Guest blogger Paul Jones lives in Peru and writes for Totally Latin America S.A, a specialized travel company that plans and operates specialized Peru Vacation Packages.
South America seems to be one of those forgotten destinations on the travel map. Understandably, with a wealth of other great destinations to choose from, it might not be everyone's first choice for a summer getaway. However, for those not in the know, South America can easily rival any other continent on the planet. It's a place of exiting things to do, breath-taking sights to see, wonderful cuisine to taste and vibrant cultures to experience. Here are the top 10 attractions in South America that are definitely worth visiting.
1) Machu Picchu, Peru
Perched high up on a mountain top, surrounded by impressionable rugged Andean scenery is Machu Picchu, one of Peru's finest Inca citadels. Left untouched for hundreds of years and lost to Peru's dense Amazon Jungle, Machu Picchu is an incredibly mystical attraction that any visitor to South America must experience. Constructed from hand-carved stones that interlock with incredible precision, the sprawling citadel was one of the most important agricultural, residential and ceremonial settlements in the entire Inca Empire.
2) Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Sculpted by the French-Polish artist Paul Landowski, Christ the Redeemer is synonymous with the skyline of Brazil's second largest city—Rio de Janeiro. Located in Tijuca Forest National Park, the world's 5th largest statue of Jesus towers 30 meters (98 feet) tall, offering impressive vistas across the Rio's stunning landscapes. Constructed between 1926 and 1937, this iconic landmark is a symbol of Brazil's Christianity. In October 2006, a chapel under the statue was consecrated allowing Catholics to hold baptisms and weddings at the site.
3) Iguassu Falls, Argentina & Brazil
Possibly one of the lesser known top 10 attractions in South America, Iguazu Falls (also spelt Iguazu Falls and Iguacu Falls) is a natural wonder of epic status. Named as 1 of the New Seven Wonders of the World, the falls form the boundary between Argentina and Brazil. The numerous cataracts and waterfalls drop between 60 to 82 metres (197 to 269 feet), stretching along a course of 2.7 kilometres (1.7 miles). For an up-close and personal experience at one of the most spectacular parts of the falls, thrill seekers can take the Great Adventure Speed boat ride to the curiously named Devil's Throat.
4) The City of Buenos Aires, Argentina
Located on the western shore of Rio de la Plata (a wide estuary fed by the South Atlantic Sea), Buenos Aires is one of Latin America's most cosmopolitan and trendiest cities. Shaped by its European heritage, the streets of Buenos Aires are brimming with architecture influenced by the Art Deco, Art Nouveau and Neo-Gothic periods. Florida Street in downtown Buenos Aires is a pedestrianized shopping area popular with locals and tourists. During the day the street bustles with shoppers and vendors, and in the evening performers including tango dancers and singers, live statues and comedy acts swarm to the area.
5) The Amazon Jungle, Peru
Dominating more than two-thirds of Peru's landscapes, the Amazon Jungle is a vast, dense and mainly impenetrable region of the country. It's considered the most bio-diverse place on the earth with a recorded 90 different micro-climates. Its statistics are simply mind-blowing: its home to some 1,200 types of butterflies, 2,000 species of fish, 300 reptiles and more than 50,000 plants. In Manu National Biosphere Reserve alone, there have been more species of bird observed than in the entire country of Costa Rica.
6) Patagonia, Chile & Argentina
Patagonia—which forms the southernmost tip of South America—is a remote region of South America that receives around 100,000 international tourists every year. It's a mosaic of dramatic landforms, golden pampas, soaring snow-capped mountains and vast ice fields. Shared by Argentina and Chile, the region is popular with trekkers, photographers, nature lovers and adventure sports enthusiasts. Moreno Glacier located in Argentina's National Glacier Park is a premier tourist attraction. Covering 100 square miles (260 sq km's) and towering some 60 meters (200 feet) tall, the glacier is 1 of 47 massive ice fields in Patagonia. November to April is the best time to travel to the region.
7) The Lines and Geoglyphs of Nazca, Peru
Dating back to the Chavin period (500—300 B.C.) is a series of enormous lines etched into the arid dessert planes of Nazca on Peru's Southern coastline. The lines which depict stylized hummingbirds, monkeys, fish and spiders are one of the world's greatest enigmas. Due to dedication and lifetime's work of the German scientist—Maria Reiche, the Nazca Lines were declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995. Due to their enormity and scale the lines can only be truly appreciated from the air. A spaceman, complete with bubble helmet is probably the biggest mystery of all the geoglyphs.
8) The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador
Created from an ancient bubbling underwater volcano, the Galapagos Archipelago is a place where some of the world's strangest life forms dominate the landscapes. Located 600 hundred miles (965 km's) west of mainland Ecuador, the Galapagos is made up of 13 large islands and over a 100 small islets, rocks and reefs. Left untouched for millions of years, life forms on the islands developed special characteristics allowing them to adapt to the harsh conditions of the region. The endemic marine iguana, found on the volcanic island of Fernandina adapted from being a land animal to sea-going creature, giving them the ability to dive for valuable food found on the sea bed.
9) Lake Titicaca, Peru
Straddling the border of Peru and Bolivia, Lake Titicaca is a place where unique cultures live in harmony with nature. Steeped in mythological belief, Lake Titicaca was considered to be the birth place of the Sun God Inti. The Uros Islands (located in Puno Bay) are made entirely from woven reed found on the lake shores. Constructed to escape advancing military threats, the islands include woven houses, churches, schools and boats. On the fixed island of Taquile life has largely remained untouched for hundreds of years. It's a place where residents prefer to live a life in harmony with nature, cultivating their land by hand and continuing their ancient tradition of producing fine hand-woven textiles, considered some of the best in Peru.
10) Easter Island, Chile
Known in Spanish as Isla de Pascua, Easter Island is a Polynesian Island located some 3,500 kilometres (2,180 miles) off the coast of Chile. It is famous for being home to 887 monolithic statues known as moai. Created by the Rapa Nui people between 1300 and 1500 A.D., the statues represent deified ancestors and gods. Most of the statues are located at Rano Raraku, a natural volcanic crater and the islands quarry. The largest statue known as Paro, stands almost 10 metres (33 feet) high, weighing 82 tons.
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