South America's Big Five
Let Viva Expeditions introduce you to the Machu Picchu, Amazon, Galapagos, Rio de Janeiro and Iguazu Falls - or better known as South America's Big Five.
1. Machu Picchu, Peru
Number one destination in South America for most people is likely the famous Machu Picchu. It is an ancient Inca citadel set high in the Andes Mountains in Peru at an altitude of 2,430 meters. Also known as the ‘Lost City of Incas’, Machu Picchu is declared as a UNESCO World Heritage and listed as one of the New Seven Wonders. The impressive archaeological site stayed undiscovered for many years until 1911, when American professor named Hiram Bingham accidentally found it.
Machu Picchu is surrounded by magnificent temples, terraces and water channels as well as Peruvian llamas overlooking the ancient Inca ruins. The most popular way to approach the site is through the Inca trail trek, which is by far the most famous trek in South America, or take a train from Cusco or Ollantaytambo to Agua Calientes.
2. Amazon Rainforest – Brazil, Bolivia, Peru & Ecuador
The second destination from the BIG FIVE is the Amazon Rainforest. It's the largest tropical rainforest in the world and covers nine South American countries, with best access points being from Brazil, Peru, Ecuador & Bolivia.
Amazon is a place that attracts many visitors due to its incredible and rich ecosystem including endangered fauna, impressive numbers of mammals, birds, reptiles and fish. Spotting unique animals such as jaguars, giant river otters, sloths, capybaras, macaws and toucans or seeing the world’s largest water lily is something that needs to be experienced. Our Amazon trips let you disconnect from the outside world and just immerse yourself in the extraordinary beauty of the jungle... it can truly be a great experience for everyone!
3. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Galapagos Islands is undoubtedly a major bucket list destination! Due to its extreme isolation from the outside world, the islands are inhibited by animals that cannot be spotted anywhere else, including marine iguana, the giant tortoise, flightless cormorant, blue-footed boobies and magnificent frigate birds. What’s even more unique is that Charles Darwin's theories of evolution were inspired by the Galapagos Islands after his visit there in 1835.
Nature lovers will find Galapagos the perfect place to have an up close-up encounter with animals since most of the time they are curious and fearless towards humans. Opt for one of our Galapagos Cruises that will let you explore these stunning islands and bond with nature.
4. Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Beautiful sandy beaches, the best carnivals with musical samba rhythms and the famous tourist attraction 'Christ the Redeemer' is what Rio de Janeiro is best known for. This vibrant and colourful city has become a very popular tourist destination, along with its iconic beaches of Copacabana and Ipanema, and Sugarloaf Mountain. Just a few months ago, it hosted the summer Olympic Games which brought great improvements to the city in terms of tourism and it's now even more appealing than ever before. It also has excellent connections to all major Latin American cities, which makes it super easy one to tick off your list.
5. Iguazu Falls, Brazil & Argentina
Witness the largest waterfall in the world thats split between two countries – Argentina & Brazil - and as its made up of 275 falls, is considered to be the most majestic of water falls. From the Argentinian side, get close to the waters and take a bath in the world’s biggest open-air shower, 'Devil’s Throat'. Or enjoy the stunning panoramic view of the falls from the Brazilian side. Mostly people tend to spend one day on the Argentinian side (because most of the falls are on that side) and half-a-day on the Brazilian side to witness the magnificent panoramic view. Either way - it's a truly awe-inspiring experience.
These five beautiful attractions are considered to be the best places to visit to experience the real South America, but definitely the continent has much more to offer! Combine all these great places in one trip, or make separate journeys.... just pop into a World Travellers store and together we'll plan your perfect trip to South America.
(Blog first published on Viva Expeditions)