South America is filled with natural wonders. It has the world’s tallest waterfall, the biggest waterfall system, the biggest salt flats, and the tallest mountain in the Americas.
There are also ancient ruins of the Inca culture, and some of the world’s largest cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires. Some of these places are not easy to get to, but they are worth the effort.
Here are some of the most amazing landmarks in South America.
Famous Landmarks in South America
1. Machu Picchu
Machu Picchu is one of the most famous landmarks in South America. It was occupied from about 1420 a.d. through 1530 a.d., and is believed to have been an estate for the Inca emperors.
It was abandoned about the time the Spanish invasion started, but was not directly related to that. By the time the Spanish found the city, it was abandoned. The city is in the Andes, about 50 miles from Cuzco – the Inca capital – in southern Peru.
Many of the ruins are restored, and there remains a lot of mystery about how these structures were built. Huge stones moved up mountains without using wheels and were held together without mortar.
Most people take a train to a small town near the site. Machu Picchu is about 8.000 feet above sea level, and Cuzco is at 11,000.
2. Iguazu Falls
Iguazu Falls on the Iguazu River separating Brazil and Argentina is the largest waterfall system in the world. It has 275 individual falls. The falls consist of two main steps that are 115 feet and 131 feet high respectively.
The level of rainfall determines how many falls there are and how wide the system is, but it averages 1.6 miles in width. You may also see Paraguay from the fall area. The falls can be accessed from Foz do Iguacu on the Brazilian side or Puerto Iguazu on the Argentine side.
Both cities have airports to connect with larger cities. There are highways to areas where you can see the falls. It takes two or three days to see all that is in the immediate area of the falls.
3. Torres del Paine National Park
Torres del Paine National Park is the gateway to Patagonia in Southern Chile. There are two more national parks across the border in Argentina.
Patagonia is the most southern part of South America and is a series of tall mountains with glaciers, as well as pristine lakes and rivers. The southern part of the continent is largely a protected area by both Chile and Argentina.
Also Read: Famous Landmarks in Chile
It is one of the more popular hiking destinations in Chile with hundreds of miles of trails through the mountains. You have to have a certified guide for parts of the park.
It is cold much of the year, similar to Alaska. It is part of the End of the World Route, as Chile is the southernmost country in the world.
The park may be accessed via Puerto Arenas or Puerto Natales, which are among the southernmost ports in the world. Puerto Natales is also a gateway to Antarctica.
4. Uyuni Salt Flat
Uyuni Salt Flat is the world’s largest salt flat, taking up 4,000 square miles of the Altiplano in southern Bolivia. It is 80 miles across the flats, and after rain, it creates the world’s largest mirror.
The salt flat was formed as prehistoric lakes evaporated and left meters of salt crust behind. The area is incredibly flat with only one meter of variation over the entire flat. It also has one of the biggest concentrations of lithium in the world.
Also Read: Famous Landmarks in Ecuador
The salt flats create what seems like an unreal world, or an alien world, and have been the setting for many movies. You may get there by flying from La Paz or Santa Cruz. There are several hotels in the area and in the small town of Uyuni.
5. Christ the Redeemer
Christ the Redeemer is a large statue of Jesus Christ on top of Mount Corcovado on the edge of Rio De Janeiro in Brazil. It was created by French artists and built by Brazilians, and completed in 1931.
The foundation was laid and the project formally began in 1922, but the actual work started in 1926. It stands 125 feet tall and has a wingspan of 98 feet. It is a symbol of the city and of Brazil.
Also Read: Famous Landmarks in Brazil
The statue is made of concrete and covered with thousands of soapstone tiles. It is the largest art-deco sculpture in the world.
You may see it from about anywhere in Rio De Janeiro, and you may also visit the grounds around the statue. Elevators and escalators were added in 2002.
6. Sacred Valley
The Sacred Valley of the Incas, also called the Urubamba Valley, is a valley in the Andes mountains of Peru. It was a sacred valley for the Inca and gave access from the Inca capital city of Cuzco to tropical areas and was a major corn-producing area in their era.
Also Read: Famous Landmarks in Peru
The river that flows in the valley was also considered a sacred river by the Inca. There are hiking treks you can do through the valley to Machu Picchu and other Inca ruins, as well as white water rafting, paragliding, and hiking.
To get there you need to fly to Cuzco, start your adventure in the town of Pisac and make your way to Machi Picchu or any of the other interesting places in this valley. There is a three-day hike you can do through the canyon.
7. Colca Canyon
The Colca Canyon is formed by the Colca River in southern Peru, about 100 miles northwest of the city of Arequipa.
It is one of the deepest canyons in the world, with a depth that varies from 3300 to 6500 feet. It is twice as deep as the Grand Canyon. It is a 43-mile-long canyon that has an amazing array of wildlife in a unique ecosystem.
It is the home of the Andean Condor, as well as llamas, guanacos, alpacas and Pumas. There are other very deep canyons in the region as well. There is a three-day hike many people take through the canyon.
You can get there by bus from Arequipa to Cabanasconde. It is 144 miles from Cuzco, but there is no direct route from there to the canyon. It is a great place for exploring, or you could join a tour group for exploration.
Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in the Americas at almost 23,000 feet above sea level. It is in the Andes mountain range in the Mendoza province of Argentina.
It is 70 miles north of the city of Mendoza. It is part of a provincial park with several glaciers. It is the highest non-technical mountain in the world for climbing. The climb is not hard but the altitude is difficult to handle.
The southern side is more difficult to climb. There are several camps on the way to the top. About three people die each year climbing this mountain, and about 100 have since records have been kept.
The mountain was sacred to the Inca and there are ruins up to 8,000 feet. You may get there from Santiago, Chile, or the Argentinian cities of Mendoza or Cordoba.
9. Sugarloaf Mountain
Sugarloaf Mountain is a huge peak just outside Rio de Janeiro and watches over the entrance of Guanabara Bay.
The peak is a feature of many photos of the bay at Rio and is an icon of the city itself. It is just three miles from the Christ the Redeemer statue. You can ride a cable car to the top. The rock rises 1300 feet out of the harbor and offers a tremendous view of the city and the harbor.
It is the largest of several monolithic granite mountains that rise straight up out of the water in the region. Sugarloaf mountain also offers mountain climbing for experienced climbers.
You can get to the base of Sugarloaf Mountain from the city center by bus or train. From there, you can take the cable car to the top. There are several of these granite peaks in the area, but this is the biggest and most picturesque.
10. Angel Falls
Angel falls are the tallest uninterrupted waterfall in the world, in southern Venezuela. Of all the famous landmarks in South America, this one may be the hardest to achieve.
The river falls from a tabletop mountain for a total of 3,212 feet, and the longest plunge of the uninterrupted waterfall is 2,647 feet. There are several other waterfalls in the area, as well as caves, hiking trails, and a lot of wildlife. There are no roads to the falls.
You have to fly to Canaima, Venezuela, and go from there. The falls are 50 miles from Canaima, and there are no roads to Canaima either. The easiest, most cost-efficient way to see the falls is to book a tour designed for that trip.
Going from Canaima to the falls is a four to six-hour boat ride, or a few days of hiking. It is far into the mountains of Venezuela, and just getting there is an adventure.