There’s a reason why we’re drawn to traveling. Of course, there’s so much to see and do around the globe, but it is the various cultures that make each experience unique. Seeing how others live, helps expand our own world views — and in turn, we grow.
If you have ever been backpacking, you know that the locals can offer a truly enlightening experience, as they share their world and culture with you. After all, Gandhi did once say, “A nation’s culture resides in the hearts and in the soul of its people.” Wouldn’t you agree?
If you’re planning on venturing to South America, one thing is certain — you will certainly enjoy an ethnic combination of music, art, cuisine, language, and all other aspects that make each area unique. Although the list is never-ending in terms of worthwhile spots to visit, these are certainly some of the top cultural sites.
Heading to South America? Check Out These Top Cultural Spots
From a society’s customs to their beliefs, our culture is what defines us. Regardless of where you’re traveling from, you will experience so many unique features associated with the South American way of life. From one country to the next, you will begin to appreciate varying cultures, allowing you to grow as an individual. Here’s a short list to get you started.
If you’re a fan of history and architecture, be sure to check out the Chile archipelago. This group of islands is best known for its unique churches, showcasing a style that combines aboriginal and European influence. Over one hundred wooden churches were originally built in the seventeenth century, with nearly two dozen restored and available to tour today.
If you’re looking to really dive into some Chilean culture, then head to the Pacific coast, to the region known as Valparaíso. Known for incredible seaside views and their vibrant, bohemian culture, the steep hills and brightly colored homes will quickly draw your attention. Of course, while you’re in Chile, don’t pass up the opportunity to see Easter Island.
Once again, Ecuador is rich in culture and history, offering up UNESCO cultural heritage sites, such as the Old Town of Quito and the third-largest city, Cuenca — known for its festivals and distinct cuisine. If you’re in Quito, travel two hours north to the Otavalo Market, located in the Andes.
This world-famous market offers a wide collection of arts and crafts, showcasing the work of local weavers. Although highly creative, textiles played a major role in the history of this land. If visiting on a Saturday morning, you may even witness the selling of animals, such as llamas and horses.
For starters, you cannot come to South America and not see Machu Picchu. These ruins can be seen in front of a stunning jungle-covered mountain range. You can grab a train here from Urubamba to Aguas Calientes, from Cusco, or from Ollantaytambo. It is here that you can experience the famous Inca Trail — book your reservation in advance.
If you are in Cusco, you will immediately feel as though you’re walking through an outdoor museum. Home to old colonial buildings and grand cathedrals, is it the perfect combination of new and old. Then, less than an hour drive north, you will find the breathtaking Sacred Valley — be sure to check out the Sunday Market in Pisac while you’re there.
Being the fifth largest country in the world, there’s a lot of ground to cover in Brazil. One thing is certain, there’s no shortage of beaches or cultural wonders. If you are one to lounge on the beach, don’t miss out on the resort town, Buzios — just 105 miles from Rio de Janeiro. From shopping to dining, this fishing village is as quaint as they come.
Once you venture in Pelourinho, you’ll be in the historic heart of Salvador. You will certainly find a range of local crafts to buy here among the colorful buildings, as well as the added experience of music and dancing in the streets. If you really want to be smack dab in the middle of the ultimate cultural experience, the Rio Carnival won’t disappoint.
Although highly diverse, Argentina is also known for its natural wonder. From the Los Glaciares National Park, to the Iguazu National Park — exploration is certainly on the menu. Once you head into Buenos Aires, one of South America’s most attractive cities, you will experience it all — art galleries, public gardens, shops, and so much more.
This is just the beginning. From Columbia to Guyana, exploring South America will bring you a new appreciation and respect for the people that call these countries home. Each site will offer unique cultural experiences, that you can then adapt into your own perspectives. So remember this, “Learn to travel, travel to learn.”