I’ve struggled in coming up with my list of must-see-stops for South America. The continent has always been in the back of my mind, but not a priority. There are places I want to go to, but for the most part I’m not that interested in the region. Or so I thought. The more research I did the more places I found and I still feel like I’m barely scratching the surface.
Patagonia is like the Alaska of the Southern Hemisphere. Endless landscapes. Few people. Its beauty alone makes one understand why Chile and Argentina have continually battled over the land. It’s beautiful. Enough said.
During the past 4 years I’ve had two friends sent to Peru for two very different reasons: A Mormon Mission trip and the Peace Corps. I think it may be a sign that I’m suppose to go. I use to joke with my friends about eating guinea pigs and bringing home llamas, ideas which still seem strange and kind of gross. It’s probably the touristy thing to say, but if there’s one reason to go to Peru, it’s Machu Picchu. The ancient Incan city stretches hundreds of acres and has what I’m told are breathtaking views. The architecture, history, and environment are screaming for me to come and take photographs.
The Andes play a predominant role in the environment and culture of Chile. But, the country isn’t just mountains. It’s dotted with deserts, rivers, lakes, and more than a few historical sites. The Chilean people live a relatively rural life, but the culture in each region, even with the Spanish influence, is unique. There’s something wherever you go in the country.
Not only does Argentina have beautiful landscapes, it has vibrant cities, with a rich culture. Buenos Aires, the largest city in Argentina, is influenced by European culture. The city’s architecture models that found in Europe. It has a rich history in art and music, including being the birthplace of the Tango. Despite a turbulent history of war and crime, the country has done everything possible to continue growing and enriching its culture, making it not only a beautiful but a lively place to visit.
Brazil’s budding economy has made it one of biggest tourist destinations in South America. Many people flock to the beaches of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo, where the cultures, despite high poverty, have flourished. When I think of Brazil, though, I immediately think of the Amazon. Immeasurable rainforest, beautiful animals, potentially thousands of species waiting to be discovered. Most people who visit the infamous rainforest and river, see less than a quarter of what it has to offer, but just stepping one foot in would be a once in a lifetime opportunity.
6) Easter Island
Giant humanoid statues. Need I say more. They’re impressive no matter what, but when you take into account they’re dated as far back as the 9th century, it’s practically mind-boggling. It’s still unknown what peoples are responsible for erecting the giant monuments and suspicion about their origin and use is constantly being debated. Regardless of who’s responsible, they have created something that will be marveled at for centuries.
7) Galapagos Islands
Darwin turned the world upside after visiting the Galapagos and declaring humans were descended from evolution not God. The Galapagos remains scientific wonder. The environment of the islands is 100% unique: the plant life, the animals, everything. Completely unique. (Plus the Galapagos Tortoises are just plain awesome). Pretty cool and from what I’m told pretty beautiful.
I know I say this a lot, about every country, region and continent, but South America is unique. There are indigenous peoples that have managed to retain their privacy and culture away from the modern world. There are species of plants and animals that can only be found in its jungles and on its islands. There are ruins from ancient civilizations that are stilling being discovered and uncovered.
A good friend of mine often complains that Latin America tends to be forgotten by the humanitarians, health organizations, researchers, and people in general. I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one of those who often forget about desperate pockets of poverty (India isn’t the only place still dealing with shanty towns and slums) and the richness and vibrancy of the cultures. But, maybe, just maybe, this research will be my first step in discovering and appreciating all the facets of the continent.