Top 25 Things to Do in Central & South America: 2015 Viator Travel Awards

December 16, 2014 by

Places to Go, Press & Publicity, South & Central America, Viator Travel Awards

Bienvenidos (and Bem-vindo) to our Top 25 Things to Do in Central & South America!

Bienvenidos (and Bem-vindo) to our Top 25 Things to Do in Central & South America!

Editor’s Note: This post is part of the Viator Travel Awards, an annual awards competition where we – along with our readers, travelers, and fans – select the top things to do and see in each of the major regions we serve, the top things to do in our most popular tour categories, and more.

* * * * *

Welcome to the 2015 Viator Travel Awards: Central and South America Edition! We’ve read hundreds of traveler reviews and pored over data from our most popular tours to bring you a list of experiences you won’t want to miss out on if you’re planning to travel to Central and South America in 2015.

The activities listed are as varied as the landscapes you encounter when you travel to Central and South America, from spending a long, lazy afternoon on a Brazilian beach to more active pursuits, like hiking to the ruins of Machu Picchu. But it’s not all about how active you are in your excursions across Central and South America. We also highlight activities that will give you a good glimpse into the culture, as well as a real taste of some of their culinary delights, like a cooking class in Guatemala or a wine tour in Mendoza.

So without further ado, here are the Top 25 Things to Do in Central and South America!

1. Hike the Inca Trail to Machu Picchu in Peru

Machu Picchu

Machu Picchu

Few destinations in Latin America have captured our imagination like Peru’s Machu Picchu. The trek up the mountains to the ancient Lost City of the Incas is a legendary pilgrimage that tops any list of things you must do before you die. First-time visitors who are short on time, however, may take the Machu Picchu Day Trip from Cusco and spend the day soaking in the gorgeous views and the rich history of the famous ruins. The more adventurous may wish to take a 5-Day Salkantay Trek and Machu Picchu Tour from Cusco, a great scenic alternative to the more crowded Inca Trail trek. Try out a more in-depth tour with the Viator Exclusive: Early Access to Machu Picchu with an Archaeologist. Maybe try your hand at the Inca Trail with a 4-Day Trek to Machu Picchu. Zoom straight to the top in style via Hiram Bingham Luxury Train to Machu Picchu.

2. Climb Corcovado in Rio de Janeiro

Christ the Redeemer Statue

Christ the Redeemer Statue

Take a random postcard in any gift shop in Rio de Janeiro, and nine times out of ten you’ll spot the Corcovado Mountain with its landmark statue of Christ the Redeemer. Religious preferences aside, the climb up to Rio’s much-loved symbol is an absolute must, not only for the chance to see the statue up close, but also because you’ll get an unparalleled view of the city and the Tijuca rainforest below. The best way to get there? Take a Corcovado Mountain and Christ Redeemer Statue Half-Day Tour, which includes the cog train ride through the Tijuca rainforest right up to the mountain top. Strap on your hiking boots for a Corcovado Hiking Tour in Rio de Janeiro. Or see these top destinations from high above with the Rio de Janeiro Helicopter Tour. If you’re in the mood take in these locations and show, why not try a super saver like the Rio de Janeiro Super Saver: Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Mountain plus Plataforma Samba Show. For a more personalized experience, check out a Small-Group Rio de Janeiro in a Day Tour.

3. See Rio de Janeiro from Sugar Loaf

Sugar Loaf Mountain

Sugar Loaf Mountain

Sugar Loaf Mountain stands high above the city below. Many times Sugar Loaf is combined with tours that also go to Corcovado Mountain and Christ the Redeemer statue. All three locations share expansive views of Rio de Janeiro. If you’re short on time, take a Sugar Loaf Mountain Half-Day Tour. If you’re already visiting Christ the Redeemer, why not jet over to Sugar Loaf with Viator Exclusive: Early Access to Christ Redeemer Statue with Optional Sugar Loaf Mountain Tour. Fly high above Sugar Loaf with the Rio de Janeiro Super Saver: Sugar Loaf Mountain Tour and Christ Redeemer Statue Helicopter Flight. Explore the beautiful coastline by Sugar Loaf through a Sugar Loaf Mountain Canoe Tour in Rio de Janeiro. Tour Sugar Loaf in the comfort of your own personalized tour  by booking a Private Tour: Rio de Janeiro Customizable City Sightseeing with Optional Corcovado and Sugar Loaf Tickets.

4. Soak up Carnival and Samba shows in Rio

Samba show in Rio

Samba show in Rio

If flamboyant shows and exciting experiences are what you’re after, look no further than the magical season of Carnival in Rio! See all there is to see on a 5-Night Rio de Janeiro Carnival Package. But if you’re a little bit short on time, take advantage of the Rio de Janeiro Carnival Parade Ticket with Optional Transport. Samba reigns supreme in Rio, and you will be blown away by the sights and sounds of these amazing performers. While on a cruise, take a side trip off the ship and take in a Rio de Janeiro Shore Excursion: Plataforma Samba Show. Or if you’re exploring around Rio and in need of a night on the town, check out the Plataforma Samba Show in Rio de Janeiro.

5. Follow in the footsteps of Eva Peron in Buenos Aires

Few historical figures of Argentina’s past are as revered as Eva Peron. The former First Lady died at the young age of 33, but not before touching the hearts of millions with her charisma and dedication to social welfare. Take a Recoleta Afternoon Walking Tour and visit Evita’s tomb in Recoleta Cemetery. Or take a Buenos Aires Bike Tour through the Recoleta and Palermo Districts. But there is one other stop you must make when following the footsteps of Eva Peron and that is the Casa Rosada, the official House of Government, where Evita gave her famous “Don’t Cry for me Argentina” speech. Take a Private Buenos Aires Sightseeing Tour with Entrance to the Casa Rosada and walk the very same hallways that Evita once used.

6. Get lost in the rainforest

El Yunque Rainforest

El Yunque rain forest

There are very few places left in the world where untouched rain forest still exists. Central and South America are great places to get lost in the jungle and catch a rare glimpse into this forgotten piece of paradise. While staying in Rio, take a Tijuca Rain Forest Jeep Tour from Rio de Janeiro. In Costa Rica, reach high into the canopy to experience the Monteverde Cloud Forest and Butterfly Garden from Guanacaste. Capture a bird’s-eye view in Panama from the Rainforest Aerial Tram, Gamboa Tower and Forest Exhibitions Day Trip from Panama City. Peer through the mist and catch a wave on a tour that takes you to El Yunque Rainforest and Luquillo Beach from San Juan. But if you’re more interested in rain forest conservation and eco-friendly tours, opt for the Rio de Janeiro Botanical Garden and Tijuca Rainforest Eco-Tour.

7. Explore Peru’s other wonders

Hiking in the Sacred Valley

Hiking in the Sacred Valley

If you’ve been to Peru and are feeling a little burnt out on the exploring Maccu Picchu, don’t fret! There is so much else to see and do, especially with the city of Cusco as your starting point. See Sacred Valley, Pisac and Ollantaytambo on a full-day tour. Visit various Cusco Archeological and Religious Sites. Head to the Archeological Park of Sacsayhuaman on a half-day tour. Get a feel for traditional culture on while discovering Awana Kancha and San Blas. Venture further out and see  the Southern Valley Tour from Cusco: Tipon, Huaro and the Museum of Sacred Stones.

8. Travel by two wheels

Biking by a Rio de Janeiro sunset

Biking by a Rio de Janeiro sunset

When traveling by car, sometimes you fly by all the sights far too quickly. When traveling by walking, sometimes you can so much time getting from place to place that your vacation just flies by without seeing everything you want to see. But traveling by bike is perfect way to see everything you want to see and to set your own pace. Check out different neighborhoods of Buenos Aires by  booking a Buenos Aires Bike Tour: Recoleta and Palermo Districts. Enjoy wine tasting in Mendoza through a leisurely Bike Tour in Mendoza Wine Country. If you’re looking for something mroe extreme, try out Xunantunich Mountain Bike Adventure in Belize or a Mountain Bike Adventure from Mendoza. Take the scenic route in Colombia with a Bike Tour of Bogotá.

9. Explore South America’s growing wine scene

Go wine tasting!

Go wine tasting!

Traditionally we think of wine tasting as being primarily located in the Mediterranean or over in the Napa Valley. But there is so much wine to be had to South America! Uruguay has lots to sample on a Private Tour: Wine-Tasting Tour from Montevideo. Enjoy a combination of Argentinian tapas and wine in Buenos Aires while on a Buenos Aires Small-Group Wine Tasting tour. Mendoza, Argentina, is prime wine tasting real estate and you can enjoy it in style by booking a Deluxe Mendoza Half-Day Wine Tasting Tour. But Mendoza isn’t the only wine region in Argentina, head over to Luján de Cuyo Wine-Tasting Tour from Mendoza. Chile is swiftly becoming a popular region for wine growing so take trip to Cousino Macul and Concha y Toro Wineries Day Trip from Santiago.

10. See a football game or polo match

Sporting events are a big part of life in Central and South America!

Sporting events are a big part of life in Central and South America!

Sports, primarily soccer (or football as it’s referred to everywhere else but the US), is a big part of life in Central and South America. You can participate in different sports activities, visit museums dedicated to sports, or attend matches while on your travels. Attend soccer matches in Rio de Janerio or Buenos Aires. Get insider access on a Maracanã Stadium Tour and Buenos Aires Behind the Scenes Soccer Stadium Tour. Or if you’re not a big soccer fan, give a Polo Match and Lesson Day Trip from Buenos Aires a try.

11. Explore a volcano

Arenal Volcano

Arenal Volcano

For a bit of a walk on the wild side, there’s no better trek then to explore the volcanoes of the region. Arenal Volcano and Hot Springs Day Trip from San Jose will suit your needs while traveling through Costa Rica. And see the beautiful natural landscape on a full day tour that takes you to Irazu Volcano, Orosi Valley and Lankester. If you fancy yourself an adventurer, take to the canopy of the Nicaraguan rainforest with a Mombacho Volcano Zipline Canopy Tour. Guatemala offers up an active volcano with a Pacaya Volcano Day Trip from Antigua. But if you want to fly down a volcano faster than a speeding bullet, try out the Cerro Negro Volcano Sandboarding Tour from Managua.

12. Visit the glaciers of Patagonia

Viedma Glacier

Viedma Glacier

Traditionally we tend to think of Central and South America as being a fair-weathered land fileld with beaches and jungles. But as you get closer to the tip, getting closer to Antarctica, glaciers start becoming a more prominent sight. In Argentina, take a Full Day Tour to the Perito Moreno Glacier. Or enjoy the glaciers from a healthy distance with a El Calafate Glaciers Sightseeing Cruise. Really get up close and personal with the glaciers in Argentina with the 3-Day Tour of El Calafate and the Glaciers. Patagonia is vast land with lots of see. To see as much of it as possible, consider the 4-Day Chilean Patagonia Tour: Puerto Natales, Serrano Glacier and Torres del Paine National Park or 6-Day Tour of Patagonia: El Calafate, El Chalten, Perito Moreno Glacier and Los Glaciares National Park.

13. See the power of Iguassu Falls

Iguassu Falls

Iguassu Falls

Named one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature, the Iguassu Falls are unrivaled when it comes to sheer beauty and variety in wildlife. Second only to Niagara Falls in terms of average annual flow, Iguassu Falls may be visited from the either of the two countries they straddle. On the Brazilian side, take an Iguassu Falls Sightseeing Tour from Foz do Iguaçu or a Day Trip to the Argentinian Side of Iguassu Falls from Foz do Iguaçu. Multi-day excursions are also great opportunities too see the Falls from different vantage points, whether it’s a 3-Day Iguassu Falls Sightseeing Tour or the 4-Day Iguassu Falls Tour.

14. Go cruisin’

Feel the ocean breeze

Feel the ocean breeze

Take to the sea! Go on a cruise where you can appreciate good food, a beautiful sunset, or the stunning sights. Get away from the hustle of Rio with a Guanabara Bay Cruise with Optional Seafood Lunch. If you’re feeling particularly bold, go forth on a 20-Day Cruise from Ushuaia to Antarctica, the Falklands and South Georgia. Try a two-day excursion in Peru on a Lake Titicaca and Sun Island Overnight Catamaran Cruise from Puno. Explore the Amazon in luxury and make your friends back home jealous by taking a 4-Day Amazon River Luxury Cruise from Iquitos on the ‘Aqua’. Take a day trip from Bariloche with a Nahuel Huapi Lake Sightseeing Cruise with Victoria Island and Arrayan Forest Nature Walk.

15. Take a cooking class

Learn to make a pisco sour

Learn to make a pisco sour

Discover the amazing cuisine of Central and South America in a hands-on fashion! There are many different cooking classes available that will make you feel part of the community and you’ll have some neat recipes to take home. Learn about the Ecuadorian food scene with a Quito Culinary Tour and Cooking Class. Or try out Brazilian cuisine with a Rio de Janeiro Small-Group Cooking Class. Try out Guatemalan food for size and Experience Guatemala: Small-Group Cooking Class. Since Buenos Aires offers a prominent wine region, why not learn to cook with it while attending a Buenos Aires Cooking Class with Malbec Wine. If you want to become a part of the family, take to the homestead with a Cooking Class with a Local Costa Rican Family.

16. Explore the temples and ruins like Indiana Jones

Temple of Pachacamac

Temple of Pachacamac

Become an archaeologist and go see the various ruins and historical buildings and valleys south the equator. Peru isn’t just known for Macchu Picchu, take the Temple of Pachacamac Half-Day Tour from Lima or the Temple of the Sun and Temple of the Moon Tour from Trujillo. In Belize, visit the Mayan ruins with a Lamanai Day Trip from San IgnacioAltun-Ha Day Trip from San Ignacio, or Belize New River Cruise and Lamanai Mayan Ruins Day Trip by Air from Ambergris Caye.

17. Experience 5-star dining

Dine in style

Dine in style

Experience fantastic meals while traveling in Central and South America. If you want to also take to the kitchen, try the Buenos Aires Dining Experience: Empanada Making, Steak, Wine, Alfajores and Mate. But if you’re rather have a high-end steak dinner, why not enjoy a Closed-Door Restaurant in Buenos Aires: Dining Experience at Steaks by Luis. Take a break from your cruise with a Punta del Este Shore Excursion: Private Wine Tour with Gourmet Lunch. See Argentinian nightlife in a whole new way with this Private Tour: Buenos Aires by Night Including Dinner. Enjoy the best of Uruguay’s wine region with a Private Tour: Gourmet Wine Experience from Punta del Este with 3-Course Lunch.

18. Relax on the beautiful beaches of Central and South America

Relax on the beautiful Rosario Islands

Relax on the beautiful Rosario Islands

When the need to relax is topmost on your mind, nothing beats a beach vacation, and Central and South America have a variety to choose from along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. Brazil alone has over 5,000 miles (8,000 km) of beaches, which basically guarantees you’ll find a quiet spot to sip your caipirinha. Take a day trip to the small and quaint Pipa Beach from Natal or sign up for a Rio de Janeiro Full Day Tropical Islands Tour and Sepetiba Bay Cruise, where you’ll have the chance to swim in spots that are only accessible by boat. For some of the best Chilean beaches, take a Vina Del Mar and Valparaiso Day Trip from Santiago. Or visit one of the biggest coral reefs of the Colombian Caribbean coast on a Rosario Islands Day Trip from Cartagena.

19. Learn about local arts & crafts

Peruvian crafts

Peruvian crafts

Get in touch with the local culture by seeing the arts and crafts of the region. Costa Rica offers a tour that explores Poas Volcano, Doka Coffee Estate and Sarchi Arts and Craft. Get away from the big city life and head to the rural Santiago Artisan Village and Sculpture Park. If you life to shop until you drop, why not bring home more traditional gifts through a Liberia Shopping Tour while traveling through Costa Rica. The market life is always bustling so take a tour guide with you as you take a Private Tour: Lima and Local Indian Market. Take the time to see a colonial village on a Villa de Leyva Day Trip from Bogotá.

20. Zip through the jungle

Be fearless, zip through the jungle!

Be fearless, zip through the jungle!

You know you’ve always wanted to feel what it’s like to fly through the jungle, so why not take the opportunity in South America! Zip on through the canopy while on a Sarapiqui River Sightseeing Cruise and Zipline Canopy Tour from San Jose. Explore all the flora and fauna of the Dominican Republic on a Samaná Zipline Adventure. Take a break from the busy city of Medellín with an exciting Zipline Adventure from Medellín. For the true explorer, see both the jungle and a volcano while experiencing a Mombacho Volcano Nature Reserve Hiking and Ziplining Tour in Nicaragua.

21. Take in dinner and a show

A samba show in Rio de Janeiro

A samba show in Rio de Janeiro

After all that hiking, zip lining and adventuring, relax the evening away with a dinner and a show. See the liveliness and romance of the tango with the Buenos Aires Super Saver: City Sightseeing Tour and Tango Dinner ShowMontevideo Dinner and Tango Show or Buenos Aires Dinner and Tango Show. For a taste of a different cultural experience, see a Panama City Folkloric Show and Dinner. Or take off to Easter Island for an authentic Rapa Nui Traditional Dinner and Show.

22. Visit the National Parks

Tortuguero National Park

Tortuguero National Park

National parks come in all shapes and sizes. See all amounts of wildlife and nature while on all different kinds of day tours around Central and South America. Tortuguero National Park, as seen above, is a lush paradise home to a popular turtle nesting site. Get the best of the sand and jungle with a trip to Manuel Antonio National Park. Quito offers the National Park of Cotopaxi and Hacienda from Quito and even a tour of the active volcano! There are lots of critters to be seen with a tour that covers the Costa Rican Wildlife in Palo Verde National Park. Experience a fun day of hiking with a Full Day Tour to National Park of Cajas with Lunch.

23. See the famous Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

The Panama Canal

Among all of the natural wonders we find in Central and South America, there is one manmade marvel that is just as awe-inspiring. Built in the early 20th century as a way to shorten the shipping routes between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, the 48-mile (77.1-km) canal is a feat of engineering and one definitely worth checking out. Cruise the canal through the fascinating Miraflores Locks on a Panama Canal Partial Transit Sightseeing Cruise or take the more complete Panama City and Canal Sightseeing Tour for a closer look at Panama’s most historic landmarks.

24. Sample local flavor at the markets

Browse the markets of South America

Browse the markets of South America

Unlike the big, modern shopping malls of most cosmopolitan cities, street markets can tell you a lot about the local culture. Apart from being great places to buy souvenirs, they’re also wonderful opportunities for visitors to support local craftsmen and food vendors. Get a taste of Peruvian cuisine on a Cusco Markets and Ruins Small Group Tour or a Lima Market Tour and Pisco Sour Lesson. For some mouthwatering samples of Chilean specialties, take the Small-Group Santiago Food and Market Tour Including Mercado Central. Or take a day trip from Quito to the Otavalo Marketplace with Optional Lunch for the Ecuadorian market experience.

25. Discover the Amazon

Cruise the Amazon river

Cruise the Amazon river

Whether it’s by boat as shown in the picture above, through an adventurous trek through the jungle, or on a multi-day tour, there are so many different ways to experience the Amazon. Try out a Rio Negro Cruise from Manaus to the Amazon River. Get into the thick of the jungle with a 3-Day Amazon Jungle Tour at Sinchicuy Lodge in Peru or take the 3-Day Iquitos Amazon Jungle Adventure at Heliconia Lodge. If you want to know what it’s like to be real-life Survivor contestant check out the Amazon Rainforest Survival Tour from Manaus. See the beauty of the Amazon in Brazil with a the Presidente Figueiredo Waterfalls Day Trip from Manaus.

- Viator Travel Team

, ,

No comments yet.

Leave a Reply

48?