When it comes to sightseeing, it’s hard to surpass the rich history and sheer beauty of South America. Whether an intrepid traveler wants to peruse 400-year-old cathedrals or observe the horizon while relaxing on sandy beaches, South America is the destination of choice.
Here are the top 9 South American cities that give tourists the best sightseeing experience.
1. Rio de Janeiro – Jewel of Brazil
Rio is possibly the most beautiful city in South America. From the towering Christ the Redeemer statue atop Corcovado mountain to its famous white beaches at Copacabana and Ipanema, Rio is a must for any visitor to South America. Braver souls can enjoy the wild hustle and bustle of the pre-Lent Rio Carnival or take a cable car ride up Sugarloaf Mountain to enjoy a stunning 360-degree vista of the city.
2. Buenos Aires, Argentina – City of theatres
Tourists looking for a dash of European flair, should look no further than Buenos Aires. Aficionados of dance should attend a milonga, a uniquely authentic Argentinian tango party that takes place nightly at various venues. Sightseers who enjoy quieter sights can explore the city’s many museums such as the National Historical Museum and the Che Guevara Museum, childhood home of the famous revolutionary.
3. Quito, Ecuador – Gateway to history
Lovers of history will enjoy Quito’s charming colonial historic center. Including Carondelet Palace and Independence Square, the historic center is also home to the San Francisco Monastery. Completed in 1604, it is the earliest surviving building in the city.
4. Santiago – Cultural center of Chile
Santiago boasts many picturesque locations such as the scenic Cerro San Cristóbal. Wine connoisseurs will enjoy touring the verdant vineyards located on the outer reaches of the city. The Museum of Memory and Human Rights documents the country’s darker moments by commemorating the victims of General Pinochet’s regime.
5. Cusco, Peru – Seat of the Incas
Cusco’s large Incan complex of Saksaywaman is a must for any sightseer. The site’s beautifully fashioned stone walls and huge plazas provide an unforgettable viewing experience. Hatun Rumiyuq street is the location of several important sites such as the Archbhisop’s Palace, built over the former palace of Incan ruler Inca Roca. The blending of two cultures can also be seen at Qurikancha and Santo Domingo where the sacred Incan sun temple of Qurikancha is topped by the Spanish church of Santo Domingo.
6. Manaus, Brazil – Portal to the Amazon
Located in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, Manaus provided almost unlimited opportunities to tour the lush jungle and explore the tangled banks of the world’s second longest river. Exhausted ecotourists relax at the city’s Ponta Negra beach, enjoying the area’s bustling nightlife.
7. Puno, Peru – Lake among the stars
Puno is the best place to see the famous floating islands of Lake Titicaca, the highest navigable lake in the world. Several indigenous festivals like Candlemas and Puno Week are held annually in the city.
8. Cartagena, Colombia – The Walled City
Cartagena’s main attraction is the fort, Castillo San Felipe de Barajas. Built in 1536 to keep pirates at bay, its distinctive stone walls guard the entrance to the city’s port area. Nearby the colonial-era Walled City is home to many churches and museums.
9. La Paz, Bolivia – City of museums
La Paz is home to a variety of museums; many like the Ethnography and Folkolore Museum focus on local indigenous cultures. Sightseers made of sterner stuff can tour the infamous San Pedro prison, a semi-autonomous facility where prisoners govern themselves.