South America offers some of the most spectacular natural wonders which are also unique in the world. These are so many and diverse that it would be difficult to list all of them in a short list. The only way is to include those places is to qualify them in terms of superlatives such as the highest, tallest, largest, deepest, driest etc. These places range from waterfalls, islands, volcanoes, deserts, to beaches, vineyards, and lakes; such is the diversity of nature bestowed upon this continent.
Here is a list of some of the undisputable best places in South America; and the list is only illustrative, literally and not exhaustive.
Best Places to Visit in South America
Angel Falls, Venezuela; The highest waterfall in the world
Angel Falls is the highest waterfall in the world, almost a kilometer in height; it is about 20 times taller than the Niagara Falls. This jaw-dropping and neck-straining high waterfall is on the Auyantepui Mountain in the Canaima National Park. You reach there by boat or trek through the grasslands. The journey itself is full of adventure and wonders of nature. This place, listed on the World Heritage Site, has inspired many movies. This is one among best travel destinations if you both are the sporty, adventurous kind.
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia; World’s largest salt flat
Salar de Uyuni again is quite an unusual place. It is the world’s largest salt flat. It is located in southwest Peru, in the Andes at a height of 3,700 meters above sea level. The salt flat is really a flat surface of the land, covered by a thick of salt and brine. A large amount of salt is mined from this region. During rains, the land looks like a giant mirror on earth. This land is also a very large breeding spot for flamingoes.
Lake Titicaca, Peru & Bolivia; Highest navigable lake in the world
Lake Titicaca is South America’s largest lake. It is situated at a height of 3,800 meters above sea level and is also the highest navigable lake in the world. It spreads across two countries, Bolivia and Peru. It has natural islands as well as floating artificial islands made from reeds. These islands are inhabited by the descendants of the indigenous people who have been staying there for centuries. It has more than 500 species of flora and fauna, especially water birds. There is an island dedicated to the Sun God.
Machu Picchu, Peru; World famous archaeological site of South America
Machu Pichu by travel jauntsMachu Picchu is a UNESCO World Heritage site and is considered one of the seven wonders of the new world. The well-preserved ruin of Machu Picchu is the ultimate archaeologist’s delight. This capital palace of the Incan kingdom at one time was the seat of a glorious thriving civilization of South America. The Spanish conquest subdued them and built Spanish colonies. It is on top of the Peruvian side of the Andes Mountain range, and is well hidden from below. It was built as a fortress with polished stone masonry work that has survived the ages. It is accessible by train from Cuzco, the nearest city; but many prefer to trek and explore the Inca trail comprising of several Inca sites.
Iguazu Falls, Brazil & Argentina; World’s largest waterfalls
Iguazu Falls are also known as Iguacu or Iguassu Falls. It is on the Iguazu River on the borders of Brazil and Argentina. Iguazu literally means ‘big water’ and true to its name, it is the world’s largest waterfall system and features in the UNESCO World Heritage List. It has 275 waterfalls of different heights and sizes combining to make a giant wide waterfall. With a width of 2.8 kilometers, it is twice as wide as the Niagara Falls. Among the cluster of these falls, the Devil’s Throat is the biggest.
Galapagos Islands, Ecuador; World’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site
The Galapagos Islands were recognized as the world’s first UNESCO World Heritage Site for its pristine environment and the amazing flora and fauna on land and water. These islands inspired Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution. These remote islands with rocky volcanic peaks are home to several fascinating unusual creatures on earth. This archipelago consists of 18 major islands and located about 900 km off the coast of Ecuador.
Amazon Rainforests, Brazil; World’s largest tropical rainforest
The mighty river Amazon passes through eight countries of South America including the French Guyana. Sixty percent of the rainforest is located in Brazil with major portions in Peru and Columbia; other bordering countries have smaller shares. The rainforests are home to unique flora and fauna with more than 30,000 plant species, 1800 fish, 1300 bird species, 311 mammals and 165 types of amphibian creatures. Brazil having the biggest share of the Amazons offers the best way to see it. Most popular are the river cruises from Belém to Manaus or up to the Colombian border. For those who want to interact closer, often take the Amazon trek on land.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; World’s largest soccer stadium and the statue of Christ the Redeemer
Rio de Janeiro was the venue for the 2016 Olympics, and Maracana Stadium is one of the largest soccer stadiums in the world. Rio’s most famous landmark is the Christ the Redeemer statue on top of the Corcovado Mountain. It is also known for its world-famous Carnival, the Bossa Nova. The most popular party dance, the Samba originated here. It also has beautiful beaches including the Copacabana.
Easter Island, Chile; World’s most remote inhabited island
Easter Island is 1,300 miles off the coast of Chile and is the most remote inhabited island in the world. It is also called Rapa Nui by the Spanish. It is famous for the monolithic stone statues scattered around the island. There are around 1,000 such ancient statues carved out of volcanic rocks by the ancient Polynesian inhabitants. One of the islands is considered to be a sacred place for the ancient inhabitants. Easter Island also offers an amazing exhibit of marine life and has the most beautiful unspoiled beaches that are a delight to explore.
Torres del Paine National Park, Chile; World’s #5 most beautiful place
According to National Geographic, Torres del Paine is considered to be the world’s 5th most beautiful place. It is located at the tip of South America, in remote Chilean Patagonia, yet Torres del Paine National Park is one of Chile’s largest and most visited parks. It has breath-taking spectacular landscapes of snow-capped mountains. The three peaks, known as Cuernos del Paine, dominate the landscape in the Paine Mountains. Besides mountains, the park has a generous sprinkling of glaciers, rivers, forests and steppe. The largest of the glaciers is called the Grey Glacier. It is a sanctuary for several endangered species including the guanacos, an animal similar to a llama.
The list of superlatives for places in South America is much more than these ten listed here. South America also has the deepest canyon in the world, the driest desert in the world, the highest capital city in the world, which also lies near an active volcano and much more; which will need another listing.