The Most Popular Travel Destinations in South America

The Most Popular Travel Destinations in South America

From centuries-old civilizations and colonial sites to cosmopolitan cities and natural landscapes, this scenic region has an array of spectacular vacation spots. The hardest part is choosing where to visit first.

Machu Picchu, Peru


Machu Picchu is South America’s most iconic archaeological site. Situated high in the Andes, above the Sacred Valley, the sprawling mountaintop ruins of the ancient Inca civilization draw millions of visitors each year. Built in 1450 and abandoned a century later, the mysterious citadel continues to intrigue with its mortar-free construction—temples, towers, terraces, walls, and ceremonial stones. June through August is peak season, so plan accordingly.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil


While Americans may know it from the Frank Sinatra song “The Girl from Ipanema,” this city seduces with its beautiful beaches, majestic mountains, open-air markets, and pumping rhythms of the samba. It’s also famed for its 98-foot-tall Christ the Redeemer, the largest Art Deco statue in the world, and Carnaval, an annual festival of food, drink, music, dance, and festooned merriment.

Cartagena, Colombia


This colorful, Colombian port city tantalizes travelers with its vivacious spirit, flavorful cuisine, and lingering colonial charm. The heartbeat of Cartagena is its walled Old Town—preserved Spanish forts, narrow cobblestone lanes, 16th-century residences cast in sun-kissed hues, carved wooden balconies with cascading bougainvillea, grand churches, quaint cafes, and lively squares filled with musicians, dancers, and artisans selling traditional woven bags and other crafts. Bonus: You don’t have to break the bank to visit. Colombia is one of the best budget-friendly travel destinations.

Lindsay Cohn

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