There’s not much South America doesn’t have to offer those who wander this vast continent. From natural beauty, wildlife experiences and historical sights, to unique food, music and diverse culture – there’s something for everyone to discover in South America.
1. It’s diverse and otherwordly landscapes will leave you breathless
More than twice the size of Australia and possessing one of the most diverse ecosystems in the world, South America has a nature playground for everyone. If you favour picturesque mountain peaks and mammoth glaciers then Patagonia is the spot for you. Once considered a trekkers paradise, there are now many ways to explore this region that are easier on the knees! Don’t miss Perito Moreno Glacier in El Calafate, Argentina.
For those who prefer tropical climates and beaches, Brazil is unmatched. On the border of Argentina and Brazil lies the must see natural wonder of the world, Iguazu Falls. Boasting 275 waterfalls and home to the cheeky possum-like coatis, this attraction is unforgettable. Stunning Rio de Janeiro is another must visit. Relax on Ipanema beach with a caprihiana in hand admiring the view of the Two Brothers Mountain, known to locals as Morro Dois Irmaos.
2 . It is the mecca of bucketlist experiences
Voted in 2007 as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World, Machu Picchu is high on most adventurer’s bucket lists. Although still very much a mystery, historians believe that this 15th century Inca citadel located in the Cusco Region of Urubamba was built in 1450 and abandoned a century later when the Spanish conquistadors invaded. It remained unknown to the world until it was discovered by an American historian by the name of Hiram Bingham in 1911. Now over 1.5 million tourists visit the site every year, but with Gate 1 you won’t feel like part of the crowd because you’ll be there at the best times and escorted by the best local guides to make the most of this once-in-a-lifetime experience.
Another South American icon which is also listed as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World is the Christ the Redeemer (Cristo Redentor) statue which sits atop Corcovado mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The statue is 30 metres tall and 29 metres wide and weighs 635 tons! While it is truly inspiring for those who visit, the attraction also provides stunning vistas of the city of Rio De Janeiro and neighbouring Sugarloaf Mountain.
3. Peru’s capital of Lima is one of the world’s leaders of gastronomy
Ceviche, lomo sataldo & picarones – oh my! Peruvian cuisine has recently exploded onto the international culinary scene and now Lima is a well-known hot spot full of gastronomic delights. Indigenous foods which have been around for generations have been infused with Spanish flair as well as Asian flavours, which were bought to Peru with a wave of immigrants. Some must-try Peruvian fare includes Peru’s national dish ceviche; a fresh fish dish whereby the fish is ‘cold cooked’ in lime juice. There’s also lomo saltado, a beef dish which represents the fusion of Chinese stir-fry with traditional Peruvian ingredients, and a type of doughnut called picarones for dessert. For the brave there is also Cuy, roasted Guinea Pig! Wash it all down with a pisco sour or a bottle of Inca Cola, a sweet, florescent yellow soda that’s much-loved by Peruvians and tastes like fruity bubblegum but is made with lemon verbena.
4. It has a diverse culture and rich history
South America is made up of 13 different countries, each with their own unique culture, heritage and even climate. Even countries with similar traditions and heritage have distinct differences which set them apart. For example, Peru and Bolivia both still carry on traditions from the early Incan civilisations, however their traditional dress is quite different. In Bolivia it is common for local La Paz women, also known as “cholitas”, to wear bowler hats and pleated skirts which were bought to the countries by Englishmen in the 1800s. Another example is Argentina and Chile, who both share similar climates and beautifully preserved colonial cities, however have distinct cuisines and Spanish dialects.
One cannot visit Argentina without trying their world-famous Asado, a barbeque cooked on a grill called a parilla or on an open fire. For history buffs, follow the steps of the Spanish Conquistodors and visit the cities of Cartagena in Colombia, Cuzco in Peru and Cuenca in Ecuador to gain insight into these country’s legacy and the era of colonial conquest.
5. Astounding Wildlife Experiences
Unique close encounters and wildlife experiences await nature lovers in South America. The stand out is of course the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador, which is home to 14 unique species of animals and birdlife. Made famous by Charles Darwin during his development of the theory of evolution in 1859, this cluster of volcanic islands provides visitors the opportunity to get incredibly close to the wildlife due to the isolated environment and lack of predators. Among the favourites are the Galapagos Tortoise, Marine Iguana and Blue-footed Booby.
Often referred to as the ‘world’s lungs’, the Amazon basin which crosses through 9 different countries is home to more than 40,000 species of plants and more than 4,500 animal species plus an estimated 200 local tribes. Travellers can visit the dense jungle in the northern parts of Peru or the drier pampas region in Bolivia. The Pantanal wetlands in Southern Brazil is another region known for its remoteness and those who venture there may even have the opportunity to spot a jaguar!
6. The festive culture will invigorate you
If the Amazon is the lungs of the world then Buenos Aires is the feet and Rio De Janiero its heartbeat. Music and rhythm runs through the veins of South Americans and they love nothing more than to dance, sing and get festive! Samba is the flavour in Brazil and Carnivale is its most famous celebration. More than two million people gather in the streets of Rio De Janeiro every day of the festival in February to celebrate in honour of the gods and to respect the great waters.
In Argentina the locals move to the rhythm of the tango which has its cultural home in the Buenos Aires neighbourhood of La Boca. Further north in Colombia the salsa is the most popular form of social dance and has its own distinct style. Get inspired by the heat of the Latin night, grab a partner and learn some new moves. No matter where you are in South America there will always be time to move those hips!
No one knows South America like Gate 1 Travel, with expert Tour Managers hailing from the very countries they’re introducing you to. Their insider knowledge and connections are invaluable in ensuring you get the most from your visit. What’s more, our 30+ years of experience in the continent lets us offer you more ways to discover its magical wonders.
Explore the very best of South America with Gate 1 Travel’s 18 Day Classic Brazil, Argentina and Peru escorted tour, which includes visits to Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls and Buenos Aires. Or choose from our wide selection of trips in Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador, Colombia and more!