Travelers often overlook South America, yet it is by far one of the most diverse and dynamic continents to visit. If you are looking for the top cities in which to experience a great mix of European and Latin American architecture, incredible natural vistas, top-notch food scenes, and nightlife that doesn’t stop until dawn, check out our list and see what these top-notch South American destinations have to offer!
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
This top South American destination needs no introduction – climb Sugarloaf Mountain and admire the enormous Christ the Redeemer statue, then head down to gorgeous Ipanema or livelier Copacabana Beach to soak up that trademark Brazilian sun. At night, experience the famous nightlife of Rio de Janeiro in the bars of Lapa.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The “Paris of South America” has a distinctly European feel mixed with Latin American flair. Explore the neighborhood of La Boca to encounter bohemian artists, tango pros, and the colorful houses, churches and museums that dot the streets. Stop at MALBA to see its famous collection of Latin American art, and at night, eat and party until the wee hours in Palermo Hollywood.
The revitalized Bogota is a new favorite among experienced travelers. Start your exploration of the historic La Candelaria neighborhood at Plaza de Bolivar, and stop at the Botero Museum to admire one of South America’s most significant art collections. Take in a panoramic view of the city from the top of Cerro de Monseratte.
The Peruvian capital is an energetic mix of the old and the new. Stroll down Parque del Amor in the upscale Miraflores neighborhood before admiring the historic Plaza Mayor, Cathedral of Lima, and Centro Historico. Lima has also become quite the foodie destination, so don’t forget to try ceviche and other traditional Peruvian dishes in as many restaurants as possible!
Located between the majestic Andes and Chilean Coastal Range, Santiago offers beautiful backdrops almost everywhere you go. Explore the city’s colonial history at Plaza de Armas and admire beautiful Chilean architecture at Santa Lucia Hill. At night, stop by the lively Barrio Brasil district or the funky Providencia for excellent food, bars, and music.
São Paulo, Brazil
This sprawling Brazilian metropolis often gets overlooked in favor of Rio de Janeiro, but the third-largest city in the world has a lot to offer travelers. Sampa is home to top-notch museums such as São Paulo Museum of Art and Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo. Climb up the Edificio Italia for a panoramic view of the city, and spend a lazy afternoon in the luxurious Jardins neighborhood. At night, explore bohemian Vila Madalena or bar crawl your way down Rua Augusta.
The high-altitude Ecuadorian capital of Quito may take your breath away in more ways than one. You can get an almost literally top-of-the-world view on the Teleferico Quito, or if you prefer, stay more grounded by making your way through the narrow streets of Quito’s Old Town. The city is best known for its majestic churches, so make sure to stop at San Francisco Church, Basilica, and Iglesia de La Compania de Jesus.