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What are the most essential destinations in South America?

South America is a continent rich in natural wonders, cultural heritage, and diverse landscapes. It is also massive, and can therefore consume a considerable amount of time to discover, should the intrepid traveler seek to truly, and rather ambitiously, see it all. In this day and age, however, we know that the obligations of life oftentimes don’t allow us the time to conquer such feats of discovery, and clients are often balancing a tight timeline, a strict budget, or sometimes even both.

Consequently, it comes as no surprise that Travel Agencies and Tour Operators are often tasked with creating a shortlist for their clients that distills the overwhelming abundance of destinations available in South America. So, while there are numerous essential destinations in South America, here are some of the most notable ones that they won’t want to miss out onand why they are considered significant:

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Patagonia, Chile & Argentina

Pristine wilderness, glaciers, and dramatic landscapes all come together to paint an unforgettable picture of what Patagonia is known for. The region, which straddles and spreads out along the border between Chile and Argentina, draws in visitors from around the world that wish to experience a remarkably untouched swath of Earth that can only be encapsulated in one word: epic.

Patagonia is home to supermassive glaciers that you can stand before and be humbled by (Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina), along with dramatic and near-abstract peaks that embellish the ridges of its beautifully remote plains and canyons (Torres del Paine National Park in Chile). Failing to encourage your clients to visit this region of South America would be wholly remiss, given it offers them the chance to really feel like they’re at the final frontier of earth’s myriad of landscapes. Not to mention, Patagonia offers numerous opportunities for your clients to delve into the sublime wonder of the region through outdoor activities, like hiking, wildlife spotting, and glacier exploration.

Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

Where would we be today without the acclaimed Galapagos Islands? Perhaps a little behind on our theory of evolution, that’s for sure; but also, rather empty-handed when it comes to having access to a land before time that still exists to this very day. Thanks to their unique presence on our planet, it’s no surprise the Galapagos Islands are among the first UNESCO World Heritage Sites ever to be established, thanks in large part to the unique and diverse wildlife they are home to.

Let your clients know that they can expect their trip to the Galapagos Islands to feel like an escape to a cageless zoo, where creatures beyond comparison roam, fly, and swim about freely and fearlessly in the presence of humans! No other place in the world will get them as close to the action as the Galapagos, especially when it comes to witnessing, mere feet away, the evolutionary wonders of life (giant tortoises, penguins, marine iguanas, and blue-footed boobies, to name a few!) and how they continue to exist and survive in their unique environment. Not to mention, the landscapes in the Galapagos Islands are simply astonishing and downright otherworldly, with massive volcanoes, lava fields, rugged terrain, and vegetation that seems plucked from another planet, and gorgeous vistas, coasts, and cliffs that every landscape photographer won’t want to miss out on! And adventure awaits around every corner—be it through hiking, snorkeling, kayaking, paddleboarding, or bicycling—in the Galapagos Islands, so your clients will never have to deal with a dull moment during their time there!

Snorkeling in Galapagos Islands

Machu Picchu, Peru

Mystery and beauty pervade throughout this ancient Inca citadel located high up in the Andes Mountains of Peru, inviting visitors from around the world to come unravel its secrets and wonders. It’s no surprise that Machu Picchu is regarded as one of the most iconic archeological sites in the whole world, with mesmerizing architectural design, history shrouded in mystery, and breathtaking mountain views.

The citadel provides valuable insight into the Inca civilization, which was one of the most advanced pre-Columbian societies in the Americas. As your clients walk along its labyrinthian corridors and walkways, they’ll be able to witness firsthand the Inca’s keen sense of architecture and engineering, with terraced fields, intricate stone constructions, and sophisticated water-distribution systems. The mountaintop it is perched on also provides unforgettable views of the encompassing landscape consisting of peaks, ridges, canyons, rivers, and verdant forests.

Machu Picchu holds deep cultural significance for the Quechua people (descendants of the Incas) and many Peruvians, as it serves as a timeless symbol of the country’s heritage and cultural pride. It’s no surprise that it has also been recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site due to its historical significance.

Your clients also have a decent number of options for how they can experience Machu Picchu, whether it’s adventurously trekking all the way there along the Inca Trail and getting to marvel at the flora and fauna of the region or simply take in the beautiful train ride there to experience it within in a day, this iconic place never fails to cater to every explorer’s need!

Peru Machu Picchu Alpahaca

Caribbean Coast, Colombia

Postcard-worthy palm-lined beaches do indeed embellish Colombia’s Caribbean Coast, that’s for sure. However, there’s so much more to it than that! In addition to its soothing natural beauty, this warmer region of the country offers your clients plenty of cultural heritage and hospitality; with plenty of things to see and do for those that seek relaxation, history, and thrilling adventures, or a combination of all of these!

The Caribbean Coast in Colombia is lined with some of the most beautiful beaches in the whole world. From the crystal-clear waters and white sands found on islands near Cartagena to the tropical serenity of Tayrona National Park, your clients will come away with a newfound definition of paradise.

Not only that, but they’ll also be mesmerized by the remarkable melting pot of cultures that the region is home to. Indigenous influences, Spanish colonizers, African Slaves, and Caribbean neighbors all have come to form a part of the eclectic human identity that’s found here nowadays Consequently, it’ll be irresistible to get swept up by its welcoming energy and witness, firsthand, the vibrant and diverse culture that’s seemingly always on display through music, dance, food, and traditions.

Cartagena is probably the biggest hotspot of this region, partly due to what’s already been said, but also thanks to its Old City. It is here that your clients will get to venture down its narrow cobblestone streets, colorful buildings, and lively plazas; only to be left with the unbeatable sensation of being in a place where history truly feels like it has come back to life. And don’t forget to mention that there’s an epic Castle that overlooks the city, too!

Plenty of adventure awaits, whether it’s hiking in the National parks or Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta, diving or snorkeling in the warm Caribbean waters, or surfing in Palomino, your clients won’t be lacking in this department. Also, they won’t have to worry about an empty stomach! The region is saturated with mouthwatering dishes which, unsurprisingly, incorporate plenty of delicious fresh seafood and local ingredients!

Colombia Tayrona beach

These destinations represent just a fraction of South America’s vast offerings, but each one provides a distinct experience that combines natural beauty, cultural significance, and historical importance, making them essential, unmissable highlights of the continent’s tourism landscape.

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