Best Places to Visit in Central and South America
From the misty rainforests of Rio to the ancient archeology of Cusco, this versatile region boasts a wide array of activities tailored to a variety of traveler types. But choosing among the area's diverse vacation spots can feel like a daunting task. To help you find the perfect destination in Central & South America, U.S. News has ranked the best places based on traveler and expert recommendations and discerning factors such as accommodations, dining, culture and attractions. Vote for your top picks below to help us determine next year's list.
Why go: The Galápagos Islands are best known for their colorful creatures — ranging from giant tortoises and lizards to seals and penguins. Plus, the islands boast a minimal human footprint, adding to their allure. Getting here will cost you, but aren't the plentiful wildlife-viewing opportunities worth it?
Why go: Forgotten until the 20th century, the "lost city of the Inca Empire" is home to mystical temples and archeological sites. Plus, the verdant mountains in the backdrop aren't bad to gaze at, either. Embrace the steep elevation and discover this ancient city's secrets for yourself.
Why go: As the former capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is the home base for travelers visiting the legendary Machu Picchu. If you're not worn out from the hike along the Inca Trail, spend time at lesser-known attractions like the Pre-Columbian Museum or stargaze at the Cusco Planetarium.
Rio de Janeiro
Why go: With its white sands and vibrant nightlife, Rio de Janeiro makes for a fun getaway at any time of year. Whether you're looking for a glittery Carnival costume or a striking view of Christ the Redeemer, Rio has it. And soaking up the sun at Copacabana won't cost you a dime.
Why go: Costa Rica is more than a beach vacation. There are volcanoes to hike, lush rainforests to explore and a vibrant culture to experience. R&R-seekers can immerse themselves in "pura vida," as the locals say, and surf and sunbathe along the Nicoya Peninsula's 80 miles of shoreline.
Why go: This cosmopolitan city known as the "Paris of the South" has a lot going for it. It's hard not to fall in love with the city's wide boulevards and Parisian-style cafes. And with its burgeoning food scene and kid-friendly attractions, Buenos Aires suits all types of travelers. Visit in fall or spring for the best room rates.
Why go: Argentine Patagonia's scenery will captivate you, from the Lake District to the rustic cattle ranges of Southern Patagonia. You can unravel history at the Cave of the Hands and get to know Punta Tombo's Magellan penguins.
Why go: Bogotá's northern region boasts eclectic architecture and an emerging cultural scene. For Old World charm, head to the La Candelaria district, where you'll encounter grandiose churches and colonial mansions. Just be sure to allow time to savor an authentic Colombian meal.
Why go: This vibrant capital can be likened to Miami and other glittering coastal cities. Apart from its flashy high rises, you'll find Belle Epoque buildings, cobbled streets and a bounty of outdoor activities. After admiring the Panama Canal, retreat to the Amador Causeway for a drink along the waterfront.