South America

From the Amazon rainforest to Inca ruins - beaches and city life - South America is an amazing experience for any traveller.

south america

Our beautiful Earth offers seven amazing continents that are vast enough for us to explore. One of the continents that is full of mystery and riddles is South America. Not only is it home to the largest Latin population, but it also has a very interesting past.

Long before the continental drift, the Earth had only one enormous landmass called Pangea, which means “all lands.” As a part of Pangua, South America was not the continent we know today. It took the planet millions upon millions of years to break up Pangea and turn it into the modern continents, and we couldn’t be more grateful.

The incredibly beautiful site of Machu Picchu is a world wonder.
The incredibly beautiful site of Machu Picchu is a world wonder.

Today, South America is home to some of the world’s most beautiful landmarks, which attract tourists from all over the globe. It’s a paradoxical continent where the world’s driest desert and longest river are found: the Atacama Desert and the Amazon River, respectively.

In this article, we will walk you through everything that makes South America an amazing destination. We’ll also give you a quick glimpse into the enchanting South American countries to help you decide which one to visit first. So buckle up and enjoy the journey through South America!

There are many amazing destinations across South America.
There are many amazing destinations across the continent.

A Brief Introduction to the Continent

South America is the world’s fourth-largest continent. The continent mostly lies in the Western Hemisphere, with different seas surrounding it, such as the Caribbean Sea, Atlantic Ocean, and Pacific Ocean. This explains the continent being laden with different fisheries and ports.

Needless to say, South America is part of the huge landmass called the Americas, encompassing 12 countries. According to scientists, the South American continent used to be connected to Africa, Australia, and Antarctica. That supercontinent was formerly known as Gondwana, but that was around 550 million years ago.

It took hundreds of millions of years for the Gondwana supercontinent to break apart. As it did, it formed the lands we know today.

What is the Weather like Across South America?

The weather across South America exhibits remarkable diversity. From the Amazon Basin’s tropical rainforests to the Atacama’s dry deserts, the continent experiences a wide range of climates.

Along the equator, countries like Ecuador and Colombia experience consistent warmth and high humidity, with average highs ranging around 25-30 degrees Celsius, fostering lush rainforests and diverse ecosystems. In contrast, the southern regions, including Argentina and Chile, have more temperate climates, with distinct seasons and cooler temperatures.

In the summer months (December to March), average highs in Buenos Aires, Argentina, can reach 30 degrees Celsius, while in the winter months (June to September), temperatures typically range from 5 to 20 degrees Celsius. The winter can also bring cold winds and occasional snowfall.

One of the defining features of South America’s weather is its wet and dry seasons. In the Amazon Basin, temperatures often exceed 32 degrees Celsius, and it rains consistently year-round, contributing to its status as the world’s largest tropical rainforest. On the other hand, areas like the Atacama Desert in Chile receive significantly less rain, making it one of the driest places on Earth.

South America experiences extreme rainy and dry seasons.
The continent experiences extreme rainy and dry seasons.

When is the Best Time to Visit South America?

Determining the best time to visit South America depends largely on the country you’re visiting and what activities you want to do there! Generally, the optimal time to visit is during the continent’s dry season, which varies across different countries and regions.

For anyone wanting to explore the lush Amazon rainforest or embark on wildlife adventures in countries like Ecuador and Peru, the dry season typically occurs from June to September. During these months, rainfall is minimal, making it easier to navigate through the dense vegetation and increasing the chances of spotting elusive wildlife.

Tourists interested in experiencing South America’s vibrant culture and festivities should plan their trip to coincide with popular festivals. For example, Carnival in Brazil is typically held in February or March. It is a spectacular celebration featuring colourful parades, music, and dancing, and attracts millions of visitors from around the world.

For people interested in exploring the Andean region or going on outdoor adventures such as hiking the Inca Trail or exploring the stunning landscapes of Patagonia, the best time to visit is often from May to October, during the region’s dry season. During these months, clear skies and milder temperatures make outdoor activities more enjoyable, and hiking trails are generally less crowded.

A Glimpse into the History of South America

We all know that Christopher Columbus was the first explorer to set foot in the two Americas. He arrived in the Americas, landing in what we know today as Venezuela. But have you ever wondered where the continents’ names come from?

Columbus claimed the lands of South America for Spain.

The continents were named after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci, whose voyages took place shortly after Columbus first discovered South America. Vespucci introduced the concept that the two lands that Columbus discovered were separate continents. It was a revolutionary theory back then, so he was honoured by naming the lands after him.

South America is also commonly known as Latin America, for its heritage comes from countries that speak Latin-based languages. Those countries were Spain, Portugal, and France; no wonder these are the dominant languages of the continent.

Interestingly, over 300 languages are spoken on the continent, but Spanish and Portuguese are the most common. Well, we forgot to mention that Columbus claimed the lands for Spain as soon as he landed there. That’s why we see the Spanish heritage taking over South America.

Moreover, South America is where the Inca people lived and developed their famous civilization. The Inca Empire may have been the most famous as it spanned several parts of the continent. Yet, other great civilizations lived on the South American continent. These included the Chavin, Paracas, and Nazca civilizations.

The 12 South American Countries

South America is home to 12 beautiful countries that host charming landmarks and interesting spots for you to explore. Many of the South American natural landscapes, including fascinating mountain ranges and staggering waterfalls, will leave you spellbound.

Besides the Andes Mountains and the Amazon River, there are other amazing tourist attractions. Check out these pretty countries and their most famous spots to visit.

The Obelisk of Buenos Aires was built in 1936 to celebrate the city's 400th anniversary.
The Obelisk of Buenos Aires was built in 1936 to celebrate the city’s 400th anniversary.

1. Argentina

Argentina is one of the most famous countries in South America. It’s a captivating destination that juggles between two extremes for being home to real jungles and urban cities. That unique blend of wilderness and sophistication gives Argentina its peculiar charm.

Some of the most iconic landmarks that you can visit are the Obelisk of Buenos Aires. This historical monument is 71 meters tall and dates back to 1936. Another famous landmark, 9 de Julio Avenue, is located close to the Obelisk. Being the world’s widest avenue, it quickly became among the top tourist attractions in Buenos Aires.

If you have a thing for places known for being haunted, you shouldn’t miss the Recoleta Cemetery. This site is rich in art and has several mausoleums, and it’s also where the graves of wealthy families lie.

Make sure you also visit the highest mountain in South America, Aconcagua. It is also the highest mountain in the two Americas. This mountain lies in the Province of Mendoza, among the Andes mountain range.

2. Bolivia

Bolivia is one of the most underrated travel destinations in South America. It is home to mesmerizing landscapes, bustling cities, invigorating activities, and hyping festivals. Sadly, it doesn’t receive the same recognition as other countries in South America.

The Bolivian capital, La Paz, is famous for being the highest capital in the whole world. This captivating city restfully sits on the Altiplano plateau of the Andes, rising over 3,500 meters above sea level.

Tourists visiting Incahuasi Island in Salar de Uyuni Salt Flat for sightseeing and having lunch
Tourists visiting Incahuasi Island in Salar de Uyuni Salt Flat for sightseeing and having lunch

La Paz is famous for its vibrant nights and special markets, with the Witches’ Market being the most popular. It’s a lively spot that tourists visit to purchase luck-bringing souvenirs, especially the dried llama fetuses. They say they bring prosperity and opulence to your life.

In southwest Bolivia, you will find the Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni Salt Flat). It is the largest salt flat in the world. According to history, it was a lake that went dry and became the salt flat we see today. You will be fascinated by the vast landscape of white salt and rock formations that fill the area.

3. Brazil

Brazil stands out among the popular countries of South America. Not only is it home to the world’s most famous football players, but it’s also home to iconic landmarks. If your next adventure will be in Brazil, we’ve got your back.

Brazil is where the largest river by volume courses through its lands, the Amazon River. Want to know an interesting fact about this river? Well, it used to flow in the opposite direction a million years ago. If you have the guts, take a leap into the river for an energetic swim alongside the rarest dolphin species.

Moreover, the Amazon River is connected to the world’s ultimate haven, the Amazon Rainforest.  You can take an invigorating jungle walk where you can learn about the world’s rarest plants used for medicinal purposes. Kayaking is also a popular activity that allows guests to take a calming cruise through secluded parts of the forest.

South America is a beautiful continent to explore.
South America is a beautiful continent to explore.

South America, in general, is known for its abundant waterfalls. But Brazil, in particular, is home to the world’s largest and most alluring waterfalls, the Iguazu River. It’s one of the New Seven Natural Wonders. Interestingly, the vertically cascading river lies at a point that connects Brazil with Argentina and Paraguay. This means you can explore those waters from any of those three points.

Your trip to Brazil cannot really be complete without heading to Rio de Janeiro. The latter is home to another landmark voted among the New Seven Wonders of the World. It’s the most prominent monument in the country, Christ the Redeemer.

This enormous statue proudly sits on top of Mount Corcovado at a height of 700 meters. From the top, you can overlook the scenic landscapes of the city.

4. Colombia

We have already mentioned that South America was named after the Italian explorer Amerigo Vespucci. Well, Christopher Columbus’s efforts did not go in vain. One of the popular countries in South America was named after him: Colombia.

The most interesting fact about Colombia is that no matter what month you visit, it’s always warm. You can experience different temperatures in Colombia based on the elevation, but other than that, there are no real season exchanges. This unique climate has made the country among the world’s best coffee producers.

Rolling Hills near the village of Bogota, Colombia.
Rolling Hills near the village of Bogota, Colombia.

Moving to the important part, the Colombian capital city, Bogota, is home to the renowned Monserrate Mountain. It rises over 10,000 feet above sea level, offering panoramic views of the Andes Mountains and the whole city. Monserrate is a significant spot for pilgrimage; worshippers take the time to hike to the top, where Catholic buildings await.

South America also offers magnificent spots to relax and enjoy your time away from the buzzing cities. The Rosario Islands are the perfect destination to enjoy the magical Caribbean Sea. It’s also one of Colombia’s prominent national parks. This natural wonder offers many coral reefs and various marine life to observe.

5. Chile

Among all the countries in South America, Chile is the one to be labelled as the Country of Poets. The country received that label after the two Chilean poets, Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda, won the Nobel Prize in Literature. Anyway, there is so much more to Chile than just that!

Thanks to Chile, South America earned a reputation for the presence of Extraterrestrial creatures. It became popular among the locals to watch the skies and spot UFOs hovering over the country. The long history of UFO sightings has attracted tourists from every corner of the planet. It is one of the best observation sites in the Atacama Desert.

In fact, the Atacama Desert is one of the most prominent landmarks of South America. It’s the driest desert the planet has ever witnessed, with little to no rain throughout the year. The extremely dry weather and little pollution made the skies clear, encouraging the pursuit of alien activity. Also, the desert is home to several plant species.

There are many dry, hot deserts in South America
There are many dry, hot deserts around the continent.

Los Flamencos National Reserve is an unmissable tourist destination that can be reached from San Pedro de Atacama. This site sets South America on top of every traveller’s bucket list. It houses myriad species of flamingos that you can admire.

Another iconic tourist attraction in Chile is the Marble Caves in Patagonia. The magnificent caves sit in the common waters between Chile and Argentina. Tourists eager to see the caves can access them only by boat. Moreover, it is dangerous to get into the waters, as they are extremely cold all year long.

6. Ecuador

Ecuador is the fourth-smallest nation on the continent and sits in the western corner of South America. This terrific country is famous for its panoramic views, colonial architecture, and rainforests.

Home to the reputable Galápagos Islands, this site has been attracting tourists since its discovery back in the 16th century. The region is a perfect spot for nature lovers; it embraces many rare bird species. Surprisingly, these wonderful species include the Galápagos penguin, but unfortunately, they’re threatened by climate change.

Coming second among Ecuador’s top tourist attractions is the Oriente. It is the small portion of the Amazon Rainforest that Ecuador shares with the other countries in South America. The Ecuadorian Amazon is home to astounding species of wildlife, be they mammals, fish, or reptiles. It is a true haven for nature enthusiasts.

View of two beaches on Bartolome Island in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador
View of two beaches on Bartolome Island in the Galapagos Islands in Ecuador

The Hot Springs of Baños is another destination that would be a shame to miss! These public thermal baths rest at the feet of La Virgen Waterfall. This is your perfect getaway to beat stress and relieve tension from your body. The minerals in hot springs have been holding several health benefits that many people have sworn by.

7. Guyana

Guyana is one of the most underrated South American countries. In fact, it is the only English-speaking country in all of South America. Just like many countries on the continent, it is home to flawless rainforests. It is also famous for possessing vast rice fields and sugarcane plantations.

One of the most significant landmarks in Guyana is George’s Cathedral, which is located in Georgetown, the capital city. Not only are its walls rich in history, but they are also impressive masterpieces in the world of architecture. The fascinating building has been an appealing destination for tourists. Besides, stepping past the threshold will take you on a journey to the country’s colonial past.

Apparently, South America is so fond of waterfalls that you can find them on almost every corner. Well, Guyana is no exception, for it is home to the significant Kaieteur Falls. This giant single-drop waterfall sits on the Potaro River in a little section where the Amazon Rainforest resides in Guyana.

There are many stunning waterfalls throughout South America
There are many stunning waterfalls throughout South America

The Kaieteur Falls is located in the Kaieteur National Park. The waterfalls usually steal the limelight of the park, but there is more to it than just that. This national park sits on the highlands of Guyana. It renders its visitors with an exceptional jungle experience. Hiking through the Amazonian jungle while observing scenic landscapes is a dream come true.

8. Paraguay

Haven’t we mentioned that South America is full of contradictory facts? Paraguay has its own paradox as well. It owns the largest navy, although it has no access to the sea. Weird, isn’t it? Well, Paraguay sits between three land borders: Argentina, Brazil, and Bolivia. For that very reason, it earned its notable nickname as the Heart of South America.

The Iguazú Falls is one of the world’s most beautiful waterfalls that South America offers to us. This unmissable destination should be at the top of your list when visiting Paraguay. If you’re into hiking, this region is the best pick for you. You can find a magnificent trail nearby where visitors hike while observing the spectacular scenes of the Iguazú Falls.

Roaming the streets of Paraguay’s capital city has its own charm. Asunción was among the sturdiest colonial strongholds that the Spanish founded in 1537. Thus, it’s rich in history and old tales. The Palacio de los López is a historical landmark that is too good to miss. Visit the stunning palace to witness a splendid combination of history and architecture.

The stunning Palacio de los López
The stunning Palacio de los López

9. Peru

The land where the reputable Incan Empire developed and lived for many years is an unmissable haven of splendour. Peru is a renowned country in South America that attracts visitors from all around the globe for its magnificence. It is laden with cascading waterfalls, historical landmarks, and heavenly natural lands.

When we say Peru, the first thing that pops into our minds is Machu Picchu. It is, without a doubt, the highlight of Peru and a significant landmark in South America. The Citadel of Machu Picchu sits high in the Andes Mountains within its lush forest. Travellers head straight to this mysterious destination in an attempt to unravel its centuries-old secrets.

There are several ways to reach Machu Picchu, one of which is through the Inca Trail. This hiking trail consists of three different routes that intersect at different points, and all terminate at Machu Picchu. No matter which trail you choose, you will be amused by the tremendous landscape along the way.

The Sacred Valley is another highlight in Peru that will take you on an invigorating journey you will remember for years. This region is nestled in the Andean highlands and is relatively close to Machu Picchu and the town of Cusco.

Moreover, it is known as the heart of the Inca Empire. There are many things to do and see in the Sacred Valley, including the Sea Salt Pans and the White River. Also, don’t forget to drink the Inca Cola.

An aerial view of Machu Picchu, the lost city
An aerial view of Machu Picchu, the lost city

10. Suriname

Suriname is the smallest country in South America and one of the world’s poorest. However, it is still safe for tourists to travel, and there are plenty of landmarks and tourist attractions to visit.

Like most countries in South America, Suriname is home to multiple waterfalls, scenic mountains, and lakes. Brownsberg is one of the country’s highlights; it is a nature reserve located south of Paramaribo. This nature haven is rich in birdlife, including parrots, woodpeckers, toucans, and more. A wide array of mammals dot the spacious park.

The town of Paramaribo seems to offer a lot to its visitors. It is home to the UNESCO World Heritage Centre and the historic inner city of Paramaribo. This little town was formerly a Dutch colonial site where the sugar industry thrived. Thus, you will come across remains of history within its humble lands.

Voltzberg is one of the many mountains South America encompasses and one of the highlights of Suriname. Located in the Sipaliwini District, it is part of the Emma Range and forms a nature reserve along with Raleigh Falls, which sits nearby.

11. Uruguay

Uruguay is the smallest Spanish-speaking country in South America. Its name literally translates into “River of Painted Birds,” and it comes from the renowned Uruguay River that borders Argentina. Uruguay has several landmarks and tourist attractions.

Casapueblo is a fascinating white building that rests at Punta Ballena. This magnificent construction belongs to Carlos Páez Vilaró, a Uruguayan artist who used it as a workshop and his summer home. The building also encompasses an art gallery, a museum, and a cafeteria, offering a full-board trip within the same walls. It also hosts a hotel where you can stay.

Hotel Casapueblo in Punta del este Uruguay
Hotel Casapueblo in Punta del este Uruguay

One of the highlights of Uruguay is the sculpture of La Mano, also known as The Fingers of Punta del Esta. This huge depiction of human fingers rising from the sands has drawn in countless visitors for years. You can snap a few pictures besides this creative statue and then explore the surrounding region where the Playa Brava lies nearby.

Santa Teresa National Park is a significant national park in Uruguay, and the National Army operates there. Located on the Atlantic coast southeast of Route 9, it is a seaside area that encompasses a lush forest. It’s a wonderful site for camping and surfing, allowing you to explore the Uruguayan shore. This area creates a fascinating balance between tourism and nature.

12. Venezuela

Venezuela is home to the highest waterfall in South America and the world: the Angel Falls. It also embraces the largest lake in South America. Venezuela offers its tourists a huge diversity of nature, mountains capped with snow, and delightful jungles. It is a combination that you just can’t say no to.

Since Angel Falls is the highest waterfall in South America, it makes sense to put it at the top of your list. This waterfall cascades from the top of the Auyán-tepui mountain in the Canaima National Park. It makes for a perfect hiking spot for adventure gurus who like to indulge in scenic landscapes.

Venezuela is home to several national parks, including the Canaima National Park, where Angel Falls is located. There is also Morrocoy National Park on the Caribbean coast, where coral reefs, plentiful fish, dolphins, and sea turtles can be found. El Ávila National Park is another muse that protects the forested mountains of Caracas.

Angel Falls is the highest waterfall in South America
Angel Falls is the highest waterfall in South America

South America is Full of Adventure!

South America is a diverse destination that offers a plethora of experiences for anyone seeking adventure, culture, and natural beauty. From the breathtaking landscapes of the Andes and the Amazon rainforest to the vibrant cities of Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires, the continent houses attractions that appeal to a wide range of interests.

One of the continent’s greatest is its diversity, both in terms of geography and culture. Visitors can explore ancient civilizations at Machu Picchu, witness the awe-inspiring Iguazu Falls, or immerse themselves in the street cultures of Colombia or Brazil. South America’s rich cultural heritage, warm hospitality, and delicious cuisine create an unforgettable experience for people from around the globe.

Is visiting South America on your travel bucket list? Tell us your thoughts in the comments below!

If you enjoyed learning about South America, check out some of our other great articles on the continent:

The Andes Mountains: 10 Exciting Facts | The 2nd Largest Country in South America | Venezuela: The Forgotten Side of South America | Your Travel Guide To Buenos Aires | Latin America: 18 Enthralling Facts About the Striking Region | French Guiana: Beyond Rainforests, Rocket Launches & Mesmerising Islands! |

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