South America is a fascinating continent with varied landscapes, amazing animals and incredible scenery. Here are 20 must-see landmarks in South America that you won’t want to miss.
Looking for the best countries to visit in South America? Tick these amazing monuments and famous landmarks off your bucket list while you whip around the region.
- 20 Landmarks in South America For Your Bucket List
- 1- Argentina – Perito Moreno Glacier
- 2- Argentina – Iguazú Falls
- 3- Bolivia – Salar de Uyuni
- 4- Brazil – Sugarloaf Mountain
- 5- Chile – Easter Island
- 6- Chile – Torres del Paine
- 7- Chile – Atacama Desert
- 8- Colombia – Cartagena de Indias
- 9- Colombia – Las Lajas Sanctuary
- 10- Ecuador – Galápagos Islands
- 11- Falkland Islands – Volunteer Point
- 12- French Guiana – Salvation Islands
- 13- Guyana – Kaieteur National Park
- 14- Paraguay – La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná
- 15- Peru – Machu Picchu
- 16- Peru – Inca Trail
- 17- Suriname – Fort Zeelandia
- 18- Suriname – Galibi
- 19- Uruguay – Artigas Mines
- 20- Venezuela – Angel Falls
20 Landmarks in South America For Your Bucket List
1- Argentina – Perito Moreno Glacier
A world away from Argentina’s capital, Buenos Aires, is the stunningly beautiful Los Glaciares National Park.
Towering above the Los Glaciares National Park is the Perito Moreno Glacier.
Named after a 19th-century explorer, the glacier covers approximately 121 square miles and was made a UNESCO World Heritage site in 1981.
Visiting the glacier is one of the top things to do in Patagonia.
The park offers a number of viewing platforms where visitors can take in the wonder of this glacier at a safe distance.
Due to global warming, it is possible to witness chunks of ice falling from the glacier into the waters below.
2- Argentina – Iguazú Falls
Bordering both Argentina and Brazil is Iguazú Falls, which is a stunning natural landmark that impresses most who visit.
Accessing the falls from Argentina can be made through the Puerto Iguazu National Park.
The national park is home to a wide range of plant and animal life such as coatis and toucans.
There are several hiking trails to choose from, which lead to the falls following a walkthrough lush jungle.
The falls were first opened as a tourist attraction in 1901, which took visitors through the jungle on uneven and difficult to walk on tracks.
Today, visitors can also access the falls through regular boat trips.
3- Bolivia – Salar de Uyuni
Perhaps the most extreme and unique landscape in Bolivia is the Salar de Uyuni, the salt flats.
The flats are made up of more than 11,600 square km (4050 square miles) of salt left behind from evaporated prehistoric lakes.
Visits to the salt flats often also include trips to the surrounding Altiplano region in which the flats are located.
The flats are 12000 feet above sea level and are boarded by mountains.
Several times a year, nearby lakes overflow and the water pools in thin layers on top of the salt flats, casting incredible reflective views of the sky over the surface.
4- Brazil – Sugarloaf Mountain
High above Rio de Janeiro stands Sugarloaf Mountain and visiting the mountain is one of the top things to do in Brazil.
With views from the top over Mount Corcovado and Christ the Redeemer, Sugarloaf Mountain stands out against the skyline and is one of the most famous landmarks of Brazil.
Cable cars run throughout the day to the top of the mountain, however many good hiking trails are also available.
The best times to visit Sugarloaf Mountain for the most spectacular views over the city and its incredible location are early mornings, to avoid the crowds and heat later in the day.
It’s also the best time to enjoy the sunset where the scenery completely changes in the colourful evening light.
5- Chile – Easter Island
Easter Island or Rapa Nui is a mysterious island in the Pacific Ocean most famous for the giant moai statues.
Carved out of stone are head and torso figures with an average height of four metres (13 feet).
It is unclear as to why the people of the island constructed the monuments, however, archeologists believe that they were created as a way for the Rapa Nui people to remember and honour their ancestors.
Whilst the island is no longer populated, visitors can explore the island’s quarries from which the stone was found and view around 400 statues in various stages of completion.
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6- Chile – Torres del Paine
Torres del Paine is a breathtaking national park filled with every kind of landscape Chile can offer; vast glaciers, towering mountains, deep forests and still blue lakes.
Hikers can enjoy numerous trails through this changing landscape, however, there are many more ways to explore.
The park offers excursions on horseback, kayak and bicycle, all of which are lead by a local guide.
Visit the Grey Glacier, which sadly is thinning due to global warming, and head to Mirador Torres to see the towering three peaks over the crystal clear blue waters.
Camping is available around the parks and is recommended for those seeking the most spectacular scenery, and is a hotspot for stargazers.
It’s a world away from Chile’s cool capital, where you’ll love the city things to do in Santiago.
7- Chile – Atacama Desert
The Atacama Desert is a drastically varying landscape.
From snowcapped mountains and smoking volcanoes to desert flats and rocky surfaces reminiscent of landscapes on the moon, the Atacama Desert spans 41000 square miles.
The desert rarely sees rainfall, but despite its seemingly barren nature, the desert is home to around one million people who mostly populate the coastal edges of the desert.
The Atacama is a perfect place for stargazers and photographers to visit due to the high altitude and dry weather offering astronomers unparalleled glimpses into the skies.
8- Colombia – Cartagena de Indias
Nestled inside centuries-old colonial stone walls lies the Colombian city of Cartagena.
The old town is filled with cobbled streets, churches, tree-filled plazas and beautiful colourful buildings.
Located on the shores of the Caribbean Sea, the city offers visitors the chance to relax on its sandy beaches after a day of exploring the maze of cobbled streets.
Explore the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, a 17th-century castle, or walk in the footsteps of Gabriel García Márquez, Colombia’s Nobel Prize in Literature winner from 1982, and see the scenery that inspired her writing.
9- Colombia – Las Lajas Sanctuary
On the border between Colombia and Ecuador, Las Lajas Sanctuary crosses a forested gorge creating a visual spectacle deep within the surrounding jungle.
It is believed that during the 18th century an Amerindian woman and her daughter were caught in a storm and sheltered in the gorge.
The Virgin Mary appeared to them and cured the daughter who was both mute and deaf.
This miracle amongst others is attributed to the creation of the sanctuary.
The sanctuary was designed in a Neo-Gothic style and sits 150 feet above the river below.
The surrounding landscape of waterfalls, jungle and cliffs make for an intriguing and impressive visit.
10- Ecuador – Galápagos Islands
Named after the tortoises found on the islands, the Galápagos Islands are a UNESCO World Heritage site.
Located 1000km from mainland Ecuador, the Galápagos has evolved with little influence from the outside world and therefore has some of the most unique wildlife in the world living there.
The islands are made up of 13 large and six small islands, and an additional 42 islets.
The region is actively volcanic and getting up close to an array of Galapagos Islands animals is an experience you won’t forget.
As the Galápagos Islands form a fragile ecosystem, visits are guided.
Tourists are able to take guided tours to popular sites where the islands 28 unique species of birds nest, such as the Galápagos penguin and waved albatross, as well as being able to see the huge Galápagos tortoises up close.
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11- Falkland Islands – Volunteer Point
The Falkland Islands, a British Overseas territory, is an archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.
The islands remote nature allows for some unique wildlife to be found.
At Volunteer Point, around 1200 breeding pairs of king penguins can be found.
For keen wildlife photographers and bird watchers, Volunteer Point offers a rare glimpse into the native wildlife in this region.
Tours can be arranged, which will take visitors out to the Point with field experts who can inform visitors on the wildlife in the area.
12- French Guiana – Salvation Islands
What was once the site of exile for French prisoners during the time of Emperor Napoleon III, the group of three tiny islands collectively known as Salvation Islands are now a beauty spot filled with coconut palms and sandy beaches.
The buildings previously used to house inmates have now been transformed into a restaurant and guesthouse for visitors to enjoy in luxurious surroundings.
The only way to reach the islands is by boat, which makes for a sightseeing tour in itself.
The islands are also popular with deep-sea fishermen who catch mackerel and swordfish just off the island’s coasts.
13- Guyana – Kaieteur National Park
Home to a small group of Amerindians, Kaiteur National Park is a must-visit location when in Guyana.
The park is filled with dense rainforest, powerful rivers and a vast savanna.
The highlight and biggest draw to the park is its waterfall; Kaieteur Falls.
Due to its remote location, visits to the falls are often done in small groups, allowing spectators to view the power of the falls away from crowds of tourists usually found at other waterfalls around the world.
The falls are roughly four times taller than Niagra falls, and they have carved a crater into the jungle below with their force.
14- Paraguay – La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná
The Jesuit Missions of La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná were built in Paraguay during the 17th and 18th centuries.
When the Jesuits arrived in Paraguay, despite their Christian religion, they wanted to retain many indigenous traditions and so incorporated them into their daily life.
This included the cultivation of Yerba mate.
Today, the red stone buildings of the Mission are all but ruins, however, they are open for visitors to explore.
The most complete building of the Missions is La Santísima Trinidad de Paraná and features a large church topped with a dome and intricately decorated facades.
15- Peru – Machu Picchu
Deep within the Andes Mountains lies Machu Picchu, an impressive symbol of the Incan Empire.
Named as one of the New Seven Wonders of the World in 2007, this archeological site draws thousands of visitors each year.
The site itself consists of the ruins of the city and its religious buildings which are dotted around the hillside.
As the site is actively excavated, the best way to learn about the site is at the little-visited Museo de Sitio Manuel Chávez Ballón, which is located a short walk from the citadel.
The site also offers many secret and infrequently visited areas, such as the Temple of The Moon, a shrine carved into the walls of a cave.
16- Peru – Inca Trail
The Inca Trail is an awe-inspiring hiking route in the Andes that takes hikers through the Sacred Valley to Machu Picchu.
The trail itself takes around four days to walk and is carried out in small groups with dedicated guides.
If you’re keen on hiking, doing the Inca Trail is one of the top things to do in Peru.
The trail is worth the time and preparation however, as it leads hikers to incredible natural sites such as Lake Humantay, the stone fortress of Kuélap, and of course Machu Picchu itself.
17- Suriname – Fort Zeelandia
Fort Zeelandia is a well preserved 18th-century fort built by Dutch colonisers.
The fort was built with terracotta coloured bricks and features green shutters and red roof tiles.
Inside the fort is the Suriname Museum which features exhibitions detailing the indigenous history of the country, as well as the colonial period that followed.
The fort sits on the Suriname River, and the onsite restaurant has outdoor seating offering visitors beautiful views over the river.
18- Suriname – Galibi
The small village of Galibi on the north-east coast of Suriname is a popular spot for visitors to relax on white sandy beaches in stunning tropical surroundings.
The biggest draw to the area is for the turtles.
Each year turtles arrive at the beaches here and burry hundreds of eggs in the sand.
The turtles will then break free of their shells and make their way back across the sand to the sea to start their lives.
Galibi also offers visitors a chance to learn about the culture of the indigenous Amerindians who live in the area.
19- Uruguay – Artigas Mines
In the quarries of El Catalan, geodes of amethysts and agates are extracted.
The Mining Safari to the Artigas Mines offers visitors a tour through the purple coloured caverns and even equips them with tools and safety training for those who wish to extract their own gemstone.
The geodes mined here vary in size, from small take-home pieces to huge amethyst filled rocks destined to be shipped all over the world.
The tours ran from the mines take visitors through scenic jungle and fields on approach for the mine and offers stops along the way to view the local flora and fauna, as well as sampling traditional local foods.
20- Venezuela – Angel Falls
The highest waterfall in the world, Angel Falls is located within the dense jungles of Canaima National Park.
Named after American adventurer James Angel, who crash-landed his aeroplane near the falls in 1937, the falls are only visible from the air due to their remote location.
It is impossible to reach the falls overland due to a lack of walkable routes and dangerous terrain.
Flights, however, give views over the jungles, ancient mountains, and of course the crashing waters of Angel Falls.