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Frommer's South America is the premier guide to the continent, with complete coverage of Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Peru, Uruguay and Venezuela. You'll get details on Carnaval, Machu Picchu, Lake Titicaca, Galápagos, the hang gliding in Rio, the ice cream in Mérida, and much more. Whether you're an archaeology buff, an outdoor adventurer, or a partier in search of a good time, South America presents so many diverse travel options that it'll make your head spin. Frommer's South America will help you plan a memorable trip, starting with our highly opinionated lists of the best experiences the continent has to offer.
What’s New in South America.
1. The Best of South America (by Shawn Blore, Shane Christensen, Alexandra de Vries, Eliot Greenspan, Haas Mroue, Neil E. Schlecht & Kristina Schreck).
2. Introducing South America (Shawn Blore, Shane Christensen, Alexandra de Vries, Eliot Greenspan, Haas Mroue, Neil E. Schlecht & Kristina Schreck).
3. Planning Your Trip to South America.
4. Argentina (by Shane Christensen & Haas Mroue).
5. Bolivia (Haas Mroue).
6. Brazil (by Shawn Blore & Alexandra de Vries).
7. Chile (Haas Mroue & Kristina Schreck).
8. Ecuador (Haas Mroue).
9. Peru (Neil E. Schlecht).
10. Uruguay (Shane Christensen).
11. Venezuela (Eliot Greenspan).
12. Difficult Destinations: Antarctica & Colombia (Kristina Schreck).
Appendix: Useful Terms & Phrases
by Shawn Blore, Shane Christensen, Alexandra de Vries, Eliot Greenspan, Haas Mroue, Neil E. Schlecht & Kristina Schreck
Whether you're an archaeology buff, an outdoor adventurer, or a partyer in search of a good time, South America presents so many diverse travel options that it'll make your head spin. We'll help you plan a memorable trip, starting with our highly opinionated lists of the best experiences the continent has to offer.
1 The Most Unforgettable Travel Experiences
Visiting Iguazú (Iguaçu) Falls: One of the world's most spectacular sights, Iguazú boasts more than 275 waterfalls fed by the Iguazú River, which can (and should) be visited from both the Argentine and the Brazilian sides. In addition to the falls, Iguazú encompasses a marvelous subtropical jungle with extensive flora and fauna. See "Iguazú Falls" in chapter 4 and "Iguaçu Falls" in chapter 6.
Traveling the Wine Roads of Mendoza: Less commercialized than their European and North American counterparts, Mendoza's wineries are free to visit and easily accessible along roads known locally as los Caminos del Vino. There are about 80 wineries that formally offer tours and tastings. Be sure to trythe region's famed Malbec. See "Mendoza" in chapter 4.
Walking in the Sun's footsteps on the Isla del Sol: The Incas trace their roots from Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo, the children of the Sun. Supposedly, the Sun stepped forth onto the Sun Island in Lake Titicaca to give birth to the first Incas. Nowadays, on the northwestern tip of the Sun Island, you can walk right up to rock formations that look like footsteps, which according to legend, were left here when the Sun came down to Earth to drop off Manco Capac and Mama Ocllo. See "Lake Titicaca" in chapter 5.
Celebrating Carnaval in Rio: The biggest party in the world. Whether you dance it out on the streets, watch the thousands of participants in their elaborate costumes in the samba parade, or attend the fairy-tale Copacabana Palace ball, this is one event not to miss! See "Rio de Janeiro" in chapter 6.
Observing red macaws at sunset: The sunset over the red rock formations in the Chapada dos Guimarães north of Cuiabá in Brazil is a magical experience in itself. Even more special is the view of scarlet macaws working the thermals off the sheer cliffs in the warm glow of the setting sun. See "The Pantanal" in chapter 6.
Exploring the madcap streets of Valparaíso: The ramshackle, sinuous streets of Valparaíso offer a walking tour unlike any other. Valparaíso could be called the penniless older brother of San Francisco, California, and part of the fascination here is touring the faded remains of this once-thriving port town. Antique Victorian mansions and colorful tin houses line terraced walkways that wind around precipitous hills-to get to the top, there are a handful of 1900s funiculars. Sweeping views and atmospheric restaurants and cafes can be found at every turn, but Valparaíso's bars, which seem to have authored the word "bohemian," are what have brought this city notoriety. See "Around Santiago & the Central Valley" in chapter 7.
Sailing past the islands and fiords of southern Chile: Quietly sailing through the lush beauty of Chile's southern fiords is an experience that all can afford. There are two breathtaking trajectories: a 3-day ride between Puerto Natales and Puerto Montt, and a 1- to 6-day ride to the spectacular Laguna San Rafael Glacier. Backpackers on a shoestring (as well as those who need spiffier accommodations) all have options. These pristine, remote fiords are often said to be more dramatic than those in Norway. Farther south, a small cruise line takes passengers through Tierra del Fuego and past remote glaciers, peaks, and sea-lion colonies, stopping at the end of the world in Puerto Williams. See "The Chilean Lake District" in chapter 7.
Watching blue-footed boobies dance for love in the Galápagos: Birds are usually shy, especially during mating season. But in the Galápagos Islands, where wild animals have no fear of humans, you can watch male blue-footed boobies spread their wings, lift their beaks, and dance wildly in a performance known as "sky pointing," all in hope of attracting a mate. If the female likes what she sees, she'll do the same. It's a scene right out of a National Geographic documentary. See "The Galápagos Islands" in chapter 8.
Floating on Lake Titicaca: Lake Titicaca, the world's highest navigable body of water, straddles the border between Peru and Bolivia. To locals, it is a mysterious and sacred place. A 1-hour boat ride from Puno takes you to the Uros floating islands, where communities dwell upon soft patches of reeds. Visitors have a rare opportunity to experience the ancient cultures of two inhabited natural islands, Amantani and Taquile, by staying with a local family. You won't find any cars or electricity here, but there are remarkable local festivals. The views of the oceanlike lake, at more than 3,600m (12,000 ft.) above sea level, and the star-littered night sky alone are worth the trip. See "Puno & Lake Titicaca" in chapter 9.
Gazing upon Machu Picchu: However you get to it-whether you hike the fabled Inca Trail, hop aboard one of the prettiest train rides in South America, or zip in by helicopter-Machu Picchu more than lives up to its reputation as one of the most spectacular sites on earth. The ruins of the legendary "lost city of the Incas" sit majestically among the massive Andes, swathed in clouds. The ceremonial and agricultural center, never discovered or looted by the Spanish, dates from the mid-1400s but seems even more ancient. Exploring the site is a thrilling experience, especially at sunrise, when dramatic rays of light creep over the mountaintops. See "The Sacred Valley of the Incas" in chapter 9.
Visiting Punta del Este in summer: As Porteños (residents of Buenos Aires) will tell you, anyone who's anyone from Buenos Aires heads to Punta del Este for summer vacation. The glitzy Atlantic coast resort in Uruguay is packed with South America's jet set from December through February and offers inviting beaches and outstanding nightlife. See "Punta del Este" in chapter 10.
Enjoying the splendor of Angel Falls: From the boat ride through rapids in a dugout canoe, to the steep hike from the river's edge to the base of the falls, to a swim in the cool waters at the foot of this natural wonder and back again, this is an amazing experience, with spectacular views and scenery throughout. See "Canaima, Angel Falls & the Gran Sabana" in chapter 11.
Riding El Teleférico in Mérida, Venezuela: The world's highest and longest cable car system will bring you to the summit of Pico Espejo at 4,765m (15,629 ft.). If you've ever wanted to get into thin air without the toil of actually climbing there, this is the way to go. Go early if you want the best views. But be careful: The effects of altitude can be felt, whether or not you actually climb. See "Mérida, the Andes & Los Llanos" in chapter 11.
2 The Best Small Towns & Villages
San Martín de los Andes, Argentina: City planners in San Martín had the smart sense to do what Bariloche never thought of: limit building height to two stories and mandate continuity in the town's Alpine architecture. The result? Bariloche is crass whereas San Martín is class, and the town is a year-round playground to boot. The cornucopia of hotels, restaurants, and shops that line the streets are built of stout, cinnamon-colored tree trunks or are Swiss-style, gingerbread confections that all seem right at home in San Martín's blessed, pastoral setting. Relax, swim, bike, ski, raft, hunt, or fish-this small town has it all. See "The Argentine Lake District" in chapter 4.
The Isla del Sol, Bolivia: There are actually several small villages on the Sun Island, but in total, only a few thousand people live here. There are no cars and barely any telephones. At rush hour, things get very chaotic: You may have to wait a few minutes while the locals herd their llamas from one end of the island to the other. Spend a day here, and you'll feel as if you have taken a trip back in time. See "Lake Titicaca" in chapter 5.
Porto de Galinhas, Brazil: This village of three streets in a sea of white sand is the perfect spot to learn to surf. You'll never get cold, while steamed crab and fresh tropical juices between waves do wonders to keep you going. See "Recife & Olinda" in chapter 6.
Morro de São Paulo, Brazil: situated on a green lush island just a boat ride away from Salvador, this sleepy village offers some of the best laidback beach life on the northeast coast of Brazil. Car-free and stress-free, Morro de São Paulo offers the perfect mix of deserted beaches, watersports, and fun nightlife in an idyllic setting. See "A Side Trip from Salvador" in chapter 6.
San Pedro de Atacama, Chile: Quaint, unhurried, and built of adobe brick, San Pedro de Atacama has drawn Santiaguinos and expatriates the world over to experience the mellow charm and New Age spirituality that waft through the dusty roads of this town. San Pedro hasn't grown much over the past 10 years-it has simply reinvented itself. Its location in the driest desert in the world makes for starry skies and breathtaking views of the weird and wonderful land formations that are just a stone's throw away. See "The Desert North" in chapter 7.
Pucón, Chile: Not only was Pucón bestowed with a stunning location at the skirt of a smoking volcano and the shore of a glittering lake, it's also Chile's self-proclaimed adventure capital, offering so many outdoor activities that you could keep busy for a week. But if your idea of a vacation is plopping yourself down on a beach, Pucón also has plenty of low-key activities, and that is the real attraction here. You'll find everything you want and need without forfeiting small-town charm (that is, if you don't come with the Jan-Feb megacrowds). Timber creates the downtown atmosphere, with plenty of wood-hewn restaurants, pubs, and crafts stores, blending harmoniously with the forested surroundings. See "The Chilean Lake District" in chapter 7.
Baños, Ecuador: This is the perfect place to get away from it all. Baños is only about 3 hours from Quito, but it feels like it's on a different planet. This tiny little town sits right below an active volcano, and the lush green countryside serves as a fantastic backdrop. Most people come here to relax or enjoy outdoor activities, such as rafting or hiking. The weather is almost always perfect-never too hot or too cold. See "Baños" in chapter 8.
Ollantaytambo, Peru: One of the principal villages of the Sacred Valley of the Incas, Ollanta (as the locals call it) is a spectacularly beautiful place along the Urubamba River; the gorge is lined by agricultural terraces, and snowcapped peaks rise in the distance. The ruins of a formidable temple-fortress overlook the old town, a perfect grid of streets built by the Incas, the only such layout remaining in Peru. See "The Sacred Valley of the Incas" in chapter 9.
Colonia del Sacramento, Uruguay: Just a short ferry trip from Buenos Aires, Colonia is Uruguay's best example of colonial life. The old city contains brilliant examples of colonial wealth and many of Uruguay's oldest structures. Dating from the 17th century, this beautifully preserved Portuguese settlement makes a perfect day trip. See "A Side Trip to Colonia del Sacramento" in chapter 10.
Mérida, Venezuela: Nestled in a narrow valley between two immense spines of the great Andes Mountains, this lively college town is a great base for a wide range of adventure activities. Its narrow streets and colonial architecture also make it a great place to wander around and explore. See "Mérida, the Andes & Los Llanos" in chapter 11.
Canaima, Venezuela: This isolated indigenous village sits on the edge of a black-water lagoon fed by a series of impressive waterfalls. The lagoon and its rivers offer access to even more spectacular waterfalls, including the world's tallest, Angel Falls, as well as the region's distinctive tabletop mesas, or tepuis. See "Canaima, Angel Falls & the Gran Sabana" in chapter 11.
3 The Best Outdoor Adventures
Discovering Iguaz Falls by raft: This is a place where birds like the great dusky swift and brilliant morpho butterfly spread color through the thick forest canopy. You can easily arrange an outing into the forest once you arrive in Iguazú. See "Puerto Iguazú & Iguazú Falls" in chapter 4.
Excerpted from Frommer's South America by Shawn Blore Shane Christensen Alexandra de Vries Eliot Greenspan Haas Mroue Neil E. Schlecht Kristina Schreck Excerpted by permission.
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