Obviously, it is not feasible to cover an entire continent, but if you have made the decision to visit South America this year, we have chosen a few destinations worth considering. From coastal resorts to mountain towns and from vibrant cities to popular spots among backpackers, here is the essential information you need to know for your trip to South America.
La Paz, Bolivia
Out of all the countries in South America, Bolivia is generally the most affordable for tourists, making it a destination you must visit if you are traveling on a tight budget. Perched high in the mountains at an altitude of over 4,000 meters, La Paz offers abundant opportunities for exploration.
Whether you are marveling at the colonial architecture, including magnificent churches, or immersing yourself in the intriguing local attractions such as the Witches’ Market (yes, it is a real place), the streets of La Paz are always bustling with activity. Challenging hikes up seemingly impossible slopes often lead to unexpectedly charming plazas that you may not have known existed. The city’s rapid growth has resulted in a pleasantly unpredictable atmosphere. And if you have had enough of climbing, you can hop on the cable cars that crisscross the city, offering a breathtaking view of the vibrant chaos below.
As the night descends, the excitement doesn’t stop. Seasoned travelers often claim that La Paz offers some of the most remarkable nightlife experiences, not just in South America, but in the entire world. Whether you’re into cocktail bars, underground live music venues, pulsating techno nights, cozy wine bars, or rooftop pool parties, there is an abundance of options to choose from. The vibrant nightlife scene is one of the compelling reasons why people originally plan to stay for a week or so but end up extending their visit even longer!
Paraguay consistently ranks among the “happiest countries in the world,” primarily due to its philosophy of tranquilo pa—a blend of the Spanish word for ‘calm’ and the local Guaraní suffix ‘pa.’ It embodies a combination of being laid-back, content, and easygoing, without neglecting important aspects of life. It doesn’t imply a complete absence of work and all play, but rather emphasizes a balanced approach where family, friendship, learning, work, and maintaining a positive outlook should harmonize, resulting in a sense of fulfillment with one’s life.
The capital city of Paraguay, Asunción, truly embodies this philosophy. It may not be a sprawling metropolis, with only around half a million residents, but it exudes a youthful vibe (with 65% of its population under 30). The city embodies the spirit of tranquilo pa; it may not be the most awe-inspiring destination you’ll ever encounter, but it offers an interesting, affordable, friendly, walkable, and relaxed environment.
Similar to La Paz, as night falls, you’ll realize how a youthful city like Asunción can feel larger than its size. There’s always something exciting happening, yet you won’t have to travel long distances across the city to experience it. If you’re not quite ready for the energy of Rio de Janeiro, find São Paulo overwhelming, or consider Buenos Aires too predictable, give Asunción a try. You’ll be pleasantly surprised.
Renowned as one of the most stunning cities in South America, Cartagena’s Old Town is a designated UNESCO World Heritage Site, featuring magnificent churches, rows of vibrant colonial houses, and imposing fortified walls.
The city itself is often regarded as an upscale destination, considering its offerings. There is a wide range of luxury hotels and upscale restaurants, but you’ll still find plenty of budget-friendly options for accommodations and dining. Even sticking to the basics—meat, rice, fish, salad, and the like—you’ll discover satisfying, flavorful, and affordable meals.
Situated on the Caribbean coast, Cartagena caters to a variety of preferences. Seeking a beach vacation? You’ve come to the right place. Prefer leisurely strolls, exploring the city? Perfect—the city is easily accessible, a wonderful place to wander and immerse yourself in its rich history. Looking for street art, trendy bars, and local musicians? No problem—the neighborhood of Getsemaní, once known for its drug and crime issues, has transformed into one of the coolest spots in South America.
It’s an incredible time to visit a city that has experienced it all, overcome challenges, and reinvented itself as a thriving and vibrant destination that should be a part of any South American adventure.
South America offers a diverse range of destinations for travelers. From the bustling streets and vibrant nightlife of La Paz to the laid-back charm of Asunción and the captivating beauty of Cartagena, there is something for everyone. Whether you seek adventure, relaxation, or cultural immersion, these cities showcase the unique allure of South America and leave visitors pleasantly surprised.