Top 10 Destinations in South America for the over-55s

Whether you’re planning your first ever visit to South America or if you’ve left many a footprint on the well-trodden Gringo Trail in years gone by, you’ll find the best destinations for the over-55s a wonderful way to discover the continent anew. The most important historic sites, most revered cultural hubs and most celebrated natural treasures the continent has to offer, combined with a style of travel that simply suits more mature travellers: slower, more authentic and in-depth travel experiences combined with independence and flexibility.

While we’re at it, we’ll throw in a gorgeous array of creature-comforts to boot.

Because you deserve it!

1.    The Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

One of South America’s most prized wildlife destinations, Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands are a distinct world onto themselves. Seemingly disconnected from the rest of civilisation, this cluster of volcanic islands – bursting at the seams with unique creatures not found anywhere else – is best explored by small ship cruise, one of the main reasons it’s usually devoid of backpackers. Not the cheapest place to visit in South America, yet one of the most rewarding, the Galapagos have achieved cult-like status among the over-55s. To explore them well you’ll want to set aside a bit of extra cash and time: a 14-day island-hopping cruise in the Galapagos aboard a luxury yacht is the stuff of dreams and will make you rethink all you’ve ever known about our planet.

Yes, the Galapagos really are that astonishing and that inspiring.

Galapagos Beach. Credit: Shutterstock.

Read more about the Galapagos Islands

Discover our exceptional Small Ship Cruising experiences

2.    Patagonia, Argentina and Chile

The southernmost region of South America is revered for a flurry of reasons: this is one of the least-inhabited corners of the continent, one that is, instead, defined by its sensational landscapes and array of wildlife. Home to magnificent national parks that are a trekker’s dream, Patagonia is all about glaciers, snow-capped peaks and nature at its most dramatic. Stay in historic estancias and visit remote villages; witness the spectacle of orca whales hunting for seals and waddle alongside penguins. All of this bounty, with a smattering of outstanding lodges to retreat to at the end of a day’s intensive exploration. Patagonia is your mind BLOWN and all your senses revitalised…with a soak in steaming jacuzzi and a glass of world-class red to top it off.

Nahuel Huapi lake, Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina Credit Shutterstock

Nahuel Huapi lake, Bariloche, Patagonia, Argentina Credit Shutterstock

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3.    The Atacama Desert, Chile

The driest desert in the world and the most surreal star-gazing destination in the southern hemisphere, the Atacama is an ethereal place to visit, where the salt-encrusted earth crumbles under your feet; where the sunsets are fiery-red and where the night skies put on a magnificent show. Desolate and harsh yet incredibly enchanting, the Atacama is in the northern fringes of Chile, bordering the world-famous Bolivian Salt Flats. If you have some extra time you could easily discover both in the one single unforgettable journey.

Where on earth would one stay out here, you ask?

At the wonderful Tierra Atacama…of course!

Atacama desert at sunset Credit: Shutterstock.

Atacama desert at sunset Credit: Shutterstock.

Read more about the spellbinding Atacama Desert

Check out our varied itinerary ideas for Chile

4.    The Amazon Rainforest, various destinations

The Amazon is one of South America’s most celebrated highlights and the one destination everyone who visits South America wishes to explore. Yet once you’re over-55 and not overly keen to rough it out in a tropical jungle budget-lodge – them pesky insects and soul-sucking humidity and all – then rest assured you can still head here and experience this resplendent wilderness. From luxury lodge-based tours to Amazon River cruises aboard gorgeous river boats (yes, they also come with air-con and window fly-screens, nowadays!) the options for exploring the Amazon in comfort and style are plentiful. You can still enjoy all the on-land excursions you wish, cuddling anacondas and chasing sloths (or was it the other way around?) visiting remote Amazonian communities and simply relishing being in the heart of the world’s grandest and most important rainforest, all the while still getting a great night’s sleep, feasting on superb cuisine and indulging in a refreshing shower at the end of the day.

Jungle lodge located by the Amazon river. The tributaries of the Amazon traverse the countries of Guyana, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia. credit shutterstock

Jungle lodge located by the Amazon river. The tributaries of the Amazon traverse the countries of Guyana, Ecuador, Peru, Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and Bolivia. credit shutterstock

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5.    Rio de Janeiro, Brazil

We certainly wouldn’t begrudge any over-55s from heading to the Brazilian party-capital to shimmy it up with the best samba dancers at the annual Rio Carnival, yet let it be known that Rio de Janeiro is actually a pretty spectacular city to discover at any time of year. Steeped in hundreds of years of fascinating history – as the birthplace of African-imported slavery into the continent – Rio is a powerhouse of attractions. The famed Christ the Redeemer statue will welcome you with open arms (well, he does that for everyone) and guides you along one of the most picturesque coastlines of all. With a great array of museums, fun shopping options, exceptional cuisine and a long list of sightseeing highlights to suit everyone, Rio will bewitch you for days on end. And come sunset, when you’re enjoying a sundowner on your private hotel balcony overlooking glitzy Copacabana beach, you may well think there’s no more exciting place in the world to be.

And you’d be absolutely right.

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Suggar Loaf and Botafogo beach viewed from Corcovado at sunrise. credit shutterstock

Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Suggar Loaf and Botafogo beach viewed from Corcovado at sunrise. credit shutterstock

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Discover all our superb tours to and from Rio de Janeiro

6.    Fernando de Noronha, Brazil

Should you be looking for an extra reason to pin Rio de Janeiro firmly on your South American travel-map, then you may want to double-tap on that right now. North of Rio, merely an hour’s flight away, is where you’ll find Fernando de Noronha, a UNESCO-listed treasure that’s prized as one of the most ridiculously beautiful marine reserves on our planet. TripAdvisor keeps awarding Fernando’s beaches among the ‘world’s top 10’ yet, as far we’re concerned, they’re preaching to the converted. What’s really amazing about this place is that it’s still largely way off the mass-tourism radar so aside it being totally stunning, it is also blissfully uncrowded. Snorkelling here brings you face to face with one of the most marine-life rich reefs in the world and beach-bumming for a few days, on these heavenly stretches of beach, is about as arduous as it sounds. Fervently protected, Fernando de Noronha enjoys visitor-number and infrastructure restrictions, which means fewer fellow tourists with whom to share this paradise and a few choice luxury resorts in which to indulge. Win-win.

Fernando de Noronha, BrazilCredit: Shutterstock.

Ask us about bespoke tours that include a stint of R&R on Fernando de Noronha when you discover Brazil

7.    Cusco & the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Peru

Cusco, the ancient capital of the mighty Inca Empire and now de-facto tourist capital of Peru, is the base point for luxury train trips to Machu Picchu but it is also much, much more than that. A wonderful Andean architectural treasure infused with hundreds of years of history, Cusco is the one city where not even a week’s stay would suffice. Wonderful shopping for authentic souvenirs, crafts and artefacts, interesting museums to visit, wonderful restaurants in which to feast on Peruvian specialities and a plethora of historical and archaeological highlights in its surrounding picturesque valleys. Anyone who’s ever been to Cusco will tell you that a visit to Machu Picchu is just a snippet of the real story and, coupled with an array of charming boutique hotels scattered about the town, this rates one of the more famous (and road-tested) destinations in South America for the over-55s. Wish to explore the high Peruvian Andes slowly and thoroughly? This is the place you’ll want as your base.

Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus on Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru. In 1983 Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO credit shutterstock

Iglesia de la Compania de Jesus on Plaza de Armas in Cusco, Peru. In 1983 Cusco was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO credit shutterstock

Read more about Cusco and Machu Picchu

See everything Peru has in store for you

8.    Quito, Ecuador

Northern Ecuador rates as one of South America’s most rewarding hidden gems and Quito, the charming capital, is just the tip of the Andean peak. As a country, Ecuador is quite ideal for the over-55s: it’s small, varied, and showcases a little of everything for which South America is so beloved. Due to shorter travel times and excellent connections, you could be in the high Andes one day, relaxing at a beach eating ceviche the next and spotting toucans and howler monkeys in the Amazon Rainforest the one after that. Add a cruise to the Galapagos Islands to your itinerary – Quito’s Airport is the main connecting hub to the archipelago – a surprisingly beautiful historic centre (home to the largest neo-gothic basilica in the Americas), a head spinning cable-car ride up the 4000m-high base of Pichincha Volcano, a visit to the famous Saturday artefacts markets in nearby Otavalo and a side-trip to Cuenca, one of the loveliest colonial-era cities in the entire continent and BOOM! You’ve just spent two weeks in Quito!

Quito is one of those cities that just sucks you in with its innumerable delights and that is, incidentally, the main reason it rates as one of the best expat retirement spots in South America.

If waves of discerning over-55s are moving there…why aren’t you visiting?

Basilica of the National Vote in Quito, Ecuador credit shutterstock

Basilica of the National Vote in Quito, Ecuador credit shutterstock

Read more about Quito

Look at much how much you can see and do in Ecuador

9.    Cartagena, Colombia

Scan the above mentioned retirement article and you may be surprised to see Colombia as the one country that boasts several options for the over-55s. We weren’t. We – and countless mature travellers – have known for years that Colombia, nowadays, is one of the most delightful destinations in South America for the over-55s to explore. Amongst the many beautiful hubs to discover, Cartagena reigns supreme. Often rated the most outstanding colonial city in the Americas – no exaggeration, let us assure you – Cartagena is postcard-perfect and has copious substance to back up its incredible gorgeousness. What’s more, after you’ve spent days getting hopelessly lost in its centuries-old cobbled maze of palaces, museums, churches and plazas, you can hop on a boat for a 1-hour ride to a Caribbean coral reef paradise.

Hellloooo perfection!

Streets of Cartagena, Colombia Credit: Shutterstock.

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Come discover why everyone is in love with Colombia

10. Buenos Aires, Argentina

Stunning architecture, fabulous shopping, romantic tango shows and sensational food, complete with some of the best museums in the continent and an array of gorgeous hotels.

Need we say more?

BUENOS AIRES - FEBRUARY 25: A pair of tango dancers perform on February 25, 2009 in San Telmo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The tango dance originated from Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay. credit shutterstock

BUENOS AIRES – FEBRUARY 25: A pair of tango dancers perform on February 25, 2009 in San Telmo in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The tango dance originated from Buenos Aires and Montevideo, Uruguay. credit shutterstock

While it’s fair to say that all of South America’s capital cities hold special appeal for the over-55s (they’re usually home to the best museums, best-preserved historic centres and highest concentration of excellent hotels and restaurants) there’s something about Buenos Aires that really sets it apart from the rest. That something is style, charm, elegance and plenty of pizazz, with enough enchanting neighbourhoods to warrant a whole week’s stay and more shopping and culinary feasting that anyone could ever indulge in just one visit. No wonder everyone calls this the Paris of the Latin world…

Discover the best of Buenos Aires

See how a visit to Buenos Aires is perfect for exploring Argentina

BONUS #11 – Antarctica!

Up for a truly EPIC adventure?

South America is the ideal springboard for expedition cruises to Antarctica, an adventure which – in itself – is aimed at an older crowd simply due to its higher cost and, consequentially, exclusivity status. Yet an adventure journey to the end of the world is not about glitz and glamour: it’s about investing in a voyage to the most remote, pristine and magnificent destination on earth.

Cruise ship and Chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica) at Antarctica credit shutterstock

Cruise ship and Chinstrap penguin (Pygoscelis antarctica) at Antarctica credit shutterstock

Read more about expedition cruises to Antarctica and beyond

Take a look at our collection of fantastic Antarctica experiences

Check out our upcoming fundraising Antarctica expedition cruise with beloved Australian hero and Paralympian, Kurt Fearnley

At Chimu Adventures, we specialise in bespoke tours for the over-55s to South America, Central America, the Arctic and Antarctica. We understand the needs and desires of more mature guests, who still want plenty of adventure and an exhilarating time yet also crave comforts, luxuries and plenty of security. For all these sensational destinations and so much more…contact us today.

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