Are you a first time visitor to South America looking for the best things to do? You’ve come to the right place! My name’s Charlotte Little and I’ve been exploring South America for seven months now. What an incredible part of the world South America is!
I grew up in the very south of England, a tiny part of the world called Cornwall. I’m lucky to have such a beautiful home. Many people never leave and that easily could have been me. I don’t believe I found travel. I honestly think it found me at the perfect time in my life.
Fresh out of college, I found a great job and was in a long term relationship with my childhood sweetheart. When I turned 20 I realised that something was missing and there was a bigger adventure out there for me. I left everything behind and chased it.
They kept me returning for four years and after that I thought it was about time I gave the rest of the world a chance. I feel that much of our beautiful planet has become a developed concrete jungle and I’m always trying to get back to nature.
My Incredible South America Itinerary: Seven Countries in Seven Months
I’ve been in this beautiful part of the world for 153 days now. Personally I enjoy taking my time a little and traveling with minimal plans so I selected seven months for seven beautiful countries.
It has been an unbelievable experience and sometimes you have to pinch yourself and remember these places are truly real.
The Galapagos Islands gave me that feeling and The Amazon was the most remarkable place. We visited the local tribes and learnt their traditions whilst staying on the river and spotting animals in an ethical way.
The people of Colombia have been one of our biggest highlights. They are some of the most friendly and beautiful people I’ve ever met. Our next adventure will be the Rio Carnival in Brazil and I can’t wait!
Special Memories on this Epic South America Journey
Staying inside the park with some locals and being woken up every morning by monkeys howling and swinging outside our room in the jungle are some of my most magical memories from this trip.
I’m truly passionate about animal preservation and eco tourism. Being able to experience their home in a natural way was incredibly special. Of course there are countless other moments that I will remember forever.
Another memory that always brings me joy was paddle boarding at sunset in the Amazon in Ecuador. There was a family of rare pink dolphins playing nearby and my face was covered in Amazonian clay straight from the bottom of the lake.
That was such a unique experience that I never expected to have.
Best Things To Do in South America for First-Timers
South America is such a big place that it’s hard to narrow it down to only several experiences. But below I’ve summarised the essential adventures that everyone should experience on their first visit to the continent.
Visit the Beautiful Galapagos Islands
There is nowhere like this place on earth. 600 miles from land, it’s still a mystery how such large and strange creatures came to these isolated islands. The ocean is filled with incredible marine life and it’s truly a mind blowing land. I highly recommend the Galapagos Islands!
Drink the Best Coffee in South America in Colombia
Funnily enough, Colombians don’t drink much coffee because they export their beans to the rest of the world. Staying in the coffee region in Colombia is essential to understand the hard work that goes into each cup.
Experience the Nature of the Amazon Basin
This isn’t something I’d usually want to promote as the Amazon is disappearing FAST. We chose to visit the Amazon in Ecuador as their government recently agreed to stop mining in the forest for oil. The wildlife is now more healthy there than anywhere else in the Amazon.
Tourism means the local tribes can continue to live there and it gives the government a reason to stop mining.
Explore the Best Hiking Trails of Peru
Peru is the most diverse country in South America. You can be in snowy mountains one day and a golden desert the next. Huaraz in Peru has some incredibly beautiful hikes to high altitude lakes that will shock you with their beauty.
Venture to the Deep South of Patagonia
Go Wine Tasting in Mendoza, Argentina
It’s rumoured that Argentina makes the best Malbec in the world. For a small price you can rent bicycles and visit the beautiful vineyards for yourself around the Andes wine regions.
Discover the Rich History of the Inca People
South America has the most fascinating history. The Inca people were astronomers who studied the stars long before telescopes and built ancient sites like Machu Picchu and Ollantaytambo.
Stay at a Unique Salt Hotel in Bolivia
Take a Roadtrip across the Atacama Desert
In the North of Chile you can experience a desert that meets the ocean. The landscape of the Atacama Desert is truly unique for that reason.
Party at South America’s Biggest Carnival in Brazil
Every February the vibrant country of Brazil explodes with music and colour for their annual carnival. With a tropical backdrop of turquoise ocean and green hills, this has to be the best party in the world.
Of course, there are more incredible things to do in South America than what I’ve suggested above. However, these are fantastic experiences for first time visitors to the continent and hopefully they can help get you started planning your epic itinerary to South America.
Meeting the Wonderful People of South America
The locals of South America have been some of the most friendly and kind people I’ve had the pleasure to meet. In Colombia many locals would give us free coffee and were excited to welcome us into their beautiful homes.
In Chile many locals would see us walking around and often offer us a ride somewhere. It’s been incredible to meet so many generous humans.
The Delicious and Diverse Food of South America
Much to my surprise, I haven’t been blown away with spice or chilli peppers yet! The food has involved a lot of fresh fish and rice, and you can guarantee a portion of fries with nearly every meal too.
An essential local treat that you can find everywhere is the delicious empanadas. I stick to a vegetarian diet but a local and tourist favourite is the Llama filled pastries.
Where to Stay on your South America Journey
There are some incredibly affordable and beautiful Airbnb options across South America which we definitely took advantage of on the trip. Hostels are also everywhere and host activities such as free salsa lessons and empanada cooking classes.
My favourite so far though was Atacama Loft in Chile. We had our own bungalow with a fire pit outside which we toasted marshmallows on every night and enjoyed some of the best stargazing in the world.
What you Need to Know Before you Go
Many people are reluctant to visit South America due to safety concerns. I would say don’t let that stop you. It’s a wonderful place.
I suggest that travelers download Google Translate and learn a little Spanish as it will help a lot with daily needs. ATM fees can add up here so make sure you have an appropriate setup with your bank or get a traveler friendly credit card.
Lastly, prepare for some long bus journeys with a podcast playlist and pack for multiple seasons. Most of all, enjoy every second of this incredible place.