10 Best Tours in South America

An astonishing and varied continent, South America offers a fantastic array of highlights, whether you’re into hiking in remote wilderness, close encounters with unique wildlife, big-city delights or delving deeper into ancient cultures. Our 10 best tours in South America are as eclectic as the continent itself, with options dependant on the season in which you travel, your most fervent desires, your ‘must-do’ bucket list items and even your budget.

The following South America tours are meant to be your ultimate travel inspiration: unless otherwise stated, all can be tailor-made to suit your travel needs so feel free to whet your appetite with the most coveted itineraries of all and do contact us when you’re ready to pack your bags and head off.

 

1. South America Big Five Explorer – 27 days

The most celebrated highlights in the entire continent, over 27 exhilarating days: the Big Five Explorer is that BIG trip you’re looking for if you want it all in under a month Cast off on your adventures from beautiful Buenos Aires, experience the magnificent force of Iguazu Falls, continue to sun-soaked Rio de Janeiro before heading up to the Peruvian Andes, where the ancient Inca city of Machu Picchu awaits. Leave the big city-life behind as you dive into a wild adventure in the Peruvian Amazon rainforest, before capping off your trip with a sensational 5-day cruise through the Galapagos Islands, meeting unique and iconic wildlife. This whirlwind trip packs a great mix of wilderness escapes, wildlife encounters, history, culture and stunning architecture and is considered a wonderful in-depth introduction into the best of South America travel. We’ve written extensively about the Big Five and the ideal time of year to take this all-encompassing journey: learn more on How to Tick Off South America’s Big Five.

Panorama of the Iguazu Waterfalls in Foz Do Iguazu, Brazil

Panorama of the Iguazu Waterfalls in Foz Do Iguazu, Brazil, photo credit: Shutterstock

 

2. South America Icons – 33 days

Add a few more days to your big-five journey and you can also include a visit to Chile, arguably the fastest-rising star in the South America travel scene. Moreover, by swapping your Amazon adventures from Peru to Ecuador, it’ll give you a chance to stretch your Galapagos cruise to 10 days which means more islands, more unique wildlife and a greater bang for your buck. Start your journey in Santiago and explore this bustling, modern and very beautiful capital before visiting the colourful coastal town of Valparaiso. From there, you’ll fly to Buenos Aires and pick up your adventures from the itinerary detailed above, visiting Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro before heading to Lake Titicaca and Cusco – from where you’ll visit Machu Picchu. A quick flight will see you reach the Ecuadorian capital of Quito where you’ll set sail on your amazing 10-day Galapagos cruise. The perfect way to end this stunning itinerary? A 3-day jaunt into the Ecuadorian Amazon Rainforest, where the next few days will be filled with daytime walks through dense rainforests and nightly canoe rides to spot nocturnal wildlife.

Galapagos Sea Lion

Galapagos Sea Lion, photo credit: Shutterstock

 

3. South America Circle – 21 days

If you have shorter vacation time for your South America travels or a smaller travel-budget, you can save both time and money by simply foregoing a cruise to the Galapagos Islands (until next time!) and concentrating on the big ‘four’ instead. You can easily soak up the delights of Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls, the Amazon Rainforest and Machu Picchu in three weeks, including a springboard visit to Buenos Aires and a glorious island-hopping trip to Lake Titicaca, not to mention sightseeing excursions to the Sacred Valley of the Incas from Cusco and a city tour of Lima, all before ending your journey in Santiago de Chile. A great ‘circle’ itinerary that delivers a great deal of highlights for a sensational price.

Ruins and terraces at Pisac in the Sacred Valley near Cusco, Peru

Ruins and terraces at Pisac in the Sacred Valley near Cusco, Peru, photo credit: shutterstock

 

4. The Gringo Trail – 20 days

The Gringo Trail tour of South America takes you on an altogether different path, one that hones in on the very best of Argentina, Peru and Bolivia and includes an epic road trip. Ironically enough, the Gringo Trail takes you off the usual tourist path, exploring the remote northern Argentinian region of Salta and its ethereal rugged landscapes after starting in Buenos Aires and visiting Iguazu Falls, before continuing to the Bolivian Altiplano, known for its otherworldly landscapes and the magical Uyuni Salt Flats. This wonderful itinerary includes an overland journey through the high-altitude desert landscapes of the Jujuy Province of Argentina, through the southern border with Bolivia and straight up into Salar Uyuni. If you’d love a South America tour with a difference, one that delivers a wealth of unique experiences (including both big-named attractions and off-the-beaten-path travel) then this itinerary will suit you to perfection.

"Quebrada de las Conchas" province of Salta in Argentina

“Quebrada de las Conchas” province of Salta in Argentina, photo credit: shutterstock

 

5. South America Express – 12 days

The shortest of our 10 best tours in South America packs a huge punch, proving that following a well-executed itinerary need not make you feel as if you’re missing out on anything. We suggest a swift entry into the continent in Buenos Aires, the ideal springboard for a visit to Iguazu Falls and Rio de Janeiro, before jetting off to the high Peruvian Andes, where you can spend a few days delving into the ancient Inca culture, exploring the Sacred Valley and visiting Machu Picchu by train. A titillating taste of the best the continent offers, on an itinerary that runs just short of two weeks – perfect as an introduction to South America or as an add-on to longer adventures.

Machu Picchu (Peru, Southa America), a UNESCO World Heritage Site

Machu Picchu (Peru, Southa America), a UNESCO World Heritage Site, photo credit: shutterstock

 

6. South America on a Budget – 20 days

If you do have the luxury of more time but wish to spend less, then our tailor-made South America on a Budget Tour is for you. We’ll help you cut costs and offer an even greater value-for-money experience, whilst still offering some of the continent’s best bits, including Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls, Buenos Aires and Machu Picchu. This amazing 20-day journey showcases what is inarguably South America’s most enticing aspect: no matter your time or budget constraints, there is a South America tour itinerary to suit everyone! All you need is an experienced Chimu travel-guru to help you plan your ideal journey.

Rio de Janeiro, RJ, Brazil: Aerial view of Christ, symbol of Rio de Janeiro, standing on top of Corcovado Hill, overlooking Guanabara Bay

Rio de janeiro, Brazil, photo credit: shutterstock

 

7. Enchanting South America – 22 days

Organised and fully-guided group tours offer a myriad of benefits (both for solo travellers and those travelling in company) especially when it is done just right. Enchanting South America is our popular small-group tour, which runs on selected dates from April to October, headed by an enthusiastic and experienced guide leading a group of no more than 20 like-minded travellers on the adventure of a lifetime. These tours are an absolute blast: there is an added cost-cutting benefit when tours are shared and, if that’s not all, these sociable and rewarding journeys are just ideal for those who’d love some company and to share special travel moments with (soon-to-be) travel friends. In just over three weeks, we offer a great array of experiences: stunning sightseeing and culinary feasting in Buenos Aires, Rio de Janeiro, Santiago, Lima and Cusco, a culture-infused visit to the Sacred Valley of the Incas and Machu Picchu, an island-hopping journey on Lake Titicaca and last, but surely not least, a wonderful few days lost in the wilderness of the startling Tambopata Nature Reserve, one of the Amazon’s most biodiverse regions.

flocks of parrots on the clay side of the river Tambopata, Peru

Flocks of parrots on the clay side of the river Tambopata, Peru, photo credit, shutterstock

 

8. The Highlands of South America – 24 days

If you’d prefer to hone in on one region of South America, rather than highlight-hop, then the 24-DAY Highlands of South America tour might be ideal for you. This in-depth journey is aimed at the discerning explorer, the one who craves a stint of overland travel, exploring remote regions and uncrowded landscapes that boggle the mind. Head up to the jaw-dropping Atacama Desert from Santiago, before tackling an outstanding road trip across to the Bolivian Altiplano, home to colourful lagoons, lunar landscapes and unique and hardy wildlife. You’ll emerge at the largest salt flats on earth, Salar Uyuni, where overnight stays deliver magnificent night-time stargazing and totally unreal daytime landscapes. Head up to bustling La Paz, from where you’ll visit Lake Titicaca and, rather seamlessly, cross into Peru and the legendary capital of the ancient Inca Empire. A visit to Machu Picchu and amazing 4-day stay in Peru’s Amazon Rainforest completes the journey, one that offers South America’s most spectacular natural highlights, above and beyond everything else. If you’re after a much wilder experience, one that includes more time in nature and less in big bustling city, then this is the best South America tour to consider.

Flamingos feeding in a lake in the Bolivia altiplano, with mountains and volcanos in the back

Flamingos feeding in a lake in the Bolivia altiplano, photo credit: shutterstock

 

9. Sophisticated South America – 14 days

Culture-vultures find our popular 14-day Sophisticated South America itinerary to offer the ideal balance of culture, history, nature and gastronomy. We explore the most celebrated wine regions of Chile and Argentina and offer plenty of time to explore the trendy, bohemian and historic barrios of both countries’ capitals, before visiting unmissable Iguazu Falls and re-emerging in Rio de Janeiro, inarguably the most exciting city in the whole continent. We fill your days with a host of culinary delights and cultural experiences, including wine-tasting tours, tango and dinner show, an authentic ranch excursion and plenty of free time so you can personalise your itinerary and squeeze in more sightseeing and even greater feasting.

Vineyards

Vineyards, photo credit: shutterstock

 

10. South America & Antarctic Explorer – 30 days

An exclusive South America tour that delivers a very unique bonus: visit four of South America’s big-five highlights (Machu Picchu, Rio de Janeiro, Iguazu Falls and the Amazon Rainforest) and add a stupendous 9-day Antarctica expedition cruise to the wildlife-enriched South Shetland Islands, crossing the famous Drake Passage. South America is by far the best springboard for expeditions to Antarctica which means this unique itinerary not only offers the best of the continent but also the most genial way to cast off for the southern end of our planet. Given the short Antarctica cruising season, this tour itinerary is limited and sells out incredibly fast so you’ll want to book well in advance.

sunset over the trees in the brazilian rainforest of Amazonas

Sunset over the trees in the brazilian rainforest of Amazonas, photo credit: shutterstock

At Chimu Adventures, we love nothing more than to personalise our tour recommendations to deliver unique and unforgettable travel experiences. South America is a truly rewarding and eclectic continent and the best South America tour of all is the one that you design.

Contact us to know about customising any of our tours and creating a bespoke South America itinerary that’ll knock your socks off!

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