This is a region that thoroughly deserves the superlatives. Home to the earth’s largest rainforest, highest waterfall and longest mountain range, the scale of the place is hard to get to grips with.
There is certainly something here for everyone, from beach bum to botanist and everything in between. Whether you choose to explore one country in depth or hop between the continent’s highlights, you can expect to be wowed at every turn. There are places in South America that are famously and justly popular, yet there are also areas untouched by modern man. The essence of South America is hard to pin down, where will you find it? Perhaps it will be at a chaotic market or in the hypnotic beat and colour of the Carnaval; at the end of another incredible meal or in the depths of the steamy rainforest; maybe in the relics of an ancient civilisation or the faded elegance of a colonial street; could it be the awesome sight of the blue Patagonian ice or the dazzling white of the Bolivian salt plain? The only way to find out is to go and see for yourself.
Zona Cafetera (Colombia)
Spend a few days based on a coffee plantation in the hills of the Tierra Paisa learning about coffee production and soaking up the verdant views. Great hiking routes weave in and around the Zona Cafetera, taking in scenic highlights such as Salento and the Valle de Cócora.
The Amazon Jungle (Peru, Brazil, Ecuador, Colombia)
From monkeys to macaws and crocodiles to clown frogs, the Amazon jungle is brimming with wildlife. Take a boat trip through the most biodiverse region on the planet and marvel at creatures weird and wonderful as you go.
Machu Picchu (Peru)
The incredible Inca ruins, perched among pinnacles of rock in the middle of nowhere, are as mind-blowing as they are impressive. It might seem like a tourist cliché to trek to the plateau, but seeing is believing and for once the reality far outstrips the hype.
Fiesta forever (Uruguay)
It is well worth making the trip into the northern pampas to Tacuarembó, heart of gaucho country. Get a true taste of cowboy life at the annual Fiesta de la Patria Gaucha - a traditional shindig in early March involving rodeos, gaucho contests, music and lots of cowboy dudes.
Fall for Buenos Aires (Argentina)
Somehow far more than the sum of its parts, Buenos Aires is a city that is easy to love. Simultaneously gracious, sultry, lively and cultured, the Argentinian capital is the pinnacle of Latin American urban buzz, with a cutting-edge food scene, a mesmerising setting and passionate porteños.