I traveled around South America for 6 months so here is my summary of the absolute best places you must visit!
Short on time, here are MUST DOs in South America:
Iguazu Falls - Brazil & Argentina
Uyuni Salt Desert - Bolivia
Amazon (In Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, or Brazil)
Salento - Colombia
Machu Picchu - Peru
Rainbow Mountains - Peru
Rio de Janeiro - Brazil
Death Road - Bolivia
Banos - Ecuador
Colca Canyon - Peru
My TOP 3 of South America
It is really hard for me to say which is my absolute favorite place in South America so I have my TOP 3! I noticed that all 3 places have something in common - they are very unique and specific only to South America. I think that is why they were so special to me because I had never experienced anything similar.
One of my top 3 is Iguazu Falls. The most epic nature creation I have ever seen. The falls were so powerful and incredible. Iguazu Falls is actually the biggest waterfall system in the world.
Another place that is extremely unique is the Uyuni Salt Desert. Again it is the biggest salt desert in the world. Imagine being surrounded by kilometers of salt, you constantly walk through the salt flats. Extraordinary trip. There you also can stay in a hotel that is completely made from salt!
For the next one, I think no comments are needed. The AMAZON! You can't travel around South America and not visit the Amazon. I went on a 3-day expedition in Ecuador - Cuyabeno area.
Other amazing places to visit in South America
I think Colombia as a country is one big adventure but I want to highlight one exceptional place - Salento! Have you seen the cartoon 'En Canto'? If yes, then you will understand. It is an enchanting village that features the amazing Cocora Valley. A valley full of the tallest palm trees in the world! Also, Salento is part of the coffee triangle, so this is the place to enjoy one of the best coffees in Colombia!
Interesting Fact: Turns out Colombia exports all the best coffee they make to Europe, so apart from very boutique cafes, 99% of the time you will get 2nd tier coffee in Colombia which is not as good as the one you can get in Europe!
Another must-do in South America is Machu Picchu! BUT here I really want to highlight that you will truly appreciate the site only if you have learned about Inca culture before by visiting other sites around Cusco. Also, I believe the whole visit will be extra special if you do a trail to Machu Picchu. The most special one is the Inca Trail. One of the most adventurous and at the same time hardest hikes is the Salkantay Trail. I did the Salkantay Trail and absolutely loved it! It was such a great buildup to the Machu Picchu visit.
Another incredible place to visit in Peru is Rainbow Mountain. It is a popular day trip to do from Cusco, the same place from where you most probably will get to Machu Picchu, so you can combine these 2 things on one trip. Just note that Rainbow Mountain is very high up, more than 5000 meters above sea level, so make sure you have acclimatized before going there so you do not get a bad case of altitude sickness. Also very important, when you will be visiting make sure to ask your guide to take you to the red valley too!
If I have to name my absolute favorite city in South America then it is definitely Rio de Janeiro. I loved everything about it! It is not only a big city with loads of going on but also it has an amazing coastline offering some great beaches.
My trips between cities and countries I plan via Bookaway!
Another great memory I have is about the Death Road in Bolivia. It was the most exciting bike ride I have ever had! Definitely, a must-do if you are around the La Paz area in Bolivia.
The most amazing and at the same time the hardest hike I had in South America was in Peru whilst trekking through the Colca Canyon. The views were breathtaking but the hike was extremely hard, especially on the final day when you need to make your way up to the top of the canyon. The most popular are 2 or 3-day trekking trips.
The most fun place in South America is definitely Banos in Ecuador. Any adrenaline seeker will love this place. You can do rafting and canyoning there, Dangle over a cliff on a giant swing over the city, and enjoy crazy adventure parks offering loads of fun and extreme activities.