South America is a vast continent, with a range of countries, capitals, languages, landscapes, and cultures. From the beaches of Brazil to the rainforests of Peru, there’s so much to discover. This is a look at the most popular countries to visit in South America.
An icon of South America, Brazil is bursting with life from the city streets to the remote corners of the Amazon Rainforest. While the streets of Rio de Janeiro are always buzzing, Brazil really is a country dominated by wilderness. With 60% of the Amazon Rainforest within its borders, Brazil boasts the title of Planet …
South American Countries To Visit
Because of South America’s large size, there are amazing places for every type of traveler. Beachgoers will have endless coastlines to choose from. Skiers and snowboarders will love the options within the Andes mountain range, which has some very tall peaks. And there is plenty of rainforest, ancient cultures, and world-class cities to explore.
Map of South American Countries
South American Countries and Capitals
Welcome to South America!
Featuring some of Planet Earth’s grandest features, the South American continent is home to the Andes mountains, Amazon rainforest, and remarkable Patagonia region. With nature as the star, South America is sure to make you ooh and ahh.
Wilderness isn’t the continent’s only strong suit. A mix of ancient civilizations and modern-day metropolises guarantee that you’ll have an unforgettable experience in South America. Bouncing between impressive skylines, this continent is a diverse canvas that is well-worth exploring.
Most would argue that the Inca Empire is South America’s most acclaimed ancient civilization. Remnants of the past can be seen at incredible sites like Machu Picchu, Norte Chico, and the Nazca lines. With these ancient wonders, travelers can slip back in time to experience some of our oldest cultures.
Nestled in Peru’s Cuzco region, Machu Picchu tops the list as South America’s number one must-see attraction. Arriving by train or hiking the Inca Trail, guests can book a tour to view this ancient citadel.
Further away from the lush mountains and out in the desert sit the Nazca lines. Immense in size and perfect in geometry, these drawings are one of Earth’s greatest mysteries. One can’t help but adore iconic figures like the Hummingbird and the Astronaut.
With only 13 countries and 3 territories in South America, tourists tend to stick to well-worn paths. Going off the beaten path in South America can lead to dense wilderness and precarious wildlife encounters. The four most popular countries to visit in South America are Argentina, Brazil, Chile, and Peru.
Argentina’s beating heart is Buenos Aires whose streets are infused with an upbeat energy. As Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires is an iconic cosmopolitan city where you can explore the local culture in museums and art galleries. The Plaza de Mayo is at the city center and home to the presidential palace.
Far away from Buenos Aires’ urban sprawl, the Andes and Patagonia region have become the country’s “can’t miss” destinations. Spanning throughout most of South America, Argentina’s portion of the Andes mountains are the range’s most stunning stretch.
Small towns shelter in the shadows of these majestic peaks and provide guests with exciting experiences. Learning the local culture and sipping wine is fun when you have epic glaciers as your backdrop.
Nothing is quite as awe-inspiring as Argentina’s Patagonia region. Los Glaciares National Park is the Patagonia’s highlight where the Monte Fitz Roy and Perito Moreno glaciers lie. The jagged stony mountains atop these two glaciers have become world famous for their beauty. For a unique perspective on this Argentinian landscape, travelers should consider taking a tour on horseback.
Juxtaposing compositions make Brazil South America’s second most visited country. An enigma, home to both Rio de Janeiro and the Amazon rainforest, Brazil is teeming with life.
In Rio de Janeiro, the streets are always busy. With multiple beaches and Christ the Redeemer, tourists will love Rio. Copacabana and Ipanema are the two most popular beaches that take center stage during Carnaval. Lined with favelas and overlooked by one of the world’s most iconic statues, you can’t miss out on seeing Brazil’s most outstanding city.
Life doesn’t end when the streets do. In Brazil’s Amazon rainforest, life is an unstoppable force. Taking biodiversity to the extreme, the Amazon rainforest is home to almost 45,000 different species of plants, animals, and insects. Never revealing all of its secrets, more species are discovered in the Amazon each year. The safest way to explore the Amazon is by taking a guided tour.
Almost unbelievably long and thin, Chile is one of South America’s most remote areas. Large expanses of untouched wilderness has drawn in nature-loving tourists. The Atacama Desert is the most famous area in Chile and also Earth’s driest nonpolar landscape. Alien-like in appearance, Valle de La Luna is the highlight of the Atacama Desert.
In dramatic contrast to the desert, Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park has an abundance of water. Both frozen and liquid, water blankets the park’s landscape and fuels the life within.
Guanacos are Torres de Paine’s cutest creatures that are very llama-like in appearance. Other wildlife within the park includes birds of prey, which might fly by as you overlook the jagged peaks of Cuernos del Paine.
While most of Chile is remote, there are a few urban areas. Santiago, the capital city, is one of them. With neoclassical landmarks and a strong colonial history, Santiago is Chile’s thriving core. Highlights to see in Santiago include the Plaza de Armas and La Chascona.
Coming into fourth place on our list, Peru cannot be forgotten. Once dominated by the Inca Empire, Peru’s popular claim to fame is the ancient Inca citadel, Machu Picchu.
An unforgettable journey from Cuzco will land you into the heart of the Andes and through the clouds where Machu Picchu awaits. Trails in the nearby mountains provide the best views, but guests can also peruse through the ancient ruins by foot.
Peru’s capital is surprisingly home to a well-preserved colonial center. While the city sits on the coast, the harsh arid air doesn’t dim Lima’s glow. Modern and historic areas of the city blend into a stunning skyline. For history buffs, the collections of pre-Columbian art and ancient artifacts cannot be missed.
Not So Popular
Like any continent, South America has its star countries that attract the most tourists and it has the not so popular crowd. Guyana, Suriname, and Bolivia are the three least visited countries in South America. All of these nations receive less than 1 million visitors annually, but the limited crowds actually make them the continent’s best kept secret.
Hugging the continent’s North Atlantic coast is Guyana. Much to a traveler’s surprise, the official language in Guyana is English. Though you shouldn’t get too excited. With close cultural ties to the Caribbean, locals mostly speak Guyanese Creole.
The country’s sparse population has made Guyana one of Earth’s last great wildlife refuges. With impenetrable rainforests, Guyana shelters rare animal species like jaguars, turtles, river otters, and harpy eagles. Kaieteur Falls is another one of the country’s highlights that has also been named as the world’s largest single-drop waterfall.
To the east of Guyana and South America’s smallest country is Suriname. Colonized by the Dutch, Suriname has become a country with a diverse spread of cultures.
The Amerindians are the indigenous people who were conquered by European colonizers. More recently, escaped slaves from Africa, Indonesia, and China have come to call the country home.
Paramaribo, the capital, is where all the cultures have come together. On these busy streets, tourists will hear an eclectic mix of languages. Fort Zeelandia is left over from the 17th century and one of many historical highlights in Paramaribo.
Last on this list is Bolivia. A country that isn’t for the faint of heart, Bolivia boasts the World’s Most Dangerous Road, a part of the Amazon River, and a section of the Atacama Desert. Grandiose valleys, raging rivers, and impressive rock formations are all commonplace within the country’s landscape. One of the most beautiful places to visit is the Uyuni Salt Flat.
Home to a large percentage of South America’s indigenous people, Bolivia is the place to go if you want to meet locals and learn a new culture. Community-based tourism has become quite popular in Bolivia because it gives travelers an authentic experience and supports the local people.
As the highest capital city in the world, La Paz will quite literally take your breath away. Back dropped by Mount Illimani and lined with cable cars, the city’s skyline only adds to this South American masterpiece. La Paz is also the best place to begin exploring Bolivia’s culture before heading off into more remote areas of the country.
Epic South America
With a limited number of nations, South America packs a lot into this marvelous continent. Featuring both manmade and natural wonders, as well as a myriad of cultures, it’s impossible to visit South America just once.
Drawn in by epic landscapes and thriving cities, travelers will find themselves gravitating towards South America’s magnetic pull. All you have to do is choose your adventure!