If you're planning where to go on your next vacation, don't overlook South America. This huge continent is exploding with life and beauty. Home to some unbelievably beautiful landscapes, unforgettable cities, ancient ruins and a major lung of our planet - the Amazon rainforest, more adventures than you could ever imagine await travelers here. However, South America is so vast, it's not always easy to figure out where to go, that's why we've compiled this list of utterly, breathtaking locations we think would single-handedly make a trip to South America highly worthwhile.
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7 Extraordinary Destinations in South America You Have to Check Out
Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
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Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni is a place unlike anywhere else on this earth. This 10,000 square km white expanse is the world's largest salt flat, and its beauty is beyond description. It would be a tragedy to visit Bolivia and not see this breathtaking landscape for yourself. However, getting here can be a bit of a challenge. First you have to get to one of three towns, Uyuni or Tupuzi in Bolivia or San Pedro de Atacama in Chile. From there you can either chose to do a one day tour, or a more popular three day tour of the flats and other incredible geologic features found around its surroundings.
It's a tough journey to these flats though, you have to contend with high altitudes, freezing nights, long drives and generally, very basic accommodation. However, it's entirely worth it. Try and plan your trip around the rainy season, when this incredible landscape is transformed into the worlds largest mirror - feeling like you're left standing in heaven, with the sky reflected all around you, as if to infinity.
Machu Picchu, Peru
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Located high up on a mountain ridge in the South of Peru, this well-preserved ancient Inca citadel is a must-see for anyone passing through Peru. An element of mystery surrounds this site - one of the new seven wonders of the world - and it remains unclear even today for what reason the citadel was built. However, this simply makes it an even more alluring destination for travelers, that and the beauty of the scenic Andes Mountains.
To get to Machu Picchu, you first have to get to the city of Cusco, from there you can either take a train and bus up, a train and short hike up or challenge yourself to a multi-day trek up. Be sure to book your tickets well in advance though as there are limits to the number of people allowed here on a daily basis.
Rock of Guatapé, Colombia
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Straddling the towns of Guatapé and El Peñol in Colombia, is a massive rock known as the Rock of Guatapé. The rock which was once worshiped by Tahamies Indians who lived in the region is now a National Monument. 650 steps built into a fissure on the side of the rock take you to the perfect viewing spot where the panoramic scenery of the surrounding region is simply mesmerizing.
If you're a bit famished after climbing all those stairs, refreshments and food are available at the top, as well as some souvenirs to take down with you.
Iguazu Falls, Brazil/Argentina
Photo by R.M. Nunes
Iguazu falls, shared between Argentina and Brazil are so majestic that they now hold an esteemed title as one of the new natural seven wonders of the world. 257 individual falls stretch into a powerful 2.7 kilometer arc of thundering water. However, as beautiful as the descriptions, images and footage of these falls may appear, nothing comes even remotely close to witnessing this extraordinary feat of nature first-hand.
The falls can be accessed from either Argentina or Brazil, and are surrounded on all sides by the teeming rain forests of Argentina's Iguazú National Park, and Brazil's Iguaçu National Park.
Santuario de las Lajas, Colombia
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If you're planning a trip to Colombia, you should consider making a trip to the stunning Santuario de las Lajas. This neo-gothic, fairy tale like church, perched on the side of the Guáitara River canyon, towering over the riverbed is definitely quite the sight to behold. The impressive location and design of this church have resulted in it being named by some as the most beautiful church in the whole of Colombia and even the world.
The church can easily be accessed by taxi from the small city of Ipiales that sits right by Colombia's shared border with Ecuador.
Parque Nacional Dos Lençóis Maranhenses, Brazil
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A visit to Parque Nacional Dos Lençóis Maranhenses will have you questioning whether you're dreaming or awake. Miles of tall, undulating white sand dunes dotted with crystal clear pools of filtered water characterize this spectacular landscape which can either by traversed by off-road vehicle or by foot. The latter probably affording you more opportunities to scamper up and down the dunes and dive into refreshingly cool pools of emerald green water over and over until you just can't!
The most convenient access to the park is from the small town of Barreirinhas which takes around four hours to get to from the São Luís International Airport.
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Designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1991, this picturesque Bolivian city is beloved for its friendly locals, mild, warm climate and beautiful colonial architecture. Here you can trek through scenic mountains, shop at bustling local markets, visit the world's largest site of dinosaur tracks, or just take it easy and enjoy the idyllic beauty of this remarkable city.
Whether you're looking to explore some beautiful old cities and ruins, pass time quietly in a small, picturesque mountain town or travel to some of the most unforgettable natural landscapes in the world, South America is the place to go. Just be warned, after all those incredible adventures awaiting you, you might not want to go back home.