5 Best Places to Visit in South America

Last updated on: May 17, 2020

(Last Updated On: May 17, 2020)

South America is a land of vibrant, bustling cities.  And though Rio de Janeiro, Buenos Aires, and Santiago are usually the first that spring to mind, the best places to visit in South America aren’t so well known.  Here are five great examples to include in your South America travel itinerary.

Arequipa, Peru

Arequipa is Peru’s second largest city after the capital, Lima.  Known as the White City, many of the colonial buildings around its historic centre are built of sillar, a pale volcanic stone.  This distinctive look is set against a beautiful backdrop of mountains and the towering Misti Volcano.

While the city is often visited because of its proximity to the Colca Canyon (the world’s second-deepest canyon, and twice as deep as the USA’s Grand Canyon), it has a fascinating history to explore and a lively local food scene.  Around the central Plaza de Armas you will find an array of rooftop and terrace restaurants to relax and enjoy the city view.

Bariloche, Argentina

Few cities of the world have a setting as spectacular as Bariloche.  In the heart of Argentina’s Lake District, it is perched on Lago Nahuel Huapi and surrounded by snow-capped Andean mountains.

Bariloche has a strong Swiss and German influence, which is evident in its wooden chalet buildings, chocolate shops and ale houses.  It’s a quaint environment to explore at your own pace, or if you’re the type that loves to get outdoors, there are plenty of hiking trails within close reach.  To the west of the city, you can climb to viewpoints at Cerro Campanario or Cerro Llao Llao for spectacular panoramic views of the landscape.

Potosí, Bolivia

At over 4,000 metres above sea level, Potosí is one of the world’s highest-altitude cities.  Its defining feature is Cerro Rico, a towering peak looming over the city known as the ‘mountain that eats men’.  The mountain’s legendary mines are still operational today, and you can take tours inside and meet the local workers.

The city itself is a maze of winding alleys, colourful houses, street markets and old colonial architectural features.  It’s also home to the National Mint of Bolivia, which features a money museum.  There’s much to explore while absorbing the city’s animated spirit.

Salvador, Brazil

Brazil’s carnival atmosphere is epitomised by the bright and buoyant city of Salvador in the state of Bahia.  The Pelourinho district is the heart of its cultural and artistic scene, and on Tuesday evenings it sparks to life.  Dancers and drummers parade lavishly through the streets late into the night.

Salvador is also the perfect place to sample Brazil’s delicious street food.  Vendors at stalls and carts in Pelourinho sell local favourites like acarajé (deep-fried balls of mashed beans and shrimp).  If that’s not to your liking, Pelourinho has a choice of cafés and restaurants with balcony views of the sunset over Baia de Todos os Santos.  Read more on why you should visit Salvador.

Valparaíso, Chile

Valparaíso is perched on the Pacific Coast of Chile just a couple of hours’ drive from the capital, Santiago.  In its heyday it was an important port city, but the opening of the Panama Canal brought about a huge transformation.  It is now a hub of Chile’s artistic expression, visible in its ubiquitous street art, giant murals and lively music scene.

With colorful houses sprawled over rolling green hills, Valparaíso is one of the most picturesque seaside cities of the world.  Take a walking tour with born-and-bred local youths who will narrate the city’s turbulent past and introduce you to its creative present.

Author Profile

Alex Trembath
Alex is the creator of Career Gappers, a blog that will inspire and equip you to take a career break and travel the world.  Check it out here for career break advice, travel tips and destination inspiration.  You can also follow Career Gappers on Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and Twitter.

47 thoughts on “5 Best Places to Visit in South America”

  1. Yes! Thank you for this list! Exactly what I’ve been looking for – my cousin is in South America and doesn’t want to visit all the big cities that all the tourists goes to. Sharing this link with her.

  2. Wow, I love all the architecture and color of South American cities. Thank you for sharing these new cities, I’d love to visit each of them one day.

  3. Looks like a great place to visit. I’ll definitely go here one day with my family. Will be saving this! Next trip to Brazil,

  4. Definitely those are really a nice places to visit and to explore. Brazil is one of the countries that I like the most since we have a lot of friends living there and look so easy for me to enjoy and explore the place.

  5. Those are really beautiful places to visit in South America but definitely Brazil is one of my favorite place since I have a lot of friends and relatives living there so it looks so easy for me to explore that place, understand and learn their traditions and language.

  6. Thanks so much for the recommendations. I haven’t visited South America (yet!) but is definitely on my list to visit soon! I will need to keep these in mind for free days of excursions.

  7. I haven’t heard of any of these cities! They all look so vibrant and colorful and it makes me want to add them to my travel list!

  8. My brother in law lives in Argentina, and I’d love to visit him and other locales sometime soon. This list is great and gives me some inspiration for that trip!

  9. Thank you for sharing this! I’d love to visit South America someday, and it looks like off the beaten path is the way to go 🙂

    1. Hi Megan,

      There is definitely value in visiting Buenos Aires and Rio, as they are truly great places. You’ll find such rich culture and history in the towns and smaller cities.

  10. Wow, every one of these destinations looks fascinating! I’ve never been to South America and I’m only familiar with these areas from seeing them in movies or documentaries (or travel brochures). I think one of the best things about traveling to other countries would be the opportunity to observe other cultures, view the architecture, and appreciate the unique beauty each place possesses.

  11. I have been longing for a visit to south America for a long time.

    This update will really be of help to me in choosing the best city to Visit and enjoy my vacation.

    Nice update

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