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With only 13 countries on the continent, the best countries to visit in South America really depend on what you’re looking for.

Perhaps an outdoorsy trip to Peru full of hiking and ancient history? Alternatively, Colombia’s most popular cities offer a little bit of something for everyone on a well-trodden tourist track. Brazil is full of awe-inspiring sites, from Iguazu Falls to the world wonder Christ the Redeemer statue overlooking Rio de Janeiro’s famous Copacabana Beach.

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The best countries to visit in South America include:

  1. Peru
  2. Uruguay
  3. Brazil
  4. Colombia

Best South American countries to visit

1. Peru: Outdoorsy Adventures

You may know that Peru is full of famous Mayan archaeological sites, the towering Andes Mountains, and the highest lake in the world. But you’ll also find hidden oases in the desert, rainbow mountains, and the “poor man’s Galapagos” islands.

For travelers that love the outdoors, this is definitely one of the best South American countries to visit. Tackle the 4-day trek along the Inka Trail to Machu Picchu. Try sandboarding on the dunes surrounding the desert oasis of Huacachina. Explore the floating islands of Lake Titicaca. Hike to the surreal Rainbow Mountain. Hop in a boat and take a tour of the Islas Ballestas (Poor Man’s Galapagos) where you’ll find sleeping sea lions, Humboldt penguins, and blue-footed boobies.

Rainbow Mountain, Peru

2. Colombia: Full of Culture

All across Colombia, you’ll find its culture overflowing.

During a daytime walk in the center of Bogota, you’ll likely pass the Museo del Oro, full of information on the city’s rich history of Gold.

During a night out in Medellin, the fresh scent of arepas drifts down pedestrian streets full of Colombian music and outdoor dining in the city’s eternal spring weather.

Cartagena is Colombia’s most colorful city in many senses of the word. Located on the Caribbean coast, the city’s colonial houses are painted in a variety of luminous shades and locals still wear the traditional Colombian clothing in the bright colors of the country’s flag.

To get a little off the beaten track, head from Cartagena to Santa Marta and venture into the mountains to the tiny town of Minca. Here, stay in eco-friendly guesthouses with incredible views over the mountains and out to the sea. Nearby, you can also take a trek to Colombia’s “Lost City”, the ancient home of Colombia’s native Tairona people.

3. Uruguay: Rest and Relaxation

Spend a few days in slow-paced Montevideo where you can visit trendy coffee shops and eateries. In addition, spend afternoons strolling La Rambla, the city’s lively boardwalk.

Next, head about four hours north to Punta Del Diablo. This is where the true Uruguayan relaxation begins. Punta Del Diablo is a tiny fishing village that’s become an ultra laid-back vacation destination for travelers looking to chill out. The beaches here are pristine and at night live music can be found in the bars, tavernas, and on the streets. You may even get lucky enough to hear Candombe. Los Tabores (the drums) is a nighttime event where players gather together to simultaneously play these traditional drums in heart-pounding unison.

To get even further away from the worries of everyday life, head to Cabo Polonio. Cabo Polonio can only be reached by 4×4 vehicle. There’s minimal electricity but the wide expanses of beaches, a handful of traditional restaurants, and waterside guesthouses are the perfect distraction.

Punta del Diablo, Uruguay

4. Brazil: Incredible sights and beautiful beaches

From the Amazon Rainforest to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil’s massive real estate is what makes it one of the best countries to visit in South America.

In Rio, you’ll find one of the Seven Wonders of the World at the Christ the Redeemer statue. Journey to the top and, afterward, spend the afternoon on world-famous Copacabana Beach. In the north, you’ll find beaches to rival the best of French Polynesia or the Caribbean.

About two hours east of Rio de Janeiro, you’ll find Arraial do Cabo. Here, white sand beaches and bright turquoise waters are surrounded by green mountains. The nearby town of Buzios makes a great spot for a weekend getaway.

All across the country, there are plenty of options to see mind-blowing sights in Brazil. Head to the Amazon Rainforest where you can take boat tours on the Amazon River. Visit the bohemian town of Paraty. At the Argentinian border, you can take in Iguazu Falls, the largest waterfall system in the world. With so much to do, it’s not hard to see why Brazil is easily one of the best countries to visit in South America

Arraial do Cabo, Brazil

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