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Steeped in history, scenically diverse, and culturally fascinating—these are just a few of the reasons South America is the perfect choice for your next vacation.

We’ve culled some of the best places to visit in South America, from Cartagena, Colombia in the north to Ushuaia, Argentina, the southernmost city on the continent.

Each destination boasts charm, character, and some of the most scenic coastlines and beaches on the planet.

These are some of the best places to travel in South America.

Cartagena, Colombia

Beautiful skyline of Cartagena, one of the best places to visit in South America

Cartagena, Colombia

Surrounded by defensive walls and forts since its founding in the 16th century, and for long after known as a pirate paradise, Cartagena hasn’t let its defenses stand in the way of its progress into the modern era.

In addition to a historic fort, lovely colonial-inspired architecture, and a charming cobblestoned Old Town, you’ll find modern skyscrapers and upscale resorts lining the beachfront, making this city one of the best places to travel in South America.

Historical walls of Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas, Cartagena

Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas in Cartagena, Colombia

Take a guided tour of the Castillo de San Felipe de Barajas to hear the history of the fort and walk through some of the dark passageways within the walls.

Visit the Palace of the Inquisition to learn about a fascinating, albeit dark, time in history. See the infamous “rack” and other instruments of torture and the courtyard where executions took place.

Colorful houses with bougainvillea-lined balconies in Colombia

Old City in Cartagena, Colombia

Stroll the Old City, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and admire the bougainvillea-lined balconies, brightly colored buildings, and dancers performing in the Plaza Bolivar. Visit the nearby Gold Museum and see the art treasures of the city’s churches and cathedral.

Line of handicraft stores in Colombia

Las Bovedas in Cartagena, Colombia

Shop Las Bovedas, once a dungeon, now a connected network of antique and handicraft stores.

Tour the street art in Getsemani, the revived arts neighborhood, and its galleries, restaurants, and clubs. Explore the modern art collection at the city’s Museo de Arte Moderno.

Aerial view of Rosario Island, Colombia

Rosario Island, Colombia

Get away for an indulgent day at an island oasis on Rosario Island—one of the most romantic South America honeymoon destinations—to swim, snorkel, bask on the beach in the warm sun, and enjoy the ocean view.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Bliss-inducing white-sand beaches with famous pedigrees, mountains that scale directly into the sea, and a vibrant culture that lives to dance make Rio de Janeiro one of the best places to visit in South America.

Copacabana Beach, one of the best places to visit in South America

Copacabana Beach in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Walk along Copacabana Beach, officially the most recognized beach in the world and one of the best beaches in South America. Lounge on the sun-drenched white sands of Ipanema Beach, gaze at the turquoise sea, and cool off with a romp in the surf.

Wander around Orla Conde, a waterfront promenade and legacy of the 2016 Olympic Games, marveling at the largest wall mural graffiti in the world. Pause for a snack after perusing the shops.

Uniquely designed Museum of Tomorrow in Brazil

Museum of Tomorrow in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Visit the Pedra do Sal, a historic area originally built as a slave village and widely known as the birthplace of samba. Continue on to the Museum of Tomorrow, designed by Spanish architect Santiago Calatrava, whose inspiration came from the bromeliads found in Rio’s botanical garden.

Couple walking the stairs with Sugar Loaf Mountain as backdrop

Sugar Loaf Mountain in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Stroll through those botanical gardens, an important ecological sanctuary that sits at the foot of the Corcovado Mountain, below the right arm of the famous Christ the Redeemer statue. The gardens house more than 6,000 tropical and subtropical plants and trees.

Cable car going down with picturesque Rio de Janeiro view

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

Climb into a waiting cable car at Flamengo Park and be dazzled on a 1,200-foot climb to the summit of Sugar Loaf Mountain. Reach the top and be treated to the stunning view that Brazil is known for.

Couple standing at the feet of Christ the Redeemer

Christ the Redeemer in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

For more awe-inspiring views, take a tram through Tijuca National Park to the top of Corcovado Mountain. Once there, stand at the feet of the massive Christ the Redeemer statue—one of the best landmarks in South America and the largest art deco statue in the world—and take in the panoramic views of the city.

Samba like a local after taking a dance lesson from famous dancers in Brazilian Carnival costumes at Ginga Tropical, Rio’s famous samba show.

Montevideo, Uruguay

Often described as both magical and manageable, Montevideo, Uruguay’s capital, is easy to navigate. Here, you’ll find a calmer atmosphere than many other large cities, with less vehicle traffic and a more laid-back vibe.

Aerial view of Plaza de Independencia, Uruguay

Plaza de Independencia in Montevideo, Uruguay

One of the best things to do in Montevideo is to stroll the Plaza de Independencia. The monument serves as the central point where the Ciudad Vieja (Old City) and the new meet.

In the Old City, brightly painted buildings and vine-strewn balconies invite photos by visitors. Musicians often play spontaneously and tango dancers perform.

Facade of Solis Theater, Uruguay

Solis Theater in Montevideo, Uruguay

Stop at the Solis Theater, the Italian-designed building that’s been the heart and soul of Montevideo’s cultural events since 1856, hosting talent from Enrico Caruso to Vivien Leigh.

Pause for a coffee or the country’s preferred drink, yerba mate, a strong, slightly bitter herbal tea, before ambling toward Rambla de Montevideo, the waterfront promenade said to be the longest continuous sidewalk in the world at almost 14 miles.

Read: Incredible Uruguayan Food to Try on Your Vacation

Man holding traditional Uruguay drink

Yerba mate

The boardwalk connects neighborhoods from the Old City, curves outward, cuts through a portion of the city at one point, and ends at the upscale residential neighborhoods of Carrasco and Punta Gorda.

Riders on bikes, skateboards, and rollerblades weave among runners and walkers as the boardwalk curves around the area’s picturesque beaches.

Beautiful Pocitos Beach, one of the best places to visit in South America

Pocitos Beach in Montevideo, Uruguay

Rent a bike for a  portion of the day, get in some beach time on one of the lifeguarded beaches, shop at upscale boutiques in Carrasco, and take a selfie at the colorful, artsy Montevideo sign.

Couple on a wine tasting in Uruguay

Wine tasting in Uruguay

Plan on an evening of fine South American food cooked on a parrilla (open grill) featuring the beef that Uruguay is famous for and a glass or two of Tannat, wine made from the signature grape of Uruguay.

Top off the evening at a tango bar and watch mesmerizing performances by world-class dancers.

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Buenos Aires, Argentina’s capital, is a thriving metropolis as well known for music and dance as it is for steakhouses serving prime Argentinian beef and Malbec wine.

Couple checking out the face-in-hole board

Caminito La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Among the city’s many charms is its old-world elegance reflected in its beautiful neoclassical and neo-Renaissance buildings, like Casa Rosado, the pink President’s Palace; the Colon Theatre, one of the best theaters in the world; and the Recoleta Cemetery, where visitors flock to see the 6,400 mausoleums, including that of Eva Peron.

Delve into Argentinian culture and the city’s vibrant art scene by visiting its amazing art museums and galleries and getting to know local artists whose works are exhibited.

Colorful houses in Buenos Aires

Caminito La Boca in Buenos Aires, Argentina

Explore interesting neighborhoods in Buenos Aires like La Boca and the bohemian artist district of San Telmo that boasts antique shops, a handicraft market, restaurants, and tango parlors. In elegant and affluent La Recoleta, the magnificent bookshop El Ateneo, long ago a grand theater, is a must-see.

People elegantly dancing tango

Tango performance

Combine two Buenos Aires passions in one fabulous evening with dinner at a parrilla (steakhouse) followed by a show at one of the city’s many clubs that will prove why tango is revered around the world as “the dance of love.”

Lima, Peru

Sophisticated and sublime is the perfect description of Peru’s capital city, one of the best places to visit in South America.

Archaeological site of Huaco Pucllana, Peru

Huaco Pucllana in Lima, Peru

Peru’s deep historical and cultural roots are firmly planted in Lima. See the tomb of Franciso Pizzaro, the city’s founder; the pre-Colombian settlement of Huaco Pucllana; and Peru’s first university, founded in 1551.

Landscape view of Lima main square and cathedral in Peru

Plaza de Armas de Lima, Peru

Plaza de Armas de Lima, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the historic center of the city, is the best place to start a day of exploring. Spend time in San Isidro and Miraflores, Lima’s upscale residential, shopping, and financial neighborhoods.

Cross over the Bridge of Sighs, a charming landmark in Barranco, the bohemian district that houses some of the city’s best restaurants, art galleries, and museums. Explore Lima’s culinary scene and order ceviche, Peru’s national dish. For dessert, try picarones, a fried doughnut soaked in sweet syrup.

Aerial view of Miraflores Beach including city view

Miraflores Beach in Lima, Peru

Bike down to the city beach at Miraflores for a quick, cool swim or a surfing lesson.

Read: Best Countries to Visit in South America

Galapagos Islands

Tourists looking at massive Galapagos tortoise

Galapagos tortoise

Giant Galapagos tortoises, blue-footed boobies, flightless cormorants, and the only penguins north of the equator are just some of the natural wonders that make the Galapagos Islands a magnificent setting for an eco-focused vacation and one of the best places to visit in South America.

A string of small volcanic islands far enough apart to have each developed land and marine animal life independent of each other, allowing for several endemic species, forms the archipelago known as the Galapagos Islands.

Red beach of Rabida Island in Galapagos

Rabida Island, Galapagos

Each of the islands amazes visitors with breathtaking views of volcanic rock formations, spectacularly colored sand beaches of red, green and pristine white, and exceptional snorkeling opportunities in clear water coves around several islands.

Beautiful gray and white Darwin's finches in Galapagos

Darwin’s finches in Galapagos

Swim with seals, gaze at marine lizards, and be astounded by the size of the Galapagos tortoise. See Darwin’s finches, so named because they were a major part of the study that helped naturalist Charles Darwin develop his theory of evolution while studying them in the Galapagos.

Read: Where to See Penguins in South America

Ushuaia, Argentina

Red train with landscape view of Ushuaia

End of the World train in Ushuaia, Argentina

The striking Ushuaia, the southernmost city in the world, is surrounded by massive glaciers and mountains.

The city capitalizes on its location with its End of the World Museum and End of the World train.

Scenic landscape of Tierra del Fuego

Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Officially the Southern Fuegian Railway, this steam train takes visitors on a scenic ride through Tierra del Fuego National Park, a stunning collection of deep lakes, verdant forests, and lush vegetation set in almost 200 acres that boasts some of the purest air on the planet.

Well-mapped hiking trails make for a spectacular eco-experience. Spotting the many South American birds and other land species that make their home here makes it that much more special.

Learn about Ushuaia’s past as a missionary base, penal colony, and naval base. See artifacts from the indigenous inhabitants who lived in the area thousands of years ago.

Penguins walking on rock with beautiful snow-capped mountains

Beagle Channel in Ushuaia, Argentina

Relish the opportunity to take in breathtaking views of South America’s glaciers while exploring the waterways and islands of the Beagle Channel on a variety of wildlife-watching tours that get you up close to Magellanic penguins, sea lions, and birds.

Can’t choose the one South American destination you’d most like to visit? South America cruises on Celebrity make it easy to visit multiple destinations during one unforgettable vacation.

Browse cruise itineraries to South America and book online, or call one of our vacation specialists at 1-800-852-8086.

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Free Vacation Planning Services