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The 4 best sights in South America

Iguazu Falls - catwalk Brazilian falls Brazil
Equador Amazon

The 4 best sights in South America

story by: Mike Williams

The 4 best sights in South America

There's no continent on earth that offers the same beguiling mix of natural beauty, ancient history and steamy nightlife as South America. 

Consisting of 12 independent countries, South America has something to seduce and delight every type of traveller. Culture vultures will feel like they're starring in a documentary as they wade through the remnants of Machu Picchu's ancient civilisations. Nature-lovers will find themselves captivated by the raw wilderness of the Amazon Rainforest, while foodies will find themselves spoilt for choice in Sao Paulo.

Not sure where to start? We've put together a list of the three best things to do in South America to help you get inspired.

Machu Picchu
It might not be a secret attraction, but Machu Picchu deservedly holds the throne at the top of every South American bucket list. Situated in Peru and more than 2​,400 metres above sea level, Machu Picchu is the ruined city of the ancient Inca Empire, and stands as a living testament to its knowledge and power as a civilisation. It's a cultural marvel not to be missed.

The Incans had an incredible understanding of engineering, constructing the entire city without the use of mortar - the stones of the buildings are so perfectly cut that you can't slip a sheet of paper between the cracks. The citadel consists of about 200 stone structures, and a complex network of terraces, ramps and stone walls that cascade down the steep mountainside. 

You can access Machu Picchu by train and bus, but for a more authentic experience, try walking the Inca Trail. The trek takes four days and weaves through mountains, forests and along ancient Incan paving stones.

Iguazu Falls
They might be a bit of a challenge to access, but the Iguazu Falls, also known as the Iguassu Falls and the Iguazu Falls, are absolutely worth it. Huge, thunderous and unforgettable, the falls stretch for nearly 3 kilometres along the border between Brazil and Argentina, and feature gushing torrents of water falling from heights of up 80 metres. Purpose-built walkways have been constructed to provide you with a closer look at the Iguazu Falls in all their magnificence. There are several islands located in the river, but they're often obscured by the massive clouds of spray that the waterfalls produce. 

The Iguazu Falls can be accessed from both the Brazil and Argentina side, with both perspectives being very different. Wandering the Argentina side gives a view from above the Falls looking over, and the Brazil walkways offering a view from afar, both of which are necessary to do. To add to the experience, the Gran Adventura boat ride will take you to the bottom of the falls where you’ll get drenched by the falls spray, and your adrenalin pumping! And lastly but definitely not the least for real enthusiasts, hope for good weather and take a Heli flight directly over the falls for the best views. The Iguazu Falls are a necessary addition to any South American holiday, a great intermediary between Argentina and Brazil city stays.

Galapagos Islands
Home to one of the most diverse showcases of natural wildlife in the world, the Galapagos Islands are an oasis for animal and nature lovers alike. The volcanic rocks that comprise the Galapagos Islands might be rocky and leafless for much of the year, but their unique isolation has allowed animal life to flourish here, both above and below the surface of the sea. Perhaps what's most remarkable about the creatures here is their utter disregard for humans - this is one of the few remaining places on Earth where animals remain the masters of the environment. 

Prepare to be amazed and delighted by a variety of weird and wonderful animals, including sea lions, blue whales, giant tortoises and a world of colourful fish.

The Amazon 
Spanning nine countries and covering more than five million square kilometres, the Amazon is a true natural wonder. There are more than 40,000 plant species, 427 mammals, 1,300 birds, 378 reptiles, 400 amphibians and 3,000 freshwater fish that swing, swim and squirm beneath the leafy canopy. It's the biggest rainforest in the world and boasts an incredibly rich biodiversity that needs to be seen to be believed.

There are a few ways to experience the raw majesty of the Amazon. Guided jungle treks are popular, as are river cruises and aerial tours of the region. There are many operators offering different options and packages - make sure you do your homework and choose one that prioritises your safety and environmental sustainability.

As you might have guessed from its immense size, there are a number of gateways to the Amazon. Some of the best access points are at Manaus in Brazil, Iquitos and Puerto Maldonado in Peru and Coca in Ecuador.

There's simply too much to see and do in South America to describe it all here. To find out more, you might just have to hop on a plane and get over there yourself.

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