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Lonely Planet Best of South America

Lonely Planet Best of South America

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Lonely Planet Best of South America

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Nov 1, 2019


Lonely Planet: The world's number one travel guide publisher*

Lonely Planet's Best of South America is your passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice on what to see and skip, and what hidden discoveries await you. Gaze down on sparkling Rio de Janeiro from Pao de Acucar, spot wildlife in the Galapagos Islands, and hike the legendary Inca Trail to Machu Picchu - all with your trusted travel companion. Discover the best of South America and begin your journey now!

Inside Lonely Planet's Best of South America:

  • Full-colour images throughout
  • Highlights and itineraries help you tailor your trip to your personal needs and interests
  • Insider tips to save time and money and get around like a local, avoiding crowds and trouble spots
  • Essential info at your fingertips - hours of operation, phone numbers, websites, transit tips, prices
  • Honest reviews for all budgets - eating, sightseeing, going out, shopping, hidden gems that most guidebooks miss
  • Cultural insights give you a richer, more rewarding travel experience - history, art, food, wine, sports, landscapes, wildlife
  • Free, convenient pull-out map (included in print version), plus easy-to-use colour maps to help you navigate
  • Covers Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, and more

The Perfect Choice: Lonely Planet's Best of South America is filled with inspiring and colorful photos, and focuses on South America's most popular attractions for those wanting to experience the best of the best.

Looking for just a few of the destinations included in this book? Check out the relevant Lonely Planet destination guides.

About Lonely Planet: Lonely Planet is a leading travel media company and the world's number one travel guidebook brand, providing both inspiring and trustworthy information for every kind of traveler since 1973. Over the past four decades, we've printed over 145 million guidebooks and grown a dedicated, passionate global community of travelers. You'll also find our content online, and in mobile apps, video, 14 languages, nine international magazines, armchair and lifestyle books, ebooks, and more.

TripAdvisor Travelers' Choice Awards 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 winner in Favorite Travel Guide category

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*Source: Nielsen BookScan: Australia, UK, USA, 5/2016-4/2017

eBook Features: (Best viewed on tablet devices and smartphones)

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Important Notice: The digital edition of this book may not contain all of the images found in the physical edition.

Nov 1, 2019

Informazioni sull'autore

Regis St. Louis creció en una pequeña población de interior de EE UU (uno de esos sitios que alimentan los sueños de viajar), y desde niño desarrolló una fascinación por los dialectos y culturas extranjeras. Pasó sus años de formación aprendiendo ruso y un puñado de lenguas romances, que le fueron muy útiles durante sus viajes por buena parte del globo. Ha colaborado en más de 50 títulos de Lonely Planet escribiendo sobre destinos en los seis continentes. Sus viajes le han llevado desde las montañas de Kamchatka hasta aldeas en islas aisladas de Melanesia, pasando por muchos grandes paisajes urbanos. Cuando no viaja, vive en Nueva Orleans. Se pe puede seguir en

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Lonely Planet Best of South America - Regis St Louis

Best of South America

Top Sights, Authentic Experiences


Plan Your Trip

Welcome to South America

South America’s Top 20

Need to Know

Hot Spots for…

Essential South America

Month by Month

Get Inspired


Family Travel

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Copacabana & Ipanema Beaches

Pão de Açúcar

Cristo Redentor

Walking Tour: Historic Centro






Drinking & Nightlife


Salvador, Brazil

Afro-Brazilian Rhythms







Drinking & Nightlife

Brazilian Amazon

Riverboat Travel

Jungle Expeditions & Wildlife-Watching



Alter do Chão


The Pantanal, Brazil

Exploring the Pantanal


Parque Nacional da Chapada dos Guimarães

Campo Grande

Iguazú Falls, Brazil & Argentina

Visiting the Falls

Foz do Iguaçu, Brazil

Puerto Iguazú, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Tango in Buenos Aires

Plaza de Mayo

Cementerio de la Recoleta


Walking Tour: Historical Saunter




Drinking & Nightlife


Southern Patagonia, Argentina

Glaciar Perito Moreno

Hiking the Fitz Roy Range

El Calafate

El Chaltén

Santiago, Chile

Cerro San Cristóbal

Maipo Valley Wineries

Cajón del Maipo Outdoor Activities




Drinking & Nightlife

The Lakes District, Chile

Adrenalin Activities

Visiting Huilliche Communities


Puerto Varas



Puerto Octay

Torres Del Paine, Chile

Hiking the Parque Nacional Torres del Paine

Puerto Natales







The Atacama Desert, Chile

Visiting the Desert

San Pedro de Atacama





La Paz, Bolivia







Drinking & Nightlife

Salar De Uyuni, Bolivia

Visiting the Salt Flats






Drinking & Nightlife

Lake Titicaca, Peru

Islas Uros




Isla Taquile


Cuzco & The Sacred Valley, Peru

Festivals & Events

Pisac Ruins

Ollantaytambo Ruins

Walking Tour: Central Cuzco




Machu Picchu, Peru

Visiting Machu Picchu

The Inca Trail

Aguas Calientes




The Cordilleras, Peru

Cordillera Blanca

Chavín de Huántar



Activities & Tours



Drinking & Nightlife

Quito & the Central Highlands, Ecuador

Quito’s Old Town

Adventures in Baños

Parque Nacional Cotopaxi



Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Visiting the Galápagos

Puerto Ayora




Cartagena, Colombia

Cartagena’s Old Town

Islas del Rosario


Activities & Tours



Drinking & Nightlife


In Focus

South America Today


People & Culture

Outdoor Activities

Survival Guide

Directory A–Z

Accessible Travel


Customs Regulations


Discount Cards

Emergency & Important Numbers




Internet Access

Legal Matters

LGBT Travelers



Opening Hours



Safe Travel



Tourist Information


Women Travelers


Getting There & Away

Getting Around


Behind the Scenes

Our Writers

Welcome to South America

Andean peaks, Amazonian rainforest, Patagonian glaciers, Inca ruins, colonial towns, white-sand beaches and vertiginous nightlife: the wonders of South America set the stage for incredible adventures

Tourists at Iguazú Falls, Brazil | R.M. NUNES / GETTY IMAGES ©

From the snow-capped peaks of the Andes to the undulating waterways of the Amazon, South America spreads a dazzling array of natural wonders. This is a continent of lush rainforests, towering volcanoes, misty cloud forests, bone-dry deserts, redrock canyons and ice-blue glaciers. Take in some of the incredible natural wonders found in every country in South America, then head to the coast for an idyllic retreat among palm-fringed, whitesand beaches and photogenic tropical islands.

Such settings offer tantalizing adventures. You can hike past ancient temples first laid down by the Incas, contemplate the awe-inspiring power of Iguazú Falls, or spend the day watching wildlife from a dugout canoe on one of the Amazon’s countless igarapés (narrow waterways).

South America’s diversity doesn’t end with landscapes. You’ll find colonial towns whose cobblestone streets lead past gilded churches and stately plazas little changed since the 18th century. You can haggle over colorful textiles at indigenous markets, share meals with traditional dwellers of the rainforest and follow the pounding rhythms of Afro-Brazilian drum corps. South America is home to an astounding variety of modern and ancient cultures, and experiencing it first hand is as easy as showing up.

Plan Your Trip

South America’s Top 20

1 Machu Picchu, Peru

South America’s fabled Inca ruins

This fantastic Inca citadel, lost to the world until its discovery in the early 20th century, stands as a ruin among ruins. With its emerald terraces backed by steep peaks and Andean ridges echoing on the horizon, the sight simply surpasses the imagination. This marvel of engineering has withstood six centuries of earthquakes, foreign invasion and howling weather. Discover it for yourself: wander through its stone temples and scale its dizzying heights.

GO GA / 500PX ©

Girls dressed in traditional Peruvian clothing, Machu Picchu | JOEL SHAWN / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

2 Brazilian Amazon

The world’s greatest rainforest

Home to the greatest collection of plant and animal life on earth, the awe-inspiring Amazon has outdoor excursions of all sorts: from easy nature hikes to scaling 50m trees, from luxury lodges to makeshift camps in the forest. Spend your day plying the winding waterways in a canoe, slow-boating between towns or scanning the canopy for monkeys. Whatever your interest, there’s a jungle trip in the Amazon waiting to blow your mind.



South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

3 Galápagos Islands, Ecuador

Enchanting islands packed with wildlife

The famous Galápagos Islands, with their volcanic, other-worldly landscapes, are a magnet for wildlife lovers. Here, you can get up close and personal with massive lumbering tortoises, scurrying marine iguanas (the world’s only seagoing lizard), prancing blue-footed boobies and a host of other unusual species. On snorkeling trips, you’ll see playful doe-eyed sea lions, lightning-fast penguins and graceful sea turtles winging through the equatorial waters. Sea lions


South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

4 Iguazú Falls, Brazil & Argentina

A jaw-dropping array of 275 waterfalls

The thunderous roar, the dramatic cascades, the refreshing sprays, the absolute miraculous work of Mother Nature – nothing prepares you for that first moment you set eyes upon Iguazú Falls. On the Brazilian side, enjoy the wide-eyed view of the whole astounding scene stretching out before you in all its panoramic wonder. In Argentina, get up close and personal with the deafening Devil’s Throat for a mind-blowing experience.


South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

5 Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Samba-charged city of beaches and mountains

On privileged real estate flanked by striking Atlantic-blue waters, sugary-white sands and a mountainous backdrop of Crayola-green rainforest, Rio’s cinematic cityscape has few rivals. And once its soundtrack kicks in – a high-on-life siren song of bossa nova and samba – Rio’s raw energy seizes you with the come-hither allure of a tropical fantasy. You’ll have no choice but to follow.

View of Cristo Redentor (Christ the Redeemer) and Pão de Açúcar (Sugarloaf Mountain) | R.M. NUNES / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

6 Buenos Aires, Argentina

A grand dame with a romantic soul

Whip together a beautiful Argentine metropolis with gourmet cuisine, awesome shopping, frenzied nightlife and gorgeous locals, and you’ll get Buenos Aires. It’s a European-like, cosmopolitan city encompassing both slick and unsafe neighborhoods, but that’s the appeal. You can experience classic cafes, amazing steaks, surprising architecture, energizing fútbol games and, of course, that sultry tango. Buenos Aires is elegant, seductive, emotional, confounding, frustrating and chock-full of attitude.

A colorful facade in La Boca | STUART DEE / GETTY IMAGES ©

South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

7 Torres del Paine, Chile

Hike amid dramatic Patagonian landscapes

The wind whips dark clouds overhead as the trail suddenly opens to reveal a stunning vista of granite spires soaring high above the Patagonian steppe. These are the Torres del Paine, the proud centerpiece of Chile’s famous national park. Trekking through this Unesco Biosphere Reserve isn’t for the faint of heart – guides say the park sees all four seasons in a single day – but hiking the ‘W’ remains a rite of passage for adventurous travelers.

Hiker enjoying the view of Cuernos del Paine and Lake Pehoé | MICHELE FALZONE / GETTY IMAGES ©

South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

8 Cuzco & the Sacred Valley, Peru

Former capital of the Inca empire

With ancient cobblestone streets, grandiose baroque churches and the remnants of Inca temples with centuries-old carvings, no place looms larger in Andean history than Cuzco, a city that has been inhabited continuously since pre-Hispanic times. Mystic, commercial and chaotic, this unique city is still a stunner. It’s also the gateway to the picturesque Sacred Valley, with its famed temples and colorful markets, as well as Machu Picchu just beyond.

Quechua woman in Cuzco | KEREN SU / GETTY IMAGES ©

South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

9 Southern Patagonia, Argentina

Walk beside glaciers and shark-tooth summits

The rugged, mountainous wilderness of Southern Patagonia is a world-class trekking destination. In the Fitz Roy Range, you can plan challenging multiday treks, or plan shorter outings to take in stunning views just a day’s hike from town. South of Fitz Roy, Perito Moreno is one of the most accessible glaciers on the planet. Watch from steel catwalks as building-sized icebergs calve from the face and crash into Lago Argentino.



South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

10 Quito & the Central Highlands, Ecuador

Architectural jewel and gateway to Andean adventure

History lurks around every corner of Quito’s vibrant Centro Histórico. Delve into the past by stepping off the cobblestones into beautifully maintained museums, historic mansions and jaw-dropping sanctuaries. Afterwards, join the festivities on lively La Ronda. Head further afield to outdoor adventures (and thermal springs) in Baños or the snowcapped scenery of Cotopaxi.



Quito’s colonial-style facades | ALESSANDRO_PINTO / GETTY IMAGES ©

South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

11 Lakes District, Chile

Adventure playground of lakes and mountains

While turquoise glacial lakes dominate the landscape, they’re hardly the only attraction in this photogenic southern Chile region. Play on towering, perfectly conal, snowcapped volcanoes. Visit charming lakeside hamlets such as Frutillar. Admire the green umbrella of national parks like Parque Nacional Huerquehue. A long list of outdoor adventures and a unique, German-influenced Latin culture make for a cinematic region that appeals to all.

Pier at Frutillar | PAULO COSTA / 500PX ©

South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

12 Salvador, Brazil

World capital of Afro-Brazilian culture

Salvador is famous for capoeira (martial-art dance), Candomblé, Olodum, colonial Portuguese architecture, African street food and one of the oldest lighthouses in the Americas. The city’s past, marked by gritty stories of Portuguese seafaring and the heartbreaking history of the African slave trade, is one of hardship, but today’s lively Bahian capital offers a unique fusion of two vibrant cultures. The music and nightlife scene culminates when Salvador hosts one of Brazil’s best Carnavals.


South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

13 The Atacama Desert, Chile

Otherworldly landscapes in northern Chile

See the desert don its surrealist cloak as you stand atop a giant sand dune, with the sun slipping below the horizon and multicolored hues bathing the sands, all with a backdrop of distant volcanoes and the rippling Cordillera de la Sal. This is just one small part of the Atacama Desert, a mesmerizing landscape that encompasses red rock formations, jagged mountains, glittering salt lakes and sputtering geysers, plus dazzling star-filled skies.


Mountain biking in the desert | JOHN WARBURTON-LEE / GETTY IMAGES ©

Tourists at El Tatio Geysers | PAKAWAT THONGCHAROEN / GETTY IMAGES ©

South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

14 The Cordilleras, Peru

Ground zero for outdoor adventure in Peru

The Cordilleras are one of the preeminent hiking, trekking and backpacking spots in South America. Every which way you throw your gaze, perennially glaciated white peaks razor their way through expansive mantles of lime-green valleys. The Cordillera Blanca is one of the highest mountain ranges in the world and boasts the enigmatic 3000-year-old ruins of Chavín de Huántar.


South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

15 The Pantanal, Brazil

Wildlife-watching in the wetlands

Few places on earth can match the wildlife-watching of the Pantanal, a wondrously remote wetland in the heart of Brazil. From cute capybaras to stately storks, the animal life simply abounds and is remarkably easy to see in the open marshy surroundings, whether you are traveling on foot, on horseback or by boat. Among the big draws is the elusive jaguar – this is one of the best places in South America to spot one.


South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

16 Santiago, Chile

Chile’s art- and food-loving capital

Santiago is the center of the nation’s cultural and intellectual universe. See the places that inspired the great poet Pablo Neruda, followed by visits to the grand collections in the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes. By evening delve into Santiago’s avant-garde restaurant scene, followed by a late night exploring raucous beer halls, candlelit poetry houses and just about anything else your inner Bacchus desires.

Plaza de Armas and the Catedral Metropolitana de Santiago | F11PHOTO / SHUTTERSTOCK ©


‘Yellow Spiral’ sculpture by Osvaldo Pena | KRZYSZTOF DYDYNSKI / GETTY IMAGES ©

South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

17 Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

The surreal salt flats of Bolivia

While a three-day jeep tour through the world’s largest salt flat will leave your bones chattering, it could quite possibly be the defining experience of your Bolivian adventure. The vastness, austerity and crystalline perfection of the salt flat will inspire you. An early-morning exploration of rock gardens, geyser fields and piping-hot springs along with the camaraderie of three days on the road with your fellow ‘Salterians’ will create a lasting memory.


South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

18 Lake Titicaca, Peru

Floating reed islands and traditional living

Less a lake than a highland ocean, Titicaca is home to fantastical sights – none more surreal than the floating islands crafted entirely of tightly woven totora reeds. Requiring near constant renovation, the reeds are also used to build thatched homes and elegant boats. There are plenty of other islands to choose from, such as Isla Taquile, where rural Andean life from centuries long gone lives on, and where the quinoa soup recipe has been perfected. Puno


South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

19 Cartagena, Colombia

Colonial grandeur on the Caribbean

The hands of the clock on the Puerta del Reloj wind back 400 years in an instant as visitors enter the walled old town of Cartagena. Strolling the cobblestone streets is like stepping into the pages of a Gabriel García Márquez novel. The pastel-toned balconies overflow with bougainvillea and the streets are abuzz with food stalls around magnificent Spanish-built churches, squares and historic mansions.

Colonial building facade | RAFAL CICHAWA / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

South America’s Top 20 PLAN YOUR TRIP

20 La Paz, Bolivia

High-energy city famed for its markets

The world’s highest capital city, La Paz is a dynamic whirl of tootling taxis, bustling indigenous markets and fast-moving pedestrians all mixing it up beneath the blinding altiplano sun. Welcome to one of South America’s most fascinating cities: a strangely intoxicating metropolis of rich ethnographic museums and stunning hilltop lookouts with a packed festival calendar. La Paz is also the gateway to intriguing pre-Columbian ruins outside of town.

Women in traditional Bolivian clothing | PEEK CREATIVE COLLECTIVE / SHUTTERSTOCK ©

Plan Your Trip

Need to Know


Argentine peso (AR$)

Bolivian boliviano (B$)

Brazilian real (R$)

Chilean peso (CH$), Colombian peso (COP$) Ecuador: US dollar (US$)

Peru: nuevo sol (S)


Portuguese, Spanish, and over 500 indigenous languages


Visas are sometimes required, or in some cases other charges must be paid, for example for reciprocity fees or tourist cards.


ATMs are available in major towns and cities; stock up on funds before visiting remote areas. Credit cards are widely accepted.

Cell Phones

Local SIM cards can be used in unlocked European and Australian (GSM) phones. Or you can purchase a phone when you arrive.


Ranges from GMT minus three hours (Brazil’s east coast) to GMT minus six hours (the Galapagos Islands).

When to Go

High Season (Dec–Mar)

o It’s high season in Brazil and the Atlantic coast; beaches and festivals (such as Carnaval) are big draws.

o The best time to visit Patagonia, though expect higher prices.

Shoulder (Oct–Nov)

o It’s dry season in the Amazon, making for fine wildlife-watching.

o Fewer crowds and lower prices make this a good time to visit Buenos Aires, Rio and other coastal destinations.

Low Season (Jul–Aug)

o In Chile and Argentina, many services close at beach resorts, and mountain passes can be blocked by snow.

Daily Costs

Budget: Less than US$50

o Dorm beds: from US$12

o Double rooms: from US$30

o Shopping at markets, eating inexpensive set meals: from US$5

Midrange: US$50–120

o Budget jungle lodge in the Amazon per day: US$50–80

o Hiking and cycling tours per day: from US$50

o 3½-day Manaus–Belem boat trip (hammock fare): from US$100

Top End: More than US$120

o Hiking the Inca Trail (four-day trek) per person: US$600

o Multiday Galápagos cruise per day: around US$200

Useful Websites

Lonely Planet ( Destination information, hotel bookings, traveler forum and more.

Latin American Network Information Center ( Links to all things Latin American.

UK Foreign Travel Advice ( Travel advisories.

US State Department ( Travel advice and warnings.

Thorn Tree ( Get trip recommendations and destination tips from other travelers.

Opening Hours

On Sunday, nearly everything is closed. In the Andean countries, businesses tend to close earlier.

Banks Monday to Friday (for money changing).

Businesses 8am or 9am–noon and 2pm–8pm or 9pm Monday to Friday. Shorter hours on Saturday.

Arriving in South America

Aeropuerto Internacional Ministro Pistarini, Buenos Aires

Frequent shuttle buses head downtown (AR$240); taxis cost around AR$1200.

Aeropuerto Internacional Arturo Merino Benítez, Santiago

Frequent shuttle connections go to downtown Santiago hotels (40 minutes, CH$7000), plus local buses (one hour to downtown, then transfer to the metro or Transantiago bus; CH$1700) and taxis (CH$18,000).

Galeão International Airport, Rio de Janeiro

Bus 2018 (R$16, one to two hours, every 30 minutes) goes to Copacabana and Ipanema. Radio taxis cost R$130 (45 to 90 minutes). Metered yellow-and-blue comum (common) taxis cost between R$82 and R$100. Shuttle service costs R$25.

Getting Around

Bus Extensive services throughout the continent, except for the Amazon. You’ll find reclinable seats (and super-powered air-conditioning on long hauls).

Plane Useful for crossing immense distances; can save days of travel; prices are generally high, but airfare promotions are frequent.

Car Useful for traveling at your own pace, though cities can be difficult to navigate and secure parking is a must.

Boat Slow, uncomfortable, but brag-worthy transport between towns in the Amazon, with trips measured in days rather than hours. You’ll need a hammock, snacks, drinking water and a high tolerance for boredom.

Train Limited networks, generally geared toward tourists.

For more on,

Plan Your Trip

Hot Spots for…

Dramatic Scenery

Thundering waterfalls, volcanoes and otherworldly desert landscapes. When gazing upon these natural wonders, you might feel like you’ve stepped back a few million years.


Urban Allure

Life spills into the streets with pop-up graffiti murals, sprawling food markets, and buzzing music-filled cafes in South America’s colorful city neighborhoods.



South America is home to more plant and animal species than any other place on earth; it has countless settings to watch wildlife.


Outdoor Adventures

Get your adrenaline fix clambering past snow-capped peaks, paddling along rushing rivers or mountain biking down slopes. There are many ways to get your heart racing.


Plan Your Trip

Essential South America


There’s a whole range of adventures awaiting in South America. You can go hiking amid the soaring peaks of the Andes, go rafting along rushing jungle-lined rivers and overnight in a rainforest lodge with the sounds of the Amazon all around you. And you’ll find many more astounding options in every country on the continent. There’s memorable diving off of the Galápagos, trekking and mountaineering in the Andes, wildlife-watching in the Pantanal and legendary mountain biking outside of La Paz.


South America has a treasure trove of arts and crafts. All across the continent, you’ll find lively markets packed with crafts and clothing. In the Andes, you’ll find alpaca wool sweaters and scarves, woven textiles, ceramics, masks and gold and silver jewelry. Brazil has its own enormous crafts scene, with some of the finest works emerging from the Northeast. Neighboring Argentina has myriad temptations for shoppers, from street fairs and antique shops to indie clothing boutiques. Wherever you roam, when you need essentials, large North American–style malls and sizable supermarkets can be found in the big cities.

Traditional Peruvian handmade textiles | SL-PHOTOGRAPHY / SHUTTERSTOCK ©


South America has staggering variety when it comes to cuisine. You’ll find sizzling steaks in Buenos Aires, creative twists on age-old dishes in the Andes, and tender freshwater fish in the Amazon. Every country has its own specialties, and within countries you’ll find a great range (with coastal recipes quite different from cooking traditions in the interior). The capitals and big cities of South America are all fertile grounds for foodies, though increasingly, you can also find fantastic meals in smaller towns. Memorable meals can sometimes be had at markets, as well.

Peruvian ceviche | Larisa Blinova / Shutterstock ©

Drinking & Nightlife

You’ll find dynamic nightlife in all of South America’s big cities, particularly in Rio, Buenos Aires and Santiago. You’ll find easygoing beach bars, DJ-fueled clubs, stylishly decked speakeasies and cocktail bars, as well as craft-beer bars tapping into the recent craze for local microbrews. Wine bars are all the rage in Argentina and Chile, and nearly every region has its specialty drinks – from canelazo (a hot rum, cinnamon and orange juice concoction) in the Andean highlands to mate (hot yerba mate drunk from a special gourd) in Argentina, Chile and southern Brazil.

Live Music Venues

Rio Scenarium

Tango Porteño

Espaço D’Venetta


Café Havana


Live music is the lifeblood of South America. Brazil’s music scene is unrivaled, with buzzing samba clubs in Rio and heart-pounding drum corps filling the streets of Salvador. Buenos Aires has its magnificent tango scene, which can mean watching or dancing depending on the place (plenty of places offer lessons), while Peru and Bolivia have their peñas, venues for traditional folkloric music. Aside from live rhythms, there are countless other draws in South America, including theater, dance and indie cinema, as well as live football matches, which bring die-hard fans to local (sometimes massive!) sporting arenas in every corner of the continent.

Plan Your Trip

Month by Month


It’s peak season in Brazil and Argentina. Expect higher prices, bigger crowds and sweltering temperatures as city dwellers head to the coast. This is also the most popular time to travel to Patagonia.

Santiago a Mil

This 17-day theater and dance fest ( dozens of shows and events around the Chilean capital, staged by international and local companies.


The sizzling summer is still in full swing in the southern half of the continent, with exorbitant prices and sparse accommodations during Brazilian Carnaval. Elsewhere, it’s fairly wet in the northern Andes and the Amazon region.


The famous bacchanalian event happens across South America, though the pre-Lenten revelry is most famous in Brazil. Rio and Salvador throw the liveliest bashes, with street parades, costume parties and round-the-clock merriment.

Carnaval in Rio de Janeiro | EFE NEWS AGENCY / ALAMY STOCK PHOTO ©

Fiesta de la Virgen de Candelaria

Celebrated across the highlands in Bolivia and Peru, this festival features music, drinking, eating, dancing, processions and fireworks. Some of the liveliest celebrations take place in Puno (Peru). The big day is February 2.


While the weather is still warm in the south, the crowds thin and prices fall a bit at beach destinations. It’s still rainy in the northern Andes.

Lollapalooza Chile

Chile’s rock fest ( kicks off in Santiago in late March or early April, and features an impressive line-up of homegrown and international groups on par with the North American version of Lollapalooza.

Lenny Kravitz performing at Lollapalooza Chile | LUOMAN / GETTY IMAGES ©

Concurso Nacional de Belleza

Also known as the Carnaval de Cartagena, this beauty pageant and festival (, Cartagena’s most important annual bash, celebrates the city’s independence day and the crowning of Miss Colombia. Festivities include street dancing, music and fancy-dress parades.


In the Andes, crowds and high-season prices mark Holy Week, a boon of national tourism in March or April. Elsewhere on the continent, you’ll find generally fewer crowds and good post-summer prices.

Semana Santa

Throughout Latin America, Holy Week is celebrated with fervor. One of the most colorful processions happens in Quito (Ecuador) when purple-robed penitents parade through the streets on Good Friday.

Best Festivals

Carnaval, February

Fiesta de la Virgen de Candelaria, February

Inti Raymi, June

Tango BA Festival y Mundial, August

Reveillon, December


Buenos Aires and Rio head into low season, with cooler weather and lower prices; the rain begins to taper off in the Andes, making it a fine time to go trekking.

La Festividad de Nuestro Señor Jesús del Gran Poder

Held in late May or early June, La Festividad de Nuestro Señor Jesús del Gran Poder in La Paz involves candle processions, elaborate costumes and dancing.


High season in the Andean nations corresponds with the North American summer (June to August), when the weather is also sunniest and driest. Book major tours (such as hiking the Inca Trail) well in advance.

Inti Raymi

This millennia-old indigenous celebration of the solstice and harvest is celebrated in many Andean towns. In Cuzco it’s the event of the year, attracting thousands of visitors for street fairs, open-air concerts and historical reenactments.


It’s dry in many parts of the continent, making August a fine time to visit the Amazon, the Pantanal or the Andes. It’s chilly to freezing south of the Tropic of Capricorn.

Tango BA Festival y Mundial

World-class tango dancers perform throughout Buenos Aires during this two-week festival ( Competition is fierce for the title of ‘world’s best tango dancer.’ You can also hone your own moves at classes and workshops.


The weather remains dry and sunny (but chilly) in the Andes, though you’ll find fewer crowds. September is also a good (less rainy) time to visit the Amazon.

Fiestas Patrias

Chilean Independence is feted during

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