Best Countries to Visit in South America for Sights, Food & Experiences
What are the best countries to visit in South America? We spent 93 days, backpacking mighty South America, exploring splendid colonial architecture, deafening waterfalls, soaring mountains, Inca Ruins and blissed-out beaches, along the way.
Each of the 5 countries we visited, offered us a multitude of sights, adventures and tastes to explore, but which experiences, meals, places, and countries in South America stood above the rest?
In this guide
Best Countries to Visit in South America
We added Colombia to our RTW itinerary, without knowing much about it, beyond it’s unsavoury reputation for kidnappings and drug cartel violence. We visited with a little trepidation, wondering if Colombia was safe, but the country quickly wiped clean any misgivings or fears we’d been harbouring.
Aside from Cartagena, Colombia is still relatively untouched by tourism, and it’s easy to feel like you’re discovering uncharted territory.
Add to that, stunning natural beauty, geographically and culturally diverse regions, affordability, and the friendliest locals imaginable, and Colombia easily won the title of out best country to visit in South American by a long-shot.
While we undeniably enjoyed our time in cultural Salvador de Bahia, it was the magnificence of Rio de Janeiro that put Brazil in the second spot on our list.
As the only South American city to make it onto our “we could live here” list, Rio offered ridiculously gorgeous vistas, brilliant beaches and a population that seemed optimistic and joyful, no matter their economic circumstances.
We barely scratched the surface of this huge country during our 3 week visit, and can’t wait to go back to discover the rest.
Despite a small bout of traveler’s diarrhea right before we were scheduled to hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu (talk about timing), we thoroughly enjoyed our time in Peru.
The most affordable of all the countries we visited, Peru had, in our opinion, the best food in all of South America, a mysterious and compelling culture, and some of the most memorable experiences of our entire trip.
The only reason Peru isn’t number 2 on this list is because we were quite satisfied by our 3 week visit to the country. While we could’ve spent many, many more weeks exploring new parts of Colombia and Brazil, there were just a few experiences we felt we missed in Peru – a Sacred Valley private tour and a flight over the Nazca lines.
We had mixed feelings about Argentina. We loved the dramatic nature and peaceful pace of the northwestern region, but were sadly, disappointed with Buenos Aires overall.
The people of the country were nothing less than gracious and amiable, but the economic strain of traveling in the country, and a never-ending diet of steak and pasta, left a bitter taste in our mouths.
We still want to visit the impressive Patagonia and Bariloche, but we’ll have to wait until the impending economic crash reduces the cost of visiting.
Uruguay takes the last position on our list, not because there was anything negative about the country, but because there was nothing outstanding about the country.
We could find a compelling reason to visit any of the other countries on our list at least one more time, but for Uruguay, the only incentive we could come up with, was to eat more of it’s super delectable and amazing steaks.
Not quite enough to put it at the top of our list. 😉