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best destinations in South America

No matter what type of traveler you are, the wonders that await in South America are endless. With its vibrant culture, warm climate, gorgeous beaches, incredible culinary and wine scene, epic historical sites, and dramatic nature scape — expect a life-affirming travel experience. To highlight all of the must-sees in South America – a continent that is home to Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Guyana, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, Uruguay, and Venezuela – is an impossible task.  So in partnership with our friends at Marriott International, we’ve narrowed it down to a few of our favorites. Enjoy our curated guide to the best of Argentina, Chile, Uruguay, and Paraguay all easily accessible from the US and with an exchange rate as enticing as this amazing part of the world.

Country: Argentina

There’s a reason Argentina is on everyone’s bucket list. For starter’s the country’s diverse and spectacular landscape: Argentina is home to the Andes, the glaciers and mountain peaks of Patagonia, and the epic Iguazú Falls (all 275 of them, some as high as 262 feet) which is one of the Seven Natural Wonders of the World and a World Heritage UNESCO site. Then there’s the warm, passionate [and it must be said, beautiful] people, incredible food and wine (Asadito barbecue and Malbec is almost a religion) and of course the thriving music and dance scene (the Tango was born in Argentina). Oh and whether you’re into soccer or not, it’s also a religion here. 

City: Buenos Aires

Argentina’s sexy capital is a dynamic cosmopolitan city with an eclectic backdrop that fuses faded colonial architecture, historic French and Italian-style palaces with a vibrant street art scene (local artists use the buildings as a canvas for colorful murals).  Gastronomy is alive and well here — you’ll find traditional and trendy steakhouses on practically every corner serving every possible cut. Also alive, the city’s nightlife. The restaurants, bars, and clubs only get going around 9 pm and there’s plenty of jazz, DJ’s spinning electronica, and traditional dance halls for those keen to master the sensual art of tango. Amid the energetic urban sprawl, Buenos Aires is filled with historic architectural wonders like Monumental Tower and Torre de los Ingleses, parks and green spaces, (be sure to visit the historical Parque Lezama), and trendy barrios (neighborhoods), each with its own distinct personality and flavor (make sure you head to the revamped dockside Puerto Madero).

Where to Stay in Buenos Aires 

Park Tower, a Luxury Collection Hotel 

Stay in the heart of Buenos Aires at Park Tower, a Luxury Collection Hotel which evokes the history, classic European elegance, and culture of the city. The opulent 23-story five-star hotel is set in Retiro, giving you easy access to the waterfront Puerto Madero, upmarket Recoleta, downtown Microcentro and Buenos Aires’ best sites. Here the stylish rooms and suites are outfitted with luxe antiques, comfy pillow-top mattress beds, walk-in closets, kitchens, separate living spaces, and decadent marble bathrooms. Also on the stand-out list are the private butler service, two pools (indoor and outdoor), a fitness center, clay tennis courts, and a beauty salon. The second floor fine dining St. Regis restaurant, where you can enjoy a melting pot of local and international flavors (don’t miss the Patagonia trout and arepa viscacha) while listening to live piano and romantic harp music while savoring scenic views over Alem Street is also a treat.  

City: Mendoza

It’s impossible to mention Mendoza without conjuring up images of its famed wine regions (hello Malbec). So if sipping your way through your vacation sounds like the plan, you’ll be pleased to know there are around 1,200 bodegas (wine cellars) around the city where you can enjoy Mendoza’s signature Malbec (there are plenty of excellent reds beyond Malbec) all grown and produced in the surrounding valleys. As for the city, it’s filled with expansive tree-lined streets, gorgeous modern and Art Deco buildings, historic plazas, amazing restaurants, and cultural hotspots like the Museo Municipal de Arte Moderno where you can immerse yourself in the world of contemporary art. The countryside is equally beautiful and a draw for adventurers given the Andes is literally on your doorstep. If extreme trekking is your thing, Mendoza province is home to Mt. Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Western Hemisphere, standing 21,463 feet.   

Where To Stay in Mendoza

Sheraton Mendoza Hotel

A chic modern hotel in the center of Mendoza City, the Sheraton Mendoza Hotel is the perfect setting for your Andean adventure.  Enjoy local wines in the hotel’s cellar-like Cava Room Malbec, or enjoy a sip and killer views of the iconic Andes Mountains from the Club Lounge or Mirador Restaurant. The guest rooms are upscale and spacious and the property has a sunny indoor pool, fully-equipped gym, luxury AWAYÂ Spa with outdoor deck, and casino for those keen to try their hand at lady luck. 

City: Bariloche

Something of a hidden, unsung gem, San Carlos de Bariloche — or Bariloche — as it’s known is a low-key mountain town in northern Patagonia, in the south of southern part of Argentina.  Evoking a charming European alpine town – Swiss, German, and Austrian settlers were lured here in the 20th century – Bariloche’s centerpiece is Nahuel Huapi, a breathtakingly beautiful national park with a picture-postcard worthy glacial lake. Just a two-hour flight from Buenos Aires – but worlds away – nature lovers will delight at the scenery, fresh air, and rustic wood chalets. 

Where to Stay in Bariloche

Arelauquen Lodge, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel 

The scenery is nothing short of Instagram-fabulous at Arelauquen Lodge, a Tribute Portfolio Hotel, a charming alpine-inspired stone and timber lodge located within Argentina’s gated Arelauquen community.  A warm, intimate, tranquil retreat amid Gutierrez Lake and the surrounding mountains, nature lovers can stroll the expansive grounds, hang out in the garden, enjoy a round on the scenic 18-hold golf course or try a hit of tennis. Unwind after in the luxurious guest rooms and suites which come with fully equipped kitchens, cozy up by the fire in the lobby, or indulge in wellness at the spa, sauna, hot tub, or indoor and outdoor pool. The culinary experience is as epic as the scenery, at Epic (yep) the lodge’s signature restaurant where you can enjoy Cajun cuisine and creative cocktails.

Country: Chile

Viva Chile. Home to gorgeous landscapes, fascinating history and culture, warm passionate people, and incredible food and wine (Chilean reds are among the best in the world and don’t even get us started on their famed Pisco Sour), you might recognize the world’s southernmost country on the map as a long skinny stretch along South America’s western edge that the southern tip of Patagonia and Peru in the north. Spanning 2,600 miles, 3800 miles of Pacific Ocean coastline, and more than its fair share of geographical zones and natural wonders (including 2000 volcanos) Chile is a country of unforgettable contrasts. Again the highlights are simply too great to mention but suffice to say where you are looking to hike through Torres del Paine in Patagonia, explore the Atacama desert, or immerse yourself in the buzzy vibrant capital of Santiago, a visit to Chile is a game-changer.

City:  Santiago

The energy in Chile’s vibrant capital is infectious. Add to that the eclectic landscape; it’s located in the middle of a valley, surrounded by the Andes mountains, crossed by a river, and an hour from the pacific coastline. Hugely populated (half of the country live in the leafy city which electrifies the buzz), Santiago fuses old and new world — vineyards, ancient cathedrals, and historic treasures like Plaza de Armas, the grand heart of the city’s old colonial core and the neo-classical presidential Le Monde Palace are nestled among modern skyscrapers, art galleries, trendy restaurants, and the endless assortment of bars and nightclubs that pepper its center, giving it is cool cosmopolitan, party vibe. People watching is a sport here and the best views from the peaks and viewpoints of the iconic Cerro San Cristóbal, at 722 hectares it’s Santiago’s largest green space.

Where to Stay in Santiago

W Santiago

Cool and contemporary W Santiago in Las Condes sits just outside the hustle and bustle of the city center while offering easy access to must-see sites like Parque Forestal, Mercado Central, and Barrio Paris-Londres.  A towering building, it offers incredible views of the Andes from the floor-to-ceiling windows and inside as you would expect the vibe is ultra-modern with sleek furniture, bold pops of color, a laid back Tea Library, and trendy outdoor bars and indoor lounges (complete with ping pong, video games, and a private cinema).  The hotel standout is Top of the World, the Red2one rooftop bar, where you can marvel at the Santiago skyline through sparkling glass windows over craft cocktails.  Chile is also a new world wine region and you can enjoy their finest blends in the wine tasting room, where expert sommeliers guide you through a selection of 1,600 bottles. 

AC Santiago

For those that prefer to be right in the heart of the action, AC Santiago is a hip European-style hotel located in the Costanera Center.  The recently opened property occupies the mid-level floors of a skyscraper, so it’s all about the awesome views of the city and the Andes mountains here which are best enjoyed from the chic minimalist-designed guest rooms.  As for the amenities, there’s the cozy communal AC Lounge where you can chill over taps and vino, and come nightfall, the party starts on the Luna Bar terrace, with craft cocktails, globally-inspired dishes, and live DJs.

City: Miramar, Viña Del Mar

Affectionately dubbed “Garden City,” due to its tranquil vibe and nature scape, a combination of dreamy beaches and large green spaces, Miramar in the stunning coastal region of Viña Del Mar on Chile’s Pacific Coast is truly a treasure. Quieter than its better known neighboring Valparaiso, a hilly city with a stunning harbor, Miramar will transport you back to Spanish colonial times with its pastel-colored buildings, grand old mansions (many now transformed into trendy bars, galleries, and museums), and winding architecture and culture-filled streets.  Be sure to visit the coastal resorts of Reñaca, Concón, and Las Salinas to immerse yourself in the local beach and nightlife, stroll the National Botanical Garden and visit the Flower Clock and Aviva Water Park. 

Where To Stay in Miramar

Sheraton Miramar Hotel & Convention Center

An hour northeast of Santiago in stunning Vina Del Mar, Sheraton Miramar Hotel & Convention Center sits right on the beach and has guest rooms that curve out along the coastline to offer incredible views of the Pacific Ocean. The hotel also has a pool that overlooks the beach below, highlighting the waves crashing beneath, plenty of walking paths on the expansive grounds, guest suites with open terraces, and lively outdoor bars. Enjoy exceptional gastronomy at one of the hotel’s restaurants—Las Olas and Travesia—or the colorful Farewell Bar. Each one offers a fusion of traditional and international cuisines with a focus on fresh fish, meat (of course), and pasta. Foodies will also want to take a quick stroll into town to enjoy the lively bars and restaurants, like Vina, where fresh seafood and Pisco Sour is the signature.

Country: Uruguay

While it might be known for its eclectic capital, Montevideo, look further afield in Uruguay to discover a beautiful unspoiled country brimming with historic colonial towns, charming beaches, rivers, natural hot springs, and wine regions to rival its neighboring Argentina. Which, BTW, from Buenos Aires, you can take a scenic 30-minute boat ride to Uruguay’s port.

City: Colonia

The beautiful historic Colonia del Sacramento takes its name from the imagery of old Lisbon thanks to the city’s Portuguese-style architecture and fascinating winding streets. Located in the southwestern part of Uruguay on the Río de la Plata Colonia was declared a UNESCO World Heritage Site in 1995, and it’s not hard to see why.  While its gorgeous beaches are always a draw, it’s the city’s monuments like the Main Church (the oldest in Uruguay), Municipal Museum, Museo del Azulejo (filled with ceramic tiles), Colonia del Sacramento Lighthouse, and the scenic river with its 17th-century dock that makes it a bucket list destination bursting with old-worldly charm. 

Where to Stay in Colonia

Sheraton Colonia Golf & Spa Resort

Located in Colonia’s Real de San Carlos neighborhood in the city’s historical quarter, the Sheraton Colonia Golf & Spa Resort is a destination property set on five hectares of lush gardens by the gorgeous Río de la Plata river. The retreat-style resort also has direct beach access, an outdoor pool, a lagoon, and a nine-hole golf course surrounded by Uruguayan eucalyptus trees, lakes, and beautiful scenic countryside.  Among the many highlights are the spectacular river views from the guest rooms and suites and the hotel’s Real Spa— where you’ll find an indoor seawater pool, hydro-massage, jacuzzi, sauna, and steam baths. Then there’s the gastronomy at the Cava Real signature restaurant with wine cellar featuring incredible Uruguay and Argentine wine and laid back, the Lobby Bar where you must try  ‘The Chivito’, a traditional Uruguayan sandwich. 

South America’s Hidden Gem

For those keen to discover more of unspoiled South America head to Paraguay’s capital city of Asunción. While the “Mother of Cities” may not have the mountains or pristine beaches (the sparkling Río Paraguay swan-necks around the inland city) of other buzzy metropolitan cities, it promises a rich cultural immersion (the locals speak a fusion of Spanish and indigenous Guaraní), historical quirks (the presidential palace is candy pink), and incredible gastronomy (there are more cows than people so expect amazing steaks and Asado).  Adding to its uniqueness, the climate here is subterranean and humid (cool off like a local with a Pilsen from a chilly can), you can hear guaranias—mesmerizing harp-based style music—and Paraguay’s artisans are masters so you can pick up hammocks, bracelets and leather-clad gourds at the line of stalls in Plaza de la Libertad.  

Stay at Sheraton Asunción

Stay in the heart of the city at the modern, upscale Sheraton Asunción to be close to the sites like the vivacious financial district, Shopping del Sol, and Paseo La Galería and enjoy incredible views of the Asunción landscape.  Gastronomy and relaxation go hand in hand here; enjoy tapas and locally-inspired cuisine in the hotel’s signature restaurant, lobby bar, or the stunning Terraza Bar, the 10th-floor rooftop bar with an outdoor pool, or indulge in a pamper session at the onsite Neptune Spa.

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