Backpacking around South America in Bolivia, Peru, Brazil, Argentina and Chile for three months was unreal and each of these countries are unique and amazing in their own way. There are so many things that I came to love and will miss about South America and I already want to go back.
Here are the 10 things I love about South America:
1. The Food
One of the best things about traveling is trying all the delicious new food. The universal South American food is the empanada and it will change your life. I don’t know how these tasty little meat-filled pastry pockets of juicy and delicious joy evaded me before. In Argentina, you must try the ice cream, choripan (chorizo sausage on a bun), alfajores (cookies sandwiched together with dulce de leche, which is like caramel, but better, which is why Argentines put it on everything). And no meal in Argentina (or Chile) would be complete without a great glass of very affordable wine from one of the many wineries. When in Brazil, you must try açai (frozen, ground up Amazonian berries) and go to a Brazilian steakhouse. Peru has a world class cuisine, so you must try ceviche along with all the other Peruvian specialties.
2. It’s Cheap
Aside from Brazil and Chile, for the most part, South America is very affordable. And it’s even cheaper if you don’t mind staying in hostels and eating street food, like empanadas, which can be anywhere from $0.50-1.50 each.
3. Dark and Handsome
If dark and handsome is your thing, South America is the place for you because they’re everywhere. However, you will notice that I didn’t mention tall. Your typical South American guy is on the shorter side, so if tall, dark and handsome is your thing, Brazil is the place for you. The dark and handsome thing applies to the women too because there are loads of beautiful women in South America.
4. The Hostels
I loved the hostels in South America because many of them were once old mansions, so they were full of character and historical intrigue. The architecture is very elaborate, with beautiful, ornate rooms, courtyards and gardens. And there are often a few mystery rooms that spark some intrigue: “Who lived here before and what was it like to live during this time?” The hostel I stayed at in Santiago, La Chimba, reminded me of Narnia and Clue. I have a very active imagination, so I can’t help but imagine what it would’ve been like to have lived in these mansions during their prime. So cool!
5. The Produce
South America grows some of the best produce you’ll ever have in your life and it’s sold at ridiculously cheap prices. And you know what you can make with all this delicious fresh fruit? Juice! Fresh squeezed juice is very popular and amazingly refreshing and delicious. Try the maracuya (passion fruit)!
6. The Spanish Language
When traveling to South America, you will have no choice but to learn some Spanish because not many people speak English. Luckily, Spanish is a fairly easy and straightforward language to learn because there are very few rules and you pronounce everything liked it’s spelled. It’s so simple that to say “I’m hungry” is “tengo hambre”, the direct translation meaning “have hunger”. You don’t even need to say “I” because the verb tense states that you mean “I”. It doesn’t get much easier than that.
7. The Street Food
Speaking of having hunger, let’s discuss the street food in South America (I realize this falls under the food category, but it deserves a category of its own). The street food is always some of the best, most traditional and cheapest food that you will find in South America (or pretty much any Third or Second World country, for that matter). This isn’t McDonalds fast food nonsense; this is fresh and made from scratch homemade deliciousness and it’s readily available on the street for you to enjoy.
8. The History
South America is great for history lovers, specifically Peru because it’s home to some of the oldest ancient cultures in the world, including the Inca Empire. Peru’s ancient cultures and archaeological sites are easily the best in South America and they also rival those in Mexico, Egypt, Turkey and Greece. There’s the obvious and very impressive Machu Picchu, but the Nazca lines and Chan Chan are some other great examples of the archaeological wealth that Peru has to offer.
9. The Landscape
South America has an endless amount of jaw-dropping landscape from jungles, to mountains, valleys, salt flats, beaches, ocean, lakes, rivers, glaciers, waterfalls, volcanoes, deserts, etc, making it an absolute must for nature enthusiasts and outdoor adventurers.
Speaking of landscape, every time I’m asked what my favorite country was in South America, I immediately say “Bolivia!”. Bolivia has every kind of landscape you can imagine, except for a coastline and ocean, which they used to have until it was lost to Chile (still a touchy subject there). By everything, I mean it has the Amazon, jungle, the Andes, valleys, mountains, geysers, the world’s biggest salt flat- Salar de Uyuni, desert, and lakes upon lakes upon beautiful lakes, sometimes with flamingos chilling in these lakes. Bolivia has the craziest, most unique and varied landscape I have ever seen in my life and I was constantly blown away by its beauty. It was like being on another planet.
Bolivia is also the cheapest country in South America. If you need more reasons to go to Bolivia, see Why Bolivia Should Be On Your Bucket List.