Some careers offer time off in less than-ideal vacation periods in the U.S., such as January or February. Unless you want to hightail it to Florida or southern California, you will need to look elsewhere for incredible vacations. We recommend South America, a continent chock full of exciting countries featuring some of the world’s major cities and its most exquisite rainforests. The continent’s 12 countries comprise some of the most biologically diverse and culturally developed in the world.
In this article, we consider 10 top South American destinations that offer ideal vacation options all year round. Some locations host major annual events, such as Brazil’s Carnival, the festival on which the U.S. city of New Orleans bases its Mardi Gras. Let’s explore the many vacation destinations offered by South America.
1. Lima, Peru
In your quest for incredible vacations, it may help to tie your trip to a business need or personal project. The city of Lima, Peru offers top soccer matches, historical sites to visit, and some of the top asset protection attorney options in the world. If you want to protect your home, autos, heirlooms, and other property, these lawyers can help you do it.
Comprised of 30 districts, this massive world city offers much to explore. Each district has its own personality. Some, such as Miraflores, contain art galleries, fine dining, and luxury shopping, while others offer a down-home chance to experience life in Peru. Try San Miguel for delicious antichucos, museums, and parks.
2. Buenos Aires, Argentina
The city of Buenos Aires provides cultural and artistic explorations but choose your entertainment wisely. Although known for its drug trade, the country does not look kindly upon foreigners who participate in the drug culture. Avoid trying drugs or carrying packages for anyone because bail can run quite high in this city.
With that humble warning in place, the incredible vacations for which Buenos Aires became known start in the neighborhood of Palermo and continue with an evening at the Colon Theater. Visit the Recoleta Cemetery and the neighborhood of San Telmo. Also, don’t miss the Fair of the Matadoras, a cross between a rodeo, folk dancing festival, and food festival.
3. Caracas, Venezuela
Venezuela became known for its oil wells, but don’t expect to take an oil delivery home. Instead of crude oil, look for the beautiful blankets for which the country’s artisans became famous. Caracas offers one of the most incredible vacations available but at a variable cost.
Venezuela underwent an economic collapse a few years ago and since then, its leaders attempted to establish a cryptocurrency backed by its oil reserves to replace its valueless fiat currency. Go prepared to pay in Bitcoin or Ethereum, since nearly every vendor accepts cryptocurrency, but few will deal in their own country’s fiat currency any longer. Many items may cost more or less than you read in travel guides, depending on the state of the economy during that time.
4. Bogota, Colombia
The City of Bogota has become well known in urban planning and development circles for its development strategies to renew its city and encourage positive growth. It offers a location for those hunting for incredible vacations revolving around food. Check with the U.S. State Department before visiting though because many drug cartels also call Bogota home. During times of cartel conflict, the normally peaceful Bogota can become dangerous to visitors.
The massive city of more than 7 million inhabitants houses some of the most well-known sightseeing spots in the world. Consider visiting La Candelaria, climbing Monserrate, exploring The Gold Museum, and visiting Plaza Bolivar. Avoid visiting areas outside the city though, since the Colombian jungles prove exceedingly dangerous due to cartel activity.
5. Sao Paulo, Brazil
Don’t miss the country of Brazil when searching for incredible vacations. Although Rio de Janeiro gets all the glory for Carnival, the city of San Paulo offers many scintillating options, too. Consider dovetailing your stay there with car shopping, since the city hosts many businesses with repairable salvage cars for sale.
San Paulo boasts the largest population of any Brazilian city. Unmatched for its cultural opportunities and cuisines, it also hosts some of the Gran Prix races. Finding the best food requires exploring the neighborhoods of the city, but pays off in delicacies unserved in the touristy areas. Ask the concierge at your hotel for recommendations of where they dine in their own neighborhood to unearth the best finds.
6. Medellin, Colombia
Back to Colombia, the city of Medellin rose to fame in the 1970s and 1980s for its Medellin cartel, a drug cartel that did business in Florida and Texas. Today, the city has a reputation for the best diesel engine repair in the country. It also provides an opportunity for incredible vacations but also requires a quick check with the State Department before visiting.
Start your trip with an educational afternoon at the Museo Casa de la Memoria, then learn to dance the salsa at night throughout the city. Check with your hotel for nearby options. Visit Parque Arvi and Plaza Botero, blessing yourself at the latter. Try the city’s favorite dish, paisa, arepas, and mondongo to say you ate as the locals do.
7. Montevideo, Uruguay
You might wonder why Montevideo became so well known for its wildlife removal service. That ties into why it offers such incredible vacations. The city of about 3.5 million sits on the east coast of the country, so it offers both city life and wild areas to explore. Unlike the other South American locations, in this vacation mecca, you could conceivably walk from your hotel to the beach.
Don’t spend every day at the beach though. Also, visit Museo Nacional de Artes Visuales, its art museum, catch a show at Teatro Soles, shop the stalls and shops at Mercado del Puerto, and explore Museo del Gaucho, a museum of history devoted to gauchos (cowboys). Wear plenty of sunscreen, since Uruguay has a sunny, balmy climate.
8. La Paz, Bolivia
Bolivia also became famous for its drug cartels and although the government has improved things, don’t accept any packages from people you don’t know well, at least you need a bail agent. With that humble warning, the city of La Paz provides plenty to see and do that landed it on this list of incredible vacations. Enjoy mountain views from the city’s hotels and explore its history at every turn. Founded in 1548, it offers a rich history, steeped in the cultural development of the region.
Hike the Valley of the Moon for starters. Play the world’s highest golf course, which sits at an elevation of 10,826 feet. Golfers love the thin air since they can lob the ball further using their typical swing. The snow caps of the mountains surround the course, so bring a sweater.
Also, shop the Mercado de las Brujas and visit the city’s many museums. Don’t miss the Museum of National Art, Bolivian Textiles Museum, and the Museum of Ethnography and Folklore. You may find yourself wanting to luxuriate at your hotel though since four-star hotels cost about $80 per night and five-star hotels only cost about $100 per night.
9. Santiago, Chile
Amongst Chilean residents, the city of Santiago provides the ideal gun store for shopping for a small handgun or a hunting rifle. Vacationers may not qualify for purchases, although the laws in Chile differ from those in the U.S. Many Chileans own guns now, after a rash of homicides. Although Chile remains one of the safest countries, sticking to tourist areas can ensure you experience one of the most incredible vacations of your life.
Sightseeing in the city keeps visitors busy. Explore the performing arts center, the Centro Gabriela Mistral, and the Museo de la Memoria y los Derechos Humanos, established in 2010. Enjoy the fabulous view from Cerro San Cristóbal’s peaks and explore the secret hideaway of poet Pablo Neruda, La Chascona.
10. Quito, Ecuador
The fabulous city of Quito sits 9,350 feet above sea level, so it offers epic views. Nestled in the Andes Mountains, the country’s capital city teems with energy and excitement. Use the access ramp located at some of the mountain parks to easily shimmy up the peak for a better view.
More than its view makes this city one of the incredible vacations of a lifetime. Explore its old city and the city’s many historic churches, each with its own unique architecture. Ride the cable car, the Teleferiqo, that offers a trip up 12,000 feet for a truly breathtaking view. Take a quick bus trip to the outskirts of the city to stand on the equator.
This immense mountain city also offers walking tours, hiking just outside the city, and horseback riding along the crater lake outside the city limits. Along with its outdoor pursuits, the city also provides many areas to walk and explore, including the Virgin atop Quito El Panecillo and any one of Quito’s markets. Take a stroll along Quito’s La Ronda to mix with the locals and enjoy the tranquility of their neighborhood.
South American Travel Tips
Traveling to any location in South America requires consummate planning. Instead of trying to plan your trip on your own, consult a travel agent who specializes in vacations to the continent. They will know tours, hotels, experience packages, and other options that can provide you with an ideal vacation experience.
In South America, most individuals speak either Spanish or Portuguese. Practice speaking either of these languages extensively before embarking on your trip. Visiting a country without knowing how to speak its main language only invites trouble.
Taste the food, learn the dances, and explore the history. The cultures of the countries of South America comprise most of what makes them so special to visit. Steeping yourself into the culture affords you a better trip than sticking to the touristy areas only, barring the jungle. If exploring the Amazon rainforest tops your to-do list, register for a guided tour with security through your travel agent.
Pack for every climate. In just one city, depending on the elevation of the site you visit, the temperature could range from brisk cold to balmy warmth. Choose clothes that you can easily layer, so you can peel off a long-sleeved shirt, when needed or don a jacket in a chilly wind.
Always pack sunglasses, sunscreen, bug repellant, binoculars, and a cap or hat. At all times, keep your passport and tourist visa with you. Make some copies of your identification documents, so you have backups in case your pocket gets picked. Change some U.S. dollars into the local currency, so you can pay for things in cash since some market stalls do not accept credit cards.
Purchase travel insurance before the trip. Also, make copies of your health insurance cards and coverage documents. Meet with your doctor before the trip and obtain all needed vaccinations and preparatory shots. Pack a full first aid kit that includes essentials like antibiotic ointment and anti-itch cream.
During your explorations of the city or countryside, remain always vigilant of your surroundings. Try not to make it obvious that you’re a tourist. Avoid pointing and gushing over landmarks until you safely return to your hotel room.
Of course, you want to take photos of your trip but avoid doing so using a camera that would mark you as a tourist. Most cell phones offer powerful built-in cameras that can take great vacation photos. Using a smartphone makes you seem more like a local, since many local people pose for selfies and pics with friends, too.
Taking Your Trip of a Lifetime
South America provides many fun and unique destinations to explore. Its people, food, dances, art, and history tell the story of a region that still heavily influences the southwestern U.S. today. Contact a travel agent today to get started planning your trip. Consider choosing a tour group that visits more than one country, so you can enjoy more of the top cities offered on this continent without making multiple trips.