9 Reasons to Visit South America Right Now

by , SmarterTravel Staff
Cable Car on Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (Photo:
Editor's Note: This story was originally published on June 27, 2013. To see the most recent SmarterTravel articles on related topics, please click on any of the following links: Argentina, Chile and Easter Island, Colombia, destination, Ecuador, Josh Roberts, Machu Picchu, Peru, Rio de Janeiro.

(Photo: Cable Car on Sugar Loaf Mountain, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil via Anthony Correia/

There are all kinds of reasons to visit South America. The pre-Colombian history. The Latin and indigenous cultures. The jungles and rivers and snowcapped peaks. But if you've never been south, or if you're on the fence about when to go again, here are nine timely reasons why right now is the perfect moment to see South America.


Quito's Old Town Has A Brand-New Face

No longer just a crossroads for U.S. travelers heading to the Galapagos or Amazon, Ecuador's historic capital city Quito is experiencing something of a rebirth these days. Enshrined as a UNESCO World Heritage site since 1978, Quito's renaissance has only taken root over the past decade—fueled largely by a $500 million investment in renovations to the city's historic Old Town.

The star attraction of Quito's delightfully dizzying warren of cobblestone streets and Spanish colonial architecture is Casa Gangotena, a newly restored mansion-turned-boutique-hotel with sweeping views of the photogenic Plaza San Francisco. Casa Gangotena sports page after page of five-star reviews on TripAdvisor and a central location that simply can't be beat. It's also committed to working with residents and neighboring businesses. Casa Gangotena participates in a local initiative called Heritage Guardians, through which guests meet locals and experience their lives and traditions during special "life-seeing" experiences. And since 2009, the hotel has shared costs with a neighboring museum to pay for the daily upkeep of Plaza San Francisco and Calle Cuenca.

Why Now: Because Quito's old airport was located in a residential area nearly 10,000 feet above sea level, U.S. airlines were skittish about flying directly into it. The recent opening of Quito's new international airport, located about an hour away from the city proper, has changed all that for the better.

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