Are you on a mission to visit the Wonders of the World? Or maybe you’re in search of an unforgettable vacation? This South America Wonders tour might be what you’ve been looking for.
Christ the Redeemer
A marvel of engineering.
Location: Corcovado Mountain, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
Carved in elegant art deco lines, the gargantuan statue of Christ the Redeemer towers over one of the most recognizable landscapes in the world. Known in Brazil as Cristo Redentor, the statue measures 30.1 m or 99 feet in height, plus a 6 m or 20 ft pedestal. Its arms stretch 19 m or 62 ft across from fingertip to fingertip. And it weighs approximately 700 tons.
Brazil is a deeply Catholic country. In fact, the statue’s construction was funded entirely by donations from Catholic parishioners across Brazil. For residents of Rio de Janeiro, it is as symbolic of the city’s identity as is Rio Carnival, samba, the beaches of Copacabana, and football or “the beautiful game.”
A series of walkways, escalators, and elevators will get you to the main viewing platform where you can soak in breathtaking views of Copacabana and Ipanema, the iconic Sugar Loaf Mountain, and Guanabara Bay. This combination of city and mountains by the sea has bred an exceptional outdoor lifestyle unique to Rio — so unique it was recognized as a UNESCO Cultural Landscape in 2012. What better place to begin a once-in-a-lifetime vacation to South America?
275 roaring cascades in the middle of a tropical forest
Location: Iguazu National Park, border between Parana, Brazil and Misiones, Argentina
Spanning 2.7 km (1.6 mi) in length, Iguazu Falls is the top contender for the title of South America’s greatest natural wonder. The Devil’s Throat is the largest cascade. Shaped like a semicircle, it is 150 m in diameter, 700 m from end to end, and boasts an 82 m drop. The roar of crashing water is so deafening it sends chills up your spine.
It’s worth seeing both the Argentina and Brazil sides of the falls. But if you have to choose just one, then Argentina’s Iguazu National Park is the better choice for a truly immersive experience.
More than 70% of the falls are in Argentina and the trails here provide a close encounter with the natural landscape of the falls. You can choose from three circuits, any of which allow visitors to view the tumbling water from inside the canyon:
- the ecological train ride to Devil’s Throat
- the Upper Circuit (2 km round trip)
- the Lower Circuit (2 km with lots of steps)
For a real adrenaline rush, hop aboard a speed boat and ride over whirlpools, waves, and currents to the base of the crashing waters before hiking the Lower Circuit. No matter how you see the falls, be prepared to get fully drenched by the waterfall’s mists.
Masterpiece of the Inca civilization lost to the world for 400 years
Location: Cusco Province, Peru
There’s no question that Machu Picchu is visually stunning. But the more you start to learn about its backstory — how it was built and how it has survived intact for 500 years — the more amazed you’ll become.
Part of the reason why Machu Picchu survived is its inaccessible location in the rainy cloud forest about 80 km (50 mi) northwest of Cusco. Researchers believe that Machu Picchu was the royal estate of the Emperor Pachacuti. He was the 15th-century king responsible for transforming the Inca civilization into the largest empire South America had ever seen. No one knows exactly why the Incas abandoned the site, but the conquering Spaniards never heard of it — and if they did, they never arrived.
In contrast to the Incas’ palaces and temples of Cusco and the Sacred Valley which were plundered and dismantled, Machu Picchu remained intact. As such, it gives us tantalizing evidence of the Incas masterful building genius.
A guided tour of Machu Picchu brings the ruins to life. Walking through the narrow paths, you can start to imagine what daily life was like for inhabitants of the citadel. And you can see for yourself the incredible feats of required to transform a mountain ridge into a walkable citadel.
South America Wonders: Sample 11 Day Itinerary
Brazil to Argentina to Peru sounds like you’d need a lot of time and effort, right? But actually, with smart planning and an appetite for adventure, you can see it all in less than 2 weeks.
Here’s a map:
And a quick day-by-day breakdown:
- Day 1 : Arrival in Rio de Janeiro
- Day 2 : Christ The Redeemer Tour
- Day 3 : Flight to Puerto Iguazú
- Day 4 : Iguazú Falls Tour
- Day 5 : Flight to Buenos Aires & Tango Show
- Day 6 : Buenos Aires City Tour
- Day 7 : Flight to Cusco
- Day 8 : Cusco City Tour
- Day 9 : Sacred Valley Tour
- Day 10 : Machu Picchu Tour
- Day 11 : Departure from Cusco
Blending cities, beaches, waterfalls, tropical forest, plus the high mountains of Peru, this action-packed trip covers all the bases. Yes, it’s a whirlwind. But you’ll be talking about the journey for years to come.
Think of Buenos Aires as a bonus. After exploring Iguazu Fall, a detour through Argentina’s sophisticated capital is a lot more interesting than retracing your steps back to Brazil.
In sum, this South America Wonders tour is ideal for travelers who want to see the continent’s amazing places in a short amount of time. Best of all, you get a taste of South America’s enthralling cultural, architectural, and geographic diversity. Who knows? Maybe you’ll love what you see and decide to come back for more.
Ready to take on the challenge? Click “Go Discover
” to start customizing your trip.
Anabel has been exploring the length and width of South America since 2010. Ditching preconceptions, settling into the local pace, and embracing the unexpected are the tenets of her philosophy of travel – and life.