South America Travel Guide
South America is a diverse continent that offers up just about anything a traveler could ever desire. With rugged mountains, beautiful beaches, sophisticated cities, fascinating history, and vibrant cultures there’s an adventure for everyone in South America. Some of the biggest draws for travelers to South America are Machu Picchu, Patagonia, the Galapagos Islands, Salar de Uyuni, and the Amazon rainforest.
But, the South American continent is more than just epic outdoor adventures. Its also known for its world-class cities. From the European-chic vibes of Bueno Aires, the rugged landscapes of La Paz, to the foodie scene in Lima, South America will give city-lovers plenty to do. Plus, I didn’t mention other greats like Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Quito or Bogota.
Best Time To Visit South America
The South American continent is a year-round destination as it’s sprawling and vast and stretches into a diverse number of climatic zones. Note that I have listed seasons here according to the southern hemisphere.
Fall: March to May
This is a great time to visit Machu Picchu and Salar de Uyuni with smaller crowds. The weather in Patagonia is getting chilly, but with gorgeous fall foliage, this can be a grand time to trek in Torres del Paine National Park or explore Los Glaciares National Park.
Though this is the most popular time of year of those heading to the Galapagos, this is the best time to see wildlife at their most active. Winter also brings clearer skies making this a great time to trek in the Andes (think Rainbow Mountain, Peru), though be prepared for cold nighttime temps. If you’re a skier, this is the time to head to Chile and Argentina to get in some turns down the slopes.
Spring brings clear skies this time of year to Machu Picchu in addition to winter but with smaller crowds and warmer temperatures. Patagonia can be stunningly gorgeous as the region emerges from winter. This is also a shoulder season in the Amazon but with drier weather, fewer mosquitos, and tourists this can be a great season to plan a visit in. This also is when the Galapagos sees a slump in visitor numbers, so if you’d like to visit with fewer people around this can be a great time to go.
Summer can be unbearably hot in many parts of the continent. With that said this is usually the best time to explore beachy destinations like Brazil’s coastline and Colombia’s beaches. For those that are tying their South America travel with Antarctica, this is the season for journeys to the last continent. Plus, weather in Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego are thawing this season.
What To Do & Where To Go For It
Beaches: Brazil, Colombia and the Galapagos can offer beach bums some epic, unique and classic sceneries.
Cuisine: Peru has become a shining star on the foodie scene the world over. Take a cooking class to take home some of your favorite dishes or dine at world-class restaurants in Lima.
Mountains: Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Ecuador and Colombia all dominate the mountain department. Peru offers up some of the most well-known mountain scapes like Machu Picchu and Rainbow Mountain. Chile and Argentina, of course, are known for the wonders of Patagonia. Ecuador, Bolivia, and Colombia offer up epic trekking potential but without the same popularity that Peru has garnered.
Nature & Landscapes: This is where Bolivia and the Amazon truly shine. Bolivia not only has rugged mountain sceneries but also the coveted Salar de Uyuni– the world’s largest salt flat is here. The Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world and with the sheer area it covers can be exotic and diverse. Oh, and that Brazilian Pantanal offers up some unreal landscapes.
Wildlife: The Galapagos is the big winner here of course with its sheer volume of wildlife and a high number of endemics. Of course, the Amazon and the penguins of the extreme south of the continent deserve a mention here.
Off the beaten path: South America is home to a wealth of far-flung and little known destinations. If you’re looking to take the path less followed countries that you should focus on are Guyana, Suriname, French Guiana, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Of course, Venezuela has an abundance of off the beaten path sites to visit, but travel there at the moment is quite difficult amongst the strife the country is currently facing. The Peruvian, Ecuadorian, and Bolivian Andes and Amazon offer some great off the beaten path potential if you opt to steer clear of the usual hotspots.