The 6 Next Places I Want To Visit In South America

Filed Under: Travel

A lot of my travel is motivated by airlines. After all, I make a living partly by reviewing airlines and hotels. The reality is that the regions with the best and most interesting premium cabin products are Asia (including the Middle East) and Europe, so that’s where a lot of my travels have been to.

Over the years I’ve explored both Asia and Europe pretty in-depth. The two continents I’ve generally done the last travel in are Africa and South America. I’ve been to both continents in one form or another probably about a dozen times each, but haven’t ventured much outside the cities for the most part.

While I’d love to do more Africa travel, short term my goal is to make a list of places in South America that I really want to visit.

Late last year Ford and I went to Easter Island, and we loved it. We also recently went to Mashpi Lodge in Ecuador, and had an incredible time.

In general I’m “over” traveling to cities. I still travel to them and do what I can to maximize my time, but when it comes to vacation I really want to go somewhere that I can unwind and spend hours a day hiking in nice weather, because that’s when I’m happiest.

I’m spending a lot of time in Florida nowadays, so I’ve been plotting the next places we want to visit in South America, given how close many South American cities are to Florida.

You guys are the experts when it comes to destinations, so I wanted to share what’s on my radar, and I’d love if you guys could chime in with tips.

These tips can be as simple as saying “do” or “don’t” go to a particular place, sharing any particular hotels or areas that you recommend, etc.

So here are the places in South America that I’m hoping to visit in the next year, roughly in order:

1. Machu Picchu

It goes without saying that this is the single biggest oversight in my South America travels when it comes to nature destinations. Machu Picchu is pretty easily accessible, and paid business class fares on LATAM are even reasonable, and a great way to earn elite miles with AAdvantage.

Best of all, there are great points hotels to choose from — Palacio del Inka in Cusco, and Tambo del Inka in Machu Picchu.

Tambo del Inka, Peru

2. Atacama

The Atacama Desert in Chile looks incredible, and right up my alley. It looks like the best option for reaching Atacama is to fly into El Loa Airport (CJC), which is about a two hour flight north of Santiago on LATAM.

It doesn’t look like there are any points hotels there, though there are lots of very nice lodges.

Explora, Atacama

3. Patagonia

Chile has a lot to offer. It looks like the best way to access Patagonia is to fly into Punta Arenas (PUQ), about three hours south of Santiago.

Patagonia also has a lot of luxury lodges, though no points properties.

Explora, Patagonia

4. Salt Flats of Bolivia

This would probably rank above Atacama and Patagonia for me if it weren’t for the logistics. Based on what I’m reading, Bolivia isn’t particularly safe, it takes at least two stops to fly from the US to Uyuni (which seems like the best jumping off point?), and it also looks like there aren’t very many good lodging options there (though there is the world’s only hotel apparently made of salt).

So I’d really love to visit ASAP, but it seems this one might be the most challenging to organize, and gives me the least chance to earn oneworld miles. Someone please correct me if I’m wrong!

Hotel De Sal Luna Salada

5. Uruguay

It’s easy to fly nonstop to Montevideo, Uruguay. The city oddly intrigues me, so I’d love if anyone has any thoughts on the city as such. From there it could be interesting to visit the Hyatt Carmelo Resort & Spa. This used to be a Four Seasons, was then rebranded as a Park Hyatt, and now belongs to Hyatt’s Unbound Collection. I’m not exactly sure what to actually do there, but it intrigues me nonetheless.

I’ve also heard about Punta del Este, though again, I’m not sure if it’s an actually interesting place to visit, or just a practical place for people living in the region to visit.

Carmelo Resort, Uruguay

6. Galapagos

I loved my recent trip to Ecuador, and found Mashpi Reserve to be beautiful. One of the other major sites in Ecuador is the Galapagos. I’m intrigued by this because I love anything that involves nature. The reason I rank this last is because based on my research it seems like this is less the “hike for hours on end” type of nature, but more like a “get in a boat and look at seals” type of nature. That still interests me, just not quite as much.

Finch Bay, Galapagos

Bottom line

South America has so much to offer, and my two nature trips there in the past year have been some of my favorite trips yet. I have American systemwide upgrades to burn, so rather than using them to fly to Asia or Europe (where I’d rather fly a better airline), it seems ideal to use them for travel to South America.

I’d love to hear any tips you guys have regarding your favorite destinations, hotels, etc.!

  1. I went to Bolivia and the salt flats last year. They say the country isn’t safe but I didn’t have any issues. Flew Amaszonas airlines. You can get a visa on arrival. Overall an interesting experience but on my list for least favorite country I have ever visited. I went to Peru, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Panama on my trip and it was easily the worst of all those countries.

  2. If you go to Uruguay, I would recommend flying into Punta del Este and driving east. The Posada del Faro in Jose Ignacio is beautiful, and if you decide to venture further up the coast, I’d recommend Cabo de Polonio – a town built into the sand dunes. Stunning landscape and wonderful people.

  3. Hey Lucky, I would love to help you with South America tips. I have done lots of travels there and the continent is incredible!

    The Tambo del Inka is actually in Urubamba – about 2 hours by train+bus from MP. Urubamba is about 1 hour by car from Cusco. Awesome city and so many sights to see.

    Try to venture to the other sites and not just MP, which happens to be super crowded and super expensive. Pisac has great ruins and markets to check out as well.

    You will see so many stray dogs in Peru, they are all over. As a dog lover it may make you sad to see how malnourished some of them are. The dogs are friendly and for the most part will not cause any issues or carry illness.

    Other sites you will want to add to your South America list (I will be using airport codes) would be: IGR – by far the greatest waterfalls you will see anywhere. It is in a lush green forest with trails and really is an experience. They even have points hotels there! And MAO – going deep into the Amazon rainforest and hiking there would be really fun.

  4. Punta Del este was a nice spot to spend a few days on the beach as part of a 3 week honeymoon – that said it’s more of a “see and be scene” kind of place as opposed to a quiet serene beach.

    We enjoyed it but I’m in no rush to go back. Buenos Aires however is amazing.

  5. Machu Picchu – Only way to the city (aside from hiking) are 3 competing (overpriced) train lines. There are luxury options to review. You can also review the first class long distance bus lines in Peru. Peru has enough natural sites to see to last you a whole week, especially if you like archeology. There is also a large variation in nature – mountains, rain forests, and even deserts with enormous sand dunes.

    Foz de Iguacu are a natural place to visit. You can get there from Brazil, Argentina or Paraguay, so lots of options. Brazil side has the most stuff.

    I’d add Ushuaia. Go see the penguins.

    If you like skiing, Bariloche (Argentina) is one of the top luxury skiing destinations in the world. I assume some nice hotels there. When we went, we stayed somewhere cheap.

    Montevideo is fun. Remember they have dinner at like 9pm.

    For Galapagos there are a few competing “cruise” lines. These ships hold like 70 people, so theyre not like the Caribbean cruise lines at all.

    Not South America, but Mexico has a lot of eco-tourism.

    Id like to read your reviews on the Azul airline (the Jetblue of Brazil…same founder). I would also think theres a huge variation in LATAM considering its actually like 6 different airlines.

  6. Two nights at the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas on the Brazilian side of Victoria Falls makes for a great trip. The location and after- and before-hours access to the Brazilian national park are fantastic, and the property is well maintained and well staffed. (The bar and the billiards room, in particular, stand out.) It’s straightforward to take a day trip to the Argentina side. From an airport perspective, both IGU (Brazil) and IGR (Argentina) are well connected domestically. LATAM also service IGU from LIM.

  7. Great comment @JJJ many good points there too.

    Forgot to mention you can also fly a cool new route from Madrid to Iguazu on Air Europa. This would be like flying to Frankfurt to fly to Whitehorse. The route is almost as random 🙂

    Yes Azul would be a great review. They fly from FLL and MCO. Avianca Brasil A330 would be great too and LATAM has so many J products that need to be covered.

  8. All are great ideas for destinations. I assume you’ve done Buenos Aires and Mendoza. Those are definitely on my “to do” list.

  9. This week I just got back from vacation in Montevideo, Buenos Aires, and Argentine Patagonia.

    Skip Montevideo. Maybe Punta del Este is more interesting.

    Patagonia is amazing! Already planning a return trip.

  10. Patagonia is awesome! I flew in PUQ a few years ago, I highly recommend the area, you won’t be disappointed.

  11. You could try Fernando de Noronha, an island in the Brazilian Coast or try the jungle lodges out of Manaus

  12. Just came back from Peru and Chile. Both are awesome!
    In Machu Picchu, I really recommend the Sumaq Hotel, just wonderful.
    PS: as a Brazilian, this list kind of kills me haha
    Safe travels!

  13. You can easily do the Bolivian salt flats from San Pedro de Atacama as well without necessarily flying to Bolivia.

  14. My favorites include Iguazu and the Nasca Lines. Can’t wait to go back and see more. To me, Machu Picchu is much like the Eiffel Tower/Roman Colosseum… can’t miss it if you’re in the area, and definitely interesting, but it’s awfully touristy. You could hike the Inka Trail, since hiking is your hobby. I think the accommodations are home-stays, so I’m not sure if that would work for you.

  15. Good to see Tambo del Incoa. I have stayed there and it is a great hotel. It is next to the river, great food and the railway station at the back of the hotel is the starting point of the train to Machu Picchu.

    I also visited Atacama. The landing and take off at Calama were wild. So much turbulence.

  16. You don’t need to stay in Uyuni for the salt-flats tour.

    Last year I took the 7am flight in from La Paz ….

    All the tours start at the same time, approx 9am or so?
    And all the tours end at the same time also, approx 5-6pm (whenever sun sets, soon after).

    And then I took the 7 or 8pm flight out back to La Paz.

    Worst case your flights are delayed so move the tour to the next day.

  17. Montevideo is beautiful, but boring. There is NOTHING much to do there.

    The odd looking building in Independence Sq was …hmmm mildly interesting to take a tour of, and of course the Andes Mountain crash museum is there (The primary reason I visited the city).

    The people are very lovely, food is good….but thats it. On a Sunday the streets are EMPTY! Perhaps everyone was at church?. The Sky is so blue it makes you wonder what is going on with the skies in the rest of the world (Geoengineering). Anyway.

    Its works for 36 hours max, although I hear outside of the city is better.

  18. I went to Bolivia in 2016 and visited Uyuni/Atacama desert.
    It is safe but you may be subject to altitude sickness. Also, I hired a private guide/driver for the 4 day tour.

  19. If you or Ford suffer from asthma skip Machu Picchu and Altacama.

    If you go to Galapagos you need to decide on cruise or land based. We did land based as I get claustrophobic and sea sick. However you need to take a bus ride to boat that will take you to islands. You are also limited then in your island visits, you will only have one per day at the hottest time of the day. Thise who are coung cruise only get to island hop early morning and late afternoon. Some of the five star accommodations quickly deteriorate in the humid environment.
    If you go to Patagonia there ate some amazing fishing lodges with great horseback riding. The weekly Asado or barbeque is amazing!

  20. RE: Uyuni Salt Flats

    You can do a 3 day tour of the Uyuni Salt flats that departs and returns you to San Pedro de Atacama, Chile (this is the main travel hub of the Atacama Desert). In all of my research it is just as easy (if not easier) to access Uyuni from San Pedro, Chile as it is to get there from La Paz or Santa Cruz.

    I will update you later as I will be visiting both next month 🙂

  21. Definitely recommend Atacama. Suggest you research when most likely to see flamingos, we just got lucky, no pun intended, and it was beautiful seeing them in such serene surroundings. We rented a car and didn’t do any tours, but we did end up on one road not too far from Calama with a steep hill above the (little) road and huge boulders ready to roll down on us, so maybe get better information than we did.
    Went to Machu Picchu many years ago before so crowded, it was certainly nice but I’d do anything possible to go when least crowded.
    Peru has lots of other Inca ruins and other interesting towns south of Lima like Arequipa and Puno on Lake Titicaca.

  22. I found Bolivia to be perfectly safe. Sad AA cut their flights to LPB. I highly recommend that you travel to the salt flats during/ towards the end of the rainy season. The water pools on top of the flats and acts like a mirror for the sky. Easily the most incredible natural site I’ve ever visited. Otherwise, during the dry season, you are visiting a regular salt flat – such as you could find in a number of spots worldwide. That said, the lodgings in Uyuni and the rural areas of Bolivia aren’t of the highest quality.

  23. As mentioned earlier, easiest to do salt flats via Atacama.

    I really loved the desert. San Pedro is a super touristy and super small town. It’s going to get old after about 3 days in the town itself. Do 2-3 nights there with hikes/tours scheduled each day. There are some great operators–the ones in town are kind of low-rent. DEFINITELY do private tours, since you can get to spots outside of peak hours. In fact, it’s probably just easiest to rent a car and do all the hikes you want to do. Driving is pretty easy in that part of the world, and most of the trails are pretty straightforward as long as you bring plenty of water.

    Hire someone to drive to Bolivia and knock that out in one go. Flying via Bolivia is a mess and a waste of time.

    Now that Argentina has liberalized their domestic aviation market, you can also go there and fly basically anywhere in the country RT from Buenos Aires for super cheap. It used to be outrageously expensive in cash, even as points bookings were super easy.

  24. All these places are on my South America bucket list as well especially the Salt Flats of Bolivia and Machu Picchu. Looking forward to your trip reports.

  25. Have been to 3 places on your list (MP, Patagonia and Galapagos). Galapagos was my fave of the 3 by far (in fact my 2nd favorite trip ever, after Bhutan). I generally prefer active vacations as well, and it is true that a Galapagos cruise is not strenuous in any way. However, there is much, much more than watching the seals from the boat (you get to swim and play with them. Can’t touch them, but they are super playful and will swim up to you and engage with you). There are light hikes on the islands with amazing nature (wildlife and terrain) and lots of kayaking. My favorite part was the snorkling (sharks, penguins zooming past you, colorful fish, turtles etc). I am far from an average cruiser, in fact, it was my first and only “cruise” (ok, maybe backwaters in Kerala and Halong Bay also qualify), and I was never bored with nature-related activities. I would HIGHLY recommend a boat tour vs land-based because the best and most interesting islands are too far for day trips from populated islands. Also, go with a small boat vs. something like Lindblad or Celebrity (we went with Ecoventura, 20 ppl boat for the best passenger to guide ratio, I.e. we had 2 naturalist guides vs 1 as the rule is no more than 16 people per guide). Most boats will hold 16 ppl for that reason (unless of course you go with a huge boat). Bigger boats can’t disembark at all islands and in general I would hate to explore these remote islands surrounded by a crowd of people.

  26. Our family did Machu Pichu and Galapagos this summer. Both were amazing. Lots of flight availability on LATAM or Avianca using BA Avios or United miles.
    Stayed at Tambo Del Inka and it was great. a nice lil retreat but still in the city of Urubamba. Also, train stop to Machu Pichu on site. We were a lil worried organizing our tour so went through a company, but easy enough to do on your own.
    While no point hotels in Galapagos, we stayed in a cheap “upscale” hostel. While most excursions you have to book organized tours, lots of agencies offer half price tours the day before during off season. And they all contract out to the same tour operators.
    @mark while the Belmond is nice and on site at MP, there is no activities besides MP around it. Would be nice for one night, but very expensive. It would be like staying on Ellis Island…

    Review of Tambo Del Inka

  27. Iguasu. Hands down best Falls in the world
    The Argentine side is far better than the Brazilian side

    I’d also recommend the penguins of Argentina. Warm weather plus penguins. What could be better

    Buenos Aires is the best South American city, hands down.
    Beautiful. Cosmopolitan. Great lodging.
    Extremely gay friendly
    Gay marriage legalized in 2010. You heard that right. 2010

    Do Buenos asires and Iguasu

  28. I loved both the Tambo del Inka and Palacio del Inka, although the JW Marriott in Cusco is supposed to be the best hotel in the city, I think (it certainly is a little more centrally located than the Palacio).

    I would also recommend the Lake District in Chile. Fly into Temuco or Puerto Montt. I went when the Villarrica Hotel was part of SPG. The area is beautiful (in a different way from Patagonia), and there’s a ton of activities to do.

  29. I’d recommend flying into Lima and heading south to Nazca where you’ll see the Nazca lines as well as the start of the Atacama.

  30. We recently did three months in South America all on points and hit a few of these pots. Tambo del Inka is a fantastic hotel. It is one of the nicest hotels I have stayed in.

    We used the Chase Portal for the Atacama Desert. We booked a mid range hotel ($150 or so a night) and it was not nice. If I did it again, I would definitely look for something nicer. IT is expensive there, so $150 does not buy a nice room. The atacama is a very interesting place to go, and like nothing else, but I also would not go back– a lot of the sites are super spread out and you will drive for hours and hours for a 1/2 mile walk. There is a canyon hike to Laguna Verde Hot Springs in Atacama, one of the few real hikes we found, which was incredible.

  31. @lucky, I’m live in Aventura, FL, but spend 30 % of my time in NY. Where in FL do you spend your time. I also am traveling to a small city in Southern Peru to visit in-laws in November. Flying AA J- class MIA – LIM and LIM – AQP on Avianca in business on a Lifesmiles redemption. First time for me. Can’t wait.

  32. Tambo del Inca is the best SPG hotel I have ever stayed at. You will love it. It has an awesome spa. Bring Ford.

  33. South America is my favorite Continent—don’t miss Ushuaia Argentina, the world’s southernmost city, and Punta del Este in Uruguay gets my vote for the Continent’s best Beach resort—just make sure to go “in season”.

  34. You should stay at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge in Machu Picchu and Belmond Palacio Nazarenas in Cusco, really amazing properties. Highly recommend Tambo Del Inka, it’s quiet and secluded. Skip Montevideo, one of the most depressing cities I’ve ever visited.

  35. Your choices closely match mine.

    Mine are, like yours, Punta Arenas, Chile; LaPaz, Bolivia to Lake Titicaca to Cuzco to Machu Picchu; and Montevideo. Also Iguacu Falls and a brief stop in Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia.

  36. As others have said, you should combine atacama and the salt flats. I’m in atacama right now and it’s amazing. Starting a 3 day 2 night tour from here to the salt flats finishing at uyuni airport where we are getting straight on a plane to La Paz (there are no oneworld options to Uyuni but it’s a 50 min flight to La Paz.

    We also did a combined machu pichu galapgos trip last year. Galapagos was one of the most amazing places I’ve been, we didn’t want to be tied down to a cruise so opted for staying on land, island hopping, doing our own thing and going on plenty of hikes and bike rides. It’s like a giant zoo you can just walk around and there is wildlife everywhere

  37. More stocking filler really!
    Ben, you proclaim getting to know the locals and a sense of adventure with your eco polluting travels but please stop trying to be an adventurer which obviously your not!
    Hiding behind limo transfers and whisked away to tacky 5 star self proclaimed properties in the backdrop shanty towns just doesn’t cut it.
    Your sense of adventure is laughable at times!

  38. explora Patagonia for sure. It’s just the type of experience you’ll love. It’s incredible. You should spend a few days in Buenos Aires. It’s a magical place. Montevideo is tired and you can skip it. Salta and Jujuy in Argentina too. Definitely recommend iguazu falls, a day or two on ipanema beach in Rio, and some time in Buzios.

  39. Montevideo is one of those cities that sounds exciting and mysterious, but is actually just a boring, mostly empty, dump. But if you insist, I recommend dinner at Rara Avis next to Teatro Solis just off Independence Sq. Just don’t walk around too far. Nothing else memorable except the awful apartment building on the otherwise beautiful Independence Sq.

    Honeymooned at the FS Carmelo 8 years ago. It is definitely relaxing. We had an air transfer from EZE to a small landing strip right off the property. Much, much better than the cab, ferry, cab option. There is a winery just up the street and a couple very rural, eclectic small restaurants nearby. You can also reserve the private gazebo on-site for a multi-hour private dinner. It was a nice retreat from civilization.

  40. Lucky must have some really bad impression about Brazil and brazilians. Even though he does not say it out loud, it gets easier to acknowledge that if you are long time reader. 😛

  41. Lcuky regarding the Hyatt in Uruguay, when can we start using our Hyatt points to book the new hotels Hyatt is adding to their collection?

  42. Lucky, Montevideo is best visited in a combo with Buenos Aires. Take three days there – and one overnight in Punta. It’s a beautiful region with great food, but not that many attractions

  43. I went to Bolivia this year ending with a couple of days at the end visiting Atacama. This was before AA ended service to LPB. I went with a girlfriend for close to two weeks and we felt perfectly safe. We did the basic 3 day 2 night tour out if Uyuni. And to be honest I think I liked the landscape and fewer crowds of the second day, rather the visit to the salt flats. The salt flats were still really amazing. That being said I imagine the landscape is pretty similar in Atacama, it’s basically across the boarder. We looked at some of the tours and it seemed to be kind of the same as what we saw in Bolivia for a lot more money. We did do a stargazing tour, loved it, and rented bikes to explore the desert. San Pedro has got to be one of the most crowded tourist places I have ever been. I couldn’t wait to leave.

  44. I was in the Galapagos for a surgical mission for 2 weeks. It was fine and fun, but I was expecting my socks to be blown off… My expectations were too high. We were on San Cristobal Island and stayed in very comfortable and inexpensive housing. We saw, on that one island, every single thing folks hope to see in the Galapagos except for the penguins on Isla Isabela. We did an overnight trip to Isla Santa Cruz to see the Darwin Center and Lonesome George. However, for me (us), African safaris offered so much more diversity and excitement.

    A South Pole visit has always been on my ‘list’. A colleague recently visited and told me to save my money. Just do plenty of research. You are a busy guy, Lucky, and I want your time away from home to be amazing…not ‘meh’.

  45. My top South American Sites
    1. Patagonia – both Chilean and Argentinian side. You can opt to do the W trek in Torres Del Paine. From Punta Arenas, you can go to Isla Magdalena for the Magellanic penguins. You can cross the border to El Calafate, Argentina for Perito Moreno Glacier and El Chalten.

    2. Galápagos Islands- an extensive 7-day cruise will take you to far flung islands with spectacular wildlife. My favorite was Isla Genovesa for an opportunity to marvel at various endemic bird species that won’t get rattled at the sight of humans.

    3. Iguazu Falls- see form Argentina and Brazil. Just magnificent. They have boat cruises that go very near the falls from the Argentinian side.

    Runner ups:
    Salar De Uyuni- if you are prone to altitude sickness, you would need at least 2 days in La Paz or Uyuni to acclimate. I did the 3-day tour that ended in Atacama desert. Atacama is not as magnificent as the top 3.

    Machu Picchu- Just touristy. To avoid the crowds, go on an hike to see secondary but phenomenal ruins. Did the 4-day Inca Trail a few years back.

  46. No rio, São Paulo, bogota, Buenos Aires? Nature’s nice but nothing compares to the sophistication of cities IMO

  47. Also for nature I’d highly recommend the fasano hotel chain. They have some cities and some nature in Brazil and argentina

  48. Loved the Tambo Del Inka when we stayed there in May. Onsite train station makes getting to MP easy. While the Belmod onsite at MP is nice, its not close to any other activities.
    Also loved the Galapagos. Best beach we have ever been/hiked to as there was no buildings and no people there. We did not do a cruise. We just did water excursions each day. During the off season you can get some pretty good deals by booking the day before. All the tour companies use the some tour operators.

  49. In Argentina, recommend Perito Moreno glacier. There is a guided walk on the glacier which is cool if you’ve never done that before. Easiest access is to fly into El Califate. It’s an hour or less from the town.

    Also check out Arequipa in southern Peru and Colca Canyon.

  50. If you’re going to Patagonia, considering also spending a couple of days in Ushuaia, on the Argentine side. Check out the Tierra del Fuego and Cape Horn, see the penguins, and brag about how you visited the southernmost city in the world (though Puerto Williams, Chile also claims the title). Maybe even hitch a ride on a tour to Antarctica if you don’t mind dropping some serious dough. I’d also second the earlier suggestion of a jungle/Amazon River tour from Manaus. I’ve never done either, but both are way up there on my wish list.

    If you’re looking for a quicker trip where you can also bulk up on OW status and redeem hotel points, you can take a couple of day tours of the Andes from Santiago. You can hire a guide cheap, and they’ll take you to hiking trails an hour or two outside the city (you choose the difficulty level and duration and they take you there). I don’t know if you or Ford are into winery tours, but that’s something you can also do as an easy day trip from SCL. And Chilean wines are fantastic and dirt cheap when you buy them locally…

  51. Uruguay is a great country, Montevideo is an incredible city, a smaller friendly version of Buenos Aires and has a great opera house the Teatro Solis and foodie destination Il mercado. Colonia del sacramento is a small but a very unique city. Punta Del Este is probably the best beach resort in South America and has every A list celebrity in the world visit it. Email me if you want any further information.

    Cusco is a great jumping starting point for Machu Pichu and I would recommend the BELMOND HOTEL MONASTERIO which is one of the best hotels I have stayed in. Take the Orient Express Hiram Bingham train to the base of Machu Pichu it takes you back to the glamour of train travel. At Machu Pichu spend a night at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge an be alone at Machu Pichu when the tourist hordes have left.

  52. I have a 10 year visa to Brazil and been to Rio 5+times as well as coastal areas and few other places in the State of Sao Paulo on business. Was treated by the locals hosts extremely well. Great hospitable people and fantastic experience. Great experience in Rio as well. However, it is not the place for a casual visit by an American tourist. This is also true for many other places in South America… Surely, if you fly in and stay in top Marriott/Hilton properties you will be just fine but please do not venture outside without locals or if you look like US tourist. Please don’t!
    I was flying in F with another gentlemen another day. It turned out he was returning from Guatemala to CA and he was doing quite some some business there. What he told me that it is exceptionally safe … when you deal with the right people. I agree 100%.

  53. We liked the Carmelo resort and spa! Two days is enough, but there’s a very nice wine lodge nearby – super relaxing and pretty rooms. Montevideo is ok. If you go in nice weather you can bike along the promenade. From there you can ferry to BA without too much trouble.

  54. Like a lot of the commentators have mentioned, San Pedro de Atacama is a must. One of the most distinctive landscapes on the planet. The Atacama Desert is extremely dry and in a number of locations there has never been any recorded rainfall! The vistas are one of a kind due to the fact that it is located in the Andes Mountains yet combined with the desert.

    In the vicinity of San Pedro there are a number of unique places to tour including the Valley of the Moon and the Geysers del Tatio (which are the third largest geyser fields on the planet).

    Also agree that Montevideo isn’t worth it unless you have a reason to go.

  55. @Lucky if they still have the 22% instant cash back on foreign issued credit/debit card, then you should go there first before they take away this tourist benefit. It`s like point/miles lover’s wet dream. I was there 2 years ago, and you get 22% back by using a foreign issued card at restaurants. It`s not only the high end restaurants. You even get 22% off at McDonald and Subway. Heck, where else in the world gives you 22% discount at McDonald. Besides that, Montevideo and Colonials are just simply pretty. Montevideo is one of my favorite cites in South America. it`s very calm and chill out, a bit like Europe.

  56. What do you desire to see or experience? I’ve spent years traveling across South America, including the destinations you mention, for work with NatGeo. Perhaps we can share specifics if we had a better understanding of your interests. If you are interested in experiences off of the beaten path, then I can recommend attractions in all of the destinations.

  57. 1- Northern Patagonia (fly to Temuco, Chile and get a car…drive to Pucon/Villarica area go canyoneering, river rafting, etc.). Lots to do in that area. Hike the Villarrica volcano for sure. Head down through the lakes region and enjoy incredible scenery…stay a few nights in one of the most unique hotels in the world at Huilo Huilo (hotel shaped like a volcano, another like a giant mushroom, another like a tree…awesome to review these). Right near the hotel you can get your car on a ferry and cross into Argentina on a long narrow lake…incredibly scenic. Then you head down the Argentina side of northern Patagonia through Via La Angostura, and Bariloche…some cool little towns. Stop and go zipling in one, horseback riding in another, can actually scuba dive in some of the lakes there as well. Cross back over to Chile near Bariloche and drive to Frutillar and Llanquihue spending some time on the lake and driving up and hiking the Osorno Volcano.

    2- southern Patagonia (fly to Punta Arenas and rent a motorhome). Before heading north get on a ferry and go to Magdalena Island and see the penguins. Make sure the motorhome is 4×4 if your taking it to Torres del Paine (which you should). Hike the W or at least a portion of it. Go see glacier Gray (could review the fancy lodge at the base of the lake there). Drive across to Argentina to El Calafate and then Perito Moreno glacier. Then head up to El Chalten (don’t miss this one…you need to hike Fitz Roy at least once in your life – google it…it is not a tough hike. Head south and go see Tierra del Fuego and Ushuia in southern Argentina. Cross back into Chile and return the motorhome. This will take 2-3 weeks, but will be epic.

    3-San Pedro de Atacama & Uyuni. Fly to Calama, spend some time outside the city of San Pedro (Tatio geysers, Valley of the Moon, sand boarding the dunes, floating in the salt lakes, star gazing with the big telescopes and no light pollution) then head out on a Jeep tour to Bolivia (you can stay in the Salt hostel…pretty cool, but the floor is loose salt so it’s not your type of 5 star anything in that region. Bring a lot of altitude medicine…you’ll spend the night at 16,000+ feet…there are some incredible colorful lakes and thousands of flamingos. You’ll end up on the salt flats and visit the desert island which is amazing.

    4- Iguazú Falls from both the Argentina side (think getting up close and personal – wet – in the falls)…stay at the Sheraton in the park. There will be monkeys trying to break into your balcony in the morning. You can walk from the hotel to the falls on the paths…as well as the Brazil side (think much more scenic and breathtaking views and also a lot more tourism and stuff to do). This trip was actually surprisingly amazing…I didn’t have high hopes, but was pleasantly surprised.

  58. Uruguay is awesome, spent 2.5 weeks there in February. Montevideo is a fun quirky city. Punta del Este is awful, soulless high-rises for Argentinians and Brazilians to park their cash. Instead can highly recommend Cabo Polonio — you need to travel via huge dune buggy to get over the sand dunes and there is one deluxe property in the otherwise electricity-free town that comes to life between Christmas and Carneval. Spent a week there with friends from Montevideo and it was epic. Another amazing property is the truly unique Casa Pueblo perched high above the water not far from Punta del Este. And high-end travelers are gaga over Garzon because of the wines and Francis Mallmann’s property. But Punta del Este I really can’t stand.

  59. Lucky, you must add Fernando de Noronha to the list. Just got back from a week there – as beautiful as French Polynesia in my opinion. Also, Iguazu Falls (Argentina side) is fabulous and a wonderful place to visit for two days.

  60. I second the Patagonia recommendation – in particular I would recommend El Calafate, for the amazing Perito Moreno glacier (do the big ice tour!) and other unforgettable outdoor activities.

    Not much doing in the points-and-miles arena, but the Eolo is Aman-like and will make you forget about all that! We also enjoyed seeing the penguins in Ushuaia and having the bragging rights of seeing the world’s southernmost city, however, it doesn’t demand too many nights.

    Aerolineas Argentinas does a good job of connecting Patagonia without requiring flights back to BA (we did BA –> Ushuaia –> Calafate –> Bariloche –> BA). DO NOT attempt to drive between these places as others suggested in this thread or your one-week trip will turn into a month-long ordeal.

    We also thought Montevideo was a lot of fun to see and certainly not a “dump” as others suggest. It’s an easy, quick ferry from BA. Uruguay in general is a cool, quirky country with a lot going for it — seriously, it turns out to be the South American leader in just about every governance and quality of life measure. Who knew? — but Montevideo doesn’t warrant too many nights, and the points hotels are not the best option.

  61. Also, I will note that contrary to everything I was expecting, we found Aerolineas Argentinas to be a pleasure to fly domestically – almost entirely brand new 737s every bit up to Delta’s standard, decent service (at least in the SkyPriority lanes) and on time departures. I understand long haul may be a different story, but for internal purposes, they are just fine and have by far the most flights, etc.

  62. Read up on Montevideo and the rest of the country from Guruguay, one of the few guidebooks on the country: I ordered it as pdf and it’s both useful and fun to read. I like the city – it’s time travel to 1980s Spain, but at the same time it’s laid back in a good way, and safe too, at least during the day. I’d go there more often if it wasn’t so far away from home.

  63. @Lucky, I did Palacio Del Inka and Tambo Del Inka in January and cannot reccomend this experience and these hotels highly enough.

    Due to the altitude adjustment you should spend 2-3 days in Cuzco which is an amazing city, acclimatising and exploring locally reachable ruins. Palacio Del Inka is one of the best hotels in town, with gorgeous rooms and suites overlooking the temple of the sun. Service was excellent and the cocktail bar – drinking pisco sours alongside an ancient Incan wall – was great.

    Take the Hiram Bingham to Macchu Picchu, though I am not sure I’d stay at the Belmond hotel there except for convenience. Try the Inkaterra macchu picchu pueblo….

    It’s best to hit Tambo Del Inka on the way back from Macchu Picchu for a couple of nights (it has its own rail stop) to treat yourself after a long day up at macchu picchu, and use it as a base to explore some of the other sights in the sacred valley – truly stunning property although personally I found the service more helpful at Palacio Del Inka.

    One tip: I went in off-season (Northern winter, rainy season up there) and found that it was at the limit of my tolerable crowd level… I can’t inagine what it would be like in high season when I am told more than twice as many people per day visit the site….

  64. That’s a tough one, so many beautiful places in South America but not very interesting in terms of flight travel. You have already tried Latam and Avianca, so that’s pretty much what you have in terms of good premium cabins. As a fan of LH, you might probably want to try (again!) Lh first class between FRA and EZE or Qatar Q-Suites between from DOH to GRU/EZE. From there you can fly LA premium cabins to the rest of the continent. In terms of destinations, and assuming you are looking to combine being outdoors-point hotels-new airlines, you might want to try the new Norwegian flight between AEP-BRC and stay at the Llao Llao Hotel or AEP-MDZ and stay at a winery next to the Andes (Norwegian has just launched their subsidiary in Argentina). Other places in Argentina already mentioned in the comments are El Calafate-Perito Moreno Glacier and Ushuaia. Of all the places you mention, Machu Picchu, Atacama and Uyuni would be at the top of the bucket list, together with Ushuaia and El Calafete/Torres del Paine (a hike on a glacier is hard to forget)

  65. My husband and I are based in Santiago, and we’ve taken many of the trips on your bucket list the past couple years. In San Pedro, don’t miss out on the Puritama hot springs, owned by Explora. It’s a beautiful spot, romantic, and with so many pools, usually semi-private. You don’t have to be a guest at Explora to use it, so it’s possible to rent a car (no 4 wheel drive needed) and visit on your own. We thought the rental car route was perfect for San Pedro, in general, as we were able to visit a lot of the cute pre-antiplano oasis towns nearby, as well as the high desert volcanoes and lakes. It’s all very easy, just keep in mind the elevations are high, as San Pedro is at 2600 meters, and a lot of the attractions are much higher.

    Perhaps another area that should be on your radar is the Chilean lake and volcano district. Particularly lovely is Pucón. We try to go a couple times a year, and the best times to visit are during the shoulder seasons, November and December, and March. Avoid the school
    Summer vacation periods of January and February, as the relaxed town turns into something very different. There are many adventure outfits in Pucón with long lists of outdoor activities. It’s one of the places in the world where you can hike an active volcano, and often see the magma in the crater. Our favorite activity, by far, is the inflatable kayak (ducky) outing with Rodrigo and Emma at Kayak Pucón ( You don’t need kayak skills to use the ducky’s, but you get an active river experience.

  66. I am going to have to piggyback on all this advice. We have booked a 6 week honeymoon in mid feb arriving in BA via Santiago, and leaving from Lima. So far just the airfares out of Sydney booked.

    Many things mentioned are on our list, but we are going to have to tailor. We don’t do ‘rush’ anymore, and would prefer to spend more time in less places. We can make Rio for carnival, but then where should we go. Any itinerary suggestions gratefully accepted.

    We have travelled widely, but are South American virgins

  67. Ben, I will love to see you in my home country, Uruguay. If you go to Punta del Este you need to go during summer (December-January). It is when the place is full of life. I also recommmed Colonia del Sacramento for a night stay.

  68. Do some research on Maragogi, a beach in northeast Brazil (state of Alagoas). There is coral barrier, cristal blue waters and white sand. Try the Pousada Rangai for nice rooms and food.

  69. Machu Picchu is the most incredible place I’ve ever been. Out of the dozens of “blue chip” tourist sites I’ve seen in over fifty countries – MP is number one with no close second. History, mystery and some of the best scenery on the planet. Do the hike up Huayna Picchu if it’s still offered – a technically simple hike but exhausting as it’s largely vertical. It will be hard to visit MP without spending a little time in Cusco and that’s just fine. Cusco has so much to see in and of itself.

    Ecuador, well, you’d be hard pressed to find a country that’s more pleasant to visit time and time again. Ecuador is tiny but has a huge range of ecosystems, climates and terrain – all wonderful in their own way. Lots of interesting things to see and some of the nicest people you’ll ever meet.

  70. Machu Picchu is a must-see. If you can carve out the time – you should do one of the longer treks. The 5d/4n Salkantay trek was easily one of the most amazing things i have ever done for vacation. Sleeping in tents for 3 nights is probably not your usual cup of tea 🙂 but it’s well worth it.

  71. Hi Lucky, been following your OMAAT for years. If you love hiking and and overall amazing experience in South America, you should check out the Explora chain ( I think you would appreciate the concept.

  72. Glad you are branching out more with your travel writing. I love Europe and Asia, but its nice to see some more coverage of south america since I do travel there on occasion to mix it up. Argentina can be a great country to visit. Just did some time in Colombia which while a bit rougher around the edges than some places is a cool place.

  73. Another recommendation for Fernando de Noronha. Stunningly beautiful collection of islands with stellar beaches. It’s a pain in the ass to get to but that is part of its charm.

    Others I’m sure will disagree but I found the hotel scene to be meh. We stayed at Pousada Maravilha, which was ok: wonderful views, great food, lackluster hardware.

    Nonetheless, Fernando de Noronha is a very special destination.

  74. Forgot to add: if you decide not to stay at the Belmond Sanctuary Lodge in Machu Picchu, another great property I’d recommend is Sumaq Machu Picchu Hotel.

  75. I go to Peru once or twice a year so here are a few things not necessarily on everyone’s radar:
    -As others have said, spend time in the Sacred Valley outside Cusco; there are plenty of hiking opportunities there. And in Cusco, I hiked to the Inca sites in the hills around the city (as prep for my Andes trek). Just be prepared; the altitude makes it slow going.
    -If you’re there in Southern Hemisphere summer, Paracas is nice and has a Luxury Coll hotel.
    -Colca Canyon in southern Peru is awesome with plenty of hiking opportunities and lots of Andean Condors. There’s a Belmond property by the canyon.
    And some things that might not be your cup of tea:
    -The Andes trek I mentioned above was to an Inca site called Choquequirao. As incredible as Machu Picchu but no people. Reason being the only way there is a 3- or 4-day hike. You can do it on your own if you’ve got all the gear but I used a guide who provided all the gear and cooked all meals. We were literally the only people at the site that day.
    -A visit to the Amazon basin. We took a river cruise (Aqua Expeditions) out of Iquitos in the far north of Peru and it was great. Although similar to your comment on Galapagos, it’s more of a sitting in launches rather than walking kind of trip. And lots of anacondas.

  76. Do you ever get out of the “luxury” (I’ve grown to hate that word) hotels?

    They are increasingly the same and always aiming for excess, more, more, more and very seldom capture the essence of a region or city.

    These hotels are not aspirational; they are competitive, as is much of the writing about them. It is becoming a trite blur.
    You’re not going to like Montevideo because it is calm, peaceful, down-at-heel, small, not at all exciting, and just delightful. It has an exceptional recent (post-WWII) history. Look up Tupamaros and go up the decidedly shabby Henry the Navigator building.

    You’ve whipped up one more hit-the-high-points list. Knock’em off and move on. Enjoy.

  77. I second the recommendation of Jose Ignacio, Uruguay (near Punta del Este). Great hotels and restaurants, and calm with beautiful scenery. Very safe as well.

    Check out the Playa Vik Jose Ignacio for a sexy, smart hotel right on the ocean. For a late dinner, try Marismo, an outdoor, feet-in-the-sand restaurant with a big fire pit and delicious food.

  78. Do the Lake Crossing in the Argentine/Chilean Lake District from Bariloche to Puerto Montt or vice versa

  79. May I recommend Tierra Patagonia for your stay? We went last year and it was magical. Same concept as the Explora (all inclusive with activities), but it’s outside the park, the building is more architecturally beautiful and sustainable with the landscape, and they get you away from the tourist heavy areas of the park. I couldn’t have loved it more!

  80. Nice places to visit.
    But really sad you don’t come to Argentina. With actual devaluation would be really cheap for you (except southest)

  81. I was going to skip MP because crowds, etc. It’s the only place I’ve been humbled by.

    If you’re a foodie even slightly you should do a quick culinary tour of Lima. I’m a cheapskate, so not my cup of tea, but it is still amazing. The city is crowded and not pretty, but if you’re flying through anyway, make a point of planning a lunch and dinner there.

    Also, I don’t see any mentions of Huaraz, in Peru. there are beautiful Andes hikes in Peru as well as in Patagonia, and rather more accessible. (Though nb I think Peru may be a bit more conservative in some respects.)

  82. When you go to Punta Arenas, rent a car and drive to Puerto Natales, then into the Torres Del Paine national park where you will have a breathtaking hiking experience. Try to stay in the park at least a couple of nights. Do it in the South American winter or October. Very few people, less expensive and less windy. Also drive to Tierra del Fuego where they have big king penguins. I went last year and it was one of the best trips of my life.

  83. We also liked the town of José Ignacio, on the east side of Punta del Este, in Uruguay. The town has a lot of similarities to the Hamptons. We rented a car and based ourselves at Chihuahua beach, a few miles to the west of Punta del Este. We stayed a a charming gay-owned inn, near the gay beach. Highly rexommend:

    Check out Undarius Hotel (exclusively gay men) on Booking!

  84. Also, if you want to visit Cuzco, and Machu Pichu, and combine with a trip to Chile, there are now non-stop Latam flights SCL-CUZ.

  85. Lucky, why do you hate Brazil? You’re missing out on SO much by not including it on this list. Then again you might just not be familiar with that Brazil has to offer.

    1. Luxury lodge in Manaus at the Amazon Forest
    2. Sand dunes & freshwater pools in Maranhao at Lencois Maranhenses National Park
    3. Fernando de Noronha, the Hawaii of Brazil, off the northeast coast
    4. Iguacu Falls- you can stay at luxury lodge Awasi on the Argentinian side or the Belmond Hotel das Cataratas right next to the falls on Brazilian side
    5. Punta del Este is where its at, nothing to see in Montevideo
    6. Rio has incredible islands and beaches and towns far away from the main Copacabana area that you can explore like Buzios, Arraial do Cabo, Angra dos Reis, etc.

    Hope you reconsider your list and add Brazil, it has so much to offer.

  86. Palacio Del Inca was disappointing. It’s city center location means no sleeping with the window open & the hotel has NO A/C. Even in cold weather it’s way too hot inside.

  87. I went with wife and friends on a 7 day cruise from Buenos Aires, Montevideo to Rio. After having flown from Colombia, I noticed right away that the prices in all 3 countries were substantially more expensive than Colombia while still appearing to be 3rd world.

    In Montevideo, there is a hop on, hop off double decker that drives around the city and past the beaches. I took our group to the little visited Naval Museum where they had artifacts of the Nazi pocket battleship, Graf Spee which was scuttled after a battle with British warships in the River Platte. Next we stopped at Punta del Este, which had a nice beach but very windy. Try the super-strong green tea, Mate which they drink out of a gourd. No sign of any jet-setters as it was low season. As it is the safest country in South America, Uruguay appears more middle class and a bit more boring than the next city, Santos, Brazil which is the home of Pele. They have a streetcar tour of the city. Ilha Grande, an island with no cars near Rio, was the next stop and we rented a launch to a lagoon that was spectacular with beautiful vista and clear blue water. While the infrastructure is 3rd world, who cares-it was clearly the highlight of the trip.

  88. Allow me to second Bariloche Argentina (lake district). Lots of people highlighting the skiing (which I know doesnt appeal to you)… however its great in the summer for the mountains/lakes and rafting.

    Also, I know you went to Mendoza a few years back but there are a bunch of nice luxury lodges on vineyards right outside town.

  89. Has anybody visited Colombia? I understand there are beautiful places there and is visited mostly by Europeans.

  90. @Hma – yes, spent months in Colombia. It’s a spectacular country and shares a coast with the Pacific and the Atlantic! Northern Colombia near Cartagena has an afro-Caribbean influence. I enjoy staying near Parque Tayrona in the vicinity of Santa Marta, a coastal town, when I visit. Bogota is a bustling city, full of history, culture, and amazing food and dance venues (dancing is a part of life in Colombia). Andres DC is a must for food in Bogota. My favorite getaways from Bogota include the Salt Cathedral (Zipaquira) and the musicians’ heaven – Villa de Leyva.

    Colombia is probably my recommendation as the gateway and cultural capital to Southern America. Traditionally, most of South America has been a tourist hot-spot for Europeans (not surprising given political and trade tensions with between the US and much of Southern America), but the number of American tourists are growing slowly. Some articles from my colleagues and myself can be located here:

  91. Well, I’d like to add that there are many many places in Brazil that offer the sort of destination that you are looking for. The only caveat is that there are no chain hotels there and the internet connection is lousy. Very poor cell signal and data connection is almost non existent. Try Chapada Diamantina and Vale do Pati for starters.

  92. Agree with Denis ^ Brazil has literally so much to offer in terms of what you’re looking for. Worth it to research and add it to your list.

  93. Just got back from Peru and stayed at Tambo del Inka and Palacio del Inka as well as the JW Marriott there. Would highly suggest staying at the JW Marriott instead of the Palacio del Inka. They’re 3 blocks away, but the JW is a much nicer property and overall better experience. I was disappointed in the Palacio.

    The Tambo del Inka however was incredible.

  94. We have been to all those places. I think you should add The Amazon to your list. We did the Peruvian side from Puerto Maldonado. We stayed at a lodge called Inkaterra, which was 100 points. Reading your review about Mahpi sounded a bit like Inkaterra, although the food and cabins are Inkaterra I believe are superior than Mashpi. Highly recommended.

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