South America is a colossal continent of Latin-flavoured adventure that boasts a vast territory of ancient archaeological sites, bewildering tropical jungles, mighty peaks, and vibrant cultures.
There are so many cities that emanate with eclectic environmental and cultural magnificence. These are filled with deep traditions and historic civilizations that welcome any adventure traveller. This makes finding the best city difficult when you’re looking for the perfect South American destination!
Here’s our pick of the very best cities in South America that are guaranteed not to disappoint. Each city offers something unique and memorable with their lakes and smoky volcanoes, cascading waterfalls and kind people with generous hospitality that will make any visitor want to stay forever!
Peru is one of South America’s best-kept secrets, filled with fascinating history, architecture and archaeology waiting to be discovered! Undoubtedly one of the best South American countries to visit, it houses the city of Lima, a phenomenal destination in itself.
Lima is brimming with enticing sights, sounds, and tastes. With incredible architecture and ancient archaeological sites dating back to the Spanish conquistadors, it’s a place that attracts people from all over the world to experience its insightful history and many tasteful culinary experiences.
Spend your time in this historical city touring the active archaeological sites at Huaca Pucllana and admiring the Baroque architecture around the historic centre of Lima. The city was added to the UNESCO Heritage List in 1991.
Did you know that Lima is the second-largest desert capital in the world after Cairo in Egypt, and is the fifth-largest city in South America? This historically significant city in Peru is definitely one of the most fascinating places to visit in South America.
No doubt you’ve heard about this sacred citadel before. It’s probably one of the most famous archaeological places in South America! Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century and later abandoned, leaving a mysterious Incan citadel with huge stone walls and green peaks.
The gateway to this sacred valley is through the city of Cusco, which was once the capital of the Incan empire. Today it is filled with historical remains and colonial architecture with incredible churches and museums.
Machu Picchu is found 8,000 feet above sea level within a tropical Peruvian rainforest. This can only be reached by hiking the 27-mile Inca Trail. From here you can admire the fascinating UNESCO World Heritage site from its high-altitude villages and magical historic ruins!
Rio is one of the best cities in South America, touching the hearts of anyone who visits its enchanting peaks and popular beaches! The dynamic landscape of marvellous city meeting the granite mountains that stand over the sea is a sight to see on its own!
One of the best things to do while in Rio is to head up one of the trails to experience this magical city from above, and make your way to the peak of Mount Corcovado where the impressive Christ the Redeemer stands above the city.
Rio is also the world’s largest urban forest! It contains some of the most magnificent mountains and peaks in the world. It is also a hub of activity where you can enjoy the colourful neighbourhoods below the mountains.
Iguazu Falls are undoubtedly one of the most spectacular treasures of the natural world and were also declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1984.
Its cascading waterfall is accurately translated as “big water” in the indigenous Guarani language. It’s one of the new seven wonders of nature and can be viewed from either Brazil or Argentina.
Be sure to add these incredible falls that make up the largest waterfall system in the world to your bucket list of best South American destinations!
This Argentine gem is one of the best places to travel in South America. Particularly if you are a lover of great wine, tango, and fabulous food. It’s also filled with world-class museums and unparalleled cultural opportunities.
It’s easy to spend weeks in this great city of South America, connecting with the deep history of the porteño culture and visiting world-class museums, art galleries, theatres, and cultural centres.
Buenos Aires is Argentina’s capital city and a hub that is teeming with culture. Explore the colourful Palermo neighbourhoods, check out the hauntingly beautiful cemetery and come alive with their famous tango dances and enormous restaurant scene! Just like it takes two to tango, we believe a vacation in Buenos Aires is simply #bettertogether.
Bogota is the cultural centre and capital of Colombia. It has seen a huge revival in tourism in recent years, and for good reason. The city offers interesting architecture all around and buildings lined with charming cobblestone streets.
Be sure to check out the incredible art at Botero Museum and the priceless treasures at the Gold Museum. For nature lovers, the Bogotá Botanical Garden hosts an array of beautiful flora to explore, and the Monserrate hill is a great climb with a church at its peak.
Colombia is often voted as one of the best countries in South America, and Cartegena is another of its gems. This welcoming city offers mind-blowing colonial architecture and vibrant energy with a Caribbean-inspired atmosphere.
Spend your time exploring the colourful streets while admiring the intricate architecture all around. Amidst with old churches and castles, you can’t go wrong with a visit to this charming city.
Did you know that Cartegena was one of the biggest slave ports in the Spanish colony, which is what makes it so rich in history and full of diverse culture!
Santiago is the Chilean capital and largest city. It has undergone great changes from its neoclassical core. Surrounded by the snow-capped Andes mountains, Santiago is home to a fascinating mix of old Spanish architecture and intermingling European influences.
Enjoy this vibrant city by walking the streets and barrios (neighbourhoods). Discover interesting neoclassical monuments like the 1808 Palacio de la Real Audiencia which houses the National History Museum, and the beautiful 18th-century Metropolitan Cathedral.
Panama City is the capital of Panama. It’s a modern city framed by the Pacific Ocean and surrounded by the man-made Panama Canal, which plays an essential role in global shipping routes.
While not technically found in South America, it’s often voted as one of the best countries to visit in Central or Latin America and offers tourists an informative and historic destination overlooking ships traversing the canal in the important link between the Atlantic and the Pacific ocean.
Visit the historic centre, Casco Viejo, to marvel at the colonial-era landmarks along the cobblestoned lanes, like the neoclassical Palacio Presidencial.
You’ll also find the restored 20th-century Teatro Nacional de Panamá Viejo here, which is the oldest European settlement in the Americas.
It’s so hard to decide on the best country to visit in South America, as there are so many amazing cities to visit with extensive cultural history and fascinating ancient civilizations and natural wonders.
These incredible destinations are some of the best this vast Latin continent has to offer, and have multiple drawing factors for any adventurous traveller.
From the wild Amazon to the Incan remains to Cartegena’s Caribbean coast, the diverse countries of South America are filled with incredible cities waiting to be discovered!