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South America: The Best Countries To Visit on Holiday

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Upsala Glacier, Estancia Cristina, Patagonia, Argentina

When planning your holiday to South America you may ask yourself; which are the best countries to visit in South America?

South America is a continent of amazing contrasts. These range from tropical jungle to glaciers, remote high mountain villages to bustling coastal cities, mountain ranges to endless pampa.

market Urubamba Sacred valley Peru

Urubamba market, Peru

The continent is blessed with a population as diverse as its landscapes. Different traditions, styles and food, all offer a warm and colourful welcome to the visitor.

This is our pick at Andean Trails of the top 5 countries to visit in South America.

 

 

Ecuador

Ecuador nestles into the north western corner of South America. It borders the Pacific Ocean on the west, straddles the Andes Mountains, is crossed by the equator line, and is bordered by the Amazon jungle on the east.

Canoe arriving at Napo lodge, Napo, Ecuador

Napo Wildlife Center

The Galapagos Islands belong to Ecuador and are a 2 hour flight from the mainland.

Visitors to the country are spoiled for choice.

The Andes Mountains are a draw with their stunning scenery, colourful peoples, markets and traditions as well as challenges for the more adventurous. The choices are endless. You can take a highlights holiday, climb volcanoes, trek the mountains and valleys or be amazed by the birds in the cloud forest.

Aerial view, Hacienda Porvenir, Cotopaxi, Ecuador

Hacienda Porvenir, Cotopaxi

The Amazon jungle offers comfortable lodges where one can experience the jungle, learn about its communities and of course spot the wildlife.

The Galapagos Islands are Ecuador’s star attraction. The incredible wildlife, diversity of island landscapes and history are the principal reasons to visit. There are cruises of varying lengths on offer or the possibility of a hotel based tour visiting one or more of the islands.

evening sun bathing sea lions family holiday Galapagos

Galapagos Islands

 

Peru

Peru is normally seen as the land of the Incas, the high Andes, and Machu Picchu- the lost city of the Incas. However, the country does have much more to offer with over half its landmass being Amazon rain forest.

Machu Picchu and cloud Peru

Machu Picchu

Peru’s gastronomy is renowned  taking its influences from the bounty of the Pacific to the Inca terraces in the mountains.

The area around Cusco and the Sacred Valley attracts visitors of all ages and fitness. The more adventurous may consider the Inca Trail trek to Machu Picchu or a more off the beaten path trek such as the Choquequirao where you can also finish visiting the lost city of the Incas.

Choquequirao llama wall, Peru

Choquequirao, Llama wall

Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world, beckons with a cultural experience and home stay on an island at over 4,000 metres altitude.

Northern Peru offers the intrepid trekker looking for trails away from the crowds anything from short 4 day treks such as the Santa Cruz,  to longer adventures trekking the Huayhuash Circuit.

Huayhuash Trek

A general taste of Peru considering highlights such as Lima, Arequipa, the Colca Valley, Lake Titicaca, Cusco and finishing with Machu Picchu is a popular choice.

Not to be forgotten, the Amazon offers the wildlife enthusiast exciting itineraries either in Manu or the Tambopata.

Macaw clay lick, Manu Wildlife Centre, Peru

Clay lick, Manu

 

Chile

Chile is a long thin sliver of a country sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains. It offers contrasting landscapes from the most arid desert in the world, through Mediterranean type scenes, snow-capped volcanoes overlooking pristine lakes to granite spires guarding fjords and glaciers.

The Atacama Desert inspires with its lunar type scenery, rock formations, salt flats and wildlife such as llamas and flamingos. Visitors can explore in comfort with all inclusive adventure programmes, trekking itineraries or tailor-made and multi-activity holidays.

Valle de La Luna panorama, San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

Valley of the Moon

Central Chile attracts with its fertile valleys, wine country, mountain peaks near the capital Santiago, and its craggy coast line.

The Lake District, sometimes referred to as “Green Patagonia” beckons. Attractions include cold rain forest, towering conical volcanoes, National Parks and shimmering lakes. There are options for all ages and all levels of activity. A particular favourite is to visit the area with a multi-activity itinerary.

Osorno volcano, river and view, Chile Lake District

Petrohue Falls and Osorno Volcano

Chile’s northern Patagonia, the least densely populated part of the country, is the place to see nature away from the crowds.

marble caves Chile

Marble Caves

For many a visit to Chile is not complete without getting to know the Torres del Paine National Park. You may opt for an all inclusive adventure package at one of the hotels, such as the Hotel Las Torres,  or trek the iconic W trek or Paine Circuit also known as the “O”.

Base of the towers,Torres del Paine, Patagonia, Chile

Base of the Torres del Paine

 

Bolivia

Landlocked in the middle of South America is Bolivia. This is a small fascinating country to visit, ideal for that off-the-beaten-path experience. High mountains, iconic salt flats, wildlife rich rainforest as well as culturally diverse colourful cities will not disappoint the intrepid traveller.

 

The Uyuni salt flats with their incredible scenery in the altiplano are a favourite with visitors.

Laguna Colarada evening Uyuni Bolivia

Laguna Colorada, Uyuni

The more adventurous can trek at altitude in pristine mountain nature; for example the Apolobamba or even enroll in a mountaineering course.

going up Acotango Bolivia

Acotango Valley

The Amazon beckons with programmes at rustic lodges such as Chalalan, or the fascinating Toro Toro National Park with its dinosaur prints.

Relaxing at Chalalan Bolivia, Amazon

Chalalan

A two weeks highlights tour, taking in La Paz, Sucre, Potosi, Uyuni salt flats and Lake Titicaca can give you a real feel to the country and its wonderful people.

Bolivia La Paz local women on Plaza San Francisco

La Paz

 

Argentina

Argentina conjures images of Gauchos on horseback, Evita and steak. However, the country is much more than that. It is the 8th largest in the world and is home to huge mountains, huge waterfalls, huge glaciers, huge grasslands. It is home too to people with huge hearts.

Iguazu from air Argentina

Iguazu Falls

In the North East of the country are the majestic Iguazu Falls and the bristling with wildlife Ibera wetlands.

Black Caiman, Laguna Valle, Hotel Puerto Valle, Ibera, Argentina

Black Caiman

The North West is home to the Andean communities and a little further south the wines of Mendoza and the highest mounting in the America’s, Aconcagua.

Breakfast on Aconcagua Argentina

Breakfast on Aconcagua

Bariloche, half way down the country nestles into the Andes Mountains. It is in a strikingly beautiful setting of snow capped mountains, vivid blue lakes and lush green forests. It is a great destination also for the adventure seeker with a multi-activity itinerary giving a feel of what the area has to offer.

Summit Cerro Bellavista, Bariloche Argentina

View of area around Bariloche

In the heart of Argentina’s Patagonia are the towns of El Calafate and El Chalten. Here you will find the awesome Perito Moreno Glacier as well mountain trekking trails and the vast expanse of the southern ice field.  Many visitors combine trekking in this area with the Torres del Paine National park in Chile taking in the highlights of Patagonia.

small group at perito-moreno-argentina

Perito Moreno Glacier

On the shores of the Beagle Channel on Tierra del Fuego Island is the world’s southernmost city Ushuaia. Visitors come here to sight-see, to trek and also board ships to Antarctica.

Ushuaia city view and mountains, Argentina

Ushuaia

Wildlife enthusiast will include a visit to the Peninsula Valdes where during the right time of the year they can combine tours spotting Southern Right Whale and visiting the largest Penguin Colony in South America.

l-pedral-orcas-at-beach-peninsula-valdes-argentina

Orca, Peninsula Valdez

 

 

Much More

These are just 5 of the 12 countries that make up the South American continent. All in their own right have good reasons to visit.

Kaieteur Falls, Guyana

Kaieteur Falls, Guyana

At Andean Trails we can help you plan your trip to any of these destinations. Each of us in the team can help and guide you in your choices so that you have the holiday that is right for you in one of the most fascinating and beautiful parts of the world.

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