South America is an amazing continent. Anyone who has explored the region will tell you, whether it is for a short vacation or a long term trip, there are so many reasons to visit South America.
However, there is more to South America than most people see at first glance.The huge diversity of what can be savored there means that almost everyone will find what they want and more from their vacation.
Here are eight spectacular reasons why South America should be on your bucket list.
Amazing Wildlife in South America
One of the most famous locations in South America is also one of its most diverse. When it comes to amazing wildlife, visiting the tropical rainforest of the Amazon basin is certainly one of the best experiences.
There are over 1,400 species of mammal found in the Amazon, including jaguars and ocelots, and over 1,500 species of birds. With an experienced guide it's possible to spot many of these animals. There are also many animal reserves and rehabilitation centers there if you cannot see animals in their natural habitat.
Along with the Amazon, South America has many other places where you can see magnificent natural attractions, with the Galapagos Islands ranking high on many bucket lists. Developed apart from the rest of the world in terms of evolution, scuba diving in the Galapagos reveals an amazing range of marine species, while the unique species like the blue-footed booby, the huge Galapagos Tortoise and diving Marine Iguana can all be spotted while hiking or exploring the coast by boat.
South America is a Continent of Celebrations
One of the most amazing parties in South America is the annual carnavale celebrations in Rio de Janeiro, with over two million people flocking to the city to join the party every year. Samba dancing and the wonderful music and parades with grand floats and dance troupes make for a spectacular climax to the event.
Along with the party in Rio, Barranquilla in Colombia and the reggae influenced celebrations in Salvador de Bahia are also great places to enjoy carnaval.
There many other celebrations to enjoy in South America, such as the Inti Raymi festival held at an Inca site near the city of Cusco. Inti Raymi is an amazing festival of color and music, which also celebrates the heritage of the indigenous culture of the region.
For those who love color and horticulture, the charming Feria de las Flores in Colombia is another festival where local growers all compete to have their best blooms on show, while the Aymara New Year near the city of La Paz in Bolivia is another great event that provides a wonderful spectacle and a vibrant party where visitors can celebrate with the local people.
The Historic Cultures of the Continent
When it comes to indigenous culture, the Inca sites such as Sacsayhuaman and Machu Picchu are certainly among the highlights, but there are many sites across the region which have amazing ruins to explore.
Another interesting culture can also be explored on Easter Island, with Moai, the giant stone heads carved from local volcanic rock being dramatic and striking relics from centuries ago.
While the indigenous cultures in South America provide some of the most interesting historic sights to visit in the region, you also have some fascinating colonial architecture and sites that are worth visiting too.
Conquistadors brought the Catholic faith to South America and inspired some fantastic churches and cathedrals. The old city of Cartagena is home to some wonderful homes and public buildings along with the churches.
Another fascinating place to visit is the Brazilian city of Ouro Preto which grew wealthy on the silver mining trade, and the cultural sites around this area are another legacy of the region's history.
Great Family Experiences
Many people will associate South America with adventure and visiting mythic cultures, but one aspect of the region that is frequently overlooked is the number of family activities and attractions there are on the continent.
Depending on whether you are traveling with young children and are looking for somewhere with great kids' clubs and attractions which suit younger visitors, or places that are great for adventurous teenagers, then South America has plenty of experiences that will thrill families.
Children of all ages will love the animal encounters that can be experienced in the Galapagos Islands, and from meeting gentle giants such as the Galapagos Tortoise which is great for children of all ages, through to diving with sharks, there is an experience for everyone.
Older teenagers will love the range of outdoors activities that can be enjoyed in the Ecuadorean city of Banos, from mountain biking down a volcano to white water rafting.
The Natural Wonders of South America
When it comes to spectacular scenery, there is no doubt that South America has vistas to match any continent in the world. Whether you look for amazing mountain views, the white glare of glaciers or stunning beaches and coastlines, there is plenty to be enjoyed here.
However, along with these postcard perfect views you can also enjoy otherworldly scenery that is unique to the continent, with the Valley of the Moon in the Atacama Desert being a landscape that is almost difficult to believe, while the salt flats of Uyuni after the rain sees the sky reflected in the mirror-like water for as far as the eye can see.
Mountain scenery is wonderful in South America, and the Torres del Paine in Chile is one highlight, where the steep slopes of the peaks soar like fangs into the air, while the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina is another place that is very impressive.
For beautiful beaches, Brazil has a wealth of riches including the remote beach in Jericoacoara, along with the archipelago of Fernando de Noronha which boasts some stunning beaches.
Delicious Food and Drink in South America
Some of the best food in the world is in South America, especially if you love seafood. Ceviche is almost a national dish in many countries along the Pacific Coast, and this is a dish that is made by marinating raw fish in lime juice or another zingy citrus juice, along with chili and other seasoning.
Fish stews are also popular, while in Brazil you can enjoy small fish balls called Bolinho de Bacalhau from street stalls in areas all around the country's coast which are sensational with sauce or simply a squeeze of lime juice.
If you are fortunate enough to be invited to a family event in Argentina or Uruguay, the asado is a common communal meal, and features a variety of different meats cooked to perfection over a barbecue.
Along with the wide range of food, South America also has fantastic drinks to enjoy as well, from the refreshing aguas frescas available in several fruit flavors, through to tasty cocktails for the grown ups such as Brazil's caipirinha, and the pisco sour which is popular in Chile and Peru.
South America is Budget Friendly
One of the myths of international travel is that if you are looking to go backpacking on a budget, then you really have to head to South East Asia to do so, but South America certainly offers a lot for those looking to explore on a shoestring.
There is a wealth of affordable hostels to be found in many countries, while the low costs of living in Bolivia and Paraguay particularly make them really attractive destinations for backpackers looking for cheap thrills.
You don't have to cut corners and veer away from the best sights in the region either, with beautiful colonial cities such as Cartagena and Lima, and the Andean cities of La Paz and Quito all making great destinations where you can get by for $30 a day or under.
A Culture of Dancing
Cultural festivals such as carnaval with the samba vibes and Inti Raymi in Peru all feature music and dancing where you have an opportunity to interact with locals.
There are also some great centers of more formal dances to be found in the region, with dancing displays and great dance classes that visitors can take.
Medellin in Colombia is one of the world's hubs for salsa dancing, and once you have got a grip of the basics and learned the steps, you can venture out on to the floors of the local salsa clubs.
Buenos Aires is another great dancing destination, and while the city professionals may be very straight when they are at work, the tango is their great passion, and there are several places throughout the city where you can enjoy public dance displays.
South America is a great continent to visit, and these eight reasons are among hundreds of others that make the region a place to make wonderful memories and to enjoy experiences that are distinct and different to those you can enjoy anywhere else.