Welcome to South America

Bolivia

From the worn steps of Peru’s great Incan ruins, across the sunkissed beaches of the Rio Grande, into the heart the robust rainforests of Colombia, through the eclectic enclaves of Uruguay, up to rugged Andean peaks, South America is a wildly under-traveled and underappreciated jewel. Gilded churches, thunderous rainfalls, dramatic landscapes, the unmistakable rhythms of Argentine tango and tranquility of Andean flutes, you will be hard pressed to get your fill in one trip. For the culturally curious, you’ll find ancient traditions, endangered languages and proud indigenous cultures plentiful. For wine and food lovers, it will be a trip you’ll never forget and for adventure seekers and nature lovers, you’ve found your true home away from home. And while certain archaeological sites and nature preserves are only accessible during specific months of the year, much of the continent is an all-year round destination.

10 Things You Didn’t Know About South America

  1. Brazilians may have a reputation for partying, but Colombia plays host to the world’s largest theatre festival, salsa festival, flower parade and outdoor horse parade.
  2. On the flip side, Colombian coffee is world famous, but Brazil is actually the largest coffee producer in the world (and it’s absolutely delicious!)
  3. Over 50% of Bolivians are indigenous Amerindians with the Quechua and Aymara constituting about 55% of this particular population.
  4. In 2005, the Colombian city of Popayán was the first place on Earth to receive the esteemed title of UNESCO City of Gastronomy.
  5. Algarrobo, a Pacific coastal city in Chile, is home to the world’s largest swimming pool at an impressive length of 1,000 yards, an area of 20 acres and a depth of 115 feet.
  6. You probably grew up thinking Nepal’s Mount Everest was the tallest point in the world, but that’s recently been proven untrue – Ecuador’s Chimborazo volcano, when measured from the centre of Earth, is the world’s highest point.
  7. The world’s widest and longest single-drop waterfall is located in Guayana on the Potaro River in Kaieteur National Park.
  8. The University of Buenos Aires is the continents second largest university and has single-handedly produced four Nobel prize winners. It’s also where Che Guevara studied medicine before becoming a revolutionary.
  9. The world’s highest ski resort in Chacaltaya, Bolivia is so high (5400 metres), oxygen is on hand for skiiers who feel light-headed.
  10. Venezuela breaks a few records – It’s home to the world’s highest habitable sculpture on the American continent and it’s also home to the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall (Angel Falls) which is 15 times taller than Niagara Falls.

Best Time to Go

 South America is an all-season destination, depending on where and when you go. A good thing to remember is the further south you travel, the more seasonal the climate. The latitude at which Buenos Aires and Santiago rest see cold winters and hot summers. Go even further south, and you’ll experience weather similiar to that of Northern Europe – Cooler summers, plenty of storms and icy winters.

Low Season (Jan – Mar)

Because of its location near the equator, Peru is a year round destination, unless you’re planning on doing the Inca Trail. January through to March is the middle of the rainy season and the Inca Trail (and other routes to Machu Picchu) is closed.  Accommodation rates in Lima and other destinations in Peru are low to moderate, making it a great time to go if you want to save those dollars.

Shoulder Season (Nov – Apr)

Southern Brazil, Northern Argentina and Chile experience warm summer temperatures during this time, and South Americans can be found flocking to sunkissed beaches during this time. The influx of domestic and international travelers in smaller coastal towns can make pricing high.

During this time weather in Patagonia is at its warmest, making this the most accessible this window. If you travel here between June through to September, you’ll find shops and business boarded up until September.

High Season (Jul – Aug)

Like much of the world, July and August are peak travel months for South America, specifically the Inca Trail and the Galapagos Islands. Because both destinations require permits, it’s advised to book your land portion at least six months in advance. Permits are generally issued in February (tour companies often include the cost of permits in the tour price).

October and November are often thought of as the most ideal times to visit South America because of springlike conditions. December starts to see an influx of travelers, both domestic and international, as the Christmas season draws near. Pricing can be very high, especially over Christmas and New Years, so book far in advance. The Easter holiday is also one of the most expensive and busiest times to travel to South America.

My Top 10 Recommendations for Visiting South America

  1. It should come as no surprise that Peru’s Machu Picchu makes the list as a must-see for any South American itinerary. Arguably the most spectacular and well known archaeological site on the continent, despite drawing hoards of crowds every year, this lost Incan city hasn’t lost its grandeur and mystique.
  2. At the end of every glorious day on Rio de Janeiro’s Ipanema Beach, locals and tourists gather on sunkissed sands, order up a caipirinha from any of the hawkers taking orders, and settle in to bid adieu to the day in preparation for a sultry evening out on the town.
  3. Bolivia’s Salar de Uyuni is home to the surreal world’s largest salt flats. At a staggering 12,106 sq km, the Earth meets sky with perfect reflections of blue  and cotton-like clouds.
  4. Located in the southern sector of Parque Nacional Los Glaciares lies Glaciar Perito Moreno measures 30km long, 5km wide and 60 metres wide – it advances year round some 2 metres per day!
  5. Dinner-plate size arachnids scuttle across the jungle floor, howler monkeys taunt passers by somewhere up in the towering canopy, the dampness clings to your clothes, the eerie calmness of chugging upriver; The Amazon is part of the world comprises over half of the world’s remaining rainforest, it is a must see for every traveler.
  6.  There is nothing more sensual than watching two masters twist, interlock and set the floor ablaze during an Argentine Tango). And the bustling capital of Buenos Aires is without question, one of South America’s most exciting cities, with beautiful colonial architecture, iconic cafes, sumptuous steakhouses, fabulous shopping and one of the hottest night scenes on the continent.
  7. One of South America’s signature red wines is Malbec, a wine that originally came from Bordeaux region of France, and Argentina has been growing grapes for over 150 years. Wine tasting is a must-do for every food and wine enthusiast, so rent a car, set the GPS for Mendoza  and sip to your heart’s content.
  8. With its otherworldly landscapes and fascinating creatures, it’s no surprise that Darwin, along with all other past travelers, were enthralled with Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands.
  9. If you’ve ever dreamed about starring in your own Telanovela, take a stroll through the fairytale-like city of Cartagena de Indias on Colombia’s beautiful Caribbean coast. A World Unesco World Heritage site, centuries-old colonial walls, iron balconies draped in bougainvilleas, cobble-stoned alleys and grand plazas await the curious traveler.
  10. Get off the beaten path to Paraguay. It’s geographical contrasts, a humid subtropical forest in the east, with a seemingly endless palm savannahs in the west, this small nation has nature preserves in spades, an abundance of wildlife, including some of the most endangered species of birds on the planet.

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