Traveling to South America and wondering what are the most famous landmarks in South America?
If there is one thing that South America is famous for, it’s diversity. Whether you are looking at the different cultures, the variety of landscapes, or the range of activities available, this region has something for everyone.
While it’s a huge area, with plenty of off-the-beaten-path destinations to explore, some landmarks in South America have become world-famous.
Here is a list of the top South American landmarks in the continent, including our subjective top 3 picks!
Top 3 Famous Landmarks in South America
These are actually very difficult picks for the top 3 landmarks in South America, and really just for fun. It is based mainly on how well known they are to someone who has not been on the continent.
There are many other famous landmarks in South America that can provide extremely memorable experiences depending on what you like. Make sure to look through the whole list, pretty sure you will be dying to plan your next trip to South America.
Machu Picchu, Cusco, Peru
Peru is a country in South America with many famous landmarks. One of the most famous and visited sites in Peru is Manchu Picchu which was built by the Inca people around 1450 AD.
It consists of a series of buildings and structures built into the side of a mountain, overlooking a valley below.
This site was once home to an Incan temple that had been abandoned for about five centuries before it was discovered by Hiram Bingham who then went on to make this place world-famous.
It also has a number of structures, buildings, plazas, and temples made out of granite blocks that are carefully connected without any mortar or other material used to hold them together.
The site is one of the best preserved Incan archeological sites. It is probably one of the New Seven Wonders Of The World not just because it’s so stunningly beautiful but also because of its historical value.
The Inca Trail trek to Manchu Picchu is one of the most popular treks and you need to reserve in advance.
Christ the Redeemer, Rio de Janeiro, Brazil
Christ the Redeemer is a colossal Art Deco statue of Jesus Christ, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. It is the largest Art Deco statue in the world.
The statue stands atop Mount Corcovado, overlooking the city of Rio. It was erected in 1931 and has since become an iconic symbol of Rio and of Brazil. The statue is made of concrete and soapstone and was designed by French sculptor Paul Landowski.
The idea for the statue was first proposed in 1920 by Brazilian architect Heitor da Silva Costa, who commissioned Landowski to create it. Construction began in 1926 and took nine years to complete.
The statue was dedicated on October 12, 1931. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Brazil, with over two million visitors per year.
The statue is 30 meters (98 feet) tall, and weighs 700 metric tons. It is the tallest Art Deco statue in the world. The arms of the statue stretch 28 meters (92 feet) wide, and the head is seven meters (23 feet) tall.
Christ the Redeemer is one of the most famous landmarks in South America and a must-see for many travelers to Brazil.
Iguazu Falls, Argentina – Brazil
The famous Iguazu Falls is a series of waterfalls on the border of Argentina and Brazil. It consists of 275 individual waterfalls, spread over 2.7 kilometers (1.7 miles) of river. The falls are up to 82 meters (269 feet) high, and are one of the largest waterfall systems in the world.
The Iguazu falls were formed when the Paraná River carved out a gorge in the sandstone plateau, creating the Iguazu (meaning “Great Water”) Falls. They were first discovered by European explorers in 1541.
They soon became a popular tourist destination, featuring in postcards and paintings by artists. Today, the falls are a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and attract over two million visitors per year.
Here is a guide to visiting Iguazu Falls on the Argentina side. You can also visit it on the Brazil side as they offer different views of the falls.
The falls are an amazing sight and provide a stunning natural backdrop for photos and videos. The best time to visit this incredible natural landmark in South America is between October and March, when the water flow is at its highest.
Other Famous Landmarks of South America
These are just a subjective top 3 and others such as Salar de Uyuni in Bolivia, Perito Moreno Glacier in Argentina, Torres de Paine in Chile certainly come immediately to mind when picking these out.
Find out more about these famous South American landmarks below. It goes by country; going in a counterclockwise direction geographically starting from Colombia.
Colombia, South America Landmarks
Communa13 is an urban district in the Colombian city of Medellín. It was formed in the early 1990s as a self-proclaimed autonomous community. Communa 13 is considered to be one of the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city in the past due to drug dealing and other crimes.
The district is a creation by residents of Medellín who were displaced by violence and poverty. The residents created their own government, schools, hospitals, and other services. Today, the district is popular for its many murals and graffiti art, which covers the walls of the buildings as a symbol of growing change.
Communa13 is home to an interesting and evolving community. It is worth visiting if you are in Medellín, and definitely go with a local guide.
Rock of Guatape
The Rock of Guatape is a towering monolith near the city of Medellin. The rock is a popular tourist destination, due to its impressive size and stunning location overlooking the surrounding countryside.
At 7,000 feet above sea level, the views from the top of the Rock of Guatape are some of the most beautiful in all of Colombia.
The rock was formed millions of years ago, and is composed of a type of granite that is not found anywhere else in Colombia. The locals have long revered the rock as a sacred place.
The Rock of Guatape can be climbed via a series of well-maintained staircases, and the views from the top are definitely worth the 600+ steps climb. You can get some refreshments on top while enjoying the stunning view.
The Rock of Guatape is a must-see for anyone visiting Colombia. It is one of the most unique and beautiful landmarks in South America.
The Cocora Valley is a valley in the Quindío Department of Colombia. The valley is home to the wax palms, a species of palm tree found only in Colombia. These trees can reach up to 60 meters in height and are some of the tallest palms in the world. The valley is also home to a variety of other flora and fauna.
The Cocora Valley is a popular tourist destination for those interested in nature and hiking. There are a number of trails in the valley that allow visitors to explore the area. The most popular trail is the Salento-Cocora Trail, which takes visitors from the town of Salento to the Cocora Valley.
The Cocora Valley is a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Ecuador, South America Landmarks
The Galapagos Islands are a volcanic archipelago in the Pacific Ocean. The islands are about 1000 kilometers west of the continent of South America, but are a part of Ecuador.
The first European to visit the islands was Tomas de Berlanga, the bishop of Panama, in 1535. The Galapagos Islands are a World Heritage Site and a national park. The islands have been classified as a biosphere reserve by UNESCO.
The Galapagos islands attract visitors with their unique wildlife, including giant tortoises, sea lions, penguins, and dolphins. The islands are also famous for the Charles Darwin Research Station which is a scientific research station that was founded in 1959 by the Charles Darwin Foundation. The foundation’s mission is to promote conservation, research, and education on the Galapagos Islands.
The islands have been a popular tourist destination and landmark in South America since the early 1970s. Visitors to the islands must obtain a permit from the Ecuadorian government.
The Quilotoa Loop is a beautiful mountain drive in Ecuador that takes travelers through the indigenous villages and landscapes of the country. You can experience the area in a car. But the more popular method of exploration is a challenging 3-5 days hike on the ring-shaped trail.
Along the way, travelers will see the Quilotoa Crater Lake and the indigenous villages of Isinlivi and Chugchilan.
The Quilotoa Crater Lake is a stunning lake that was formed after an eruption of the Quilotoa Volcano. The lake sits at an altitude of 3900 meters and is popular for its intense blue color.
Ciudad Mitad Del Mundo
Ciudad Mitad Del Mundo is a fascinating tourist destination because it marks the spot where the equator divides the two hemispheres. It is also the only spot in Ecuador where you can be both in the Northern and Southern hemisphere at the same time.
There are a few interesting facts about Ciudad Mitad Del Mundo that tourists should know before visiting. For example, did you know that you can balance an egg on its end at the equator? Or that you can stand with one foot in each hemisphere?
This is one popular South American landmark to visit during your next trip to Ecuador!
Peru, South America Landmarks
Another landmark in Peru is the Nazca Lines. These lines are a series of geoglyphs located in the Nazca Desert in Peru. The lines were created by the Nazca people between 500 BCE and 500 CE.
The lines come from removing rocks and pebbles to reveal the lighter colored soil beneath. There are over 800 lines and 300+ different figures, including animals, plants, and geometric shapes. The Nazca Lines are a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
Huascaran National Park
Huascaran National Park is a national park in Peru that was created in 1975. The park is named after the Huascaran mountain, which is the highest mountain in Peru.
Huascaran National park is home to a wide variety of animals, including deer, llamas, bears, and foxes. The park is also home to a variety of birds, including hummingbirds and eagles.
This South American natural landmark is open year-round and is best visited during the dry season, which runs from May to September. Many popular hikes from Huaraz are in this national park.
The Colca Canyon is a popular tourist destination in Peru. It is in the Arequipa Region and is known for its beautiful landscapes and ancient Inca ruins.
The canyon is over twice as deep as the Grand Canyon in the United States, making it one of the deepest canyons in the world.
Colca Canyon is also home to a variety of wildlife, including the Andean condor, which is the national bird of Peru. Nature lovers go to this natural South American landmark for hiking, camping, and bird watching.
Bolivia, South America Landmarks
Lake Titicaca is located in the Andes, on the border of Peru and Bolivia. It is the largest freshwater lake in South America, and the highest commercially navigable lake in the world.
The lake is also a sacred site for the Inca and Aymara peoples. Titicaca was an important center of Inca culture, and many historical sites associated with the Inca are located near the lake.
Salar de Uyuni
The Salar de Uyuni is a large salt flat in southwest Bolivia, near the crest of the Andes. It is the world’s largest salt flat, and the ninth-largest reserve of lithium.
The Salar was formed as a result of transformations between several prehistoric lakes. It is covered by a few meters of salt crust, which has an extraordinary flatness.
The crust overlies a brine lake about 10 meters deep, which is saturated with halite. The average surface elevation of the Salar is 3,656 meters above sea level.
The Salar is a major transportation route in Bolivia. The salt is mined at the Uyuni Mine and transported by truck to the port of Arica, Chile or Antofagasta, Chile, for export. The main uses of the salt are for industrial processes such as the production of potassium chloride and magnesium.
Huayna Potosi is a mountain in the Cordillera Real of the Bolivian Andes. At 6,088 meters (19,974 ft), Huayna Potosi is the highest mountain in Bolivia and the 18th-highest mountain in South America.
The mountain was named by the Spanish conquistadors for the way it “huye” (fled) from them as they approached.
You can clim the mountain all year-round, but the most popular time is during the Bolivian winter when the weather is more stable. The ascent takes two or three days, and summit climbers must use ice axes and crampons.
Chile, South America Landmarks
Torres del Paine
The Torres del Paine are a world-famous landmark in Chile. The three granite towers are a beautiful sight, and they offer hikers some of the most challenging trails in all of South America.
The park is also home to glaciers, lakes, rivers, and wildlife. Visitors can learn about the area’s history at the visitor center, and then head out on one of the many trails to explore the natural wonders of the area.
W-Trek and O-trek are the 2 most famous treks in the National park.
The Atacama Desert is located in Northern Chile and is South America’s driest desert. It covers a total area of 105,000 square kilometers and is said to be the oldest desert in the world, formed over 15 million years ago.
Despite being a desert, the Atacama Desert is home to a wide variety of wildlife, including llamas, vicuñas, flamingos, and foxes. The most popular attraction in the Atacama Desert is the El Tatio Geysers, which are among the highest geysers in the world.
There are a whole bunch of tours that you can take from Atacama to explore the landscape around the area.
Easter Island is a Chilean island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, and is one of the most remote places on Earth. It’s best known for its monumental statues, called Moai.
The island was first inhabited by Polynesian settlers who arrived in canoes sometime between 700 and 1200 AD. The Moai were created during the height of the island’s culture, between 1000 and 1600 AD.
Easter Island is a popular tourist destination, with about 85,000 visitors per year.
Argentina, South America Landmarks
Mount Fitz Roy is located in the southern part of Argentina, and part of the breathtaking Patagonia region. The mountain is famous for its spectacular views, and is one of the most beautiful mountains in the world.
The mountain is also home to a wide variety of animals and plants, and the area around is now a national park. Fitz Roy mountain is named after Captain Francis Lionel Walter FitzRoy, who was an explorer and the first governor of South Australia.
One of the most famous hikes to see the beauty of Mount Fitz Roy is the Laguna de Los Tres trek from El Chalten.
Perito Moreno Glacier
The Perito Moreno Glacier is a glacier in the Los Glaciares National Park in Argentina. It is one of the most famous glaciers and landmarks in South America. The Glacier’s name comes from Francisco Moreno, an explorer who first sighted it in 1877.
The glacier is about 30 kilometers long, and stands at a height of about 195 meters above sea level. The width of the glacier varies from 400 meters to 800 meters. The Perito Moreno Glacier is one of the few glaciers in the world that is still growing; estimates have it that the glacier advances about 1 meter each day.
Most travelers visit the Perito Moreno Glacier from El Calafate. There are several tour companies that offer trips to the glacier. You can even take boat tours, or walk on the glacier itself.
Tierra del Fuego National Park
The Tierra del Fuego National Park is in the southernmost tip of South America, in the province of Tierra del Fuego, Argentina. It has been a national park since 1965 and encompasses an area of 1,047,049 hectares.
The park is famous for its spectacular scenery and diverse wildlife, including guanacos, rheas, maras, foxes, and pumas. The park is also home to a wide variety of birds, including flamingos, ibises, and cormorants.
It is also home to the end of the world train, which runs from the park to the city of Ushuaia. The train journey takes about three hours and offers breathtaking views of the surrounding mountains, forests, and lakes.
This is a common nature landmark in South America to visit when traveling in Ushuaia.
Uruguay, South America Landmarks
Río de la Plata
The Río de la Plata is a river that runs through Uruguay and Argentina. It is one of the widest rivers in the world, measuring over 320 kilometers at its widest point.
The Río de la Plata is a popular spot for tourists and locals alike, and offers plenty of activities such as fishing, boating, and swimming.
La Mano de Punta del Este
The La Mano de Punta del Este is one of Uruguay’s most popular landmarks. It is a sculpture of a hand at Brava Beach in the resort city of Punta del Este.
The sculpture was created by Mario Irarrázabal and is said to represent the power of the human hand. The La Mano de Punta del Este is one of the most photographed landmarks in Uruguay and is a must-see for anyone visiting the country.
Casapueblo is a famous landmark near Punta del Este, Uruguay. It was built by the artist Carlos Páez Vilaró and it is now a hotel and museum.
The building is made of whitewashed cement and stucco, and features 13 stories. It took Páez Vilaró 36 years to build Casapueblo.
The South American landmark is famous for its architecture and its views of the ocean. Casapueblo is open to visitors year-round.
Cabo Polonio is a small village in Uruguay that is known for its lighthouse, which is the only one in the country. The lighthouse was built in 1857 and is still in use today. The village is famous for a back to basics lifestyle as there are no proper running water and electricity.
Cabo Polonio is also famous for its wildlife, which includes Lobos (sea lions) and dolphins. The village is a popular tourist destination, especially for people who want to get away from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Paraguay, South America Landmarks
The Itaipu Dam is a hydroelectric dam on the Paraná River, on the border between Paraguay and Brazil. It is the world’s largest operating hydroelectric power plant by generating capacity, producing 18,750 megawatts of electrical power annually.
The project was conceived in 1975 as a way to supply both countries with energy and to boost the Paraguayan economy. Construction of the dam began in 1975 and was completed in 1991. The dam is named after the Itaipu Lake, which forms behind it.
Brazil, South America Landmarks
Pão de Açúcar
The Pão de Açúcar, meaning Sugarloaf in English, is one of the most famous landmarks in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The mountain gets its name from its resemblance to a loaf of sugar.
The mountain is 396 meters high and is in the Urca district of Rio. You can get up to Pão de Açúcar by two cable cars, one that goes to the Morro da Urca and the other that goes directly to the top of Sugarloaf. You can also hike up the mountain.
The views from the top are amazing, you can see the whole Guanabara Bay and definitely worth the trip up!
The Amazon Rainforest, Amazonas
The Amazon Rainforest is one of the most famous landmarks in South America and for good reason! The rainforest is the largest rainforest in the world and is home to millions of species of animals and plants.
Approximately 60% of the Amazon Rainforest is in Brazil and covers more than half of the country. The rainforest is a popular tourist destination for anyone visiting South America.
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is a beautiful national park in the northeastern part of Brazil. The park is famous for its unique nature combination of white sand dunes alongside crystal clear lagoons.
The dunes in the park are up to 40 meters high and make for a beautiful sight. The park is also home to many species of animals, including flamingos, monkeys, and turtles.
Lençóis Maranhenses National Park is an incredible landmark for nature lovers visiting Brazil.
Venezuela, South America Landmarks
One of the most popular landmarks in South America is the Angel Falls in Venezuela. At a height of 979 meters, it is the world’s tallest uninterrupted waterfall.
The falls are in Canaima national park, a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visitors can enjoy amazing views from the top of the falls or from down below.
The hike to the top of the falls is steep, but worth it for the incredible views. A helicopter trip is another popular way to witness the beauty of this landmark in South America.
Discovering Landmarks of South America
The landmarks of South America are a perfect way to get an insider’s perspective on the diverse cultures and historical significance in this region.
From natural wonders like the Amazon Rainforest or Angel Falls, to famous monuments like Christ the Redeemer or Rock of Guatape, there is something to marvel at!
Whether you’re looking for wildlife adventures or cultural exploration, these South American landmarks are guiding points to show you what South America has to offer.