Are you stressed, bored or in dire need of an excuse to take a little ‘vacay’ out of the country? Our world is a huge place to cover and popular has become boring. So pause your US and Europe plans for just a second, have you considered South America?
Well, geography isn’t everyone’s strong-suit so here is a little reminder – South America boasts some of the world’s finest places; Amazon – the world’s largest rainforest, The Andes – the world’s longest mountain ranges and Angel Falls – the world’s highest waterfalls are all found in South America.
Do we have your attention now? Good. We’re going to tell you about some of the popular destinations that most tourists visit in South America and some that will just be a treat for you peeps.
Where everyone goes in South America and you should too
1. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
When the days get hot, just laze around Copacabana and Ipanema beaches or go on a romantic walk, even by yourself, who cares? You’re on vacation! Stop a second and take in the waves of Paraina.
In the evening when it starts to cool down, start your hike at Tijuca (means marsh or swamp in Tupi language) Forest which some claim is the largest urban forest in the world. Take another day to visit ‘Christ the Redeemer’ statue overlooking a mountain (yup, that’s the one featured in the movie Fast 5, we know you saw it). Don’t forget to try the Feijoada, a traditional dish made out of meat and black beans that is served on Wednesdays and Saturdays in Rio.
Ideal time to Visit: Spring. You can become a chameleon during spring in Rio de Janeiro because the temperature is conducive for the beach as well as hiking.
2. Buenos Aires, Argentina
Dance your way around this city because tango was born here. You must absolutely catch a salsa show here and learn a few moves of your own. Have a brunch at Olsen, a popular Scandinavian restaurant. You can then walk down Feria de Mataderos, a folk market and fair where you can try humita, husks wrapped around a savoury of corn and cheese mix and locro, corn and meat stew.
Take a day to visit the dead at La Recoleta Cemetery which is the resting place for many of the notable figures in Argentine history.
Ideal time to visit: Spring. During the months of October and November, you will get to see the jacaranda trees bloom.
3. Bogota, Columbia
Bogota is 8800 feet above sea level, which is intriguing enough to visit the place, right? Start at the beginning which is La Candelaria with architecture that has been preserved since the pre-Columbian period. You can then enter the Gold Museum nearby to check out some bling; this museum boasts some fine craftsmanship when it comes to gold objects.
If you want to get the feel of the locals, then take a Graffiti tour of the city that dons the work of its street artists. The most interesting thing to do in Bogota is just slightly outside the city – Zipaquira or Salt Cathedral which is an underground salt mine that has housed tunnels and caves.
Ideal time to visit: December, January and February because the weather is dry and the city sees the least rainfall.
4. Machu Picchu, Peru
If you are anywhere in Peru, the best way to get to Machu Picchu is through the Inca Trail which is the most popular trek across South America. Its 26 miles of pure bliss that ends at ‘The Lost City of the Incas’ (another name for Machu Picchu).
Machu Picchu also means ‘Old Mountain’ and was believed to be built for Pachacuti in the 1400s. This abandoned and ancient city in all its scenic beauty of ruins is covered with huge walls, terraces and ramps. This place has practically been unknown to outsiders until 100 years ago.
Ideal time to visit: Between June to August when the least rain is expected where the days are sun kissed and the nights are star struck.
5. Santiago, Chile
The first thing you might want to do upon touchdown is head to Cerro San Cristobal, a hill smack down in the middle of the city that offers a panoramic view of the entire city and is a sight to sore eyes. Another spot from where you can get a good shot of the city is Sky Costanera which offers a 360o view and is currently the tallest building in South America.
If you’re looking for a muse to sharpen your fashion sense, then visit Museo de la Moda that embodies the fashion of the 20th century from Marilyn Monroe to John Lennon. If you know anything about poetry, try Pablo Neruda’s secret hideaway at La Chascona. It is said that he built this place to blossom his romance with his mistress Matilde Urrutia. Wine lovers can also get a taste at vino in Maipo Valley.
Ideal time to visit: Spring, between mid-September and November if you want to enjoy the mild temperature and watch the plants and trees come to life.
Tip: If you’re taking your family with you on your trip, here’s How to Choose the Right Travel Insurance for You and Your Family
6. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
If you visit the islands at the beginning of the year, you will see green turtles laying their eggs, tortoise, turtles, sea lions and land birds gallivanting about. March and April are meant for beach lovers and present warmer climates. If you’re looking to go diving, then June to November is your best bet because the water is cooler.
The Galapagos Islands is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and you can finally know what inspired the Theory of Evolution put forth by Charles Darwin.
Ideal time to visit: All year long depending on what creatures you want to spend time with.
Tip: If you’re planning to scuba diving in the Galapagos, don’t forget to apply for a travel insurance that covers adventurous activities like the POSB TravellerShield.
7. Medellin, Columbia
You think you know this place because you’ve watched the Netflix Original, Narcos. But let’s broaden our horizon and start with the Medellin city walking tour. This will help you get the local feel of the place and what’s better is that this tour is absolutely free! You can also head down to Plaza Botero where you will see figures of renowned artist and sculptor Fernando Botero Angulo.
Medellin is also the place where nightlife thrives. You will find everything from salsa nights to gringo parties throughout the week. Parque Lleras is a favourite among locals and foreigners.
Ideal time to visit: Anytime of the year because this is a city of La Ciudad de la Eterna Primavera (The City of Eternal Spring).
Tip: Drink responsibly because you know your travel insurance doesn’t cover resulting from alcohol and other substances, right? But since you only live once, take your UOB YOLO Credit Card to earn up to 8% rebate on your dining and entertainment purchases.
Where everyone might not go but you definitely should
At this point, you feel like you know and have heard about all these places. Of course you have because they are crowd favourites. Here are some equally enthralling cities to visit that you may not have heard of:
8. Iguazu Falls, Brazil? Or Argentina?
The Iguazu Falls is shared between Brazil and Argentina and is one of Wonders of the World and a World Heritage Site. You can either go on a jet boat safari or do your own thing by kayaking.
This place is so much more than just water. You can go on the Banieras Jungle safari with a bike ride and close with a hike. Whether you are a first-time hiker or a pro at it, the safari will be an absolute joy.
Ideal time to visit: May and September (shoulder months) for sunshine and less crowd.
9. Huacachina, Peru
Take a minute away from the beaches and waterfalls to this oasis of a dessert. Although this is not exactly a city, it is certainly exotic. Just a few hours from the capital city of Lima, Huacachina offers the perfect fodder for sandboarding, dune buggy and Nazca Lines flights.
Get your fright on at the Archaeology Museum that exhibits mummies as well as ceramic objects that were made by the local tribes. If you get thirsty at the dessert, you can also take on a Winery and Pisco Tour.
Ideal time to visit: Between May and November because the weather will not be too hot.
10. Asunción, Paraguay
Although this is the capital of Paraguay, the city is not densely populated and you can explore the whole of Asuncion on foot. The Paraguay trade fair is everything you want on vacation; good food, music and exhibitions.If you’re a sweet-tooth, try the Mbjeju which is a manioc flour and cheese filled starch cake while you’re on your way to the City Market.
The Palacio de los López, the presidential palace is heavily influenced by palladian and neoclassical styles. Visit the palace at night for an “illuminating” experience, literally speaking.
You don’t want to miss Museo del Barro, the historic museum either.
Ideal time to visit: June and July, so you don’t miss the trade fair.
Travel booking tip: Remember to use the DBS Altitude Card for 3 miles for every S$1 spent on your flights and hotel bookings. What’s more, the miles don’t expire!
11. Potosi, Bolivia
Another UNESCO World Heritage Site, Potosi is one of the highest cities in the entire world resting at a height of over 13,000 feet. It is also home to one of the largest silver mines across the world, Cerro Rico de Potosí. You can take a breath-taking tour through these mines (even active mines).
Also a sight is Casa Nacional de la Moneda, definitely one of the front-runner museums in South America. After a busy day, you can unwind at the contemporary café-cum-bar 4.060.
Ideal time to visit: June to September as the weather will be dry and the sky, clear.
12. Montevideo, Uruguay
If you’re planning a trip to Buenos Aires, then you might as well cross Rio de la Plata to get to the other side and reach Montevideo. Once you’re on this side, take a walk along La Rambla, a cusp between the city and the sea where you can enjoy both, sunrise and sunset.
If you have the time, you could also take in a concert or opera performance at Teatro Solis which is in Plaza Independencia, the heart of the city.
Ideal time to visit: Between February and March so you don’t miss the Montevideo’s carnival.
13. Valparaiso, Chile
If you’re heading out to Santiago, Valparaíso is only a 2 hour drive away. On your way, halt and take in the painted houses that look like gorgeous murals under the canvas of the sky. After visiting Pablo Neruda’s hideaway spot, try the poet’s hilltop home to bring out the poet inside you at La Sebastiana.
After a wild night in the city, have Chorrillana that many consider the perfect hangover food – it has everything from French fries, fried eggs and onions and beef strips.
Ideal time to visit: Anytime because the temperature is neither too warm during the summer nor too cold during the winter.
14. Banos, Ecuador
If you’re planning a trip to the Amazon Jungle, it can’t start without Banos which is referred to as the ‘gateway to the Amazon’. Take a hike (literally) to the Amazon Basin and if you’re lucky, you’ll get to see volcanic eruption of Volcan Tungurahua. If you like a challenge, hike down the gorges which are near impossible to accomplish. After a tiresome day, unwind in thermal springs.
Take a walk down the town and try the melcocha, a sugarcane filled sweet taffy while you’re on your way to Basilica called ‘Our Lady of the Holy Water’, an awe-inspiring neo-gothic architecture.
Ideal time to visit: July, August, December and January which are dry seasons.
15. Georgetown, Guyana
Georgetown, the heart and soul of Guyana is everything colonial and gothic. Visit St. George’s Anglican Cathedral which is the tallest wooden church in the world. Also take a drive over the Demerara Harbour Bridge which is the longest floating bridge on earth. While on land, walk around Stabroek Market where you will find everything from toilet paper to your next wardrobe change.
Every street corner you turn, you’ll find remnant heritage of British, French, Creole and Dutch architecture.
Ideal time to visit: September to November when the rainfall is minimal and temperature is pleasant.
There, you have it folks! Pack your bags and fly, hike, sandboard, walk and dance your way through South America.
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