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.

Iguazu Falls, Brazil and Argentina

Photo: SF Brit

Iguazu Falls

Photo: Mathieu Bertrand Struck

Iguazu Falls rainbow

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.

The largest salt flat in the world reflects the sky during the wet season

Photo: Luca Galuzzi
Salar de Uyuni, BoliviaPhoto: Haceme un 14

salar dy uyuni bolivia

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.

Galapagos tortoise


Frigate birds

Photo: zpics

Sally lightfoot crab

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.

Atacama Desert

Photo: Jonathan Emmanuel Flores Tarello

ALMA observatory

Photo: European Southern Observatory

Ojos del Salado

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.

Amazon River canoe

Photo: Zemlinki!

amazon-river satellite image

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Amazon River Parrot Kiss

Photo: CIFOR
6. Angel Falls, Venezuela

Angel Falls

Photo: ENT108

Angel Falls venezuela

Photo: Da_Vinzy

Angel Falls

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.

Torres del Paine

Photo: Winky

Torres del Paine, Chile

Photo:Wikimedia Commons

Daggers of mountain peaks, glacial lakes, and guanaco define Torres del Paine National Park

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.

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

Photo: gudi&cris

Colca Canyon burro

Photo: Kim Schandorff

Colca Canyon

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.

Sunrise over Lake Titicaca

Photo: Marianne Tortorella

Woman in Sillustani, Peru

Photo: Benjamin

Lightning over Lake Titicaca

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.

Perito Moreno Glacier

Photo: Fernando J. Toucedo Urban

Perito Moreno Glacier

Photo: Chris Ford

Perito Moreno ice

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.

Laguna ColoradaPhoto: Carlos Adampol

Laguna ColoradaPhoto: via

Laguna ColoradaPhoto: 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

Aconcagua Camp 1Photo: Winky

Aconcagua climber

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.

kaieteur-falls-1Photo: Allan Hopkins

Kaieteur Falls

Photo: Cody H.

Kaieteur Falls

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.

Tierra del Fuego

Photo: reurinkjan

Ushuaia, Argentina

Photo: José María Pérez Nuñez

Tierra del Fuego

Photo: Tania Mara Pimentel Gomes

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