Andean peaks, Amazonian rainforest, Patagonian glaciers, Incan ruins, colonial towns, white-sand beaches and vertiginous nightlife: the wonders of South America set the stage for incredible adventures.
You can hike past ancient temples first laid down by the Incas, contemplate the awe-inspiring power of Iguazú Falls, or spend the day watching wildlife from a dugout canoe on one of the Amazon's countless igarapés (narrow waterways). You can barrel down Andean roads by mountain bike, go white-water rafting on Class V rivers and surf amazing breaks off both coasts. And once you think you've experienced it all, head to the dramatic landscapes in Tierra del Fuego, go eye-to-eye with extraordinary creatures in the Galápagos, and scramble up tableland mountains in the Gran Sabana for a panorama that seems straight out of the Mesozoic era.
South America's diversity doesn't end with geography. You'll find colonial towns where cobblestone streets lead past gilded churches and stately plazas little changed since the 18th century. You can haggle over colorful textiles at indigenous markets, share meals with traditional dwellers of the rainforest and follow the pounding rhythms of Afro-Brazilian drums corps. South America is home to an astounding variety of living and ancient cultures, and experiencing it first-hand is as easy as showing up.
This is one of the world's great music destinations. Nothing compares to hearing the rhythms of Colombian salsa, Brazilian samba, Argentine tango and Andean folk music in the place where they were born. Buenos Aires' sultry milongas (tango clubs), Rio's simmering garrafeiras (dance halls), Quito's salsotecas (salsa clubs) – all great places to chase the heart of Saturday night. Yet this is only the beginning of a great musical odyssey that encompasses Peruvian trovas, soulful Ecuadorian passillos, fast-stepping Brazilian forró, whirling Venezuelan merengue, steel-pan Guyanese drumming, Paraguayan harp music and more. Simply plunge in – though you might want to take a dance class along the way!
From the snow-capped peaks of the Andes to the undulating waterways of the Amazon, South America spreads a dazzling array of natural wonders. This is a continent of lush rainforests, towering volcanoes, misty cloud forests, bone-dry deserts, red-rock canyons and ice-blue glaciers. After taking in some of the incredible natural wonders found in every country in South America, you can head to the coast for an idyllic retreat among palm-fringed, white-sand beaches and photogenic tropical islands. As landscapes go, there aren't many other places on earth that offer so much variety.