Spectacular South America boasts so many marvels of landscape, wildlife, geographic formations and natural wonders that it is hard to narrow the list to only these attractions, among the top destinations of South America.
Called the world’s greatest living laboratory, these barren islands in the middle of two cold currents support a fantastic array of wildlife that has developed into new forms such as the marine iguana and the flightless cormorant, huge sea turtles, plus sea lions and penguins far from their original habitats.
2. Angel Falls
The rocks and cliffs forming the tepuis were ancient long before the continent of South America separated from Africa. Now they are home to dense rain forests, clouds of mist and huge sandstone formations. From the top of one tepui, an unbroken stream of water takes fourteen seconds to fall to the base.
Carving a huge channel through a rainforest which is home to more wildlife species than anywhere else on earth, the Amazon river runs over 4000 miles from its origins to the Atlantic where in one second, it pours more than 55 million gallons of water into the sea. The Amazon basin covers more than two-fifths of South America’s land mass. Seen here: Breves Narrows
This high altitude lake, over 12,000 feet high and about 900 feet deep, this is the second largest lake in South America. With an area about 3200 square feet, 122 miles long with an average width of 35 miles, with 36 islands, the lake is reputed to be the highest navigable lake in the world.
Known erroneously as the driest desert on earth, this narrow strip of coastal desert stretches east to the Andes, and is a mix of lava flows, salt basins, hot springs and sand covering about 600 miles south from Chile’s border with Peru. The barren and unforgiving terrain serves as practice grounds for space exploration.
The Andes are a young mountain system, ranging 4500 miles from the northern coasts to the tip of Tierra del Fuego. Live volcanos dot the stretch, and form part of the Pacific Rim of Fire. In Peru and Bolivia, the Andes widen into several ranges separated by valleys supporting farms and cities. The greatest peak is Aconcagua on the border of Argentina and Chile. Seen here: Cerro Fitzroy in Argentine Patagonia.
Patagonia in Argentina and Chile is home to great glaciers, volcanos, glacier fed lakes, and fast rushing rivers. Majestic volcanos like Osorno in Chile, Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina and the fantastic fjords of Chile are all reminders of the wonders of nature. Seen here: Glacier National Park, Argentina
28,470 square miles in size, separated from the southern tip of the South American mainland by the Strait of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego is cold, windy and wildly scenic. Seen here: Lapataia National Park, Tierra del Fuego
9. Iguazu Falls
Multiple falls, formed when the Parana river drops between 197 and 262 feet into the river below, become almost one continuous flow of water when the river runs high. Seen here: the falls on the Brazilian side.
10. Lake Maracaibo
An inlet from the Caribbean sea, this is the largest lake in South America, extending about 100 miles long and 75 miles wide. Lake Maracaibo was formed from mud deposits millions of years ago and now boasts huge petroleum deposits.