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two people posing on salt flats during sunset colours and water reflection in Bolivia

The 15 Most Beautiful Places In South America

It was very hard for us to choose the 15 most beautiful places in South America. We spent 5 months traveling around South America and we visited all together 8 countries: Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil.

And let me tell you, South America has it all. From turquoise waters of the Caribbean sea, beautiful lagoons sitting in mountain valleys, endless hiking with breathtaking views, chaotic big cities to ancient Inca towns to the once-forgotten Machu Picchu.

There is no doubt that one can spend endless years wandering around South America. Traveling in South America can be sometimes challenging, but also rewarding. So yes, South America has it all. We have never been to a continent with so much diversity of natural wonders.

Here are our unforgettable places which give us goosebumps every time we think about them. I hope you like the following 15 most beautiful places in South America.

guide to the most beautiful places in South America

SAN ANDRES ISLAND, COLOMBIA

The first place which we chose is a Caribbean island called San Andres. It belongs to one of the most beautiful places in South America. For us, as beach-addicts, this place was the jackpot. The island blew our minds away with its endless beauty. San Andres is a true paradise with water that has many different shades of blue and turquoise, that you get confused when you try to count the shades. In fact, the waters around this island have 12 shades of blue. Can you see a few of them in the background? While Nicaragua is much closer to San Anders it is part of Colombia. 

READ MORE: FULL GUIDE TO ON SAN ANDRES ISLAND AND HOW TO SEE SAN ANDRES ON A BUDGET

two people holding hands on white sand beach with perfect azure water on San Andres which is one of the most beautiful places in South America
San Andres, Colombia

RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL

Rio de Janeiro was always our dream to see. There is something about this place. Rio is beautiful and the best way to enjoy it is definitely from above. I knew the view will be gorgeous but like this? Wow! What do you think? Isnโ€™t this view just stunning? 

view on Rio de Janeiro, Brazil during sun rise
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

7 HIDDEN LAGOONS, CHILE

This is one of the most incredible places we have seen in Chile. These 7 hidden lagoons (also called Lagunas Escondidas or Lagunas Baltinache) were high on our bucket list and we had to see them. Surrounded by salt, in the middle of the Atacama desert, this place is out of this world. As the title says, there are in total 7 of them, but you can only float in 2 of them. What do I mean by floating? The water is so rich with salt that you won’t need to swim at all. But be warned, the water is ice cold. While we were there not many tours went here so you might be lucky and only share this beautiful place with a few people. The “street” going there is quite rough so be careful if you decide to take a rental car out there.

a view on a small lake with a blue water and white salt around
7 Hidden Lagoons, Chile

TRAVELING TO SOUTH AMERICA? READ ALL ABOUT OUR SAFETY TIPS WE RECOMMEND YOU TO FOLLOW.

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SUNRISE AND SUNSET IN SALAR DE UYUNI, BOLIVIA

We have seen many sunrises and sunsets during our year of traveling. But a sunrise like this, you won’t see every day. The sky during sunrise was literally, on fire! The reflection made our photo session even more exciting and it is definitely one of the most amazing experiences in Bolivia. By the way, the tour guides are absolute masters in taking pictures of reflections and time-lapse videos. Salar de Uyuni definitely belongs to one of the most beautiful places in South America.

READ MORE: SALAR DE UYUNI: PERFECT DAY TRIP TO SALT FLATS IN BOLIVIA

two people sitting on the chairs and watching sunrise with orange colours and mountains in the background at salt flats in Bolivia
Sunrise at Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia
two people posing on salt flats during sunset colours and water reflection in Bolivia
Sunset at Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

READ MORE: Perfect 4 weeks itinerary in Peru.

HUACACHINA OASIS, PERU

I have never been to an oasis before so I was looking forward to spend my birthday at one: Huacachina in Peru. Itโ€™s a small place surrounded by sand dunes in the middle of nowhere but super interesting to see.

Huacachina itself is not the greatest place to stay as it lacks good places to sleep and eat. But the desert, dunes and this little oasis not surrounded by buildings absolutely surprised and left us speechless. I definitely don’t regret spending my 30th birthday there ๐Ÿ™‚

We wrote a full guide on THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN HUACACHINA, so make sure to check it out. If you are already in the area of Huacachina, in 2.5 hours you can get to Nazca lines. Have a look at this post, on HOW TO BOOK A RELIABLE FLIGHT OVER NAZCA LINES.

a couple hugging each other in the middl of the desert and sand with an oasis in the background
Huacachina, Peru

LAGUNA PARON, PERU

Laguna Paron. One of the most beautiful lagoons we have ever seen. This lagoon is famous for its Caribbean blue waters surrounded by white rocky mountains. We couldn’t believe that such a place even exists. In order to get to the top, you need to hike to around 4.200 m.s.n.m. I am not going to lie, it wasn’t an easy hike, especially since you will have to battle with altitude sickness and steep rocky paths. But it’s absolutely worth it!

Not every tour operator does the trip to the top so make sure to read our article about this amazing place to find out more: PERFECT DAY TRIP TO LAGUNA PARON

a woman in white poncho standing in front of the blue lake and mountains
Laguna Paron, Peru

If you are already in Huaraz, there is another beautiful hike that you can do. Have a look at how to hike to Laguna 69.

laguna 69 near Huaraz in Peru

IGUAZU FALLS, ARGENTINA

We had to mention the incredible Iguazu Falls as one of the most beautiful places in South America. The waterfalls of the Iguazu River are located on the border of Argentina and Brazil. Together they create the largest waterfall system in the world. People argue which is the better view to see the falls. Argentinian side or Brazilian? To be honest, they are both beautiful. If you decide to visit the falls, just make sure to avoid any kind of holiday. We visited during the winter holidays and it was awful, we couldn’t even walk. That wasn’t the fault of the fall, of course, just a little advice to make your time more enjoyable.

a view on the big waterfall, palm trees, rainbow and green trees
Iguazu Falls, Argentina

READ MORE: THE BEST THINGS TO DO IN IGUAZU FALLS


SALINERAS DE MARAS, PERU

Peru was definitely one of the countries with so many extraordinary places. Like Salineras de Maras. Around 3.000 thousand small squares of salt fill the valley for as far as the eye can see. This place is incredibly impressive as it has been around since before the famous Incas.

Wonder how the saltwater gets there at 3.380 meters above sea level?

The reason is a so-called hypersaline underground spring, which emerged 110 million years ago during the formation of the Andes.

Also, Salineras de Maras is not owned by only one person or organization but by the 300 local families. We wrote an article about our 4 weeks in Peru with all our highlights.

READ MORE HERE: SALINERAS DE MARAS – A PERFECT DAY TRIP FROM CUSCO

a woman in a blue dress standing in front of the pink salt mines in Salinas de Maras in Peru
Salinas de Maras, Peru

ATACAMA DESERT, CHILE

Harsh conditions, strong and cold wind hitting our faces. I was wearing all my warm clothes. It was absolutely freezing, but when you see this kind of beauty, you will forget about everything. Trust me, I did, and seeing this pastel scenery will take your breath away. The Atacama Desert you are absolutely beautiful!

a woman in a green jacket standing in front of  the purple mountains and blue lake in Atacama which is one of the most beautiful places in South America
Atacama Desert, Chile

QUILOTOA VOLCANO, ECUADOR

Quilotoa volcano is a small 3 km wide caldera and can be easily reached from the capital of Ecuador, Quito. This water-filled caldera is the most western volcano in the Ecuadorian Andes. We were a bit unlucky as the weather wasn’t that great. The color of the water is changing dramatically with sunlight. You can walk down and enjoy the beautiful scenery overlooking Quilotoa lagoon. Going back up can be difficult due to the altitude, so make sure to drink some coca tea before.

two people, men and woman standing in front of the blue lake wearing traditional Peruvian costumes
Quilotoa Lake, Ecuador

READ MORE: How to see Quilotoa laguna on a day trip from Quito


MACHU PICCHU

We, of course, included Machu Picchu into our Peru itinerary as everyone else traveling to Peru.

Once a forgotten town of glorious Incas often referred to as the Lost City of the Incas. Machu Picchu was built in the 15th century and probably constructed by the famous Inca emperor Pachacuti. It is still a myth why the Incas abandoned this beautiful place even before the Spanish arrived. I recommend you to take a guided tour around Machu Picchu to learn about interesting facts.

We did a 4 days jungle trail from Cusco to Aguas Calientes in order to get to Machu Picchu. We had so much fun and every day we had a different program. All together, we did downhill biking, rafting, zip-lining, walking on the ancient Inca path, taking a bath at a hot spring under the stars, until we finally reached the breathtaking Machu Picchu.

READ MORE: HOW TO SPEND 4 WEEKS IN PERU

two people sitting on the green grass in front of the Machu Picchu mountain
Machu Picchu, Peru

RAINBOW MOUNTAIN, PERU

Rainbow Mountain is known as VinicuncaMontana de Siete Colores (Mountain of 7 colors) or simply Montana de Colores (Colorful mountain) is an incredible place. We are not experienced hikers, but hiking to these places is a must. To get to the peak of Rainbow Mountain isn’t very easy though. The altitude will make you walk like a turtle and breathe like an elephant. I am so happy that I took a horse to get there. I know I wouldn’t be able to get there. Where exactly? To be precise, to 5.200 meters above sea level. Fun fact: Mountain Everest base camp is located at 5365 meters above sea level.

What makes Rainbow Mountain so special are the colorful layers. In fact, 7 different sedimentary mineral layers have been exposed by erosion creating different types of colors.

Planning a trip to Rainbow Moutain? Read our full guide here: Vinicunca Rainbow Mountain Peru: All you need to know before your hike

a woman standing on the red hill with a green hat in Rainbow mountain which is one of the most beautiful places in South America
Rainbow Mountain, Peru

CARTAGENA, COLOMBIA

Choosing Cartagena as one of the most beautiful places in South America was very easy. Cartagena absolutely stole my heart. This beautiful Caribbean town has such a nice vibe, many beautiful and colorful houses and local women selling fruits everywhere. That is why I wrote a full guide on the best photo spots in Cartagena. Cartegena also reminded me of another colorful town Guatape which is a perfect day trip from Medellin.

South America has many colorful cities, but none of them can compete with the beauty of Cartagena, so make sure to add Cartagena into your Colombian itinerary. The elegance dancing in the street surrounded by vivid colors and the smell of flowers popping out from sweet balconies. Just beautiful. I definitely would like to visit again.

a colorful street in Cartagena, Colombia
Beautiful streets in Cartagena, Colombia

READ MORE: THE BEST PHOTO SPOTS IN CARTAGENA WITH BEST THINGS TO DO


PLAYA LOS FRAILES, ECUADOR

Many people go to Ecuador and straight to visit the Galapagos Islands. But exploring the coast of Ecuador is not for nothing and we highly recommend you to visit it. Especially, one of the most beautiful beaches in Ecuador: Playa Los Frailes is a very peaceful place and without many tourists, so you will have this piece of paradise mostly for yourself.

two people kissing in the beach surrounded by rocks in Ecuador
Playa Los Frailes, Ecuador

We also loved a small beach town called Montanita also located on the pacific coast of Ecuador. It is a very nice town, with great beach vibes and plenty of things to do. And from Montanita you can also visit Isla de la Plata also known as “poor men’s Galapagos”.

colourful beach umbrellas and two people laying on Montanita beach in Ecuador

INCAHUASI ISLAND, BOLIVIA

What do you see in the background? Is it water, snow or salt? This island in the middle of Uyuni is called Incahuasi or Inkawasi. So yes! Salt everywhere. Incahuasi is located in the middle of the largest salt flats in the world. And if you do a day tour to Salar de Uyuni, you will stop here as well. Some people also call it, the cactus island as there are gigantic cacti everywhere. This island was created around 40.000 years ago and once it was surrounded by water.

a view on cactuses and a white lake in Incahuasi Island, Bolivia which was the most beautiful place in South America
Incahuasi Island, Bolivia

TAYRONA NATIONAL PARK, COLOMBIA

What is the last place on our list of the most beautiful places in South America? We choose a national park called Tayrona located on the west coast of Colombia. After coming down from the impressive Cocora Valley in Salento, we are really glad that we visited Tayrona National Park during our trip to Colombia.

We hiked for about 4 hours to get to the final beach called Cabo San Juan del Guia, which you can see on the photo. It is a really beautiful and easy hike, where you walk through the jungle and where you also come across other beaches. 
This beach is also a special place as itโ€™s water has small gold pieces (not real gold but so-called foolโ€™s gold) so when you get out you will sparkle. Many people also sleep in the park as there are modest accommodation facilities where you can sleep in a hammock or in an overpriced hotel. 

If it’s your first time in Colombia, check our 22 tips to know before you travel to Colombia

an arial view on the beach, blue water in Tyrona national park
Tayrona National Park, Colombia

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVORITE OR DREAM PLACES TO SEE IN SOUTH AMERICA? LET US KNOW IN THE COMMENTS.

Do you wonder how do we plan your trips? Make sure to read our 20 easy steps on how to plan a perfect travel itinerary

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About the author
Since I was little I always wanted to see the world. Travel to new places, get to know new cultures, see how other people live. I love beaches and I love discovering tropical destinations. That is why, together with my partner Nico, we created this blog to share with you the most beautiful beaches and stunning holiday destinations which we visited during our travels.

19 Comments

  1. Wow, your photography is mind-blowingly awesome! I’m actually not much of a beach person, but I couldn’t resist this post because of the stunning pictures ๐Ÿ™‚ I had no idea the Iguazu Falls had so many different water streams.

    1. Thank you Arunima, you are being so kind. I am so happy that you enjoyed our photos. I am sure yours are as beautiful as ours ๐Ÿ˜‰

  2. A great list of stunning locations throughout South America. You’ve made it too hard to choose between them – but I think I’m putting 7 Hidden Lagoons in Chile and Laguna Paron in Peru on my bucket list!

    1. Hello Marie, thank you so much and I am so happy that I could inspire you to put these two beautiful destinations in your bucket list. Enjoy visiting them ๐Ÿ™‚

  3. Wow! So many amazing places I have not yet explored. Thanks for sharing the list. Iโ€™ll save it for reference for when Iโ€™m heading to South America.
    I love macchu picchu… you reminded me of our little adventure with low oxygen and amazing sights. We loved it!

    1. Hello Jyoti, thank you for your lovely comment. Machu Picchu was one of the most amazing places we have seen. I have to say that I had some problems in Cusco and needed to drink a lot of coca tea ๐Ÿ˜€

  4. This is such a comprehensive post and all the beautiful pictures make it really difficult to choose which one is the most beautiful place!

  5. Ahh I am planning teach in Chile next year and hope to travel around South America. Your list includes some spots I was aware of, others I was not. Thank you for some serious wanderlust/ inspiration today!!

  6. Your photos are gorgeous, makes me want to go back to South America. There are a lot of places on this list I still need to go. I hadn’t even heard of those lagoons in Chile

  7. Hey,

    It looks absolutely amazing. My girlfriend and myself are planning something similar for 5 months in 2020 but I am struggling to put together a route with the seasons. We plan on starting the start of August and end up finishing at the middle of December. Any tips would be greatly appreciated for routes or start end points.

    Thanks you,
    James

    1. Hello James,
      how exciting, you will have a great time for sure. We started in Colombia and made our way down.In South America we mostly travelled by bus which is the cheapest option and it gives you a lot of opportunities to see many places and cities. After Colombia we went with a bus to Ecuador, then Peru, Bolivia. In Colombia, Peru, Bolivia we spent around 1 month. We traveled from March till July, which is winter time in South America, that means the temperature are cooler, but mostly sunny during the day and no rain. You will be traveling in summer, that means it might be often super hot, some places might be overcrowded with tourists and you might have some rain. That is why we choose winter time to avoid all of it.
      We flew to Buenos Aires, took a ferry to Urugay from BA. Then we flew to Iguazu from BA. We also managed to see Rio. It took us 5 months for all of it. If you like, text us on Instagram (mybeach_addiction) and we can talk more in details for sure. It’s easier to communicate there, and again, ask us anything ๐Ÿ™‚

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