Trip Ideas

11 Most Beautiful Places in South America

South America has some of the world's most diverse landscapes, from the windswept coastlines and rugged Andes mountains to the rolling Pampas plains and the tropical rain forests of the Amazon. Here, the 11 most beautiful places on the continent to add to your travel wishlist.

Terrace of Premium casita at Sol y Luna
Bedroom at Sol y Luna
Aerial view of the Sacred Valley in Peru
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Sacred Valley, Peru

Machu Picchu may be the first to come to mind, and while it’s certainly stunning, the most surprisingly gorgeous part is the region around it: Peru’s Sacred Valley. To get the best overview, book a tour with Perillo’s Learning Journeys. Here, you’ll explore Inca ruins like Ollantaytambo and visit local communities like Huilloc to watch skilled weavers create colorful handmade garments and participate in a spiritual offering to pachamama (Mother Earth). Have lunch at Hacienda Huayoccari; the restaurant is also part museum that houses an impressive collection of pre-Colombian art, colonial sculptures, and Inca artifacts. Then, bed down at Hotel Sol y Luna, a Relais & Châteaux ranch known for its Peruvian dancing horses. On one side of the valley is lush llama farmland and verdant valleys and the other is the towering Andes mountain range.

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cartagena colombia
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Cartagena, Colombia

This sultry coastal city is a must-see on any Latin America bucket list. Besides its killer ceviche and mojitos, the seaside escape is known for its bright architecture and equally eye-catching tanned and toned citizens. Wander the cobblestoned streets and pastel plazas in old town, before refreshing with a coconut water from the street fruit stands or a caipirinha cocktail. Then, go salsa dancing until dawn at Cafe Havana. If you want to soak up some rays, take a day trip by boat to Baru or Islas del Rosario for their sugar-soft beaches.

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Bedroom at Tierra Patagonia Hotel And Spa
Spa at Tierra Patagonia Hotel And Spa
Blue lake on a snowy mountains background and cloudy sky Torres del paine
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Torres del Paine National Park, Chile

Patagonia is iconic for a reason. The otherworldly landscape can see four seasons in one day, from snow-capped granite peaks and dramatic glaciers to crystalline lakes. The 500,000-acre national park is also home to a wealth of wildlife. Keep your eyes peeled and if you’re lucky you may spot pumas, guanacos, condors, and huemules. For the ultimate splurge, bed down at the exclusive Tierra Patagonia Hotel, which has guacho-led horseback rides and spacious rooms overlooking Lago Sarmiento.

RELATED: 10 Life-Changing Trips to Take in South America

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Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

For an untouched escape, look no further than the Galápagos Islands. Nearly 97 percent of the land is protected under national park status, meaning the flora and fauna are largely left as they were when Charles Darwin first discovered them. Adventurers will love exploring by land and sea, staying at the ultra-luxe Pikaia Lodge on Santa Cruz island followed by a multi-day cruise aboard the hotel’s private yacht. Here, you’ll get to swim with sea turtles and whale sharks, hike up rugged volcanoes, and snorkel in Las Grietas lagoon.

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Aerial view of Belmond Hotel das Cataratas
Bedroom at Belmond Hotel das Cataratas
Iguazu Waterfalls in Argentina
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Iguazu Falls, Brazil

These breathtaking falls—which span two miles within two separate national parks—thunder over the border of Brazil and Argentina. Although you can see Iguazu Falls in both countries, we prefer the Brazilian side. Hikers will love the 40-minute trek to the falls, where they can encounter giant butterflies and colorful toucans, while those looking to kick back and relax with front-row seats can check into the elegant Belmond Hotel das Cataratas, which sits on the very edge of the cascade. The hotel can also arrange scenic helicopter flights over the falls for the ultimate bird’s-eye view.

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reflection of mountain in Salar de Uyuni (Uyuni salt flats), Potosi, Bolivia, South America
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Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

Salar de Uyuni is an instagrammer’s dream. These Bolivian salt flats are the largest in the world, spanning 4,086 square miles. With all that space, you could take a tour and never see another soul, meaning you can find the perfect spot for that surreal Salvador Dalí shot. Although the prehistoric lake is typically dry, it turns into a giant mirror after the rainy season between January and March. For those who want to stay longer, book a few nights at the Hotel de Sal Luna Salada, which is made out of salt blocks as a nod to its setting.

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Bedroom at
3 4x4 in the Bolivian Altiplano
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San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

In northeastern Chile, the Atacama Desert is one of the driest destinations on Earth. But don’t let that dissuade you from visiting the 600-mile sandy expanse. There are boiling geyser fields and salt flats home to wild flamingos and foxes. At the heart is the Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley), which is beloved among astronomers for its lunar-like landscape and clear skies, perfect for watching shooting stars. Get even closer to the milky way at Elqui Domos, where you can sleep in a geodesic domes with skylight panels and sign up for nighttime horseback rides, astronomy lectures, and telescope turns.

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Bedroom at The Vines Resort & Spa
Pool at The Vines Resort & Spa
Aerial view of The Vines Resort & Spa
Beautiful springtime in vineyards at foot of the Andes. Tupungato, Mendoza, Argentina.
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Mendoza, Argentina

Mendoza is one of the most stunning wine regions in South America, and it’s just a quick two-hour direct flight from Buenos Aires or five-hour drive from Santiago. The Cuyo wine country is famous for its smooth Malbecs and red varieties. Taste the terroir at The Vines Resort & Spa, which is set on a 1,500-acre vineyard nestled in the foothills of the Andes. Its 22 villas are the epitome of luxury, with massive picture windows and electric fire pits. At the on-site restaurant, celeb chef Francis Mallmann pairs the wine with classic Argentine dishes like tender lamb that’s been roasted for four hours over an open flame.

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Easter Island, Chile

Sometimes the hardest places to reach are the ones most worth the trek. Such is the case with Easter Island. It takes a five-hour flight from Chile to reach Rapu Nui National Park, roughly 2,300 miles from the mainland. Because of its severe isolation, the UNESCO World Heritage Site’s lush environment and Polynesian culture has been left untouched for centuries. Check out the 900 towering moai sculptures as well as the ancient rock art carvings that have bewildered archaeologists for decades. Beyond that, the pristine beaches are completely secluded so you’ll have the sand all to yourself before retiring to explora Rapu Nui in the evening.

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Amazon Jungle
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The Amazon River

The Amazon carves 4,000 miles through South America’s tropical rainforest, making it one of the world’s longest and most impressive rivers. The best way to take it all in? Aboard Delfin Amazon Cruises, a plush riverboat that exudes elegance. Guests have everything they want at their fingertips—a tranquil spa, floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking the river, and fresh-pressed passion fruit juice every morning. Although we wouldn’t blame you for not getting off the boat, you won’t want to miss the land excursions like naturalist-led jungle walks, visits to local shamans, and swims with pink river dolphins.

RELATED: 10 Incredible Parks to Add to Your Bucketlist 

Grandiose glacier Perito Moreno in the Argentine part of Patagonia.
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Los Glaciares National Park, Argentina

Some of the most accessible and stunning glaciers on the globe can be found in this national park on the tip of Argentina. You can go glacier walking or watch the jaw-dropping ice falls from the water. To get here, you’ll need to make homebase one of two towns: El Calafate (the park’s gateway) or El Chalten, at the bottom of Mount Fitz Roy’s granite peaks.

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