Top 10 South America Tourism Destinations

Ahu Tongariki at Sunrise, Easter Island
••• Anne Dirkse / Getty Images

South America tourism is heating up but it's not surprising as the region is a patchwork of stunning landscapes with its snow capped mountains, treacherous jungles, surreal deserts, and spectacular mountain ranges.

It delights travelers, sweating their way through outdoor challenges or simply sitting back to admire its awe-inspiring Andean views.

Whatever the adventure, South America tourism does not disappoint. The spirit of South America is infectious and no matter where you go, the fierce Latin passion will sweep you away.

Here are ten that should be on your must-see list:

  • 01 of 10

    Machu Picchu - Peru

    Machu Picchu, Peru
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    Peru has become the hot spot in South America and the darling of the traveling community. But it would be nowhere without its shining jewel, the Incan kingdom of Machu Picchu.

    Hidden within the lush Peruvian mountains, this mystical city remained a secret for ages and now is the continent's best known archaeological site.

    While some travelers choose a plush train ride to enjoy the view in comfort. Others choose to trek the original Inca Trail and after several days are delighted by the ruins that dot the terraces. But for all, a tremendous sense of wonder for ancient society can be felt.

    READ: Machu Picchu on a Budget

  • 02 of 10

    Amazonia - Ecuador

    Brown woolly monkey - Chorongo
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    One of the most unique ecosystems on our planet, the Amazon is an enormous region covering about 40% of the South American continent and it touches many countries.

    One of the more popular entryways is within Ecuadorian borders through its capital city, Quito.

    The Amazon is not for the lighthearted. It is one of the world's most diverse biological areas in the world with simple trips providing opportunities to see diverse creatures such as monkeys, birds, caimans, and tarantulas.

  • 03 of 10

    Angel Falls - Venezuela

    Canaima National Park, Angel Falls, Bolivar, Venezuela, South America
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    Nestled within Venezuela’s Canaima National Park, Angel Falls are the highest waterfalls in the world.

    Although impressive, the hike into Angel Falls is not the only reward. This jungle trek is its own adventure as a guide navigates the grasslands, rivers, and mountains to reveal spectacular waterfalls and lagoons.

    Travelers who brave the trip deep into the jungle are treated to tropical wildlife in the area including monkeys, poison arrow frogs, and orchids.

  • 04 of 10

    Torres del Paine - Chile

    Chile, Patagonia, Torres del Paine National Park
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    Torres del Paine National Park is located in the Southern-most region of Chile and for those willing to venture to Patagonia, it offers astonishing hiking opportunities amongst glaciers, lakes, and blue mountains.

    Treks are available for varying experience levels on clearly marked paths with options for accommodation and basic services. Those wanting just a taste of its breathtaking views can choose a day-trip, while many others hike the popular five day “W” route. For the most adventurous, the full circuit can be completed 9 days.

    Continue to 5 of 10 below.
  • 05 of 10

    Salar de Uyuni - Bolivia

    Bolivia, Salar de Uyuni, expedition vehicle
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    The world's largest salt flat, salt and other abundant minerals are sought in this area. But travelers know this area as the world's best photo op.

    Photographers flock here to capture the unique landscape. Although dry season is recommended for its limitless horizon perspective; the rainy season also provides Dali-inspired reflective photos that make amateur photographers look like pros.

    The salt flats are often part of a 3 or 4 day tour in Bolivia that promises to defy expectations and include such unusual stops as the Salt Hotel. This location feels out of this world.

  • 06 of 10

    San Pedro de Atacama - Chile

    Chile, San Pedro De Atacama
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    San Pedro de Atacama once was a destination when transporting cattle and today has flourished into a major tourist destination.

    The star of the area is the Valle de Luna (Moon Valley) tour at sunset. Travelers marvel as the desert morphs and provides an idyllic setting for star-gazing.

    But the area has much more to offer with its beautifully hot, dry landscapes that crack the earth and mountainous sand dunes. Guests are taken by the town's quaint charm and often stay longer than expected for its many tour offerings of craters, canyons, caves, valleys, and salt mines.

  • 07 of 10

    The Galapagos Islands - Ecuador

    Blue-footed boobies
    ••• Jessie Reeder / Getty Images

    The ultimate animal lover's paradise. The Galapagos are perhaps the last unspoiled place on earth where man continues to respect the boundaries of Mother Nature and wild creatures prosper without fear of man.

    No where else can you find animals frolicking, unafraid of their onlookers. Like a child's fairy-tale, here you can play amongst sea lions, laugh with the penguins, and swim alongside turtles.

    This is nirvana and it won't last forever. Walking amongst this wildlife creates a memory you will never forget.

    READ: 10 Awesome Animals You'll See in the Galapagos

  • 08 of 10

    Lake Titicaca - Bolivia

    indigene Uros living on swimming reed island
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    South America's largest lake and the home to several indigenous communities make the area both agriculturally strong and full of cultural significance.

    Copacabana is the heart and largest town on the shore. Due to its rich history, Copacabana’s religious festivities, often celebrating Pachamama (Mother Earth), are frequent and well known.

    But the experience doesn't end at the shore. Many boats leave for Isla del Sol, the sacred Inca island. Here travelers bask in the beauty of deep blue sky towering its fresh water. It's a cozy feeling as it's all tucked in the snow topped mountains of the Cordillera Real.

    Continue to 9 of 10 below.
  • 09 of 10

    Easter Island - Chile

    Ahu Tongariki at Sunrise, Easter Island
    ••• Anne Dirkse / Getty Images

    Easter Island, also known as Isla de Pascua or Rapa Nui by the Spanish and Polynesian, is one of the most alluring sacred sites on Earth.

    Famous for its enigmatic giant stone figures, the Moai were built centuries ago, but continue to remain a mystery and our only link to the demise of this isolated Polynesian culture.

    Easter Island also hosts two white sand beaches making it the idyllic location to take in a bit of ancient culture while basking in the tropical sun. After a morning admiring the Moai, visitors can enjoy bodysurfing, surfing, scuba diving, and snorkeling.

    READ: 8 Tips for Easter Island on a Budget

  • 10 of 10

    The Pantanal - Brazil

    Large-billed terns (Phaetusa simplex) wades along banks of river in Pantanal, Mato Grosso Do Sul, Brazil
    ••• Danita Delimont / Getty Images

    The region of Brazil is not one of the most popular for South America tourism yet it could be the wildest region in the world. Animal lovers should not miss the Pantanal, which has the greatest density of animal life in South America.

    Created by seasonal flooding of the river Paraguai, these wetlands are considered one of the world's largest and most diverse freshwater wetland ecosystems.

    While many flock to the Pantanal on a photographic safari to see the majestic jaguar, a number of colorful birds, hummingbirds, macaws, and parrots inhabit this area.

South America tourism is booming, what great sites did we miss?