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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 Argentine Patagonia

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

Argentine Patagonia is a true treat for all travelers, not just those with a penchant for adventure. From the vast range of wildlife to the majestic mountains and jaw-dropping glaciers, the region showcases Mother Nature at its best. First-timers can't pass up a visit to the Argentine Lake District, Mount Fitz Roy and the Perito Moreno Glacier. Read More »

Hikkers Trekking Across Glacier National Park View 19 photos
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Gold Badge #2 Chilean Patagonia

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

Some of South America's most incredible scenery can be found in this area of Patagonia. Chilean Patagonia is most famous for Torres Del Paine National Park, though there are enough natural wonders to occupy travelers for weeks. Visit the national park, but also make time for Tierra del Fuego, the southeastern most point of Chile, and the penguin-filled Isla Magdalena. Read More »

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Gold Badge #3 Cusco

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

As the former capital of the Inca empire, Cusco is the choice home base for travelers visiting Machu Picchu. But as the undisputed archaeological capital of the Americas, there's plenty more to see and do than the famous Inca Trail. Lesser-trafficked attractions, such as Plaza de Armas and Sacsayhuamán, boast just as much history and culture. Read More »

Cusco View 17 photos
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Gold Badge #4 Rio de Janeiro

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

With its scenic beaches, leafy mountains and lively nightlife, Rio de Janeiro makes for a fun getaway any time of year. Whether you're looking for a larger-than-life Carnival experience or an opportunity to explore Brazil's gorgeous natural landscape, Rio has it all. While here, don't miss a visit to Christ the Redeemer (one of the New Seven Wonders of the World) or a stroll down the world-famous Ipanema Beach. Read More »

Rio View 21 photos
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#5 Galapagos Islands

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

The Galápagos Islands are best known for their colorful creatures, ranging from giant tortoises to seals and penguins. The island is also famous for helping Charles Darwin develop his theory of natural selection. Today, animals still reign supreme (of the more than 120 islands and isles, only four are inhabited by humans). Getting here will cost you, but the plentiful wildlife-viewing opportunities are worth it. Read More »

Galapagos Sea Lions View 18 photos
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#6 Cartagena

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

Colorful colonial architecture and stunning beaches come together in this vibrant Colombian city on the Caribbean coast. The popular old town, which in its entirety has been designated as a UNESCO World Heritage site, features structures that date back to the 16th century. Another point of interest worth exploring are the nearby Rosario Islands, well-known for their beaches and coral reefs.

Cartagena
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#7 Costa Rica

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

Costa Rica is a natural wonderland. The country features volcanoes to hike and lush rainforests to traverse, plus a refreshingly laid-back culture. R&R-seekers can immerse themselves in the "pura vida" lifestyle, and bask in the beaches at Guanacaste or along the Nicoya Peninsula's 80 miles of coast. Read More »

Every Night in Costa Rica View 22 photos
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#8 Torres Del Paine National Park

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

Reaching this remote national park in Chilean Patagonia is no small feat, but travelers say beholding the ice fields of Grey Glacier and the soaring peaks of the Cuernos del Paine are more than worth the trip. And with 700 square miles of diverse land to explore, travelers will find boredom near impossible.

Torres Del Paine
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#9 Belize

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

Offering everything from Mayan ruins to scenic shorelines and some of Central America's best diving, Belize is a truly one-of-a-kind destination. Snorkeling and diving along the Hol Chan Marine Reserve or the Great Blue Hole are major draws, but so are the country's ancient ruins and relaxing beaches. Read More »

Caye Caulker View 24 photos
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#10 Santiago

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

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. The best way to take in the city's unique style is to walk its streets and barrios (neighborhoods), including the historical Plaza de Armas (where you'll find the Metropolitan Cathedral) and the vibrant Bellavista neighborhood. Read More »

Santiago View 20 photos
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#11 Buenos Aires

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

It's hard not to fall in love with this city's wide boulevards, alluring architecture and Parisian-style cafes. In addition to its good looks, Buenos Aires is teeming with culture. Plan to visit its world-class National Museum of Fine Arts, colorful Palermo neighborhood and bustling Corrientes Avenue, home to theaters, bars and tango clubs. Read More »

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#12 Nicaragua

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

If you're looking for an affordable Central American adventure, look no further than Nicaragua. Many of the country's four-star hotels cost less than $100 per night, putting a luxury vacation within reach for lots of travelers. What's more, Nicaragua's towering volcanoes, scenic coastlines and lush rainforests are nothing short of incredible.

Nicaragua
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Panama City

Panama City

Panama City

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Lima

Lima

Lima

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Bogotá

Bogotá

Bogotá

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Guatemala

Flores, Guatemala

Guatemala

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