The capital city, Santiago de Chile, has placed itself on the map as a destination in its own right. The Plaza de Armas, the symbolic heart of the city, is a must-see, with its fountain which celebrates the liberator Simón Bolívar, and shade from more than one hundred palm trees.
Santiago also has a glorious street food scene. Join a street food tour and feast on meat casserole along with a peach drink at the Mercado Central, voted the fifth best street market in the world by National Geographic in 2012. Other refreshing drinks include ‘terremoto’, normally Spanish for ‘earthquake’ but in this context ice cream mixed with white wine and fernet.
The city’s pièce de résistance is the view from the Cerro San Cristóbal, though. This park covers 722 hectares and the funicular will transport you so that you can enjoy commanding views of the city. At the summit at Bellavista end of the park, the 14 metre high Virgin de la Immaculada Concepcion watches over Santiago.
In the giant Buenos Aires, you can explore sights such as La Recoleta cemetery (where Eva Perón is buried), the presidential office (which sits in a curious pink building!), the Japanese Gardens and the city’s famous Caminito neighbourhood with its colourful houses and tango dancers working their magic in the streets.
Natural beauty, meanwhile, is where Argentina comes into its own. In Bariloche, a cable car will transport you to the top of the hill and from there you can gaze out over the region’s tranquil blue lakes, filling you with a real sense of peace and wonder.
Of course, you can’t (and shouldn’t!) leave Argentina without visiting the Iguassu Falls. Beautiful… powerful… majestic: these are just some of the words that might pop into your head while the water crashes down.
Known for samba rhythms and party flair, Rio de Janeiro is an exhilarating place to visit, but it has its calm spots too. Spend some time in the pretty (and popular) botanical garden, which enjoys more than 340 acres, with its orchids and water lilies. The garden has more than 6 000 indigenous species of flora. Weekdays are the quietest time to visit the gardens.
You should also make time to see one of Brazil’s top attractions, Sugar Loaf Mountain. You can take the cable car up to the top of the mountain and gorge on an astounding view of the city, as life rolls on peacefully below in Copacabana, Ipanema and other such popular parts of Rio de Janeiro.
Travelling around South America is an enriching experience. After just a day or two, you’ll soon find yourself thinking about when you’d like to return and what you’d like to see next time.
Images by InfoMofo, David Holt London and laszlo-photo, used under Creative Commons licence