Things to do in South America

The list of must-dos in South America runs long. But considering its ample amount of natural wonders, this is to be expected. The biggest challenge is editing the list down to an achievable itinerary. For most, Machu Picchu is the country's biggest must-visit destination. Located high in the Andes mountains of Peru, travellers come from all over to hike the famous Inca Trail and reach the spectacular 15th-century Inca city, commonly revered as one of the most famous ruins in the world. The hike is not for the faint-hearted and travel to the city is subject to limited tickets, but for those who do put in the hard yards, the visual rewards are truly worth it.

South America's other natural drawcard is the Amazon Rainforest. Spanning across 9 countries, the Amazon is the largest rainforest in the world. While the sheer size of the Amazon River is truly remarkable, a glimpse of its diverse wildlife and ecosystem is what travellers really come for. Other natural highlights include visiting the remote Galapagos Islands on a cruise. Wildlife watching is at a premium here with unique species that have evolved independently for millenia.Or there's the curious phenomenon of the mo'ai statues on the Chilean island of Rapa Nui, better known as Easter Island. There's no shortage of mysteries to unravel on a South America holiday.

Away from the jungle, other must-dos to put on your South America holiday list include Carnival in Rio, a week-long party before the abstinence of Lent kicks in. Also celebrated all over Brazil and other countries too, the Rio carnival is the showiest with more sequins and feathers than your average drag queen's wardrobe put together. Or there's a night out on the town in Buenos Aires any night of the week - yep, we told you the list was long. For our pick of some of South America's highlights, read on.

Machu Picchu

Dating back to 1450, this historic site was once the city of the Inca Empire, the largest empire in pre-Columbian America. Today, it is one of South America's most popular attractions and a must-see sight.

Amazon Rainforest

Sweeping across 9 countries, there's no avoiding the Amazon Rainforest in South America. Nor should you. The lush and expansive jungle is the largest rainforest in the world, representing over half of the planet's remaining forest within its 7 million square metres.

Iguazu Falls

If North America has Niagara, then South America has Iguazu, a mammoth set of falls straddling the border of Brazil, Paraguay and Argentina. Taller than Niagara Falls and twice as wide, Iguazu Fall's most notable feature is its number of falls with 270 individual cascades in total.

Rio de Janeiro

For all its reputation, there's no denying Rio's physical beauty, from the bronzed bodies that line the spectacular beaches to the soaring panoramic view from Sugar Loaf Mountain, and from the open-air cafes along Copacabana Beach to the cocktail bars in Lapa.

Buenos Aires

As one of the largest cities in Latin America, there's a lot to be said about Buenos Aires. The capital city of Argentina is old world and new world rolled into one sprawling urban jungle.

Santiago

Chile's capital city and beating heart is Santiago where the atmospheric streets will lure you with tales of bohemia, a wild party scene, vivavious art and the perfect pisco sour.

Easter Island

As one of the most isolated islands in the world, Easter Island, or Rapa Nui as the locals know it, may seem out of the way, but those who do make the journey are rarely disappointed.

Galapagos Islands

Dubbed a 'living museum', check out unique wildlife, habitats and a marine reserve unlike anywhere else in the world. For nature lovers, the Galapagos Islands is flora and fauna nirvana.

The Pantanal

The world's largest tropical wetlands is home to a huge variety of plant, bird and animal life. Take a tour to explore the vastness and wildlife of this massive area that takes in parts of Brazil, Bolivia and Paraguay.

Patagonia

A magnet for backpackers, trekkers and adventurers, the Patagonia region of Chile and Argentina is renowned for its natural beauty. Head here to see the amazing colours of Perito Moreno glacier and the vast flatness of the Patagonia steppe.