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From rainforests to glaciers, South America is one diverse continent. Here are 14 of its most spectacular natural wonders.
1. Iguazu Falls, Argentina / Brazil

Tucked in a corner at the borders of Argentina, Brazil, and Paraguay, the 275 falls of Iguazu dwarf Niagara and have to be one of the most amazing sights anywhere.

Photo: SF Brit

Photo: Mathieu Bertrand Struck

Photo: lighana

2. Salar de Uyuni, Bolivia

During the rainy season (~Jan-Mar), the world’s largest salt flat is covered in an inches-deep pool that perfectly reflects the sky, creating a truly alien landscape.

Photo: Luca Galuzzi
Photo: Haceme un 14

Photo: szeke

3. Galapagos Islands, Ecuador

This archipelago 600 miles off the coast of Ecuador is famous for its high number of endemic species and its influence on Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection.

Photo: MARK-SPOKES.COM

Photo: zpics

Photo: A_E_P

4. Atacama Desert, Chile

The world’s driest desert covers 40,000 square miles of northern Chile and includes coastal plains, high volcanoes, geysers and hot springs, and, more recently, the state-of-the-art ALMA observatory.

Photo: Jonathan Emmanuel Flores Tarello

Photo: European Southern Observatory

Photo: Mariano Mantel

5. Amazon River

By volume, the Amazon is far and away the largest river on Earth. With hundreds of huge tributaries (such as the Rio Negro below), its drainage basin accounts for 40% of South America’s land area.

Photo: Zemlinki!

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Photo: CIFOR

6. Angel Falls, Venezuela

Photo: ENT108

Photo: Da_Vinzy

Photo: ron brinkmann

Angel Falls is the world’s highest and certainly one of the most spectacular.

7. Torres del Paine, Chile

Daggers of mountain peaks, glacial lakes, and guanaco define southern Chile’s Torres del Paine National Park.

Photo: Winky

Photo:Wikimedia Commons

Photo: doug88888

8. Colca Canyon, Peru

This canyon, located 100km out from Arequipa, is about twice as deep as the Grand Canyon and full of Andean condors.

Photo: gudi&cris

Photo: Kim Schandorff

Photo: Aureliano Nóbrega

9. Lake Titicaca, Peru / Bolivia

The superlatives keep coming. This gigantic lake spilling over the Altiplano between Bolivia and Peru is the world’s highest navigable body of water.

Photo: Marianne Tortorella

Photo: Benjamin

Photo: James & Christina

10. Perito Moreno Glacier, Argentina

Fed by the Southern Patagonian Ice Field (the third-largest reserve of fresh water in the world), the Perito Moreno Glacier is the thing to see in Argentine Patagonia. You can also trek it.

Photo: Fernando J. Toucedo Urban

Photo: Chris Ford

Photo: Rodrigo SEPÚLVEDA SCHULZ

11. Laguna Colorada, Bolivia

This shallow, algae-rich lagoon attracts plenty of flamingos and is a main stop on tours of Bolivia’s Southwest Circuit.

Photo: Carlos Adampol

Photo: via

Photo: Ana Caroline Lima

12. Aconcagua, Argentina

The “Roof of the Americas,” rising up from the Andes between Argentina and Chile, is 6,962 meters (22,841 feet) tall.

Photo: Rafael Edwards

Photo: Winky

Photo: Xevi V

13. Kaieteur Falls, Guyana

While not as high-profile as the other falls on this list, Kaieteur is still the world’s largest one-drop by volume.

Photo: Allan Hopkins

Photo: Cody H.

Photo: Tim Snell

14. Tierra del Fuego, Argentina

Things get extreme at the “End of the World,” the continent’s southernmost tip. The island’s scrubby trees grow horizontally in the face of strong Antarctic winds.

Photo: reurinkjan

Photo: José María Pérez Nuñez

Photo: Tania Mara Pimentel Gomes

This post was published in its original form on January 5, 2010.

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About The Author

Hal Amen

Hal Amen is a managing editor at Matador. His personal travel blog is WayWorded.

  • http://www.packandexplore.com Craig

    Great roundup and awesome images! I’ve been to a few places here and hope to get to Angel Falls someday.

  • http://www.kaleidoscopicwandering.com JoAnna

    Stunning imagery! I heard they’re thinking of renaming Angel Falls. Seem strange to rename something so iconic.

  • http://www.atravelaroundtheworld.com aTravelAroundTheWorld

    Beautiful pictures! (number 3 is my dream);-)

  • http://www.serendipitoussenderos.blogspot.com Rachel

    Striking photos! Especially inspiring as I’ll be spending 2010 in South America. I’ll study in Chile, which made the list twice. A trip to Torres del Paine would be a dream! So far I’ve only seen #1 — Iguazu Falls.

    • http://matadorabroad.com Tim Patterson

      Studying in Chile?! Nice!

  • http://www.bearshapedsphere.blogspot.com Eileen

    This is fabulous, Hal! I’m taking notes and painting myself proud, only missing 4, though I do have an unfair advantage, what with living here and all. The one I’m most unlikely to get to: the falls in Guyana. They’re on the list, but when the list is as long as your average Matadorian’s, there’s just so much to see. Next up? With any luck, Colca Canyon.

    Super photos. Really great.

  • http://www.illuminatedtraveller.com Adam Axon

    Simply stunning photography. You’ve strengthened my desire to travel around South America tenfold! 2014 here I come!

  • Amir

    Beautiful shots! Thanks for posting them. Any links on how to get to each of these places? Think I only saw two or three…

    • http://matadortrips.com/ Hal Amen

      Matador’s published content on a lot of these places–though we’re always looking for more! Try searching for what you’re after by typing in the search box at the top right of the screen.

  • Roger

    oh my god, these pictures are exactly why I sooo want to go there.

  • http://colombia-travel-marcela.blogspot.com/ Marcela

    Beautiful pics, but you must include de 7 colour river in Colombia.

    • http://matadortrips.com/ Hal Amen

      I’d love to, Marcela–I just had trouble finding pics from Colombia for some reason. Do you know of one you could link to here?

  • http://www.sastay.co.za Ana

    Wow!!! We really live in beautiful world.. Simply stunning pics!!

  • Pingback: Photo Essay: 10 Reasons to Love Brazil

  • Loza

    OMG get photo!! They r soz cool!!1

  • Leerobert011

    ahh ! what’s beauty of nature in south america, really it’s incredible, amazine. south america tour is fulfill  of joy where a tourist can feel free to all problem here many places are so attractive like his nature, beaches, valley etc.
    you can take some help to a tour company for  enjoy your tour with free mind, i want suggest you about some company when i want go on my travel always i use a travel company maximum as like http://www.onlylatinamericatours.com/

  • Melody Lou

    beautiful photos!

  • Jennifer Kolbuc

    Just got back from 8 months in South/Central America and glad to see I’ve checked off 10 out of this list! Need to get back to Patagonia on another trip in the right season. Don’t think my photos compare to these ones though. Thanks for sharing!

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