Seinfeld knew it (“You gotta see the baaaaby”). Dorothy and her pals knew it (“We’re off to see the Wizard”). Even Clark Griswold knew it (We can't miss the Grand Canyon, it's the biggest goddamn hole in the world!”). There are some things in life that you simply can’t miss. Finding hidden gems is an essential part of the travel experience, but you wouldn’t go to India without seeing the Taj Mahal. You wouldn’t go to Paris without clapping your eyes on the Eiffel Tower. So there’s no point coming all the way to South America without ticking a few of these must-sees off your list.
Christ the Redeemer, Brazil
When you come to Rio, you’ll be welcomed with open arms (literally) by the largest Art Deco statue in the world. This 38-metre symbol of Christianity stands atop an 8-metre pedestal on Corcovado Mountain in the Tijuca Forest National Forest. Get there by train and then walk the 220 steps (or take the elevator) to the staue for views over beaches, city and forests.
Read more about why Rio is a must see
Machu Picchu, Peru
Ever since 2002, when the Peruvian government clamped down on the number of tourists allowed on the trail, permits to see Machu Picchu have been snapped up quicker than tickets to Star Wars: Episode VII. Book in advance so you can stand at the Sun Gate and be part of that unforgettable moment when the light of day illuminates the Inca city of Machu Picchu.
Find out more on how to secure your Inca permit
Iguazu Falls Argentina/Brazil
Iguazu Falls, Iguazú Falls, Iguassu Falls, or Iguaçu Falls? Doesn’t matter. The jaw-dropping effect is still the same, no matter how you spell it. The sound of 12,750 cubic metres per second of water hurling itself from 275 different waterfalls stretched over 2.7 kilometres of river is something you need to hear at least once in your life. Don’t miss the the 82-metre high Devil’s Throat cataract, which marks the border between Argentina and Brazil.
First impressions of Iguazu
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
Bad for your blood pressure but great for your photo albums, Salar de Uyuni is the biggest salt flat in the world. There’s over 10 billion tonnes of salt sprawled over 10,582 square kilometres, making it a breathtaking sight even if you weren’t standing 11,985-feet above sea level. Jump in a 4x4 to explore the flats, and hopefully there has been some rain so you get that famous mirrored effect in all your photos.
You have to see Bolivia to believe it
Torres del Paine National Park, Patagonia Chile
It’s hard to know where to start. Do we talk about the ancient forests, the glaciers, the alpine lakes, the rivers and fjords? Or do we tell you about the park’s Andean condors, flamingos, guanaco, pumas and endangered Andean deer? Or do we just go ahead and talk about the three granite peaks, the Torres del Paine, which rise up to 2,500-metres above sea level? It’s no wonder more than 150,000 people visit here each year.
A change of pace in Patagonia
Wine country, Mendoza Argentina
If you can look up from your tasting glass long enough, you’ll see incredible views of the Andes surrounding Mendoza. However, we understand if you are simply too engrossed in your bottle to sneak a peek. Mendoza is the heart of Argentina’s wine industry, with almost 1000 wineries spread across the region. Malbec is the star, but you will also come across some of the world’s best cabernet sauvignon, merlot, chardonnay, sauvignon blanc and viognier producers. Thirsty?
Read about New Years in Mendoza
South America’s largest lake sits 3811 metres above sea level, so you’ll understandably feel quite breathless while looking out over the still, blue water. Straddling the border between Peru and Bolivia, the Titicaca Reserve is home to 60 species of birds and a rare giant frog that can weigh up to 3kg. Incan mythology says that the god Viracocha emerged from the lake to create the sun and the stars.
For the love of Lake Titicaca
Perito Morena Glacier, Argentina
As one of the world’s only advancing glaciers, this imposing beast travels around 1.5 metres each day. To give you an idea of its size, the face of the Perito Morena Glacier reaches as high as a 20-story building, with around 150 metres of ice plunging underneath the water. Located in South America’s third largest body of fresh water, Lake Argentina, you see it by boat or from the raised walkway that has been installed around the glacier.
A most glacial place
Wildlife? Got it. Birdwatching? Legendary. Activities? You bet. The Amazon basin covers six Ecuadorian provinces and is home to many indigenous communities, some who are still living in complete isolation. When you travel with a small group you’ll to stay in a jungle lodge and take part in river rafting, night walks, canoeing and more. Meet local families, learn to use blowguns and spears, pick coffee beans and learn to make chocolate from cacao beans.
Surprises on the Amazon
Carnaval, Rio de Janeiro
You’d think after two centuries of partying, Rio’s Carnaval would show signs of slowing down. But it’s just the opposite. The sequins are sparklier, the dancing is sexier, the streets are busier and the music is louder with each passing year. In the days leading up to Lent, Carnaval festivals are held all over Brazil but Rio’s is undoubtedly the most raucous. Keep your wits about you and try to keep up as you join the world’s biggest party.
The worlds biggest party
Jewel of the Caribbean. Fortress City. The Walled City. Paradise. It’s known as many things, but Cartagena is quite simply… beautiful. Enclosed by 13 kilometres of Spanish-built walls, the UNESCO World Heritage listed streets of old town are paved in cobblestones while bursts of bougainvillea clings to the balconies overhead. It is home to many art, literature and classical music festivals yet also perfect for lovers of outdoor activities such as scuba diving, swimming and cruising.
Colombia's most beautiful places
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
The sheer abundance of wildlife in the Galapagos is pretty overwhelming. Frolicking sea lions, gardens of colourful fish, blue-footed boobies, rare iguanas and thoughtful sea turtles make it seem like you’ve stepped into Mother Nature’s secret garden. Straddling the Equator, 1000 kilometres off the coast of Ecuador is this archipelago of volcanic islands. Here you’ll find one of the world’s most unique ecosystems, housing species endemic only this South American Environment.
Read more about the Galapagos Islands
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