When it comes to the best places to visit in South America, the capital cities of the continent stand out. Awash with culture and offering a diverse mix of cityscapes, if you are planning a trip to South America, these cities deserve a place on your itinerary. From the towering skyscrapers of downtown Santiago to the tropical beaches of Rio de Janeiro, here’s our pick of the most beautiful South American cities.
Buenos Aires, Argentina
The capital of Argentina, Buenos Aires is one of the best places to visit in South America. To truly understand Argentinian culture, a trip to Buenos Aires is a must. Indeed, Buenos Aires is a city of contrasts. Here, the elegant architecture of the Plaza de Mayo and Casa Rosada are in contrast to the colourful neighbourhoods of La Boca and San Telmo. The birthplace of Tango, a continental, romantic atmosphere permeates everyday life in the city. Furthermore, with a diverse population and an impressive culinary scene, Buenos Aires is nicknamed the ‘Paris of South America’.
Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
The ‘Marvellous City’, Rio de Janeiro is the samba and sun-fuelled capital of Brazil. Known for its golden beaches, it sits in the shadow of the mighty Christ the Redeemer statue. One of the best places to visit in South America, Rio has universal appeal. Whether you’re here for the nightlife, to top up your tan or for nature hikes into the nearby forests, Rio ticks all the boxes. Famously, Rio de Janeiro is the home of Carnival, the biggest celebration on earth. This party atmosphere can be enjoyed any time of year as locals spend hot evenings socialising on Ipanema Beach or dancing the Samba in the Lapa district. Indeed, one of the most beautiful South American cities, Rio seduces all who visit.
La Paz, Bolivia
Surrounded by Andean mountains, La Paz is a city of epic proportions. Indeed, its unique location and awe-inspiring views only add to its appeal. Dotted with tranquil plazas and cobblestone lanes, there’s much to explore in La Paz. Downtown, highrises and skyscrapers take centre stage. As the world’s highest capital city, it is one of the best places to visit in South America. In fact, the city stands at a staggering 3650 metres above sea level. To discover this unique city, a ride on the cable car system is unmissable. Connecting the highest neighbourhoods of the city, La Paz’s cable cars might just be the most exciting public transport system in the world!
Around 40%of the population of Chile live in the Andean capital of Santiago, and it’s easy to see the appeal. The cultural and economic centre of the country, Santiago is awash with brilliant museums, theatres, restaurants and shopping streets, whilst its vibrant nightlife is concentrated around its endless street-side cafes and lively bars. One of the best places to visit in South America, it’s the perfect base for exploring the delights of the Chilean Pacific and the landscapes of the Andes. Furthermore, each neighbourhood has a distinctive feel, from colonial-era Central Santiago to bohemian Bellavista and modern Sanhattan. Undoubtedly, Santiago is a beautiful city and the perfect place to experience Chilean culture.
Like a living museum, Cusco is one of the most historic and beautiful cities in South America. Awash with colonial-era architecture and Inca ruins, it is an unmissable highlight of any tour of Peru. A magical place, seemingly unchanged by the passing of time, Cusco is endlessly enchanting. Situated at 3400 meters above sea level, Cusco is the former capital of the Inca Empire. Furthermore, it is surrounded by the soul-stirring landscapes of the Andes mountain range. Discover its atmospheric plazas, steep streets and people-watch as the locals go about their daily lives in traditional dress.
Cartagena de Indias, Colombia
Dubbed the ‘Queen of the Caribbean Coast’, Cartagena is one of the most beautiful cities in South America. A colourful, vibrant city, Cartagena combines well-preserved colonial architecture with plenty of cultural charm. The Old Town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and the symbol of the city are its Palenquera fruit sellers, who skillfully balance bowls of tropical fruits on their heads. Furthermore, Cartagena’s Caribbean beaches cater for even the most discerning sunseekers. Undoubtedly, one of the best places to visit in South America, be sure to include Cartagena on your next trip to Colombia.
So, which of these South American cities will you explore first? Whether you’re looking to uncover the Inca heritage of Cusco or fancy lounging on the beaches of Rio, explore our latest South American trips on our official website: Exoticca, your online travel agency.