South America is becoming a popular destination for tourists. According to BBVA, nearly one hundred million tourists made their way to Latin America in 2015, and the numbers continue to rise. So where are all those tourists headed? MasterCard reports that the most popular destination in South America is Buenos Aires, Argentina. But there are plenty of other incredible places to visit in South America. Here are four underrated locations that need to go on your travel wish list.4
Chile sits along the western edge of the continent, squeezed between the Andes mountains and the Pacific Ocean. Chile is one of the more popular destination countries in South America. National Geographic even named it one of the best places to visit in 2018. Part of the appeal of the country lies within its natural beauty, with deserts, glaciers, forests, and volcanoes all available within its borders, according to the country’s official travel site. The people of Chile are very welcoming to visitors, too, making even inexperienced travelers feel at home there.
Most visitors to Chile will spend their time in Santiago, the bustling capital city. But more adventurous and artistic travelers should head for Valparaiso. This city sits to the west of Santiago along the Pacific shoreline and is nicknamed the City of Artists, according to Intrepid Travel. The city has a thriving street art scene, with daily tours that will take you to all the great highlights. It’s also home to the famous poet Pablo Neruda. According to Lonely Planet, the artist drew much of the inspiration for his romantic words from the city itself. The city is also home to major festivals throughout the year when the streets fill with revelers. But even if you aren’t there for festival season, you’ll be able to spend hours wandering the cobblestone streets and soaking up the charm of the area.3
Brazil is the biggest country in South America and the fifth-largest in the world, so visitors to the country will have a lot of ground to cover. Many choose to spend their time in the popular cities of Rio de Janeiro or Sao Paulo, both vibrant areas with an active nightlife. Those seeking nature are more likely to seek out tours to Iguazu Falls or the Amazon rainforest.
If you want to experience authentic Brazil while getting away from the more tourist-clogged destinations, head north to Fortaleza. This major city sits along the Atlantic coast and has long been a tourism destination for Brazilians. It’s only been recently discovered by international visitors. You can credit the 2014 World Cup for that, according to The Guardian, when Fortaleza was a host city for the games. Beaches are one of the main attractions of the city, and they don’t disappoint. Not only are the beaches clean and gorgeous, but they also have plenty of amenities such as shady seaside bars. That’s where you can get drinks and food throughout the day and long into the night. And the nightlight in Fortaleza is second only to its beaches. The city has an incredible party atmosphere, so it’s a great place to go when you are ready to let loose.2
Asuncion sits in the southern half of the landlocked country of Paraguay, very near the border of Argentina. Paraguay is one of the most overlooked countries in South America, due in part to its international reputation. It hasn’t always been the safest country for travelers, and indeed you’ll want to be aware as you make your way through the country. But this shouldn’t put you off. Practicing some street smarts will keep you safe and allow you to see one of the most authentic areas of the continent. And you won’t get more authentic than Asuncion.
The capital city of Asuncion dates back to 1537 and still retains many traces of its colonial history. The downtown area is a vibrant mix of the old and new, with plenty of modern amenities as well as street vendors selling ancient herbal remedies. The downtown area is compact, too, so you can see most of the historical sites on foot (saving money for all that authentic Latin American food). One of the can’t-miss sites is the Casa de la Independencia. It’s where revolutionaries plotted Paraguay’s independence from Spain in 1811. The on-site museum not only provides a good dose of history but also gives you a deeper understanding of the people of Paraguay.1
Bolivia is only one of two landlocked countries in South America. Because of that, it’s often overlooked by tourists who are eager to experience the incredible beaches offered by countries like Chile and Argentina. Savvy travelers know not to overlook Bolivia, though. The country stretches from the Andes to the Amazon, giving travelers plenty of incredible landscapes to take in. Bolivia retains a lot of the old-world charm and culture, too. That makes it feel like you’ve stepped back in time, especially when compared to the more modernized countries that lie around it.
Sucre is one of the most beautiful cities in Bolivia. It’s nicknamed the White City thanks to the whitewashed buildings that make up the city center. The easy-going charm of the city makes it the perfect place to visit if you want to settle down and immerse yourself in Latin American culture for a while. It’s not unusual for travelers in the area to stay for a couple weeks or more. They often end up taking Spanish lessons at one of the city’s many schools. And while you are there, you’ll be within easy access of Bolivia’s most famous tourist destination, Salar de Uyuni. These salt flats are stunning any time of the year, but in the rainy season, the moisture left behind creates a mirrored surface on the flat vista.