspiring structures built more than three thousand years ago.
Close by, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world, and is believed to be the birthplace of the Incas. A boat ride to the island on the lake will reveal the ruins left by these ancient people.
Madidi National Park is one of the most bio diverse on earth, spanning eleven thousand kilometers; it is home to animals such as the jaguar and to more than one thousand bird species. In the tropical rain forests of this park, visitors may stumble across the indigenous people that still live here.
Also in Bolivia, the world’s largest salt flat was once an inland sea, now dried up it is a white desert unlike any other on earth, home to flamingos, llamas and other unique animals.
Extending over an enormous landmass, and with the most diverse ecosystems found anywhere on earth, Brazil is home to thousands of species of birds and animals.
From the Amazon jungle to the soft, sandy beaches of Rio de Janeiro, and from Pantanal, the largest tropical wetland in the world, to the cultivated vineyards and coffee plantations in the South and Northwest, Brazil offers visitors a vast palette of choices.
Travel by canoe through the Pantanal to view the exceptional wild life. Take a boat ride into the depths of the rain forests, and visit Indian villages, fish for piranha, or simply take in the diversity of life.
Cycle through the wine lands, or through towns where pretty colonial buildings and lavish cathedrals built by the Portuguese surround cobbled streets.
Swim or surf at the Copacabana Beach, close by the Sugar Loaf Mountain falls into the Ocean, or walk the colorful, bustling streets of Rio Janeiro under the watchful eye of Christ the Redeemer.
Check out this Brazil travel guide!
Chile stretches down the east coast of South America and boasts almost six thousand kilometers of shore. The country is so narrow that visitors can ski in the Andes and surf in the Pacific Ocean on the same day.
Santiago, the capital city, boasts a palace and Cathedral of breathtaking Spanish splendor. The Museum in Santiago contains four and a half thousand exhibits from pre-Columbian times.
Take a cable car up the Cerro San Cristobal, the bright white and beautiful statue of the Virgin Mary stands upon the hill overlooking the city. The views up here are great.
Don’t stick to the cities only. Chilli’s wine industry was started four hundred years ago, and vineyards span almost the full length of the country.
Visit the Saint Rafael Glacier by boat. It is a spectacular journey. Take a drive to the Valley of the Moon. The rock formations are both otherworldly and quite spectacular. Climb a volcano in Pucon, and on Easter Island, find hundreds of statues left by previous civilizations.
Once plagued by civil war and drug lords, Colombia is rising above its past to forge a new future. Situated in the north of the continent of South America, Colombia is covered by rain forests and coffee plantations.
The Andes Mountains run through this country that boasts ten percent of earth’s biodiversity. Colombia is also home to more bird species than any other country.
The Amazon Basin covers a third of Colombia and a boat ride up the river helps to introduce visitors to the diversity of nature and the indigenous people that live in the jungle. In the Valle de Cocora National Park the national tree, the Wax Palm, tallest tree in the world, grows so high it touches the clouds, and adds an alien appeal to the lush hillsides.
Apart from the jungle, Colombia borders both the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean, and is surrounded by beautiful beaches coral reefs and islands.
The Sierra Nevada Mountain is the highest coastal mountain range in the world, forming a splendid backdrop where it juts out onto the Caribbean coast.
Ecuador once a land of the Incas, and subsequently conquered by the Spanish, still exudes the spirit of both cultures. The capital city, Quito, has been built upon the ruins of an ancient Inca town, high up in the Andes Mountains.
It has the largest Old City in the Americas, containing large town squares, Spanish colonial convents and monasteries and some of the most glorious Catholic Cathedrals. Dating back to the sixteenth century the Cathedrals are crammed with the finest sculptures, paintings and carvings in South America.
In Otovalo, purchase colorful hand made weaves so intricate they look like prints. Visit the world’s largest orchid farm. Hike or row through parts of the Amazon jungle, covering fifty percent of the country and filled with more than one thousand species.
Climb into the biggest volcanic crater in South America. Relax on palm-fringed Pacific beaches or visit the Galapagos Islands to experience the unique ecosystems that inspired Charles Darwin.
The Falkland Islands is an archipelago of nearly eight hundred islands in the South Atlantic Ocean. Situated just under five hundred kilometers off the coast of Argentina the islands are a British territory.
The Falklands offers visitors a unique escape from a busy and crowded world. Here the beaches and plains are mostly isolated, populated only be wild life and domestic animals.
Horse ride, cycle or hike along the white beaches through small and picturesque villages.
The Falklands is blessed with a wealth of wildlife, some of which is unique to the islands. Find albatross, sea lions, penguins and elephant seal, two hundred species of birds, whales and dolphins.
South Georgia Island is home to the British Antarctic Research stations.
On the North East Coast of South America, this French territory is composed mostly of tropical rain forests, rich with wild life. It is a great destination for hikers, bird lovers and nature lovers.
It also has some unique and unexpected attractions. Although in the middle of the jungle and with limited infrastructure, it is nonetheless the site three separate space agencies. Witness one of the five to ten rocket launches that take place there every year.
Devil’s Island, immortalized in the book Papillion, is no longer used as prison, and is now home to an interesting array of wild life including macaws and monkeys.
Visit Hattes Beach between April and July when the giant Leatherback Turtles come in to breed. This is the most important turtle-breeding site in the world. There are also three other breeding turtles that use this beach to lay their eggs.
Guyana on the North Atlantic coast of South America is seldom visited and has a tiny population of less than a million people. Although lacking in infrastructure, Guyana is one of the best destinations on earth for the ecotourist.
Eighty percent of the country is covered by rain forests rich in wildlife. With over eight hundred bird species Guyana is also home to jaguars, giant anteaters and the biggest freshwater fish in the world. It is also one of the last remaining reserves for otters. Visitors are permitted to swim with them.
It boasts the largest single drop waterfall on earth. At 741 feet it is twice as high as the Victoria Falls.
The country has a Caribbean temperament. The people play cricket, speak English and listen to calypso music. Colonized in the past by no fewer than three European countries, this land has a diverse set of cultures and cuisines.
Paraguay is a landlocked country in South America. The country has a blend of both old and new world civilizations.
Although Paraguay was colonized by the Spanish in the sixteenth century, the people still speak the language of the pre-Columbian tribes.
The capital city Asuncion is an enchanting colonial city with large squares and tree lined avenues. Find the haunting seventeenth century remains of Jesuit monastery. The monastery was once a town with schools, houses and a church, now only ruins remain. The nearby museum covers the history of slavery and colonialism.
The Rio Paraguay divides Paraguay in two, on one side of the river the Chaco, desolate and sparsely populated by indigenous tribes and on the other marshes, lagoons and steamy rain forests, home to howler monkeys, jaguars and puma.
Peru is home to the most important archaeological site in America. Machu Pichu is one of the new Seven Wonders of the World. Two thousand four hundred meters high and surrounded by bristling mountain crags, the terraces, towers and temples of this ancient Incan city blend into and even enhance the surrounding landscape. The city overlooks the stunning Sacred Valley below, scattered with medieval Spanish villages and ancient Inca ruins.
Peru also boasts a host of natural wonders. The Amazon Jungle covers sixty percent of the land. Take a canopy walk among the treetops the forest below boasts the giant anaconda amongst its residents.
The Calco Canyon, twice as deep as the Grand Canyon, is home to the endangered Andean Condor. At 3.2 meters this bird has the widest wingspan on earth. In the mountains Lake Titicaca is the world’s highest navigable river and birthplace of the Incas.
South Georgia and the South Sandwich Islands
These two groups of islands in the Southern Ocean belong to the United Kingdom and are administered by the Falkland Islands. Every one of the South Sandwich Islands is uninhabited. The only permanent settlements in South Georgia are research stations, but this island is one of the most visited places in Antarctica. It is also the burial place of Ernest Shackleton.
Up until the 1960’s South Georgia was the most important whaling station on earth with seven whaling stations each in its own harbor and thirteen floating whaling factories.
Today, South Georgia has one of the highest concentrations of wildlife on earth and the landscapes are breath-taking. Ninety-five percent of the world’s southern fur seals and fifty percent of the southern elephant seals come here every year to breed.
It is also home to tens of thousands of albatrosses and penguins. These islands are one of the most remote places on earth, and they have no indigenous inhabitants.
Suriname is on the north east coast of South America. Ninety percent of this former Dutch colony is covered by primeval rain forest.
The capital, Paramaribo, on the banks of the Suriname River boasts large grassy areas surrounded by black and white Dutch style houses. Fort Zeelandia, Independence Square and the Presidential Palace all line the pretty waterfront.
Find the ruins of ancient synagogues at Jodensavanne, settled by Jewish refugees fleeing the Spanish inquisition in the seventeenth century.
Climb the unusual Tafelberg Mountain, to view the lush forest from its flat top. In the Galibi Nature Reserve leatherback turtles climb the beach to lay eggs between February and August.
Visit Amerindian villages to purchase colorful handicrafts in their markets, or hike through the unspoiled forest and enjoy what nature has on offer.
Uruguay is on the South Atlantic Ocean tucked between Brazil and Argentina. It has one of the lowest population densities in the world.
Here, in the capital city of Montevideo the passionate Tango was born.
Uruguay boasts one hundred and eighty kilometers of beachfront. The wide open, pristine, quiet beaches offer beach lovers solitude not found on other such lovely beaches. Wind surf, or kite surf at small holiday towns up and down the Uruguayan coastline Punta del Este with its pretty yacht lined harbor is known as the Monaco of South America, drawing visitors from all over the continent. It boasts beautiful beaches, shops, restaurants and a vibrant nightlife.
Take a hot air balloon ride over the wine lands and enjoy the scenery. With a small wine industry and a very big beef and wool industry, the people of Uruguay are laid back and friendly.
Tourists to Venezuela face very high crime rates and civil unrest. It is therefore important to do your research before leaving on a holiday and to remain vigilant when in the country.
Despite its problems, Venezuela has its charms. Soaring hundreds of meters above the jungle, Venezuela is home to the highest tabletop mountain in the world. It dates back two billion years. Fifty percent of the fauna and flora found on the mountaintop is unique, found nowhere else on earth.
Abseil down the Angel Falls, dropping nearly one thousand metres, it is the highest uninterrupted waterfall in the world. Take a short flight to Los Roques; this archipelago is a national park one hundred and sixty kilometers from Venezuela.
The forty plus islands are surrounded by two hundred and fifty coral reefs, great for diving. They have soft white tropical beaches touched by a blue haze of sparkling water.
Kayak on the Orinoca Delta, a unique ecosystem, home to monkeys, piranhas, anaconda, macaws and scores of Orinoco crocodiles.