South America-is a continent located in the western hemisphere, mostly in the southern hemisphere, with a relatively small portion in the northern hemisphere. It may also be considered a subcontinent of the Americas, which is how it is viewed in the Spanish-speaking regions of the Americas. The reference to South America instead of other regions (like Latin America or the Southern Cone) has increased in the last decades due to changing geopolitical dynamics (in particular, the rise of Brazil).
It is bordered on the west by the Pacific Ocean and on the north and east by the Atlantic Ocean; North America and the Caribbean Sea lie to the northwest. It includes twelve sovereign states (Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela), a part of France (French Guiana), and a non-sovereign area (the Falkland Islands, a British Overseas Territory though this is disputed by Argentina). In addition to this, the ABC islands of the Kingdom of the Netherlands, Trinidad and Tobago, and Panama may also be considered part of South America.
Brazil a vast South American country, stretches from the Amazon Basin in the north to vineyards and massive Iguaçu Falls in the south. Rio de Janeiro, symbolized by its 38m Christ the Redeemer statue atop Mount Corcovado, is famed for its busy Copacabana and Ipanema beaches as well as its enormous, raucous Carnaval festival, featuring parade floats, flamboyant costumes, and samba music and dance. Brazil is the largest country in South America and home to some of the world’s most metropolitan cities, but this is just the beginning. The world famous Carnival takes place every year where millions dance, samba, and party the days away. Wildlife fans will enjoy exploring the wetlands of the Pantanal and the Amazon rainforest, while those who enjoy colonial architecture and historic cities will revel in the chance to visit Salvador. Throw in beaches, soccer, beautiful people, and cheap prices, and it’s pretty easy to convince someone this is a country worth seeing.
Peru is a country in South America that's home to a section of Amazon rainforest and Machu Picchu, an ancient Incan city high in the Andes mountains. The region around Machu Picchu, including the Sacred Valley, Inca Trail and colonial city of Cusco, is rich in archaeological sites. On Peru’s arid Pacific coast is Lima, the capital, with a preserved colonial center and important collections of pre-Columbian art. Peru is one of the most famous and popular countries in South America. Most people flock here to hike the Inca Trail and see Machu Picchu and let everything else take a back seat. Their loss is your gain as you’ll be able to explore this incredible country with few crowds (though backpackers do explore it.) Come explore the jungles, see the Amazon, head to Lake Titicaca, or to the beaches. Learn about local culture, try the coca tea, and practice your Spanish.
Trip Planning: The planning stage of your trip can be instrumental in its success and an enjoyable part of the experience itself. You have a world of options...and plenty to consider.
Entry and Exit formalities: Visitors must hold a passport valid for at least six months & beyond at the time of entering the country. Some nationalities can obtain visa on arrival and for nationalities who requires visa please refer to the respective consulate or embassy website.
Transportation: Figuring out how to get around is one of your biggest pre-trip decisions. Get our holiday expert best advice on deciding between your options. Based on your trip itinerary, our experts will help you choose wisely. You'll also find a wealth of practical travel tips.
Money: Use your money wisely. Know the best time to use cash or card — and how to avoid unnecessary fees either way — as well as tipping etiquette, and how shoppers can take advantage of VAT refunds.
Phones and Technology: Phones and other smart devices can be huge time-savers...or expensive distractions. Get our tips for making the best use of technology during your trip, and for calling home with or without your own phone.
Packing Light: On your trip you'll meet two kinds of travelers: those who pack light and those who wish they had.
Sleeping and Eating: Your hotel and restaurant choices can be a matter-of-face chore…or they can provide rich opportunities to connect with locals and their culture.
Health & Hygiene: Take comfort: Doctors, hospitals, launderettes, and bathrooms aren’t that different. Dealing with them can even be part of the fun of travel.
Sightseeing & Activities: Once you're on the ground, the real fun begins…but it pays to have a thoughtful plan. Our experts will help you get oriented to your surroundings, use your sightseeing hours wisely, and find your way off the beaten path.
Things do & see:
Fútbol – Soccer is religion here, and going to a match is one of the most entertaining things you can do in Brazil. Maracana is one of the largest stadiums in the world and seats 100,000 supporters. With the 2016 Olympics turning the world’s attention to the country, soccer fever is all the rage. Take in a match if you can.
Rio Carnival – The Rio Carnival is one of the most famous parties in the world. Music and dancing take over the streets with thousands of people enjoying the celebrations before the start of the somber period of Lent. Prices during this festival triple and you need to book months in advance, but it’s worth every penny to experience the local flavor.
Florianópolis – In southern Brazil, this place is composed mostly of the island of Ilha de Santa Catarina. Florianópolis, or Floripa for short, has been attracting surfers and sun worshippers for years. It has become one of Brazil’s most popular beach destinations and is famous for its massive parties. Floripa is the ideal location for fun in the sun, offering visitors an endless array of beaches, excellent seafood, quaint Azorean fishing villages, and awesome nightlife. It’s an especially popular stop for young travelers seeking fun.
Fernando de Noronha – This is an archipelago of volcanic islands 220 miles off the Brazilian coast. Fernando de Noronha was Brazil’s first Marine Park (70% of the island is protected) and has also been designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site. The beaches are fantastic and largely deserted as only 420 people are permitted on the island at a time. This place has recently become a haven for Brazilian celebrities, and as a result, prices have gone up a bit. If you’re looking for a deserted island experience with a bit of luxury, then Noronha is the place for you.
Rio de Janeiro – Rio is the 5th largest city in the world and has so much to offer visitors that it will take you weeks to scratch the surface. Head up Corcovado to take in the statue of Christ the Redeemer and an amazing view of the city. Additionally, Rio has more museums than you could imagine, as well as endless beaches, parties, food, lively locals, and much more. It’s a great (albeit slightly expensive) city.
Iguacu Fall – Known as ‘Iguazu Falls’ to the Argentines, these magnificent waterfalls lie across the border from Argentina and are a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site. The falls are higher than and twice as wide as Niagra Falls and one of the country’s best natural wonders. 450,000 cubic feet of water thunder down the 275 cascades every second.
Brasilia – Although not as famous as Rio de Janeiro, Brasilia is definitely worth a visit. The city was inaugurated in 1960 and is a masterpiece of modernist architecture, attracting aficionados the world over. The city is designated as a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Pantanal– These are the largest wetlands in the world, located in the west, stretching into parts of Bolivia and Paraguay. As can be expected, the Pantanal is a wildlife watcher’s dream come true. Over 11,000 species of animal live in the wetlands, from the rare Marsh Deer to the Giant Anteater and the Hyacinth Macaw.
Amazonia National Park – The Amazon covers 8% of the earth’s surface but is home to 50% of its biodiversity. The Amazonia National Park is almost 40% of the nation’s landmass and is perfect for birdwatching, trekking, and kayaking. There are many points of entry, chances to go hiking, camping, and river tours. No trip to Brazil is complete without seeing the Amazon.
Recife – Recife is home to some of Brazil’s most beautiful beaches and is the second largest city on the country’s northeastern coast. The city’s historical center is extremely beautiful with dozens of restaurants and quaint establishments. Head to nearby Olinda, a colonial city designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1982.
Salvador – Visit Brazil’s first city and cultural capital, Salvador on the country’s northeast coast. Also known as the ‘capital of happiness’, visitors enjoy the city’s easy-going atmosphere and colonial architecture. The colonial center of Perlourinho was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1985.
Sao Paulo – Sao Paulo is the third largest city in the world and the largest in South America, home to over 17 million people. Visitors to this expansive city can enjoy world class nightlife, music, and cuisine. While it lacks the charm of Rio.
Manaus Opera House– The Amazon theater is located in the heart of Manaus. Built in 1896, it strongly reflects the Italian Renaissance influence from the time. It has been featured in several movies.
Dancing Capoeira – This Afro-Brazilian martial art is a “war dance” practiced and performed by thousands of people throughout the country. If you aren’t too embarrassed to try it out, it’s a memorable experience for everyone involved.
The Manaus Municipal Market – Located in Manaus, this building is right on the bank of the Rio Negro and covers 12,000 square meters. Many locals come here for their daily shopping. You can find almost anything you can imagine—fish, caimans, turtles, fruit, wine, and knick-knacks.
Lima – Chances are your trip will begin and end in Peru’s capital city, Lima, and this is no bad thing as the city is a must-see. The Plaza Mayor is popular and you’ll want to bring a camera to catch its colonial beauty. At night, head to the Barranco district for the hottest parties in peñas– Afro-Peruvian clubs which bounce to the beat of cajón drums.
Machu Picchu – This legendary “lost city of the Incas” is one of the most-visited tourist attractions in all of South America and one of the best historical sites in the world. The ruins are high up in the Andes and are regularly obscured by cloud cover, which adds to the mystery of the place! Aqueducts, granite and limestone temples and other forms of Inca architecture are all beautifully preserved at this essential tourist attraction. You can get here by the Inca Trail or by taking the train.
Inca Trail – Getting to Machu Picchu is best via the famed Inca Trail. This multi-day hike allows you to see the mountains, jungles, and follow the route of the Incas. Book in advance, as it fills up months ahead of time during peak season.
Islas Flotantes de los Uros – The Floating Islands of the Uros may sound like an Indiana Jones title but it is actually the name of the group of handmade islands in Lake Titicaca. The Islands are home to the indigenous Uros people who have built their own houses, islands and boats from the tortora reeds which grow along the banks of the lake. This is an extremely touristy site, and is a bit exploited as such, so it’s not for everyone.
Colca Canyon – Colca Canyon is the deepest canyon in the world and is thought to be twice as deep as the Grand Canyon at certain parts. This is a great place to spot Andean condors and unlike the Grand Canyon, Colca is habitable. A trip here isn’t complete unless you visit one of the small agricultural villages for a taste of daily life.
Surf at Máncora Beach – Seafood, watersports, horse riding and relaxation are the order of the day at this popular beach resort. Máncora is one of the finest beaches in South America and its year-round sunshine and huge waves also makes it Peru’s surfing Mecca. Prices here can be expensive December to March so it’s best to book in advance.
Nasca Lines – The Nasca Lines are a series of ancient geoglyphs that dominate the San José desert and in particular, the Nasca Valley. There are over 10,000 lines and 300 different plant and animal figures depicted. No one really knows how they got there (maybe aliens?).
Batán Grande – Batán Grande is an archaeological site comprised of 50 pyramids and tombs, which are thought to date back to between 100-1000 AD. This site was once the Sicán capital and has had its fair share of impressive pre-Columbian artifacts recovered over the years – for example, a gold Tumi weighing almost seven pounds which was recovered from one of the royal tombs.
Lake Titicaca – Titicaca is one of the most famous bodies of water in the world. The lake covers over 3,000 square miles and sits at 12,500 feet above sea level and as such is considered the world’s largest high altitude lake. The towns surrounding the lake are tourist friendly and a mix of colonial architecture and bustling markets, while the islands dotted around the lake are largely off the radar for most travelers.
Cuzco – This colonial city is a major tourist destination and sits on Inca-built stone foundations not far from Peru’s major attraction of Machu Picchu. The area is popular with trail walkers, history lovers, and party-goers who come to enjoy the city’s many colorful festivals. Cuzco is the undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas and an essential part of your trip to Peru.
Amazon Fix in Iquitos – Accessible only by boat or plane, jungle-locked Iquitos is the largest city within the Peruvian rainforest. The city sits at the mouth of the Amazon and so is the perfect destination for fans of eco-tourism. The nearby Pacaya Samiria National Reserve is Peru’s largest Reverse and at two million hectares, it is home to a huge range of nearly 1000 birds, mammals, fish and reptiles.
Huacachina – This little town is a desert oasis and a welcome relief after hiking through Machu Picchu. It’s very affordable for travelers looking to relax and are running out of funds. Hostels offer great deals for sandboarding and sandbuggies around the dunes that surround this idyllic town. Sandboarding costs about 40 PEN and you don´t have to book in advance. There is also a lagoon surrounded by palm trees here too. You can rent a rowboat to go around.
Penguins in Paracas – Paracas is in the south of Peru, and is sometimes called the “Poor Man’s Galapagos” for its impressive wildlife: thousands of birds, as well as large sea lion and penguin populations live along the water. You can visit the Paracas National Reserve via an organized boat tour. Be sure to go early (around 8 am). A full day organized tour of Paracas includes a boat trip to the Islas Ballestas and a bus trip around the national reserve in the afternoon.
White City – Arequipa is a beautiful city with a historical centre that was constructed primarily from volcanic ash from the nearby volcanoes. Come to visit the gorgeous Santa Catalina Monastery, see a frozen Inca mummy, or just to take in the city’s architecture over a glass of wine in the main square.
Huaraz – Not to be confused with Juarez in Mexico, Peru’s Huaraz is a great (and perfectly safe) destination for adventure-seekers. The mountains here are stunning, and there are fantastic multi-day trek options for those looking for some outdoor activity.
El Parque de las Aguas – This park in downtown Lima has a beautiful water fountain and is open from 3-10:30 pm, Tuesday-Sunday. There’s an amazing light show at night too! It costs 4 PEN to get into. You’ll find a lot of events hosted here and it’s a popular place with dog owners.
Chachapoyas – This region lies in the Andean mountains and is home to the Chachapoya civilization that lived there between 500 and 1432. Today, you can visit Kuelap, the fortified city at known as “The Machu Picchu of the North”. Be sure to also visit Gocta, a beautiful waterfall that is one of the highest in the world. You can get there by taking a tour from Chachapoyas.
Trujillo – On your way to Mancora, stop in Trujillo, a small fishing town directly on the beach. While here, visit the archaeological site of Chan Chan, the world’s biggest adobe city ever built. It was built by the Chimu civilization that live before the Incas from 850 and 1534.