Planning a trip to South America? It’s a whole continent made up of 13 countries. Since exploring eight of South America’s countries for eight months, here are some South America travel recommendations based on things I’ve experienced.
The categories are city– the city I think you should visit in the country, Activity/Destination- my favorite activity or destination you should consider doing in the country, Food/Restaurant- so much good food in South America this is just one recommendation and finally Instagram Pic – a favorite pic taken in each country.
City: Valparaiso. Located on the coast of Chile, this city is unique as it’s built on 43 hills. To get from the top and or bottom, locals and tourists alike use funiculars. The city is also splashed with color. Most neighboring buildings are completely different colors. And one more thing, we were told to be careful by fellow travelers, tour guide and even locals, as there have been several cases of pickpocketing.
Activity/Destination: Spending time in Patagonia. This is the area where the famous national park, Torres del Paine is located.
Food/Restaurant: Pichanga. You can watch a video I shot while eating pichanga in a restaurant. I’ll show you what it’s made out of too.
Instagram Pic: This is the Paine Massiff and its reflection taken at Torres del Paine National Park in Patagonia, Chile.
City: Buenos Aires. The capital city of Argentina is full of activity. To be in the middle of it all, we stayed at the Four Seasons Buenos Aires, where we had a view of the widest avenue in the world.
Activity/Destination: San Telmo market. The street market located in San Telmo takes over streets of this Buenos Aires neighborhood on Sundays. You’ll find aniques, street food, hand made goods, jewelry and more.
Food/Restaurant: 1884 Francis Mallmann Restaurant in Mendoza. This restaurant belongs to chef, Francis Mallmann and we had a really interesting experience there…
Instagram Pic: This is a picture of 9 de Julio Avenue, the widest avenue in the world, taken from the top of one of Buenos Aires’ city tour buses. It’s so busy, this picture captures it all – the cars, the people crossing the street, the lights, so much activity!
City: Montevideo. Uruguay’s capital is Buenos Aires’ neighbor just across the river, Rio de la Plata but it really has a character of it’s own. It’s what you would call tranquilo (calm) compared to the craziness of Buenos Aires. Not only is it calm, its people are super orderly and helpful. They also have a sort of addiction for mate tea. You can’t miss seeing locals with a cup in one hand and thermos in the other, walking around the city.
Activity/Destination: Visit an Estancia. An estancia or ranch in the heart of Uruguay is something you must experience. Horseback riding, drinking mate, eating torta frita and conversing with a guacho (cowboy) are just part of your stay.
Food/Restaurant: Chivito. This Uruguayan sandwich can be found in almost all restaurants. It’s delicious but be warned if you’re into staying healthy. You can’t possibly eat one every day, it’s filled with cheese, processed meat and lots of oil among other things.
Instagram Pic: Upon entering Ciudad Vieja, the Old Town of Montevideo, I saw this man selling street food. Except not just any street food. It’s pizza! And the hat was a nice touch.
City: Sao Paulo. It’s the largest city in the entire continent of South America. Large cities always mean variety and Sao Paulo is no different especially when it comes to food. Not only food, visit museums, go on a walking tour, watch soccer (football as it’s called here) or you can even get a haircut!
Activity/Destination: Christ the Redeemer statue. Located in Rio de Janeiro Brazil, Christ the Redeemer is not to be missed especially since it’s one of the new seven wonders of the world.
Food/Restaurant: Japanese food in Sao Paulo. There’s a large Japanese population in Sao Paulo. Some families have been there for several generations that they don’t even speak Japanese. But Japanese food is still there. Visit the Liberdade district of Sao Paulo where the Japanese restaurants are clustered.
Instagram Pic: The Iguazu Falls in southern Brazil are stunning. And you can get an even better view from a helicopter, as this picture shows.
City: Asuncion. Paraguay is known as the heart of South America, because it is right in the middle, landlocked and sharing borders with Bolivia, Argentina and Brazil. Most would just skip over Paraguay, but if you do add Paraguay to your plans, visit the capital, Asuncion.
Activity/Destination: Camping in Trinidad. Other than visiting the capital city, we went camping in a town called Trinidad. You can’t really compare it to Buenos Aires and such cities but there is history to be discovered including some Jesuit ruins.
Food/Restaurant: Chipa. A must try food originated in Paraguay is Chipa. It’s corn based and you can buy one, sit outside and people watch.
Instagram Pic: While driving out of Asuncion, we passed by a market. Several Paraguay flags were displayed.
City: La Paz. This is Bolivia’s capital city and is also the highest capital city in the world at over 12,000 feet above sea level. The city is full of culture. Women are dressed in their traditional outfits and sell fruits and vegetables on the roads. You’ll have to take it easy there on the first few days. Altitude can make you feel tired very quickly with the lack of oxygen.
Activity/Destination: Salar de Uyuni. At the world’s largest salt flats, you can enjoy taking a bunch of fun photos.
Food/Restaurant: La Casona 1775 in Potosi. Potosi is one of the highest cities in the world (even higher than the capital city). Enjoy some good food while there. La Casona 1775 is where we had a fun dining experience. For the vegetarians, or if you simply don’t feel like eating meat, head over to La Manzana Magica where you can get a veggie burger and fries for less than two USD.
Instagram Pic: For the most part, you’ll see similar views like this while driving through Bolivia. Since this country is so high in altitude, there’s not a ton of vegetation, the sun is intense and of course, there are mountains.
City: Cusco. I would describe this city to be the hub of tourism in Peru. In the center of town, it seemed like there were more foreigners than locals! But of course, you shouldn’t miss this city because it’s the capital city of the Inca Empire. Oh and if you’re missing home, there are some places that can cure that.
Activity/Destination: Machu Picchu. This is an obvious. You really can’t leave Peru without visiting these Inca ruins.
Food/Restaurant: Lomo Saltado. You will find this dish in literally every restaurant. It’s a Peruvian dish with Chinese influence and is beef stir fried with onions and peppers.
Instagram Pic: Peru is a beautiful country. The list of tourist attractions are limitless. A few to name are the Nazca Lines, Machu Picchu, Inca Trail and the Sacred Valley. We went a little out of the norm and trekked somewhere our tour guide had never taken any tourists to. So to get out of our tents in the morning and see this view was truly amazing.
City: Cuenca. The city that we spent the majority of our stay in Ecuador in has so many expats! Most are retired Americans. Spanish spoken here was in my opinion, the easiest to understand in the whole South America.
Activity/Destination: City tour of Cuenca. There’s lots of architecture and old buildings. During your city tour, be sure to ask for a menu del dia for lunch. It’s a set menu that’s at an incredibly reasonable price. For $2.20 you can get a main dish with a meat, soup, a drink and dessert.
Food/Restaurant: Cuy. This is also known as guinea pig. And yes, that guinea pig like the kind you have for pets. Though trust me, it doesn’t taste that bad if you don’t think about it. Watch a video as I eat cuy and show you how it’s cooked.
Instagram Pic: The car ascended up the hill and it felt like the car would roll backwards at any time. At the top, a surprise awaited- a restaurant! There were minimal decorations because really they weren’t needed, this view of Quito, the capital of Ecuador is more than enough.
These are South America travel recommendations for the eight countries we visited in South America in eight months.
Which countries have you visited in South America? Let me know by leaving a comment below 🙂