With Covid-19 postponing travel plans to South America in 2020, we thought it would be a great idea to share the best places to visit in South America for 2021. This continent was the starting point of our round the world trip a few years ago and it’s got a special place in our hearts.
Before we do that, let us introduce ourselves. We are Anastasia and JP, an Italian and South African who met in Durban, South Africa in 2012. Destiny brought us together to live in the same place at the bottom of the world. In December 2017, we quit our 9-5 jobs and started Travel Leap.
Beginnings of our Journey with Travel Leap
Anastasia was born in a small city called Pordenone in the north east of Italy. At 17 she left home for a year abroad in the USA. When she returned home, she finished her studies and moved to Milan for university and work. In 2012, Anastasia moved to Durban, South Africa where she met JP.
On our first date we talked about our biggest dream which was to go travelling for a year. We were both fascinated about travel since we travelled a lot with our families in childhood and had a similar free spirit and love for adventure. It’s safe to say that we instantly connected.
In 2014, after a year of dating, we decided to move to London. We spent three years together and travelled all over Europe. Fast-forward to 2017 and we had moved to Paris to start planning our big escape. We saved enough money and quit our 9-5 jobs. This was the moment to realise our dreams.
Kicking off a Round the World Trip in South America
South America was the starting point of our round the world trip which later continued on to Asia. This was the first time JP stepped foot on South America while I had already been to Brazil. This continent had always been a dream destination for us – packed with adventure around every corner.
We were truly blown away by the diverse range of destinations and experiences on offer. To this day, it remains the highlight of our travels around the world. It’s a fascinating place, so rich in history and culture.
South America Adventure: From Chile to Colombia
Next was Peru where we literally ate our way through an entire country. It was a bucket-list experience to learn about the fascinating and mysterious history of Machu Picchu. The Amazon Rainforest was another highlight and we thoroughly enjoyed the vibrancy of Peru’s history and traditions.
We learned how to scuba dive in Colombia, slept under the stars, fell head over heels for the colourful Cartagena and danced many nights away at the sound of Salsa. The amazing Galápagos Islands was where we discovered a world of nature and rare animals living together in harmony.
Our Favourite Countries: Peru & Colombia
Each country in South America has its own unique treasures. One country we would return to immediately would be Peru. We spent a month and a half discovering this country and it was still nowhere near enough time.
Peru is a country with such a distinct, strong and vibrant culture. There is so much to learn and admire here. Its nature is infinite and magnificent and the country offers opportunities for both adventure and relaxation.
We also loved Colombia. A country that has a bad reputation but that in reality is a beautiful place. The food is delicious and there is this constant atmosphere of joy. If you have to choose just two countries to visit in South America for 2021 then we recommend Peru and Colombia!
Top 10 Places to Visit in South America 2021
South America is one of those places where exciting new destinations are being uncovered all the time. From the depths of the Amazon to the vast stretches of the Atacama Desert – below you will find our very own personal recommendations of places to visit in South America for 2021.
1. Immerse yourself in the Amazon Rainforest of Peru
The Amazon is an absolute must-do in South America for 2021 but there are many different entry points to the rainforest. We recommend doing it from Peru as it’s considered the birthplace of the Amazon. Here you will find the most untouched regions home to large concentrations of wildlife.
2. Tick the Epic Machu Picchu off your Bucket List
There is no denying that Machu Picchu is a must-do for your trip to South America in 2021. Seeing the sunrise over the hills and learning about the mysterious Inca culture was what we cherished the most. You can go on amazing multi-day hiking adventures that lead to this ancient city.
3. Explore the Salt Flats at Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia
Another bucket-list experience in South America for 2021 are the salt flats of Salar de Uyuni. The reflections of sunrise and sunset are spectacular and it’s always fun to take photos with the tour guides in this epic landscape. You can even stay at a Salt Hotel which is pretty cool.
4. Discover the Rich Wildlife of the Galápagos Islands
One of the last protected natural environments of the world. We recommend visiting these islands while tourism numbers are still low to see the wildlife and nature in its purest form. Galápagos is like an open-air zoo home to sea lions, marine iguanas, blue-footed booby birds and more!
5. Fall in Love with the Charming Cartagena
This gem of a town will make you fall in love as soon as you visit. The city is located on the Caribbean coast and is full of colour and vibrancy. Get lost in the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Old Town with its maze of cobblestone streets, balconies covered in bougainvillea and churches.
6. Get Lost in the Lush Cocora Valley of Colombia
Valle de Cocora has become a rite of passage for travellers to Colombia these days. Located just outside of the quaint little town of Salento, this valley is home to the tallest palm trees in the world and some of the best coffee on earth too. Go on epic hikes and discover lush terrain.
7. Find Peace in the San Pedro de Atacama of Chile
San Pedro de Atacama is a place of indescribable beauty. We recommend touring the many natural wonders of this region such as the active geysers, colourful lagoons and breathtaking salt flats. Make sure you visit the small villages of the desert which are home to historic churches and craft shops.
8. Visit Vicuña, A Hidden Gem of South America 2021
Vicuña is a real hidden gem of South America that is often overlooked by travellers. Observe the stars in one of the towns many observations and try some delicious pisco. The climate and landscape of this region of Chile is perfect for stargazing as there is no humidity and the sky is always clear.
9. Go Sandboarding in the Desert Oasis of Huacachina
Huacachina in Peru is a real life oasis in the middle of the desert. It’s such a unique spot. Marvel at this little settlement surrounded by towering palm trees and go sandboarding up and down the rolling sand dunes. Enjoy one of the best sunsets in the world from the top of the golden sand dunes.
10. Relax at the Beaches of Tayrona National Park
Tayrona encompasses quite a large area and is home to some of the best beaches in Colombia. There are several remote hidden paradise beaches such as Playa Cristal, Neguanje and Playa Brava; and more accessible places like Castilletes, Arrecifes, Cabo San Juan and Punta Piedra.
Our Favourite Memories from South America
Today we look back on our travels through South America with so much fondness. In particular, two specific memories stand out to us both.
The first one was seeing the clouds lift up and reveal the ruins of Machu Picchu. It was an unforgettable moment of pure amazement and definitely the best sunrise we have ever experienced in our lives. The second memory was in Galápagos when we spotted two rare blue whales gliding in the sea.
As the sun was setting on the horizon, we caught a glimpse of these two whales while we were out cruising on a boat. It was one of those moments where we had to pinch ourselves: “Was this real?” Just pure magic!
Tips for your Visit to South America in 2021
Pack light but have a mix of different clothes that work across warm, humid and cold climates. We had to buy jackets and ponchos because we didn’t realise how cold it could get in certain locations.
Travelling around the continent is surprisingly easy. The best way is to use buses which are safe, comfortable and affordable. Knowing a bit of Spanish can go a long way as many people don’t speak English on the continent.
South America is the ultimate destination for backpacking. Despite what you might hear on the news, most countries are safe and easy to navigate. There is so much to discover in this incredible continent. Get ready for the biggest adventure of your life on a trip to South America in 2021!