5 of the Best South America Tourist Destinations
Exploring South America is a truly wondrous experience. It’s hard not to be amazed by the glistening waters of Lake Titicaca, Incan architecture in Machu Picchu and Belize’s subtropical Barrier Reef, regardless of how well travelled you are. Get inspired to see the continent at its best and learn about five of the best South America tourist destinations.
1) Lake Titicaca & Isla del Sol – Bolivia
At 12,500 feet above sea level, Lake Titicaca is the highest navigable lake in the world and the largest lake in South America. Its seemingly endless shores stretch far into the horizon, while over 40 different islands are spread across it. Hike to breath-taking views on Isla del Sol, an islet on the lake’s southern side where the Incas once worshipped the Incan god Inti. For something a touch more modern, explore the man-made Uros islands and the quaint, thatched houses which are built upon them.
2) Machu Picchu – Peru
With its position high above the mist-covered Andes Mountains, it’s easy to see how Machu Picchu remained virtually unknown until the early 20th century. Arrive after a four-day hike on the Inca Trail and enjoy a similar sense of awe that early explorers felt when they first discovered this great Inca city.
Today, this UNESCO World Heritage Site attracts over 2,500 visitors a day during peak season, which is between late May and early September. If you’d rather avoid the crowds, we recommend visiting during the low season, which is from October through to May. Regardless of how busy it is, though, Machu Picchu’s scenic credentials make it one of South America’s greatest tourist attractions.
3) Bogota – Colombia
Lonely Planet calls Bogota the city where “cosmopolitan meets colonial”. Stroll through La Candelaria, Bogota’s cobblestoned street centre, and unwind in renowned landmarks like Bolivar Plaza. Visit the Museo Botero and admire renowned artist Fernando Botero’s work, or the Museo del Oro to marvel at over 55,000 pieces of gold. However, you choose to spend your days, Bogota should be at the top of any Colombian travel itinerary.
4) Barrier Reef – Belize
Recognised as a UNESCO World Heritage Site in its entirety, the tranquil seas of Belize’s Barrier Reef are a paradise for snorkelers, divers and anyone lucky enough to pass through them. Swim with nurse sharks at Shark Ray Alley or whale sharks at Gladden Spit, or dive into the mystic Great Blue Hole with its otherworldly stalagmite formations and intricate cave system. Whether you’re visiting Belize’s Barrier Reef for the first or fifth time, it’s hard not to be awe struck by this natural wonder.
5) Cabo Polonio – Uruguay
Cabo Polonio is a remote hamlet situated on Uruguay’s Atlantic coast. Getting here isn’t easy (you’ll need to walk around 7 kilometres across sand dunes), but the sense of uncovering a simply stunning remote settlement makes the journey more than worth it.
Lounge the day away on near-deserted beaches, watching lazy sea lions (Cabo Polonio has one of the biggest populations of these creatures in the whole of South America) and admiring beautiful sunsets over the Pacific Ocean. Once it sets, the lack of light pollution means you’ll likely be graced with a spectacular starry night sky.
How Much Money Will You Need for South America?
Your budget will largely depend on how long and where you plan to travel. For instance, prices for accommodation and food in Ecuador are significantly lower than in Brazil or Chile. In Quito, Ecuador, £16 will get you a bunk in a dorm room at a good hostel, rides on public transport, three cheap meals, one paid tourist attraction and three cheap drinks. In Brazil, you’re looking at a daily budget closer to £40.
How much you’ll need to save will also depend on your comfort level. Regardless of where you travel, a five-star hotel will always cost more than a bunk in a dorm room. A mid-range daily budget in Brazil, including a standard double room in a hotel and meal at a mid-range restaurant, ranges from £40 to £80 while luxury budgets are closer to £100. South America has a relatively well-developed tourism industry so you’ll typically have access to a range of accommodation and restaurant options.
How to Get There
Ready to book a flight? With airlines like LATAM Airlines, British Airlines, Avianca, and Norwegian, you can fly directly from the UK to South America. Other airlines like KLM, Turkish Airlines, Emirates, and TAP Air Portugal also make the journey but you’ll need to make at least one layover. Airlines that fly directly from mainland Europe to South America vary based on the country you’re travelling from/to.
It’s best to shop around and compare different airlines to ensure you get the best price. Resources like BudgetAir or BravoFly can help you find great deals while travel agencies like TUI or STA Travel can take the hassle out of planning.
With flight times from the UK averaging around 12 hours, you’ll want to make sure you’re comfy and some airlines, especially budget airlines, don’t provide extra amenities. So, make sure to look into in-flight meals and entertainment, baggage allowance, and other extras.