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10th Jan 2020

11 Essential Towns And Cities To Visit On A Tour Of South America

James Fenton

Back in the autumn of 2015, myself and my other half upped sticks and hit the rocky road to South America for three months of sightseeing, eating, drinking and pretty much lazing around in new and undiscovered cities.

All in all, our trip took in four countries as we snaked our way from Argentina to Peru, via Chile and Bolivia. Each city and town we stopped in had its own unique charm, set apart by its inhabitants, culture and aesthetics.

Some spots were of course more memorable than others, and below I have mapped out a few places which, from personal experience, should be on any South American must-visit list.

At the risk of sounding like one of those insufferable travel types, exploring the continent does open up a whole new world of experiences that will stay with you forever. If you have any questions about any of the destinations, feel free to get in touch.

Safe travels!

1. Buenos Aires

The Argentine capital is reminiscent of Europe’s major cities with a distinct Italian flavour in the air.

With its mouthwatering steaks, great beer and delicious ice cream on every corner it’s a fine spot to kick off your South American adventure.

Famous for its tango dancers, be sure and take in a show before you take off.

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2. Montevideo

Just across the sea from B.A. lies the capital of Uruguay.

Daily ferry journeys make it a perfect destination for a day trip if you wish to base yourself in Buenos Aires for a few days.

Those who do decide to stay a night a or two will discover a vibrant, cultural gem that will be one of the highlights of your trip.

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3. Colonia del Sacramento

Over in Western Uruguay lies a smaller, more peaceful city with a number of great little museums and restaurants.

A great spot to rent a bike and stretch the legs for an afternoon.

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4. Tigre

Back in Argentina, Tigre provides another great day trip option from Buenos Aires.

Only one hour away on the train, spend the day chilling by the river and sampling the food at the markets.

Be sure to get a snap of the stunning structure that is the Museum Of Art.

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5. Mendoza

One for the wine fiends.

Take a guided bike tour of the vineyards while sampling some of the finest wines South America has to offer.

One or two nights max should do the job here.

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6. Santiago

Once you emerge from the long and winding bus journey across the Andes from Mendoza, the Chilean capital has plenty to offer.

Spend a morning scaling Santa Lucia Hill which offers fine views of the city from the top. Later on, you can explore the numerous parks which line the city as well as tour the frankly zany building where poet Pablo Neruda once resided.

Three nights should be enough to see everything.

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7. Valparaiso

One of the most visually appealing and unique cities you’ll ever visit.

Take a walking tour up and down the many steps of the bustling seaport while marvelling at the plethora of colours that form the different rows of buildings.

Two nights would be fine here but chances are you’ll want to stay for longer.

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8. San Pedro de Atacama

Make your way into the depths of desert and enjoy an authentic Chilean experience.

A number of companies in the town offer stargazing tours which are a must during your stay. Be sure to book ahead though as we ended up having to join up with French speaking tour. It wasn’t really a problem but not ideal either as you can imagine.

The extreme sport junkies will have to try sandboarding during their stay too. Three nights should just about do it and you’ll be well looked after in the family-run Casa de Matilde.

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(note: You’ll have the following tune in your head the whole time)

9. Copacabana

Not the more famous one in Brazil but rather a small Bolivian town on the banks of Lake Titicaca.

The perfect spot to unwind and splash out for some nicer accommodation which won’t cost you that much in comparison to other countries.

Feck it, stay for five nights (or more.)

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10. Cusco

Arguably my favourite spot of the whole trip.

The Peruvian city’s cobbled streets give it more of a small town feel and you could really settle here for a while.

Cusco is used as a base for those heading up to Machu Picchu and there are enough tour operators around for you to figure out what the best deal is for you.

Be sure to call into Paddy’s, the highest Irish Bar in the world.

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11. Lima

The last stop on our trip. Jump into the sea again after a few weeks stuck inland.

There’s a real Miami feel to the place with plenty to see and do. Grab a coffee at Larcomar Shopping Centre (header image) and look out over the ocean. At night, enjoy the array of pubs and nightclubs and dine on some fine Peruvian cuisine.

The perfect way to wind down a memorable trip.

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