10 of The Best Cities To Visit In South America
A vast and colorful continent, South America has a lot to offer to travelers and can seem quite daunting to those planning a trip to the continent. However, we aim to restore some of that confidence by listing just a few of the cities that we reckon are well worth a visit if you're down that way.
The varied cultures and coastlines all add up to some amazing experiences so here are just 10 of the best South American Cities to visit.
1. Cartagena - Colombia
Colombia is an awe-inspiring country and does get a few visitors but it is often overlooked compared to other South American countries as people often opt for places such as Brazil, Argentina, and Chile. If they do head to Colombia, they are more likely to find themselves to the wonderfully cosmopolitan capital of Bogota.
That is all well and good but it means places like Cartagena get missed out which is a real shame because it is a city that still sees horses and carts trotting through its cobble-stoned streets and it placed right on the beautiful Carribean coast. With regional music and the mouth-watering smells of local cuisine filling every street corner, it has a real character to it.
2. Rio de Janeiro - Brazil
Known for the color and sound of its legendary carnival, in 2010, the local government decided they wanted to make this color a permanent aspect of the city and set about working with Dutch artists Haas & Hahn to make the slums and favelas of Rio a giant canvas for street art with splashes of vibrant color and pattern.
Multi-colored houses with rainbow facades now cover the city.
3. Buenos Aires - Argentina
The barrio of La Boca is just one reason you should discover what this city has to offer to walkers as it has vibrantly painted houses decorated with the work of local artists on the street of Caminito that was itself declared an open-air museum in 1959. Other, more upscale, districts are filled with grand, old-Europe style architecture.
Take a walk around the port or across the iconic Puente de la Mujer rotating footbridge, designed to represent two people dancing the tango.
4. Valparaiso - Chile
A port city that has long been considered a cultural hub of the South American country, its many residences and businesses are often bedecked in bright colors as an outpouring of creativity and expressionism from those that live and work in the stunning settlement. IF a visitor were to head to the censores along the funiculars that provide a bird-eye view of the place, they'd be able to get a fantastic sense of the waves of color.
Not just blocks of bright shades, though, there are also many bohemian murals and pieces of street art that draw the eye.
5. Cusco, Peru
High in the Andean Mountains, Cusco sits as a monument to the ingenuity of ancient peoples. The former capital of the Incan empire, it is said to be built in the shape of a puma, an animal the Incans revered. In a time of limited technology, it became renowned for its advanced urban planning and financial systems that saw taxation put into place to pay for the city's upkeep. It became a center for mathematics and astronomy and was linked to Machu Picchu and other important centers of the Incan empire.
Outside of the town center, there are many links to this rich history including the walled settlement of Saksaywaman. What is unique about its construction is that the walls are made of perfectly carved rocks that slot together without the use of mortar. How such an ancient civilization managed to achieve such a high-level of construction remains up for debate, especially since it was so good that the walls still stand today, over 1000 years after they were put up.
6. Lake Titicaca - Peru/Bolivia
Split between Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is a magnificent expanse of water on the Andean border that is, by volume of water and by surface area, the largest lake in South America. Head to the town of Puno in Peru and you can get a boat out to the jaw-dropping reed islands on the lake where various indigenous people cultivate the land and make a living from the lake.
The Isla del Sol on the Bolivian side is one of largest islands of the lake with stunning 15th-century ruins from the Incan empire and is accessible by boat from Copacabana.
7. Quito - Ecuador
The capital of Ecuador, Quito is high in the Andean mountains sitting at 9,350 feet altitude. Once an ancient Incan city it now has architecture and churches dating right back to the 16th-century with an ornate blend of native Ecuadorian, European and Moorish styles all coming together in one unique cultural mishmash.
Like any capital city, it has a range of great restaurants and shopping centers as well as amazing historical sites.
8. La Paz - Bolivia
Bolivia's capital is another high sitting city at 10,000 feet but should you experience any altitude sickness, head to any cafe or street corner where they are serving the ever popular cocoa leaf tea which will help alleviate the problem and whilst there why not check out the amazing street food on offer?
The hustle and bustle of the markets in amongst the history of the city make for a roaring city full of life and wonder.
9. Asuncion - Paraguay
Nicknamed the ‘Mother of Cities,’ Paraguay's capital was once seen as the gateway to South America by any adventurers and explorers but the small nation is now often glossed over for the larger ones in the region which is a real shame because sites such as the National Cathedral and Municipal Museum are both majestic and important.
With an amazing restaurant scene that is constantly expanding, take a stroll through the markets and plazas to discover the very best of the city.
10. Fortaleza - Brazil
Few even think of Brazil's 5th largest city when they consider touring the nation but here is where you can delve deeper into the Brazilian culture rather than just focus on the superficial. For example, move away from the samba and learn to dance forro, a traditional Brazilian dance, and music that shows how Brazilians make even an accordion sound as exciting as a samba song.
With a beautiful beach and plenty of nightlife options, this is another city that embodies Brazil's party spirit but just in a completely different manner.