South America is a continent of awe-inspiring natural beauty. Spanning both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres, it boasts the biggest rainforest, largest river and tallest waterfall in the world. From its tropical jungles to icy glaciers, South America is famous for its breathtaking natural wonders and a unique diversity of cultures, including a strong European influence (Spanish and Portuguese descendants), as well as the rich heritage of the indigenous Indian people. A South American adventure includes relaxing on beautiful beaches, shopping for traditional handicrafts and discovering fascinating historical relics. This dazzling continent is guaranteed to steal your heart.
Why we love South America
- The famous beaches of Brazil, from Ipanema to Copacabana.
- The vibrant Rio Carnival with its colourful fancy dress, fanfare and party atmosphere.
- Spend your holiday discovering the incredible Amazon Jungle.
- South America is home to the Andes, the world’s largest mountain range and one of the highest mountains on earth.
- There is an abundance of ancient cities to explore, including Machu Picchu in Peru.
- See the Iguazú Falls on the border of Argentina and Brazil.
Whether you’re looking for a romantic idyll with beautiful beaches, a family holiday with plenty of culture and excitement, or an adventure where you get to view an extraordinary selection of birds and animals, you’ll find it all – and much more. South America’s incredible natural beauty is legendary, offering a choice of exciting holidays for a variety of travellers.
From the moment you arrive in South America, you’ll feel its vibrancy and excitement, a call to soak up the sun on glorious beaches, learn to dance the Tango or move to the rhythm of the Samba. Ancient trails and lush landscapes are plentiful and offer so many different places to visit, whether you head to Machu Picchu in Peru, make a lake crossing in the Andes from Bariloche to Chile’s Puerto Montt or go wine tasting in Mendoza, Argentina.
What to do in South America
- Explore some of the continent’s 100 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, from Argentina’s Los Glaciares National Park to the Galapagos Islands and beyond.
- Visit the world’s largest waterfall system, the Iguazu Falls, on the border of Argentina and Brazil.
- Immerse yourself in the vibrant nightlife in Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.
- Go hiking in Torres del Paine National Park in the Patagonia region of Chile.
- Follow Peru’s legendary Inca Trail.
- Sail on the Amazon River.
That’s just a taste of what’s in store on an exciting holiday to South America. The food is legendary, shopping is a delight – and even if you’re just strolling through a little town, soaking up the atmosphere, you’ll take home memories to cherish forever.
Getting there & getting around
- There are regular flights from South Africa to most major South American destinations. Often you will have to catch a connecting flight from another city or country.
- Major South American cities have good transport systems. Bus travel is the most popular mode of transport.
- Other cities in outlying areas throughout the continent may have less sophisticated transport infrastructure – it depends where you are going.
Language & phrases
- The most widely spoken languages in South America are Spanish and Portuguese. Learn a few key phrases before you go.
- There is some English spoken, mostly in the larger cities.
- Depending on when and where you visit, lightweight clothing for summer, warm clothing for winter, rain gear and beachwear if relevant. Choose items that can be layered.
- Comfortable walking shoes.
- Sunscreen, lip balm, hat and sunglasses for summer holidays.
- Mini first aid kit and regular prescription medication.
- Hand sanitiser and insect repellent.
- Camera, or just use your phone.
- Travel adaptor. Plug points vary depending on the country you are visiting.
- In Argentina, there are two associated plug types, C and I. Plug type C has two round pins and plug type I has three flat pins in a triangular pattern. Argentina operates on a 220V supply voltage and 50Hz.
- In Brazil, there are two associated plug types, types C and N. Plug type C has two round pins. Plug type N has two round pins and a grounding pin. Brazil operates on a 127/220V supply voltage and 60Hz.
- In Chile, the power plugs and sockets are type C and L. The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 50 Hz.
- In Peru, the power plugs and sockets are type A and C. The standard voltage is 220 V and the standard frequency is 60 Hz.
- Support the local economy and buy local food and souvenirs.
- Avoid single-use plastic and use refillable water bottles (when local drinking water is available).
- Respect each other's cultures and customs.
- Be safety conscious: don’t display cash or valuables. Leave jewellery and expensive watches at home.
- Keep your belongings safe – use the hotel safe for passports and valuables.
- Contact the Thompsons Holidays 24-hour care line to assist.