Sea Lions, Volcanoes, and Llamas, Oh My! 9 South America Bucket List Destinations

South America attracts adventure seekers and nature enthusiasts. No wonder international travel to South America is up 7% from last year

This travel destination offers exotic wildlife, stunning natural sights, and one-of-a-kind experiences. So, which spots offer the most memorable vacation? 

Here are 9 places that need to be on your South America bucket list.  

1. Machu Picchu

Wondering what to do in South America that allows you to explore ancient ruins? Machu Picchu sits in the Andes mountains in Peru. This old Incan civilization offers cultural sights and tons of exploration opportunities. 

Journey along the Inca trail for interesting wildlife and flora. You’ll also get to see tons of llamas passing by in their natural habitat. You can do this as a solo traveler, or hire a knowledgeable guide. 

Note that starting this year, the attraction is tightening up its visitation policy. This is due to a sharp increase in tourism. Travelers now have a set visiting schedule, limited to four hours at a time. 

Another tip is to take time to prepare your body for the changes in elevation. You want to plan for a slow ascent up the mountain. Otherwise, the changing altitude can cause you to feel sick. 

2. The Galapagos Islands

Galapagos features a cluster of volcanic islands on the coast of Ecuador. These islands provide a unique spot for wildlife and South America travel experiences. 

Many travelers choose to take a cruise around the islands. Or you can charter a more private boating experience. There are also hotels available on the island for overnight stays. 

On the islands, you’ll see iguanas, large turtles, sea lions, and penguins. There are also tons of personal guides and hiking trails for better exploring the land.  

The right hiking gear is essential if you plan to make Galapagos part of your South America bucket list. Follow these safety tips for selecting the best gear and tour operators for your trip. 

3. The Amazon 

The Amazon tops the list of South America destinations for both its rainforest and river exploration. The Amazon river is over 4,000 miles long. This is only a bit shorter than the world’s longest, the Nile river.

It travels across 9 countries in South America. Yet, you can explore much of it from the waters of Brazil, as well as the Amazon rainforest. Or you can head to Peru, Columbia, or Ecuador for a different atmosphere and culture.   

The best way to travel is by a luxury riverboat cruise. Or you can book smaller more private excursions. You’ll get to see crocodiles, pink dolphins, and monkeys up close. 

Yet, you’ll want to be on the lookout for the many piranhas that live in the Amazon river. Also, be sure to get the proper vaccinations and wear insect repellant. 

4. Portillo

The Portillo ski resort is in Chile, sitting in the Andes mountains. It’s an excellent spot to visit for summertime skiing.

This all-inclusive ski resort is more of a best-kept secret. As you won’t find crowds of tourists here.

Their hotel also offers dining options, an outdoor pool, and hot tubs. As well as a fitness center and yoga classes. So, get your ski trip checklist ready and add this retreat to your bucket list. 

5. Patagonia

Patagonia sits between Chile and Argentina. It offers snowy mountain peaks that meet a beautiful desert landscape.

You’ll get to see fjords, glaciers, waterfalls, and forests. It’s also home to unique animals like penguins and whales.  

Patagonia also includes the Torres Del Paine National Park. Here you can explore its beauty through walking trails. You can also make the most of your visit with an overnight camping trip.  

6. Bay of Paraty  

The Bay of Paraty is a water-lovers paradise. It’s located in Brazil and offers views of the mountains and jungle. It’s also one of the top things to do in South America for a more relaxing vibe.

The bay sits on a national historic site. Explore the picturesque island town or sit on the relaxing beaches. The town also has shopping and restaurants for entertainment. 

Travelers enjoy activities like snorkeling, kayaking, and paddleboarding. You’ll also get to go underwater diving and surfing.  

7. Huacachina

Nestled among the sand dunes, you’ll find this small oasis town in the desert. Huacachina gets centered around a lagoon circled by palm trees. 

The people who live there offer a unique insight into their culture. Travelers get to ride dune buggies or go sandboarding. Catching the gorgeous sunset from a bar is also recommended. 

It’s a great spot for a backpacking trip for a group of friends. Or you can stay at one of the eco-camps right in town. 

8. Columbian Coffee Plantation

Columbian tourism continues to thrive, seeing a 200% increase since 2006. Columbia may be home to the late Pablo Escobar. Yet, it’s also a region with many plantations that grow coffee beans.  

This offers an inside look into how a coffee plantation operates. You can take a tour to learn how the coffee gets harvested and produced. You’ll also get to experience the local culture, learning from the plantation farmers.  

9. Iguazu Falls

The Iguazu Falls get made up of 275 waterfalls. These come together to create the largest waterfall in the world. The falls breathtaking views make it one of the greatest must-dos in South America. 

You can experience this sight from Brazil or Argentina. Yet, Argentina allows you to get up close to the “Devil’s Throat.” This part of the falls is 82 meters high and 700 meters long. 

Explore the falls by a guided boat ride or venture along its many trails. They also offer boardwalks with viewing platforms so you can take in the stunning sights. Travelers also often spot toucans and monkeys on their adventure. 

Crossing Places off Your South America Bucket List

These are the best spots to add to your South America bucket list. They offer adventure, stunning views, and unique cultural experiences. As well as a chance to get up close to exotic wildlife. 

Each of these exciting places deserves a trip during your lifetime. Many travelers take advantage of backpacking and combining trips to help cut costs. Or you can check out these 9 helpful ways to experience life while on a budget.