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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 factors such as culture, dining and attractions, as well as traveler votesVote for your top picks below to help us determine next year's list.

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Central & South America Rankings

Gold Badge #1 Rio de Janeiro

Gold Badge #1 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 »

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Gold Badge #2 Cartagena

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

Why go: Brightly colored buildings, cobblestone streets and stunning beaches all come together in this Colombian city on the Caribbean coast. Old Town is home to sites that date back to the 16th century while the nearby Islas del Rosario are known for their coral reefs. 

Cartagena
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Gold Badge #3 Lima

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

Why go: The capital of Peru is one of South America's best kept secrets. Travelers can tour everything from the active archaeological site at Huaca Pucllana to the Spanish colonial baroque-style Iglesia y Convento de San Francisco. Just don't forget to save some time to enjoy fresh ceviche. Read More »

Lima
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Gold Badge #4 Costa Rica

Gold Badge #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 »

Every Night in Costa Rica
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#5 Galápagos Islands

#5 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 »

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#6 Cusco

#6 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 »

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#7 Santiago

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

Why go: The Chilean capital has undergone quite the renaissance 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 »

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#8 Torres Del Paine National Park

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

Why go: Reaching this national park in Chilean Patagonia is no small feat, but travelers say the views of crystal blue glaciers, soaring mountains and the Blue Lagoon are worth the trip. 

Torres Del Paine
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#9 Bogotá

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

Why go: High in the Andes, the Colombian capital has seen a revival in tourism in recent years. See incredible art at the Museo Botero, priceless treasures at the Gold Museum and beautiful flora at Bogotá Botanical Garden. 

Bogotá
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#10 Buenos Aires

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

Why go: This cosmopolitan city known as the "Paris of South America" 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 »

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#11 Belize

#11 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 »

Caye Caulker
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Panama City

Panama City

Panama City

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Chilean Patagonia

Chilean Patagonia

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Argentine Patagonia

Hikkers Trekking Across Glacier National Park

Argentine Patagonia

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São Paulo

São Paulo Sunrise

São Paulo

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