South America is a continent of contrast, many times extreme. Dense tropics give way to rolling grasslands and rugged mountains. Waves lap the pristine beaches of Uruguay’s resort towns while the rhythms of Samba rattle windows in Rio. In Chile alone, you’ll find snow-capped mountains and the world’s driest desert. You can party in Paraty one day and hike through a remote rainforest the next. Do you adore the chic atmosphere of the Cote d’Azur? Then you should visit South America. Do you love the rugged, adventurous spirit of Australia? Then you should visit South America. Do you long for the nightlife, music, and dance of the Iberian Peninsula? Then you should visit South America.
Thinking of taking a cruise to South America? Let us help you discover the cities and cultures that bring this continent to life. Here are seven amazing things you can do when you visit South America.
1. EXPERIENCE THE MUSIC AND DANCE OF SOUTH AMERICA
Rhythm, dance, and music are all synonymous with South America, so you simply have to take in a few live performances during your visit. But be sure to keep in mind, the dances are as diverse as the ecosystem here, with distinct rhythms taking center stage in different regions.
In Buenos Aires, Argentina, for example, it’s all about the sultry art of tango. You can watch the pros at milongas (dance halls), catch a more casual performance on the street, or take lessons yourself. Not to be outdone, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is home to the Samba. Of course, Rio is also the home of Carnaval, which Cariocas (Brazilian locals) proudly call “the world’s biggest party”. It’s a bombastic event, one that embraces the glitz, passion, and talents Rio is known for — all soundtracked by the pulsating rhythms of Samba. While the revelry looks a little different this year, the passion and spirit remain — and we have a feeling 2022 is going to be the biggest Carnaval yet. Want to know more about how Samba evolved in Brazil and its significance within the celebrations of Carnaval? You’re in luck! We happen to have an article on the history of, and insider tips for attending, Rio’s Carnaval.
2. CHECK ONE OF THE SEVEN WONDERS OF THE NEW WORLD OFF YOUR BUCKET LIST
Sprawling, spectacular, and unlike anywhere else on Earth, Machu Picchu is the type of legendary location you could probably conjure up in your mind without having ever stepped foot in Peru. Translated from the Quechua Indian language, Machu Picchu means “Old Mountain”. This landmark is practically engraved in our collective consciousness, but trust us, nothing you could imagine does this Wonder of the New World justice. The 15th-Century Incan Citadel is located high above the Sacred Valley in the Cusco Region of Peru. Its unique location is actually responsible for it still being here today. While many Inca cities were destroyed during the Spanish conquest, Machu Picchu remained hidden — practically frozen in time. In fact, the city was virtually untouched until the early 20th century, when Hiram Bingham, a professor at Yale University, re-discovered the site during his travels.
Today, Machu Picchu includes more than 150 buildings with a wide range of functions. There are ancient homes, sanctuaries, and even baths — all waiting for you to explore. Be sure to bring your camera for some unforgettable shots (and maybe even a selfie with a llama — Machu Picchu’s only current residents).
3. EAT YOUR WAY ACROSS SOUTH AMERICA
South America is a foodie’s dream, with each country serving up its own specific cuisine and traditions — and we love them all. One of the joys of cruising in South America is indulging in authentic, delicious meals throughout each port of call.
Chilean cuisine, for example, is full of Spanish influence mixed with traditions from the Indigenous Mapuche culture. Over the years, Chilean food has also been influenced by various European cultures, including Germany, Italy, and France. Variety is king here, and it’s easy to understand why. The sheer diversity of geography and climate in Chile means you’ll find a wide range of produce, fruits, and vegetables growing throughout the country. While you’re here, be sure to try empanadas, humitas, and Porotos Granados. And you can’t leave without digging into a Completo — Chile’s signature street food.
Further north in Peru, you can dine on what noted food critic Eric Asimov calls an “Exemplar of fusion cuisine.” When colonizers and immigrants arrived in Peru from all around the world (including Europe, Asia, and Africa), they brought their food traditions with them, but without familiar ingredients, they had to improvise. The resulting cuisine has evolved into a flavorful feast you won’t want to miss. Ceviche, Peru’s national dish, should undoubtedly be on your menu when you visit here. This dish is highlighted by cooked fish served cold, marinated in lime juice, onion, salt, and hot chilies.
4. TAKE IN RIO’S FAMED NIGHTLIFE SCENE
For many of South America’s iconic cities, if you haven’t seen them at night, you haven’t seen them at all. A city like Rio de Janeiro, for example, comes alive when the sun goes down.
If you’re dreaming of sipping caipirinha cocktails and shaking your hips to the sounds of Samba, a trip to Rio’s Lapa neighborhood is what you need. It’s known as the “cradle of carioca Bohemia” and is home to trendy bars, world-class restaurants, and more.
We’ve already mentioned Samba, but the music scene in Rio reaches beyond those famous rhythms. Much of the music you’ll hear during your visit incorporates elements of jazz and bossa nova, as well as regional styles like forro and pagode. For many musicians, the fusion of these styles, bringing together familiar elements to create something new, is what makes the scene here so exciting. And you’ll have no shortage of opportunities to experience it. Truly, the music seemingly floats throughout the streets, enticing you to lose yourself to dance. Whether you’re in an intimate cafe or the famous Rio Scenarium nightclub (home to three floors of dance space), you’ll have a dazzling soundtrack to go along with your experience.
5. WITNESS THE MAJESTY OF IGUAZU FALLS
Roughly translated, Iguazu means “Big Water” — a terrifically apt name for the breathtaking Iguazu Falls on Argentina and Brazil’s border. Consisting of 275 falls along 1.67 miles of the Iguazu River, this is the world’s most extensive waterfall system. The Devil’s Throat is the most impressive of all the individual falls — a U-shaped, 82 meters high, 150 meters wide waterfall.
It’s often said that, when it comes to Iguazu Falls, Argentina provides the show, while Brazil enjoys the view. Luckily, you can spend time exploring the falls by boat from the Argentine side, then compare the view from the Brazilian side. No matter the angle (or the country) you’ll undoubtedly be in for a show.
6. RELAX ON SOME OF THE WORLD’S MOST BEAUTIFUL BEACHES
One of the best things about a South American cruise is getting to experience the many incredible beaches the continent has to offer.
Punta del Este’s Brava Beach is famous for the Mano de Punta del Este, or, “The Hand”. The sculpture is an award-winning work by Chilean artist Mario Irarrázabal and makes for a great photo op. The beach is also lined with fantastic restaurants and boutiques.
Ilhabela means “Beautiful Island”, and this Brazilian port lives up to its name. Visitors love the luscious jungles, state park trails, stunning waterfalls and, of course, the breathtaking beaches. One of our favorites is Curral Beach, renowned for its natural beauty and warm waters.
Rio’s Copacabana Beach is perhaps the most famous in the world. At 4km long, the beach is perfect for surfing, sunbathing and people-watching. And the parties here are absolutely legendary, especially the world-renowned New Year’s Eve celebrations!
7. SAMPLE SOME OF THE WORLD’S BEST WINE
South America is home to some of the world’s greatest wine regions — from the well-known to the hidden gems. Argentina, of course, is renowned for its Malbec wines. And Chile is no viticulture slouch either, producing excellent Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Sauvignon Blanc wines. Flying a little more under the radar, though, is Uruguay. Uruguayan wines may not be as famous as other South American varietals, but their red wines made from Tannat grapes are particularly beloved locally. Sip them while you can, as they’re hard to come by overseas.
Whether you’re discovering a new favorite wine or visiting independent wineries to learn about their winemaking process, you’ll have no trouble raising a glass to this flavorful region.
SEE AND DO IT ALL IN SOUTH AMERICA WITH AZAMARA
Are you feeling the familiar tug of wanderlust yet? We don’t blame you. South America is a captivating destination. Luckily, we can help you satisfy that craving. Browse our upcoming voyages to South America here.