13 Best Countries to Visit in South America

by Jen
Best Countries to Visit in South America
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Are you looking for some of the best countries to visit in South America? Here’s our ultimate bucket list of the most awe-inspiring and iconic countries this continent has to offer.

Ready to dive into the vibrant and diverse world of South America? You could be sipping a rich Colombian coffee in a bustling café in Bogotá, then fast forward to dancing the night away in a samba club in Rio. South America is one of the most vibrant, colorful and entertaining continents on the planet. From the misty ruins of Machu Picchu to the pulsating streets of Buenos Aires, every corner of this continent is bursting with life and stories.

Whether you’re an adrenaline junkie, a culture enthusiast, or a beach lover, South America has something special for you. In our journey through the best South American countries to visit, we’re going to explore the coolest spots, the most breathtaking views, and the experiences that make this continent truly unique. So, grab your passport, fly to South America, and let’s set off on an adventure that you’ll never forget!

Best Countries to Visit in South America in 2024

Are you ready to discover the best countries to visit in South America? This guide is your first step to building the ultimate itinerary for the greatest adventure of your life so far From the vast salt flats of Bolivia to the twirling, never-ending parties of Rio De Janeiro, let’s dive into the best South American countries to see in 2024.

1. Brazil: Where Adventure and Samba Collide

Let’s dive into the heart of South America’s party capital? Brazil is like a non-stop celebration of life! Picture yourself in Rio, the city that never sleeps, where the Carnival totally takes over. This is the best country to go to in South America if you’re all about epic parties, vibrant streets, and meeting some of the friendliest people on the planet.

But hey, Brazil’s also a paradise for you nature buffs, too. Trek into the Amazon, the world’s largest rainforest, where every step is an Instagram-worthy moment. And for you beach bums, the golden sands of Copacabana are calling – it’s the perfect spot to chill, surf, and soak up the sun.

Craving something epic? Iguazu Falls will blow your mind with its massive water curtains. It’s like nature’s own version of a blockbuster movie, and trust me, it’s way better in real life.

Pro tip: Hit up Sugarloaf Mountain in Rio around sunset. The view? Unreal. Best time to visit? May to October, when the sun’s out and the rain’s not crashing your party. And a little Portuguese? That’s your golden ticket to making new local buddies!

Brazil is one of the best countries to visit in South America.
Feel the awe of Iguazu Falls, a nature spectacle that surpasses any movie, better experienced in person.

2. Argentina: A Blend of Wild Landscapes and Urban Beats

Ready to tango with Argentina, a land of fiery passions and stunning contrasts? Argentina is the top country to visit in South America for those who crave a mix of urban excitement and natural wonders.

Start your journey in Buenos Aires, the city that never sleeps, where tango rhythms fill the air and street art turns every corner into a gallery. This is the first destination you’ll fly into Argentina.

Then, head south to Patagonia, a wild playground for adventure-seekers. Hike the rugged trails of El Chaltén, kayak alongside glaciers in El Calafate, and feel like you’ve stepped into another world. And let’s not forget the mighty Iguazu Falls from the Argentine side – it’s like nature’s own thunderous applause.

For a change of pace, Mendoza’s vineyards are a must-visit. Sip on world-class Malbec and bask in the Andean backdrop – it’s a wine lover’s dream come true.

In Buenos Aires, make sure you catch a live tango show in the historic San Telmo district. It’s a cultural experience you won’t forget. The best time to explore Argentina? Spring (September to November) and fall (March to May) for that perfect weather sweet spot.

El Calafate is known for its stunning landscapes and access to Perito Moreno Glacier.
El Calafate is known for its stunning landscapes and access to Perito Moreno Glacier.

3. Peru: Ancient Mysteries and Breathtaking Landscapes

Ever dreamed of uncovering ancient secrets and wandering through landscapes that look straight out of a fantasy movie? Welcome to Peru, one of the must-see countries in South America. This place is a treasure chest of history, culture, and natural beauty.

First stop, the legendary Machu Picchu. Hiking the Inca Trail to these ancient ruins is like stepping back hundreds of years. Imagine standing amidst these mystical structures, surrounded by panoramic mountain views – it’s an experience that screams ‘once in a lifetime’.

But Peru’s wonders don’t end there. Dive into the vibrant chaos of Lima, a city with endless color and culture. For a taste of the wild, the Amazon Rainforest in Peru is an ecological wonderland, teeming with exotic wildlife.

Foodies, get ready to have your taste buds blown away. Peruvian cuisine is a fusion of flavors you won’t find anywhere else. Ceviche in Lima? Yes, please!

For the best Machu Picchu experience, book your tickets and Inca Trail trek well in advance – they sell out fast!

Machu Picchu is the iconic Incan ruins nestled in the Andes Mountains, Peru.
Machu Picchu is the iconic Incan ruins nestled in the Andes Mountains, Peru.

4. Colombia: Where Every Day’s a Fiesta

Alright, amigos! Get ready to step into Colombia, a place where life’s a non-stop fiesta. Seriously, if you’re asking yourself, “which is the coolest country in South America?” Colombia’s got to be right up there. It’s a whirlwind of colors, sounds, and flavors that you just can’t miss.

First up, Cartagena, a city of colorful colonial buildings and streets that tell tales of pirates and poets. Then, there’s Medellín – once notorious, now a buzzing hotspot of art, innovation, and some seriously good coffee.

Speaking of coffee, you can’t skip the Coffee Triangle. Imagine waking up to a view of endless green hills and sipping on the freshest brew you’ve ever tasted. And for a real nature fix, the Cocora Valley’s giant wax palms are like something out of a Dr. Seuss book – tall, whimsical, and utterly Instagrammable.

Nightlife? Colombia’s got it in spades. Hit up Cali and get your salsa on. The vibe here is electric, and the dance floors are always packed.

Don’t leave without checking out Bogotá’s Paloquemao market. It’s a feast for the senses. Best time to visit? Aim for December to March – perfect weather, epic festivals, and the whole country’s buzzing.

Discover the enchanting Cocora Valley with its towering wax palms, a whimsical scene.
Discover the enchanting Cocora Valley with its towering wax palms, a whimsical scene.

5. Chile: A Journey from Desert to Glacier

So, the first thing you have to know about Chile is that it has the craziest geography on Earth! This country stretches from the driest desert to massive glaciers. It’s easily one of the best countries to visit in South America (in the world, even!) for those who love diverse landscapes.

Start your Chilean adventure in the Atacama Desert. It’s like landing on Mars, with its red sands and surreal salt flats. Stargazing here? Out of this world – literally. Then, head down to the vibrant streets of Santiago, a city nestled against a backdrop of the Andes. It’s a mix of modern vibes and historic charm.

But the real showstopper? Patagonia. Torres del Paine National Park is a dream for hikers and photographers alike. Imagine towering peaks, turquoise lakes, and maybe even spotting a condor soaring high.

And for a quirky detour, Easter Island’s mysterious Moai statues are just a flight away. It’s a slice of Polynesian culture right in the middle of the Pacific.

Insider tip: Don’t miss out on Chile’s wine regions. A day trip from Santiago to the vineyards is a must for wine aficionados.

Torres del Paine National Park features towering peaks, turquoise lakes, and the possibility of spotting a soaring condor.
Torres del Paine National Park features towering peaks, turquoise lakes, and the possibility of spotting a soaring condor.

6. Bolivia: Where Culture and Nature Collide

Get ready for Bolivia – a country that’s a little off the beaten path but totally worth the detour. It’s one of the must-see countries in South America that mixes vibrant culture with stunning natural wonders.

First up, the Salar de Uyuni. This is the world’s largest salt flat – an endless white canvas that turns into a giant mirror when it rains. It’s a photographer’s paradise and a must-see for anyone who loves unique landscapes. Did I mention it’s 10,000 square kilometers in size?

The city of La Paz is a dizzying high-altitude adventure, blending indigenous and colonial cultures in a bustling, colorful tapestry. And for a taste of the real Bolivia, don’t miss the markets – they’re a sensory overload in the best way possible.

Nature lovers, you’re in for a treat too. The Amazon basin in Bolivia is less traveled but just as rich in wildlife and lush jungles as its more famous neighbors.

If you’re heading to La Paz, give yourself a couple of days to acclimatize to the altitude. It’s pretty high up there!

Bolivia is one of the best countries to visit in South America.
Salar de Uyuni is the world’s largest salt flat, a mesmerizing expanse resembling a giant mirror during rainfall.

7. Uruguay: A Hidden Gem of Tranquility and Charm

Okay, so some might say that Uruguay is South America’s best-kept secret. For those asking, “what is the best country to visit in South America for a chill yet charming experience?” Uruguay is your answer. It’s a haven of peace, gorgeous beaches, and rich cultural experiences.

Montevideo, the laid-back capital, is a blend of beachside serenity and cultural richness. Stroll along La Rambla, a waterfront promenade, and feel the cool ocean breeze. The city’s vibrant markets and buzzing nightlife are perfect for those who love a more relaxed vibe. This is jus

But Uruguay’s real magic lies in its coastal towns. Punta del Este is a glamorous beach resort, where the sunsets are legendary, and the party scene is sophisticated yet inviting. For a more bohemian experience, head to Cabo Polonio, a remote village where time seems to stand still. These are some of the most livable places imaginable!

And let’s not forget the Uruguayan countryside, with its charming estancias (ranches) where you can experience authentic gaucho (cowboy) life.

Uruguay is perfect for wine enthusiasts. The Tannat grape is a local specialty, and the vineyards around Carmelo are not to be missed. So if you’re looking for a South American hidden gem with tons of beauty, add Uruguay to the list!

Montevideo offers a laid-back blend of beachside calm, cultural richness, and vibrant markets.
Montevideo offers a laid-back blend of beachside calm, cultural richness, and vibrant markets.

8. Ecuador: A Compact Wonderland of Diversity

Ecuador goes from lush rainforests to towering volcanoes in just a few hours. Can you believe it? Ecuador is one of the must-visit South American countries for anyone who loves diversity packed into a small package.

Start in Quito, a city that mixes colonial charm with a vibrant modern spirit. The historic center, a UNESCO World Heritage site, is like stepping back in time. But the real star of Ecuador? The Galapagos Islands. This unique archipelago is a living laboratory of evolution, home to creatures you won’t find anywhere else on Earth.

For a change of scenery, head to the Amazon rainforest in Ecuador. It’s a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts and anyone who wants to immerse themselves in nature.

And don’t forget the Andes! Whether you’re hiking around the beautiful Quilotoa Loop or exploring the markets of Otavalo, the views are breathtaking.

For a real cultural experience, visit during one of Ecuador’s many festivals, like the colorful Inti Raymi. The best time to visit Ecuador? June to September for the Galapagos and highlands, but honestly, Ecuador’s a year-round destination.

Galapagos Islands is a diverse archipelago renowned for its extraordinary wildlife and pristine natural landscapes.
Galapagos Islands is a diverse archipelago renowned for its extraordinary wildlife and pristine natural landscapes.

9. Paraguay: Your Unexpected Adventure Awaits

Alright, let’s talk about Paraguay. It’s like that cool indie movie your friend recommended – not on everyone’s radar, but an absolute gem once you discover it.

Asunción, the capital, is chill but charming. It’s got this laid-back vibe where history meets a bit of modern buzz. Strolling through its streets, you’ll get a real feel for the Paraguayan way of life – it’s authentic, unpretentious, and full of surprises.

But hey, the real deal in Paraguay is its wild side. The Gran Chaco? It’s this massive area of wilderness that’s all about rugged adventures and wildlife spotting. And if you’re into history, the Jesuit Missions are super cool – they’re like stepping back in time.

For something totally different, check out the Pantanal. It’s one of the world’s largest wetlands and a paradise for birdwatchers. Seriously, you’ll see some feathered friends you won’t find anywhere else.

Insider tip: Rent a car and hit the open road in Paraguay. The landscapes change so much, it’s like several trips in one.

Jesuit Missions reflect the architectural and religious legacy of the Jesuit missionaries in South America.
Jesuit Missions reflect the architectural and religious legacy of the Jesuit missionaries in South America.

10. Venezuela: A Land of Natural Wonders

Let’s turn our compass to Venezuela, a country that’s a bit of a wild card but absolutely packed with natural wonders. If you’re all about exploring the best spot in South America for breathtaking landscapes, Venezuela is a must on your list.

Caracas, the capital, is a bustling metropolis, but the real gems of Venezuela lie beyond. Picture this: Angel Falls, the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, cascading down in the heart of the Canaima National Park. It’s a sight so majestic, it feels otherworldly.

The Andes Mountains offer stunning trekking opportunities, and the Caribbean coast is a slice of beach paradise. Los Roques Archipelago, with its crystal-clear waters and pristine sands, is perfect for snorkeling, diving, and just soaking up the sun.

And for a unique experience, check out the lightning show over Lake Maracaibo – it’s one of nature’s most spectacular displays.

Make sure to plan well and consider guided tours for the best experience. The dry season, from December to April, is the ideal time to visit for clear skies and easier travel.

Angel Falls is the world's highest uninterrupted waterfall, surrounded by lush tropical landscapes.
Angel Falls is the world’s highest uninterrupted waterfall, surrounded by lush tropical landscapes.

11. Suriname: A Cultural Melting Pot in the Heart of the Amazon

Ready to dive into one of South America’s most unique and diverse countries? Suriname, often overlooked, is a hidden gem that’s all about vibrant culture and pristine nature. This makes it one of the top countries to live and visit in South America for a truly authentic experience.

Paramaribo, the capital, is a UNESCO World Heritage site with striking colonial architecture. It’s a city where cultures blend seamlessly – from bustling markets selling Indian spices to streets echoing with Afro-Caribbean rhythms.

But Suriname’s real allure lies in its untouched rainforests. The Central Suriname Nature Reserve is a haven for biodiversity, offering incredible opportunities for wildlife spotting and jungle trekking. It’s an eco-tourist’s dream!

And let’s not forget the Maroon culture in the interior villages. Visiting these communities offers a glimpse into a unique way of life, deeply connected to the land and traditions.

Suriname’s culinary scene is as diverse as its culture. Try the local Creole, Hindustani, and Javanese dishes for a taste explosion. The best time to visit? February to April, when the weather is dry, making it perfect for both city exploration and jungle adventures.

Central Suriname Nature Reserve is a vast protected area with diverse ecosystems in Suriname.
Central Suriname Nature Reserve is a vast protected area with diverse ecosystems in Suriname.

12. Guyana: A Nature Lover’s Paradise

Prepare to immerse yourself in the untouched beauty of Guyana, a hidden gem in South America and a dream destination for nature lovers – it’s undoubtedly one of the top South American countries for off-the-beaten-path exploration. This place is all about unique wildlife, diverse landscapes, and cultural treasures.

Kickstart your Guyana adventure with a visit to Kaieteur Falls; one of the tallest single-drop falls globally, surrounded by lush rainforest. The roar of cascading water is something you won’t forget.

Head to the Iwokrama Forest, a protected area teeming with jaguars, giant otters, and vibrant birdlife. It’s a true biodiversity hotspot.

Now, for a dose of culture, explore the capital city, Georgetown. St. George’s Cathedral is a must-see, boasting stunning Gothic architecture. And don’t miss the Stabroek Market – it’s a bustling hub where you can savor local dishes and shop for unique crafts.

Dive into Guyanese cuisine; try pepper pot or cook-up rice – it’s a flavorful journey. And if you’re into adventure, embark on a river safari along the Rupununi River to spot caimans, giant otters, and an array of bird species. Fly to South America and you’ll be amazed by what you see in Guyana!

Guyana is one of the best countries to visit in South America.
Visit Kaieteur Falls, one of the world’s tallest single-drop waterfalls, surrounded by lush rainforest.

13. French Guiana: A Space-Age Adventure in the Amazon

Space enthusiasts and jungle explorers, get ready for French Guiana, a destination that’s truly out of this world. If you’re looking for one of the most unique countries to visit in South America, French Guiana blends space-age technology with untouched Amazonian wilderness.

Kourou is the star of the show, home to the Guiana Space Centre. Imagine watching a rocket launch into space from this French territory – it’s an experience that’s both thrilling and surreal. But there’s more to Kourou than just space exploration.

Guiana Space Centre is a European spaceport in French Guiana, a hub for satellite launches and space exploration activities.
Guiana Space Centre is a European spaceport in French Guiana, a hub for satellite launches and space exploration activities.

Venture into the heart of the Amazon Rainforest, where the biodiversity is mind-blowing. It’s a paradise for wildlife enthusiasts, with opportunities to spot everything from jaguars to colorful macaws.

And don’t miss the chance to explore the Îles du Salut, a group of islands with a dark history as a penal colony, now a place of serene beauty and reflection.

French Guiana‘s cuisine is a fusion of French, Creole, and Indigenous flavors – a must-try for foodies. The best time to visit? August to December, when the weather is drier, making it ideal for both rainforest exploration and space center visits.

The top countries to visit in South America for all types of travelers
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