South America has everything: history, amazing culture, fun people, Latin dancing (a lot of it), amazing landscapes, beautiful traditions. What can I tell you? I love South America. The Best South American Countries to Visit include Peru, Brazil, Bolivia, Chile and Colombia.
Of course, there are pros and cons of travelling to South America. The most important ‘con’ is, of course, the issue of safety. Many people, when they think of South America, immediately think of illegal drug trafficking, favelas, corruption, and militaristic regimes. It is easy to think of South America as intimidating. But the dangers of visiting South America have been considerably diminished over the recent years. Besides, travelling always comes with certain risks.
So stop thinking about what might go wrong, and start being excited about all the things that will definitely go right in your trip! In case you needed some guidance, these are some of the best countries to visit in South America.
Best South American Countries to Visit – Chile
If you are looking for a safe South American country to travel to, Chile is the perfect place. Chile was declared the most stable country in South America, with a Global Peace ranking of 28 out of 162. It is also the richest country on the continent, followed by Uruguay and Argentina.
In the world, Chile is best known in connection to Easter Island, which is located 2,000 miles off the coast. Easter Island is famous thanks to the almost 900 mysterious statues of Polynesian origin that stand scattered all over the land.
Chile is also the home of the Torres del Paine National Park. With a surface of about 1,000 square miles, the park is a nature lovers’ paradise. Here you can see impressive granite peaks, waterfalls, lakes, a forest, glaciers and icebergs.
Chile is also where a large part of the Atacama desert is located (Chile shares the desert with Peru, Bolivia and Argentina). Atacama desert, which covers a total surface of 40,000 square miles in Chile alone, is the driest region on the planet, with certain stretches of land where rain has never been recorded. Visitors go to the Atacama desert to visit the green waters of Laguna Verde (a salt lake located at the border with Argentina), and for stargazing.
Best South American Countries to Visit – Colombia
I don’t know about you, but when I think of Colombia, three names come to mind: Pablo Escobar, Sofia Vergara and Shakira…
Throughout the years, Colombia has been unfairly portrayed as a drug trafficking country that was unsafe to visit (things that were somehow true…). However, things have been changing dramatically for Colombia over the last years. The Colombia of 2019 is absolutely travel-friendly and safe for visitors.
The country attracts a lot of nature lovers, beach enthusiasts (Colombia has both Caribbean and Pacific coasts), coffee aficionados (Colombia is one of the biggest coffee-producing countries in the world) and, of course, a lot of “Narcos” fans (the Netflix series depicting the life of the drug lord Pablo Escobar).
One of the main attractions in Colombia is the beautiful church known as Santuario de las Lajas. The legend says that the church was built on the same place where, in 1754, the Virgin Mary appeared to a local woman and her daughter. The church, built in the Gothic Revival style is not only an architectural beauty but is also an important place of pilgrimage.
Another ‘must-see’ in Colombia is Caño Cristales, a 62-mile long river that is also called the ‘River of Five Colors’ or the ‘Liquid Rainbow’. The nicknames are well deserved since, especially from June to November, the water of the river changes colours until it turns a reddish pink. This phenomenon happens thanks to a plant that lives in the water of the river, called macarenia clavigera.
Best South American Countries to Visit – Brazil
The first time I visited Brazil, I didn’t know how to feel. I was a bit torn between “I love it here” and “Oh my, what do I do not to draw any attention to myself”… Brazil is actually, even today, one of the most dangerous countries you could visit. In the 2018 Expat Insider Survey published by InterNations, Brazil ranked number one as the most dangerous countries to live in the world. Brazil is also a MASSIVE country, and I would recommend at least 6-8 weeks there to fully explore many areas.
So let’s just say that you will have to be careful if you want to go to Brazil… But please, don’t get completely discouraged! Visiting Brazil could be one of the most amazing experiences of your life, especially if you decide to go there in March, during the Carnaval week, when everywhere in Brazil people dance on the streets, and the country is like a huge, incredible party venue.
There is plenty to see and to do in Brazil – it’s certainly one of the best South American Countries to Visit. I am talking about sipping caipirinhas on the beach, taking selfies with the statue of Christ the Redeemer on Mount Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro, exploring the breathtaking Iguazu Falls, or going on an Amazonian adventure.
Best South American Countries to Visit – Peru
I have two words for you: Machu Picchu. If you don’t know what I am talking about, let me explain. Visiting Machu Picchu is an amazing experience – the Incan city (now in ruins) that is located on the top of a mountain. Incas abandoned the city at the beginning of the 16th century. The ruins were discovered in 1911 by an American explorer. It’s one of the best places to visit in Peru.
It is actually a mystery how the Incas built the city in the first place because the pieces of rock used in the construction of Machu Picchu are huge. Modern architects cannot understand how the Incas could transport the rocks to the top of the mountain. You’ll find in Machu Picchu a place full of mystery and wonder, a place that fully deserves to be on the list of the “Top 7 Wonders of the Modern World”.
To go to Machu Picchu, you can either hike through the mountains following the Inca Trail, or you can take the train from Cusco to Aguas Calientes. Either way, the scenery is mind-blowing, and the experience is unforgettable.
However, Peru has much more to offer apart from Machu Picchu. For instance, the country has no fewer than three biologically diverse Amazonian regions. A place worth visiting is also Arequipa, a colonial city surrounded by volcanoes.
Best South American Countries to Visit – Bolivia
It is in Bolivia that Salar de Uyuni is located, the world’s largest salt flat. Yes, salt everywhere… The place, which looks like it is taken from a Salvador Dali painting, has a size of 4,000 square miles and it is like nothing you have seen before. The place is definitely worth visiting, especially after it rains. That is when the land gets covered with water, which creates an amazing mirroring effect.
Apart from Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia is also the home of Lake Titicaca, the largest lake in South America. Also, Bolivia is a great place to experience indigenous culture, which is beautifully preserved here, especially in the towns and villages located in the highlands.
There is so much to see in South America! The continent is home to natural wonders, surreal landscapes, historical reminiscences, and cultural charm. This list could not include all the South American countries, although they all deserve attention.
I did not yet mention Ecuador with its Galapagos Islands, or about Argentina with its amazing capital city, Buenos Aires. I also did not say anything about Venezuela where Angel Falls is located. However, know this – no matter what, where ever in South America you choose to go, you’ll find amazing people. You’ll also find a lot of dancing, laughter and a fun-loving atmosphere.
Booking your Flight
Travel insurance is so important as it will help you with emergencies and unexpected costs on your trip. Make sure that you declare any pre-existing health conditions so that you are covered for those. Check your cover for accidents and medical care and also lost baggage or getting things stolen. Remember to report as soon as something goes wrong on your trip because some travel insurance companies require you to report something that you want to claim for within 24 hours. Read the fine print carefully when you sign up. I always use ad recommend World Nomads. You can get a free quote here: