South America is one of the most diverse continents in the world. Most people are familiar with the Amazon River and its stunning surrounding rainforest. But travelers and adventure seekers may not realize how many wonders there are to see on this continent. From record-breaking waterfalls to salt flats, South America is teeming with natural beauty. Whether you want to go mountain climbing, swim in a natural pool, or experience the beauty of a glacier, you'll find it here.
At 3,212 feet, Angel Falls is the highest waterfall in the world. It's located in the Canaima National Park in the Bolivar State of Venezuela and is one of the country's top tourist attractions. Getting here isn't exactly easy. Tours include a four to five-hour motorized canoe trip and a 90-minute hike, but the views are absolutely worth the trip. During the wet season, a natural pool forms at the bottom of the falls where you can swim before heading back to base camp.
Located in northern Chile, the Atacama Desert is an ideal spot for an outdoor adventure seeker. Mountain bike to Coyote Lookout, check out the flamingo national reserve or hike to the El Tatio geysers, the world's highest geyser field. This is also one of the best places on Earth for stargazing and offers an amazing view of the Milky Way without a telescope. April through September is the best time to see it, especially on a night when the moon is waning and the sky is dark, though full moons are a pretty awesome sight in and of themselves.
The Colca Canyon in Peru is believed to be the second deepest canyon in the world. This was once an important area for the Incas and Spaniards and is still habitable today with agriculture and small towns scattered throughout. The big draw here is the Andean condor. Though the species is dwindling in numbers, they're plentiful in the canyon and easy to spot. Arrive early in the morning to watch them hunt from the Cruz del Condor pass. This is also a great place for hiking, mountain biking, and rafting on the Rio Colca.
Iguaza Falls sits on the borders of Paraguay, Argentina, and Brazil; Argentina is arguably the best place to see it, especially if you want to get right in the falls. This system of 275 large and small waterfalls constantly changes depending on the season. They're at full power during the wet season from December to February until the dry season hits in April and the falls begin to dry to smaller trickles. There are plenty of tours available, too, including limited night tours where you can explore the falls by the light of a full moon.
Lake Titicaca is about 12,500 feet about sea level and considered the highest navigable body in the word as well as the largest lake in South America. It lies between the border of Bolivia and Peru and can be easily accessed from either country. Lake Titicaca is home to more than 500 aquatic species and you'll have plenty of chances to see them. Ancient archaeological sites are scattered around the lake and there are charming small towns to explore along the shore. The main attraction here is the floating islands, each with their things to see and do.
The Perito Moreno Glacier is located in the southern Patagonian ice field, the third largest body of frozen freshwater in the world. The glacier itself is 100 square miles and is thought to be the only actively growing glacier in the world. Although this is a popular tourist stop in Argentina, there are many overlooks and balconies to take in the view. Bundle up and listen for the popping and cracking ice. You may even catch the thunder-like sound of pieces of the glacier falling into the lake.
Salar de Uyuni is arguably one of the best places on Earth to take photos. Here, layers of sale are sandwiched between sedimentary rock, going as deep as 32 feet in some areas. On a still day when there's a thin layer of water on the top of the flats, the sky is reflected as far as the eye can see, making it hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.
The Amazon River is the largest river in the world in terms of volume. It runs through Peru, Bolivia, Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, and Brazil so there are plenty of opportunities to explore it when traveling in South America. This river sustains the largest rain forest on Earth and is home to some of the most exotic plant and animal life in the world. There are plenty of tours and excursions available depending on what county you're in and how adventurous you are.
Climbing Aconcagua is not for the novice mountaineer, but if you're an experienced climber this is one of the most popular climbs in South America. Aconcagua is the tallest mountain in the Western Hemisphere at 22,837 feet and located in the Andes Mountains in Argentina, close to the Chilean border. While this is not a difficult climb, the altitude of the mountain makes it a tough one to tackle. It's often used by adventure seekers as a warm-up hike before tackling Denali of Everest.
Kaieteur Falls in Guyana is the world's largest single drop waterfall by volume, where the Potaro River falls plummets over roughly an 800-feet high cliff. The waterfall and the surrounding area were turned into a national park in 1929 in an attempt to preserve the area. The falls and the national park are tucked away in the Amazon rainforest and conservation is still taken very seriously.