South America Destination Guide
Experience the sultry samba beats and untamed beauty of South America
South America doesn't do things by half. Home to the world's most impressive rainforest, remarkable remnants of ancient civilisations, a snow-capped mountain range spanning seven countries and beach cities that keep the party going until the sun rises, South America is kaleidoscope of colour and a melting pot of culture and cuisine.
Official languages vary between countries in South America. Along the north and west coast in Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Argentina, the main language is Spanish. In Brazil, taking up most of the inland, Portuguese is predominant with English, French and Dutch spoken in Guyana, French Guiana and Suriname respectively.
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Sun-drenched and fun-filled; South America will not disappoint!
Once called 'the New World' by the Europeans who sought to colonise it, expansive South America is actually home to some of the world's oldest civilisations. It's also a vibrant tourist destination, boasting long stretches of golden beaches, lush Amazonian jungle and a host of cultured and cosmopolitan cities within its boundaries. With such diverse scenery and experiences, this South America travel guide only scrapes the surface of this mesmerising continent.
South America will challenge your senses and amaze you at every turn. The region is quite greedy when it comes to natural and cultural gems dotting the landscape. From the king of all rainforests, the Amazon, the white-tipped Andes, the long forgotten Machu Picchu and the raging torrents of Angel Falls, South America is well stocked with eye-popping, jaw-dropping beauty.
This carnival capital is everything you imagine it to be and more. Live it up in the cultured city of Santiago, snowboard an active volcano in Pucon, wander the baking Atacama Desert in Chile, tour the world's largest salt flat in Bolivia or all of the above! Once you have locked in your flights to South America you can really begin planning your dream adventure. Whether you want to travel independently with a backpack or join one of the many South America tours, there are plenty of options to suit.
Thirteen countries, unlimited adventures
Trek the path of the Incas to the breathtaking ruins in Peru or swim with the turtles in neighbouring Ecuador's Galapagos Islands. In the north, travel through Zona Cafetera, the coffee-growing region in Colombia, and make your way along the stunning Caribbean coast, sleeping in a hammock on the gorgeous golden beaches or traipsing the cobbled streets of Cartagena's old town.
Venture off the beaten track to the magical Patagonia – at the southern end of the continent, it features awe-inspiring landscapes from the blue-hued Glaciar Perito Moreno to whales dancing off Puerto Madryn. Stand with arms outstretched at the famous Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, soak up the Brazil's vibrant culture on Copacabana beach, learn the tango in Buenos Aires, or enjoy the infamous steak and wine that Argentina is known for.
For those who really want to experience the path less travelled, why not visit the lesser known French Guiana, Guyana or Suriname? Book a comprehensive South American holiday package and travel from ancient ruins to mountain peaks, dance in mega-clubs until the sun rises and get lost in labyrinth cities that will keep you under their sultry South American spell.
Some of the most captivating remnants of lost civilisations are found south of the border. While Machu Picchu is a major draw, there are plenty more enigmatic ruins of mysterious empires that continue to intrigue the world. Besides the Lost City of the Incas hidden in the Urubamba Valley, Peru is home to several other Inca sites including the lush green Pisac in the Sacred Valley and Ollantaytambo, the launching point of the Inca Trail. Outside Peru, Colombia's Lost City (Ciudad Perdida) can only be reached after a lengthy jungle trek and a steep climb up some 1,200 stone steps, but the journey is worth it to watch the clouds enveloping the mossy terraces come sunset.
Sun, surf and sand
South America's coastal cities are at the top of their game when summer rolls in – the warm lures locals and visitors alike, who flock to the beach to soak in the rays, chase impressive swells off shore and party into the night with the sand between their toes. You can't go past Brazil's Copacabana and Ipanema in Rio de Janeiro for a sun-soaked good time, but the country's 8,000 kilometres of coastline provides countless beautiful beaches. The white sands and cool, clear waters of Chile's Bahia Inglesa, Playa Blanca and Totoralillo beaches draw keen surfers and divers, while Venezuela's Los Roques is a textbook example of an idyllic island escape.
South America's landscapes are just the thing for travellers looking to add a little spice to their holidays. Adventure is South America's middle name, with outdoor settings to suit every appetite for excitement – volcanic peaks, frozen tundra, arid deserts, undersea vistas and impenetrable rainforests adorn the continent. Cruise the Galapagos and come face to face with curious wildlife like the giant tortoise, join a kayak tour of the Amazon, navigate fierce rapids on Chile's Futaleufu River and more. Along the way, be welcomed into villages where tradition remains strong, treat your tastebuds to a culinary expedition and broaden your cultural horizons as you make your way from one invigorating country to the next.
Getting there and around
Keep your finger on the mouse and get ready to score a South American flight on the cheap with Flight Centre! Book your flights to South America with a carrier like Qantas, flying direct to Santiago several times a week. Alternatively, say hola to Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Ushuaia and Santiago on a cruise holiday, docking at some of the most stunning beach cities the world over.
Your mainland excursions could include a little samba dancing, a culinary expedition or a siesta in the sun. Otherwise, let the experts guide you with a South America tour and add something extra to your holiday experience. Whether you prefer to follow in the footsteps of the experienced or would rather venture off the beaten track, Flight Centre's holiday packages are designed with your travel needs in mind. We combine flights and hotels across South America to offer you a one stop, value for money booking process. If you want more, less or anything in between, chat to a friendly consultant about arranging a package deal just for you.
Explore South America's 13 countries (and one territory) with your own set of wheels by hiring a car. Dominating the east, Brazil has more than one million kilometres of highway for scenic road tripping, Argentina in the south has wide open spaces to peruse at your leisure, while Peru's three main roads will get you easily from east to west.