comScore
U.S. News Best Vacations Badge

Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

U.S. News Best Vacations Badge

From misty rainforests to ancient archeological sites, this versatile region boasts a wide array of destinations that appeal to travelers. But choosing just one vacation spot can be daunting, so U.S. News ranked the best places based on traveler votes, expert analysis and factors such as culture, dining and attractions. Vote for your top picks below to help us determine next year's list.

Change Ranking

Explore More Rankings


Central & South America Rankings

Galápagos Islands

Gold Badge #1 in Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

Why go: The Galápagos Islands are best known for their colorful creatures – ranging from giant tortoises to seals and penguins. Plus, the islands boast a minimal human footprint, adding to their allure. Getting here will cost you, but aren't the plentiful wildlife-viewing opportunities worth it? Read More

Galápagos Islands View 21 photos
Belongs on List? Yes No

Rio de Janeiro

Gold Badge #2 in Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

Why go: With its white sands and vibrant nightlife, Rio de Janeiro makes for a fun getaway at any time of year. Whether you're looking for a glittery Carnival costume or a striking view of Christ the Redeemer, Rio has it. And soaking up the sun at Copacabana won't cost you a dime. Read More

Rio de Janeiro View 21 photos
Belongs on List? Yes No

Cusco

Gold Badge #3 in Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

Why go: As the former capital of the Inca Empire, Cusco is the home base for travelers visiting the legendary Machu Picchu. But lesser-known attractions such as La Catedral and Sacsayhuamán pack just as much history and culture.  Read More

Cusco View 17 photos
Belongs on List? Yes No

Costa Rica

#4 in Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

Why go: Costa Rica has volcanoes to hike, lush rainforests to explore and a vibrant culture to experience. R&R-seekers can immerse themselves in "pura vida," as the locals say, and surf and sunbathe along the Nicoya Peninsula's 80 miles of shoreline. Read More

Costa Rica View 22 photos
Belongs on List? Yes No

Argentine Patagonia

#5 in Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

Why go: The region's scenery will captivate you, from the Lake District to the rustic cattle ranges of Southern Patagonia. You can unravel history at the Cave of the Hands and get to know Punta Tombo's Magellan penguins. Read More

Argentine Patagonia View 19 photos
Belongs on List? Yes No

Buenos Aires

#6 in Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

Why go: This cosmopolitan city known as the "Paris of the South" has a lot going for it. It's hard not to fall in love with the city's wide boulevards and Parisian-style cafes. And with its burgeoning food scene and kid-friendly attractions, Buenos Aires suits all types of travelers. Read More

Buenos Aires View 22 photos
Belongs on List? Yes No

#7 Panama City

Panama City

Panama City

#7 in Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

Why go: This vibrant capital is a glittering coastal city. Apart from its flashy high rises, you'll find Belle Epoque buildings, cobbled streets and a bounty of outdoor activities. After admiring the Panama Canal, retreat to the Amador Causeway for a drink along the waterfront. 

Panama City
Belongs on List? Yes No

Belize

#8 in Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

Why go: Offering everything from Mayan ruins to an expansive coral reef, Belize is a one-of-a-kind destination. Snorkeling and diving along the Hol Chan Marine Reserve are major draws, but history buffs can explore the archeological sites of the Cayo District.  Read More

Belize View 24 photos
Belongs on List? Yes No

Santiago

#9 in Best Places to Visit in Central and South America

Why go: The Chilean capital has undergone multiple renaissances since the 1500s. You'll find neoclassical architecture rubbing elbows with modern skyscrapers and Spanish and European influences intermingling everywhere. One thing that stands out: the unique cuisine. Read More

Santiago View 20 photos
Belongs on List? Yes No

Vote to Add these Destinations to the Rankings

Vote to Add

Chilean Patagonia

Chilean Patagonia

Belongs on List? Yes No

Guatemala

Guatemala

Belongs on List? Yes No

Bogota

Bogota

Belongs on List? Yes No

São Paulo

São Paulo

Belongs on List? Yes No

Recommended Articles

Best Airfares