The 6 Most Underrated Cities in South America

South America is becoming a wildly popular destination for travelers who are a bit more adventurous. Yet most tourists are going to the same destinations despite South America being such a big continent. Here are some great options to beat the crowds in South America and enjoy the local life.

  • 01 of 06
    Street scene, Central Montevideo, Uruguay
    ••• John W Banagan/Getty Images

    Montevideo may be one of the most popular destinations in Uruguay but not many travelers visit the country of Uruguay at all. 

    Just a short and relatively easy jaunt from Buenos Aires, it's an opportunity to visit a new culture and it only requires an overnight visit at most.

    Montevideo is the capital of Uruguay and unbelievably the only thing that separates this city and the mammoth Buenos Aires are the banks of the Rio de la Plata. 

    One of the most popular things to do is eat. You can't go wrong on Avenida de 18, which is one of the most important avenues in the city. Montevideo has amazing parrillas that rival the best in Buenos Aires and so going to a steakhouse is a must in this capital city.

    Looking to know more about South American cowboys? Check out Museo del Gaucho y de la Moneda, which has lots of information about the gaucho lifestyle which is still alive in Uruguay.

    If you are concerned about arranging your own travel simply speak to the concierge at your hotel. Many of...MORE the large hotel brands have outposts in Montevideo as well and are happy to arrange a transfer for a night or two so that you can experience Uruguay.

  • 02 of 06

    Canoa, Ecuador

    Canoa Ecuador

    Everyone knows about Montanita as the place to party on the Ecuadorian coast. It's home to some of the best surfing in South America and the biggest parties. However, the party scene is great for a night or two but can get out of hand pretty easily. 

    If you're looking to spend some time surfing and want a drink or two but not an all out rave consider Canoa. It's only a few hours down the road and has a much more relaxed atmosphere. You can spend the day on an uncrowded beach and the evenings in little tiki huts dancing the night away. 

    It's also only a short drive away from Puerto Lopez, an amazing spot to go whale watching. Do not skip this little beach side town.

  • 03 of 06

    Salta, Argentina

    Salta, Argentina

    Argentina is most well-known for the tango and nightlife in Buenos Aires as well as the exotic lure of Patagonia.

    But Argentina is one of the largest countries in the world and the landscape is so diverse. The northwestern region of Argentina is often overlooked and yet Cordoba is easily accessible by air from Buenos Aires or by a long bus ride.

    Salta is a gorgeous colonial city and the capital of the Salta province. It's only a short distance from interesting wineries of Cafayate and Parque Nacional de Calilegua. While the northwest region is dry you can find a subtropical cloud forest in the altiplano with a diverse range of flora and fauna. Birdwatchers will love the region as you can see many migrating birds, especially as you climb Cerro Hermoso.

  • 04 of 06

    Popayan, Colombia

    Popayan, Colombia
    ••• Getty Images/Jeremy Horner

    Colombians are known for their friendliness and a contagious spirit that encourages you to dance all night long. Aside from the clubs in Bogota you can find a much quieter experience in the south east of Colombia, in Popayan. 

    Popayan is known as the white city as most of the buildings in the city are painted white. One of the most important cities in Colombia's history, it is home to one of the largest universities and has played a major role from the time of the Spanish conquest.

    Today it remains a stronghold for the roman Catholic church and is considered one of the best places to visit to Holy Week, also known as Semana Santa.

    Be sure to get accommodation in advance as locals flock to Popayan, a city which just might have the greatest ratio of churches to residents.

    If religious ceremonies aren't your idea of a great holiday Popayan has so much to offer. It's a beautiful city, safe to walk around and wander. It is also close to great attractions. If you like remain active...MORE consider a tour that allows you to hike and bicycle through the countryside up to a local volcano. If you'd like something more relaxed you can also visit local coffee farms and go birdwatching. 

    Continue to 5 of 6 below.
  • 05 of 06

    Cajamarca, Peru

    City square and catholic church, Cajamarca, Colombia
    ••• Karl Schoemaker/Getty Images

    While Peru is likely the most popular country in South America, most tourists never venture beyond Lima, Machu Picchu and sometimes Arequipa.  

    There are so many great things to do in Northern Peru and yet very few international travellers venture north of Lima. Yet speak to Peruvians and many will tell you one of their favourite holidays is in the north in Cajamarca. 

    High in the Andes it is known to many for amazing cheese and chocolate. There are also natural hot springs to visit in between eating local delights. 

    But don't worry you won't miss out on ancient civilizations as there are pre-Colombian aqueduct and pre-inca necropolis. 

    The only downside is that little English is spoken so you may need to know a bit of Spanish. Also a day of rest may be needed before you head out hiking as the altitude can be difficult for those who are not accustomed to it. 

  • 06 of 06

    San Pedro de Atacama, Chile

    People Climbing A Sand Dune In The Valle De La Luna (Moon Valley), San Pedro De Atacama, Antofagasta Region, Chile
    ••• Peter Langer/Getty Images

    Despite being one of the most spectacular places in South America. The Atacama salt flats continue to be one of the most under visited sites to visit in South America.

    In the most northern parts of Chile, many backpackers leave Arequipa and head straight to Bolivia to visit Salar de Uyuni and take the ubiquitous photos every other traveler has. 

    But the Atacama still has a sense of wildness to it. You can visit flamingos in their natural habitat without the crowds. Ride in the dunes and not run into other tour groups. 

    It is surprising that the Atacama has not become more popular for travelers looking to beat the crowds.