South America is an immense and diverse continent with a myriad of options for every interest. Because of this, diving in to the initial planning stages of a trip to South America and deciding where to go can be incredibly daunting – with so many places to see and things to do, it’s easy to find yourself asking the question, “What is the best place to visit in South America?”
Instead of asking general questions like, “What is the most beautiful country in South America?” or “What is the most interesting country in South America?” it might best to start by evaluating your travel interests and ask more pointed questions like, “What is the best place to visit in South America for adventure travel,” or “Where is the best place for culinary travel in South America?” Here at Knowmad, we have extensive South America travel experience, and we specialize in helping travelers create a trip that is the perfect fit for their travel style and interests.
We love sharing our passion for South America and introducing travelers to some of our favorite places in the world. But more importantly, during our own adventures we have made special connections with the people, culture, and environment of several different regions in South America and use this knowledge daily to create one-of-a-kind custom trips.
Though asking us to choose favorites was a difficult task, we have come up with a list of some of the Knowmad team’s recommendations to answer a few of the questions mentioned above to inspire your next adventure.
WHAT IS THE BEST PLACE TO VISIT IN SOUTH AMERICA FOR HIKING?
Top Left: Machu Picchu in Peru | Bottom Left: Choquequirao Trek in Peru | Right: Hiking in Chilean Patagonia
Peruvian Southern Highlands You can hike the famed Inca Trail, or off-the-beaten-path hikes to seemingly lost ruins like Huchuyqosqo. – Renee + Tara
Huayna PicchU, PERU Hiking up Huayna Picchu to look down on the majestic citadel of Machu Picchu, or Torres del Paine National Park – some of the most untouched pristine vistas I have ever seen! – Kayli
Patagonia Both the Argentina and Chilean side of Patagonia. What I really love about both of these areas is that it is truly remote – because we see it marketed to us so often, you almost start to believe it’s just a quick plane ride to the center of the park(s) – but it’s a long travel day to get there and it’s worth it because you really feel like you’re out in the open, untouched wilderness once you start hiking and exploring. – Lisa
El Chaltén, Argentina The sleepy town is a great base from which you can spend days exploring the trails. Just make sure your camera is fully-charged – I was so caught up in taking pictures that my battery was drained before I had reached the halfway point. – Krista
what is the best place in south america for spas + relaxation?
Above: Inkaterra Reserva Amazonica Lodge in Peru
Ecuadorian Highlands Hacienda Zuleta in Ecuador. I love the flexibility of this place. You can head out on a horseback ride in the morning, or hike up to an amazing viewpoint of the surrounding mountains and countryside or the condor rehabilitation center. Then, return to the hacienda for a delicious meal and in the afternoon curl up in a cozy chair next to the fireplace and a plate of homemade cheeses from the hacienda. For me, it’s that perfect combination of adventure and new experiences with time for relaxation as well. You’re far away from the city and it’s the best place to disconnect. – Renee
Peruvian Amazon I got a massage at Reserva Amazonica Lodge in Peru and it was amazing. The whole lodge makes you want to just relax and move a little slower. – Lisa
Uruguay I was in Uruguay in low season, and it was the best! In many ways it’s similar to Argentina, with lovely beaches, estancias, and delicious barbecues, but it’s less known and visited by international travelers. Because it was off-season and too cool for swimming, the beaches that are popular in the summertime were nearly empty, and my time there was wonderfully peaceful. – Krista
what is the best place in south america for Culinary travel + Good food?
Top Left: Market in Cusco, Peru | Bottom Left: Creamery at Hotel Vira Vira in Chile | Top Right: Lunch during an excursion at Awasi Patagonia Lodge in Chile | Bottom Right: Matetic Vineyard in Chile
Santiago Far and away the best meal I’ve had so far was at Silabario in Santiago. They put their own slight twist on Chilean food. Awesome service and atmosphere. Definitely a restaurant for locals. Xoco Por Ti is pretty great too. I can’t find the word for it because “restaurant,” “shop” and “bar” all seem to miss. It’s a place that serves ice cream and drinks made from chocolate from all over South America. Amazing, right? – Dan, currently living in Santiago
Lima The restaurants are amazing! There are also incredible opportunities in the city for cooking classes in which you can visit local markets and then learn from amazing chefs in one of the world’s top food cities. – Renee
Chile Lakes District Hotel Vira Vira! I love this place for so many reasons, but their food is probably the reason I love it the most. Most of their food comes from their garden steps outside of the main lodge, their onsite creamery, and/or a lot of their meat comes from their neighbors and local friends. And almost all of their dishes were adorned with local edible flowers. – Lisa
Argentina My food experiences in Argentina were some of the best I’ve ever had. While many people cite the parrillas, I would also include the Italian food (the gnocchi is divine, and empanadas were my go-to lunch) as well as the sweets – ice creams, chocolate, anything with dulce de leche (caramel), alfajores (similar to a sandwich cookie), pastries… There are also amazing puerta cerrada (closed door, or private) restaurants. These reservation-only establishments provide great insights into the food and culture of Argentina in an intimate setting that feels more like a get-together for friends than a restaurant. The country is heaven for a food-lover! – Krista + Tara
what is the best city in south america to explore?
Top Left: Hotel B in Peru | Bottom Left: Santiago, Chile | Right: Buenos Aires, Argentina
Valparaíso “Valpo” is an eclectic and bohemian city filled with colorful streets, little museums and cafes, with beautiful views of the bay. – Kayli + Tara
Cusco I love the pre-Incan, Incan, colonial and modern day history, culture and beautiful architecture that all comes together in this city. I’m generally not one for big cities, and Cusco’s just the right size. Plus the food is amazing as well. – Renee
Buenos Aires I am partial to Buenos Aires because I studied abroad there – and I really do love it. A day going to the Palermo Flea Market / Antique Market and eating lunch in Palermo Soho is a perfect day in my book! There are so many unique neighborhoods to explore. – Lisa
Mendoza I was really surprised with Mendoza. In addition to the beautiful landscapes of vineyards with the Andes as a backdrop, the city was very walkable, full of lovely plazas with fountains, colorful mosaic details, and shaded sidewalks. – Krista
what is the best place in south america to Experience Culture or History?
Above: Lake Titicaca, Peru
Peru’s Sacred Valley My favorite place to experience culture is the Sacred Valley. From learning how to weave from an indigenous community to taking part in a traditional pachamanca (a meal cooked over and under hot stones), unique and authentic cultural experiences are around every corner. And of course, there are the country’s many ancient ruins including Machu Picchu. – Renee + Lisa
Santiago The museums, parades, plazas, beautiful architecture, art venues – everything combines into a wonderful place to be immersed in not only the history of the country, but also the culture that today makes it so unique. – Kayli
Lake Titicaca One of the most unique places I’ve been is Lake Titicaca. Visiting the islands, especially Uros & Taquile, was incredible. Uros is a man-made floating island, where its people weave together their land, homes, and even boats using reeds. On Taquile, the men and women create amazing traditional textiles. – Krista
what is the best place in south america to See Animals?
Top Left: Cloudforest in Ecuador | Bottom Left: Torres del Paine National Park in Chile | Right: Amazon Jungle in Peru
Patagonia The pampas of Patagonia – to feel a herd of galloping guanacos envelop you is like no other feeling in the world! – Tara
The Galapagos Islands The wildlife has little to no fear of humans. They seem completely un-phased by you as you walk just feet away from blue-footed boobies, giant Galapagos tortoises, iguanas and more, and then jump in the water and swim alongside sea lions, sea turtles, an array of colorful fish, penguins – even sharks! However, for the bird lovers out there, Mashpi Lodge is hands down the best place for excellent birding. Mashpi isn’t just an amazing lodge but it’s also a center for scientific research. Almost 400 species of birds have been recorded here, but experts estimate that there are actually more around 500 species hiding in the depths of the cloud forest surrounding Mashpi. Among many other species, hummingbirds are a highlight with 32 different species found in the surrounding area. Their hummingbird observation center is a perfect spot to see many of the hummingbirds together, as well as the other unique species the come to feed here. – Renee
The Amazon Personally, I really loved the Amazon in Peru – there are a lot of primate species there that I had never seen before. – Lisa
Antarctica It’s so hard to beat the Galapagos, but Tierra del Fuego and Antarctica came close. You get so close to the penguins, and there are also excellent whale-watching opportunities if you’re there in the right season. – Krista
what is the best place in south america to Experience Nature?
Top: Torres del Paine National Park in Chile | Bottom Left: Iguazú Falls in Argentina | Bottom Right: Atacama Desert in Chile
Patagonia I would have to say Patagonia again – both Argentinean and Chilean sides – they are just gorgeous. Or the Atacama Desert! That was incredible – the landscape is so unique and different from what I’m used to. And nothing beats Paine Mastif in Torres del Paine, Chile! – Tara + Lisa
The Atacama The Atacama Desert has some of the coolest and craziest landscapes I have ever seen! – Kayli
Iguazu Iguazú Falls is just a natural wonder. There is an amazing jungle to explore, but nothing can beat the panoramic views of the falls. Except maybe the boat ride where you can experience the power of the falls up close! – Krista
what is the best place in south america for Adventure travel?
Top: Torres del Paine National Park in Chile | Bottom Left: Salkantay Trail in Peru | Bottom Right: A detail shot from Machu Picchu in Peru
Peru This is so hard! But right now I’d have to say Peru – the mix of culture, landscape and trekking opportunities is amazing. – Tara
Chile Over 3,700 miles, you can be stargazing in one of the driest deserts in the world one day, and sleeping next to a glacial lake in Patagonia the next! – Kayli
Antarctica For a once-in-a-lifetime splurge, Antarctica is incredible! While there may not be many opportunities for extreme sports, the journey to the White Continent is an adventure in itself. Many visits include the option of taking a dip in the near-freezing water – now that’s an adventure that’s not for the faint of heart! – Krista
Did you decide which is the best country for you to visit in South America? Or which activities interest you? If you’re still finding it difficult to choose your next destination, give us a call at 612-315-2894 or email us at [email protected] to talk to a South America trip specialist about the options and plan the perfect trip for you!
Hasta Pronto, Knowmad Adventurers!
Knowmad Adventures works closely with independent-minded travelers creating innovative trips to South America. Our specialists in Patagonia, Chile, Machu Picchu, Peru, Argentina, the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador and Antarctica are eager to collaborate and create a trip as unique and authentic as you are, and our experienced South American operations team guarantees you get an insider’s perspective, superior values, and a flawlessly operated trip.