Top South America tour experience, Rio at sunset
Top South America tour activity, Machu Picchu in Peru

South America - Best Tours & Trips 2019

South America offers some of the most remarkable active vacation possibilities on the planet. Peru’s ancient Inca archaeological site, Machu Picchu, is on just about everyone’s bucket list, as are Ecuador’s Galapagos Islands and the Brazilian Amazon. But where do you start? Let Stride be your guide to all the best guided tours and packages that are out there – and all you’ll have to do is start brushing up on your Spanish or Portuguese.
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Trip Type Trip Type Classic Tour Groups are between 25-60 people, typically ~30-40. Usually there will be many opportunities to split off and enjoy meals and excursions in smaller groups. This is the most economical way to travel, saving up to 40% versus booking the same itinerary yourself.
Small Group Guided Experiences Small groups are usually defined as between 10 and 24 travelers, often less. If you're the kind of person who enjoys more intimate experiences and personal service this is a good choice. All else being equal you will pay a premium for this style vs a larger group tour.
River Cruise These vessels are smaller than most ocean cruisers, limiting which amenties are available. Passenger counts can vary. One of the biggest advantages of a river cruise is the ability to dock at smaller ports and local villages.
Small Ocean Cruise Small ship cruises usually have a max passenger count of 500. The primary purpose of these trips is to spend time off the vessel in local ports (e.g. Mediterranean) or experiencing nature (e.g Galapagos or Antarctica). Cabins can vary from budget to luxury.
Private Tour Private tours give you the undivided attention of a guide, and often involve special access to sites and unique experiences not available to larger groups. This is a great option for families, couples, and small friend groups. Expect to pay a bit more for the extra service.
Independent Package A travel company plans your itinerary and arranges all the logistics including lodging, local activities, and transportantion. You have the flexibility of a solo trip while still getting the convience and time savings of expert planning. Get 90% of the benefits of a tour, without a guide.
Vacation / Holiday Package Similar to a self guided tour, this usually involves a home base, such as a hotel or resort, with packaged activities and day tours as a part of the stay.
Large Ocean Cruise This is the "floating city" experience, with multiple ways to enjoy your vacation aboard the ship as much as on land. Ships are multiple floors, provide several activities, culinary, and shopping options. They often make fewer stops and have less time available for shore excursions.

Tour Styles

Lodging Level Lodging Level Camping Typically involves most nights sleeping in tents (sometimes permanent tented sites) or in rustic cabins and lodges.
Basic - 2 star You'll stay in no-frills, but clean and comfortable, hotels or guesthouses. A 'Basic' trip might also involve a few nights of camping.
Value - 3 star Mid-range budget with accommodations ranging from comfortable lodges, guesthouses, and homestays to three star hotels.
Premium - 4 star 3 to 4 star western hotel equivalents. While not all lodging will be 'luxury' they will be quite comfortable by western standards.
Luxury - 5 star The highest level of comfort and service. All accomodations are in four or five star hotels, boutique lodges or high-end homestays.

Price From*

$ 0 $ 10,000+

Price Per Day

Trip Length

Countries

Physical Level Physical Level Very Easy Minimal walking - motor vehicles available for all major parts of trip.
Easy Normal generally flat walking in urban or suburban environments.
Moderate Walking or physical activity half to most of day - no carrying equipment.
Strenuous All or most of day hiking or biking, hills included.
Extreme Very challenging all day hiking and backpacking carrying significant equipment.

Travel Theme

Travelers Age

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Rivers & Seas

Cities & Attractions

Activities

Solo Friendly Solo Friendly Good for Singles Trips that specifically cater to travelers looking to meet other singles.
No Single Supplement Trips where single supplement is usually not required for solo travelers.

Company

Flights & Transport

Continents & Regions

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Top South America Experiences and Attractions

Top South America Experiences

Hiking the Inca Trail in Peru and getting your first glimpse of ancient Machu Picchu high in the Peruvian Andes.

Walking in Darwin’s footsteps in the Galápagos Islands’ observing some of the world’s most amazing wildlife – from blue-footed boobies to frigate birds, sea lions to giant tortoises.

Trekking along the Chilean Coast

Sampling the vintages in Chile’s beautiful wine country.

Wandering around the vibrant city of Buenos Aires

Taking a river cruise on the Amazon, keeping an eye (and ear) out for howler monkeys, sloths and pink dolphins.

Exploring the Atacama Desert 

Reveling in the power of Argentina and Brazil’s Iguazu Falls, which ranks with Africa’s Victoria Falls as one of the two greatest waterfalls on earth.

Visiting the city of Cartagena, touring the old fortress, and Spanish colonial inspired city. 

Surveying a panorama of Rio de Janeiro from atop Corcovado mountain.


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South America Trip Reviews

2,732 South America Tour Reviews - Summary 98% Recommend

4.7 out of 5
Excellent 2,055
Great 606
Average 55
Disappointing 14
Terrible 2
Value
4.7
Guide
4.7
Activities
4.7
Lodging
4.7
Transportation
4.7
Meals
4.7

Tour Reviews Write a Review

BEST INCA TRAIL TREK!

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Best tour company hands down!!! We booked this tour not really knowing what to expect but what we received was amazing! This tour company has put time into thinking what will make an even better experience for their customers. I'm a very picky eater and I was always able to find something to fill my tummy up with, with all the meals. The soups were so delicious!!! I can't believe the amount of food and the variety of food they can bring along on this trip. The camp grounds were great! Our tents were great and comfy. I rented a sleeping bag from them and it was clean and perfect for the trek.

Our guide, porters, and chefs were friendly, professional, and did an amazing job. We can't forget Rox in the main office. If I ever return I will defiantly use them and will tell all my friends who are heading that way the same thing. I can't think of anything bad or negative to say about our experience with APT.

I could write a book on this tour company that's how much I enjoyed it. I know I kept thinking , I'm so glad we found them. We had our own private tour, most times we were the only group at the trails and campsites. I saw the second nights camp ground that the other groups take and I had anxiety looking at all the people and praying we weren't going to a place like that. The campgrounds were quaint, clean, and in areas that we could get a nice, quiet nights sleep. I would not hesitate booking them!!! cheers! p.s. they carry their own private toilet around for the whole trek, a bonus in my eyes.

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Operator Action Peru Treks

Very nice

5.0
Special needs at Sea Company Reviews
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Very nice equipment & was delivered in room & picked up as told when it was ordered.

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Operator Special needs at Sea

Great trip for 3 generations of family

5.0
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 4.0
  • Meals 5.0

Three genre rations of our family explored Quito and the Galapagos with Andean Discovery. The lodgings, food and guides exceeded our expectations. It was a very active trip for physically fit guests that included a tour of old city, hiking a volcano, a trip to the swim hole, 2 separate snorkeling trips, a bike ride and more animals than you can imagine. Our experienced and knowledable guides were able to adjust our tour to accommodate everyone from active 17 and 21 years old daughters, their parents, to their grandparents. Transportation around The islands is time consuming and difficult but our guides made everything’ feel seemless. The hotels were delightful, hospitable and accommodating, and we got the standard package. Our only regret is that we did not get to stay and extra night at Rincon de Pueblo, a hacienda in Quito at the end of the trip. It would have been a great place to relax and unwind. The food was delicious, fresh and plentiful and we had no problems meeting some specific dietary restrictions for our group because we let them know in advance. Still with all the food, we all lost a few pounds and added some muscle from all the fun activities. We will be touring with Andean Discovery again

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Operator Andean Discovery

TAKE THIS TRIP!!! Unbelievable!

5.0
Zegrahms Expeditions Company Reviews
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

Sunday, 22 July... SVALBARD, Norway. Halfway between the top of continental Norway & the North Pole!

We disembarked & are now back to civilization! WOW!
What a FANTASTIC adventure on the ship Ocean Adventurer!

Once again, Zegrahm delivered! Cruise Director & Expedition Leader executed an unforgettable adventure! SUPERB lectures on ship & field trips from the guest experts in their fields... history of polar explorations... geology... birds... polar bears & other animals!

We saw several polar bears, groups of walrus, one very photogenic seal, reindeer, Arctic fox, a BLUE WHALE (largest of ALL whales!)... & a gazillion birds!

Our small ship was indeed able to circumnavigate the Svalbard (Spitsbergen) archipelago... 3 cheers to our Russian captain! The staff on board were FANTASTIC! And the best food I've had on any ship!

Mostly great weather... quite fortunate! Out on the Zodiacs (rubber rafts), I wore almost everything in my suitcase, in layers all at once, hoping to stay warm & dry... followed by VERY LONG hot showers once back on the ship, while I thawed out!

If you have an interest in polar adventure, TAKE THIS TRIP!!! Unbelievable!

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Operator Zegrahms Expeditions

Overall my experience with Acoss Argentina is excellent.

5.0
Across South America Company Reviews
  • Value 4.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 4.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 4.0

I like the way they plan my 23 days trip to South America tour in Peru, Argentina and Brazil. Although we can enjoy more in Brazil but we have only 3 days left before we go back to Manila. Since our tour was made from our own IT expectation and budget, Acriss Argentina was able to fulfill our dream vacation in South America. We will use tgis agency again when we explore Patagonia and Antartica.

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Operator Across South America

Looking fwd for more camps...

5.0
Trailblazer tours India Company Reviews
  • Value 5.0
  • Guide 5.0
  • Activities 5.0
  • Lodging 5.0
  • Transportation 5.0
  • Meals 5.0

My daughter had gone to bhandardara near nasik with the trailblazer team...she had a very nice time..and it was first time I had send her ...so looking fwd for more camps...

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Operator Trailblazer tours India

South America Tours and Travel Guide

South America Attractions & Landmarks Guide

While much of South America may speak Spanish or Portuguese, the continent is remarkably diverse – possessing world-class cities, vast areas of rainforest, beach-laden coastlines, fascinating indigenous cultures, rich stores of wildlife, archaeological and historical treasures, and some of the world’s most intriguing islands.

All this is in a continent just two-thirds the size of North America, with 12 independent countries. Travel providers focus primarily on Brazil, Peru, Ecuador, Chile, Argentina, and, more recently, Colombia, though Bolivia, Venezuela, Uruguay and Paraguay are also home to considerable natural and cultural attractions.

Top South America Destinations

Brazil alone is nearly half the size of the entire continent, so between visits to the Amazon region, including the city of Manaus – where you’ll find a 19th century-era opera house that rivaled the finest in Italy – as well as Rio de Janeiro, the Spanish-African fusion city of Salvador de Bahia, and Iguazu Falls, it can easily fill a two-week or more tour by itself. A river cruise on the Amazon and a visit to the cosmopolitan city of Rio make for an almost perfect combination -- and contrast – of isolation and urbanity.

Ecuador, Peru, Chile and Argentina can also easily be destinations unto themselves, or can be combined with each other on longer tours. Ecuador, about the size of Colorado, features not just the Andes Mountains, but exotic jungle lodges in Amazon headwaters, the Pacific coast, the splendid Spanish colonial cities of Quito and Cuenca, the market town of Otavalo, and – far out into the ocean – the Galapagos Islands.

Peru, just south of Ecuador, is best known for Machu Picchu, the ancient Incan city, and Cusco, the Incan capital, but also is the source of the Amazon and shares Lake Titicaca, known for its artificial islands, with Bolivia. Both Ecuador and Peru have rich indigenous cultures, and combined Galapagos and Machu Picchu tours allow you to experience both a natural and man-made world wonder in the same bucketlist-filling trip.

Surprising Chile

Chile proves one of South America’s greatest surprises. While it receives less publicity than some of its neighbors, it also offers some of the most remarkable landscapes on earth. The world’s driest desert, the Atacama, is here, as is a lovely lake country and remote, mountainous Patagonia, where you can trace Charles Darwin’s voyages aboard a small expedition-style ship and perhaps even land on Cape Horn.

Argentina is best known for trendy Buenos Aires, one of the great South American capitals, but also shares Patagonia with Chile and has its own wine regions. Ushaia, at the southern tip of the country, is a key embarkation point for expeditions to Antarctica, and the Falkland Islands, off the Argentine coast, are frequent stops on small-ship expeditions.

Still not sure where to go or how to get there? Let Stride help you sort it all out. You’ll find travel operators who offer all degrees of luxury (or roughing it), price level, group size, itinerary and more. And soon you’ll be saying hola! or ola! to your next South American adventure.

Top South America Travel Companies

Things to Know Before You Go

South America has some of the most diverse landscapes and wildlife in the entire world. Laying claim to both the Galapagos and the Amazon, tours in South America often have a heavy focus on nature hikes, conservation, local living, and wildlife photography.

The diverse cultures of South America’s countries and regions are a highlight of many guided tours to South America. You’ll enjoy regional cuisine, perhaps even stay with a local family for a few nights. Learn to tango in Argentina, experience the unique floating villages on Lake Titicaca in Peru, and visit coffee plantations in Colombia.

South America tours often have a heavy focus on eco and sustainable travel. Costa Rica is world renowned for its eco lodges. Many tours highlight the many ways tourism can help with conservation rather than hinder the survival of South America’s stunning natural beauty.

South America also attracts history and archaeology buffs looking for tours that visit the many fascinating ancient settlements. Home to countless ruins, including of course the enigmatic Lost City of the Incas, Machu Picchu, travelers have been flocking to South America for centuries seeking to experience these amazing historical sites for themselves.

There are many ways to plan a tour to Machu Picchu, including hiking the Inca Trail. Many travelers may not be aware, however, that if you are planning to walk this ancient byway, you do need to take a tour. Private Inca Trail tours are available, and a popular option, but you cannot simply hike on your own. Only 500 people are allowed on the Inca Trail every day - this rule has been implemented by the local government in effort to preserve the trail and protect the area. The 500 includes porters and guides, so that leaves room for roughly around 300 travelers.

Plan well in advance if you’d like to see Machu Picchu via the Inca Trail. If you want to see Machu Picchu, but don’t feel like the Inca Trail’s for you, many South America tours still include the famous site. Many visit via the PeruRail route from Cusco.

There’s even a tour in South America for that person who is both a nature and a history lover in South America. The Galapagos Islands - a classic destination, often combined with trips to Machu Picchu or the Amazon.

Off the coast of Ecuador, the Galapagos Islands are where legendary Charles Darwin did a majority of his research leading to the groundbreaking Origin of Species and scientific theories of Natural Selection. When you visit, you’ll get to see and get up close to the many species that led him to his conclusions about evolution including Galapagos Finches, Giant Tortoise, and Marine Iguanas.

Small ship cruises to the Galapagos are becoming increasingly popular. Because the Galapagos can be an entire trip in theselves, consider if you want to invest in a longer trip - one that also includes Machu Picchu or more of Ecuador. 

All South America tours, river cruises, expedition cruises, and adventure trips. Find the best guided trips and expert planned vacation and holiday packages. Average rating of 4.7 for all South America trips.

2,203 trips from 260 tour companies with 2,732 reviews

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