South America is a vast continent, and to experience it all you really need to spend many weeks or months there, or travel back to explore different corners at different times. We've compiled a list of 10 top experiences travellers should have in South America as a starting point to get you thinking about where you'd like to visit and what you'd like to do there.
1. Party at Carnival, Brazil
Carnival is one of the world's most famous festivals. The annual celebration takes place just before Lent each year, with revellers keeping the party going for six days. Huge parades take place that are organised by samba schools and crowds follow them through the street singing and dancing. The costumes are what really makes the festival, and you'll see all manner of glittering, colourful outfits. Carnivals are held all throughout Brazil, but the big one takes place in Rio, so if you want to see how Brazilians party, we recommend you plan your trip around the festivities.
2. Marvel at Lake Titicaca, the Andes
Lake Titicaca is the world's highest navigable lake, situated between Peru and Bolivia. If you're fascinated by culture and history, this is a really important place to visit. It's stepped in a rich history, with the Incas, as well as the pre-Inca cultures of the Pukara, Tiwanaku and Collas all influencing this region. There are floating islands made of reeds that are home to the Uros people, and many islands dotted throughout the lake, some of which house Incan ruins. In addition to Incan ruins in the area surrounding the great body of water there are ruins of ancient monuments that belonged to different civilisations that once inhabited the region.
The unique microclimate the lake generates means that quinoa and potatoes can be grown even at the very high altitude of 3,800m.
3. Trek to Machu Picchu, Peru
Machu Picchu is perhaps the most iconic of all South American experiences. You can reach the ruins of this ancient Incan city by trekking or by train, depending on your penchant for strenuous exercise. The classic Inca Trail takes four days and due to the high altitude can be very tiring even if the hike itself is not overly challenging. If you've got kids in tow or don't feel up for the hike you might want to take the train like consultant Angela Sargeant did when she took her family to see the ruins. Bear in mind that only a certain number of people are allowed into Machu Picchu each day, and if you want to book a trek to the ruins you'll need to do it with plenty of time in advance or risk having to leave it for another year.
4. Explore the Uyuni Salt Flats, Bolivia
The Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia is a place like no other. The world's largest salt flat is the remnant of a prehistoric lake that dried up, and now it's thousands of square kilometres of an otherworldly landscape. Explore the unique colours, shapes, rock formations and wildlife of this strange environment and be sure to snap a creative selfie while you're at it!
5. Make new friends on the Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
This volcanic archipelago lies approximately 600km off the coast of Ecuador, and is home to some of the world's most astonishing plants and animals. Made famous by Charles Darwin's On the Origin of Species, this is a special part of the world where you can encounter creatures you won't find anywhere else. Dive, snorkel, swim, cruise, birdwatch, hike - there's opportunity to do all of this and more
6. Dance the tango in Buenos Aires, Argentina
There is passion to be found in every corner of this city, from its architecture and food to its pulsating nightlife and signature dance. For those after a romantic getaway, Buenos Aires is like Paris but with the tempo turned up. By all means get out and about to explore during the day, but this city really comes alive at night. So after a day of sightseeing, take a nap in preparation and head out to enjoy the restaurants, bars and night clubs with the locals. We highly recommend you give the tango a go, if only to get into the spirit of the city. If you'd rather leave it to the experts, you can watch a tango show, but we guarantee you'll be itching to try it yourself!
7. Cycle the Death Road, Bolivia
Yungas Road in Bolivia was declared one of the most dangerous roads in the world in the 1990s, and its thanks to this dubious title that it's earned the nickname "The Death Road." With its harrowing steep cliff faces, blind curve, sheer rock faces and absence of guard rails it's easy to understand why the road has claimed so many lives. Since the 1990s the road has been upgraded, and it now attracts adventurous folk who want to feel a kick of adrenaline by conquering the 40km thoroughfare by bike. Tour companies offer guided bike tours of the road. It's a tiring day, and the road is certainly not for the faint-hearted, but with a trusted guide by your side it's possible to tick this off the bucket list. For the experience it's worth considering.
8. Encounter the magnificent moai of Easter Island, Chile
Easter Island (or Rapa Nui) is a place of mystery and great historical significance that is sure to pique your curiosity and excitement. The main attraction are the moai, mysterious statues made of hard rock that weigh up to 86 tons and stand up to 10m tall. It's unknown how exactly the statues were transported by human labour many hundreds of years ago from quarries to their current positions. The hilly terrain would have posed logistical problems for Easter Island's inhabitants. But the mystery of the statues adds to the air of mystery and fascination of this island. Visit for yourself and make up your own mind!
9. Hike through Torres del Paine National Park, Chile
A hike through Torres del Paine National Park is surely one of the most scenic you'll encounter anywhere in the world. This iconic region is known for its incredible rugged landscapes that are dominated by the three "towers" from which it takes its name. The National Park offers many outdoor activities aside from hiking - camping, kayaking, cycling, boating and wildlife watching can all be enjoyed. Its gorgeous blue lakes, glaciers and granite peaks will remain in your memory long after you depart.
10. Witness Iguazu Falls, Argentina
This spectacular natural wonder lies between Argentina, Brazil and Paraguay. Not only are the falls themselves a jaw-dropping sight to behold, but the surrounding area is teeming with wildlife. You can view the falls from both the Brazilian and Argentinian sides; there are more walkway on the Argentinian side from which to view the cascading water, but if you can make it to the Brazilian side it's worthwhile for the panoramic views you'll get of the almost 3km-wide waterfall system.