Colourful, candid and everything in between, South America beats to the rhythm of an infectious, eternal drum.
It’s the sequined heat of Carnival and a cool breeze blowing across the Andes, a fiery Argentine tango and the soft silence of an Ecuadorian cloud forest. You taste it in the crackle of slow-cooked barbecue and the tang of a good pisco sour. About the only thing the continent lacks is monotony. From the rocky slopes of Galapagos to the dawn-lit ruins of Machu Picchu, South America is effervescent with sights, sounds and salsa. Now, pass the empanadas and let's talk adventure.
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Our tours in South America
What to see in 7-10 days in South America
Stick to to one or two countries so you can see some of the big-ticket items but also relax and get a feel for daily life. Peru is ideal because you can fly into Cusco and visit Ollantaytambo in the Sacred Valley, then take the train to Aguas Calientes and see Machu Picchu without the long hike. You could take the Inca Express to Puno and spend some time on Lake Titicaca, and even squeeze in a flight to Arequipa and the Colca Canyon.
Another option would be to explore both Brazil and Argentina. There’s a mix of the great outdoors (Iguazu Falls), beautiful beaches (Rio de Janeiro), local villages, incredible food, world-class wine and plenty of dancing. Alternatively, with 10 days in Ecuador you could experience the Amazon, shop in the Otovalo Markets, visit historic Quito and meet locals in the vibrant little town of Banos.
What to see in 3 weeks in South America
Combining three countries like Peru, Chile and Argentina will allow you to really get a feel for the destination. You’d get to explore the Amazon, trek the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu and wander the winery trail in Mendoza. However there would also be plenty of breathing room to wander the streets of Santiago and meet the laidback locals on Lake Titicaca.
Swap Peru for Bolivia and you could add La Paz, Salar de Uyuni and a journey across the Bolivian altiplano to the mix. Nature lovers could use this time to hike through Patagonia’s Torres del Paine National Park and Argentina’s Los Glaciaries National Park. See the Perito Moreno Glacier, catch views of Mt Fitz Roy, journey along the Chilean Fjord Coast and drive the the famous Carretera Austral, probably one of the most stunning roads in South America.
What to see in 6 weeks in South America
Now we’re talking. The world’s your empanada, so take some time to really think about which countries you want to focus on. You could cross the middle of South America, from Lima to Rio and trek the Inca Trail, walk on the Salar de Uyni salt flats, wander through Mendoza’s wine region, dance up a storm in Buenos Aires, witness the stunning Iguazu Falls, get a tan in the Rio the City of God and look up at Christ the Redeemer when you’re done. Throw Ecuador into the mix and you’ll get to experience the Amazon, Quito, Cotopaxi Volcano and beautiful Banos.
You could even spend a week in the wildlife playground of the Galapagos Islands, meeting giant Galapagos tortoises, white tip reef sharks, sea lions, marine iguanas and a staggering amount of birdlife. You won’t regret stopping in Colombia to experience the nightlife of Cali, the crayon-box colours of Cartagena’s buildings, the beaches, national parks and of course, the coffee.
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Festivals in South America
Fiesta de la Santa Tierra, Lake Titicaca, Peru
- During the Festival of the Sacred Land, half the population celebrates at the Temple of Pachamama (Mother Earth) and the other half at the Temple of Pachatata (Father Earth).
Love parade, Santiago, Chile
- The world’s biggest electronic dance festival is a non-stop parade of music, with hundreds of DJs from around the world.
- Held 40 days before Easter, Rio is home to the biggest Carnaval party in the world where over 2 million people come to play.
Fiesta de la Virgen de la Candelaria, Puno, Peru
- The Virgin of Candelaria is Puno’s patron saint and she is honoured with a huge festival each year, featuring traditional dancing and dazzling costumes and masks.
National Grape Harvest Festival, Mendoza, Argentina
- Concerts, street festivals and a cut-throat beauty contest all come to a head in the first week of March with fireworks and gaucho displays.
Semana Santa, Uruguay
- During Holy Week there are rituals, processions and prayer meetings all around South America. In Uruguay the whole country shuts down.
Festival of the Snows, Peru
- Held on a remote Peruvian glacier, this is a three-day festival known as Qoyllurit’I. Around 30,000 pilgrims take part in music and dancing, finishing up with a torch-lit parade.
Inti Raymi, Cusco, Peru
- This Inca Festival of the Sun is held in celebration of the winter solstice. The sun god is honoured with parades and dances, and thousands of visitors fill the streets of Cusco.
Septenario Festival, Cuenca, Ecuador
- This Corpus Christi event is a weeklong celebration, where you can indulge in food, games and watch fireworks each night.
Qoyllur Rit'I, Mahuayani, Peru
World Tango Championships, Buenos Aires, Argentina
- Enjoy free dance lessons and concerts as the world’s best tango dancers converge on the city to compete for the crown.
Feria de las Flores, Medellín, Colombia
- This enormous flower festival features events such as the Cavalgata de Caballos (Horse Parade), Desfile de Carros Antiguos (Antique Car Parade) and the Desfile de Silleteros, a chance to see beautiful flower designs.
Rock in Rio, Brazil
- Starting out in 1985 with Queen and AC/DC as headliners, this has grown to become one of the biggest music festivals in the world.
Dia de los Difuntos, Ecuador
- All Soul’s Day honours the saints and the dead, where people visit the graves of their loved ones and honour them with special feasts.
Feri de Cali, Santiago de Cali, Colombia
- Not for the faint-hearted, this is two weeks of hardcore partying where the streets of Cali become awash with music and dancing.
Independence Day, Chile
- There is plenty on offer, including rodeos and military processions along with incredible food and wine.
Our destinations in South America