ADD TO LISTFrom the world’s biggest rainforest jungle to piercing blue skies and beautiful snowcapped mountains, from bustling cities and festive carnivals to distinctive food, music, and dance, South America makes its personality abundantly clear.
Head to Peru to hike the Inca Trail, with the reward of experiencing the mystic and magical Machu Picchu at then end. See other attractions in Peru or go onward to Bolivia, a country with the highest capital and highest navigable lake, where the sky blends seamlessly with the ground. If you head south to Patagonia, you will find a beautiful land of ice, snow, dramatic spires and curious penguins. This also makes a good jumping off spot to reach Antarctica. More natural wonders can be found at the spectacular Iguazu Falls, located at the junction of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay.
Other Brazil attractions include the Sugar Loaf (Pao de Acucar) peak, while Argentina's includes the Perito Moreno Glacier. Or if you're interested in more waterfalls, there is one of the top Venezuela attractions - Angel Falls.
Wandering off to Chile will let you see the fabulous Torres del Paine National Park as well as Easter Island, as well as other interesting places.
If you head west to the Galapagos Islands off the coast of Ecuador – the place inspired Charles Darwin and his groundbreaking theory on evolution, you can see giant turtles, lizards, and all sorts of birdlife. For even more adventurous people, explore the thick jungle forests of Suriname, full of mysterious creatures. Or visit the historic penal colony of Devil's Island - and attraction in French Guiana. Those that prefer the company of lots of people may want to party it up in Rio de Janeiro, or join in on the football frenzy in Buenos Aires. Whatever you fancy, South America is ready to welcome you.
Top Countries in South America
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Questions answered about visiting South America
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Travel Tips from people who've been to South America
If you take the train in, stay in the town of Aguas Calientes the night before you plan to go to Machu Picchu. By staying in the town, you can get to the entrance first and snap some photos of the site without other tourists in your photos!
You need to eat Brigadiero...it's the best desert in the world.
Machu Picchu for less than $80 dollars.
Going to South America? Or travelling Peru? No trip is complete without a visit to the lost city of the Inca's, Machu Picchu. But what if you're backpacking and trying to live on less than a minimum a day? The train from Cusco to Machu Picchu can cost up to $130 for a return (which is a big chunk out of your budget) and that doesn't even include things like accommodation, food or other transport. But as always, there's a way around (literally this time). I have to admit, it takes a bit longer but that doesn't mean a day wasted. It takes you over mountain roads and through lush green valleys, you'll pass scenic villages and sandy lost towns, you'll encounter some landslides and very steep cliffs. Even that would be worth the trip.
First, take an (early) bus to Ollantaytambo, 1.5 hours. Here you'll find the best remaining example of the planning of an Inca town. A little walk outside the town will bring you to ruins, a nice first stop. From the main square you'll need to catch the (big red) bus to Santa Maria. This ride takes about 3,5 hours and brings you up to about 4000 meters and then back down into the heat. During rain season (oct-apr) there are many landslides on the road. It's safe to drive there, though it might take a little longer because the men on the bus need to jump off to take away the rocks. In Santa Maria you haggle over a taxi that takes you through Santa Teresa, all the way up to the Hydroelectrica. This shouldn't cost more than 3-5 dollar. The road follows the river and goes along some really steep cliffs, don't sit at the window if you suffer from vertigo. You'll be dropped off at the Hydroelectrica, which is, apart from being a hydroelectrica, the train station at the end of the train track. The part from Aguas Calientes to Hydroelectrica wasn't in use for a couple of years but is used again. Here you can choose whether you want to take the train or walk along the train tracks. If you decide to walk, be careful and listen if you can hear the train coming. You'll hear it from quite a distance though. Don't forget to bring a flashlight since you'll have to go through a tunnel. It will take about 4 hours to walk, the train will get you there in about 30 minutes and costs $8. Either way, you'll end up in Aguas Calientes where you spend the night. It's best to buy your entrance ticket that day in Aguas Calientes to skip the queue at Machu Picchu ($20/$40 student/adult). There's two ways of getting to the archaeological site, by bus or by foot. The walk is quite tough, all uphill for about an hour. I would say, save your energy and take the bus so you can climb Huayna Picchu, the mountain towering over the lost city. The bus costs $7 and takes 40 minutes.
For the way back, you can take exactly the same way. Unfortunately the train to Hydroelectrica only leaves at 7.00 and 12.00 am. This would mean a short visit to Machu Picchu if you want to climb the mountain as well. Though the site opens at 6.00 am so you should be able to catch the 12.00 am train (allow 2 hours for the mountain). Otherwise you can stay an extra day or take the train directly to Cusco or Ollantaytambo. If you're in the train to the Hydroelectrica, try to find some tour guides that go back to Cusco. They'll take you for about $15.
Adding up all the costs will leave you spending:
1. Cusco - Ollantaytambo: $4
2. Ollantaytambo - Santa Maria: $5
3. Santa Maria - Hydroelectrica: $4
4. Train to Aguas Calientes (x2): $16
5. Hydroelectrica - Cusco : $15
6. Bus to Machu Picchu : $14
7. Accommodation: $6
8. Food: $15
You can skip numbers 4 and 6, saving you another 30 dollars.
Welcome to Machu Picchu poor backpackers!
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South America Travel Guide